June 25, 2018
There WERE Pirates… But we missed them… or at least most of them.
We planned to take Chloe to the Admiral Perry International Peace Memorial site for her Junior Ranger Badge last year but it was closed for the entire season for repairs so we were determined to hit it this year. The memorial is in a little town called Put-in-Bay on Little Bass Island in Lake Erie. Since it is on an island, we first had to find somewhere to leave the RV. We planned to take Jet Express Ferry and were fretting over where we’d park the RV but then discovered Miller Ferry. It was less expensive and had free parking with enough space for our RV AND tow vehicle without having to disconnect. This ferry lands at the bottom of the island instead of right in Put in Bay like the Jet Express does but the bus was cheap and we got to see a bit more of the island. There was a steep walk up to the bus and golf cart rental shops from the ferry but the cart rental people will meet you if you arrange it. I regret not renting a golf cart in town for at least an hour or two. There are TONS of golf carts cruising around and it would have been fun to do a quick wander in one. If you wish to rent one, there are several rental places in town as well as several near the ferry landing. Most also rent bicycles. It is a small island so bikes and golf carts are the preferred mode of travel. You can take your car over on the ferry if you prefer.
The bus dropped us right near the monument visitor center, which is also right near downtown Put in Bay (small island, remember?) As we walked to the visitor center, Chloe started to say “Grandma, look at…” but she didn’t finish the sentence as she heard a loud rustling of wings pass her ear. She ducked and saw a red winged blackbird strike the top of my head with its feet. I was startled to say the least. After she got done laughing, Chloe continued to read the sign she was pointing out “Caution – Aggressive Bird” … I think they should have posted the sign a little farther away from the bird’s nesting tree instead of right under it but maybe it is part of the town entertainment. The bird didn’t really hurt; it was just a little birdie smack down, but it was definitely surprising. The other “wildlife” we saw a lot of was Mayflies. We seemed to hit the season. There were Mayflies all over the rig, all over the roads, all over our clothes, all over the shop windows, and so on. I nearly ate one that landed on my ice cream just before I popped a bite into my mouth. The ranger said they only live 24 hours so while there were many in the air, there were just as many on the ground. They are an indicator species so having that many this season speaks well of the health of the lake which is good, BUT, I could have done without the one in my mouth. Ice cream is not meant to have legs and wings.
Put in Bay is a cool little tourist town that probably gets a bit rowdy on summer weekends. They have the usual restaurants and fun gift shops as well as a beautiful big park along the waterfront with mature trees, playgrounds, picnic tables, etc. We visited on a Monday and immediately noticed that there were “Pirates” wandering through town. The annual Pirate Festival had run through the weekend with their closing activity delayed until Monday afternoon due to rain on Sunday. Many of the “pirates” had gone home after the weekend but there were enough leftovers to make it fun. We enjoyed watching the people in pirate costumes wander around and managed to catch the final festival activity: a cardboard boat race. Lots of screaming, cheering, sinking and swimming. Very cool.
We can’t recommend food as we only ate one meal there at a BBQ place on the square and it was NOT good. The meat was dry and not tasty. We wondered if it was left over from the festival or maybe the chef was out with a hangover and the last man standing was working the kitchen. Either way, we’ll never eat there again. We did have some entertainment while we waited for the food; the waitresses were either trying to catch, or actively running from, a little bird that came in through their open door. It finally came close enough that I could toss my sun shirt onto him and carry him out the door to freedom. I was hoping he would tell the other birds about his rescue so they would stop dive bombing my head. We can recommend ice cream at the Dairy Barn. It is right down near the memorial and has indoor and outdoor seating. Other than the Mayfly topping (which cannot be attributed to them), it was quite good.
Chloe noticed a “swimming beach” marked on the island map so we walked over to check it out. It was a tiny scrap of rocks and sand with some native plantings and a sign designating it as a stop on the water trail. We checked for interesting rocks and shells until Chloe noticed there was a dead fish rolling in the little waves along shore. She is a bit of an empath and hates to see anything injured (or dead) so she immediately composed a song “Ode to a Dead Fish” and we sang to it for a bit. Now, this may not seem like normal behavior to you, but I can assure you it is normal behavior for us. That said, I am equally sure that some of the tourists that passed by went looking for the proper authorities to bring the white jackets for us… but we had fun.
We noticed a beautiful tall ship in the harbor. I couldn’t quite make out its flag but my brain was tuned to “Pirate Festival” so I thought it was a pirate ship flying the Jolly Rogers. Now, my brain and mouth don’t always work together as well as I might like so I popped out excitedly “look, it’s a Pirate ship flying the Jolly Rancher!” Cue laughter… lots of laughter… semi-hysterical granddaughter laughter (and John’s more controlled I-don’t-want-to-get-smacked-for-laughing-at-her laughter). I guess it’s good that I can be such a constant source of entertainment to my family.
Well, OK, the ship is the Niagara. THE NIAGARA! The ship that fought in the battle of 1812. The ship that Admiral Perry was on when he achieved victory. The ship they toted off to Erie, Pennsylavania after the battle and sank along with the captured British ships. They lifted her up and restored her for the Centennial… then they restored her again for the bicentennial. Now they use her for educational purposes and bring her around to cool places for cool events because IT’S SO COOL! They took people out to sail over the original battle site. They had people racing up the rigging. I suspect those lucky people were dignitaries from the town, the festival and the National Parks. I’m sure the majority of the ship’s parts are not original but some of them are… and she’s afloat over 200 years after they originally built her. (I choose to celebrate the wonder of this awesome ship and ignore the fact that she was able to navigate the Great Lakes WITHOUT using her sails. I’m quite certain some “after market” parts (like a motor) have been slipped into the restored ship). The Niagara belongs to the commonwealth of Pennsylvania and flies that flag. I still contend that that commonwealth flag looks just like the Jolly Rogers from a distance… especially if yours eyes have been trained to see PIRATES!
(for the history of the battle and monument, check out John’s post on Admiral Perry)