Our friend Erin is from Michigan and is an unreasonably-big fan of all things Michigan, including Michigan’s many lighthouses. So for Erin, here are some lighthouses. Thanks to modern navigation tools now they’re just relics, of course, but still.
First up, the Alpena light, which we passed way too early yesterday morning. This one was built in 1914 to replace several successive predecessors, is covered in red lead paint, and is in danger of disintegration. But in silhouette, it almost appears useful.
In 1855, the crumbling mess of a lighthouse on Thunder Bay Island was replaced with what now is another crumbling mess, although it still looks cool from the water. At least one poor slob in a sailboat apparently tried to get a closer view. Oh, the irony.
Fabulous Middle Island is for sale, with an asking price of $3.9 million for all 227 acres. The Coast Guard owns the unmanned 1905 lighthouse, but whoever buys the island will have use of it and “can sip a morning cup of coffee from its top.” Nice, but we don’t drink coffee.
Presque Isle has not one, but two lighthouses. The first—now called the “old” light—was completed in 1840. It wasn’t very effective, however, because ships kept right on hitting rocks and sinking.
So they built the “new” light in 1870.
On September 16, 1901, a poor doomed sailor put a grisly message in a bottle just before his steamship sank in a Lake Superior storm. The New Presque Isle Light keeper found it the next summer all the way down here. The ship was Hudson, but that probably isn’t a bad omen or anything for birthday girl Debbie, also on Hudson.
Anyway, we made it past all the rocks and limestone reefs, no thanks to any of the cool-looking but completely unhelpful lighthouses. We’d planned to stop at Presque Isle for closer lighthouse inspection, but there’s crap weather in the forecast so we headed on. Not even Algona Buffalo’s selfish and rude decision to anchor right in our path could keep us from reaching Rogers City.
Rogers City. The proud home of the world’s largest limestone quarry.
Anyone who follows this blog knows that we’re suckers for anything that claims to be the world’s largest anything. Doug thus tried to fly the drone over but it was just a bit too far.
How do we know that Rogers City is proud of this enormous Lake Huron eyesore? Easy. They put up signs.
Rogers City also is home to Nowicki’s, which has been in the sausage business since WWI.
In 1977 Phil Nowicki cranked out what then was a record-breaking 8,773-foot monster. That’s dang impressive, although everyone knows it’s not the size of the sausage that matters.
Regardless, the Rogers City Marina was a decent stop. It also gave us the added treat of hanging out with Dutch Treat again.
Today brought another long day, because that same forecast promised rough going most of the week. So we bailed on Cheboygan and headed straight to Mackinaw City. Sunrises are the only redeeming thing about long days, although now that we’ve figured out the secret to a good sunrise photo— zooming way in—they’re all starting to look the same.
Forty Mile Point is so named because it’s forty miles from Mackinaw City. At Tumbleweed speed, that’s still over five hours away and the waves were building as we went by. So it isn’t one of our favorites. Plus this isn’t even an awesomely friendly-looking compound. But it does have a lighthouse so we took a photo.
Poe Reef Light was the last of Tumbleweed’s Lighthouse Extravaganza. Built in 1929, it’s the only one of these things that remains useful to mariners, because it sits atop Poe Reef. Duh. Avoid the lighthouse, avoid the reef. Duh.
Around the corner and past the second Bois Blanc Island we’ve encountered in as many weeks, Big Mac was waiting right where shown on the charts.
The Mackinac Bridge spans the Straits of Mackinac for the purpose of allowing Deb and Sam and Lea to cross from the Upper Peninsula to where we docked Tumbleweed after Dana persevered despite annoying shenanigans by the Michigan Parks people.
The next few days look terrible for boating, so we ain’t boating. Plus, the Wi-Fi at the state marina is awesome for live streaming and the annual disappointment that is Tennessee football starts this week.
After Lake Huron beat us up for a few hours on Monday, we pulled into the welcoming safety of Lexington, where the British efforts to disarm the American colonists in 1775 sparked the Revolutionary War. What’s that? Wrong Lexington? That was Lexington, Massachusetts?
Okay then, Monday afternoon we pulled into Lexington, where the world’s largest such factory churns out peanut butter and where inveterate whiner John Calipari is just the latest in a long line of dirtbag Wildcat basketball coaches. What? That’s Lexington, Kentucky?
