Alrighty, I owe an update from that big trip back in the begining of July. Basically in a nutshell Jon hopped on and we hit the road towards the lake, where the accoustic jam was happening. Uneventful trip through downtown Mt. Clemens, but I always enjoy being in the area riding. It was one of my old "stomping grounds".
We arrive at the bar where the jam session is taking place and there is an area right near the door where there is a Harley pulled up. Not designated parking, but with small amounts of skill could be navigated by motorcycle. I decide this self-designated bike parking is a good thing, so I park next to the other bike on this concrete patio near the door.
I won't say a lot about the jam session, except there was this one guy who could play and sing like Johnny Cash, and it was worth the trip just to hear him. He looked nothing like Johnny, but he sure caught the mood and the sound. Many others played too, but nothing that drove me wild. Typical accoustic fair. All great players (far better than myself) and it was a good break in my afternoon. I made the bar tender make me some coffee and I think she was annoyed. She brought me a cup, and I gave her a dollar tip and the dollar cup of coffee. When I went to get a refill once she charged me again. I gave her another dollar tip, and she then informed me the refill were free from here on in... as I was getting ready to leave. Gee, thanks.
Leaving there I had no specific destination, but I wanted to take Jon for a spin and see some of the sites in the city. In my previous life I was a city dweller, so I always love poking around Detroit. We were right on the water's edge at that bar, on a road called Jefferson. I decided we could take Jefferson all the way to the Ren Cen downtown. My little bike parking area was now empty except me, but turned out to be safe place to leave the bike. The parking lot was gravel, so it was good to have a solid ground parking space.
South on Jefferson we pass through several communities and as you go south from where I was, near Mt Clemens, it gets richer and richer. The houses and cars get nicer, and you see more access to the lake hidden by houses, hotels, and boat bearthing. So I'm zipping along at near speed limit out pops a cop from one side street. I'm not going fast, so slowing to speed limit was easy. He was a little in front of me and was going sub-speed limit. I was catching up to him, and it was a two lane each way sort of road with a turning lane. I passed him and all the cars behind me slowed down. I checked the speed limit sign again and found I had not been speeding, so I proceeded.
A little down the road, I was passing other cars and he was still way behind me with a growing traffic jam behind him. He then picks up speed and gets behind me. I think, damn, why is he going to hassle me? Am I missing something. He signaled, went around me, and got in front of me. He then at the next light moved up to a 10 over the speed limit tact in front of me, so I let him get a good 10 or 15 car lengths in front of me and matched him. I continued to pass traffic following my new found escort. He broke off at a corner and that was it for his involvement in my day. Later I asked Jon what he thought, and he thought for sure this guy was going to hassle us too. It felt like we were a mouse to his cat as he let me pass, came up behind, passed slow, and then took off. Maybe he ran my plate and moved on. I guess.
I mentioned it gets richer and richer on the way down to Detroit. Well that is true until you get to Detroit. The last city before Detroit is Grosse Pointe. Mansions-o-plenty. You also have a view of the lake as it runs into the river. As we were just about to leave Grosse Point I got a good look at a ore hauling ship moving down the lake into the river. Huge ships. I mean, these are no oil tankers, or cargo carriers you see going out to sea, but they are impressively big.
When you enter Detroit it is like a smack in the face. Boom. Welcome to Detroit, now get out. There are spots driving down Jefferson where I am ready to run a red light if I have to - not just for traffic, but also for the guys hanging around the corner who don't seem to have anything better to do. I can't decide if I want to just get downtown and leave, or actually check something out down here.
I decide I will stop at Belle Isle. As you head south on Jefferson, only about 2 or 3 miles from downtown proper, right in the middle of the river is a city park on an island. That is Belle Isle. I had been there many times when I lived in the area, and it is a crown jewel of Detroit. It is not taken care of very well, but it was at one point a world class park I'm sure. You can see signs of it everywhere. Opulent buildings, statues, fountains, and even support facilities. It is about 1 mile or so long and about a 1/2 mile wide. A road circles the island and provides many stopping points to view the river and at the south end a great view of downtown, from the river.
