Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Midwest Adventure 2018, Part 3: Detroit, Michigan

This is my third post about our adventure traveling through Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Indiana. You can find the first post from this trip here and links to all the other educational US travel our family has done here.

Because I blog about educational travel, I received free admission tickets, discounts, media rates, and other benefits for some of the hotels and attractions we visited throughout the trip. Many attractions we toured are free to everyone. I paid full price for the rest. This has no bearing on my reviews. Everything I'm sharing is something that I whole-heartedly recommend. If you notice any gaps in my narrative, it is because I didn't love a particular hotel, attraction, or restaurant enough to recommend it to you, regardless of how much I paid or didn't pay.


---------

Detroit, Michigan


From Lansing, we drove 90 miles directly to the original location of Buddy's Pizza, famous for their Detroit-style pizza. I'd heard amazing things about it and we were eager to see how it stacked up against the Chicago-style pizza we'd had and loved two days earlier. There are numerous Buddy's locations, but it was clear we needed to go to the original. It did not disappoint. Far from it.



If you're not familiar with Detroit-style pizza, the first thing you need to know is that it is not round. (Though, oddly, Buddy's serves theirs on a round pan.)


The crust is thick, yet light and crunchy. The cheese (Wisconsin Brick) is placed directly on the crust, then they add the tomato sauce and any toppings. Some of cheese oozes out and becomes crispy along the edges of the pizza. Because this is considered the best part, everyone I talked with recommended getting Buddy's 4-piece square as opposed to an 8-square so as to maximize the amount of crispy edges. The 4-piece was plenty big for our family of three, so that worked out perfectly. The pizza was fantastic and worth all the hype.

Buddy's is apparently also known for their ginger ale float. It's made with Verners Ginger Soda, a Detroit original, developed just after the Civil War. We hadn't tried it before, but now we're converts. It was delicious. 


Full and happy, it was time to head to our hotel. 


"Why," you may ask, "does heading to your Detroit hotel involve a bridge to Canada?" That is a good question and the answer is two-fold. First, look at this map:


Detroit, Michigan (USA) is separated from Windsor, Ontario (Canada) by the Detroit River. It's not that wide. You can cross it via the Ambassador Bridge or the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel. Technically, you could swim across it, but for a number of reasons that is a very bad idea. But my point is that Detroit and Windsor are so close together that they may as well be one big city, albeit one with an international border in the middle. When I started looking for hotels, I noticed that the hotels on the Detroit side were literally twice the price as comparable ones a mile or two away on the Canadian side. "Hmm...," I thought to myself. "Why would we pay twice the money to stay in Detroit? How much of a pain could crossing the border between Canada and the US be? We have passports, Steve has his Global Entry card, and we've successfully traveled to and from Canada before." I thought maybe there was a catch. Was I messing up the exchange rate and thus wrong about Canadian hotels being cheaper? No. Was there some sort of foreigner fee I'd have to pay in Canada? No. Were the room taxes significantly higher? No. In fact, parking at the Detroit hotels was upwards of $50/night, but free on the Canadian side. Maybe traffic on the bridge and tunnel are horrible and crossing is a gigantic pain? I did a ton of research and learned that the bridge crossing is much faster than the tunnel crossing, that it shouldn't add more than 5 minutes to our drive, and that literally thousands of people zip back and forth between Detroit and Windsor on a daily basis. 

With my concerns out of the way, I thought about the positives. Saving a bunch of money is a big one. And we love Canada. Windsor is Canada's southernmost city, which makes it inherently awesome to visit. And there's no better view of the Detroit skyline than across the river in Windsor. Steve and I agreed - two nights at the inexpensive, but perfectly nice Hampton Inn in Windsor for the win!

That first night, we had an uneventful crossing into Canada. The border guard asked where we’d come from and where we were going, why Canada was involved, and if we were meeting any Canadians. He had us roll down all windows, checked our passports, asked about weapons and other contraband, and sent us on our way. Five minutes later and we got to our hotel. Easy.

We had a great night's sleep and woke up earlier than expected. We were headed to The Henry Ford, about 15 minutes away. It didn't open for well over an hour, so we decided to visit the riverfront in Windsor. Steve and I were thinking 5 or 10 minutes to take photos of the Detroit skyline and the Ambassador Bridge. But the park was fabulous and had a really cool linear sculpture garden, so we had to check it out. Each time I thought about turning around, there was another fabulous sculpture just a little bit farther...







