29 May 2011

Along Erie's edge

We departed Cleveland after breakfast this morning, glimpsing again the wide streets, generous green space with its public sculpture, multitudes of bridges before finding the interstate and continuing our westerly travel.  Cleveland was attractive to me.  I say that realizing we saw it over a weekend (with none of the daily traffic and attendant busyness) and in the early summer (as opposed to dead of winter), both factors making getting around and experiencing the spaciousness of the downtown relatively easy.

I felt at a low ebb today.  Packing, unpacking, repacking and off and on the coach is having an effect.  Rather than read or write during our initial 75-mile drive I indulged in a time of contented dozing in my cocoon of a back seat.  It's pretty cool actually.  Two seats to myself (Tal is one seat forward), a place to nestle my Chewonki coffee mug securely between sips, nice legroom, an unobstructed line-of-sight to the nearest video monitor, a good view of the landscape off the left side of the coach.

The real upside to the day was our list of destinations, specifically the Marblehead Peninsula, which, like Niagara Falls, provided me another sweet connection with the past.  Thanks to my dad and his brother, Bob, I have photographs of their family during the 1930s enjoying outings along Lake Erie's edge at that locale.  I was looking forward as we rode along to spending at least a few minutes savoring the experience of walking where they walked and seeing what they saw some 70+ years ago.  Sentimental sap, I know, but true.

The Keeper's House

Window detail
Our first stop was the Keeper's House, the private residence of the first keeper of the Marblehead Lighthouse, Benajah Wolcott and his wife, Rachel Miller. Located a surprising distance along the lake shore from lighthouse (nearly three miles), it was built in 1822 of native limestone, its design known as "hall and parlor."  Owned now by the Ottawa County Historical Society, it is run by volunteers.

Front step detail with flowers

The original name for the lighthouse was
the Sandusky Bay Light.
The lighthouse itself was a very popular destination on a Sunday morning.  It was becoming a a warm day, threatening to become overcast.  A steady breeze from the water made our visit a comfortable one, a visit which was, of course, much too short.  I walked the rocks at the edge of the lake, though, recalling several people from my past who would have taken the next step -- literally -- and have gotten their feet wet!

The Marblehead Lighthouse is the oldest continuing lighthouse in operation on the United States side of the Great Lakes, still a valuable aid to navigation.

I am not certain how I managed it with a seminary education, which included a course in church history on this side of the Atlantic, but I -- until today -- missed the Chautauqua Movement entirely.  Our mid-day stop was at Lakeside: The Chautauqua on Lake Erie, also on the Marblehead Peninsula, a couple of miles west of the lighthouse.  There we were treated to lunch in the airy dining room of the inn overlooking the shoreline, followed by an informative lecture about Lakeside and the American Chautauqua Movement from Kevin Sibbring, president of Lakeside.  Rather than attempt a several sentence explanation about the place and the movement, I am including a link to the Lakeside website here

Suffice it to say, however, that Lakeside is a lively, vital place.  In fact, I found the feel and atmosphere very familiar.  Lakeside exudes the same kind of settled, contented, smug ambiance that permeates most religious retreat centers I've visited.  That's not a negative by any means.  Rather, the folks who love the place and make their way there every year, or more often, do so to enjoy a place of safety, a place where day-to-day challenges can be set aside for a time and where other pastimes and interests can be explored.  In addition to the descriptors "lively" and "vital," perhaps I should add "restorative."

A view of the Pavilion (left of center) and the Hotel Lakeside (dome visible to right of center) as seen from the end of the dock.

It was less than 50 miles from Lakeside to the Crowne Plaza (overlooking the Maumee River) in Toledo.  We were fortunate that we arrived, were unloaded and to our room before the first of three waves of storm passed through.  From our 8th floor window we watched a wedding in the park between the hotel and the office building next door end in the nick of time. 

Given the wild weather not all of us decided to try to make the Mud Hens baseball game.  Rather than walking to Fifth Third Field as planned, the intrepid among us were dropped off at the field -- and into a clearing evening, I might add -- by the bus.  Our All-American supper (potato chips, potato salad, slaw, baked beans, corn on the cob, hot dogs, hamburgers, lemonade, soft drinks chocolate chip cookies, watermelon) was served in a banquet room next to our seats in The Roost overlooking first base.  Restraint was so hard. 

The field from our seats

By game time it was a golden evening.  Nestled as we were in among the tall buildings of Toledo's downtown, we could see threatening clouds still off to the north while a gentle sunset behind the home team dugout side of the stadium lit up the sky.  Turns out the game we watched (which the Mud Hens lost to the Durham Bulls) was to have been the afternoon game of a doubleheader (the Saturday afternoon game having been rained out), but it rained this afternoon, too, remember?.  When we left to stroll back to the hotel after 9:00, the second game was getting under way and I don't know if the Mud Hens redeemd themselves or not.  I do know that the second game ended at 11:50, the fireworks audible and long.  I was glad to be curled up and abed by then.

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