Wyandotte

3 May

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Every once in a while the opportunity arises to see or do something out of the ordinary; such was the case on a lovely Saturday morning when we found ourselves in Wyandotte at the North American Model Engineering Society (NAMES) Expo. Modelers of all ages, from all over, gather to show off their amazing creations and promote the hobby of model engineering. Held at Yack Arena the expo fills 30,000 sq ft of space with miniature, functioning models of things like engines, trains, tractors, aircraft and boats; it’s something you have to see to believe!Tables with shiny metal objects near the arena entrance immediately grab our attention, on the left a crowd forms around a scale cylinder radial engine, the proud modeler answers one question after another, I don’t even know what it is and I’m impressed! Kris is extremely mechanical and understands the way things work, with me as his companion he will quickly grow tired of having to explain what everything is.

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We start down the first aisle, a sea of exhibitors display incredible, real working examples of  mechanical items scaled down to table-top size, lines of compressed air operate tiny steam engines creating a rhythmic popping sound. Trains are popular, there are several examples each done in a different scale, they are perfect down to the smallest detail. Men stand proudly behind their tables,  I have as much fun looking at the items as I do watching their creators talk with passing admirers. As we round a corner I spot a 1/4 scale Whizzer motor bike, further down a 1/5 scale bridgeport, the featured model this year is a V8 engine, complete with radiator and mini spark plugs. Many pieces are mounted on pretty wooden bases, often times engraved plates tell us what each item is. One modeler has made an entire old-fashioned machine shop complete with an arbor press, wood lathe and saw table, the exactness is mind-blowing.

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We see several different engines, some run on gasoline, all it takes is a little bit of revving to draw an audience. I recognize items like transmissions, cylinder heads and a super charger, each teeny tiny piece is a work of art. Every aisle has something amazing; a cannon, clock, guns and meticulous recreations of race cars and Chris Craft boats, these guys even make their own tools! Kris had his hands full taking pictures. Often times the builder would show us the way things work, truly fascinating stuff.

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When lunch time arrived we thought we’d check out downtown Wyandotte, we see  a restaurant  sign that says Sushi Bar Japanese Cuisine, we’re in. When we step inside I notice the attractive iridescent tile on the back wall, wind chimes hang lazily over the sushi bar. We are seated near the window and handed menus. After a quick scan we choose three sushi rolls, a salad and the age dashi tofu. Drinks and salad arrived quickly, good, we’re hungry. The lunch crowd thins out, the rest of our meal arrives. The tofu is excellent, a crisp sesame crust and tasty dipping sauce, one of the better ones we’ve had. The sushi was fresh and delicious.

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We walk over to Biddle, which is Wyandotte’s main street, drawn in by the appealing window display, we stop in at River’s Edge Gallery. The first floor is a combination art gallery, interior design studio and custom framing shop, as we wander through I recognize names of many Detroit artists. We ascend the stairs to the second floor, a new exhibit has just opened, the artist’s pieces are engaging, the space a delightful array of art. The gallery owner concentrates on the art of New Detroit, the city is becoming known as a hotbed for the creative community.

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I had ice cream on my mind, Wyandotte is lucky enough to have both a Sanders and a Stroh’s, since I can get Sanders locally Stroh’s was our destination. As we walk up the block Kris is intrigued by a charming 2-story building. Curious as to what the interior looks like he opens the door and proceeds in, just inside the foyer are a set of saloon-style swinging doors, we push through those and find ourselves inside an enchanting German pub known as R P McMurphy’s. This place is awesome! The brick building was built in the 1890’s, it started out as Schroeder’s Pub, Dr. Schroeder had his medical practice on the second floor. We take a seat at the gorgeous dark wood bar and strike up a conversation with Joe the bartender; he answers our questions as he prepares the absolute best Spanish Coffee I’ve ever had. One of the waitresses we talked to told us it used to be a joke that you could stop in at the pub for a ‘shot’ before you went upstairs to get your shot. As we sit we swivel in our chair to take in our surroundings, the tile floor is original as is most everything in the place. The most striking feature is the hand painted period mural that runs the full length of the far wall. The characters and scenes look like they are out of a story book during the days of Robin Hood, they have stood the test of time perfectly. Pewabic tile fills the space below the murals, we’re told that was added later, chandeliers look medieval, thick wood beams divide the ceiling, the place is like a time capsule. Can’t wait to come back for dinner.

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Wyandotte is home to a bevy of architectural styles, making it a great place to take a stroll. If you’re into the “Pop” style of the late 1960’s early 70’s be sure and poke your head into the Chelsea menswear store, also on Biddle. The building was renovated in 1970, outside the “Chelsea” lettering  and oblong cut-out for the window are fab, the Pop theme continues inside with the circle panels in the ceiling creating polka dots of light. Focusing in clothing made locally and in the USA, it’s also a great place for guys to shop! 

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With so much to offer and just a short ride from Detroit,we’ll be back in the summer for dinner, ice cream and a stroll along the river. Who knows what else we may discover.

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