The Big Rectangle 6/12/2011

The Legal Eagle and I are running out of long streets we haven’t ridden on – so we decided to cover some turf we’ve already seen, with the aim of seeing some sights we haven’t. Given that the Legal Eagle is a train nut (of the best kind, of course), we plotted a route to take us to the massive marshalling yards over by Kronk St. and Livernois. Here’s a map of our trail, if you’d like to follow along. It does, indeed, resemble a rectangle. Or Tennessee. Your pick.

Someone once said “Getting there is half the fun”.  I tried to locate the source, but Google® returned over 10 million hits, and none leaped to the first page, so we’ll just accept is as an unattributed adage, ok? Good.

That turned out to be true for us, too.

We passed a number of interesting retail establishments – some of which are going concerns.

There’s a nice car wash/snack shop on Whittier, dig?

Open 7 days, but perhaps not on Sunday mornings

Aside from the grammatical irregularities,  close by is this nicely named barber shop:

I don’t know the location of Clipper City #1

Another car wash was just down the road. It was open, and while it doesn’t have a snack shop associated with it, it does appear to be operating in the face of possible copyright infringement issues.

No name. None needed. We all know what this car wash is called

I didn’t know there was a Duke Ellington Conservatory in Detroit until the 12th of June. Now I do. My mighty photographic skillz chopped off the title of the school on the right hand side. It’s officially the Edward “Duke” Ellington Conservatory of Music and Art. (The word I chopped off). I snooped around a bit online, and note that it appears to have a number of fine reviews.

“Baby, shall we go out skippin?
Careful, amigo, you’re flippin’,
Speaks Latin, that satin doll.”

Back on Gratiot, the Legal Eagle spotted a building that used to be the terminus of  an Interurban Rail company that ran trains from Port Huron to Detroit. It has stopped doing so, of course, run out of business by bus companies.

Yes, there used to be a train station on Gratiot

Over on the other side of the street are some rather more recognizably  Gratiot-ish. The slightly non-executive Executive Car Sales, for example.

Hurry in. Selection is extremely limited

If you have a dirty dirigible, you may want to take it here for a little freshening. And they even promise same day service!

Yes, I know Zeppelins are rigid framed, and blimps aren’t. But I can spell. And Zeppelin has another “p” and an “e”

We have a dog. I like my dog.  Dog Food Heaven sounds like a good place to get him his chow. But the animal under the store’s name doesn’t look much like any breed I’ve ever seen:

This pup barks with forked tongue

His kennel mates are a little more recognizable: Meet Fang:


And to his left, Butch (such an angel) and Pomegranate:

Good Doggies

Better Made® is Motown’s own snack food.  They make really good chips, if you’ve never visited our fair burg.  I hadn’t known that there was a factory discount store for the little beauties:

Factory Outlet for your gullet’s inlet

Right before we left Gratiot for other sights, we cruised by this wonderfully-named restaurant:

Now I’ll try to find Tim’s Thorax

Ron’s Rib Cage has a sparse presence on the interwebs. I did find a site with two diametrically-opposed viewpoints. One full thumbs up. One thumbs down. Ever been there? Weigh in with your opinions, if you have.

After a soft right turn, we found ourselves on Harper, and we ran across another excellent second ghost sign.  The Henkel’s Flour mill complex was on Atwater, and was also known as The Commercial Milling Company.

Two kinds of flour? Who knew?

We eventually arrived at our stated destination, the Livernois Yard, where freight cars are assembled together into a “consist”. Meanwhile, they’re kept in marshalling yards like this.

Squint, and you can see Detroit in the background

The Legal Eagle was in his element. (He’s a train buff).

I hear the train a rollin’, it’s comin’ ’round the bend – J. Cash

If you’ve got a hankering for a railroad spike, this is your Walmart. There are tons of them lying around, along with less-recognizable railroading detritus. The Legal Eagle scoffed at the goods on offer. He’s holding out for the golden spike.

On the way back, we cycled through “Mexican Town”.  There actually seems to be some real, positive economic activity here.  After sticking our heads in at a local outdoor bazaar on Vernor (there were a lot of used backpack leaf blowers for sale), we passed this fab mural closer to the commercial section of the area.

Fantastic Mural on the Side of the Hacienda Foods Building

One more  stop before we routed ourselves homewards.  We decided to pay a visit to the Corktown Youth Hostel, which I mentioned in last week’s post.  If you haven’t seen a photo of it yet, here it is:

Now open for your lodging pleasure

Oh, and one other thing. There’ve been noises made that Matty Moroun is going to re-window his iconic Detroit building, the Michigan Central Station.  Judging by the lack of windows and activity, I’m not holding my breath.

