Day Thirteen: In the footsteps of Henry Ford

We awoke early today as we had a major piece of tourism left to do in the Detroit area - the Ford Plant and the Henry Ford Museum.

First we had to negociate the horrendous I-275 again. This was rapidly becoming mine and Nick's "bete noir". Besides roadworks with cones the size of beer barrels, there were unsurprisingly a few accidents. However, we safely negociated this and found our way The Henry Ford Museum known we were told by the museum staff as "The Henry Ford". Was he from Yorkshire this chap?

Upon parking the car we decided that the tour of the Ford Rouge River plant would be the priority of the day. Nick being an ex-vehicle engineer was keen on this as it would open up a few secrets about vehicle manufacturing that had eluded him in England - such as why Rover was so bad at this!

We boarded the coach to the plant and a running commentary provided us with the basic facts about thebplany, its histiry, labour disputes, contribution to the "arsenal of democracy" and how it had risen to the challange of the Japanese car imports in the 80's.The tour passed through the steel making plant, and dropped us off at the assembly line of the F-150 model, a type of pick-up truck. An interesting aspect was the roof which is covered with some sort of moss which absorbs CO2 and keeps the emissions under control. I have to say that the plant was very clean and seemed to have some sort of structure to the process, although I couldn't determine exactly what that was as the line kept stopping for reason's beyond me. Nick said this was normal. Everybody seemed quite at ease with their employment though despite working "on the line". Must have been the good pay. Reminded me somewhat of my own factory experiences back in England, but I saw very little of the product of my labours. Mr. Appleby did though.

As we walked around, we saw the various pieces of the jigsaw come together on the track and eventually, a complete truck rolled off the line and was filled with various fluids and then started up. This was then completed with the inspection bay and driven off to the car park for shipment. NObody seemed especially stressed, just a bit bored. Round the feature were various video's made by the Ford Marketing Department featuring Ford employees telling us how dedicated they were to the line, and they were all in it together in regards of the Company. Were they all on drugs? The question raced through my mind. No, must be some sort of cloning experiment. Then again, it could just be the dumbing down of the workforce as a result of too much Human Resources's Training courses on "teamwork". It amazes me how much is made of this field of human psychology. Begs the question, would we all be better off without it in the workplace?

After returning by bus to the Museum, we had a quick look at some of the museum, including the American attempts to get to the North Pole by plane - well why walk when you can fly! However, I can't see that impressing our Captain Robert Falcon Scott! One must walk old chap!

Having put off the inevitable, i.e. a return up the dreaded I-275, we returned to our base, and to dinner. After this, we made a social visit to Cindy's sister, Marylyn and her husband Art. This isn't something that your average Brit gets to do, meet a real American family at home. In days gone past, those of us doing foreign languages at schhol were forced onto these trips to live with a real family for a week and vice-verca. Maybe it was because that the exchanges were between the Brits and the French that this was not entirely a happy occasion, more an ordeal. Also, maybe it wa sbecause most were fourteen!

Art and Marylyn's house was one of those archetypal huge American houses which would probably compare with a small hotel in England! I have to confess that I have a love of these types of houses, and more especially the types of house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Art showed us the fruits of his labours as they had not been in the house long. He had laid a huge wooden floor made from maple - that's real maple not the veneered stuff. After a tour of the house, we had a beer and during the evening's conversation, it arose that Art's Dad had been waist gunner in a B-17 in England during WWII. A very brave man that. After another beer with Art, we returned home. I manged to watch some more baseball on television as it was approaching playoff season in the NBL! NY Yankees playing the Twins if I remember correctly! I love it Cindy!

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