Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Motor City in January!

January 2007 - State # 22 - Michigan

When it came time to visit Michigan, everyone, and I mean everyone recommended the Upper Peninsula.  But Guy had always wanted to see the Detroit Auto Show.  Since I love my husband and he hardly ever directs our travels, I honored his request and we visited Detroit the second week of January for Opening Day of the North American International Auto Show

(Why in the world do they hold it in January?)
We arrived in Detroit as the city was preparing for an ice storm (my dream come true) and proceeded to car rental pickup.  For the Motor City, we found this process strangely casual.  I had reserved a SUV (in case we needed 4-wheel drive in the snow) and at the counter, the guys actually took their feet off the desk and informed us that "no Explorers" were available.  They pointed to the parking area and instructed us to pick one.  We literally chose whatever car we wanted for the price of a compact!

With the nicest car we could find, we set out for our hotel...The Inn on Ferry Street.  This inn is a relaxing change of pace from the standard business hotel.  Four restored Victorian homes and two carriage houses abound in sophisticated luxury.

Although the inn itself was lovely, the neighborhood was one of those areas we try to avoid in our travels.  You know what I mean; even the travel guides admonish you to steer clear!  These 4 beautiful Victorian homes on a street with burned-out hulks of homes from earlier eras and numerous vacant lots.  For that reason alone, we cannot recommend this hotel.
The next morning we drove to The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn.  My husband loves a museum and this one was devoted to cars (his dream come true!)

We had reservations for Detroit's #1 Automotive Attraction...the Ford Rouge Factory Tour. 

The only Detroit automotive plant tour available to the public begins at The Henry Ford Museum.   A 15-minute bus ride takes you through one of the world's largest automotive complexes. 

This factory was designed to build automobiles "from raw ore to final assembly" with everything done on site.

The tour is a self-guided five-part experience that included:

Legacy Theatre
A media presentation about the triumphs and tragedies surrounding the Rouge, much of it told through rare, never-before-seen historic footage.

Art of Manufacturing Theatre
A multi-sensory theater experience including a 360-degree look at how automobiles are made.  This was awesome!  You feel the heat of the blast furnace and the pounding of the stamp presses...even the mist of the paint sprayers (don't's water).

Observation Deck Tour
View the world’s largest living roof from an 80-foot-high Observation Deck.  The Living Roof is a milestone in environmental design and the largest of its kind in the world.

Assembly Plant Walking Tour
From the elevated walkway you’ll see the trim line for final assembly which includes: 5 trim lines; 1 box build line; 1 door build line and the final inspection area. You’ll see the F-150 come into the plant as an empty shell and leave as a complete truck.

Legacy Gallery
View five historic vehicles made at the Rouge including the 20,000,000th Ford and hop in a new F-150.

Back at the museum, we started with the first of many "Must-See" exhibits:

This is a photo of Guy with the limousine in which President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, November 22, 1963.

For the trivia experts -

**Who was the last President to use this car?

Although other presidential parade cars were built in 1968 and 1972, this one was used occasionally by:

 **Presidents Johnson, Nixon, Ford and Carter.**

The X-100, so named by the Secret Service, remained in service until early 1977.

We were amazed (and a little freaked out) that other Presidents had used this vehicle.

This is a photo of Ronald Reagan's limousine.

On March 30, 1981, Ronald Reagan took refuge in this limousine's interior to escape would-be assassin John Hinkley's gunfire.  Going into service under President Nixon, it is also the car in which President Ford was riding when an attempt was made on his life.

This is the last presidential limousine that will be preserved.  All presidential cars are now destroyed by the Secret Service for security reasons.

We spent the entire day here admiring this incredible collection devoted to Americana, specifically inventions and great historical moments.

For example, we saw the restored Cleveland Avenue bus that Rosa Parks rode on December 1, 1955.  You won't believe how small this vehicle is and you will be moved by the entire exhibit on civil rights.

There are 2 dining options inside the museum:

We sampled regional cuisine from around the Great Lakes with fun-filled cafeteria dining representing the diversity of Michigan people, products and places at the Michigan Cafe.

And while we are on the subject of food...a trip to Detroit is not complete without a visit to Greektown.  You will hear shouts of "OPA" from numerous Greek restaurants as waiters ignite saganaki (flaming cheese appetizers).  This is delicious and so much fun!  Be prepared for the servers to choose what you will eat - they claim to know just by looking at you.  We enjoyed dinners at both:



Pegasus Taverna

The main attraction occurred the next morning where fortunately, our inn provided a van to drive us the 5  miles to COBO Center
(We got lost the night before and ended up in "Eight Mile"...YIKES!)
Our timing was impeccable!  The NAIAS 2007 celebrated the centennial of the Detroit Auto Dealers Association's (DADA) successful association with the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS).  Since its inception in 1907, the show has grown from a regional event featuring 17 exhibitors to an internationally-sanctioned show with over 90 exhibitors. 

We have discovered that this was the last truly huge auto show in Detroit. 
In the years since, fewer and fewer auto companies have exhibited here.

This was an amazing show!  As you can see from our photos, these companies spared no expense to garner the attention of the industry and thousands of spectators.  We were most impressed by:

  • Mercedes Benz - had an ice floor.  The cars seemed to be sitting on diamonds!
  • Jeep - besides the Jeep climbing the wall - waterfalls spelling out words!
  • Lexus - I learned how to install my ipod in my car.  And introducing the LFA!
  • Toyota - an all-American exhibit.  They want to sell trucks made in the USA!
  • Chevrolet - introducing the Volt!
  • Jaguar - the moving stage to unveil the new XK!

Obviously, we spent the entire day in COBO Center covering all 90 exhibits. 
But it was warm! 
The hotel van delivered us to our restaurant in time for dinner. 
Just down the street from the Joe Louis Fist.

And so ended our visit to State # 22 - Michigan

Before I end this post, just one unique fact about Detroit
It is the only major American city where you can stand in downtown and look south to Canada!

Did you notice we only have 17 States to Go?

Next time...

North Carolina - State # 33