Lexington, Michigan, may be the best of them all. This Lexington is famous as the home of Gielow Pickles, which unfortunately was closed on Monday.
But we were able to buy some dill Cool Crisps at Jeff’s Market, and the village is dang cute.
The sign outside the Village Pub said Ted Nugent was playing Monday night. We confirmed it. Ted Nugent. “Cat Scratch Fever.” The Motor City Madman himself.
This would seem to break our lengthy streak of always missing out on the cool stuff, except, you know, it’s Ted Nugent. First, we don’t like his music. Second, the dude hasn’t been relevant since 1977, as confirmed by the fact that he’s playing bar gigs in Lexington, Michigan, (population 1,180), on a Monday night. Third, we have no interest in joining Michigan militia types on an FBI watch list. So no, we didn’t go.
We also didn’t join the kiteboarders who came out to enjoy the wind that whipped up the waves that we didn’t enjoy.
We actually wanted to join the kiteboarders, but quickly remembered that we have no kites. Or boards. Or wetsuits. Or core strength.
Anyway, we enjoyed a fun chat with Bruce and Jan—Michiganders aboard Family Times—who kindly shared their anti-spider secrets and their anti-spider spray with us. Bruce follows the blog so knew we were coming and waited on the dock to help us in. Which was quite handy in the perpendicular wind that threatened to overpower our thrusters. Very nice folks.
Tuesday sucked for kiteboarders. Which was great for us, and frankly, it’s all about us, so we got in a decently-nice run up to Harbor Beach. What a difference a day makes, indeed. Bruce’s advice for avoiding fish nets was spot on. We didn’t see a one.
The entrance to Harbor Beach harbor is marked by a lighthouse that has been lighthousing since 1885. That makes it nearly as old as Ted Nugent, and, given the advent of electronic navigation tools, nearly as useless. Regardless, we’d put it in the top tier on our list of picturesque lighthouses.
Harbor Beach is a bit hardscrabble, with essentially one place to eat on a Tuesday afternoon.
At 3:30, the bar part of the bar & grill was filled with folks who were “born to ride,” if their shirts are to be trusted. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with any of that, of course, but it really isn’t our vibe. Plus, we’re pretty sure those good folks would sneer at pickleball and Dana’s Acura MDX. The hike to and from town, however, was as pretty as the dockmaster described it.
Apart from the lighthouse, Harbor Beach’s only attraction seems to be Grice House, a small local-artifact museum that was closed.
The brick portion is one of the few structures in these parts that survived the “Thumb Fire” of 1881. That cataclysm—which we’d never heard of until we started researching Grice House—burned over a million acres of Michigan’s “thumb” in just one day. Hence the name “Thumb Fire.” Duh. The following day smoke from the fire blanketed New England, leading the more fervent in those states to proclaim the arrival of Armageddon.
That sums up our report on Harbor Beach. Except we also had a most excellent time aboard Dutch Treat with Kevin and Pam and Bentley.
Wednesday brought an early morning, because Wednesday also brought a long day. Fortunately it was the best of our small sampling of Lake Huron this year.
Heck, for a good part of it we even forgot to activate the stabilizers.
Most of the route was spent crossing Saginaw Bay. If Saginaw Bay sounds familiar, it’s probably because that’s where the great Lefty Frizzell grew up in a house and loved a rich girl and then duped his greedy fool of a father-in-law into buying a worthless claim on cold, cold ground in Alaska.
People talk about crossing Saginaw Bay in the same trembling way people talk about crossing the Albemarle Sound and the Bay of Chaleur. Meh. Our luck held the whole way.
Eight hours of smooth cruising got us past the thumb and past the bay.
As evidence of how slow we travel, a bat sized us up and then stuck a landing on the starboard pilothouse doorjamb some ten miles from shore. Dana insisted on a port tie in Harrisville so as to not disturb the little freeloader. We counted on him paying us back by gorging on the spiders and midges his presence prevented us from hosing off.
