Days 39 and 40, WLBT

Detroit, MI and Troy, OH

By David Runkel


The Tour Director took the opportunity of being in a major city with a diverse population and tall buildings to take a long walkabout. The author enjoyed staying in her nightgown in the meantime.  Detroit is filled with interesting old structures, some vacant, some undergoing clever and creative repurposing. People hustling to work abound.  And, don’t you know he found an ethnic bakery in Greektown, a variety of items from which found their way back to Toby and Liz’s fantastic, Mies van der Rohe modern townhouse in a very quiet four-block long section near downtown.  Toby had already left for a coffee meeting and Liz was working from home.  She nibbled, but the Tour enjoyed the sweet fortification before leaving for Dearborn and The Henry Ford Museum, Garden and Village.

Choosing a destination was difficult. It was either the Ford or the famed Detroit Museum of Art with its riveting Diego Rivera mural and other masterpieces.  Tough choice.  But, having visited Rivera’s birthplace and much of his art last year in Guanajuato, Mexico, we decided to check out The Henry Ford. Hundreds of acres, indoors and out, comprise this stellar tourist attraction. (By the way, we are shameless tourists by now.)

We started out viewing the parade of Presidential limos, including the one in which President Kennedy was riding when he was assassinated, going back to a “car” used once or twice by Theodore Roosevelt.  He actually preferred horses and a chariot.  Then, came the indoor train section, with gigantic engines and cars, and a dozen toy trains running endlessly on variously- sized tracks. Those in the party who have dreamed of an under-the-Christmas-tree train set for years were particularly enchanted.

The lifetime of the automobile took us from the forerunners of the Model T to the 1949

Ford which the Author drove as a teenager (The Blue Bug, painted with nail polish on the driver’s door) to some of today’s vehicles.  How grand! So was the original round Buckminster Fuller aluminum house which he designed to help solve the nation’s post World War II housing shortage.  Unfortunately, a dispute with Beechcraft in Wichita prevented its commercial development.

A permanent exhibit of the history of the United States followed, with a quiz on the Constitution (100 percent was our score).  History presented, warts and all – as honest a report on our country’s past as you can find.  The exhibit included chairs from Constitution Hall in Philadelphia and the chair Lincoln was sitting in when he was shot.  The civil rights section included an actual KKK robe and hood, and the bus in which Rosa Parks was riding when she refused to move to the back to make way for a white man.  This is just a slice of what we absorbed.  Are the Museum’s directors making a concerted effort to make up for Henry Ford’s well-documented personal shortcomings?  Whatever the reason, this is an extraordinary place.   

Day Thirty Seven of the Scone by Scone Book Tour
Henry Ford

We passed up other parts of the Ford indoors, except for a short look at a temporary exhibit exalting the creativity of the Eames’s, opting instead to visit the adjacent farm and town that included Henry Ford’s birthplace, a Pennsylvania covered bridge, the railroad roundhouse in Michigan, an early New York City electric generating plant, a carousel and much, much more. We passed up a horse-drawn carriage or buggy ride for one on a coal-fired train with a several mile, three-stop run around the park’s perimeter. When asked how she was feeling during the ride, the author said, “In heaven.”

Exhausted, we drove back to Detroit, stopping at the 4-story King book store before going back to Toby and Liz’s.  After dinner at a neighborhood mainstay (Chef is Mexican, restaurant is Italian, menu is both) and a stop at a cake shop (the author had carrot, while our hosts shared a slice of their favorite,  fruity pebbles),

Day Thirty Seven of the Scone by Scone Book Tour
Toby & Liz eating Fruity Pebbles Cake

we toured more of Detroit and of their empire, including a fancy store named Nora’s, where you can now obtain “Scone by Scone” in a revitalized section near Wayne State and a print shop that Toby started with a non-profit near the Eastern Market.    We were impressed with their energy and creativity, and devotion to their city which is most evident in “4 Detroit” a book they published last fall and is available at Nora’s and from them. It is the penultimate in useful coffee table books. It covers four seasons and four chefs’ recipes for what to cook if you’re local and organic and have a table.

The Tour departed Thursday for Troy, Ohio.  Why?  Again, a family connection.  Chad Snee IV, Deedie’s first cousin once removed, lives there with his wife, Lynne, and their three amazing daughters – Charlotte, Katy and Maggie.  This small city has a wonderful independent book store, with a connecting coffee and chocolate shop featuring Winans chocolates.  While we were underwhelmed at the reading crowd, we very much enjoyed getting reacquainted with the younger Snees, who are part of a parents-daughters Shakespeare book club.  King Lear is this month’s challenge.  We are hoping they make it to Ashland next spring along with Lynne’s sister, a school librarian in Portland.

Weighing on the Tour were two driving events. First there was a two-hour delay on Interstate 75, one of the few interstates we have traveled so far, caused by a crash involving one of the million or so tractor-trailers on this busy Midwest-South connection and a pick-up. The second occurred on a quiet street a block from the Snees.  A driver pulled out from a side street just feet from us.  Luckily, the anti-lock brakes worked, and we came to a stop just as the car passed in front of us.  It was inches, maybe less, folks.  And, our first near-crash in nearly 5,000 miles, so far.  Keep your fingers crossed.  The author reports that she is nearly recovered from the “fright” of the near crash.

Pennsylvania, here we come!