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:

Jazz+Shoe+Shine+Art=Legendary

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:

Dude

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?

Mini Tour (Tourette?) De Hood – The 2012 Début

Spring hit us early this year – it’s been unseasonably warm for a couple of weeks. Unbelievably temperate weather, and great news for everyone around here except skiers. Anyway, I decided I was overdue to work the kinks out of my legs and take a jaunt ’round the hood.  It was such a short ride, it doesn’t even deserve a map. I basically wanted to get moving again, and see what had changed since last fall.

First up, the most excellent Good Girls Go To Paris has opened a suburban location.  It’s half-block from Detroit in Grosse Pointe Park.  It’s been open for about four months, but new to me. Here’s one of the great French movie posters that decorate the interior.

English translation: “Magnet of Doom”

It’s on the border of Grosse Pointe Park and Detroit, so I guess it’s Kosher to include it here. Do stop by. I recommend, as usual, the “Good Girls” crepe. (Nutella and Banana).

See how close it is to our fair city?

Note the clean street and sidewalk 

Once in Detroit proper, (I was on Charlevoix), I noticed some new (to me) graffiti. I think this guy has been trying to determine his nickname. Otherwise, I’m pretty stumped trying to decipher this:

Lush, You Rant Junk Tweak Ranger?

The next tag I rode by made more sense, I guess, but I’m not sure of the starting date, or whatever the countdown refers to:

Maybe it’s a Mayan Calendar Thing

A bit further along, a nicely-done new (to me) urban garden has been created by the Northeast Guidance center. I’ll try and check on its progress as the year moves along.

Don’t know if vegetables or flowers are in its future

Over on Lycaste, I spotted a wheel cover that both looks new, and newly abandoned. It definitely wasn’t there last fall.

New plastic wheel cover looking for good home

Something that definitely wasn’t there last year was my own “tag” (actually drawn with a piece of mortar I found on the sidewalk) on the former AT&T building on Lycaste and Kercheval.

Non-permanent proof that misterarthur was here

On the way back, I noticed a couple of developments I had either missed before or were new.

This tree (part of the Greening of Detroit project to re-tree Jefferson) seems to be alive, but is missing some sort of ingredient

Meet the tree that has no “G”

When we planted trees along Jefferson, someone specified, purchased, and volunteers planted the wrong species, one that can’t make it through Michigan winters.  That’s why there’s a burnt orange dot on this specimen.  It has to be re-planted.

This is a defunct tree

Part of the sidewalk along  the road has erupted or collapsed over the winter. (Depends if you’re a glass half-full or half-empty kind of person).

Maybe someone was looking for buried treasure

In the same optimist/pessimist mode, the holding lot across the street from Chrysler’s Jefferson North Assembly was empty, which means that either the Jeeps they’re making there are selling like hotcakes, or they’ve temporarily shut down the line. (I’m hoping for the former).  There may be some other reason, of course, as I’ve seen everything from Fords of various types to Volkswagens waiting here to be delivered to dealerships.

A very exciting photo of an empty parking lot

 The Redyns Co building has finally given up the ghost.  To be honest, I haven’t seen much activity here for a while.  Here’s what information I can glean about Redyns online: “Redyns CO in Detroit, MI is a private company categorized under Tonics, Hair. Our records show it was established in 1946 and incorporated in Michigan. Products or Services: Natural Hair Tonic, Kreml Hair Tonic, Black Lily Hair Tonic, Herbal Hair Tonic and Hair Growing Tonic.”

Farewell, maker of hair tonics of all sorts

A couple of blocks further along, a housing auction sign caught my attention, though the “house” in question was a little, uh, “questionable”.  Maybe it’ll be of interest to an antique brick collector.

The auction is next Saturday, if you’re interested

Anyway, every Spring, I try to be optimistic, following the lead of Alexander Pope, who wrote: “Hope springs eternal in the human breast; Man never Is, but always To be blest:”  

To that end, I also rode by something more uplifting than falling-down buildings.  So I leave you with something that made me feel great. A bunch of young men having a great time playing basketball, shirtless, outside enjoying the marvelous March weather.

