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Rust Belt road trip

  1. May 10, 2017 #1

    jtbell

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    [This is an old thread. I revived it a year later to add a related factoid.]

    Some of you with long memories might remember my western road trip several years ago, from which I posted pictures en route. I don't know how to paste links on my phone, but you can easily find the thread with a forum search.

    I'm on the road again, this time to the Midwest, mainly Ohio and Michigan, again mainly for streetcar and other rail fanning, and revisiting places that I was familiar with when I was a kid. And maybe some places that I didn't get around to visiting back then.

    Today I started the trip by heading up I-26 and US-23 through western NC, eastern TN, western VA, and eastern KY. Sounds confusing? Look at a map and see how the boundaries run!

    These two pics are from western VA. One is from Natural Tunnel State Park, where early railroad builders saved themselves most of the work of tunneling through a ridge by taking advantage of a pre-existing natural feature.

    Tonight I'm in the small town of Louisa KY. Tomorrow I'll head through Ohio to Dearborn MI where I'll spend a few nights.

    NaturalTunnel.jpg

    PowellValley.jpg
     
    Last edited: May 4, 2018
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  3. May 10, 2017 #2

    jtbell

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    In fact I did see a bit of WV today. It's right across a river from the town where I'm staying tonight. I drove around both towns while looking for a place to eat dinner.

    Actually eastern KY is very similar since it too was very dependent on coal for its economy.

    One can definitely see that economic conditions have deteriorated. Every town has a lot of empty storefronts. There are billboards all over for addiction and other social services.

    People are trying to make tourism a bigger part of the economy. The road I was on for most of the day has been branded as the "Country Music Highway ". Pikeville KY has the "Hatfield-McCoy Feud Historic Site". Etc.

    But I suspect this attracts basically a regional audience. This area is way off the beaten track for people in the well-off areas of the northeast and Midwest, let alone the west coast.
     
  4. May 10, 2017 #3

    dlgoff

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    Should you find yourself in Kansas, here's a map and listing of Abandoned Railroads of Kansas.

    Thanks for sharing.
     
  5. May 10, 2017 #4

    Mark44

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    A book that I enjoyed very much is about the people in the part of the country you're going through -- "Hillbilly Elegy," by J. D. Vance. He grew up, mostly raised by his grandparents, due to his mother's addiction and her highly unstable marital situation. Doesn't sound very promising, but he praises his grandparents highly for allowing him to break free of the rut that so many of his peers fell into. Highly recommended.
     
  6. May 11, 2017 #5

    jtbell

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    Serendipity strikes! Outside Huntington WV I passed an amusement park with a stream of cars and school buses pulling in. Even though they aren't open to the public today (it's one of their May School Days), they let me pay and get in. Probably figured I was one of the teachers or parents or grandparents.

    According to Wiki it was built by the local streetcar company in 1903 so it sort of fits with the theme of this trip.

    camdenpark.jpg
    bigdipper.jpg
    hauntedhouse.jpg
    aerial.jpg
    rattler.jpg
     
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2017
  7. May 11, 2017 #6

    StatGuy2000

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    My father is originally from Michigan, and I have relatives living in Dearborn, so I saw your post above with a certain degree of interest. I hope you enjoy your road trip, as well as your stay there.
     
  8. May 12, 2017 #7

    jtbell

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    I'm in a hotel on Michigan Ave at Telegraph Rd. I didn't have a car until near the end of grad school in Ann Arbor so I drove here only a few times. But I didn't have any trouble getting here. I even remembered the Michigan Left Turn!
     
  9. May 12, 2017 #8

    jtbell

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    Pop quiz: What's "missing" from this new Detroit streetcar?

    qline1.jpg
     
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2017
  10. May 12, 2017 #9

    dlgoff

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    That brush thingy on top?
    thingy.jpg
     
  11. May 13, 2017 #10

    jtbell

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    Yep! It runs on battery power for about half its route, and uses an overhead wire elsewhere. At the ends of the route there are charging points.

    qline2.jpg
     
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2017
  12. May 13, 2017 #11

    jtbell

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    What would a road trip be without eating at a diner? A short walk down the road from my hotel is "Leon's Family Dining" which in the Northeast or in South Florida would be called just "Leon's Diner". A big clean place, with a huge menu, packed with local residents. I had a Philly cheesesteak omelet for brunch just now.

    I walked so much yesterday that my left foot is sore and a bit swollen, so I'm taking it easy today. On my western road trip seven years ago I let it get so bad that I had to cut that trip short. I don't want that to happen this time.

    I've read about a good used-CD store in Dearborn, so I'll check it out later today.
     
