Monday, April 4, 2011


Though we normally ski over spring break, this year has been such an unexpected whirlwind full of changes! I might have traded my plastic ski boots in for leather knee boots, but one element remained unchanged- the cold temperatures! Detroit was a beautiful city that took me by surprise. Full of culture, architecture, and whimsy, the Motor City was full of vibrant energy and pleasant, smiling patrons. I'm not afraid to admit, I left a piece of my heart there. I can visualize a life there, raising Harbor William, on the banks of the Detroit River, in the shadow of skyscrapers and Canadas' friendly shores.

Leaving Arkansas was a bit of a frenzy, to say the least. I had not intended to travel at all over spring break, with David and I agreeing upon a 10 week separation, and as hard as that is, to make the best of it and accept that sometimes life is hard. Making this move, accepting this career in the city, agreeing to subject our family to such change has never been an easy decision, but one we have had a great peace about. So, when David called Monday night late to say that he had found a beautiful home, made an offer, had that offer accepted, and needed a word from me to feel confident to continue, I hurriedly packed a few bags in preparation for a long 14 hour drive to the "311".

I'm not a great driver. I tend to drive under the speed limit instead of over, sight-see a bit too much to make decent travel time, and be a bit too timid in and around large cities. In response to these very well known facts about me, my dad kindly took vacation time and was happy to load me up and drive me all the way there. We had such a nice time chatting and taking pictures together. We never once turned on the radio during the 28 hour round trip commute. We discussed politics, farming, the economy, and my recent hangups with eating meat (a whole 'nother post for a different day! Ha!)

We passed through St. Louis and began to see signs for states I knew nothing about- Indiana, Ohio, Michigan..  : )

After arriving in Detroit, Dad and I mapped out a quick two day plan. Since our trip was a quick one, bringing Harbor was something David and I decided against quickly. Spending 28 hours in a car seat over the course of only three days was not even an option. Though we had a wonderful reunion after not seeing one another for five weeks, it was really a business type trip- see our new home, assess the neighborhood, schools, shopping, and learn a few main roads.

One major difference I noted, and after checking with David, was that in all of Detroit, proper and surrounding suburbs, there is only one Wal-Mart, which will be about a 30 minute drive from the district we will be living in. Wal-Mart is not the reigning king in the north. However, Meijer is. A full 24 hour Target like super center, Meijer and I will shake hands and exchange money soon, I'm sure. Though I didn't go inside Meijers, I'd love to hear from those of you who shop there.  : ) Reassure me. Ha!

Also, Walgreen's are few and far between, but Rite Aids were on every corner. Not a deal breaker by any means, just a noticeable change from the south. I actually look forward to discovering a few new stomping grounds!

The district we will be living in is located on the international border of Windsor. The city has a beautiful river walk, complete with docks, piers, and seagulls. From our front yard, on tippy toe, this is our view, with Canada looking on the distant shore.

The Detroit River was iced over and large chunks of blue-white icy plates creaked and cracked as big industrial steam ships bustled past the river walk. The seagulls chatting lent a very coastal tone.

David, being the hard worker that he is, didn't take a single day off to sight see with us the days we were there, but did dine with us in the evenings and leave work on Friday a few hours early to show us some favorite places. One place he was anxious for us to see was our new street. Though we have not closed yet, we are anticipating a typical 30 days closing. Until then, being my overcautious, private natured self, I plan on holding back on showing or discussing our home quite yet. But, I would love to show you our neighbors!

I knew immediately David had found "our" home when we pulled onto the tree lined lane off the river walk. Located in the historic district, I had a sense of family. All of the homes were built in the late 1920's and early 1930's. Our home was built in 1928 and is chock-full of charm and quaint character- refinished hardwoord floors in every room, including the kitchen, copper roof elements, original glass doorknobs on all the interior doors, leaded glass plantation shutters original to the 1930s. No home is the same. Adorned with high pitch elevations (for easy snow run off), cedar shutters, window boxes, copper awnings, columns, and cobblestone retaining walls, I felt like I had arrived on set of "Father of the Bride."

