Oh, Oh, Oakland! And that’s just the beginning of the idiosyncraticity that is Detroit. (I made up one of those words.)

This TDH was a little longer than usual (as I remember, about 40 miles), but it repaid itself over and over again in maybe-only-in-Detroit visual thrills. Get ready, there are a lot of photos in this post. The Legal Eagle has been threatening to garnish my pay check if I don’t get a post up. He’s found some archaic Michigan law that he believes applies to overdue blog posts, so I could be on the verge of some time in the clink if I don’t get something up on the intertubeswebthing pronto. Which raises the question – do you actually read this blog, or just look at the photos? It’d be a lot easier if I just threw up some photos and let you have at it, so: First poll of the post:

On the way to Oakland, we passed this tagged building on Milwaukee. That’s nothing unusual for my fair city, but I was struck by the verve of the taggers who manage to make their marks on what appear to be relatively inaccessible portions of the building.

Perhaps the “n” is backwards because the painter was disoriented

The recently reopened Tangent Gallery and Hastings Ballroom (now featuring Booze!) was where we right handed onto Oakland. If you were paying attention in math class, you’ll recognize the significance of the sculpture that adorns its exterior

Please note the intersection of the line and the circle. It’s called a ______?

Directly across the street is a sort of homage to a venerable printing facility. The facility itself appears to have disappeared, unfortunately.******

Any backstory, Night Train: Detroit?

**** I was misinformed about Rusas Printing.  I received a very nice note from Mr. Rusas himself “I was contacted by a friend to check out your site and found that you have a photo of my sign posted. You mentioned in your post that the printing facility has disappeared. Although the buildings surrounding me have been abandoned and completely covered in tags, We continue to operate out of the hood & have for over 40 years! The blight of our city has been wide spread throughout, there are still companies doing our best to battle the elements without the help of the city or the police. Recently, I was contacted by the “Better Block” organization & they choose our city block out of all the city blocks in Detroit for a beautification push to be spotlightedduring the Detroit Design Festival Sept. 22 & 23. After 2 30 yard & 1, 10 yard dumpster along with the help of multiple volunteers. Joe at the Tangent Gallery, the Better Block Organization and myself have managed to clear the debris and clean up the abandoned buildings and clear the empty lots that have been left by their careless owners of the abandoned properties.

I think I’ve found my new pied a terre in the city. Looks comfy, n’est-ce pas?

Just right for the single man on the go

Once on Oakland, a veritable yellow brick road of unusual sights began to unfold before us.

Here’s a cool building that clearly has a commissioned exterior decoration (it’s signed by the artists)

Dig it? I do

Someone has re-imagined the City of Detroit flag on another building. For reference, here’s the “official” version:

The flag of our fair city

The version on Oakland has additional built-in Detroitness: For one, our motto is actually in English, and there’s a nice nod to the Tigers. (The Old English “D” for those of you not from around here.) And a reminder that we’re not all white.

Dig that Caddy in the upper right quadrant

A little further up, we cycled past a building I should’ve heard or read about before. Alas, I hadn’t. It’s a retail/educational facility the likes of which I’ve never run across before. Voila:


Other artwork abounds on Oakland. Should your interests lie in the plastic arts, there’s this triptych:

I wish I could give you more details about this, but I’m drawing a blank

Ride around Detroit a while (or even for a short spin), and you’re pretty much guaranteed to pass by some spell fails: Like so:

I like the $ at the end of “Dollar Items”

Did you notice anything special about the bricks on the top of the building? This used to be “Charlie The Pencilman’s” {sic}, which according to some cursory searching online used to sell incense and dream books. This whole block was populated in the 1930’s by European Jews, which explains the location of Detroit’s Russian Banya, or as we’ve always called it around it around here: The Schvitz. It’s still open.

For Men Only

It’s no secret that there are many many many abandoned homes in Detroit. This building’s owners made their feelings pretty clear:

And you’re probably never coming back

Not to worry, as this building will provide you with some reassurance about outcomes, if not word spacing:

God decided not to open the store today

Next up, a building with a certain amount of panache, of braggadoccio, if you will. There are innumerable buildings in Detroit, but this one is the one according to its owners:

Accept no substitutes. This is the real deal

I am not blessed with a thick, rich head of hair, so the possibility of it actually “breaking” is something beyond my imagination. It must be an issue amongst others, as evidenced by this beauty salon’s promise:

What can you do if it’s all falling out?

This next sign will probably only make sense to a real Detroiter, as it makes reference to our very own wacky billionaire.

Maybe he’ll swing by after he straightens out his issue with the new bridge

One of the things I enjoy most about cycling around Detroit (particularly on Sunday mornings) is the virtual lack of automotive traffic. It’s just a great place to ride along and enjoy the scenery. Like so:

Every wall’s an easel

Someone went to a great deal of trouble to paint the 10 Commandments on side of a building on the corner of Manchester. Wish they’d gone to the trouble of bringing a dictionary along with them.

