Years before I even dreamed that I could live in Detroit, I’d see them on the highway and it would make me wonder. On summer road trips I would often see shiny, shark-fender cars headed west as we headed east. Cars of bygone eras in reds and powdered blue. Some being driven, some being transported on flat beds or in tow.
Little did I know back then but they were probably headed to Detroit’s Dream Cruise.
I first heard about the Dream Cruise at a lady’s evening out. Being the newbie that I am, when I hear the word cruise, I automatically think – big boat with a midnight buffet.
“No, no, this is the CAR CAPITAL! You have to go to the Dream Cruise, it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen, man! They rev up and down Woodward for days! Some even pour some kind of bleach in their tail pipe so when they rev their engine they get a big puff of white smoke. It’s crazy!” Said one woman, a slim attorney who sipped away at her white wine.
This is not called the Motor City for nothing. And I’m learning that in Detroit, people take their cars very seriously.
Drive around any time of day, in any part of the city, good and bad, and you will see how people take pride in their cars.
Me? Well I don’t think I waxed a car since I helped my grandpa wax his Oldsmobile Cutlass in our driveway.
Earlier in the summer, as a prelude to the Dream Cruise, I attended an open house at the General Motors Powertrain plant in Pontiac. On display were cars owned by GM employees as well as the Stingray that was used in the Transformers 4 movie.
This week, NPR featured a series about the millennial generation and their disenchantment with car ownership. The series spoke of urbanite teens and 20somethings preferring Zip Cars, sharing cars, tweeting to bum a ride, or moving back to cities with public transportation. That’s a big U-turn from the decades past when teens and those in their twenties couldn’t wait to get their first car. When a whole lifestyle was built around the car.
Can you think of any songs these days written about a car?
But a desire to live one’s life without the love of a set of wheels?
Not in this town.
Last week, millions came to Detroit from all over the country in their roadsters to cruise up and down Woodward Avenue, from downtown Detroit all the way up to Pontiac.
Then there are the crowds who come to just WATCH CARS. All week. They bring their lawn chairs and sit on the curb with family and friends.
Some take this to the heights of tailgating, complete with tents, hibachis and picnics.
Do these people care about the carbon dioxide they emit from their gas guzzling vehicles? Or the price of a gallon of petrol these days?
When a particular car they like goes by, they whooop and cheer and shout out comments and questions to the owner:
What year is that?
Did you build that yourself?
And the traffic is crawling along so slowly, proud drivers are actually able to give answers to the spectators. They are more than happy to brag about their baby.
Overall, Dream Cruise was a beautiful night and we had a great time. But I couldn’t help but think: these people are willingly – willingly – sitting in traffic. For hours. To show off their chrome exteriors and leather interiors. To breathe in all those fumes. To come together and show off the best of what Detroit has to offer, cars built in the glory years of the American automotive industry.
I spend a lot more time in my car now that I’ve moved to Detroit. No longer are the places I need to get to the most under 5 miles away. No longer is anything just a short ride away.
I don’t care if I had the most souped-up ride in my garage. in my spare time, even in the Motor City, the last place I want to be in, is in a car.