The historic district is a "must see" of this city and you literally feel like you have stepped back into time. Pair that with the proximity of Detroit's nightlife and the beauty of the waterfront properties down the street, and I was one smitten kitten.

These homes are our neighbors on either side and up and down our street.

A look down the street from the river walk immediately reminds me that I am no longer in the south. With small yards, long, narrow lots, and detached garages, homes in the city, especially in these historic districts, were built with space in mind. Oh, but they are quaint!

David instructed us to visit several of the island communities while we were in town. One island, Grosse Ile, is home to many of his coworkers, including his companies CEO. Grosse Ile is located between Windsor and Detroit, with the east side of the island on the Canadian water border. Everyone owns a boat, and even homes that are inland have canals for easy Canadian access. 

Windsor, Canada as seen right past the American flag, just feels like another island. There is a great sense of Patriotism here and I am already looking forward to finding a good spot atop a Detroit loft building for firework watching this summer.

Canal portage for homes inland is a must for these island dwellers. Though the water is icy cold all year, it is apparent that the river plays a big role in the general culture of the area- both socially and economically with big business.

After leaving the island, we headed into Detroit proper. The Ambassador Bridge links Detroit to Windsor and is quite sweeping; it connects both downtowns and to see the cities skyscrapers meet by a single bridge is quite eye-catching. Harbor will enjoy all the bridges and tunnels.  : )

Detroit, the downtown and financial districts, are clean, white and stunningly tall, and very bustling.

With Windsor on the left and Detroit on the right, the Ambassador Bridge can be seen as a connector to the two countries.

The headquarters of General Motors, as well as the other "big two" car manufacturers are located in Detroit. It is most certainly the blue collar capital of the US, and as such, the very reason David can apply his skill in lean manufacturing and quality engineering. The buildings in the foreground, behind the carousel, are GM's main headquarters, which we toured later in the day.

There was a great granite map of the city at the Ren Center, which is this area on the river walk. It really shows the proximity to Windsor and the international border lines that slice the water in half.

As we hit the pavement and went walking, we noticed a heavily traveled track, rising above many buildings, similar to Disney World's transportation system. I was determined to find a station and hop aboard! It seemed a fantastic way to see the city, and with a bird's eye view, no less.

As in big cities, signs were posted everywhere for exits and on ramps. Since Detroit ships and produces a good portion of the US's car and steel parts, boat ferries, heavy trucks, and loading trains cross and over cross many portions of the main roads, which makes driving a bit precarious.

One district we visited - Detroit is broken up into several districts- is Mexicantown, which was settled by Mexican immigrants and is its own "world" set apart by language, shopping, and ethnicity. It reminded me of a smalled scaled down version of China Town. We ate lunch in Mexicantown and enjoyed meeting new people. 

Detroit was, undoubtedly, full of ruin in places. Abandoned factories, graffetied walls, broken windows. This particular building, however, was hauntingly beautiful. I could have photographed it at all angles all day long. Despite the depressing stories behind these buildings, which were obviously, at one point in time, grand hotels and train stations, they still hold some aesthetic sway and are quite breathtaking! 

Back in the downtown, shoppers, men in suits, and women carrying briefcases filled the sidewalks.

Windsor's downtown was just a stone's throw away and we learned from David that Michigan residents with a driver's license could cross the border underground in the Detroit-Windsor tunnel without a passport. I'd love to see and do as much as humanly possible while we live in this busy city.

One element of Detroit I was not expecting were the lighthouses. Knowing, of course, that Detroit sits on the Detroit River makes sense. Lake Huron and Lake Erie are connected by this waterway and massive steam boats, Princess paddle boats, and industrial liners use it to reach other large cities, so lighthouses are a given. They just had such a strong coastal presence to them that I almost forgot where I was. : )

Another island we visited was Belle Island Park, and unlike Grosse Ile, it is simply a midway point, a vista, between both Detroit and Windsor. It has a botanical garden, a large working greenhouse, and a bubbling summertime fountain. But really, Belle Island is a place to see both cities up close and personal without having to go through the rigmarole of obtaining a passport. After crossing a scenic bridge, you are there!