But he mostly just hung there upside down until we decided to have a marina guy take us and Dutch Treat to the only restaurant in this town of four hundred people and it looked like rain so we needed to close the door so we shooed him off and when we got back he was gone. Apart from all that excitement and chatting with Loopers Darin and Susan—who live aboard Sea Gem—our Harrisville stop wasn’t much noteworthy. In fact, We didn’t take a single picture to remind us of the place until we were heading out.
Next stop, Alpena Marina. Mostly we stopped at Alpena Marina because Dana enjoys saying “Alpena Marina.” And if we’re going to be someplace for two days because of forecasted weather, we might as well be someplace with a name that makes Dana giggle.
Alpena is at the edge of Thunder Bay. Michigan, not Ontario. And it turns out we were lucky to make it in safely, and will be even more lucky to make it out safely. Because the cool shipwreck exhibits at the maritime museum suggest that about half the boats that travel around here, sink around here. Heck, there are so many well-preserved shipwrecks that they actually created the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary to protect them from looters.
The museum is loaded with tidbits and artifacts, some of which were repossessed from said looters. Very cool museum.
Just to confirm the perils of our chosen path, the museum even offers glass-bottom boat tours to see sunken boats. Which means there are a bunch of them. And means they’re in very shallow water.
Although Thursday was a gloomy rainy day and our navigational future still looks grim, this morning brought the promise of at least a smattering of sun.
And, in fact, things slowly cleared up enough for some outdoorsy activities.
Alpena understandably is proud of its eighteen miles of designated bike path. We’re pretty confident that by “bike path” they meant “electric scooter path,” although the dude on the bicycle we zoomed past gave us a look suggesting that he hadn’t read the memo. Anyway, lots of cool stuff along the electric scooter path.
Alpena also is proud of its murals. There are a bunch of them scattered throughout town. Frankly, most of them are just okay. The one with the 3D fish, however, is dang worthy of noting.
More importantly, Alpena opened brand new pickleball courts just a couple of months ago. Good times with Kevin and Pam. We haven’t known them long and we’re heading to different places starting tomorrow, but we really enjoy them so hopefully we’ll meet up again next year someplace. By then maybe they’ll have scooters. And boat cards.
Hudson was just down the dock as well. We last saw Debbie and Shane in the shadow of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but this time it was Debbie’s birthday. Turning birthday convention on its head, Debbie brought us a present of delicious cookies. Safe travels, Hudson.
In a couple of days we’ll be back to the Straits of Mackinac. We’re looking forward to Deb and Sam and Lea staying with us for a night or two, while poor Tom is left with 109° highs at home in Scottsdale.
Way too late for it to matter, our friend Deb reminded us that Jimmy Hoffa disappeared in Detroit. One of us—but only one of us—would’ve taken the long Uber ride out to 6676 Telegraph Road, where the Red Fox was the last place anyone admits seeing him alive.*
Instead, we bravely took the dangerous walk downtown to breakfast.
Okay, maybe it wasn’t overly dangerous after all. Or maybe we just got lucky. Either way, we weren’t murdered. In fact, the streets we saw actually looked kind of nice.
We also may have been quick to misjudge Detroit’s public art, although the Bible verse on the municipal building comes pretty damn close to violating the Establishment Clause.
Although we’ve likely exceeded our quota of Edmund Fitzgerald references, before leaving Detroit we stopped by the Mariners’ Church.
“The church bell chimed ’til it rang twenty-nine times, for each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald.” It was this church. While we’re at it, we also passed the museum on Belle Island where they have the Mighty Fitz’s anchor.
It’s a tad misleading though. This anchor wasn’t recovered from the watery wreckage where those twenty-nine souls were condemned to the icy depths of Lake Superior. Nope. It’s one the ship left in the Detroit River a year before the gales of November came early.
Up at the north end of Belle Island is the now-abandoned William Livingstone Memorial Lighthouse, supposedly the only lighthouse in the world built out of marble.
It seems impossible for anyone to know the construction specs of all the planet’s lighthouses, of course, but Livingstone contributed greatly to the big shipping channel we’ve enjoyed so far, so we won’t quibble.
Then out of the river and into Lake St. Clair. As we approached the Safe Harbor Jefferson Beach Marina, the world’s tallest lighthouse led us in. Obviously we don’t actually know that it’s the world’s tallest, but we do know it’s the tallest one we’ve ever seen.