No activity noted.

That was it from a photo op perspective. We stopped for a delicious lunch at the Lafayette Coney Island, which, I have learned is six years shy of celebrating its 100th anniversary. It’s a splinter operation of the American Coney next door, and was opened after the Keros brothers got into an argument and split the original restaurant into two. (I had one with everything, a bowl of chili, and an order of fries). Seemed ok, as we’d ridden 30 miles at that point.


Sunday in the hood. Where’d everybody go?

It was a strange morning in the hood. It was as if a neutron bomb had gone off overnight. All the buildings were still there, but the streets were eerily empty. It makes for great riding, of course, and as Toby Barlow points out in the first part of Palladium Boots’  “Detroit Lives” documentary, it makes you feel like this town is mine. Maybe it was the weather. It ran backwards from yesterday – started off poor, and then the sun came out.

With the Geomaster in tow, the Legal Eagle and I decided to take a spin closer to the river than we usually follow. There were also a couple of things I wanted to show the Geomaster. Like our nearest powerplant, the Detroit Edison jumbotron over by Bayview Yacht club.

There were nine chimneys here when I grew up – the ‘seven sisters and their mom and dad’

There are plenty of boat storage facilities nearby. One of them was the resting place for an O’Day day sailer. My uncle had one of these; and a Lightning; they’re the boats I learned to sail on.  This one needs a little TLC or TDH love.

Please note attentive (and barking) guard dog under the sign

The boat was on Freud street. (Pronounced “Frood” in the hood, by the way).

We also wanted the Geomaster to see the Mayor of Detroit’s residence – Manoogian Mansion, which our imprisoned former mayor KK used for his party party weekends.  On the way there, we passed an “every man’s home is his castle castle” for sale.  It needs work.

Everything but the moat

What’s cool about the place is that it backs up onto a canal, so you can tie up the Royal Barge in the back yard.

Our current Mayor, Dave Bing, hasn’t yet taken occupancy of the mayoral digs. Some people were over tidying up the manor.  It’s a beautiful residence – and its back yard is right on the Detroit River.

Manoogian Mansion. Detroit has stately manors, too

The Geomaster has never ridden along the river. Nor has he seen the famous collapsed upon itself former water tank over a building on Iron Street.  This little structure looked about to fall over for years, and then, fortuitously, gave up and just settled down into a tidy little pile of debris.

The Very Considerate Collapsed Water Tower – my new children’s novel

But as I said, the weird thing is that everything looked deserted.  Here’s the Riverwalk, waiting for pedestrians and cyclists.

Yoo hoo! Anyone home?

We did have a barge to keep us company for a little while.

There’s a barge in the shadows. If you look closely, you’ll see it

We had been riding into a headwind for a while, which is as good an excuse as any to have a couple of Coney Dogs, so we decamped to the Temple of Tube Steaks, the one and only Lafayette Coney Island for brunch.  I don’t need to post a photo of the place. It’s an icon, after all. Our Eiffel Tower, Washington Monument, Gateway Arch, Brandenburg Gate, and Big Ben rolled into one. That said, I don’t think many of you have seen the accommodations at the LCI. They’re down a narrow staircase, and, very, very clean.

Clean ‘n Green

Up at street level, you can see how few people (actually, no people) were around. Some abandoned furniture was available to passersby, had there been any.

This appears to not have been Scotchgarded(r) before use

Off we went towards Mexican Village. Crossing over the train tracks behind the Michigan Central Ruin Porn Station, we caught a train coming out of, and another going into the train tunnel that passes under the Detroit River. (Bet you didn’t know we had one of those, did you?) According to an article found and read by the Legal Eagle, the tunnel “leaks”.

Here’s a train loaded with hazardous chemicals, headed south into Canada.

We get Canadian Bacon, they get chemicals

I saw a nicely decorated building across the street from the Matrix Theatre – there were no identifying signs on its exterior, so I can’t tell you what it’s for, but the lily sculpture was quite entrancing.

3D Beauty

Finally, a sad mural cheek by jowl with the Michigan Central Building. Perhaps the person being honored here was in an accident in the nearby underpass.

Requiescat in pace, Yvette

Don’t mean to end on a down note.  We had a nice ride down Michigan and through Lafayette Park on the way home, nudged by a wind blowing at our back. Oh, and the guys driving the Hazmat Fire Truck from the Station at Mt. Elliot and Lafayette beeped the horn and waved at us.