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Detroit Cycling Tour: Riding through Corktown

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Published on Jan 22, 2009

My discoveries of Detroit were slowly but surely coming to an end, and I had seen so many interesting places already. Just before I was ready to hop across the border to Windsor again, I had one more adventure on my schedule: a biking tour of Southwest Detroit to cover Corktown and Mexicantown.
After a filling breakfast at the Inn on Ferry Street I took their complimentary shuttle downtown to Rivard Plaza, right next to the Detroit Riverwalk. At 10 am I met Kelli Kavanaugh, co-owner of Wheelhouse Detroit, downtown Detroits first bike rental facility. Wheelhouse also provides bicycle repairs and service and offers a variety of tours of different Detroit neighbourhoods.

On a windy day (October 21, 2008) we started our ride along Detroits Riverwalk and took in several major sights: the Renaissance Centre, Hart Plaza, the Cobo Convention Centre and Joe Louis Arena. Then we cycled into Detroits oldest neighbourhood: Corktown, an attractive neighbourhood originally settled in the 1830s by Irish immigrants.

We then stopped at one of Detroits most stunning buildings: the Michigan Central Depot, a gigantic Beaux Arts railway terminal that was opened in 1913 and is flanked by an 18-storey office tower. The last Amtrak train departed from here in 1988 and since then this imposing railway station has sat empty and been exposed to the elements and urban vandalism. Despite the graffiti and broken windows, the giant structure still hints at the former glamour of the era of railway travel.

Our next stop was in Mexicantown, a vibrant neighbourhood that has experienced significant growth during the past few years. Popular eateries include places like the Mexican Village, El Zocalo and Xochimilco. The surrounding neighbourhood revealed an extensive collection of late Victorian homes.

Kelly also took me to St. Anne de Detroit Catholic Church whose construction started in 1886 while the parish itself was founded in 1701, two days after the French explorer Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac, arrived in the area and founded Detroit. Today St. Annes congregation also includes many Hispanic parishioners.

We cycled back on Michigan Avenue and stopped regularly to have a look at various bars, cafes and galleries along this main thoroughfare. The remains of the Old Tiger Stadium, opened in 192 and partially demolished in 2008, came up next. We finally returned to Wheelhouse Detroit through the Central Business District and ended at Rivard Plaza.

After a nice lunch in the late October sun in front of the Renaissance Centre and a quick stop in Greektown I picked up my luggage at the Inn on Ferry Street and headed back home to Canada. My five days in Detroit had come to an end, but there were many more things to discover. They will have to wait until next time

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