Archive for February, 2013

Spring is close, and that means bicyclists will be hitting the streets of Detroit. Like past years, there are lots of noteworthy tours and bike related events in 2013; many of them listed below. I’m sure there are plenty of others that I’m not aware of, so I invite you post them in the comment section at the bottom of the page.

Detroit Bikes – This group is affiliated with Detroit Synergy. They sponsor and organize a variety of free theme rides, such as a Detroit coffee-house tour. They also do a downtown tour of reproductions from the Detroit Institute of Arts as part of the museum’s outreach program called Inside/Outside. The Detroit Bikes tour season kicks off on March 16th with their annual spring training ride that visits historic Detroit sports venues. Click here to visit their website.

Detroit Bike City – This is a bicycle expo that will be held at Cobo Center on Saturday, March 16th from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The ticketed event will span 100,000 ft. of floor space, which will be filled with lots of bikes, bike dealers and vendors from across the Midwest selling accessories and other bicycle goodies. Additional information is available here.

Ride of Silence – The annual event honors those bicyclists that have been killed or injured while riding on public roads. It takes place on May 15, and to date, specific details have not been released on this year’s ride. Keep an eye on the Macomb Bike & Fitness website for more information.

Bike the Bridge – This is an annual ride across the Ambassador Bridge that spans the Detroit River between Canada and the USA. The yearly ride is the only time bicycles are allowed to cross the bridge. The ride is usually held in mid-June and so far, no date or other information related to the event has been released. I’m sure more information will be available soon. Do a quick internet search in the next couple of months.

Colin Hubbell Memorial Bike Ride – This is an annual cycling event held in honor of the late Colin Hubbell, an avid bicyclist, developer and big-time Detroit booster. All funds raised on this ride will benefit community organizations and start-up businesses in Detroit’s midtown area. At this point, no date has been announced; check the Midtown Detroit Inc. website for updates. 

A Ride to the Chicago Critical Mass – This looks to be an exciting 6-day, two-wheeled adventure to the windy city to join in that city’s critical mass ride. The Detroit group of riders is scheduled to leave from Foran’s Grand Trunk Pub on Woodward Avenue on Saturday, July 20st at 9 a.m. The plan is to ride 60 to 80 miles per day with scheduled overnight stops at various campgrounds along the way. Once in Chicago, the Detroit contingent will join Chicago’s Critical Mass Ride on the evening of July 26th. More information is available on the Detroit Critical Mass facebook page.

Tour De Troit – If you like exploring the city via bicycle with huge amounts of riders, this annual event is the place for you! Last year over 5,000 riders took the 30-mile tour, and this year organizers are expecting many more. The 2013 event will roll on September 21stCheck the Tour De Troit website for registration information.

Beat the Train – This is a group of bicyclists that ride the streets of Detroit every Saturday morning at 6:30 a.m. The rides leave from Historic Fort Wayne on Jefferson Avenue at Livernois.  The rides are generally 30-35 miles in length, and there are stops at various Detroit landmarks along the way.  Here’s a link to their website.

Critical Mass – A fun relaxed ride that is held year-round on the last Friday of each month. The ride leaves at 7 p.m. from the corner of West Warren and Trumbull Avenues. The routes vary, but generally meander their way to downtown, out to Belle Isle Park, through the Historic Eastern Market, and over to Hamtramck. In the warm months, the ride can draw close to 1,000 riders. There are a dozen or more dedicated bicyclists that ride throughout the cold, snowy winter months as well.

Monday Night Ride from Woodbridge Pub – This weekly summer ride leaves every Monday night at 8 p.m. from the Woodbridge Pub on Trumbull Avenue near I-94. It’s organized by Bikes & Murder, an organization that plans, hosts, and contributes to cycling events in Detroit. Check out the events page on their website.

Wheelhouse Detroit – In addition to bicycle sales and rentals, this riverfront bike shop offers a variety of guided Detroit bicycle tours. Their tours include urban farms, Detroit architecture, automobile heritage sites, Belle Isle Park, and many more.  A complete list of 2013 rides will be posted to their site shortly.

Enjoy the rides!

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On my bicycle rides in Detroit, I see plenty of storefront churches. The places of worship vary in size. I’ve seen them setup in places with a span of about twelve feet wide and just as deep. Others are spread over a large space that at one time may have housed a grocery store, or some other good-sized business. Some are low-key and unassuming in appearance, while others shout out their presence in big bold letters on well-maintained buildings. On occasion, I spot one that truly catches my eye.

On Detroit’s northeast side is one of those peculiar places. There isn’t anything really special about the building or its design. It isn’t in a vintage Art Deco place or a former neighborhood bank that was built in the Neo-classic style of architecture popular in the early 1900s. It’s just a modest, one-story wooden structure that combines five individual storefronts into one long church. To me, that’s the beauty of it.

In taking a close look at the place, I noticed the overall color scheme of the building includes highlights that wrap around and above the windows, creating quasi-arches on the white background.  I also noticed the windows have been converted to glass block, and they are grouped into four sets scattered across the front. Two of the four entry doors are gated, and a set of double doors on the far left look as if they haven’t been opened in years. They feature a couple of painted crosses. The paint color of the arches and window trim is remarkably close to the reddish color shingles.

