Frequently, I take advantage of the early sunrise by riding out to Detroit’s gem of a park, Belle Isle. The large island park is centrally located in the middle of the Detroit River and is generally packed with thousands of people on hot, summer afternoons. But in the early morning it is quite calm. There are few picnickers, smoking barbeques are noticeably absent, and loud music rolling out of the small picnic sheds is non-existent. Thankfully, there isn’t the bumper-to-bumper traffic that slowly cruises the five-mile loop around the island, with bone-shaking music blasting, as is normally the case on warm weather afternoons.
The early morning calmness is refreshing and soothing. It’s as if the island hasn’t awakened from its nightly rest. Biking across the half-mile bridge on those crystal clear mornings, with the rising eastern sun lighting the Detroit skyline, is an invigorating ride. The tall downtown buildings seem to take on a golden, reddish glow, as does the Ambassador Bridge that spans the Detroit River to Canada, just beyond downtown. The river itself appears to be a much brighter blue in the morning and is generally smooth as glass.
Once on Belle Isle, it’s common to see other bike riders or groups of riders circling the outer island. Numerous joggers and a few walkers (some with dogs) are also out there enjoying the peacefulness of the early morning hours. Others are out there at their special spot, sitting and relaxing in lawn chairs or on blankets, watching massive thousand-foot ore carriers as they silently slide by, like bats in the twilight sky.
I cherish the serenity of the island in those early morning hours where, on occasion, I see herons and swans in the inner ponds. I’ve also spotted wild turkeys on the side of the roads, and there are always plenty of ducks and geese. The river itself is always soothing to me. I especially like watching the Detroit Boat Club Crew members pulling on the oars of their sleek rowing boats as they effortlessly glide across the ripple-free water. The calmness I feel out there as I ride along the edge Detroit River is the perfect counter balance to the harsh realities of the city.