Sunday, March 3, 2013

US tour III -- Detroit

I was quite surprised on seeing a deserted and virtually dark arrival lounge in Detroit airport as I arrived around midnight on Feb 28. I asked my cousin why it was so. He told me most of the traffic winds up around 10 pm. After that there are very few flights arriving or taking off. The airport is quite far away from downtown Detroit. It'sn't a very safe city either. So airport authorities don't want people to commute so late in the night.

Detroit goes through the 10-year crest and trough when the city looks up and goes down. The recession and hard times the automobile industry faced during the latter half of the last decade hit the city badly. A huge number of people quit their jobs in major automobile industries and left the city, taking in the compensations package they were offered. The good news from Detroit is that the automobile industry is recovering. The Big 3 of the city -- Ford, GM and Chrysler -- are doing well and standing up to the competition posed by Toyota and Volkswagen.

Detroit was very cold. It was almost always below zero degree centigrade: going down to minus 15 during night and barely going over zero during day. So, there wasn't many opportunities to go around, other than to shopping arcades and eateries.
Detroit was very cold.
I went to the Henry Ford Museum. Obviously automobiles comprise a major section. There are mind-boggling range of cars right from the very first automobile. There is a separate section of presidential limousines. There you have the one in which President Kennedy was shot, and so too Ronald Reagan. Anyone who is interested in cars will thoroughly enjoy this. Besides this, there are other sections dealing with mechanical engineering. There is one of the oldest printing presses.

Fosters Printing Press of 1853 at the Ford Museum.
Another attraction is the Allegheny Locomotive, the largest steam locomotive ever built. That was in 1941. This was used to pull coal wagons over the Allegheny mountains of West Virginia. We can enter the engine, right at the place where the driver steered behemoth weighing 600 tonnes.
The Allegheny Locomotive at the Ford Museum
There is also the yellow bus, in which -- on Dec 1, 1955 -- the famous civil rights activist Rosa Parks, travelled and refused to vacate her seat for a white man, as ordered by the driver in accordance with then existing law. She was arrested, she challenged the segregation law, called Jim Crow law. Nearly one year later, US Supreme Court ruled that the segregation law was unconstitutional. There is also the bus stand in which the blacks and the whites had to stand separately.
The bus in which Rosa Parks refused to vacate her seat for a white passenger.

The museum has the chair in which Abraham Lincoln sat when he was shot while he was watching a play on April 14, 1865. You need a full day to see the museum, like all museums in the US. They have a priceless slice of history.

Returning to Bangalore tomorrow, via Frankfurt.