March Madness: Playing outside, shirtless, in the middle of March in Michigan

A Perplexing Paucity of Purveyors of Prurient Pleasures

If there are two streets in Detroit an outsider can name, they’re likely to be Woodward Ave and Eight Mile Road. Woodward from the olden days (think baby boomers and Dream cruisers), and Eight Mile from that rapper fella.  Locally, Eight Mile has the reputation of being Detroit’s Strip Club headquarters.

Eight Mile: The farthest edge of Detroit, shining its adult entertainment lights north towards the suburbs.

We could hardly wait to get there. Even if it was daylight.

The Legal Eagle and I’ve been up ‘n’ down Woodward a lot – but have, heretofore, skipped Eight Mile. Not because we’re prudes, but because Eight Mile isn’t the greatest road for cyclists – fast cars, right turn lanes, pavement eruptions near the side of the road, etc.  However, to celebrate Independence Day weekend, we decided to give it a go, as they our former colonizers put it.

We took the Cadieux/Morang/Hayes route to get there, (map here, courtesy the Legal Eagle) and espied some prototypical Detroit retail establishments along the way.

The Religious-Themed Barber Shop

The one and only Billy Shears’ Brother, Hallelujah

Then there’s the religious-themed car repair/tire store/towing service:

I guess I should get my car towed before the world ends

We also passed Monti E Spank’s barber shop/clothes store. It’s one of the few retail establishments I know of that has both dual functions and two names.

Representing the Area Code 313

I’ve never heard of Mr. Spank before – and oddly enough, neither has Google®.  Here is the result I got when I entered his name into that famous search engine:

Monti e Spank: Internet privacy expert and barber

Fatu’s Hair Braiding has a very nice mural. It’s very wide.

Half the Mural

Aside from its width, there’s something else that’s quite extraordinary about the mural, and that’s the map of Africa depicted on the left side. I blew up the photo a bit so you can see what I mean.

Africa: The Colonial Years

Nyasaland? (Now Malawi) German Southwest Africa? (Now Namibia) Belgian Congo? (Now Democratic Republic of the Congo) Anglo-Egyptian Sudan? (Now Sudan and, on July 9, 2011, the newly-independent Republic of South Sudan). Various Rhodesias, French West Africa, etc. etc.  Quite a history lesson, considering German West Africa ceased to be in 1915.

Visuals soon reverted to type. For some reason, Detroit tire stores have a fondness for flames.  Here’s an example. (You can find more by visiting some of my older posts.)

Vroomy!

We saw another (unfortunately defunct) towing service before we hit Eight Mile road. Not what I’d name my towing company, but what do I know?

I guess it’s a better promise than “demure towing”

Sure enough, before we hit the Eight, we saw another tire store. (What a surprise!)

Rainbow’s the name, rainbow-ish color’s the game

If I owned a jewelry store, and stated so proudly on my sign, you’d think I’d spell it correctly. Sure the big version’s correct, but that doesn’t excuse the slipshod execution of the word on its lower left:

Jewely repair. Eally?

By now, we’d made it to Eight Mile, and were prepared for a veritable parade of merchants of fleshly delights. Alas, such was not to be the case. There were only three adult entertainment establishments from Hayes to Livernois.

1) The Colosseum. Detroit’s Egypto-Roman palace of pleasure.

Strippimus Maximus

2). Trumpp’s.  Or maybe not Trumpp’s.  I’m not sure, as it was undergoing cosmetic enhancement surgery.

This might be called “All-Stars”. I’m not sure

3) Tycoons. Where Trumpp-like people hang out, I imagine.

Where the elite meet

That was it.

What a catastrophe!. (To quote Hans Rosling). I thought it would be more like Detroit’s own version of the Vegas “Strip” (figurative meaning of the word). One Exotic Entertainment Venue cheek by jowl with another. What happened? Did they all move to Dearborn or Michigan Avenue? Was there some sort of anti-strip-club-spotting veil over my eyes?

While we were saddened by only riding by three clubs, we perked up at some other retail establishments.  The way-over-the-top rim shop, Hot Wheel City:

No flames, but torrid nonetheless

Riding by Hot Wheel City, you could be in many places in the United States; but the next couple of stores had a certain home-grown quality about them. Like this place, which appears to be trading on a certain Swiss Watch manufacturer’s aura of excellence.

