Detroit, home of the Uniroyal Giant Tire

Interstate I-94 East from Ann Arbor, Michigan to downtown Detroit is a monotonous drive. Low-rise housing complexes, mall parking lots and the Detroit Metro airport pass you by on the mostly flat route, snaking its way towards the heart of the Motor City. But if there’s one weird landmark you’re not likely to miss along the way, it’s Detroit’s very own Uniroyal Giant Tire, rising more than 80 feet above the roadway.

This giant disk of premium rubber has been greeting Detroit-area commuters for more than 40 years. First built in 1964 as a monument for the World’s Fair in New York, the tire was originally a working Ferris wheel which could hold 96 riders. After the Fair’s conclusion the wheel was moved to its current home along the interstate. It’s been confusing and delighting motorists ever since, suddenly rising into view like a celestial hubcap sent from the heavens above.

It’s fitting that Detroit, a city that has long staked its reputation on the auto industry, would have such a landmark. But perhaps these days, with all the doom and gloom that’s been forecast in the state of Michigan, it’s become more a ghostly reminder of glory days past than a symbol of Detroit’s hopes for renewal. Still, for anyone who’s ever driven that flat road East towards Detroit, it’s a much needed symbol of whimsy and pride that never fails to make you smile.

Paris Air Show 2009: A sense of scale

Covering the Paris Air Show is like trying to cover a football field with a napkin. There is so much space, depth and gravity to each display that you could spend a week going through each exhibit hall and still not get the full picture.

The above photo is a great example. This landing gear will be part of the new Airbus A350 aircraft, a model that still hasn’t been fully developed, but that’s generating a lot of buzz.

Standing right next to the gear you get a sense of the size of that aircraft. Each of the wheels comes up to your chest, which means the entire system is over 15 feet tall. And this is one corner of one display, in one corner of hall 3. It adds up quickly.

Engines have the same effect, with Pratt and Whitney, United Technologies and GE all bringing out the big guns for jaw dropping passers by. Check out one of the GE GENex engines that’ll be used on the Boeing 787 (with composite fan blades!) on display after the jump.

India’s Heritage on Wheels

You’ve probably heard of India’s famous Palace on Wheels train ride which takes you through main points of northwest India in a week. It’s been around for a while, has a minimum set course of 7-days, and is luxuriously out of reach for the average upper-middle class Indian which makes it more popular with tourists rather than locals.

A similar yet more down-to-earth 3-day journey available on India’s Heritage on Wheels is increasingly becoming popular amongst Indian families not wanting to spend so much for Palace on Wheels, yet want a cultural and comfortable train trip with family. It covers 3-cities in Rajasthan: Jaipur, Shekhawati and then Bikaner where you can visit the most famous sanctuaries, palaces, and forts of the state.

At US$150-300 per night, it is not cheap, but it costs less than half the day price of Palace on Wheels. The train is targeted to (rich) Indian families rather than international tourists, so perhaps it will give you a slightly more authentic experience of that part of India.