If it looks more like an apartment building than a lighthouse, it’s probably because it is an apartment building. But up there on top is a navigation beacon, marking red and white sectors every five seconds.
They put us at the end of G Road. Not G Dock, G Road. At this joint, they don’t need dock carts, because every slip has a parking spot. Crazy.
Friday was a great day to cross Lake St. Clair and start up the St. Clair River. Sunrises finally have started to occur at a much more reasonable hour, such that we can enjoy them. We got a crazy awesome orange one. It looks fake, but isn’t.
We made it as far as Algonac, which was fine because that’s where we planned to stop anyway. Algonac is about a quarter of the way up the St. Clair River, which connects Lake St. Clair and Lake Huron and looks to be the last river we’ll run this year.
The trip was so tranquil we dang near dozed off, but fortunately didn’t because we’re still on the St. Lawrence Seaway. Which means huge ships zipping downstream and throwing big wakes at us. At least Integrity had the decency to sport a pleasing beachy color scheme.
Algonac is famous as the home of one Christopher Columbus Smith, who in 1874—at the tender age of 13—built his first boat. By 1930, he would sell you an all-mahogany 48’ 30-passenger cruiser for $35,000.
In 1970, Chris-Craft closed the factory, although the Algonac Harbor Club—where we spent the night—still uses some of the old buildings for storage and parking and whatnot.
An RV company currently makes fiberglass Chris-Craft boats in Sarasota, Florida. Yuck. At least the original water tower—more than a hundred years old and now painted with a pleasing beachy color scheme—still stood above Tumbleweed.
The marina is a jumbled angled confusion of narrow fairways, such that a less observant pilot easily might wander into an unforgiving alley that looks kind of like Doug’s Okeechobee ditch, albeit with more tiny boats and fewer stumps and alligators.
But we made it out and back to the St. Clair River, where we passed what might be the last Chris-Craft connection to Algonac. The former president’s house is filled with mahogany fanciness crafted by the factory woodworkers. A South Carolina couple with no interest in boats recently bought it. We forgot to take a picture. Liming, however, took a picture of us as they zoomed by a bit later.
Saturday was just slow going, against current that was someplace on the continuum between acceptable and St. Lawrence-under-the-Jacques Cartier-Bridge. We thought we’d never get by the Cargill Salt Plant, which collects product from local salt wells and ships it around the world. Anyone who enjoys soft water or pretzels should appreciate this place.
Hey, it’s reunion time! Although we’ve only known her for two weeks, Oakglen was a familiar sight. She probably was happy to see us as well.
Our old nemesis Saginaw was next up.
That horrible day with seven hours of fog in 2018 almost ended with Saginaw creaming us just yards from the safety of Muskegon. At least that’s how we remember it now. For anyone who doesn’t want to follow the link, here’s the proof.
Just as the storm clouds gathered—and shortly behind two jackasses in Formulas who blew through to catch the bridges and damaged boats with their wake in the process—we pulled off into Port Huron.
Great stop. Least expensive diesel fuel we’ve seen since last year— which isn’t saying much—plus we got an extra 5¢ off per gallon. Whooooo!
We tied up right there by St. Clair County Community College. Go Skippers!
Sunday brought clouds and drizzle, which sucked. Mostly, however, it sucked for the floaters. For two days we heard periodic notifications from both U.S. and Canadian coast guards about boats being banned from a good chunk of the St. Clair River because of the annual “unsanctioned float down,” which apparently has occurred for the last 45 years.
In 2016, high winds blew some 1,500 drunk, injured, and/or freezing Americans onto Canadian shores “without identification, money, or a means of communication.” Now this is the kind of event we didn’t want to miss, rain or no rain.
Meh. We waited over an hour before a smattering of floaters came by. The drone photo was barely worth the risk of a mid-air collision with the Coast Guard helicopters.
Maybe the weather was to blame, but regardless, we didn’t walk a full half-mile just to see almost as many law enforcement vessels as drunk revelers.
On the way back from what we forever will recall as “The Great Float Down Disappointment of ’22,” we passed another first. Based on the paint job it looks to be some sort of visual emetic. Or possibly a fancy latrine.
