A fair few of the people arriving at the hostel seem to be asking about electronic dance music and Detroit. As techno isn’t really my cup of tea, I was unaware of the connection, but having looked it up, Detroit is cited as one of birthplaces of this movement during the early 1980s. It’s still hugely popular here today with loads of local producers and record labels. Apparently there’s lots of unofficial raves that take place in the disused warehouses that Detroit has an abundance of.
Crossing the road in Detroit is much easier than most other cities. Being the Motor City there was even an abundance of roads for when its population was three times what it is today. Quite often streets will be two or three lanes wide when one lane would more than suffice. Often people don’t bother using the inside lanes which have become de facto bike lanes.
I walked down to the other end of Corktown where the Detroit Riverwalk begins. The first thing that was noticeable is how close Canada is across the river. I discovered that there is no such place as South Detroit, as in the lyrics of the Journey song Don’t Stop Believing. If you were south of Detroit you’d be in Windsor, Canada. Today’s plan was to walk all six miles of the Riverwalk and across to Belle Isle, the island park in the the Detroit River. There’s a few things to see along the river, notably the enormous Renaissance Center buildings that serve as the headquarters of General Motors and the Joe Louis Arena, home for one final season to the Detroit Red Wings ice hockey team. From talking to locals it appears that the Red Wings are the most popular sports team in the city. Sadly the new arena will be sponsored rather that retaining the name of the local hero but nearby is a Joe Louis monument, perhaps even a greater tribute than the Coming To America barbershop scene. It’s certainly different from a bog-standard statue. Known as “The Fist,” the Joe Louis monument is exactly that, a huge metal fist. It’s smack bang in the middle of a busy traffic intersection, one of the few parts of Detroit where there’s still seemingly plenty of cars. I’m surprised nobody has been run over taking a selfie!
It’s a bit muggy today so I detour into downtown Detroit for a lap of the People Mover, an overhead monorail that (without stating the obvious) moves people around the city centre. This is almost like a themepark ride and gives a different perspective of the buildings from what you’d get at street level. All this for a bargain 75 cents!
It’s then back onto the Riverwalk and onward to Belle Isle, which seems to take forever to get to. Belle Isle looks like a lovely place to relax for a few hours on a deck chair or maybe have a barbecue but you can’t really do that sort of thing on your own. I just have a look at the fountain, wander down to the water and take a couple of photos of the Detroit skyline before trekking back the other way along the waterfront to Corktown.
While I said yesterday that I would not be walking around here at night, I discovered somewhere I could potentially visit tonight. The Nancy Whiskey Pub is a neighbourhood Irish bar that proudly proclaims to be “Detroit’s oldest party” which has been going on since 1902. It is located about 50 yards behind the hostel. Looking at it from the outside it appears a dog-rough dive. As a general rule I’d tend to give a bar without windows a wide berth. However the hostel staff tell me that it’s popular with the hostel guests, everyone in there is friendly and if you tell them it’s your first visit you’ll also get a free whiskey. I can be fairly shameless but I didn’t have the cheek to scav a $2 drink. Inside is actually a lot nicer than it appears from its exterior. It’s a fairly standard looking bar, not exactly posh but far from a hole. At one end of the bar were three drunks who’ve probably been there all day. They seemed reasonably happy drunks but were loud. The female member of the group liked to sporadically dance when a song she liked came on the jukebox. I find that sort of thing a bit intimidating so I sat as far away as possible and read one of those free classified ads newspapers . The barman advised me that Carling Black Label was on offer at $1 a can! Is it 1991? I’d only intended to stay for a quick beer but that turned into three due to a heavy downpour outside and I had no coat. During this time plenty of people came in for a quick drink at the start of their night out. Nancy Whiskey’s is alright. I liked the old-school feel, with one television in the corner showing a Tigers game, as oppose to the 25 different screens you get in the modern generic bars.