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Posts Tagged ‘community’

Based on the crowd size from last weekend’s bicycle show, it’s evident that Detroiters love their bikes. For the second year in a row, Detroit Bike City held their bike Expo at Cobo Center in downtown Detroit. Although the Metro Detroit area was covered in a fresh coating of snow and sleet, that didn’t seem to stop thousands of people from attending the annual bicycling event. Over fifty cycling related vendors were there offering a range of bicycles, accessories, and clothing. There were also a number of bicycle-related organizations on hand promoting greenways, organized rides, and special fundraising events.

A wide range of bike accessories were close at hand

A wide range of bike accessories were close at hand

All types of new bikes were on display and available for those wishing to buy a new bike for the upcoming riding season. They included tricycles for youngsters, sleek lightweight racing bicycles, bikes made from light-weight metals, and hand-made bicycles crafted from exotic woods. A number of rugged fat-tired mountain bikes were on display, as were various 1950s retro-looking single and multi-speed urban cruisers, trimmed in shiny chrome.

Rows of vendors offered a variety of bikes and accessories

Rows of vendors offered a variety of bikes and accessories

This beauty was made of wood

This beauty was made of wood

Also at the expo were a variety of throwback sting-rays; a classic American kid’s bike complete with high-rise handlebars, banana sets with tall sissy bars. The sting-rays also had gear shift levers (reminiscent of a floor shift found in a car) mounted to the crossbar. The bicycles on display ranged in cost from a few hundred dollars to well into the thousands.

All types of bikes were available to purchase

All types of bikes were available to purchase

In addition to new bikes and accessories, attendees were able buy used bikes, parts, and accessories in a special swap-meet section. A BMX demo was part of the event and they entertained the crowd by doing backflips, spins and other aerobatics while soaring off ramps.  Kudos to the organizers for pulling together this big-time event!

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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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Snakes in Detroit

I saw some snakes in Detroit the other day. They weren’t the ordinary slithering, winding dollar sign moving reptiles that are common in woodlands and swampy bogs. The snakes I spotted were quite large. They were deep black, evil-looking creatures that don’t move about the field and grass. They are in the same place both day and night. The unusual, creepy looking reptiles are sitting on top of an embankment that lines Trumbull Avenue near Lincoln Street.

The scaly creatures are sculptures. They are made from reclaimed logs and other cast-away materials that include bicycle tires and tubes. The various sized logs are wrapped in scrap bicycle tires, with the tread out, creating remarkable reptile look-a-likes. The knobby bike tires have a crusty rough texture, oddly similar to the skin of a snake, lizard, crocodile or other cold-blooded scaly animals.

Rubber Snake Head_5296

Rubber Monster Back_5299

Rubber Monster Full_5308

A couple of the snarly faces on the unique pieces have long textured tongues and stringy facial features made from thin black rubber bike tubes. Countless hanging entrails and legs dangle from some of them and they too are made from a variety of shredded rubber tires and tubes. In many cases, the rubber pieces used to build the slim sculptures are held in place using colorful bottle caps. The long tongues, facial accents and multi-length innards sway gently in the daytime breeze, as if they were alive and breathing.

Rubber Face with Tongue_5301

Rubber monster_5305

Rubber Monster face_5306

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Holbrook Street between I-75 and Oakland Street is like many Detroit neighborhood streets. It is lined with open fields, a couple of graffiti covered abandoned commercial buildings and a few old homes that are in pretty good shape. There’s a Coney Island restaurant near I-75, and that’s about it for active businesses along that street. Essentially, there is nothing remarkable about that little stretch of Holbrook on the city’s near North End Neighborhood.

However, something curious in one of the fields did catch my eye while riding along the street a few weeks ago. It was a small stack of cubes or blocks that reminded me of a wedding cake or something similar. They were stacked four high, in a field on the south side of Holbrook, with the largest being on the bottom. All four were painted bright white and each featured a simple letter in various colors on each side, much like alphabet blocks that little kids used early on to build words. But these are a bit different from the traditional kid’s blocks.

AMOR is on both sides of the blocks in the same order

FATI are the other four letters found on the blocks

Only eight letters were used on two sides of each block: AMOR and FATI. Why those letters?  That’s the big unknown about this art project. In walking around the stack I saw no reference to its meaning, the artist, when it was installed, etc. While poking around the sculpture, I found it interesting that the blocks were set-up on what looked to be an aged terrazzo floor. The smooth floor must have been part of a store or business of some type and has now become part of the landscape.

Remnants of a once elegant floor is where the blocks rest

Like other mysterious art installations I’ve come across and blogged about such as “Painted Dirt” and the orange figures from the “Oakland North of Grand Boulevard” entry, the origin may never be known. If anyone has any information or insight into these unusual blocks or the outdoor art found in the two stories mentioned above (click on each to read the story), I would appreciate a posting about them in the comments section of this story.

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On the corner of Newport and Canfield Streets in Detroit is an old school. It’s an elegant old school, constructed of brick. The land it sits on takes up a full city block. The sturdy multi-level building has stood there since 1924, and like many schools in the city, is no longer in use due to a shrinking population. The surrounding neighborhood was once packed with small wood framed homes, full of families the school once served. However, only a few of those homes remain there today.  The lots where the homes once stood have reverted to fields, and some of them are now being used as community gardens.