A few more things. The Cobras were playing Team Juicy in 14u softball at Pine Grove Park, right next to a huge boulder that the Rotary Club planted in 1929 to commentate the years that a youthful Tom Edison played here.
Just a boulder’s throw away sits the Huron, which was the last lightship the Coast Guard used on the Great Lakes. It’s hard to believe that a ship with an 11-member crew is more economical than just a regular old lighthouse, even one built out of marble. But between 1921 and 1970 Huron’s beacon could be seen for 14 miles.
So yeah, Port Huron has it all going on.
Plus the rain went away just before sunset.
A couple of hours ago we took off after dithering about whether it was foolish given the predictions. With hindsight, it was foolish. We made it under the Blue Water Bridge just fine, although the current slid much closer to the Jacques Cartier Bridge end of the previously-referenced spectrum.
We’re damn glad to be done with rivers for a while. The last one where we weren’t fighting upstream like salmon hoping to spawn was the East River through New York City. It’s literally been all uphill since then. And as we’ve previously noted, the East River isn’t even a river.
From the bridge onward, however, things have been significantly unpleasant. We’re cranking out the post while underway, because (1) we need a distraction from the gruesome waves and (2) if we make it to Lexington we’ll be too spent to do it.
Also, we now have a final destination. Tumbleweed will hibernate in Green Bay, tucked warmly in heated storage.
*Coincidentally, that same only one of us thought Redd Foxx made an excellent Fred G. Sanford.
With confidence borne of personal experience, we now can state with certainty that the west end of Lake Erie is far superior to the east and middle. Maybe except for Lorain. On Sunday, we rolled into the Lake Erie Islands.
On the way to Kelleys Island we cruised about six miles off Cedar Point, where sits one of the world’s oldest and largest amusement parks. On a clear day with smooth water we probably could get a better photo, but Sunday wasn’t even in the same area code as clear and smooth. And we’re not coming back. We don’t even like amusement parks.
Kelleys Island is about four square miles in area, which we can attest takes less than an hour to explore by rented golf cart. Still pretty enough though, even on a dreary day.
“Inscription Rock” is interesting, but not because the petroglyphs have eroded to the point you just have to trust the sign that says there once were petroglyphs on it.
The interesting thing is the sign itself, which also claims that the now-eroded symbols were “pecked” into the stone between three hundred and four hundred years ago by “pre-historic Indians.” WTF? Prehistoric? Four hundred years ago Galileo confirmed Kepler’s theory of heliocentricity. Oxford already had been educating students for over five centuries. Shakespeare had jotted down his last word. That’s hardly the stuff of the Flintstones era.* About all we actually know to be true is that Inscription Rock is way bigger than Plymouth Rock.
Here’s another something interesting.
Again with the misleading signs. The runway that dead ends into the roadway is barely long enough for our drone to use. Without a doubt, landing one of those 18-passenger jets depicted on the sign would yield as many charred bodies as the number of people on board. Of course, we dutifully stopped and looked both ways anyway.
Our loop ended back in “town,” which was small but fun. Everybody said “get the fried perch at The Village Pump.” Everybody was right. The perch was delicious.
They put us nose into a narrow dead end, but except for the unnecessary A/C on the boat down there next to us, we had a great evening. Foyle solved another murder.
Up early Monday morning, which allowed us to reflect on an artsy sunrise under clouds that suggested the possibility of impending doom.
The threats of waterspouts, however, didn’t keep us from the nine-mile journey around Ballast Island and into Middle Bass Island State Park.
Kelleys Island has a population of about three hundred. Only about thirty people live permanently on what they call MBI. Which is why Eddie’s General Store and a church make up the entire “downtown.”
But what the heck, we took another golf cart around to find the island’s hidden gems. Like a boat filled with odd little figurines.
There aren’t enough kids to justify running a school, so they both go back and forth to South Bass Island every day. By plane. On what the sign on South Bass Island apparently says is the world’s shortest airline route. This may not be the flying school bus in a backyard, but maybe it is.
Of all the crazy and amazing things we’ve seen while cruising, a pickleball court on a mostly vacant island is pretty near the top.
When it takes nearly half the residents to make a foursome, getting a game has to be tough.