We finally dragged ourselves back to the car after 45 minutes. Even though we would have happily spent much more time walking along the river, enjoying the beautiful weather, the statues, and Detroit's skyline, we needed to get going. We would need every minute to explore as much of The Henry Ford as we could. We were only 13 miles away, so we'd arrive right as it opened! Perfect! 

Well, not exactly. We crossed the bridge and waited in line 10 minutes for customs. That was annoying, since we’d breezed through Canadian customs the night before and we were eager to get going. But it turns out that the 10 minutes we spent in the car waiting in line was nothing compared to the 40+ minutes we spent in the US Detention Center. "Why," you may ask, "would the deRosiers, who are US citizens carrying US passports and Steve's Global Entry card, be detained trying to return to the US, where they had been not 12 hours earlier, after having done nothing in Canada but sleep and look at statues?" That is an excellent question, and one we waited 40 minutes to find out. 

But I'll start at the beginning (a very fine place to start). When we drove up to the customs agent, he asked us the usual questions ("Where have you been? Where are you going?"), scanned our passports and Steve's card, then did some typing. He asked if we’d ever reported our passports lost or stolen. “No,” we said. He asked again, and our answer didn't change. “The computer flagged you,” he said, as he slapped a large orange sticker on our windshield. We were asked to drive to an enclosed area, leave everything except wallets and passports in the car, open the hood, trunk and doors, and leave the keys, and then we were escorted into the detention center.

There were a good 40 people in there, the vast majority holding foreign passports. We had to sign in, then wait. I would have loved to have a book, or my phone, or even a scrap of paper and a pencil to pass the time, but none of those were allowed. It goes without saying that we couldn't take pictures. I don't know if we would have been allowed to use the restroom. Fortunately, that wasn't an issue. 

Finally, our names were called. After a lot more questions (including asking again if our passports were ever reported lost or stolen), quite a bit of computer typing, and rescans of our passports and Steve’s Global Entry card, we finally learned what the problem was. It turns out that Global Entry numbers are not linked to passport numbers, but instead have their own series of numbers. There is a glitch where when someone reports a passport number lost or stolen, it flags the Global Entry number as lost/stolen. So Steve was trying to enter the US with a valid passport and a ‘stolen’ Global Entry card. Once they figured that out, we were escorted out and back to the car. And then we were on our way. 

Needless to say, we got to The Henry Ford much later than intended. We decided to do the Ford Rouge Factory Tour first, which was a good decision. 


You have to take a bus to get there; no private cars are allowed. Our group arrived 30 minutes before the assembly line shut down for lunch, so we were able to see everything in action. The next group didn’t. It was one of the best factory tours I’ve ever seen, and I've seen a lot of factory tours. It was so interesting watching such a huge assembly line, starting with basically nothing at one end, then ending up with completed cars at the other. Each worker only has a minute to do their job on the piece in front of them before it moves and another piece comes. No photos allowed, unfortunately, though they rarely are during factory tours.

After touring the line, we watched two movies, one about the history of Ford and one about innovations and the future of Ford. Photos were allowed in the lobby area.


The bus brought us back to the main facility, then we entered the Museum of American Innovation. Our first stop was lunch. There are three restaurants on-site. All sounded tasty, but we wanted the most unique and memorable experience, so we chose Lamy's Diner, an authentic 1940’s streetcar diner moved into the museum. 



The food was delicious and came very quickly.


As you can see, we shared another float. Like the one at Buddy's, this was also made with a local beloved soda we'd never tried, Faygo Rock & Red. It was amazing. We want to try all the flavors now.


We were in and out of Lamy's quickly, which we appreciated. At this point, we had 3.5 hours before the museum closed and it was apparent we'd need every second of that to see everything. 




The Rosa Parks bus. So cool. 


The 1952 Weinermobile. I always wanted to see it when I was a kid, but never did. I finally saw one driving down the road a year or so ago. 


It's hard to pick a favorite exhibit, but I think mine was the presidential cars through the years. It was fascinating to see how the security of the vehicles changed over time. The first ones were just open carriages. Can you imagine that now?