Don’t just repair your whip, rolex it!

The Legal Eagle proved his disclaimer chops when he noted the escape clause built into the sign in Rolexus’ window.

Please note: Not all

I think I discovered the source of Marshall Bruce Mather III’s stage name. You might think Slim Shady’s other name came from his first and last names’ initials, but I think he was really inspired by Cathy’s Appliance, and its misspelled slogan. That, or a former printer who can’t get em and en spaces out of his head.

Stacking em and selling en, Marshall

Up where Eight Mile (the road, not the movie) crosses I-75, the cyclist faces a choice: Take the fearsome climb, or skirt it and stay on the flats. As prudent tourers, we chose the easy way.

The Hors Categorie Col de Tourmaleight mile (a Tour De France Joke)

We could’ve ridden Eight Mile further west, but decided, given other weekendly obligations, to take a turn on Livernois. Right on the corner is the (claimed to be, and I have no reason to doubt it) oldest Jazz Club in the World, Baker’s Keyboard Lounge.  I used to go there when I was in high school.  A great club with great music, and, according to the reviews online, still a great place to go.  You can read the upcoming schedule, and more about the club, right here. So do so.

Everybody who’s anybody in Jazz has played here

The section of Livernois we found ourselves on has been known for a long while as “The Avenue of  Fashion”, and there are still banners stating that assertion hung from street lamps in the area. What caught my eye, however, was the unintended humor of the name of this, um, medical facility:

How apt, if you’re having a colonoscopy

We then swung homeward on 7 mile – which, if you’re on a bicycle, is a much better place to ride than Eight Mile.  Less traffic, fewer “I hate bicycles” vibe, more fun sights.

We stopped at a fire station to see if the firefighters who work there have a nickname, as is the case with most fire stations in Detroit.  Sure enough, they do: The Seven Mile All-Stars.

18 + 44 = All Stars!

A special shout out goes to Lieutenant Dexter Dixon, who not only told us the nickname, but turned out to be a real deal cyclist, and former racer, who not only knows how to lace up wheels, but also raced on a track bike with tied and soldered spokes. (You old-timers will know what I’m talking about). Anyone else wishing to find out what the heck that means can find out more here.  Lieutenant Dixon currently rides two Cannondales and a Klein.  And he’s a really cool guy, too. Stop by and say misterarthur said hi.

Back across I-75, a welcome sight for Rastafarians everywhere –  or, I guess, anyone with a valid Michigan Medical Marijuana license. Need some pot? Go here:

Meds, dude

Just don’t go wandering in without the necessary forms and documents. Or you could wind up in the clink;

For “Alternative Health Wellness Center”, read: Marijuana store

We didn’t stop in, as neither of us had the necessary paperwork, and, anyway, it was closed.  As was an, ahem, interestingly named dual purpose shop.

Pharty Hard? There’s a med for that. Or go to Cheeks Colon Care over on Livernois

Even though we saw very few strip clubs on Eight Mile, one hove into view just up Seven Mile.  At least it could be a strip club. With a name like this, who’s to say?

I’m guessing it doesn’t cater to women

Over on Harper, you can find the “Anointed Hands Christian Hair Temple”. Over here, the reigning middleweight champ:

Check those pecs! Blessed hands, indeed. 

Sorry about the off-angle photo. The sun was coming up behind the building, and shooting straight at the sign, all I could get was a giant lens flare.

Over on Conner and I-94, there’s a small triangle of grass and trees, a tiny fence, and a very small plaque. The plaque memorializes the Detroit City Cemetery, which may or may not have been here for a while, after the original Detroit Cemetery was displaced by the Eastern Market (!). If you’re confused, ask the Legal Eagle. He can explain.  Anyway, here’s the plaque:

Only problem: No Cemetery here. We looked

Closer to home, we took a spin down Manistique Street, which, sadly, is looking pretty grim.  There’s a fire station near Manistique and Warren, where we found a friendly firefighter cleaning his personal rig.

