It’s been a while since I’ve taken State Fair Street from the eastside to Woodward Avenue, so I though I’d check out that part of the city. I left my house early Sunday morning and pedaled my way up Morang Drive to Kelly Road. On Kelly I came to Eastwood Street, where I once lived, and decided to take a look. Wow, was I surprised! Despite some new infill housing, the once tightly knit, solid working class residential street is now a mere shell of what it had been. Gone are most of the frame homes, leaving open fields and overgrown lots with pockets of rundown and fire scorched homes. The apartment building I once lived in is now a burnt out skeleton of urban blight. Riding through there I kept thinking to myself, “Come on Detroit, we can do better than this!”
Continuing on Eastwood I crossed Gratiot to Schoenherr Road and took a right to State Fair. Once there, I headed west on my ride to Woodward Avenue. State Fair is mostly residential and although there were signs of decay, most of the homes were well maintained and cared for. Near Hoover Street (M-97), State Fair ends, and I had to work my way around an industrial park to East Outer Drive, which State Fair merged into. This stretch of Outer Drive has beautiful brick homes, nice wide lanes and a boulevard… perfect for riding.
At Outer Drive and Mound Road is Dorais Park, once home to Detroit’s Soap Box Derby hill (built in 1956) and the Dorais Velodrome cycling track, both long abandoned. There were a few remnants of the Soap Box Derby staging area on top of the hill, but the hill itself is nothing more than a field.
The 1/4-mile weed choked, graffiti covered Velodrome track is still there. Built in 1969 for the cycling nationals, it closed in the late 80’s. Since the cement track looked to be in okay shape, I rode a lap and was surprised at how steep the 26-degree banks were. I’m sure I didn’t set any speed records.
I continued west to Dequindre Street where East Outer Drive becomes State Fair and eventually runs parallel to the Michigan State Fairgrounds. Across from the grounds is a city block surrounded by a 6’ privacy fence. Behind the fence is home to the Theater Bizarre, the site of Detroit’s biggest and most extravagant Halloween Party. It was quiet as I rode by, but I could see through the cracks in the fence what appeared to be haunted houses, the main stage and other assorted theatrical props. It’s quite a setup for one night of fun.
Shortly after, I crossed Woodward and headed south through Highland Park on my way to Mack Avenue for my ride home. A few blocks past the New Center I came across a full-blown Christmas tree lot, a true “Christmas in July”. It was a bit odd. Here I was, a sweaty bicyclist having ridden 15 or so miles in the July heat only to discover Christmas trees! Not only were they selling Christmas trees, they were selling them from a Jersey lot. Based on what I saw being unloaded from the white semi trucks parked along Woodward, it was obvious to me that this was a movie set.