    Last edited: May 13, 2017
  13. May 14, 2017 #12

    jtbell

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    In Detroit, "Coney Island" means a restaurant that specializes in chili dogs. These are the two oldest Coney Islands, the Lafayette (left) and American (right, with the pointy end). They were founded as a single restaurant by a pair of immigrant Greek brothers, who fell out and split the restaurant into two!

    coney1a.jpg
    coney2.jpg
    coney3.jpg
     
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2017
  14. May 15, 2017 #13

    davenn

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  15. May 15, 2017 #14

    jtbell

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    This is the former Michigan Central railroad station in Detroit. On one of my day trips from Ann Arbor long ago, I took a train from here to return, instead of my usual bus. Amtrak moved out in 1988, and I think the building has been empty since then. People have come up with various plans for it, but they've all fallen through.

    mcrr.jpg
    Detroit has a lot of "urban ruins" like this: old automobile factories, etc.

    In 1950, Detroit's population was 1.8M. In 1980 (around the time I used to visit), it was 1.2M. Now it's less than 0.7M. So there are lots of abandoned businesses along most of the main arteries, such as Michigan Ave. which I drove along, coming in from Dearborn. The side streets have lots of vacant lots and empty houses, in the outer parts of the city, between the central area and the suburbs.

    The central area has actually revived significantly. Tech startups and other information based companies are relocating there, attracted by cheap rents. Old office buildings have been converted to apartments, and new apartments are springing up.

    Yesterday I saw lots of people downtown, eating at sidewalk cafes, walking their dogs, kids playing in a new park on the site of the former city bus terminal. All this would have been unimaginable on a Sunday in the 1970-80s. There are new trendy shops next to vacant storefronts, and a lot of construction/renovation activity.

    So things are looking up in the center of the city, from downtown about 3 miles out Woodward Ave. to the New Center area at Grand Blvd.

    But the rest of the city is still in bad shape. Lots of poverty, and not enough tax money from 0.7M people to provide services for a city built for 1.8M. It seems to me there's going to have to be some kind of contraction, concentrating people into a smaller area so they can be served more effectively.
     
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2017
  16. May 15, 2017 #15

    Maylis

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    I went on a road trip to DC coming from upstate new york last month. Driving through western pennsylvania and Harrisburg (which I found out was the capital of PA when I went through) was a real eye opener. That place puts the rust in rust belt.
     
  17. May 15, 2017 #16

    davenn

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    The Rust Belt

    I had to google the term as to its relevance to the USA

    I sorta got that from your descriptions, but wasn't totally sure


    Dave
     
  18. May 15, 2017 #17

    jtbell

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    Today I visited Ann Arbor, nearly 35 years after finishing my PhD at the U of Michigan. I last visited there 12 years ago.

    The physics building, Randall Lab, still looks pretty much like it used to, from the front (first pic). It was expanded considerably at the rear about 25 years ago (second pic), and renovated completely inside so it looks nothing like when I was there.

    As I expected, all the profs that I worked with are now retired, listed in the "Emeritus" section of the faculty photo gallery in the hallway.

    randall-front.jpg
    randall-rear.jpg

    A couple more views of campus nearby:

    enginearch.jpg
    libraryplaza.jpg
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2017
  19. May 16, 2017 #18

    jtbell

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    You know you're getting old when most of the shops and restaurants that you knew at university are gone or going, and some of them are mentioned on historical markers on the corners of buildings. :H

    liberty.jpg

    Ulrich's was where I bought most of my textbooks for grad school. There were once 3 or 4 bookstores in Ann Arbor that sold textbooks. I think this is the last one.

    ulrichs.jpg

    But some things haven't changed. Minnie's Coop is still purple! I think I remember reading that the color is specified in their bylaws.

    minnies.jpg

    I also discovered that my favorite German restaurant in Ann Arbor, Metzger's, which I thought had gone out of business when I was here last time, actually moved to a new location just outside town. So I went there for dinner before driving back to Dearborn.

    metzgers.jpg
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2017
  20. May 17, 2017 #19

    jtbell

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    Yesterday I crossed an item off my bucket list: Put-in-Bay, a resort village on an island in Lake Erie. First you take a half-hour ferry trip.

    ferry1.jpg
    ferry2.jpg

    Then to get to the village about 2.5 miles away you bring your car over on the ferry (expensive), rent a golf cart on the island (also expensive), rent a bicycle (rental place not open for the season yet), or take a converted school bus that shuttles back and forth ($2.50), or walk (which I did because it was a nice day).

    road.jpg

    The big historical thing there is a monument to the naval Battle of Lake Erie in the War of 1812, in which the US defeated Britain. Every kid in Ohio learns about this in school, or at least did when I was in school. There's a nice view from the top of the monument, but unfortunately it isn't open for the season yet.

    perry.jpg

    Fortunately the local historical museum opened on Monday. Even some of the restaurants weren't open yet. It's a bit early in the year. In a couple of weeks the island will probably be full of visitors. Lots of rental apartments, cottages and bed & breakfast places.