After leaving the island, we made our way to GM's headquarter buildings to experience their world-renowned showroom and four towers- maze-like architectural creations- which connects buildings by sky walks.

David and my dad stand like tiny ants at the foot of the entrance and marvel at the steel and mirror architecture. I just enjoyed snapping my Cannon and breathing the sharp, brittle northern air. It was freezing despite sunny skies.

Glass sky walks canopied the showroom as GM employees enjoyed their day at work. The GM building houses brand name clothiers, many five star restaurants, nail and hair salons, and even a movie theater (for the workaholics who can't find the time to leave, I suppose.)

After wandering up a few escalators, we stumbled into a "Pure Detroit" gift shop run by an amateur tour-guide like employee who ended up being one of my favorite people I met. He told us all about the people-mover rail system and even paid for all of our tickets, gave us information on several other districts- Greektown, Corktown, and Grand Circus Park.

Though I loved all aspects of meeting Detroit up close and personal, riding the people mover was my favorite activity. It was a quick and cheap way to see almost all of Detroit's district areas, as well as Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Lions, and Joe Louis Arena, home of the Detroit Redwings.

From the people mover, I noticed (and shrieked with happiness!) and the Harbor House restaurant below the track in Greektown. We did eat in Greektown that night for dinner, but opted for an authentic Greek meal. Greektown, like Mexicantown, is an outcrop of Grecian restaurants, shopping, and ethnicity due to a large Greek population.

Because the people mover stops at all the district stations, I learned the lay of the land. One major stop was through the GM building, so after all our joy riding was complete, we found ourselves back in GM, overlooking an indoor cafeteria. From the atrium, you can see Windsor across the river and an enormous steamer chugging through the frigid water, heading up into St. Clair Lake, the headwaters of Lake Huron.

One of our last stops was in Hart Plaza, my favorite part of the financial district. The skyline, paired against the deep blue of the river walk, was just cheery!

Is it just me, or is Detroit popping up on your radar more and more? The car commercial with the iconic "fist," Secret Millionaire being filmed in Detroit, and Charlie Sheen opening his ridiculous show? Ha, ha!

The gift shop "tour guide" explained that this monument below is known as the Spirit of Detroit and is a popular icon of the city. David bought a beanie hat from him with the image on the front since it was so frigidly cold.

My dad was such a good sport, carting me around and navigating with ease. My dad has never owned a Garmin GPS and is actually a bit opposed to them, so I was thankful for his sense of direction. I would have wound up in British Columbia, I'm sure. : )
Windsor has a Cesar's Palace (think Vegas) right on their waterfront and from Detroit you can actually read their digital billboards. They definitely advertise to Americans and I love this picture of Dad, camera around neck, enjoying his time sightseeing.

And as we were leaving the river walk, another massive steam ship made his way up the river into wider expanses of water, heading up into Lake Huron.

It was hard to leave David behind in the Motor City, our truck barrelling along the interstate toward warmer weather, heading back to razorback country. We are braced for another five week separation. Our 10 year anniversary is next week, sadly, and it will be the first we have ever spent apart. I was thankful to have spent David's 30th birthday together in Greektown, however. We ate olives, feta cheese, tomatoes dripping in vinegar and oil, and bread sopped with sauce. We were too full for dessert, but we held hands under the table, and after five weeks apart, I was giddy with emotion to be there, in that eccentric Greek restaurant, with my husband, in our new city for the first time. In fact, when we left the restaurant, it was snowing and a street vendor was playing "Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow," on a saxophone as we turned our collars up and shuffled into the wind. It was a moment that has be seared in my mind.

In many ways, I feel like that heavy steam ship, chugging through cold waters, wondering what is around the bend, and hoping to dock in peaceful waters soon.


  1. I can only imagine how much you miss your husband. Hope the five remaining weeks FLIES by! I've shopped at Meijer's in Columbus, OH, and FELL. IN. LOVE. You'll love's a cross between wal-mart and target. =)

    Home is where your family is. Don't fret about moving. You'll miss your parents, and siblings...but you'll feel complete being with your husband and son. I've been there. It's not easy moving away from all that you've ever known, but it's fun. It appears that you're up for the challenge. Good luck!!!

