Excerpts from my journal during a 3 week sojourn in Detroit Michigan, late winter 2014, searching for the seeds of the New Miracle of Detroit
It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them.
March 29, 2014, Saturday, Detroit
Cooler, high 30s, overcast, still
Yesterday [March 28, 2014] mainly a 16 mile group bike ride organized by Farmada with the North American Bicycle Week, one of the week’s 5 or so group rides. The westerly wind was strong, tiny water droplets periodically fell on us, the temperature was not too cold, in the 50s. Possibly this curtailed participation because only about 50 at most rode, all but a few young, most seemingly from Detroit or nearby, I might have been the only one from a distance. An array of bikes, some fancy, some plain, mine the only folding. One young Black man asked me, what do they call that type of bike? Suggesting the paucity of folding bikes in Detroit on bike rides.
Our route began at Hart Plaza, progressed to the river, along the river walk, up “the cut” (an old rail line made into a linear park, S would love this) and then circuitously thru an old cemetery where many brewery magnates are buried, across a bridge to Belle Isle Park, to the statue (organizers shortened the route because of the strong winds on the island, blowing down the river), a break for photos and snacks (I peed in the fountain—scandalous!), and reverse the route, stopping at Andrew’s for lunch.
There, eating Cajun fried fish with fries and coleslaw, I sat with a Black man, the one I thought had been with a very attractive young Black woman. I sat with him partly expecting she would join us—she never did. This guy, missing a number of upper front teeth, spoke incessantly about the many rides he’d made in North Carolina up and down mountains, his strategies for winning races, all the while gesticulating wildly with his hands and arms. When I told him about Mt. Washington (in the White Mountains), he exclaimed, jubilantly, I want to climb that mountain! Later I realized this was not the Black man I thought, with the handsome partner, but more a loner. I positively identified the 2 when I examined my video footage.
I made numerous photos, most of them lame, and about 5 video clips, some perhaps useable. I suspect 2 guys I spotted with single lens reflex cameras, able to turn around and photo people from the front rather than the back as I mostly did, produced better results. One guy, dark black, used a Nikon D700, full frame camera. As we rode, we discussed the relative advantages of the D600 which I usually use (not on this bike ride) and the D700. He told me, I no longer worry about high ISO, at 3200 there is no noise. I felt, zooming around Detroit by bike, I’d made a photo buddy. I only wish we could join together later and compare photos—maybe online later [never happened that I found, except for the stupendous one below].
Courtesy of Farmada Free Ride
Leaving the restaurant early, believing the ride effectively over, I pedaled as much as possible along the river back downtown to retrieve my car. I’d parked it in a lot with other cars opposite the Motor City Casino, near the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) headquarters. I worried. Ah, happily, it was still there and intact.
I have to wonder about Detroit as Motor City. Maybe Detroit has lost its earlier distinction and now, with the times, found or is discovering a new one: Detroit as Bicycle City.
At Eastern Market where I expected more bike week activities I found only a group of men huddled beneath large blue blankets conversing. Asking where the bike week activities are, they told me many had been canceled because presenters had cut out, numbers were definitely down, they suspected because of the weather. I thought, what a bunch of wimps.
So I wandered the Market alone, not looking for bike events, but searching for a fine cup of coffee and something sweet. I found precisely what I needed in the large Gratiot Central Market amidst its myriad meat, poultry and fish—a heavily sugared cruller and a large cup of cheap black coffee. After depositing 2 quarters in the hands of “my brother” waiting by the main door for likely benefactors, I sat outside because there was no seating inside. I sat opposite a series of graffiti on a hardware store that might be abandoned. Poor sign.
Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.
—H. G. Wells
TO BE CONTINUED
The Wind Blew With Us/Against Us (video)