Tag Archives: Shelby Twp

Clinton River Ridin’

22 Jul

riverbends 082 (1)

We’re back in Macomb County, Sterling Heights, to be exact, re-visiting one of our favorite suburban gems, the Clinton River. Starting at Edison Ct. we hop on our vintage bikes and begin riding the path through Clinton River Park; we’ll travel about 16 miles in all, come along for the ride….The asphalt trail hugs the riverbank following the twisty path created by decades of erosion. The shady trail leads us through tunnel-like paths that run between mature trees, random shrubs and wildflowers. The park is located on a floodplain, after heavy rains it can take days for the water to recede, this year the lack of rain has left water levels low, places where water usually collects are bone dry, islands have formed here and there in the riverbed. Dodge Park, the jewel of the city, is located on the other side of the river. We journey through past Jaycee Park then under the M-53 highway, Riverland Park is next; fluffy white seedlings from cottonwood trees have collected along the edges of the path, lone joggers move to the rhythm of the music that fills their ears.

riverbends 197 (1)

riverbends 013 (1)
riverbends 089 (1)riverbends 104 (1)

The path dips under Riverland Drive, wooden bridges keep pedestrians and bikers above the marshy ground below, we pause at the small deck that juts into the river, no fishermen here today, the water is clear and still. We steer our bikes onward, wild berries are almost ready to be picked, weeds have grown tall, chipmunks scurry from the path. Now we cross under Van Dyke into the city of Utica at Heritage Park. Clinton River Canoe and Kayak Rentals picks up here, shuttles you upstream to your drop-in point and you paddle back, sweet! Crossing the wide bridge we look down and see kids in swimsuits playing in the water, cyclists nod as they pass, a robin serenades us. We dip into a neighborhood, climb a hill, make a right and we’re crossing the river again, this time an old green iron bridge leads us into downtown Utica.

riverbends 202 (1)

riverbends 180 (1)riverbends 200 (1)

riverbends 163 (2)

We cross Auburn Rd, this is a new section of pathway, the Clinton River Hike and Bike Trail links Utica and Shelby Twp. Immediately we are back in a tranquil park setting, the river moves lazily downstream, rhubarb plants are tall and have gone to seed. This section was just completed in December 2015, vacant land now transformed into an oasis. A steep hill takes us down to a cement block tunnel, on the other side we spill into River Bends Park. It’s absolutely gorgeous here; elevation changes, wide turns, ivy clings to tree trunks. In some sections a wooden fence lines the path, concrete gutters draw water away from the trail. We twist and turn along the fresh asphalt pavement, maples and pines watching over us, grassy areas are drenched in sunlight, benches invite everyone to take a rest.

riverbends 039 (1)

riverbends 057 (1)

riverbends 107 (1)

The scenery is beautiful, we are immersed in nature, our minds free to enjoy the songs of birds, honking Canada geese, Black-eyed Susan’s, Common Milkweed, Butterfly Milkweed with its bright orange flowers, tiny daisy-like blossoms on tall weeds. The ride is gentle, parks laid out before us, one after the other, always something pretty to look at. Everyone shares the trail; pedestrians, joggers, cyclists, skaters, dog walkers and stroller-pushers all enjoy the welcome escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday city life. I see something moving in the grass, is that a turtle or a tortise?  The new section of River Bends catches up with the old, next thing we know we have reached the 22 Mile entrance of the 626 acre park. This section offers picnic areas, shelters, volleyball and horseshoe pits, a 9-hole disc golf course is set up on the east side of the river. The abandoned Historic Clinton-Kalamazoo Canal borders the eastern boundary of River Bends Park.This is where we turn around, it’s time for dinner, a new restaurant opened in downtown Utica so we’re going to check the place out.

riverbends 122 (1)riverbends 070 (1)

riverbends 096 (1)

riverbends 045 (1)

We reach Danny J’s Brick Tavern, the building was constructed in 1901 and started life as a hardware store. Since the late 1970’s it has traded hands numerous times serving as a bar most of that time. Today the building is coated in fresh red paint, a black awning displays the tavern’s name. The attractive interior is exposed brick, wood floors, a silver tin ceiling and a wood-fired oven in the front corner; seating consists of high-top tables, booths and low tables that can be joined together for groups. Our server places our order; waiting, we look out over main street Utica, women wearing spandex carry Yoga mats as they pass on the sidewalk, couples are out for a stroll, cars come and go from parallel parking spaces. The crust on our Danny J’s Deluxe Pizza is thin, chewy and cooked to the perfect shade of brown. Generous amounts of toppings include pepperoni, sausage, bacon, green pepper, onion, mushroom, we add banana peppers, yum!

