Heather's Hangout

Sharing the people, places & little moments that make a difference.

Biking on a race track May 14, 2017

Filed under: Random Travels & Exploring — Heather @ 2:43 pm
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BelleIsle_bikeGrandPrix

Biking on the Grand Prix course!

My friends and I decided to head downtown today for a bike ride on Belle Isle Park, one of my favorite places to bike in the morning. The 982-acre island in the Detroit River offers a paved 6.5-mile bike path, plus many interior roads, so it’s easy to get some distance after a few loops. We looked forward to the promise of a beautiful weather day and hanging out together while on our bikes. We didn’t, however, plan for the start of preparing for the Detroit Grand Prix to be held June 2-4, 2017 on Belle Isle.

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If you’re a racing fan or history buff…..the Detroit Grand Prix started in 1982 as a Formula One race through downtown Detroit (that doesn’t sound safe to me!). It moved to Belle Isle in 1992 and was held annually until 2001. It occurred sporadically through the years until 2012 and has been held annually since with a variety of races held during the weekend, including the IndyCar Series.

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A lot of set up has already occurred for the race, including cement barricades for the track,¬† grandstands set up, sponsor banners and tents in place, and more. There is lots of high fencing up, I’m assuming to protect spectators during the race, but it kind of blocks your view of the river and nature. The track and festivities are set up on the west side of the island so once you get closer to the east end, the stands, banners and other event melee end.¬†There were a lot of geese with adorable babies so I feel bad for them on race weekend. So loud and chaotic. I hope they hunker down on the other side of the island!

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We made the most of the obstacles and laughed at biking on a race track. After all, it’s not every day that you get to ride through a Grand Prix race track…on your bike! And your new Chevy SUV, which I thought was fun since Chevrolet is the major sponsor. We had a beautiful day to bike throughout the island and added some good mileage to our ride. I remembered how fun it is to ride with a group of people and how easy it is to rack up miles because you’re distracted talking and enjoying the time with others. It was a great start to the day.

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Now I’m off to celebrate my awesome mom! Wishing all of the moms a wonderful Mother’s Day!

 

Biking Belle Isle Park in Detroit November 6, 2016

hh_bikebelleisleI’m in love. With this mild, sunny weather. The beauty of nature. My new road bike. Life. I accomplished so very little responsibility-wise this weekend because I indulged myself with outdoor activities. We all need weekends to splurge and live life to the fullest, right? Yep, I think so too.

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I kept having this great idea all summer to take my bike downtown to Belle Isle Park but it seems like the months flew by and it never happened. So I was tickled with the mild temps and sunshine that graced metro Detroit the past few days. I’ve been able to get outside on my new road bike and I decided (at about 3am during a bout of insomnia) that today would be a great day to head to Belle Isle.

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I arrived on the island a little before 9am, instantly in awe of nature’s beauty appearing all over Belle Isle. Seriously, Mother Nature isn’t messing around this fall with the vibrant colors splashed all over Michigan. I biked throughout Stony Creek Metropark yesterday, loving the deep fall colors on trees and bushes.

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Belle Isle is located on the Detroit River between the United States and Canada. My sister and I visited Belle Isle last spring to explore the aquarium and conservatory (read my blog about that visit). These are worthwhile destinations if you’ve never been. While the city of Detroit still legally owns the 985-acre island, Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources began operating Belle Isle a few years ago, making it Michigan’s 102nd state park. A lot of maintenance occurred and I was impressed with the cleanliness, nicely paved roads (except for the two small pot holes I narrowly avoided in the bike lane!) and several patrol cars seen driving around the island.

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I had so much fun riding around the state park. I arrived early enough that hardly anyone was there yet, which made biking all the better. There was strong wind along one end of the island that provided some serious resistance but, once I pushed through that and rounded a curve, my legs felt relief and my speed increased. A good friend tells me that my speed and strength will increase with practice so that’s what I’ve been doing. I’m on limited time with biking outdoors since crappy weather is too risky with the titanium rod in my leg. But it wasn’t crappy today so I enjoyed every minute I was outside on my bike. I pushed myself on several loops around the island, then rewarded myself by cruising around taking pictures. I decided that I can’t share just one or two photos because it was so pretty everywhere I looked! I hope you enjoy one of Michigan’s gems.

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Adventure Saturday: Visiting Detroit’s Belle Isle park January 25, 2016

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Awesome buildings in the sun.

It was a sunny, brisk day when my sister and I decided to head to Detroit for lunch and to tour Belle Isle Park, a 987-acre island located between Detroit and Windsor, Canada. I visited Belle Isle on school field trips and family outings when I was a child but I couldn’t remember the last time I visited as an adult. It’s been on my list of places to visit for a while so I thought it would be a nice outing for Adventure Saturday!

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My sister and I decided to stop for lunch on the way so HopCat in Detroit was our decision. It was fairly busy but our wait was only about 15 minutes. I had yummy quesadillas and Kim had mac n’ cheese with bacon. HopCat has an extensive craft beer menu so we sampled some good beer too!

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Belle Isle has a rich history connected with the city of Detroit. It became a city park in the late 1800’s. Visitors first had to take a ferry to visit. The current 2,193-foot vehicle bridge was built in 1923 (after the original bridge burned in 1915) to connect the island to mainland Detroit. In 2013, Belle Isle became Michigan’s 102nd state park (Detroit still owns the property). Since the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) took over the management of the island, many updates have occurred. The Belle Isle Conservancy also does a lot to raise funds and renovate many of the attractions, including the aquarium and conservatory.

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Lots of pretty plants!

Belle Isle has five miles of shoreline, offering a spectacular view of the skylines of Detroit and Windsor, the Ambassador bridge and freighter traffic along the Detroit River. There are so many attractions and beautiful structures on the island. We drove the entire island looking at various structures, including the police station and old horse stables.

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The Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory’s 85-foot dome can be seen from a distance. The conservatory was designed by Albert Kahn and modeled after Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. The temperature inside the conservatory was balmy in the low 80s. There are five areas to explore – the Palm House, the Fernery, Cactus House, Tropical House, and Showroom. I loved wandering through paths outlined by diverse plants. We chuckled at some of the names of the plants and marveled at the size and shapes of many others. It’s fascinating to see so many different plants that hail from all over the world.

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seahorse

Big belly seahorse

The Belle Isle Aquarium is also an Albert Kahn-designed building. It opened in 1904 as the third largest aquarium in the world and operated until 2005. The Belle Isle Conservancy re-opened the aquarium in 2012 and has been doing renovations. The tanks inside contain fresh and saltwater fish – some really large and exotic! Most eye-catching is the arched ceiling with gorgeous green tiles. A lot of work has been occurring to repair and replace broken tiles damaged from water and time passing.

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The Dossin Great Lakes Museum, a driving range, Nature Zoo (formerly the nature center), and much more is on the island. I was impressed with the numerous updates and work done on the island over the past few years. I can’t wait to return to Belle Isle in the warmer spring to walk the island and explore more of the attractions. My sister and I decided Belle Isle would be a fun location for one of our weekly Sunday family dinners (there are so many great picnic spots!).

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A Michigan Recreation Pass is required for vehicle entry onto the island (pedestrians and bikers can access the island for free). There is no charge to visit the aquarium, zoo and conservancy. Check hours for the attractions before going as they vary for each location.

 

 
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