Engine 52. Home of the “Manistique Madmen”

In a land of oddball barber shop names, you can add one more to the list.  I present to you:

No small-timers need apply

Aside from the strip club fail, it was a great ride, on a beautiful day, and we met a great firefighter.  There’s always something worth seeing on the Tour De Hood. Ride a bike in Detroit some time. It’s fun!

Boats, Guns, Trains, Tanks and Produce

June 19, (Father’s Day) was a lovely summerish day. While The Legal Eagle and I hadn’t planned to visit any particularly manly sights on our ride, it turned out that way after all.

For our route, click here.

Along the way to our quarry, Delray Park, we passed the apparently soon-to-be rehabbed Globe Building on Atwater. Don’t know if it’s going to be residential or commercial, but either way, prime location.

Spanning the Globe, to bring you the constant variety of broken windows

We opted to ride as much along W. Jefferson as possible, even though the street dead ends. We walked our bikes along some railroad tracks owned by our very own oddball billionaire, Matty Maroun, He owns the Ambassador Bridge (seen in the background), as well as the Michigan Central Ruin Icon.

The end of the line for the Maroun RR

Traipsing along the track ballast (that’s the stuff onto which the ties and tracks are laid) we came upon a consist (that’s the name for a bunch of rail cars hooked together with a purpose).  One had some interesting 21st Century hobo chalking:

Maybe that’s the Denver hobo sign for an Arriflex camera

Another of the cars came complete with a swanky slogan.

We Are Tank Car People (sung to the tune of  Kraftwerk’s “We are Showroom Dummies”

Among many warnings, cautions, and instructions listed on the car, one was up for mis-interpretation:

Is the rubber-soled shoes rule for your protection or the car’s?

A fenced-off area under the Ambassador Bridge looked inviting, but we couldn’t go in. Blame it, like back-scatter x-ray machines, on the all-powerful “Homeland Security” clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Due to?

Our off-roading trek continued until Jefferson started up again, where we came upon a migrating radial.

Tire in the road alert. Oh, never mind

Delray Park is pretty nice. There’s a boat launching ramp, plenty of room for fishing, nice sign out front.

Open for your parking pleasure

If you peer closely at the sign, you’ll note that it is made possible, in part, by DTE, which makes sense, as there’s an enormous DTE facility next door.  Not to mention a giant power line that delivers electricity to our Canadian friends across the Detroit River.

Is electricity included in NAFTA ?

On to the park itself. The water at the boat loading ramp wasn’t the most inviting.

There’s water under there somewhere

Nevertheless, the Detroit River itself looked quite picturesque. As you can see, the park is designed with fishing in mind: There are handy rod holders (and that pylon, again), with a nice view of Detroit.

Plenty of space for your rod

In case you’re wondering whether you can actually eat the fish you catch, well, that depends entirely on the species you happen to hook.

Steer clear of catfish and carp. And remember, cutting off the fat and skin can reduce the number of hazardous chemicals you eat by nearly 50%

The park’s fishing theme was due, in large part to the unsung hero Dave Dorrell, who gets his props on a little memorial marker.

All hail the Urban Recreation Visionary

Fort Wayne (named for “Mad” Anthony Wayne) has, sadly, seen better days.  And, apparently, ghosts. We had missed the TAPS tour from the night before.

Who ‘ya gonna call?

While we didn’t see any apparitions, we did take in some manly sights, viz.:

A Sherman Tank

A Tank-Like Object

A rather large piece of Artillery

We rode ’round the fort. It is star shaped, as was the thinking behind fort design back in the day.

The Star of Downriver

We even ran across an historical marker that is in and of itself historic, given that the presenter of the marker is now just a vague memory.

J.L. Hudson Company R.I.P.

Shortly after leaving Fort Wayne, we passed a small tentacle of the mighty misterarthur enterprises, my bait shop.

Don’t know if that fish is safe to eat or not (see above)

Truth be told, there is no mighty misterarthur empire, and some other Arthur-come-lately owns this fine retail establishment.

L’aigle jurisdique et moi are never slowed by what was, because, as is typical on the TDH, something interesting popped up just down the road.  And I mean popped up in the most literal sense. The drawbridge on Jefferson and the Rouge River had opened to allow passage of a real, live freighter.

