We’re half-way! Michigan marks the mid-point in our American odyssey. With one night in the Wolf State we began with a stop in Ann Arbor for lunch and a stretch of our legs after the four hour drive from Chicago. Ann Arbor was lovely: all independent bookshops, coffee shops, record shops and brewpubs. After a tasty, wholesome lunch in the cheekily-named Afternoon Delight we had to dash but could easily have kicked back in the sunshine with an IPA or two…
But onto Dearborn home to the Henry Ford Museum (entrance from $17 per adult) which contains an almost ridiculous wealth of fascinating artefacts of American culture and heritage. Whether it’s the chair President Lincoln was in when he was assassinated on April 14 1865, the bus on which Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, the limousine President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in or the brilliant car-of-our-dreams hot-dog-shaped Oscar Mayner Wienermobile: it’s all here. Along with more vintage cars you could shake a stick at and a Dymaxion House (designed in the 1940s to be the “house of the future”) made of aluminum and restored with period furnishings. Short story: Hannah wanted to live there. We spent three happy hours here but could have lingered for much much longer.
But onto Detroit. We’d heard about the urban decay and the decline of this once prosperous Motown City. The city has lost over 60% of its population since 1950, has an unemployment rate of up to 25% and at least 70,000 abandoned buildings. We’d seen the post-apocalyptic pictures of crumbling theatres and railway stations and been warned about the crime-rates and, maybe it’s a our British love for a plucky underdog, we were resolute that we wanted to visit and spend some much needed money there.
Our first stop, the hotel – the Inn on Ferry Street – was a fantastic shock. Set in a quiet neighbourhood with tree-lined streets, a string of lovingly restored Victorian mansions make up the Inn. Annoyingly we had arrived just a little too late to get to the Detroit Institute of Arts around the corner so we went for a drive to Corktown and dinner at Slow’s Bar BQ. Along the way we saw dilapidated, abandoned buildings on a startling scale. This did not look like a city in the richest country in the world, it looked like a set from a zombie horror movie. It was profoundly sad. At Slow’s though they were just getting on with it, and ‘it’ was making some of the most indecently tasty barbecue – we gorged on tender carolina-style pulled pork, slabs of St. Louis ribs and The Finest Ever Mac-N-Cheese. The beer and bourbon selection was as expansive as the barman was friendly: a great, great place.
The next day we drove to downtown for a look about and saw “The Fist” – a monument to Joe Louis which we felt sums up Detroit perfectly. Defiant, tough, enduring. It might have gone bankrupt financially but the Motor City is built to last.
Rate the state
Good for: Music, food, heritage.
Bad for: Detroit may not be for the faint-hearted.