The cycling season is sadly coming to a chilly end here in Michigan. On Sunday, I bundled up, jumped on my bicycle and ventured out for a ride to Detroit’s New Center Area, through the Wayne State University campus and on to downtown. The day was gray, overcast and most of the bright-colored leaves of autumn have blown off the trees or have been washed away by the recent heavy rains.
With the exception of early morning churchgoers, there weren’t many people out. I spotted a few, lonely looking individuals standing in doorways of abandoned buildings or on deserted street corners. I saw others sitting or standing in bus stop shelters waiting for a ride or simply taking advantage of a warm place to rest. Even car traffic was virtually non-existent in some areas, especially the industrial sections found to the south and east of the New Center.
Third Avenue south to Wayne State was also free of traffic, making for a nice, leisurely bicycling pace. As I rode under the railroad overpass near Baltimore Street, I could hear the humming of an Amtrak train as it idled at a nearby station. In many ways, it was quite comforting hearing its soothing sound.
There wasn’t much activity on the Wayne State campus. A few students were milling about, and some appeared to be on their way to a local café or perhaps to the library for some peaceful study time.
At Warren Avenue I cut over to the Historic Woodbridge Neighborhood, located just west of the University. There I saw people out walking their dogs, doing some last-minute raking and generally tidying up their property before the winter season sets in. I exited the neighborhood at Grand River to head downtown. Just then I heard the familiar sound of a train horn blasting and turned just in time to see the Amtrak train (probably the one that had been idling at the station), crossing a graffiti-covered overpass.
Riding past a collapsed commercial building on Grand River, I glanced quickly through the broken out window of the building’s chained front door. The place had no roof, and the roofing materials and second floor had fallen into a pile of rubble. I stopped my bike and peered in for a closer look at the mess. Off to the left, lying in the wreckage, was an old dirt-covered music album. Looking closely I saw that it was “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye. I though to myself, “How ironic is this? Detroit is full of blight. This building is a microcosm of that blight, and here’s Marvin Gaye asking the question, ‘What’s going on’ (Detroit)?”
Once downtown, I headed over to Campus Martius park to checkout the ice skaters and this year’s holiday tree. Plenty of families and others were taking advantage of the light crowds by enjoying a few spins around the rink on their sharp blades. The huge tree was spectacularly decorated and really added color and brightness to the somewhat gloomy November day.
It felt a little odd, sitting on a bicycle, watching ice skaters with a huge, fully decorated holiday tree in the background.
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