Bridge up = Excitement ahead

It turns out the Algomarine was making its way into the Detroit River.

The Algomarine – headed for open waters

The Algomarine was launched in 1968 as The Lake Manitoba. She was refurbed in 1988. You can read all about her here at the most-aptly named boatnerd.com  There’s a boatnerd cruise in August, if you are interested.  The Algomarine’s home base is  Sault Ste. Marie, but today’s voyage consisted of a short hike over to Canada.

Yooper Vessel

According to the boatnerd page, the Algomarine  has an 800 horsepower bow thruster, but to aid its passage down the Rouge, a tug was being used to keep her steady as she goes, avast, landlubber, hard a lee you scurvy dog. (End of nautical jibberish).

Small but Mighty

That tug is owned by Great Lakes Towing, and looks much like one of the ships featured in this video, though I can’t say for sure if she’s The Idaho, The Wyoming, or some other ship. This is the first time either the Legal Eagle or I have been stopped by an up drawbridge, let alone get the chance to see a freighter exit the Rouge.

Next up on our agenda (the Legal Eagle likes to keep things organized) was Belanger Park (in River Rouge City).  A very nice park indeed, and we arrived just in time to see the Algomarine entering the Detroit River proper.

Note the rod holders here, too

Belanger Park has a great view of the water but doesn’t leap to mind has having the most salubrious location on the planet.  To your immediate left (facing the river) is another power plant:

Park with smokestack background

On the other side is a giant Great Lakes Steel facility. (I think they make steel coils there).

Park with Steel Mill background

So my advice is, skip looking to either side, and take in the phony lighthouse. It’s cute, but not a working facility. It’s a memorial.

Ceci n’est pas une phare

And be careful where you sit. Legal Eagle said the bench was quite comfortable, but I’m not quite sure I’m in full agreement.

Planking. It’s all the rage with hipsters these days. So come fill a real need here.

On the way back home, we tried to get to Fort Street directly  but were stymied by road construction, and had to wind our way to that fine road.  Along the way, we passed the International Ice Company – a victim of NAFTA?

Ice unfettered by international borders

We also saw a grim miniature mini putting golf course.

Must’ve been very tiny

The concession area didn’t look too inviting, either.

Bottle Water

We also spun by a former Hungarian [Magyar] Catholic [Kath.] Church [Templom].

Szent Janos’ [Saint John] Saint Day is June 24

Back on Fort Street, we rode by the one, the only Detroit Produce Terminal. (Bet you didn’t know we had one, did you?) Chances are, if you’ve got produce, it passed through here.

No retail sales, I’m afraid

It wouldn’t be a real Tour De Hood without a misspelled sign or two.  This store, (which never actually seems to have arrived), got a double. One word. Twice wrong.  Here’s the perp on one side of the store:

I donn’t think so

And the miscreant appears again over here.

I think Collision House would be a good name for the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland

I spotted a final piece of eye candy a bit closer to downtown.  Don’t know the history of, reason for, or painter of, this mural:

Mermaid? I’m looking for answers here.

That was it for the photo taking – and the rest of our route covered turf I’ve written about before. Anyway, as I mentioned at the intro, it was Father’s day, so we celebrated our ride with a congratulatory Coney at the Lafayette. A nice ride, but a little longer (45 miles) than we’d anticipated.

June 4/5 2011. A spin past some familiar sites plus12th Street (Rosa Parks Blvd) from the river to McNichols.

Saturday, June 4, was a lovely day in the hood, and we went on a ride past some familiar sites. The Legal Eaglet (who was in town for a wedding) and my cousin (who photographed the “Phearty Hearty” store and graciously passed it along to me) along with the Legal Eagle spun through some 313 streets.  Needless to say, there were plenty of things to see:  For one, this mobile, self-styled “style center”.

The Speed Demon Barber of St. Paul Street

The roving barber’s not far from both a stationary (and, sadly, looks-to-be-stuck-a-fork-in-it) corner store.

