Odometer (ILX): 40,469
For once, the Acuras stayed garaged without a single mile being put on them for a weekend. I hung up the car keys and grabbed my carry-on bag for a 4-day, 3900-mile round-trip to Michigan.
Southwest Airlines transported me and a few of my friends to Detroit, Michigan for the 2nd annual “Orion Music & More” festival, headlined by Metallica, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and about 30 other bands. This was our hot rod for the weekend: a 2012 Ford Fusion SE with 25,000 miles on it. I’m pictured here with our friend Raul.
Ahh, Detroit. Motor City. This was once home to nearly 2 million people (circa 1950) but as of the 2010 census is now populated by only around 700,000. The city’s decline is very evident in the architecture of downtown, which we’ll see a bit later. This was only my second visit ever to Detroit. The first was in January 2012 when I saw the Acura ILX Concept reveal at the North American International Auto Show.
We stayed at the historic Fort Shelby Hotel which dates back to 1916. Accommodations were very nice! The city of Detroit is trying hard to bring life back to downtown.
On Saturday morning, we took a walking tour of the area. Across the waterway lies the city of Windsor, Toronto, Canada. Detroit is the only major U.S. city along the Canadian border from which one travels SOUTH to enter Canada. There’s a tunnel underneath the water connecting the two cities. It was completed in 1930.
This is a look at the U.S. – Canadian border line with the General Motors HQ in the background. The lowest floor of the General Motors building has a showroom where we wandered around and checked out the latest offerings.
Later that afternoon, our shuttle bus ride took about 20 minutes and we rolled across the bridge over the Detroit River to Belle Isle Park. I’m seated here with Raul, with Linh and Matt in the seat ahead of us on the bus.
Entering Belle Isle. The island itself is only about 1.5 square miles in size.
Aside from all the music, Orion offered a lot of other entertainment, including a custom car & motorcycle show. It’s a well-known fact that Metallica lead singer James Hetfield has always loved cars.
James’ “Skyscraper,” a lavender 1953 Buick Skylark, is pictured at bottom right in the below. At top left, we’re chilling at one of the Met Club lounges, and at top right I’m getting electrocuted by a fake electric chair. One of Metallica’s songs, called “Ride the Lightning,” is a reference to getting electrocuted.
Near one of the 5 stages at Orion, 1950 Buick undergoes some bodywork. This car is not unlike the 1950 Buick that my grandfather owned during his 20’s. Love that toothy grille!
Surprise! While we thought that Metallica would only perform on day 2, they ended up taking the stage in mid-afternoon under the fake band name “Dehaan.” Thousands of people stampeded to watch, including ourselves.
The second day of the festival, things got wilder still. Determined to stake out our spaces at the front of the concert, we went a full 4 hours early. I was an arm’s distance from the railing. It’s estimated that 40,000 people were in attendance at the show, so I definitely lucked out!
Deftones lead singer Chino Moreno got the crowd energized during the hour-long set.
Finally it was time for Metallica to close out the show. We heard some of our favorite songs and some rare ones, too. The crowds were intense. At one point everyone was crammed so tightly together that we simply swayed together. Every so often a brave crowd surfer would come along and we had to watch our heads to avoid getting kicked in the face.
Here’s a video that captures some of the action.
For having played together over 32 years, Metallica still rocks.
Detroit harsh winter climate takes its toll on vehicles. Detroit has a “humid continental climate” that’s influenced by the Great Lakes. The cars out there are a lot different than I’m used to seeing in the Arizona desert. For one thing, I noticed a ton more domestic vehicles on the road – presumably due to the area’s roots as the hub of domestic manufacturing.
Here’s one ride that definitely outshines most of Detroit’s vehicles: my friend Waseem’s 1990 Acura Legend LS sedan. I’ve known Waseem for a number of years through the Acura Legend online forums. He and I both attended last year’s NALM in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and he stopped by my hotel to pick me up for an exclusive ride in his Legend on Sunday.
This is one 23-year-old Acura that doesn’t look its age.
Stunning from every direction.
Best of all, it’s the top-line LS with an “Information Center” in the instrument panel. This fun little computer has all kinds of neat features, including MPG figures. Oddly enough, the 2nd generation Legend (model years 1991-95) did not offer anything of the sort.
Waseem picked me up and we explored a little of downtown Detroit from the comfort of his 97,000-mile Legend.
Our key destination was this massive 18-story building from 1912 called Michigan Central Station. Originally constructed at a cost of $15 million as a train station, it’s sat vacant since the last Amtrak train pulled away in 1988. Waseem and I got a few pictures from outside. The building is currently surrounded by a chain link fence and barbed wire. It appears the future of Michigan Central Station is uncertain. A couple of times, new uses have been proposed (including making the building the new home of the Detroit Police Department), but funding has become the key road block.
High Mileage Stories
My friend Chris has been around Drive to Five long enough to be featured with his Honda Preludes. He did some junkyarding near his hometown in Maryland this past week and came across a vehicle that has achieved an impressive milestone. This 1997 Toyota 4Runner ended up getting junked after a whopping 522,587 miles. That’s exactly 268 miles further than my Legend has traveled at this point. Hat tip to Toyota for such a feat! I’ve always loved this video series (be sure to watch all 3 parts!) where Top Gear tried destroying a Toyota pickup in every possible way, yet it lived on.
Here’s another one that’s pretty special. Randy Balingit-Hartmann bought a 1989 BMW M5 brand new in his early 20’s. Today, he’s still driving it and has logged over 400,000 miles. Randy is so committed to his M5 that he says he’ll “be buried in it.” I appreciate Randy’s enthusiasm for keeping an old car on the road!
Great to be back on the road!