Sunday, May 23, 1993...

ON THE ROAD AGAIN! -- but not without a little excitement. In fact, after the first five minutes, the entire day was anticlimactic. Three minutes after I awoke at 7:15, WCBS radio began its traffic report with "East Hartsdale Avenue in Hartsdale is closed between the Bronx River Parkway and Central Avenue because of the fire."

That got my attention. The closed street is about 3/4 of a mile long. There's a railroad station and commercial strip at one end, a major intersection at the other...and my apartment in between. Although I didn't smell smoke or hear sirens, I quickly headed down to see what was happening. The building two doors west of me was completely ablaze, and the road was absolutely jammed with fire apparatus!

But it was open from my apartment to the parkway, which meant I was free to leave. I monitored the story for hours, until I was out of radio range. The fire broke out on the sixth floor at about 3:25 this morning, then entered the open space between the sixth-floor ceilings and the roof. From there it spreading laterally across the entire building. Part of the roof collapsed, so the fire department didn't dare go inside to fight the blaze; instead they had to spray water on the roof, which flooded out everyone who hadn't been smoked out. All of the residents were evacuated without injury, but the building's a near-total loss. [In fact, thanks to a dispute between the co-op and its insurance carriers, repairs took three years to complete, during which all the residents had to live elsewhere.]

The drive west covered all-too-familiar territory. I-80 in Pennsylvania is boring as hell. I-80 in Ohio is just as boring, but at least you can drive faster. The first marginally new view came when I turned north at Toledo -- instead of following US 23 to Ann Arbor, I took I-75 straight to Detroit. Though the early evening was overcast, I decided to begin US 12 instead of waiting for morning.

US 12 emerges from the heart of Detroit at Cadillac Square. This is a major intersection: US 10 branches out a different way as Woodward Avenue, while 12 emerges as Michigan Avenue. The heart of Detroit's downtown is filled with grand buildings constructed decades ago, most of which show signs of having long since outlived their usefulness. The first landmark along US 12 -- Tiger Stadium, at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull. I can see one major problem: there is literally no on-site parking. As further evidence of the neighborhood's condition, the pavement in front of Tiger Stadium is worn down to the original brick in two of the three lanes.

Tiger Stadium, Detroit, MI

Further along, US 12 passes as a six-lane boulevard through a decayed Detroit neighborhood where even the topless bars have closed. Then it enters Dearborn and things perk up a bit, largely because Dearborn's status as Ford Motor Company headquarters has always ensured it of sufficient funds for maintenance and nice public buildings. The Ford presence is everywhere (World Headquarters is along US 12, as is Greenfield Village), but it's better than Detroit... Diner, Wayne, MI

From Dearborn, the road enters Inkster as a six-lane divided highway with numerous U-turn lanes -- through here many Forties- and Fifties-era motels still line the road. I stayed on US 12 until the junction with I-275, at which point I turned north a few miles to stay at a motel in Plymouth. Tomorrow I follow 12 west, then return east to see Tiger Stadium from the inside...

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