If you’ve never seen Detroit on two wheels, you don’t know what you’re missing! Kris and I each have vintage bicycles from the late 60′s, early 70′s; banana seats, high-rise handle bars, and shifters, his even has a tall sissy bar. One of our favorite things to do is hop on the old bikes and take a ride through the city, today we were joined by a friend. The Detroit RiverFront Conservancy is responsible for this wonderful thing we call Riverwalk; with a vision of providing riverfront access from the Belle Isle Bridge to the Ambassador, it has become one of the city’s greatest assets. I like to start things at the beginning, in this case that would be Mt Elliot Park; the forecast promised sunshine and mild temperatures, for a change it was right on. The Riverwalk itself is constructed of a series of concrete slabs and multi-color brick pavers, decorative railings furnish a place to lean against while looking out across the river to Canada or a place to rest your fishing pole. We pedaled along, cruising past the UAW GM complex, Roberts Hotel with its outdoor patio, and the old Park Davis building; sparkling blue water on one side and beautiful historic buildings on the other. We make the jog to Atwater then hop into Milliken State Park and Harbor with its 52 slip marina and 63 foot replica light tower; it is completely unexpected and wonderful to find a state park inside a big city. A surprising number of boats are still in the water, large Weeping Willows sway in today’s gentle breeze, fishermen sit patiently soaking up the sun, waiting for the big catch of the day. We head back to Atwater St then to the Dequindre Cut, an urban greenway that links the riverfront to Eastern Market.
The Dequindre Cut was formerly a Grand Trunk railroad line; the 20 ft wide path is below street level, allowing you to get from one part of the city to the other without the hassle of crossing busy streets. Popular with both pedestrians and bicycle riders each are given separate lanes. Tall light poles display banners inviting us to “Play at Dequindre Cut”, many embrace the invitation. Today there are lots of people enjoying the path; joggers, casual walkers, serious bikers and photographers. Graffiti covers the concrete walls; once paint starts to fade and peel, it is scraped off and becomes the blank canvas for a new artist, the current array of murals is fantastic! We ride to the end, asking much of our thighs to push us up the ramp at Gratiot. We cross Gratiot and enter the hustle and bustle world that is Eastern Market on a Saturday afternoon.
All three of us were thirsty, luckily Germack Coffee Shop serves up some of the best coffee around. The boys stayed outside with the bikes while I went in to get our beverages; as usual the shop was busy, but the line moved quickly. I returned with two iced coffees sweetened with Germack’s own homemade vanilla syrup and an iced Chili Mexican for me. Armed with a little caffeine and a little sugar we were off again. We rode north on Russell and took a left on Mack Ave to Woodward. We turned at Willis making our way to Avalon to get some lunch. Along with amazing breads and pastries Avalon International Breads also makes a variety of sandwiches and salads ready-to-go from a refrigerated case. We were starving! All that fresh air and exercise built up an appetite. Kris stayed outside, saving us a table while Ben and I went indoors for food; we grabbed a variety of sandwiches and a salad and headed back outside for our meal. The sandwiches were interesting combinations of flavors served on a variety of their best organic breads, the salad was excellent; the dressing a homemade puree of strawberries and who knows what else, that was just delicious! We sat and rested in the late afternoon sun as we talked of our adventures in the city so far.
Riding at a gentle pace, we went north on Second over to Wayne State University; the campus is actually quite scenic and makes for a nice ride. Then it was south on Woodward, pedaling onward we took in the sights and sounds of the city; the detail of buildings much more apparent from this level and at this speed, two different wedding parties posed for photos in front of the fabulous Fox Theatre, at Hart Plaza we stopped and took photos of the bicycles. The vintage bikes are a natural conversation starter, folks come right up to us and share their stories of their own childhood bikes, all told with a smile on their face and a twinkle in their eye; I get a kick out of the ones who call out the bikes by name. Back on the riverwalk we ride over to the west end near Joe Louis Arena, taking time to pause at Cobo Arena and check out the renovations, can’t wait to see it when it’s done. Turning around at the end of the walkway it was back east for us. We stopped in front of Ren Cen and watched the kids run in and out of the fountain, the sight is always accompanied by the sound of joyful screams and laughter at a pitch that can only come from a child.
The view is spectacular; it’s hard to look away and concentrate on where I am going, the water looks as though thousands of diamonds have been sprinkled atop, the clouds in the sky have taken on interesting formations. Further down, the lure of the patio at Roberts Riverwalk Hotel proved too much to resist. We parked the bikes and grabbed a table with a picture perfect view of Windsor; Kris went inside to the bar and grabbed cocktails. The patio was full of wedding guests mingling before dinner was served, what a gorgeous venue for a reception. Evening was approaching quickly; time to get back on those banana seats.