Round The World and other travels

A frequent flyer's collection of trip diaries

This is: Roaming the Rust Belt (2017)

Last day in the Rust Belt: Detroit & Dearborn

Breakfast was in a nearby coffee shop going by the name Dessert Oasis. Before returning to the hotel, we had one item of outstanding business that we wanted to attend to before leaving the city: a ride on the People Mover system. Dating from the late 1980s, this provides a single-track, elevated circuit of the downtown area on which small, two-car trains run automatically and serve 13 stations. The service costs a mere 75 cents per ride, yet it seems to run near-empty most of the time. We almost covered the entire system, visiting all the stations but not closing the final part of the loop to return to our departure station.

We packed our bags, checked out of the hotel and used our rental car - on its final day - to drive approximately eight miles to Dearborn. Our objective was to visit the Arab American National Museum. This was a spur-of-the-moment, left-field idea, but it sounded interesting and arguably appropriate, given the current political climate in the USA. The facility appeared to be all but deserted, and the young woman at the front desk was genuinely delighted to welcome us and give some recommendations on how to set about seeing the exhibits. I quickly formed the impression that this was a very well set out exhibition of an amazingly wide and varied collection of artifacts. As a measure of the overall quality, we had allocated 1.5hrs for our visit, but found that after 1hr we still had not completed the top floor.

After asking our hostess for a lunch recommendation on our way out of the museum, we ate our midday meal at the Sheeba restaurant, which described its offering as "Yemeni and Mediterranean". Situated within easy walking distance of the museum, it turned out to be a busy and bustling place, with a diverse clientele encompassing Arabs, white people and a perhaps surprising number of people of East- and Southeast-Asian heritage. We enjoyed a tasty lunch that reminded me of our 2011 visit to Beirut.

Next, we drove the short distance to the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, occupying a huge site in Dearborn. Annoyingly for a museum sponsored by the car industry, which could only feasibly be reached by driving, there was a six-dollar parking fee in addition to the hefty admission charge. In fairness though, this was a vast exhibition, covering a wide scope of industries and activities in which the USA has made a significant contribution, from agriculture to space exploration. Not surprisingly, almost every type of transport was covered, including (of course) the motor car. It all kept us interested and occupied until shortly before closing time.


After all that, it was time to return our Jetta to the car rental company and check in at the Westin Detroit Airport, which would be the final hotel stay with Bruce in the Rust Belt section of my trip. He would be heading for home in the morning, while I would be California-bound. This latest Westin was a very stylish property, centred around a large atrium. We both thought that it was nicer than the downtown Westin, despite the latter's heritage. After settling in and ensuring that we were both prepared for an early start the next morning, we relaxed at the atrium bar and enjoyed cocktails, light bites and a few conversations with total strangers - very American!

Friday 01 Dec

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