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.


Davison, Oakman Blvd, W.Vernor, and the Battle of the Overpass

The weather was kind of odd on Sunday, as if it couldn’t make up its mind whether to be cloudy or not. It was beautiful cycling weather in all other respects. Here’s a Google map of where we went.

Not long into our ride, the first spelling fail reared up.

Everyone makes spelling mistakes, but I think people who paint signs for a living should try to uphold a higher standard. At least run the sentence through a spell check before finalizing the job. Case in point. A clearly professionally painted sign that’s missing a C.

1diagnostisOmputer Diagnostis

We also passed an enthusiastic welder’s shop. Can’t comment on the quality of welding, but you gotta love the sentiments of the owner.

2prayweldLove for all except materials that aren’t welded together

The Weld Shop is next to a building with an odd door.  The fence I get. But what do you think that door’s for?

3doortonowhereThe first step’s a doozy

A couple of weeks ago, I passed a deli on Oakland called Greedy’s. Oddly enough, there’s also a restaurant on the East Side called the Greedy Grill. I’m on the lookout for an eatery named for one of the other Capital Sins – the Sloth Cafe, The Lust Restaurant, etc. Anyone have any ideas if anything like that exists in Detroit?  Here’s the Greedy, for your visual pleasure.

4greedyAll ready to go: Fork ‘n’ Spatula

Time Magazine is doing a full-court press about Detroit, renovating a house and blogging about the city. Most of the news isn’t “news” to us Detroiters, as the grimness of things around here isn’t exactly a secret. That said, our woeful state of affairs was amended on Sunday when the pitiful Detroit Lions broke their 0-for-forever losing streak. Maybe this sign helped.

5godblessdetroitYou’re welcome to look as long as you don’t loiter

Over on Davison, we passed a Motorcycle club with a tough name, but a weird logo. It reminds me of either Pluto eating a hot dog, or a rudimentary graphic of a canine alimentary canal.

7blackdragonThe food goes in one end, and out the other

A roofing-home repair place we passed (it appears to be defunct) has a certain peculiar charm to its signage. They do gutters, flashing, and aluminum trim.

8rooferDon’t forget the chimney

That said, one of the illustrations on the building appears to be in violation of all OSHA safety regulations:

9rooferWorking without a net

On the other side of the building, one of the former employees appears to be using a flame thrower on one of his associates.

10rooferI think those are fireproof UGGS.

Interesting perspective, too. Reminds me of an urban version of one of Cezanne’s pre-cubist views of L’Estaque, but with squared-off clouds.

Bev’s Backstreet Lounge has girls, girls, girls. The one on the sign has a certain perky allure, and a nice, SFW bathing suit-ish outfit.

12bevsloungeThe Girls inside are topless. Promise

On the building proper, a much more tempting hint of what you’ll find inside.

13bevsloungeLest you forget: Girls, Girls, Girls

The mood is soured, however, by another large sign at the venue.  This has to be the crabbiest looking stripper in the whole Rust Belt.

14bevsloungeMaybe she’s mad because she lost one of her shoes, or that she’s right next to a major misspelling of businessman

Here’s a tighter shot of her displeased expression:

bevs tightPlaying second fiddle to a 1/2 lb. sandwich

You never know when you might need a shopping cart. If you ever find yourself without one, get thee to McNichols and Davison, where you’re sure to find a model to satisfy you.

15shoppingcartworldKind of like Disney World without the Tea Cup Ride

We passed a motorcycle club that has a much more appropriate logo than that of the Black Dragons. Nothing says M/C like flaming death on two wheels, right?

16ghostridersDo not mess with these guys

If incendiary death isn’t your cup of tea, you might find this laundromat more to your liking. Much like the Gospel Hands Car Wash, here’s a place to get your clothes really, really clean.

17cleansingfloodArk-Scented Tide?

Not long after we passed that laundromat, we found ourselves on the Davison Service Drive, whose pavement quality deserves some Federal Stimulus Funding, stat.  The Legal Eagle, attempting to avoid one of its cracks, bumps, potholes, and former cold patch repair holes, ran through a pile of gravel and crashed, filing off the epidermis on his knee and elbow.

After he stanched the bleeding, we rode for a long way along Oakman Blvd., one of Detroit’s nicest streets. Nice houses, beautiful meridian, etc.

Ultimately, Oakman Blvd turns into Miller Road, which skirts the Ford River Rouge plant, at one time (the 1920’s) the largest manufacturing facility in the world. It was also the site of one of the landmarks of US labor history, the fight between Walter Reuther (founder of the UAW) and goons hired by Harry Bennett, a former boxer and head of Ford’s Internal Security, known as the “Battle of the Overpass”.

Here’s that overpass:

20overpassThe “Battle of the Overpass” Overpass

Heading home on West Vernor, we passed through Detroit’s “Mexican Village”, home of many fine Mexican restaurants, as well as this nifty cross-cultural emporium:

24donutvillaHome of the Original Nickelnut (?)

A tad further along, I-75 has just finished going through a major renovation, which includes our own Santiago Calatrava-ish bridge. Nice, no?

25santiagocalatravaWow! A brand new bridge

The Legal Eagle wanted to make sure I saw Detroit’s Geodesic Dome house – and wonder of wonder, it’s for sale. If you’ve ever wanted to live in a concrete dome (there are two domes joined together) now’s your chance.  It’s over by the former Train Station if you’re interested.

26geodesicLuke … I’m your house

Aside from the road-rash incident, it was a great day in the hood. And I like that house.