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. : )
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!
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.