The Sabeth? Adultry? And, what, exactly, am I not supposed to covet? Anything?

In an earlier post, I wrote about the Satan’s Sidekicks M/C. But I neglected to show you a photo of the mother chapter: Here it is, over on Fenkell.

Don’t know if they still sport red helmets with devil’s horns

Back in Detroit’s early days, the St. Francis Home for Orphan Boys was founded. At one point in time, it must’ve been a beautiful building. It’s just tragic that it’s fallen apart, with no evident sign that it’s going anywhere but further down. Here’s the cornerstone, still intact:

9 years in the making

And here’s the building, in its current sad state

What a disaster

My spirits soon picked up after I passed a very special car wash.

I can only imagine how clean my car would be

For those with a less spiritual bent, just down the road is a more civic-oriented car wash:

President vs The Lord for top car wash

I have no idea what this business is (or was), or what it does (or did). All I know is that it’s got a pretty bad ass logo:

Panther _________

This company:

Back when I was wee lad, the two great jazz clubs in Detroit were Baker’s and Watt’s Club Mozambique. Clearly the jazz road didn’t work out for the owners of Watt’s, which is bad news for jazz lovers, but potentially good news for those of you looking for some exotic manliness

Only the finest in exotic male dancers

As mentioned above, I am somewhat follicly challenged, so I have almost no need for this salon’s speciality:

I’m more in need of a slim fade

As we got nearer to our turn around point (Schaefer Highway) I heard “Jesus Loves the Little Children” being played on a saxophone. The player turned out to be an affable gentleman named “Jack”. “Black Jack”. Being just down the street from Watt’s, we reminisced about the olden days when it was a jazz club. (Black Jack talked about seeing Roy Ayers there). When I asked him which Alto players he admired, he said: “Me”. Then he launched into a very nice version of “Satin Doll”. Thank you, Jack. Nice to meet you.

“Black Jack” Alto player supreme

There was still a lot more to unfold along Fenkell. (BTW, Fenkell is not, I think it’s fair to say, the best place to show off our city to out-of-towners). I passed one of my side businesses; I just added the tattoo sign to try and snag some hipsters. (That’s not actually true. I don’t own this place.)

My attempt to get some street cred (that part is true)

This establishment will try anything to make sure you come in and shop; even pointing out which door you’re supposed to use to get in, in case you’re confused.

Neither a side door nor a back door be

If you’re a regular Tour De Hood reader (see poll above), you’ll remember that I’ve noted a number of hair-type stores I’ve passed on my rides. This seems to be the place to get the best bargains. Either that, or something that must smell truly disgusting.

Liquid Hair: The greatest invention since sliced bread

There wasn’t a whole lot to see on Schaefer Highway, though I did dig the wheel setup on the car featured here, at yet another car wash.

Caprice Classics rule the road in Motown

Grand River presented us with a plethora of interesting things to view. There is a lot of nicely-executed curated street art along its length. For example, this exuberant celebration of dedication to the Queen of England (I think)

Perhaps it’s dedication to the King of Belgium

A bit further along, there was a lot more to see – but first, I wanted to point out a nicely recycled gas station, taking on new life as yet another beauty salon. (Detroit’s gas station architecture is pretty recognizable. I think it’s safe to say this actually was a gas station at one point.)

Change the oil, and just a little off the top, please

As for the aforementioned street art, there’s a super nice cluster on Grand River and Vermont. Example #1:


Example #2: (This is actually part of the signage for a barber shop)

And perhaps my favorite of the bunch: a trenchant observation on the general flabbiness of our nation, as well as our indefatigable dedication to eat anything that comes in an extra-large size, example #3:

Sad but true. We’re a flabby old bunch, aren’t we?

Before we stopped for some nourishment, we passed yet another motorcycle club. I don’t know if they’re a “good” motorcycle club or a “bad” motorcycle club. Do you?

A suggestion for Mr. Toro (Or is that Toros?) A little more consistency with the ‘s (or not) would help give your brand some added punch

We repaired to the Lafayette Coney Island for a richly deserved brunch, Motown-Style.

If you’d like to duplicate this tour yourself, here’s a Google® Map to show you where we went.

Back to my question at the beginning: did you read this, just look at the pictures, or both?


Mind-blowing storefront, plus no muff to tuff (sic)

Grand River is a street of many delights. And I’m not talking about the Motor City Casino. (About which I have no opinion, having never been in it, though it is on Grand River). Should you be so inclined, you can ride it all the way from Downtown Detroit to East Lansing (over 90 miles).  I wasn’t. But that didn’t stop me from witnessing many wonderful sights.

