Tonight’s ride had long been coming as we finally answered numerous requests to take a tour into some of the less favorable areas of the city. What I will loosely term the dark shadowy places. To honor the request I charted the map and set the course through one of the city’s worst sections. Home to ‘White Boy Rick’ and the once headquarters of the infamous ‘Chamber Bros’, (for those of us from the area, we all remember the police videos and the faces associated with the Crack Epidemic that swept through the city in the early 1980’s). Oddly enough the same 6 mile and Gratiot area was also once home to Dan from Motor City Brewery.
We set off East on Canfield and then charted north to Palmer street as we soon made our way to Grand Blvd. up to St. Cyril, which to me still looks like an old wagon trail each time I ride on thru. From there we made our way over the Chandler Park and our first stop at a picnic table that Dan rested with his family just three weeks ago. From there we charted up Dickerson St. on our way Long View. As we all gazed around it was apparent that we were entering into an area that somehow just did not feel right?
From Longview we made our way north on Queen and stopped at the corner of Huston and found ourselves at Gracie’s. We were ‘Buzzed’ in and warmly welcomed by a friendly fellow who held the door open for us as we brought our bikes in. The Bartender our gracious host and the rest of the crowed gathered there were all in good spirits and friendly from the first moment we walked in. Many a tale was told with heartfelt well wishes for the city being expressed by everyone. From there our host informed us all that he was a retired State Policeman and impressed us with his belt buckle push button holster which promptly dropped a 22 cal. Pistol into his right hand. The best way to fight against crime, he said, was to be prepared, just then he raised his shirt to reveal his gold-plated 45. attached just off his right hip. He went on to tell us that this fellow and that fellow and the female Bartender and that guy way over there will all card carrying members and were loaded for bare! Man what a place, the citizens here have laid claim to the corner and will not be intimidated by gangs, thugs or anyone else for that matter.
He held the door for us and followed us outside inquiring were we were oft to next, once revealed he asked if we wanted his cell number and remarked that maybe we should go that way? It was then that I said faith and light would be our guide and when in doubt, there are fanny pack holsters, packing 40’s and not 45’s. With a good laugh we were off to tour where Dan grew up and from there we stopped by Ted’s childhood home in Indian Village where his Mum still lives. With a drag race down the riverside sidewalk and one more stop in-between we all made it back to our point of origin, the entire group better for it.
Bike Detroit! J. Meyers bike explorer
With the heat in the mid nineties I knew tonight’s training ride was going to be sweaty one. The past few days I had spent out in the field at various sites, pushing crews and people who did not want to be pushed through humidity which felt like walking through a cloud of glue. I was looking forward to tonight’s ride to blow out the pipes and let go of myself created steam.
When I arrived home from the field I took a shower before putting my bike riding gear on, (something that seems to always puzzle my wife)? I could not stand the smell of myself and the last thing I was going to do was subject the patrons at my midway point with a double blast of B.O.
The way down I found myself faced with a battle of winds. The hot south was pushing north right into my face, while the cool northwest breeze was fighting to find a way in, in hopes of making its own presence felt. The threat of severe thunderstorms was at hand, as the battle of opposing fronts was all around, making me the subject of their confrontation. I did not break any records on the way down and made it to the Brewery in about 65 minutes. Once there I had to walk around a bit as I was at the point of overheating and wanted to find my balance before I went in to say hi.
After a few waters and 2 summers ale’s the clouds started to turn dark as the cool North West was starting to win the battle. Derek asked if I wanted a ride back as the weather channel was calling for some dicey action. I told him if you’re only going to go half way you might as well stay home. With that being said I was off to greet the incoming storm. I made it through Wayne State Campus when a crack of electricity unzipped the dark brooding sky, letting a flood of water fall down upon the land. Most people are paralyzed by fear, unable to take action because of a misguided belief that the physical plain and form is the only reality they will ever know. I can tell you that people are much easier to control when they live there life in fear. Not me.
Well it didn’t start with a sprinkle, nope it was almost horizontal as I had to duck and tuck in so as not to be blown into the adjacent kerb like a dingy out in the ocean with too large of a sail. Instead of running, hiding or seeking shelter I open my heart and embraced the rain. I imagined it was a gift to be in that moment and somehow or another it was a trial of faith over fear for which my reward was to have any lingering sin washed away. Pushing my peddles hard, my shoes filled up with water I was ahhhh finally cool from all those hot sticky days in the field. Branches breaking, leaves and twigs flying through the air all around with big ole me slapping the peddles hard without even a care. From my heart I reached up to the heavens, with a wonton prayer, asking the angels and the ethereal water elemental creatures to take me apart and wash away any lingering sin or stain.
By the time I reached Palmer Park the heavens started to settle down. From there on it was one flooded street lake after another that my tires had to swim through. I felt like a kid again! When I was a young boy we used to run for our bikes to meet the rain, finding the biggest puddle we could, ride through and jump in to sit and swim. Something happened to me on this ride, something magical and special. Upon my return home my psychically gifted wife noted the change. She gently asked what happened out there, you have not felt this good for over a year? I told her I opened up my heart and the heavens cleansed me.