Don’t know when it’s going to be open

It’s also just down the street from the Capuchin Soup Kitchen, an exceedingly worthy Detroit charity that serves basic human needs for those who need it most.  It’s also a drug-free zone, as indicated by this sort-of oddball sign.

No Drugs accepted

Things soon looked cheerier.  Iron Street has a wonderful collection of street murals. I don’t know who (or which organization) set this up, but there’s clearly some collective action happening here.  Nice use of a corner of an abandoned building for this Egyptian Motif:

Sphinx on the corner

Some positive vibrations:

Nowhere to go but up!

Another very colorful addition is even more inspired – and inspiring.

Brick by Brick By Brick

Finally, a reminder (as if you needed one) about where you are.  Gotta love the smoke from the front wheels correctly illustrating the powertrain of the Caddy in the mural.

Detroit Muscle

Should you be inclined to pedal down Iron Street, take it to its terminus (at the Coast Guard Station), and get thee onto the lovely Detroit Riverwalk – which is also cycling friendly. We had a lovely ride along the Detroit River, turned right onto the Dequindre Cut, and rode up Gratiot – where I spotted a couple of Detroit’s steam vents. The city (via our public utility) actually heats a number of buildings through a maze of tunnels. I guess this is a place where excess steam is vented.

Thar she blows!

I’ve visited the Heidelberg Project a number of times. You should too – either if you’ve never seen it – or if it’s been a while since you’ve been there. Tyree Guyton is always adding something new.  The first couple of shots were snapped by the Legal Eaglet®, who has permitted me to post them here:

The Piano of Hope

Mr. Guyton has repurposed some ad-like-objects (in bulk) and added his own slogans. He is clearly opposed to smoking.

Cancer and Poopy Breath

He has also found a Steven Colbert-ish character to which he has added some, uh, interesting messages:

War! (Good God!) What is it good for?

This next one plays a bit with WWJD.

Sacré Bleu!

We spun gently home, gently guided by a tailwind zephyr.

Sunday, the Legal Eagle and I decided to check off another street to our  “I rode the whole length of…” list.  On the 5th, it was Rosa Parks Blvd. (Formerly Twelfth Street).  For those of you who want to follow along, here’s a link.  The relevant parts are the parallel-ish lines on the left of your screen.

Here’s a scintillating view of the foot of the St./Blvd. (That’s the Detroit river in the background.) Don’t expect to see my work gracing the cover of National Geographic any time soon.

Hey! That’s Canada over there!

The Legal Eagle is a brainiac in many fields – including the History Of Detroit, (he’s always throwing in an interesting tidbit or two), Fire Stations, and Railroads. To wit, an unassuming concrete block festooned with contemporary street art.

Hunk o’ concrete with a purpose

This quotidian admixture of cement and sand used to be one end of an elevated rail track that ran toward where is now the GM building, hung a left, and ended at the Michigan Central Station. Yes, indeed, we had elevated rail tracks in the Motor City once upon a time.

Up a bit (across 1-75, actually) we rode past an apartment “complex” that appears to have been designed by a former penitentiary architect. Not the most welcoming of building materials, I’d have to say.

A stone for my bedroom

Update: A reader gave me some new information about this place. It’s called “Spaulding Court”, and is being rehabbed by a non-profit organization. Please hop over here to see what’s up. The work inside is really cool.

By the way, these abodes are at the intersection of Spruce Street and Rosa Parks.  One block over, on Vermont, is the newly-opened Corktown Youth Hostel, which is actually not quite in Corktown – nevertheless, it’s a great project for which the indefatigable Emily Doerr deserves a great deal of credit.

At the intersection of Rosa Parks and Grand River is a building which the Legal Eagle believes was, at one, time, a Detroit Police Precinct Headquarters of some sort. Being a prudent fellow, he won’t swear to the veracity of that claim.

Could’ve been a cop shop at one point

Up at 5141 Rosa Parks is one outpost of the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit.  (It also has a location on Hubbard). It appears to be closed on Sunday Mornings.

One of the committee members is Detroit Lives founder and all-around good guy, Philip Lauri

Had it been a little later, I’m hoping that Papa’s Soul Food & Grill might’ve been open. (I think it was around 9:00 am when I snapped this shot). I can’t find any information about it online, so I’m assuming it is no longer a going concern. (If I’m wrong, please let me know).

