Wednesday, June 11, 2014
The weather outlook for this penultimate day of the tour was pretty much the same as it had been for the last two days: cloudy and cool, temperatures rising to mid-70s, and less than a 50/50 chance of rain. So a decent day for riding and no need for me to have driven over the day before. This was another day with no deadlines or ferries to catch and a 37-mile ride with lots to see. Since the hotel offered only a minimal cold breakfast to guests, the BCR team had a full breakfast catered in for us on both mornings that we were here, which was highly appreciated by all. Most of us then got going by about 9AM to make the most of the day.
The first point of interest was Johnson’s Island, which used to be separated from the peninsula but now has a long causeway going out to it. It is famous as the location of a prisoner of war camp during the Civil War and the location of one of the only Confederate cemeteries in the North. This particular camp was used only for officers and in some cases their non-commissioned aides. The prisoners were fairly well treated here for a while until reports started filtering up from the south about the conditions at the infamous Andersonville camp in Georgia, at which time the people made things harder on the prisoners. The cemetery was originally established by the Daughters of the Confederacy in 1910 and is still very well maintained.
The rest of the island is a private enclave for the residents but again we went ahead and rode the outer loop road. One of the interesting sights was an old limestone quarry in the middle of the island: a canal had been dug out to the lake, flooding the quarry and providing a private sunken lagoon for the large houses perched up along the edge of the limestone cliffs. I wish I had taken a couple of better pictures to show its size and the number of boat docks, but the one shown here will give you the general idea.
Coming back off the island, the route continued on its loop around the peninsula with a stop at the famous Marblehead Lighthouse. It was too early for the keeper’s house to be open, but the views were nice and it was an early break from what was a mostly relaxed pace for me all day.
After passing through the small town of Marblehead, I finally went through the gates of the Lakeside Chataqua. This was the most personal part of the trip, with many memories flooding back as I wandered around the main and side streets in this quiet summer community. My family made several trips to stay here for a week or two at a time, starting from 1948 when I was about 2 years old (don’t remember that one) up to 1960 when my brothers and I had the run of the place.
And so much of it had simply not changed over the years. The old buildings in the “downtown” area were familiar as were the long pier, the cottage-lined streets, and the shuffleboard courts. One of the changes that I did notice was in the large playground area, where the “dangerous” equipment that we had played on — monkey bars, seesaws, merry-go-round, wooden swings — had been replaced with the softer, rounded modern plastic products. On the other hand, I had gotten my first-ever stitches on one of those vacation trips when I fell off of a metal slide!
I stopped at a cafe to have a coffee and doughnut while waxing nostalgic and watching crowds of conventioneers walk by. Then I took one last look around Lakeside and headed for the next destination of Port Clinton.
The route pretty much kept us out of traffic and, after a brief rest stop in a local park, I rode into Port Clinton. I’ve found that no matter how many people are on a trip, you tend to see mostly the same ones during a ride as you fall into a natural group of people who ride when you do and at your pace. So it wasn’t surprising that I ended up having lunch with the same companions as on some previous occasions, and we were later joined by one of the BCR riders as well. It made for yet another pleasant meal.
After lunch, the route headed toward the southern shore of the peninsula from where it would head eastward back to the hotel. This was one day when everyone opted for the shorter route of 37 miles. There was a 53-mile option, but as Joe of BCR pointed out, there was nothing much to see and it was really just miles of “nothing but miles.”
The next stop along the way was the Liberty Aviation Museum at the Port Clinton airport. It was another nostalgia trip for me, as back around 1955 I went on my first airplane ride from here to the Put-in-Bay airport on a classic Ford Tri-Motor that was used to make regular flights back and forth. And in fact, the museum had a lot of photos, films, and memorabilia from that era. There is also an interesting project going on the the exhibition hangar, where a dedicated group of enthusiasts is actually building a “new” Tri-Motor by copying original parts from the few existing examples around the country. These famous planes were designed and first built in the 1920s, and examples can be seen today hanging from the beams in places such as the Smithsonian and the Henry Ford Museum.
From there the route was familiar on the final leg to the hotel, but for once without the headwind (BCR must have been off their game that day). Most of us were back early enough in the day to be able to lounge around the resort or take a dip in the pool, although the clouds and cool weather added a bit of a chill. For our “farewell dinner” BCR catered in a nice meal which we were again able to eat outside in the courtyard. Wrapping up trips like this is always a bittersweet experience as we had come to know all these people whom we would probably never meet up with again. The beer and wine flowed along with the conversation as the sun set for the final time on the tour.