Bike Detroit! J. Meyers bike explorer
With the threat of rain and over committed schedules that consume a chance at balance I was the only rider on tonight’s adventure. The energy of the city was dark and angry as the violence and pain could be felt by everyone. The voice in my head said ahh relax why ride? Take it easy bla bla bla. I thought to myself what the hex I can leave my phone in the car so it would not get wet. I mounted up and headed due west along the Canfield trail around 6:15.
No less than three occasions I had to dodge, duck, dive, dip and dodge cars driven by amped up men who simply thought that stop signs had nothing to do with them or their vehicles, WOW! Geese’s maybe riding tonight was not such a good idea? I made my way onto to Central Ave near John Kronk and was literally driven into the gutter underneath the rail road bridge by yet again another angry 20 something male, who wanted to control the things around him and make sure that no one was going to get ahead of his position in line! While in the muddy puddle of a gutter I picked up a commercial staple in my front tire and before you knew it my front tire was going flat. I turned left onto Dix and made my way into the gas station to get some change for the phone. Weird looks, dark lighting in many eyes that had grown dim, I was instantly alert and on guard, only as a few times before in all of the years of riding through the city. The first two calls got me nowhere as everybody these days seems to not answer the phone unless they know the number or the caller is part of their address book. I got back on the bike and the hell out of there.
A few blocks back I noticed an Irish Pub called Casey’s and I said to myself an Irish Bar would always be a safe haven no matter what the neighborhood might be. When I walked in the place it went silent as the locals were wondering what and the hell was this big wet cat doing dragging his bike in on their Thursday night pool league? I quickly made fun of myself letting everyone know what a door knob I was for not bringing my phone or my repair kit. I was invited to sit down at the bar and struck up a conversation as the bar keep called the local cab company on my behalf. The local guys were talkative and honest about having too much to drink to give me a ride. An hour and a half passed and two more calls were made to no avail. Just then a tall fellow walked in with his Bulls basketball jersey on and started to eyeball me wondering what I was about. Turns out ‘Franco’ was from Uruguay and was a chef at the MGM Casino. He insisted on helping me out as I later learned he had been blessed with good fortune most of his life and felt that it was his duty to pay it back by helping people out whenever he could! I helped him move the cases of Clams he had just picked up for tomorrows soup and took my bike apart to fit into his newer Lincoln town car. As we drove through the neighborhoods on the way back to MCB he asked if I was crazy riding through these neighborhoods? Thinking out loud he asked if I had a death wish? I told him it was my mission of sorts, in the most non pedestrian friendly city in the world, to show people that did not have to own a car to be free nor did they have to willingly submit to a drive-thru life style becoming fat and unhealthy. As an artist-architect it is my statement. With goodbyes being said and many a thank you being extended I was back in my rig loaded up and heading home.
Bike Detroit! J. Meyers bike explorer
The family left early to head up to Mackinac Island for the Holiday weekend. With Bikes and Two Seat Chariot in tow we were looking forward to biking all weekend as a family. Dan and his wife and their kids joined us a day later as we spent the entire weekend riding and exploring all day long. For those of you that have never been this is a must see adventure for any bike enthusiast.
The inner island trails and hills are were the real magic of the island exists. Old growth forest, bike trails, horse trails, foot trails, trails, trails, trails! Slowing down and listening to the world outside absent of the sounds and vibrations of automobiles can calm the most revved up heart.
Bike the Island! J. Meyers
For about a year now I have wanted to take a group of riders down into the city River Rouge to explore the neighborhood just south of Jefferson Ave. Today was the day to do just that. Ted from the Charles Wright African American Museum and Derek from the crew at MCB were anxious to get going out on the route I came up with earlier in the day. We were off flowing west and then again south by way of Clark Street we made our way onto Jefferson Ave.
Our first stop was Kovacs Bar where as the place was as empty as usual other than the single regular and Ma Kovac’s still tending the bar. It was hot and we were just thirsty as we had just one drink and a whole lot of water we quickly continued on with our journey. Once across the Gotham City Draw Bridge, (looks like it is fresh out of a Batman movie) we quickly turned left on to Victoria street. From there it was Marion Hwy. over to Belanger Park Road. At first we passed it but being the old trail sniffer that I am I called the group back to turn around and check-er-out. We were all glad that I did.
What a gem, river access park benches and a beautiful view of the Black Oak Heritage Park just across the river. I could make out one of those beach inlets as I shared with the group that it would be a good time to head on back over and check the trails out personally. We all sat on the benches and relaxed for 5 minutes taking in the vibe and the view. It is worth the trip to pack a meal load up a bucket of suds and head on down with the family to see and enjoy what we had re-discovered. Back on the bikes and out to the main road we made a left and continued on to Great lakes Blvd. Along the way we all asked the same question why fence the adjacent neighborhood out? Whatever happened to seamless interconnectivity?