We also stumbled on some glacial grooves, which are bedrock abrasions left on the Lake Erie islands during the last ice age.** Pretty cool.
The most well-known grooves are back on Kelleys Island, but temporarily are closed to the public for reasons unknown.
In the late 1800s, little Middle Bass Island was covered with cultivated grapes and the home of what supposedly was the country’s largest producer of wine. There’s not much left of Lonz Winery. Just that tall thing in the middle of the drone photo.
The other tall thing is another one of those Perry monuments, this one on South Bass Island at Put-In-Bay. The locals pronounce it “Puddin’ Bay,” which is ironic since they’re all yankees.
Anyway, the whole reason we went to Middle Bass Island is because we could stay at a state park and still go check out the more-hoppin’ Puddin’ Bay via Marty’s taxi boat. Except then Marty decided to not operate his taxi boat on Tuesday, so as screw us over. And it was too rough for a dinghy. Grrrrr.
As part of our trip to South Bass Island we’d fancied a nice meal at one of the many restaurants. In part that’s because the one joint with edible food on Middle Bass is closed on Tuesdays. Double grrrrr. So instead of a fancy meal at a swanky eatery, we cleaned off spiders and spider victims. Triple grrrrr. During a last quiet evening at the state park, however, Foyle solved another murder.
Speaking of pre-historic epochs, since the time Neanderthals used mastodon tusks to whittle boats out of granite, mariners intuitively have known not to leave shore when funky clouds loom on the horizon. Wednesday morning funky clouds loomed on the horizon, with periodic bonus lightening flashes in them.
Of course, Neanderthals became extinct, likely due, in part, to their failure to master the use of radar. Radar showed those clouds moving away, so we headed off for Detroit. Motown. The Murder City. The closest we got to Puddin’ Bay was on our way out.
Not much of interest between the islands and the Detroit River, although we were close enough to barely see a nuclear power plant just north of Toledo.
Toledo is famous as the home of Corporal Max Klingler, who was not a transvestite, did not successfully set himself on fire, whose family was not half pregnant, and whose non-existent brothers did not die in a boiler explosion at the Toledo Harmonica Factory. We gave it a skip.
The water was a bit rougher than we prefer, but not surprisingly the Lake Erie waves went away right about the time we left Lake Erie, heading up the Detroit River. Along Bois Blanc Island we passed another one of those boats that someone is using as a flower pot. We’ve seen dozens of them, but none this big.
Bois Blanc Island, by the way, is known locally as Boblo.
The heavily polluted River Rouge dumps into the Detroit River south of Detroit. Yeah, it’s a touch industrial.
Heck, even the ferries are industrial.
River Rouge is home to what once was the largest single factory in the world.*** Ford Motor Company still pumps out F150s up there. They’ll probably build Doug’s Lightening some day.
Speaking of lightening, more storm clouds gathered as we approached the Ambassador Bridge and the city. Excellent. We love docking in the rain.
Fortunately things mostly cleared up nicely.
So we reached Detroit. The list of important people hailing from Detroit includes VFL Aaron Hayden, both Mork AND Mindy, the Splendid Splinter, and Sixto Rodriguez.**** Doug spent the summer of 1986 working for the Detroit Pistons, but they weren’t in Detroit, they were in Pontiac, and since it was just one summer he wouldn’t count anyway.
Hey look! It’s Canada again!
Actually, seeing Windsor across the river wasn’t all that interesting, since we cruised much of the day back in Canadian waters.
Then into the state park, which seems absurdly placed in downtown Detroit.
Remember all that cool art in Cleveland? In Detroit, so far all we’ve seen is an odd man, with pipes in him, next to an abandoned area which may or may not contain bodies. There’s no sign explaining any of it, so we really can’t offer anything more.
The good news is that despite walking to the restaurant twice—because the first time the nice girls at the hostess stand said we weren’t dressed to their standards—we’ve been here nearly six hours and haven’t been mugged. We’re just here for tonight. Unless Dana’s new friends talk us into staying.
So what’s the new plan? Well the old plan was to join the bottlenecked Looper crowd in Chicago and wait impatiently for the Brandon Road Lock to open and the clog to flush through. Then hustle down the rivers fighting for space along the way. The more we thought about it, the less appealing it seemed.