I’ve ridden by that vacant school many times over the past couple of years, and it has always been well maintained. The doors and windows were always secured as a deterrent against vandals and scrappers. Unfortunately, that has recently changed. Sadly, George S. Hosmer Elementary has recently been victimized by scrappers. The window coverings have been removed, and every window on all floors of the school has been taken out. I assume the windows’ steel frames were ripped out and sold for pennies on the pound at a scrap yard.

Last fall the building was completely sealed

North side of the large school

Looking at the place closely, I was amazed at the building’s craftsmanship. The tall window openings are surrounded by stone, and the few arched windows in the building have subtle carvings. The entrance door frames are quite decorative. The school’s name and build date are incorporated at the top. They appear to be hand carved. Stone also highlights the overall exterior, and the impressive brick work incorporate some nice round designs, adding architectural interest to the building.

The uniformity of the arch windows are similar to bridge supports

Beautiful carved name and date above an entrance

The south side of the 1924 building

Peering through the open window casements, I spotted a beautiful fireplace in what I think was the library. I saw plaster crown moldings that looked like new in an auditorium. Most of the rooms had oak paneling and shelves, some with books still stacked on them. The bathrooms contained solid marble walls and the gymnasium floor looked to be in great condition.  It’s a shame to see such a well-built, outstanding building now standing open; an openness that will surely lead to further vandalism and decay.

The library had a good sized fireplace

A classroom with oak panels and shelves

As I was poking around, one of the neighbors walked by and said, “It’s a damn shame isn’t it? This place was boarded up not that long ago. Now look at it! They should have turned it into a rec center for the kids.”  I had to agree, it is a damn shame.

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I saw some murals the other day while riding through a couple of Detroit’s neighborhoods. They weren’t large murals like those found in Southwest Detroit. They weren’t religious in nature; nor were they as intricate as some of the huge graffiti paintings I’ve seen on walls along railroad tracks or on the sides of manufacturing facilities. The murals I’m referring to can be found on abandoned homes throughout the Morningside Neighborhood and parts of the Creekside Community. Both neighborhoods are on Detroit’s far eastside.

The colorful murals are small and located on vacant, blighted homes that are scattered throughout the neighborhoods. They have been painted on plywood that now cover the openings of the homes where windows and doors once were. Their intention, I’m sure, is to diminish the harsh reality of the numerous deserted homes found in their respective communities.

The painting on this house is kind of a mirror image, like a folded piece of paper

Reminds me of a butterfly

Nice, clean color selections

A few of the blocks I rode appeared to have more unoccupied homes than those lived in. On those particular streets, it was uplifting to see one of the mural covered homes among the abandonment. The murals seemed to soften the bleakness of the abandoned homes, adding interest, freshness, and a little color to the forlorn structures. The feeling I got while looking at the many murals was that there are people in the neighborhood who care about their surroundings and quality of life in Detroit.

Nice job of creating windows on this stone beauty

Close up of the window paintings

Check out the dog, appears to be standing on two legs like the kids

Unfortunately, I don’t know who painted and installed the murals, but they should be commended for making a difference in the community. Not only are they helping the image of the neighborhood, the murals might also be an inspiration to some kid living in one of those tough neighborhoods, to pick up a paintbrush and explore his or her creativity.

I like the happy expressions on the kids faces

A stare down between the dog and bird

The cats are having fun in this house

Reminder – You can click on the photos to view them larger.

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While riding my bike through a far eastside Detroit neighborhood, I came across an interesting office. It wasn’t the typical office where employees may be seen answering phones, meeting with clients in a conference room or sitting at desks busily at work staring into a glowing computer screen. From what I could tell, this particular place had none of that. In fact, the spray painted name on the outside of building read “the office”.  I’m not sure what this office is though.

An overall view of the office

Based on the variety of spray painted words and names found on the weather-beaten, run down commercial building, and on an adjacent garage, it almost appears to be some type of counseling center. Many of the words seem to be names of people with dates right after them. Based on the RIP tombstone crudely painted on one of the walls near the names, I would assume they are individuals that have died. Also on the building, was a makeshift spray painted sign with directions to Grosse Pointe, Downtown (Detroit), the river and to I-94.

There are a variety of messages spray painted on this section

All four directions are accounted for by the 'V' pointers

In addition to the many spray painted messages and names found on the exterior of the one-story building, there is also a large section where many color photos have been posted. Most of the ones I saw were of kids and teens. Perhaps they play on a community sports team, are part of a church group or merely from the neighborhood and have been counseled in some way at this office. It could also be a place for mentoring young people, teaching them the right things to do in life. It’s hard to tell what this curious place’s mission was.

Note the clock and wording above it to the right of the wall of photos

Whatever this may be, near the corner of Freud and Clairpointe streets, it appears those involved are trying to make a difference for those living in that old, tattered Detroit neighborhood.

The garage has an urban, folk art look to it

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