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Ford plant, Detroit, MI
2nd Jul 2008
Detroit, MI; the Ford museum

Detroit is known for two things:  being the Motor Town and then the Mo-Town music style.  Unfortunately there are no motown clubs that play on a Wednesday morning, but there is one motor plant left, Ford.  Most of the others have moved to Mexico and then to China.

The Henry Ford (an odd title, seemingly missing the suffix "Museum" is a combination of museum, historical village, and factory tour.  I opted only for the tour, which allowed me to see a morning in the life of a Ford F150 truck plant.  The factory is huge, as it is actually a plant, taking not parts but raw materials (smelting its own iron, for example); yet is very green.  In fact it is literally very green, as the roofs of the buildings are covered in gardens to recycle the water, the surface of the parking lots absorb and recycle the water, and the terrestrial gardens and orchards are filled with water-heating and photovoltaic solar panels.


Before the tour I experienced the best introductory video I have ever seen.  I was skeptical about a "multi-sensory experience" but it was brilliantly executed.  A hemispherical screen took me on a journey through the life cycle of a truck, starting from ore and ending at soak testing.  As "I" was poured from the furnace into the mill the fans blew hot air into my face as the floor rumbled, and later as "I" was spray-painted a mist of water was spray from the roof.  It was very well done.


I timed the tour well, since the last chassis had entered the plant that morning in preparation for the summer shutdown.  The tour itself was OK, but the workers disappeared halfway through and the line halted.  Apparently a union dispute.



I then walked from Corktown (the Irish quarter), which had very nice red cobbled streets ruined by flaking Tarmac, to downtown.  Detroit is almost like a ghost town.  Just a few miles from the city centre there are neighbourhoods filled with derelict buildings, boarded-up shops, grass-covered sidewalks, and endless liquor stores sporting "checks cashed" signs, populated with layabouts hanging around on the street. Even in the very centre of the city there are empty buildings that, were there enough people left in Detroit to create a demand, would make beautiful apartments. 

I rode the People Mover, a one-way automated monorail that links sites in the downtown area.  One of the more interesting is the General Motors Renaissance centre (purchased anonymously from Ford, about which they were very annoyed upon discovered the true buyer).  In the basement is an exhibit of the GM back-catalog highlights.


Detroit is certainly my least favourite city so far, and it's at the bottom of my list of cities to which I would like to return.


I drove back to Ohio, to Cleveland, to crash with a young software developer. We went out for dinner and then I slept like a log.


Next: Cleveland, OH. Rock and Roll.
Previous: Crossing Ohio to Detroit, Michigan

Diary Photos

Ford plant, Detroit, MI

Finished Ford F150, Detroit, MI

Henry Ford, Detroit, MI

Corktown, Detroit, MI

Detroit, MI

Down-and-out Detroit, MI

People mover, Detroit, MI

Turnpike entrance, Ohio

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