Riverbends 011 (1)Riverbends 013 (1)

Riverbends 008 (1)

Riverbends 003 (1)

After dinner we slowly pedal our bikes to Memorial Park down by the river. The quaint setting includes gardens, brick pavers, tables, benches, a clock tower and hanging planters, don’t you love the smell of Petunias? There’s a lovely view of the river from the lower level, if you’re lucky nobody will be on the swing. After a brief rest it’s time to pedal. We go back the way we came, as the sun gets lower in the sky nature takes on a new look, the temperature has dropped, we spot a deer resting in the woods. For most of the way we don’t see another person, it’s quiet except for the sound of leaves shifting in the breeze. Ducks and geese travel in groups downriver, everybody has somewhere to go; for us it’s time to go home. It’s been a splendid evening in these magnificent parks, we’ll be back soon.

riverbends 206 (2)

riverbends 143 (1)riverbends 153 (1)

riverbends 193 (1)

Packard Proving Grounds

14 Dec

packard 156

Detroit’s rich automotive and manufacturing history spreads far beyond the city limits. Today we are in Macomb County, Shelby Township to be exact, visiting the Packard Proving Grounds Historic Site. In 1927 the Packard Motor Car Company began constructing a testing facility on 560 acres of farmland in Shelby Twp. Designed by (don’t you know it) Albert Kahn, the steel-framed buildings were state-of-the-art in their day. The Lodge was home to proving grounds manager Charles Vincent and his family, with the start of WWII, the family left the Lodge in 1942. Packard continued to use the property until 1958, it was then sold to Curtiss-Wright, who in turn sold it to Ford Motor Company in 1961. By 1998 Ford no longer had use for the property. After a long series of negotiations the acquisition of the total site was a combination of a gift from Ford Motor Land Development Corp. and purchase by the Packard Motor Car Foundation.

packard 087

packard 085packard 097

packard 031

It is a chilly late Autumn day, a combination open house and car show is being held on the property. A line of cars has formed gaining entrance to the event, rows of vehicles are parked on the front lawn, the familiar scent of exhaust fumes fill the air. Everywhere I look people are milling about, vintage Packards are parked along the garage area, they are beautiful, elegant, dazzling. Many have Art Deco style designs and trim, colors range from rich jewel tones to creamy neutrals, spare tires are mounted on the side like a decoration, hood ornaments are large and showy, and then there’s the chrome……..  Most models had a letter or a number for a name: Model K, N, the Dominant Six or Super Eight, later they used names like the Caribbean, Clipper and Hawk. The vehicles are a testament to the era they were designed and equally as attractive today.

packard 030

packard 015

packard 017

The Lodge is open for tours today. We enter through the kitchen, renovation is an ongoing process, the vintage sink, stove and refrigerator are from the 1920’s. Passing through the sitting room it is pointed out that the fireplace brick was laid in Kahn’s signature herringbone design, the foyer floor is original Pewabic tile. Upstairs we find a series of bedrooms, the Vincent’s had three daughters, the youngest, Roberta is living in Arizona today, but has been back to visit the house. Windows are leaded glass, photos, books and Packard advertisements are displayed, wet plaster is under repair, yellow caution tape abounds. The master bedroom overlooks the main gate and the Princeton Elms that line the boulevard. We come to a hallway leading past several dormitory-style rooms, these were used by visitors to the Proving Grounds. Most interesting is the Radio Room. Mr. Vincent was a ham radio enthusiast; he designed and built the equipment used in the first successful air-to-ground radio-phone communication which was done at the Proving Grounds in 1929. The tour ends back downstairs in the living room, currently used as a Board Room for meetings, the room is similar to its original appearance, complete with fireplace.

