"If you don't respect your toys, you don't deserve to have them!"
This is something my mother used to say to me as she was pulling the toy truck from my hands that I was probably using as a hammer to make a point with one of my siblings. If this parable holds any truth, then lower Michigan does not deserve to have roads.
What do I mean by this? Lower Michigan has the WORST roads of any state we have traversed to date! And not just bad, but horrendous! Therefore, I say to Michigan that, if you can't properly maintain your roads, then you don't deserve to have them!
You don't have to look far to see people that agree with me.
Our treacherous journey began after we left Cleveland and crossed the border into "Michiganistan".
It was like plunging from a first-world road system, into a third-world. It was so bad that the vibrations from hitting their many ruts, bumps and pot-holes, tore our theater chairs free from their anchors and danced them across our RV floor, gouging the vinyl in the process! Keep in mind that these chairs had never moved in our 30,000 miles of travel.
It would have been a smoother ride if we had pulled off the highway and driven through vacant fields!
People blame Michigan's harsh winters but that doesn't explain the sharp contrast between the road system south of the border in Ohio and here. We even found the roads further north to be in much better shape than around Detroit!
[Okay.. Deep breaths....deep breaths..]
Our first stop in Michigan was at the Wayne County Fair Grounds and RV Park near Livonia. Some old friends from our "Columbus days" live here. We hadn't seen them in about twenty years and were very excited to catch up.
The Fair Grounds are just that, open fields with electric and sewer hook ups.
There were no amenities but the grounds were level and the area was pleasant, so if you're traveling with an RV and looking for an inexpensive place for a short stopover, Lorraine and I give this RV park two thumbs up.
BUT.. because these are nothing but grassy fields, I would caution against staying here if the area had experienced heavy rainfall!
After pulling in and getting everything set up, Lorraine and I like to go exploring. So we drove over to the nearby town of Plymouth. And what a charming small town this is.
To our good fortune, the visit coincided with their summer "Music in the Air" festival.
We had a lot of fun talking with the locals and listening to good music. For such a small town (population 9,132), they have a lot to offer. Not only are there numerous art festivals and farmer's markets throughout the summer, but in late January, they are also home to the Plymouth Ice Spectacular, the largest and oldest ice carving festival in North America!
I discovered another interesting tid-bit about this quaint town. In the 1880's this man, Clarence Hamilton, founded the Plymouth Iron Windmill Company.
As a promotional tool, he decided to give away a wooden, spring-powered airgun with each windmill sale. When one of his Board members tried the airgun, he exclaimed, "Boy, it's a daisy!" The rifle became an immediate success and thus was born the Daisy (BB gun) Manufacturing Company!
On to our friends in Lavonia..
Now, we can't say enough good things about Mike and Karen. We met them shortly after we moved to Columbus. At the time, I was the editor of our church's newsletter and they both were working as professional graphic designers. One day Karen approached me and said [reading between the lines]: "this newsletter looks like crap. Let us help". Somehow, we all quickly became fast friends. (It didn't hurt that Mike shared my love for all things Stooges).
Here are Mike and Karen back in "the day":
Mike, also a talented cartoonist, had his drawings published in numerous publications including USA Today. This comic appeared just before Bill Clinton's second re-election in 1996:
Over the years the four of us shared many laughs, tears and good times. It was very hard leaving them when we moved back to Delaware. Distance and time took its toll on our communications. But after twenty years, we quickly fell back into our old friendship.
They took us into the nearby town of Northville (founded in 1869) to watch the Fourth of July parade.
And we also visited Mill Race Village, a historical village which preserves the architectural styles common to the Northville area prior to 1900's. It was nice meeting many early American celebrities!
George doesn't look a day over 287 years old!
We had a delightful time catching up with Mike and Karen. We talked of the past, of our children, our lives, and, of course, financial stressors. Like us, their lives have been an undulating flow of ups and downs. But, through it all, their sense of humor, and their perseverance is still intact. Time has not changed their hearts.. their energy, perhaps.. but not their hearts.
On a free afternoon, Lorraine and I drove into Detroit where we were pleasantly surprised by the beauty of this once noble city. Fully expecting to see boarded up buildings and vacant lots, we found center-city to be clean, safe and an eclectic mix of architecture ranging from Art-Deco to imposing modern glass towers.
From the riverfront, one can look directly into Windsor, Canada:
As we strolled along the waterway we came across this striking sculpture dedicated to those who participated (and partook) in the Underground Railroad. Detroit, code name: Midnight, was the last stop in the Underground Railroad. It is estimated that nearly 45,000 slaves passed through here on their way to freedom in Canada!
I also learned that there is a corresponding monument on the Canadian side, depicting escaped slaves celebrating their freedom. Here is a photo I found online.
Although dedicated to those brave individuals who took action in the past, these statues are a poignant reminder to the extremes of the human condition to which none of us are immune.
There are those who (implicitly or explicitly) spend their lives doing nothing but accumulating wealth to the disadvantage of others, and those who, through their deeds, are willing to spend their physical energy and material wealth for a higher purpose: to elevate the conditions of others. This internal struggle cannot be altered by any external law, but only by a good dose of honest self-reflection. Like any good piece of art, these statues gave me pause and caused me to reflect upon my own attitudes. It brought to mind the words of Jesus: "The second greatest commandment is this: You must love your neighbor as you would love yourself". The struggle continues.
If you're ever in this part of Michigan --and if your vehicle is still driveable-- make sure to visit the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation. It is the largest indoor-outdoor museum complex in the U.S. and contains many of the tools and vehicles that propelled our industrial revolution. There are over 26 million artifacts housed here!
Here are just a few of the items we saw here:
An exploding Model T:
One of the first tractors:
A steam powered tractor:
An early model combine:
The house designed by American architect and futurist, Buckminster Fuller:
Here's an interior shot:
Here's the plane explorer Richard E. Byrd flew over the north pole in 1926 (the plane was named after the daughter of Ford Motor Co. president Edsel Ford, who financed the operation):
This is one of the original Holiday Inn signs. It reminded me of the road trips I took with my family as a child:
This brought a smile of nostalgia to my face!
There are other artifacts found here that I was surprised were not housed at the Smithsonian.
For instance, here's the chair that Abraham Lincoln was sitting in the night he was assassinated in Ford's theater:
Here's the 1961 Lincoln that President Kennedy was sitting in when he was assassinated. Because this car was used by later administrations, some modifications have been made to it:
George Washington's camp bed and equipment:
Nikola Tesla's death mask:
And the bus Rosa Parks was sitting in when she was arrested on December 1, 1955, sparking the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott.
This place is like Disneyland for people interested in Americana. I think American author, Henry Seidel Canby said it best:
"It is the small town, the small city, that is our heritage. We have made twentieth-century America from it, and some account of these communities as they were... we owe our children and grandchildren."
This museum tells that story.
In an unrelated matter, we want to wish our good friends Connie and Vivian success on their upcoming RV road trip. Safe travels!