In the center of the long building are three rough-looking crosses. They too are trimmed in the reddish paint. The craggy crosses are housed in former window openings that have been bricked in. They  are also made of glass block and are a bit rough along the edges. I like how they don’t have a lot of uniformity in their design. I also like how the painted outlines to the left of the crosses have a much heavier line than the opposite side, creating an odd balance. Looking at them reminded me of a Southern country folk art painting; a painting Howard Finster may have created years ago.

There's something appealing about this long, sleek storefront church

There’s something appealing about this long, sleek storefront church

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Most Detroiters know of the abandoned Historic Packard Automotive plant of the city’s eastside. It’s a massive structure that spans about a half mile from end to end. In some sections it stands six-stories tall, with the total footprint encompassing 3.5 million square feet. It was designed by Albert Kahn in the early 1900s. Kahn was Detroit’s premier industrial architect of the early 20th Century. Among other things, he is known for developing the reinforced concrete system of building construction. That system replaced wood timbers that were currently in use at that time. The Packard plant was the first to use the new concrete method, making the factory almost indestructible.

The plant closed in the late 1950s and since then, it has deteriorated beyond repair and is considered unsafe to enter. Scrappers have cut out many of the steel supports and other metals rendering the massive abandoned auto plant a dangerous place to enter. In many sections, it is so structurally unsafe that the Detroit Fire Department will no longer enter the building to fight fires that seem to occur there on a regular basis.  However, that hasn’t stopped urban explorers from checking out the ruins or graffiti artists from creating interesting, eye-popping art within the building.

There is a tremendous amount of colorful graffiti found throughout the derelict facility. Some of it is in areas you’d least expect; behind doors that are barely hanging on their hinges; on cement barriers put in place to keep cars out; and on steep stairway walls. Boats and trucks that have been dumped in the building are covered with it, and many pieces can be seen on the exterior close to the upper reaches of the top floors.

One of many abandoned vehicles within the old plant

One of many abandoned vehicles in the old plant

Within the engaging urban grittiness of the place, which reminds me of the powerful, post-apocalyptic novel and movie “The Road”, there is an incredible array of mind-boggling wall art that graffiti artists have put up. There are also some interesting sayings spray-painted on many of the battered walls. Some make no sense, like ancient hieroglyphics. Others are barely legible and seem to fade into the damp, cement walls. Occasionally, quotes from famous people appear out of nowhere. Here are just a few of the many sayings that I’ve spotted while checking out the place. Looking at them, I wonder why people painted them on the old factory walls.

A definition of Packard visitors

A definition of Packard visitors

Ani DiFranco says...

Ani DiFranco says…

A quote from John Lennon

A quote from John Lennon

An urban message

An urban message about someone’s graffiti

Not sure what the message is all about

Not sure what this message is all about

Remember, click on the photos to enlarge them.

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There is a building at West Warren Avenue at Grand River Avenue that at one time featured some of Detroit’s finest graffiti.  Painted on the walls of that building were large, multi-colored masterpieces put up by graffiti artists Sintex, Deco 23, the TST crew, and other well-known street painters using aerosol paint cans. I’ve seen the eye-catching, engaging art on three sides of the building for well over a year, and I always stop to study the complexity of the pieces when riding my bicycle through that part of town.

The building once featured various graffiti masterpieces

A few months ago, the building was covered with various graffiti masterpieces

I was riding past that building a few weeks ago and didn’t recognize it. All the brilliant wall art found on that outside gallery had been painted over! The art pieces weren’t vandalized by others spraying a quick black and white tag over them, nor were they covered by newer, 3-dimensional appearing graffiti masterpieces. Unfortunately, they were totally gone because the building had been painted a dark brown color from top to bottom.

The same building today

The same building today

Thinking about the intriguing graffiti that was once there and why it may have been painted over, I decided to investigate. So the other day I went by there to see what I could find out. Located right behind the building that once featured the stunning wall art is a business called Architectural Salvage Warehouse. It’s an interesting non-profit organization that sells salvaged artifacts, building materials, etc. from old homes slated to be torn down in Detroit and the surrounding communities. It happened to be open, so I stopped by and asked one of the staff members what happened to the graffiti art on the building in front.

The person I spoke with at the salvage warehouse speculated that the building owner is preparing it for a possible sale. He also thought the owner might be getting sick of looking at the graffiti that once covered his place, even though he allowed the artists to use the building as a pallet for their colorful work. Regardless, the building that was once adorned with some of Detroit’s best graffiti art is now painted dark brown.

Here are a few of the beautiful graffiti art pieces that are found under the brown paint on that building. Some I’ve posted in earlier blog entries.

Deco 23 on the Warren side of the building

Deco 23 art was on the Warren side of the building

I've yet to figure out the name of this engaging piece

I’ve yet to figure out the name or artist of this engaging piece

 This  piece is by Sintex

This piece is by Sintex, one of my favorites

I've yet yet to define this piece, any guesses?

Any guesses on what this spells?

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