Virtual America Day 4-5: Cleveland to Detroit

Well hello there! After an incredible start to our virtual trip our journey days 4 and 5 see us travelling 280 miles around the coast of Lake Erie to visit the Motor City – Detroit.

Our route for days 4 and 5.
A wide view of our route for day’s 4 and 5

We start day 4 from the outskirts of Cleveland. Cleveland is the 52nd biggest in America, and is about the same size as Bristol in the UK. It’s home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and is often known as the Forest City. This term is attributed to Alexis de Tocqueville and his description of the city in Democracy in America. In one of the first travellogues of the American nation de Tocqueville describes American nation in the 1830’s. de Tocqueville was in America to study the prison system for the French government but his description of American society is one of the most famous tomes

The weather in Cleveland right now is chilly but dry. Here’s a view of Public Square taken at about 4pm local time. As you can see the city is well lockdowned – and there is a distinct lack of ginger cyclist!

The next stop is Detroit – home of Ford, General Motors, and Motown. Henry Ford invented the Model T Ford – the first mass produced automobile in the world that kickstarted mass motoring. In many ways motoring represents how many people see America – freedom, capitalism, consumerism, environmental damage… And yet the story of the the Motor City does not have a happy ending. By the 1940’s it was the fourth largest city in America.

Detroit at night, May 4, 1942. (AP Photo)

But in the post war years things took a downward turn, and the oil crisis of the 1970’s accelerated that decline. Since the 1950’s the population of Detroit has declined by 60%, with crime rates significantly above the national average (although these have declined in recent years).

An abandoned school in Detroit

I’ve always been fascinated by Detroit. It epitomised many of the challenges America faces – but it also showcases some of the best of America. For example, one of the people I was hoping to visit in Detroit helps run a football league for young people where you can gain points for winning matches and volunteering in the community. With land and buildings going cheap there is a thriving arts community.

From Detroit we head West through the college town of Ann Arbor. Here I was going to stay with Natalie – who I met in Santa Cruz at the wedding of one of Lizzie’s friends from her Masters. This was the trip when I realised I had to quit my job because of depression, and the trip when I decided to cycle across America. Here’s Natalie’s local diner – alas milkshake isn’t on the menu today.

And it’s just after Ann Arbor that our trip pauses. Over the next day or two we’re going to hit Chicago and I’ve got a real trip lined up for you there.

hanks to everyone who has been logging miles through https://www.strava.com/clubs/644950 and my website – please do keep them coming!

If you’ve enjoyed our journey so far please do keep an eye on the blogs and my Facebook page. Please also feel free to sponsor everyone taking part at https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/VirtualAmerica – half of the proceeds will go to the MS Society, a cause close to my heart, with the rest going to charities that are helping to deal with the impact of Coronavirus. Anything you can give would be greatly appreciated.


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