Trevor liked all the hands-on exhibits best.

  

When you ride alone, you ride with Hitler. Yikes!


Our family had a fantastic time at The Henry Ford. We stayed until the very last minute and would have stayed longer if we could. All three of us were blown away by the museum. We wish we could have seen Greenfield Village, but that just gives us motivation to return there someday!


We headed to midtown Detroit for dinner at the highly-recommended Traffic Jam & Snug. They have their own bakery, brewery, and dairy onsite, as well as a rooftop garden. 



The food was fantastic. 



Of course, we had to try the desserts from their in-house bakery. Fabulous.


I'm happy to report that crossing into Canada that evening was easy, and that entering back into the US the following morning was equally uneventful. We were sad to leave Michigan so soon, but excited to head to our next state, Ohio. Tomorrow I'll tell you all about the fun we had in Toledo and why you should visit The Glass City.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Midwest Adventure 2018, Part 2: Lansing, Michigan

This is my second post about our adventure traveling through Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Indiana. You can find the first post from this trip here and links to all the other educational US travel our family has done here.

Because I blog about educational travel, I received free admission tickets, discounts, media rates, and other benefits for some of the hotels and attractions we visited throughout the trip. Many attractions we toured are free to everyone. I paid full price for the rest. This has no bearing on my reviews. Everything I'm sharing is something that I whole-heartedly recommend. If you notice any gaps in my narrative, it is because I didn't love a particular hotel, attraction, or restaurant enough to recommend it to you, regardless of how much I paid or didn't pay.


---------

Lansing, Michigan



The distance from Chicago to Lansing is 219 miles, so it took us around 3.5 hours (plus a time zone change) to get there. By the time we arrived in Lansing it was 1:30 local time, so we were definitely ready for lunch. I'd heard that the place to eat was Meat Southern BBQ and Carnivore Cuisine. I'm not much of a carnivore, but I do love BBQ and there were lots of options that didn't include just ordering a big pile of meat.


Check out these nachos. Homemade tortilla chips, topped with shredded pork, bacon, and brisket, cheese, BBQ sauce, sour cream, onions, tomatoes, peppers, and avocado. Heavenly.


Everything we tried was absolutely delicious. The table was set with their six different sauces, so of course we had to try them all. Repeatedly. Yum.

Downtown Lansing is really cute, with lots of neat shops and restaurants to explore. But we only had time for a few quick pictures before we had to get to the main places we'd come to Lansing to see.


We drove a few miles to the Michigan History Museum. It's an amazing place and serves as the flagship for the Michigan History Museum System. This was a new concept to me, but we encountered it again later in our travels, where all the history museums within a state are linked together and run by one organization.


We only had 2 hours at the Michigan History Museum before it closed and we easily could have spent 4-5 hours. It was annoying to have gloss over some of the interesting exhibits, but we saw as many as we could. Michigan’s history is a very interesting mix of logging, mining (copper and iron), fishing, cereal, the automobile industry, post-war migration, race relations, music, and a lot more. Quite a few of the museum's exhibits are interactive. Here's Trevor trying out virtual reality to experience fishing in Michigan.


Cereal. (RIP Cereal City.)


The amount of detail in the museum was impressive. And we loved that it was such an immersive experience.




Steve and I make quite a pair, don't you think? 

   

Like I said, we could have spent a lot more time at the Michigan History Museum. Alas, it was not to be. We had a Capitol to explore. We walked a few blocks toward the Capitol and saw this. All three of us said, "New Jersey!"


Fortunately, we were wrong. The other side of the building had no fencing and the visitors' entrance was well-marked. Phew! (Trenton, take note. Signs for visitors, please, particularly when construction blocks all obvious entrances.)


We joined a guided tour, which was outstanding. As we visit more and more Capitol buildings, we are learning that they have more differences from each other than similarities. Lansing features lots of wood and glass, not the stone that is so common in many others.



The ceiling of the Senate chambers is particularly unique. Check out those square spaces.


Each one features the seal of one of the 50 states. We've never seen a Capitol that displays other states' seals, flags, or other symbols.


We left the Capitol, not ready to say goodbye to Lansing. But we had to move on. Tomorrow I'll tell you all about Detroit and our unplanned visit to the US Detention Center. (Spoiler alert: They let us out eventually.)