packard 011

packard 057packard 048

packard 067

Back outside we cross the courtyard to the Repair Garage, once used as an experimental and engineering laboratory, today  the Johnny Trudell Orchestra is playing big band favorites, Packard’s are randomly parked throughout the building garnering much deserved attention. On view are a number of engines complete with that signature Packard script, the 1956 showroom display chassis has drawn a crowd, Kris and I catch a glimpse of the stonework that surrounded the main entrance at the original Packard building in Detroit, safe at last. On loan for the day from the Algonac/Clay Twp Historical Society is the Miss America X. On September 20, 1932 Commodore Gar Wood set a speed record of 108.48 knots for a nautical mile and 124.71 knots for a statue mile. Powered by four 12 cylinder Packard engines, they are arranged as a two bank unit of two 24-cylinder engines creating  6,400 hp. A platform allows us to get an up-close view of Miss America X, she’s a beauty! Dials, gauges and levers cover the interior, the engine gleams in orange paint, the wooden hull is varnished to a high shine. We’ll have to visit the museum soon.

packard 189

packard 140

packard 166

packard 146

Behind the building an elevated water storage tank stands high above the proving grounds, a sight familiar to me since I was a little girl. Just beyond sits a 4,000 sq ft hangar, now called the Lindbergh Hangar. In 1929 Col Charles Lindbergh visited the site to test-fly a Packard-powered airplane. At the back of the property the original timing stand and a 458 ft section of the test track remain. The second level of the timing stand provides a panoramic view of the proving grounds. Back in the day we would be overlooking a 2.5 mile oval track specifically built for high-speed testing. They say it was so well-engineered that drivers could travel around the banked curves in excess of 100 mph without holding the steering wheel. In 1928 Leon Duray set a World’s record for a closed course of 148 + mph, making the test oval the fastest in the World. Volunteers are taking visitors for a ride around the grounds in vintage Packards, we go for a spin, the drive ends and we are dropped off near the gate. Thanks to the support and donations by members of the old-car hobby, automotive historians and the local community, this site has been preserved and is now on the National Register of Historic Places; this is more than Detroit history, it is the history of our Nation.

packard 207

packard 204

packard 200

Bad Brad’s BBQ is located nearby on 23 Mile Rd, serving up delicious beef brisket and pork shoulder, the restaurant is a wonderful addition to the area. The interior is a combination of wood planks, brick and corrugated metal, the main dining room offers tables, booths and bar seating, they also have an awesome patio. Meats are steeped in fruit wood and hickory smoke for up to 14 hours, everything on the menu is made from scratch. Our Classic BBQ sandwich is piled high with sliced brisket, a wooden skewer stuck through the middle holds it together. House made sauces are on the table, I recommend trying each and every one. The kettle style BBQ chips go nicely with the sandwich, a side of cornbread is a must!

packard 245

packard 250

packard 253

Stony Creek Metropark is just a short drive from here, so we decide to extend the day with a walk and visit to the Nature Center. Much of Stony Creek was part of Valley Creek Farm, a weekend getaway for the Charles Hodges Sr family of Grosse Pointe from 1928 until the metroparks purchased the property in the mid 1950’s. Here we find prairies, woodlands and wetlands, trees like Norway Spruce and Norway Maple were planted by the family and are not native to the area. We begin our walk on the Reflection Trail, fallen leaves crunch under our feet, my face and hands are getting cold. A boardwalk leads to a lookout over a river, colorful leaves reflect off the water. The trail provides many places to stop and take in picturesque views. We keep our eyes open for wildlife such as birds, ducks, fish and turtles, something runs across the trail, we follow the sound and watch a cute little chipmunk have a bite to eat.We warm up a bit in the Nature Center, the building resembles a lodge, lovely wood beams make up the ceiling, large windows fill the walls, it has that “up north” feeling. Glass aquariums contain live frogs, snakes and turtles. Tall cabinets display examples of fox, ducks, hawks and owls, wow, some of them are huge! The view is tranquil, chairs are placed near windows overlooking bird feeders, I can feel myself relax as I watch the birds come and go. The scenery changes with every season. 

packard 234

packard 225

packard 240

packard 231