    boardwalk.jpg

    Back on the mainland, across the road from my hotel in Port Clinton is an unpretentious fast-food style restaurant that specializes in fried lake perch and walleye. I couldn't decide which one, so I had the combo platter that has both, with a pile of onion rings. Mmmmm. :biggrin:
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2017
  21. May 18, 2017 #20

    dlgoff

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    bold by me

    I would think "fortunately it isn't open"; after 2.5 mile walk, how many steps to the top of the monument? Nice pics. :)
     
  22. May 19, 2017 #21

    jtbell

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    I've gotten behind. First I left my phone charger in the hotel in Port Clinton and didn't realize it until my battery had nearly run down. I had to conserve battery power until I could buy a new charger. Then I spent an evening visiting a friend.

    Just after leaving Port Clinton I came to Lakeside, a sort of religious / educational summer colony associated with the Methodist church. During the "season" day-trippers have to pay an entrance fee at the gate, but that hadn't started yet so I could just drive in, park, and look around.

    entrance.jpg
    cottages.jpg
    lakeside.jpg

    Hoover Auditorium holds 3000 people and is used for religious services, lectures and musical performances.

    auditorium.jpg

    Except for the cars and clothing, I suspect the place looks much as it did in the 1920s. If you Google for "lakeside Ohio" and "Chautauqua" you'll get some more background.

    A bit further on I came to Johnson's Island which was used as a POW camp for Confederate officers during the Civil War. Nowadays the island is a gated private community, but outsiders can visit the camp's cemetery by paying a toll for the causeway that now connects the island with the mainland.

    cemetery.jpg

    All that took up the morning on Wednesday. Then I headed east past the Cleveland / Akron area to my hometown which I'm using as a base for northeast Ohio and maybe Pittsburgh.
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2017
  23. May 20, 2017 #22

    jtbell

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    I've mentioned occasionally that I did my undergraduate at a small liberal arts college in the Midwest. Well, here it is. On Thursday I drove over to my alma mater, Hiram College. Graduation was last weekend so the campus was pretty quiet, but I did find one of the physics profs in his office. I introduced myself and we chatted a bit. He arrived long after I left and I had never had a chance to meet him.

    The physics offices are in a new building, but the classrooms and labs are still in the basement of the old building.

    colton.jpg

    This classroom is where I had my freshman intro physics course, using Halliday & Resnick as the text. The furniture and projection monitor are new but the blackboard is the same!

    classroom.jpg
    hallway.jpg

    Trees have grown so much that it's hard to get decent pictures of campus now, when they're in leaf.

    campus.jpg
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2017
  24. May 20, 2017 #23

    jtbell

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    Yesterday I crossed another item off my bucket list: I went to a Cleveland Orchestra concert in their renovated home, Severance Hall. I was last here 42-43 years ago when I was an undergraduate. Back then they had covered up the original stage decor with some kind of white or gray acoustic paneling. Now it's back to its as-built state.

    As with most of their Friday concerts, this was at 11am instead of the evening, so I didn't have to spend more than an hour driving "home" in the dark.

    severance.jpg
    lobby.jpg
    artwork.jpg
    stage.jpg

    Across the street is Case Western Reserve University where I passed this historical marker:

    mmx.jpg
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2017
  25. May 21, 2017 #24

    jtbell

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    After the concert on Friday I took the bus downtown and walked around.

    Cleveland's signature building was formerly known as the Terminal Tower because it was the main railroad station. Now it hosts only local rail transit lines (the "Rapid") and is known as Tower City, with a shopping mall surrounding the rail station.

    towercity.jpg

    On the lakefront, from left to right, the Amtrak station with a local light-rail "Rapid" train in front, the Great Lakes Science Center, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

    lakefront.jpg

    If you've seen the movie "Christmas Story" you may remember the scene in Higbee's department store. Although the movie was set in the fictional Hohman, Indiana, the scene was filmed in the real Higbee's in Cleveland, next door to Terminal Tower. (My mother and I always went there on our visits to Cleveland when I was a kid.) Alas, the store is gone. The building is now a casino, but plaques remind of its previous life.

    higbees.jpg

    I then set out across the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge which spans the Cuyahoga River valley, watched over by the Guardians of Traffic (not to be confused with the Guardians of the Galaxy) at both ends.

    guardian.jpg

    Most of the industry that used to be in the valley has now disappeared, but it's still an interesting view.

    flats1.jpg
    flats2.jpg
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    On the other end of the bridge is the Ohio City district which was once a separate city. Its anchor is the West Side Market which to me looks a bit like a German railroad station outside, but smells rather different inside. :-p

    wsmkt-outside.jpg
    wsmkt-inside.jpg
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2017
  26. May 22, 2017 #25

    dlgoff

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    These excellent photos take me back to my undergraduate physics day. Some of the best times of my life. Thank You for sharing.
     
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