.....I was hoping to get a thank you reply out to you earlier than this, but it's been crazy busy the past few days and I'm only getting my first chance to reply now. Also, I hadn't asked before if you'd have time for a quick hello, but it had more to do with so little time being there more than anything, and I do intend on going back in the near future, so maybe if things work out and you're up to it, we can grab a coffee somewhere. OK, where to start...
.....So we got to Greater Detroit (I don't know if you call it that) around 4 pm or so. We came in from the north after crossing the border in Sarnia/Port Huron. We drove down I-94, exited at 8 Mile and drove the length until Novi Rd. As we drove north on Novi Rd, we hit the construction, detoured around and made our way up to Twelve Oaks Mall. By this time, we were famished, so rather than go into the mall, we drove around Novi a bit, looking around for something to eat and ended up at TGIFridays. Novi's a nice little city, some of the road need work (I'm thinking Grand River) but overall, it seemed like a nice place to live.
.....From there, we went looking for somewhere to stay for the evening. There were a few choices around the Fridays restaurant, good choices too, but as we drove around, we found a Quality Inn in Livonia on Plymouth Road just east of Merriman, not the greatest hotel I ever stayed at but it was still good enough. Knowing we didn't want to confine ourselves to the hotel, we were soon in the car and ready to explore.
.....After leaving the hotel, we drove down to Wayne so we could get on Michigan Ave so we can could make our way to Detroit city center. We went through Inkster and Dearborn, taking little detours every once in a while off the main road, just to get a chance to see the stuff you can't see from Michigan Ave. Along the way, we made a quick stop in a McDonald's, just to get an ice cream cone. Once we got downtown Detroit, I was surprised the traffic wasn't as bad as I expected and we managed to drive all throughout the downtown. There were a few places that had construction but it wasn't too bad. We went over to Joe Louis and Cobo Arenas, saw Ford Field and Comerica Park (all from the outside), up Woodward around the down area, back down to Jefferson, over to Greektown Casino, it was all sight-seeing, we knew we really didn't have time to stop and do anything.
.....After out time downtown, we got on Gratiot Ave and went north back up to Roseville, turned around and came back down. As I'm sure you figured out already, it was night time by now, so what we got to see off Gratiot was limited from the main road, so we knew if we wanted to see "stuff", we'd have to get a little more adventurous...and we did. After turning around in Roseville, we started southwest again on Gratiot and whenever we thought we'd see something interesting, we'd make a turn down some of the side streets. We drove by the city airport and through neighbourhoods that aren't nearly as nice as Novi and Livonia, then we got on Van Dyke and went north to Warren. We were hoping to see some references to Eminem, if they're there, we missed them.
.....From Warren, we came down to Hamtrack and Highland Park driving on Conant St, McNichols Rd and Davison St, then zigzaging through both neighbourhoods until we got on Schoolcraft. While we were out in that area, we stopped at a McDonald's again, I can't remember which street exacly, but it would have been in the Highland Park area, maybe on McNichols. We got something to eat, people watched a bit and then on our way back to the hotel in Livonia.
.....On Sunday morning, we knew we didn't have a lot of time, knowing we had to cross the border no later than 3 pm, so we were up early, made a quick stop at the Walmart next to the hotel, got a few things then set out to explore again. This time, we drove down Plymouth, turned southeast on Grand River and over to Woodward. We went up to Highland Park again and turned on McNichols and over to the airport. From there, on to Gratiot until we got downtown. All through there, we were zigzaging again in through the different neighbourhoods to see as much as we could see until we crossed the bridge back into Windsor.
.....Now, for the personal observations. I couldn't believe all the makeshift signs on the different telephone poles advertizing the purchase and sales of houses. "For Sale, 3 bedroom brick house, $5000 to $15000". These signs were EVERYWHERE!! Also, as we drove through some of these neighbourhoods, we had the windows of our car open to truly appreciate the sounds and sights of Detroit, all the while playing the whitest of white music from the 80s you can imagine...Billy Joel, Bon Jovi, stuff like that. At one point, we turned off the main road, there was an African-American woman walking and you could see her lips move and her expression said it all, "WHAT THE F&%K!!!" We just kept driving. Shortly thereafter, as I creeped up to an intersection in the Highland Park area, I looked down the street and didn't see anyone right away. As soon as I passed the first house though, between it and the second house, there were about 20 young men, I'm sure what they were doing was not legal, but I was already committed to driving down the street and when they saw us, everything stopped. One of them raised his arms to his side with his palms up, suggesting "what the he!!?" but as I accelerated, none of them made any move towards us, so we just kept going until we could turn and get out of there.
.....This may be a bit of an exaggeration but, everything in Detroit revolves around the auto industry. There are a million car dealerships, Rim Stores, Tire Stores, Car Washes. I mean, I knew Detroit was Motor City...now I really know Detroit is Motor City.
.....On a positive note, and this was totally unexpected and maybe we got lucky, but everywhere we went, people were so nice to us. I'm repeating that, everywhere we went, people were so nice to us. In Novi at the Friday, the staff was amazing, they were extremely information and helpful answering all the questions we had. The staff at the hotel, they answered every question we had, no matter how stupid it was, the one common theme though was, to the person, 100% of those we spoke to said they never go downtown and have no plans on going downtown, and that they'd never go to the places we went. As we drove around, at both McDonald's stops, the staff was friendly, and a couple times we asked for directions from strangers walking on the street, and they were very helpful and friendly as well. I know from the different memorials all over the city (teddy bears on telephone poles) that this is not always the case, but we were always treated in a nice manner.
.....Lastly, and this may sound a little harsh espcially considering the excellent trip we had, but the one word that immediately comes to mind after driving all over the Detroit area is, "Dilapidation". I think you said it in one of your earlier replies, it's not one specific area, it's all over the place. All over the Detroit area, when you drive off the main road, you will find buildings in ruin, cars that have been stripped to nothing, yards that are overrun with shrubbery, people with nothing. We did see hookers, homeless, drug deals, but not nearly as much as we thought we would...but the one picture that remains is the ruins. Some street there would be dozens of houses in a row that were in complete decay, on other streets, you'd have a house that was in great shape, inhabited and thriving...between two houses that were in complete ruin and beyond repair. And even though I pretty much liked the downtown area overall, along many of the mainroads we travelled, many the commercial buildings were run down and poorly maintained, many of them not even being used for business, although I'm not sure if they are completely abandonned.
.....I'm not sure what the plans are for moving forward, if any at all, but if and whenever it happens, it's going to be a major project to get Detroit back to where it once was. I've been all over the world, I have seen worse, but Detroit is in a state of ruin that I haven't seen anywhere else in North America...D'
Posted on Jun 30, 2011, 8:39 AM from IP address 184.108.40.206