Now we’re just going to take it easy, spend some time on the Door Peninsula, and winter Tumbleweed in Green Bay. Next summer, we’ll follow Deb’s recommendation and take a month or two to explore Lake Superior. From there, we’ll figure something out.
So what’s the new club? Well if we’re going to be intimate with all five Great Lakes, we should tap the resources offered by the Great Lakes Cruising Club. We’ll add the GLCC burgee when we pick it up in Port Huron. Not that we’re hunting trophies, but next year we can swap it out for the Admiral Bayfield. Woooo!
*“Oh that Barney Rubble. What an actor.” – Leonard
**Of course, given the whole “Pre-historic Indian” thing, it’s likely the folks around here think the last ice age occurred roughly around the time Washington crossed the Delaware.
***Anyone who hasn’t read Rivethead: Tales from the Assembly Line is missing out.
****Anyone who hasn’t seen Searching for Sugar Man is missing out.
A couple of years ago, Serial did a most excellent podcast on the Cuyahoga County justice system. Lots of terrible people were featured, including cops and judges. Which makes Cleveland—known to the rest of the country as “The Mistake on the Lake”—look really bad.
The Cuyahoga River runs through the city. Historically the river was so polluted with chemicals that it caught fire more than a dozen times, burning buildings and boats along the way.
Health officials still discourage swimming in the river because of raw sewage. Which makes Cleveland look really bad.
TripAdvisor says one of the “top attractions” is a chain supermarket. Which makes Cleveland look really bad.
The Browns once drafted University of Kentucky halfwit Tim Couch with the first overall pick. Which makes Cleveland look really, really bad. The point is, our expectations were low. As low as Vanderbilt finishes in the SEC East standings every football season. As low as the self-esteem of any adult who yells “Roll Tide” or “Gig ‘em.”
Perhaps we’ve been fooled like the blind men touching an elephant in the old Buddhist fable, but the parts of Cleveland we spent five days exploring in fact were pretty awesome. What wasn’t awesome was the trip in from Geneva.
The issue wasn’t the Perry Nuclear Power Plant cooling towers. Those actually were sort of interesting.
The issue wasn’t even Tuesday’s unexpectedly-miserable beam waves, although they probably played some part in snapping off one of the bolts that clamped the rudder arm to the rudder post. Meaning that fifteen miles from Cleveland we suddenly had no steering and it wasn’t because of weeds this time. Fortunately Rick had the great foresight to leave a spare bolt on the boat for just this purpose, and fortunately Dana persevered in searching for said spare bolt after Doug had given up. That allowed a repair that at least got us to safety.
Now back to stuff about Cleveland. Starting with the marina, nicely protected by a pedestrian bridge so new that it appears on exactly none of our charts or on any map app.
Cleveland installed the $6 million bridge so that people who want to go from the Science Center to the park can avoid a grueling eight-minute walk past the Oasis marina. Now the city pays bridgetenders around the clock to let boats in and out. It all seems unnecessary to us, but we don’t live in Cleveland so it’s not our money. The marina, however, is awesome.
That building on the left, steps from where we docked for a few days, is the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Being tourists and all, we popped over. This place is top notch.
We do have one critical observation, though. Placing the “Story of Hip-Hop” immediately next to an incredible Beatles exhibit is damn embarrassing. In fact, the mere suggestion that rap is “music” at all is damn embarrassing. At least they jammed it in a dark dead-end. Apart from the hip-hop thing, it’s a fabulous museum.
FirstEnergy Stadium—home of the tragically inept Browns—also is right on the water.
Out front there’s a statue of Otto Graham, who was the Brown’s last competent quarterback despite the fact that he retired in 1955.
Jim Brown—an All-American fullback and lacrosse player out of Syracuse, and perennial Pro-Bowler—is on any short list of greatest NFL players in history. Although he starred in such Hollywood classics as Mars Attacks and I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, Brown is not on the short list of greatest American actors. However, he also got a statue.
Turns out statues are a pretty big deal around here. The great Jesse Owens is honored with one, in part for figuratively shoving his spikes up Adolf Hitler’s behind in 1936 and in part for being the only compelling thing Ohio State ever produced.
And it’s not just statues of famous people. Cleveland sports some cool public art as well.