  2. I live in Grand Rapids, MI. About 2.5 hrs from Detroit. We have several Walmarts here and of course Meijer. I shop at Meijer once per week for groceries and its the only place I shop for food, I love Meijer, its all about finding the one thats right for you. They have a weekly sale and the prices are great, even the non-sale items. Meijer has everything just like Walmart, but I typically get everything else from Target and sometimes Walmart.I think you and your family will enjoy shopping at Meijer for all of your shopping needs. You should visit the Fredrick Meijer Garden here in Grand Rapids, go here to learn more I KNOW you will love it!

    I wish you and your family the best. Michigan is different but we have so much to offer :)

  3. Bless you for taking the time to post all of these pictures! It must have taken eternity! Also, when I moved to Tulsa I felt like I was on vacation for almost a year. Granted Tulsa is NOT as fun as Detroit. But, I hope you feel like you are on vacation for a long time!

  4. Meijer is the best. I do all of my grocery shopping at Meijer. Honestly, my friends and I are not Walmart fans--I think the ones you have in your current area are nicer than the ones in Michigan.

  5. That is wonderful that you got to see each other. I can't imagine how hard it has been. I can't wait to see your "new" house!!
    Thanks for the tour!

  6. Yeah, I agree. Meijers' is AWESOME! And northern WalMarts are crumby. Meijers has good sales and I think they do double coupons sometimes.

  7. I think it is so sweet that your dad took off to take you! I'm terrified to drive in big cities (even 540 @ 5PM makes me nervous). :) I can'y wait to see your new house!

  8. I'm glad you got a chance to visit! It looks like you got to see a lot! The neighborhood looks so charming! I haven't done much shopping at Meijer but I hear the people that do love it! It think you can get a lot of good deals! I think it's funny how different stores are in different areas of the country! I always miss Publix that is in the south. It was on our list of places to stop last summer when we were in FL!

  9. What a wonderful trip! It looks like a wonderful place to live. So much do to and explore. I am excited for you.

  10. Jessica, this is such a beautiful post! I love how you already love your new home and how you are soaking in all the details! I have been to the Motor City, in fact, I stayed on the River Walk right by the GM building, and there are some wonderful wonderful things in Detroit! I still can't believe you are moving!

    I will be praying for you. I have been right where you are! Flint and I lived in two separate states for three months. It is so hard to be the one left behind and dealing with "closing that chapter". Flint was busy looking forward and starting our new life. So, I know how hard it is! Hang in there girl!
    You have so much fun and excitement ahead of you! I am so excited for you!

  11. What an awesome update! I was just captivated by your words and the pictures and I'm so excited for the journey that your family is on! I just know that you guys will have so much fun exploring this neat city.

    Can't wait to see and hear more about your new home and what you do with it!

  12. Jessica,

    Thanks for such a great post of your time in Detroit. Can't wait to maybe see pics some time. I love the Father Of the Bride house too. So i'm visualizing the house and thinking about what yours may look like. So nice of your dad to take you down to Detroit so that you not only can see your hubby but help make the decisions that need be with him. Praying for you guys and that this time away from each other will go by quickly and that the whole thing will go smoothly. I remember how smoothly things went for us and that was just a reminder of how that God was in it and part of His Plan. I love Meijer. Alsways go there when we cross from Canada into the states. Hope to meat you sometime maybe

  13. Great pics! Everything is really really BIG!

  14. Love all the pictures. Brings backs lots of memories. I am from Michigan and all of my family still lives there. I am in Illinois now. Boy all the concerts we went to Detroit for back in high school and college. Fun times. As for Meijers you will LOVE it. I so miss it now that I am Illiois. My family have 2 in the town they live in and I always stop when I am in town. I have been going to Meijers since I could ride in the grocery cart. I can actually remember that :) Good luck with everything and congrats on the house.