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?

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.