The entire waterfront is guarded by a five-mile long breakwater, which appears to be constructed out of concrete Czech hedgehogs and serves to protect Cleveland from invading tanks as well as the raging waters of Lake Erie.
And on Thursday and Friday, the Lake Erie waters were raging. Maybe not enough to deter boaters of more hardy stock, but we’re unapologetic weenies so we waited until Saturday to leave. Which gave us time for a few more noteworthy things. Like epic sunsets on the lake.
Dana even went birding, although this dude was six feet from the boat and she saw him from the pilothouse so she didn’t go far.
Here’s Progressive Field, home of the Cleveland Indians. We knew it was the home of the Indians because there’s a statue of famous fireballer Bob “Rapid Robert” Feller out front.*
What’s that you say? They’re not the Indians any more? No matter how one feels about the appropriation of Native American images and culture, “Cleveland Guardians” is a dumb name. But now at least we know how they came up with it. Because right outside the stadium—on both sides of the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge—the “Guardians of Traffic” have loomed over the city since 1932.**
Supposedly Bob Hope’s father participated in carving the eight forty-something-feet tall Art Deco figures that supposedly “typify the spirit of progress in transportation.” All we know is that on our list of the greatest comedians in history, Bob Hope is pretty far down. Well below Midge Maisel.
Wait! How’s this for awesome? Here’s the old man’s major award, right there in the front-room window of the house where Ralphie ate Ovaltine and almost shot his eye out with an official Red Ryder carbine action two-hundred shot range model air rifle.***
One last thing about Cleveland. Turns out that downtown supermarket isn’t on TripAdvisor’s list of attractions because Cleveland lacks anything better; it’s there because it’s amazing. Local chain Heinen’s opened it in a century-old former bank headquarters, replete with colorful murals and a huge stained-glass rotunda dome. Dana says it’s the coolest grocery store she’s ever seen.
Anyway, although we thoroughly enjoyed Cleveland and admit to inaccurate prejudging, we ain’t moving to Cleveland. So after one more night and a crisp scooter ride to get morning bagels, we left.
With three shiny new bolts clamping the hydraulic arm to the rudder shaft, we headed off today. As a general rule, we prefer days where the water and sky aren’t the same color. We mostly got fifty shades of gray.
Even more, however, we prefer the smooth water we enjoyed all the way to Lorain.
Originally we planned to have a guy look at a little electrical issue, which is the reason we paid in advance for a reservation in Lorain. After we stayed an extra two days in Cleveland, however, we decided to live with the electrical issue. But we couldn’t get our money back so came to Lorain anyway. Then, and only then, did we read that Lorain has one of the highest crime rates in Ohio. Well crap.
So it’s a crappy, cloudy, dangerous day, but at least the marina is solid.
After tying up and vacuuming the bugs off the cockpit, we sucked up our courage for a walk through town to Lakeview Park, home of Lorain’s pride and joy: the Rose Garden.
A bit of Lorain history. In 1924, the Lorain-Sandusky Tornado touched down in Lakeview Park. Heck, we didn’t know they even named tornados. This one killed 72 town-folks, including a bunch right about where the roses are.
Also right near the roses is a semi-derelict Easter basket, only instead of eggs this one has a mix of flowers and weeds.
The basket brings back nostalgic memories of long-ago Easters, when our baby girls gleefully searched for plastic eggs we’d filled and hidden—Dana’s loaded with candy and Doug’s with lifelike rubber cockroaches—until one of them had the annual meltdown for one reason or another and the entire thing fizzled. Good times.
We’d just about forgotten the whole “high crime rate” thing until we personally witnessed a felonious assault on good taste and common decency. Does Ohio still have the death penalty?
Lorain’s number one attraction, of course, is the decommissioned lighthouse at the Black River entrance.
We have to admit, it’s pretty cool when they put the floodlights on it at night.
Tomorrow we start island hopping.
*Despite his miraculous season as the Indians closer, famous fireballer Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn does not have a statue outside of Progressive Field.
**Seriously. They’re called the “Guardians of Traffic.”
***“Fra-gee-lay. It must be Italian.” They were selling leg lamps at the gift shop across the street, but Dana ironically put her foot down.