Tag Archives: Downriver


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.

Grosse Ile

9 Nov

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Residing in the south end of the Detroit River with Michigan to the west and Ontario Canada to the east is Grosse Ile. Purchased in 1776 by William and Alexander Macomb from the Potawatomi Indians it seems the island is relatively unknown to the general masses, I’m guessing the current population of just over 10,000 people prefer it that way. Grosse lle is one of those places we love to take a drive to from time to time; from West Jefferson Ave pay your $2.00 and cross over the toll bridge that has welcomed folks to the island since 1913. As soon as you are on the island you will notice life takes on a slower pace here; made up mostly of residential and open spaces Macomb Street is the only district zoned for business and where residents go to shop, gather, eat and visit the Post Office.

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                                                                                                               Sunday was another gorgeous Autumn day, perfect for a drive to and around the island. Coming across the bridge we noticed dozens of swans taking in the sunshine. Off the toll bridge we made a right turn and followed scenic West River Drive along the shoreline. It’s hard to decide what direction to look; on one side is the beautiful blue water and what remains of the last bit of fall foliage, on the other side are lovely homes, some of which have been enjoying this panorama since the 1800’s. We made a left on Groh to head to the other side of the island but were distracted by a sign that read “Alpaca’s”. Located at the NE end of the Grosse Ile Municipal Airport is the Gibraltar Bay Alpaca Farm. I’m never one to turn down an opportunity to visit with animals, so Kris pulled into the parking lot and we went to check it out. The extremely friendly owner greeted us at the gate and asked if we’d like to see the Alpaca’s, we said yes, he led the way. He took over from the original owner 12 years ago and has a visible fondness for these animals. Some are his, some are boarded there; each one has a name and it’s own distinct personality. We started with the boys, boys and girls are kept apart and each have a large area in which to graze and roam. As we got closer to the gate a few curious Alpacas came over to see what we were all about; these animals are striking, large eyes surrounded by long lashes give them a gentle appearance, they are mild mannered and these boys in particular seemed to enjoy the attention from us humans. Next it was over to the girls section. The girls were a little more nonchalant, they would look over at us, some would walk towards us, and then go back to what they were doing. They are sheared on the farm by the owner, he gives each one a little different look that fits their character; it’s easy to pick out the glamour girls! There were a few youngsters running around, they are a bit more apprehensive, and just adorable. What a cool experience just to be there among these docile creatures. Don’t leave without visiting the gift shop, there is some wonderful Alpaca merchandise for sale. The farm is open daily from 10am to 5pm and is definitely worth seeing.


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We continued east on Groh to East River and made a left, this is where many of the elite built homes for Summer or year-round living. One of my favorites is the Victorian Wedding Cake House, located on East River between Parkway and Macomb, you can’t miss it… it’s stunning! The architectural styles vary from the very old to the very modern, somehow each looking like that’s exactly where they belong. Whatever your taste, I’m sure you’ll find something that appeals to you. If you look closely you can catch a view of the Detroit skyline in the distance. The people who built and lived here combine to create an amazing history of the island.

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Next stop the Grosse Ile Historical Museum; housed in the former Michigan Central Grosse Isle Depot building this tiny museum retains it’s historical charm inside and out. Since 1969 pertinent items reflecting life on the island have been stored and displayed here, it’s kind of like visiting your grandparents or great aunt. Take a little time to really look around, volunteers are happy to answer your questions and even make suggestions as to what to see while on the island. I always enjoy a little local museum, it makes me feel as if I know a place a little better for having stopped in.

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The day was flying by and we were past due for lunch, the business district was mostly closed down on a Sunday so we drove back over to West River to eat at Sharky’s Tavern. Located south of the free bridge, it’s across the road from the river and the closest thing to riverfront dining you’ll get. The casual restaurant seems to be a meeting place for locals to hang out, have a few beers and catch up. The menu has a nice selection of salads, sandwiches, and their famous Walleye Chowder. It was too nice a day to order soup, it somehow puts me in the mind of cold weather. We actually thought it was nice enough to eat out on the patio, but being November it was closed for the season. We ordered typical lunch fare; a club sandwich and the Traverse City salad. There’s something so appealing about a club sandwich, and this one was good, just the right amount of everything, and perfectly cooked crisp bacon. Our waitress couldn’t have been nicer and the service was great. Before returning home, we took one more lap around, soaking up the picture-perfect views. Grosse Ile, an island getaway just a half hour south of The D!

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