Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Henry Ford

So today was a busy day; we got up from everyone's favourite campground (Walmart) and drove the 20 or so miles through the rush hour, (such a nice time of day to take it easy as long as you’re not in any kind of rush!) to the Detroit suburb of Dearborn and The Henry Ford.
The Henry Ford is actually a complex consisting of the Henry Ford Museum, Greenfield Village, an IMAX and the Rouge Factory tour. We wanted to do everything (bar the Imax). The ticket clerk suggested that we’d need about two and a half hours to see the Henry Ford museum and about the same for the Rouge Factory tour, and then another whole day for the village. How wrong she was; We could have spent all day in the museum alone!

It was that good and had that much to see and do! Loads of interactive stuff, (obviously a misspent childhood!) over 100 cars through history, trains; including the 125 ft long Allegheny loco weighing over 600 tons and standing 16 ft high, a whole bunch of planes, bikes and agricultural machinery. There was the bus on which Rosa Parks famously refused to give up her seat for a white person. There was a circular, mobile one piece house from the 40s (it was called the Dymaxion house and was made from aluminium. It seemed like a good idea at the time but never actually sold due to prohibitive production costs). There were recontructed rooms through the decades showing the American way of life and all the fashions, fads and 'latest' technology. There was the limo which JFK was assasinated in, the chair in which Lincoln was sat when he was assassinated. There was a temporary display of 'rock stars and their cars and guitars' including John Lennon’s garish Rolls that we saw in The Royal BC Museum in Victoria; some tasty cars such as the ones ZZ Top used in their videos, and others like Marilyn Manson’s creation showing another side to fame and fortune.

The plan was to have lunch back at Harvey but there really was no time before the last factory tour so we stopped at the “Wiener Mobile” cafĂ© for a hotdog before jumping on our Variety Sunshine Club coach that took us the 15 minutes ride to the Ford Rouge Factory. For a start the place is HUGE! It's 2,000 acres and has a 110 miles of railroad tracks within the complex (making it the largest privately owned railway in the world!) (and that is the second piece of train trivia in one blog entry - just proving that I am a train spotters, sorry, steam train enthusiasts daughter at heart!). In the factory We watched the Ford F150, (which is one of those big gas guzzling American SUVs that everyone here absolutely needs!) being made from start to finish – each person on the production line gets 56 trucks pass them every hour. We then sat in a 360 degree cinema watching the whole process on a film to compare with any I-Max production; all very impressive! The factory employs some of the latest technology going and is working hard to be eco-friendly - it has the worlds largest 'living roof' on some of the factory buildings (a small succulent looking plant that carpets the roof keeping temps 10 degrees cooler in summer and 10 degrees warmer in winter - thus being fuel efficient.) It also has huge skylights which apparently cuts lighting bills by up to 50%! It has porous parking lots which soak up rainwater, filters it and drains into wetlands which have been replanted in the surrounding area and they use paint fumes and convert them into energy and all sorts of other interesting, funky eco-friendly things! As well as all the nifty modern tenchology the Rouge Plant is listed on the National Register of Historic Places - it is the original plant that Henry Ford built. Slightly ironic then that they make some of the most, (and probably more than most) uneconomical vehicles on the planet!!!

We’re now sat back in another Walmart in the heat of a beautiful evening – so much for the summer having left us! Tomorrow we’re going back to 'do' the Greenfield village part of the museum complex...

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