I’ve never seen the MBAD\ABA African Bead Museum before, which is curious; its exterior, in my opinion, is one of Detroit’s wonders of wonders. And really difficult to miss.

beadmuseumcornerView from the corner

It’s at the intersection of two Grands; Grand River and W. Grand Blvd. Absolutely mind-blowing decoration. It’s entirely covered with shards of mirror and wild painting. I couldn’t capture its splendidness in a single shot. Here’s more detail of the mirrors and decoration:

beadmuseum2I’m reflected in there somewhere

Here’s a shot down its length. Again, I really suggest you go see it for yourself to get the full impact.

beadmuseum3Shiny and colorful

There’s an outbuilding of sorts, (I guess), which is equally eye pleasing.

beadmuseumoutbuildingIt’s shiny. Very shiny

There’s even a back yard “sculpture garden” of sorts. Here’s a glimpse of what awaits you:

beadmuseumbackyardMask ‘n’ Clunker

People like to bring out-of-towners to the Heidelberg Project, (and rightly so), but I strongly urge you to take them to the Bead Museum, for the full Detroit experience.

There’s more to see on Grand River, of course.  There’s the Architectural Salvage Warehouse of Detroit, for example – which has one of the more exuberant murals I’ve seen on my rides about town. It is a 503 non-profit whose stated purpose is to “keep materials out of landfills through architectural salvage”.

architecturalsalvageThe entrance is on the other side of the building.

One of Detroit’s former temples of gastronomy was Carl’s Chop House – which received some notoriety by sparing the life of an enormous lobster a couple of years back. Googling it might give you the impression that it’s still open. Sadly, that’s not the case. (Unless a van with a flat tire is someone’s idea of a welcome mat.)

carlsnomowideCarl’s is no more

Here’s a better shot of the sign:

carlsnomotightCarl evades the grammar police.

I was struck by the proper use of the possessive apostrophe; Detroit seems to have an undue share of oddball misspellings.  This place, for example, is clearly an auto repair shop. Or maybe a combo auto repair shop and figure skating academy.

axelsThe perfect Tonya Harding headquarters

Death Spirals and triple Lutzes aside, I was quite pleased by the advertising copywriter who developed this slogan. (I think it’s a slogan. It could be some arcane admission that they have no muff to tuff connections on hand.)

totuffRing bell for clarification

Better news awaited. It appears that the Organization of American States has an under-publicized Detroit Headquarters. That, or it’s an out of business bar.

orgofamerstatesBar or NGO?

I also ran into a self proclaimed “sports dive w/food” called TV. I’m going to ask for some hipsters to help me out here. (I’m not much of a clubber myself) I did dig the sign.


Teevee paradise

What leads me to believe it’s more than a run of the mill sports dive was the moderne patio design. (Gotta love those booths)

sportsdivepatioTV’s patio

In all, a lovely day en route on the Tour De Hood. (Well, I blew a hole in my front tire’s sidewall, and had to repair it two more times which wasn’t the most pleasant way to start the day.) But the memories. Ah, the memories.

Schwalbe tires are great

I love Schwalbe tires. I’ve used their Marathon slicks, my touring bike has their Marathons on it, and I just put a pair of Schwalbe Stelvios on my fixed gear.

The Stelvios feel great, are light, are pretty easy to install, and can be inflated to 145 lbs./sq. in. After a more reasonable time span, I’ll let you know how susceptible to flats they are. (They’re not supposed to be flat-resistant). Schwalbe isn’t well known here. I first encountered them on my bike ride across Spain. Every tourer seemed to have them on their bike. I had been a Michelin user, but since they’re not my company’s client any more, I’ve moved on. The Pro Races I had on my Pegoretti were flat magnets.

Schwalbe Tires are not widely distributed; I got mine from a slightly eccentric, but excellent bike shop in New Hampshire.  Peter White Cycles. Fast, friendly service, as they say in some ads…


It was Super Old Skool Saturday on the TDH. One of my regular tires, a Schwalbe Marathon Slick, sprang a leak Friday night, and was flat Saturday morning. These tires are normally bullet proof, but something slashed the sidewall.

So I put on my 30 year old Campagnolo Record Low Flange Hubbed, Mavic Monthlery rimmed, tubular tire equipped speed demon of yore wheels. Back then, clinchers were heavy and you couldn’t put a lot of pressure into them. (No more, of course).

These were state of the art back in the day, and professional bike racers (ooh!) still use that kind of tire. They’re very high pressure (max 170 lbs/sq.in!) but not fixable on the road if you get a flat. So you’re supposed to carry a spare tire (note: not a tube or patch kit) with you. I didn’t, which meant that if I got a flat, I’d be walking home.

All worked out great. (And I remembered why I liked riding on tubulars so much).

All I needed to be period-correct were a pair of crochet back gloves. (Which I’ve found online and which will be arriving this week).