We found ourselves at the river rouge bar and grill where we were warmly met by Charlie, his gal and about 8-10 women who were out celebrating one of their party’s birthday. The big blonde gal whose birthday was the occasion of celebratory event was friendly, extremely friendly! She was touch feely all over Derek who more than once had to move away. Next it was my turn, she asked what my name was? I told her my name was married! Even so she still persisted and asked where we had ridden from as the fun was just getting started. Wise ole Charlie was cracking wise from his stoop at the bar, laughing hard at the flirtatious attempts. Blondie followed us out the door still asking the same question as to where we had come from and where we were riding to next? We hastily made our goodbyes and ducked into the nearby neighborhood as quickly as we were able.
We laughed often as we were all kind of floored by the wanton hopes of a birthday present that none of us were willing to give. The neighborhood was vibrant and colorful not vacant or abandoned at all. Making our way back we hoofed it on in as Ted front tire started to lose air his journey became more glue like, slowly getting slower each mile as we went. We made it back and Derek was off like a shot. It was a good thing he chose to leave when he did! As I made it back out to the parking lot to change my shirt, birthday girl was strolling up to the front door with three more ‘Hungry’ girls in tow. She had brought out her gang, all made up, womanly war paint laid on thick, fumigated with perfume they were looking to have a real party. I ducked into the van as quick as I could, slinking down in the driver’s seat like a married coward, I was laughing out loud as I could not believe what had just arrived. They mulled around the front door looking but never stepping in, Ted was lucky to be in the bathroom when the eyes of the ‘Hungry’ were cowering the room, looking for something to eat, I think looking for Derek!
Bike River Rouge/Detroit J. Meyers bike explorer
After a long month of intense work I finally found some time to catch up on the blog and share with people the tale of our travels over the past several weeks. Last year’s Bike the Bridge event was attended by big Mike and this year Jen and I were in attendance with the 100+ Americans who wanted to take the trip on up and over. This year’s event was well organized and was wonderful to be a part of.
With the short ride over to the staging area we were ushered up to join the Canadians who had already crossed and were waiting in Mass just inside of the toll booths, (they did not have to clear customs as they were not touching American soil). When the signal was given we slowly took off taking in the sites of the river as we climbed up the grade. I snapped a few photo’s of Jen wearing her bike Detroit Gear, wow what a site. Once at the apex I let it out, just a little as my speed increased to 35mph+ flying free. I was sliding through the scattered groups of riders like a skier traveling down a mogul hill. At the Bottom of the bridge we were waived through the customs booth and into McDonald’s parking lot no questions asked! Damn easiest international crossing I have ever been a part of.
From there on we traveled west to a nearby Park where a snack was offered to all. From that point the group split in two as the hardcore riders went down to Historic Amherstberg while the others went off to Hiram Walker for a little tour and whiskey taste fest. Todd Scott led the ride at a good pace taking us away from the main hwy through farm country. While in Amerherstberg the group started to splinter a bit with various riders taking off in different directions. Jen and I found a nice coffee shop and had an espresso while enjoying great conversation with the locals gathered there.
From there we were off trying to find the rail to trail conversion that had been posted all over town, it was supposed to be the Grand Opening Weekend for this newly created trail. Sadly we learned that it was not going to open up on time. From there on we took the main hwy. that ran parallel to the river and after about ten miles of exploring we found ourselves I the Black Oak Forrest Park. Only partially reveled on any map this place was wonderful! Trail upon trail, crossing over a set of R&R tracks we found no less than three sandy beach-like access points right into the Detroit River. One in particular I had to slam the breaks on or it would have been downhill and right on in! Jen stopped often to chow down on the Mulberry fruit, so many trees, so much fruit and only two hands. We both agreed it would be worthwhile just to bring a group of trail riders over for a fun filled day.
From there on it was to Historic Sandwich town where the primary group caught up with us we joined in and took the river side sidewalk back into town. From there on we split again as we made our way onto Ouellette street in search of food. Windsor has become a ghost town, boarded up restaurants and bars where as a young man I found myself foolishly playing far too often then I would like to remember. Back then I would never imagine what this place would become as the post 911 fear based hysteria and overly aggressive border guards have done more than a good job in taking Windsor down to the level of Detroit, at least in some of the parts that we saw. Lucky enough Jen noticed a spit turning in the window of one of the street café’s. We went in to enjoy a good meal that would more than hold its own among the Greek Town Collection just across the river bend. Busses were on time and the Anal retentive custom guards relaxed just a little as they had to inspect and question all of us. At the end of the day it was well worth the money paid although the shirts could have been better.
Bike the Bridge! J. Meyers bike explorer
Heres some picture from last weeks ride downriver! 25 miles roundtrip which included a stop at Kovac’s bar as well as Mr.G’s bar. great times.