Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Fall Colors -- Flint, MI

November 15, 2007.

This blog is especially for my Central Texas friends. We don't see leaves change colors down there (they go from green to brown to gone), and they tell me that the colors are really bad in Michigan this year. However, while I was in downtown Flint, MI, I saw some colors that made me stop and jump out of the car to take a picture. I've never seen red leaves like this in Austin, that's for sure. The yellow doesn't turn out as bright as it should, but you still get the picture. These trees stand right along the Flint River. There are big iron banner signs across other bridges welcoming you to Flint, "Vehicle City USA," reminding us all of a brighter time for this town. A bunch of us were introduced to Flint through Michael Moore's documentary "Roger and Me," chronicling the collapse of the automobile industry here. Through the process of getting ready for depositiosn here I learned that at one time there were 13 different GM plants alone in this city, employing something like 77,000 people. Most of them have closed down now, so there's not a lot of brightness in flint, but you gotta love the color of these leaves. These trees stand near the University of Michigan-Flint, and it looks like there's some effort to get the downtown area back up and running again.

World's Largest Lugnut, Lansing MI

November 13, 2007.

Lansing MI is home to the Lansing Lugnuts (we're talking the heart of the auto industry here, folks), a Class "A" affiliate of the Toronto Blue-Jays, and they play at Oldsmobile Park in downtown Lansing. The park is on E. Michigan Avenue in downtown Lansing, and catty-corner to it (the corner of E. Michigan and S. Cedar) stands the world's largest lugnut. I don't know why it's sitting on top of a smokestack, but it is. The smokestack is part of the Lansing Board of Power and Light, and it's obviously an electricy generation plant. Sitting right on the corner is a bar called the Nut House Sports Grill, and you can see the the lugnut literally "towers" over the place. Here I've got a picture of the lugnut during the daytime behind the Nut House sign (which, I think, was probably a gas station at some point). If you stand just to the left of the bar, looking down an alley, you can get a picture of the lugnut with the Michigan State Capitol off in the distance. At night both the bar and the nut are lit up -- it's quite festive, actually.

Way Cool -- Igloo Factory, Katy TX

October 1, 2007.

I normally travel from Austin to Houston on Hwy 290, but once in a while I decide to go down Hwy 71 and then shoot straight into Hoston on I-10. I'm really glad I did recently, because for the first time I had the time to stop at the Igloo plant (at the Igloo Road exit, of all places) in Katy TX. I cracked up when I saw their guardhouse to the loading dock area -- it was one of those little playmate coolers, complete with a round window (you know, the place where you push in the button to open the lid on the real ones). The guard was great about letting me take the picture, telling me he was known as "the guy in the cooler." I hope that doesn't mean he's spent some time in jail! You can't tour the plant without getting permission beforehand, but there is an outlet store open during regular business hours, and inside the plant entrance there is a wall filled with posters describing the history of Igloo. As is fitting with that part of Texas, the company essentially got its start by making containers that kept water cool for oilfield workers. That hot Texas sun, once more, is the mother of invention!!