Is Papa’s still open for grillin’?

The Detroit Riot of 1967 started following a police raid on a blind pig on 12th Street and Claremount Avenue. It’s such a sad story.  You can read more about it at this link.  The Legal Eagle also recommends The Algiers Motel Incident by John Hersey. That is, if you can find a copy. It appears to be out of print.  Anyway, there’s a small, somewhat unkempt park that memorializes the location.

12th and Claremount Park

Here’s a tighter shot of the purple sculpture.

If I read correctly, the artist is J.A. Ward

Further up the road, someone has turned a store front into a church of sorts. I thought the juxtaposition of the message and the left-over promise on the right side of the building’s top was interesting.  If you can’t read it, click on the photo.

Refreshing Spiritually and Physically

Next up, an ex-bank-now-church-with-many-colors-including-eagle-or-bird-of-some-kind.

The Apostolic Faith Church of Love (Hood Rat)

Perhaps not coincidentally, a sign of warning to the tagger is just across the street.

Quit your tagging, heathen!

The Legal Eagle has, as I’ve mentioned before, has visited every Detroit Fire Station (open or shut). There’s a closed one on Rosa Parks.  I love the care with which these buildings were originally erected.

I believe this was a flagpole support. Love the stone work

We passed a really cool Metal Fabrication shop near where the street veers slightly to the right. (About which more later).  Its name is a little mysterious:

Weldments?

Judging by the ornamental work, it looks as if they do really fantastic work.  Approaching from the South, (as we did), you might be put off by the first sign for the company you see.  I think the official name for this font is “Impenetrable Peeling Bold”.

D-Style Hieroglyphics

The shop is also protected by (almost) every protection device known to man:

Now, all they need is a guard vegetable

I mentioned above that Rosa Parks/12th Street veers a little to the right as it crosses the John Lodge Expressway.  If you continue slightly to the left, you’ll find yourself on Fenkel. As I looked up the street, I noticed a Motorcycle club with bikes parked in the front. So I rode up and chatted with a couple of the members. It turns out, it was the headquarters of Satan’s Sidekicks, getting ready for a memorial ride. I wrote in an earlier post about the club – with whom I worked during college at a Dodge assembly plant. They used to sport red helmets with devil’s horns. (They’re wearing more normal helmets now.  Two things of note.  1) Whilst searching for information about the club online, I noted there’s a Facebook® page dedicated to the location of the club headquarters. It’s here, described as a “local business”.  2) While engaged in conversation with a member, one of his colleagues went into the club house and got a camera and took my picture. I asked him if it was because I was the only white guy who’d stopped by the club on a bicycle. “Yep”, he replied.

After dead-ending at McNichols, we returned back downtown via one of the saddest streets in America; Hamilton in Highland Park. I’m sorry to report that it is so ruined that it seems virtually irreparable. I can’t see how it could possibly come back to life. There’s simply no money – either in the hands of the inhabitants, or the city, or the state, or the Federal Government. It’s the kind of desolation that seriously makes me worry about the future of the U.S.A.

Being a glass half-full kind of guy, though, I was perked up by the best ghost sign I’ve seen in the city.  Voila: Honor Bright. The perfect garments for every boy:

Real Boys wear Honor Bright playsuits and blouses

Judging by the style, I can only surmise that this was painted in the ’20 or ’30s. What I also liked was the ad for the Square Deal Hardware store – and its phone number: HEmlock 5896.  I can remember when my phone number was a TUxedo.  The Honor Brite sign is right next to an ad for Black Beauty Triple-Stitched work shirts.

A real thoro-bred (sic.)

The children in the Honor Brite ad seem unusually pleased with their new blouses; a simpler time, I guess.

Nice to see another cyclist in the Hood

The rest of the ride was S.O.P. on the TDH. Back downtown, a stop at the Avalon for (in my case) a Pecan roll and a cappuccino. The Legal Eagle stuck with a healthy slice of foccacia. Then a quick spin through the Dequindre Cut, up Lafayette to Burns, Burns to Kercheval, Kercheval to Lycaste, Lycaste to Jefferson, Jefferson to Conner, Conner to Kercheval, and so back home.  Lovely morning of cycling and history.

