We arrive on the island with a sense of accomplishment, as we just pedaled into a hellish headwind along the Detroit River, through the torn up streets of East Detroit, and across the inclined bridge leading us onto Belle Isle. We were redirected in route to take the road heading East due to construction, and rode no more than a mile until we came upon this abandoned-looking tipi in a grassy field overlooking the river.
My first instinct was, “let’s set my hammock up on it.”So that’s exactly what we did. We turned the bikes around, and as Danny laid in the fire ant-less grass of Michigan, I pulled out my Gold Coast Roo, and set it up between two out of the four wooden pillars holding up the weary structure, bringing it back to life.
As a girl from Texas, I over prepared for the Northern winds, and quickly shed my layers of gloves and wool socks as we stopped to rest in the sunshine of the afternoon. I gazed at the riverfront beach to my right and beyond to the buildings that create the city skyline of Detroit.
This was day two in the city, and I was throughly impressed. Besides the lack of bike lanes and the ruins of the automobile industry, this city has done a lot to revitalize itself. The first evening we arrived, we met Danny’s parents at the Detroit Athletic Club for dinner. We ate at a nice restaurant on the top floor, which overlooked Comerica Park. We arrived as the Detroit Tigers were hosting the Toronto Blue Jays, and stayed until the sun began to set behind the field and Tigers we ahead by 9 points and counting. It was a magical scene as the introduction to this new city that I’ve heard so much turmoil on the news about. It was the complete opposite of what I prepared myself for, which was a happy relief and made Danny proud of his hometown.
After dinner, Danny and I walked the streets of downtown Detroit. Even though it was a Monday night, the city was still alive easily welcoming the drunken Tigers fans, and they loudly continued to celebrate the big win against their Canadian neighbors of 11-0. We enjoyed a local beer at a microbrewery in the midst of celebration, and I quickly became aware of the differences in accent between the Detroit locals, Canadians, and my Southern draw, which I never noticed I had until I arrived in the North.
For the first time I felt a bit self-conscious of my use of “y’all,” and didn’t want my identity to be revealed amongst a group of locals.
The next morning I awoke in the house Danny grew up in about 30 minutes Northwest of the city in a suburb called West Bloomfield. The neighborhood was scattered with lakes surrounding quaint houses, and I was shocked by the drastic temperature change the morning brought…52 degrees! I disappointingly shuffled through my suitcase only to find shorts and a light Patagonia jacket. We attempted a bike ride through the rural neighborhood, and even though it provided beautiful green trails and lakeside views, we had to cut it short when the cold air began to pierce my ear drums.
Thankfully the rest of the afternoon was spent indoors, getting acquainted with Danny’s extended family as we celebrated his recent accomplishment of graduating with his PhD in literature and writing. The family took interest in my Southern roots, and the conversation flowed into the evening accompanied by wine, pizza and family photo albums.
The following day was reserved for exploring more of Detroit, via bicycle of course.
We started at the Detroit Athletic Club and got a glimpse of yet another baseball game from the parking garage. We biked 7 miles to the island, rested on the tipi field, and slowly made our tired bodies back in time to enjoy the perch for dinner, unique to the Great Lakes.
Of course there was so much I would have loved to do in Detroit, and there was so much more to offer, like museums and other sight-seeing opportunities. But we must continue into the next phase of our road trip, as we drive across the American border and into Canada.
Here we come, Toronto!