Grand River Avenue
October 14, 2017
Grand River Avenue was built from Detroit across the state to where the Grand River meets Lake Michigan in what is now Grand Haven. The road is named Grand River Avenue through Lansing and almost to Grand Rapids. I did not walk to either of those places though -- the 25-mile point came much sooner, in Novi.
My day started with a conversation with the Uber driver. Andrew was an African American born and raised in Detroit, and still lived on the east side near Belle Isle. He said that about 10-15 years ago, when white people started being seen in the city, it was like spotting a deer, it was so rare. He also talked about not being able to go to a supermarket in the city until recently; before that, he would have to go grocery shopping in the suburbs, where his checks would be examined by the store manager. He worked in construction, and said that business had been better lately.
I invited other people to go on this walk, and four people showed up at various points along the way despite the rain. One of them walked with me the whole way, Paul Sewick, the writer of the Detroit Urbanism blog.
Perhaps because it was a larger group, a few people stopped to ask what we were doing. We met Mr. Van, an older African American man, who said we reminded him of when he was a student. He said he would walk 50, 60 miles for various causes. Now he worked at a dry cleaners repairing shoes, a skill he had learned from his father, and also worked in Windsor doing biomedical stem cell research. He had recovered from cancer through stem cell treatment, he shared. He insisted that we stop at the dry cleaners to meet Mr. Kim, so when we passed by, we went inside and found Mr. Kim. I greeted him in Korean, and we chatted a bit. Mr. Kim said he'd been in business in that location for 30 years. I was curious to learn more of his story, but also concerned about getting to Novi before dark, so we didn't linger long.
At Five Points Street, we left Detroit and entered Redford Township. At Inkster Road, we entered Livonia for a blink of an eye before crossing Eight Mile Road into Farmington Hills. Somewhere in there we entered and left Farmington, a separate town. And then finally we entered Novi.
Unlike Gratiot Avenue, there weren't any car dealers until far into the walk, in Farmington Hills. The first ones I saw were Toyota and Mazda dealers, so I asked Paul about when he noticed that it was ok to drive foreign cars in Detroit. He said that it seemed to have happened in the nineties.
Grand River crossed a whole lot of freeways: I-75, M-10, I-94, I-96 twice, and I-275.
It drizzled on and off all day -- not the downpour that happened in other parts of town, but still pretty wet. I was happy to finish the walk.
Some photos taken by Paul Sewick and Tim Johnson.