Anyway, I turn off of Jefferson and head across the bridge to the island. 25 MPH speed limit is killer. There are not people or other cars on the bridge, but I know once I tweek my speed there will be a Detroit cop just waiting for "some suburban guy thinking the rules don't apply to him" and whatnot. So I slowly enter the clockwise flow of cruising traffic on island. This leads us south past a huge fountain area (which I'm told runs in the eveneing, but I did not see that myself), and on the right are picnic and play areas. We stop at one of the most south areas and take bio break. I discover as a the same ship from early passed by closely going down the river - I don't have my camera. Duh.
After Jon got done with his bio break we were ready to get rolling again. Just as I was gearing up a fella came up and asked how much the bike costed, and how fast it was, and wanted me to start and rev the engine. Real nice guy. Sort of big and scary, but nice. He was duly impressed. I always like those who are impressed by my bike.
So now back north around the island where you can see they have, or had museums, aviaries, observatories, and other cultural buildings. Most seem to be closed and in a permanent way. Sad really, as it seems like this was a wonderful place at one time. I love it still in the way I enjoy most of this area, but it provides so little now to such a small population. Too bad. Anyway, speed limit on the island was 20 I think. Painful. And I get behind a Detroit cop at one point and so I'm not going faster at all. I'm in another rolling traffic jam provided by law enforcement.
Leave the bridge from the island I decided to wrap up my Jefferson tour by getting on downtown. At this point, Jefferson is no longer the closest road to the river, so I head a bit east and ride along Atwater, which runs right up to the Ren Cen. The whole area from Belle Isle to downtown is weird. Fortresses to keep the city people out, and keep the rich folks in. A couple blocks inland from the river front and you are in some of the most run-down parts of Detroit. This reminds me of a cold front and a warm front hitting each other. Old warehouses near the river, and new structures are where fancy condos, facilities for those with money, and expensive resturants is what you find by the river. A fortress for those with and to keep those without away.
So passed the palaces and castles on the river and to the biggest one, the Ren Cen. Atwater goes by the back of the Ren Cen and also leads you behind Cobo Hall and Joe Louis Arena. Oddly enough, it pops you back onto Jefferson just south of this civic center area. I like that last bit before Jefferson again, as you get to go through some tunnels, and I love listening to my bike in tunnels.
The next leg of my tour of the city was to lead me back north on Jefferson and then head out of downtown on Woodward. Woodward runs right between the big downtown buildings, under the people mover, and past the casinos. It is like most downtown areas, except it always seems so quiet down there for a big city. I guess most people only go there if they have a purpose, and recreation downtown seems a rarety. Also leaving town this way takes you past the Fox theatre which is right across from CoAmerica park, home of the Tigers (for the past couple years now). Only a couple miles from the old Tiger's statuem, which is still in one piece. I wonder what they will do with that old building.
I decided once we had gone a few more miles up Woodward I would turn off and cut through Hamtramck, where I lived for a few years before my kids were born. Loonette and I lived there in an upper flat and did some of our best hippy beatnic training there.
The coffee house I lived at (practically) is now gone. Most of my hangout places are different or gone. Ten years is ten years after all, so I passed by and remember - you can't go back.
Now I'm getting tired and I know Jon has not spend the kind of hours riding that I have, and I don't want to wear out my pillion. After all, I plan to drag him around elsewhere in the next day or two anyway. I need him to be up for that, so I start bee-lining home. I leave Hamtrack north on Mound. This runs me out of Detroit, past 8 mile, in through Warren (home of the speed traps) into Sterling Hgts (or Sterile Whites, as we call it). I need to stop for gas finally and a coffee seems in orders. Since Belle Isle we've been riding for about 1.5 hours, and it was about 1 hour into Detroit from Mt Clemens. I suggested going home after this, about a 15 minute ride, but Jon suggested heading to our old home (where Jon and I both went to High School) Rochester. This would take 30 minutes and then 45 or so to get home after. It was getting dark, and although I had a clear sheild for me, I did not carry a spare for my pilliion. He did not care about the time or his vision in the dark, so we headed for Mr. B-bar in Rochester for a pizza and our final stop for the day. We started around 5pm and we ended up in Rochester close to 9pm.
I thought I'd finish this day, but I've running out of writing time again. I will try update the blog from here. You know, I wanted to finish this because I have several rides to write about, but I want this one done. I'll try to wrap this up soon.