ADDENDUM: Sweet Juniper (a really excellent blog you should read) has more backstory on the Honor Bright sign and company.

Back in the Saddle Again

We have had a really cold, wet, dismal “spring” this year in the “D”. This weekend was among the first nice ones we’ve had in a while – so the Legal Eagle and I rode through the hood today.

But first, a nod to my new sadddle, a Gilles Berthoud “Aspin”, which my wife found at Peter White Cycles.  La voila:

A birthday gift from the lovely Jennifer

Très jolie, n’est-ce pas? And very comfortable, particularly since I’ve done just about everything but ride my bike this spring. It’s worth considering if you’ve got a Brooks in mind and want to try something different. I have a few other Berthoud items – panniers, front bag, etc., and am really pleased by their quality. Like  Henry Royce said: “The quality will be remembered, long after the price is forgotten”.

Our journey today took us down Kercheval to Van Dyke, up Van Dyke to Nevada (also known as 6-1/2 mile road), over to Woodward, down to the Avalon on Cass, a quick traverse of the Eastern Market and the Dequindre Cut, back up Larned, left on Iroquois, right on Kercheval, and back to our respective homes.

It was a beautiful day in the hood. The Fire Station on Crane near Kercheval has reopened. We spoke to a nice firefighter who was actually on his first day of work.  The station was built in 1900:

Back in Business – serving the neighborhood for 111 years.

Oh, and if you’re wondering (or not, because I’m going to show the photo anyway), this is the home of Engine 14

Engine 14, soaking up the sunlight

A short while later, the Legal Eagle stopped to adjust his front derailleur, as it was rubbing against the chain enough to make us both crazy.  Here he is, ready to repair the faulty component.

The Legal Eagle about to apply his mad mechanical arts skillz

 I thought I had captured most of the photo ops on Van Dyke, but actually saw a couple of visuals that struck my fancy:

No relation to mister arthur, I’m afraid. I dig the crown – but I think “Car Wash” is two words

Mister Splash appears to be quite new, (or at least has a new sign), which is nice, since, sadly, most of the neighborhood is going in the opposite direction.

Here’s a church (there are A LOT of churches on Van Dyke) that uses glass blocks to advertise itself.  It seemed appropriate to snap a photo of this, given that we escaped the Rapture predicted by that nut job from Oakland, California.

Stained glass “window”,  D style.

It wouldn’t be a proper Tour De Hood without a mystery sign or two. A bit farther along, we pedaled by a place for aficionados of previously-ruined vehicles:

I think the font they used for “Cars” is “Junk Regular”.  Please note the star bursts.

The “Tippin Inn” has tipped out, I’m sad to say.  It has a very mysterious message on its sign board, which looks like an especially bad rack of Scrabble® tiles.

I don’t know where to begin.

If you have any idea what the sign said, please send me a note. BWIG BORD UTE TE!

Further down Nevada, (but before the intersection of Nevada and Lumpkin Street), we passed a repurposed small manufactory. It may not be readable in the amateurish photo below, but the building was a temporary  haunted house. Hence the skeleton on the front door.

I guess the market for recaps isn’t what it used to be

There’s a police department building next door. Not that that explains the buoy on the lawn.

Avast, scurvy gangsters!

Across the street is an easier to understand ad for an attorney that gets right to the point:

Everything spelled correctly, except perhaps the name of the artist: Gallary?

The Legal Eagle has a theory that if you see a yellow building, chances are it’s a tire shop. Case in point, this retail establishment that has no evident name, unless it’s owned by Overstock.com.

Open Days. Not sure which ones, or whether that means they’re closed at night.

We also passed a private club that may also be a motorcycle club. Whatever the truth, the Legal Eagle was pleased to note that the Wild Dawgs are (is?) an LLC.

I wonder if Deputy Dawg is a member

That’s all the photos for this week. We did stop for comestibles at the Avalon Bakery, and we had a nice tailwind back up Kercheval.  Lovely day.

Here’s a map of our route for your delectation.