|July 27-29 - Lake Erie Lighthouse Tour
by Joyce Holland
|Picture It…..Friday, July 27th, O-Dark-Hundred, about a dozen members already at the BWI Long Term Parking Lot A anxiously awaiting the arrival of their motor coach that will take them to the Lake Erie Region, the Chapter’s first lighthouse tour to this area. This trip, announced a year in advance, has been a long time coming. As 7:00 AM approaches the numbers increase and the “Barney Mobile” is pulling into the parking lot. Can it be? Yes, it’s Juan, our ever faithful bus driver at the wheel. Cheers and excitement fills the air and everyone is scurrying to get their luggage in place, seat assignments, and boarding the bus so that we can get underway on schedule. We pull out and start to head to Toledo, Ohio; some chatting with friends that have not been seen since they traveled on another Chapter lighthouse tour together; others catching up on their sleep as we travel up the road.
There was only one lighthouse stop for our travel day, Vermillion, and the Great Lakes Historical Society Inland Seas Maritime Museum. The museum contains one of the world’s largest collections of Great Lakes historical maritime artifacts, documents, ship models, original artwork, Fresnel lenses and the pilot house from the ship Canapus. The museum is also home to the Vermillion lighthouse replica; the original, which was leaning, was torn down by the Coast Guard in 1929 in the middle of the night. The town of Vermillion awoke the next day to find their lighthouse gone. After everyone had the opportunity to tour and shop and take their photos, we boarded the bus and continued on to Toledo. After checking into the hotel, we reboarded the bus and went over to the Maumee Theatre where we were scheduled to have our dinner in one of their banquet halls. It was here that Dave Hannum, who helped me coordinate this trip, and his daughter, Heather, joined our group. Karen McMichael opened The Loft and we held our Chinese auction for our fundraising for our HELP fund. Our thanks to everyone who contributed and shopped.
Saturday morning found everyone up, packed and ready for day two’s lighthouse adventures. First stop was the Manhattan Range Front Light, located on a parking lot of what is probably the locals favorite bar and restaurant, for a quick photo op. Next stop was in downtown Toledo where we boarded the M/V Sandpiper to cruise up the Maumee River and Bay and out into Lake Erie seven miles to see the Toledo Harbor lighthouse. Some minutes after we departed the captain advised Dave Hannum (my co-coordinator for this trip) and me that there were 3-4 foot seas reported for the lake but we were going to continue and stick our nose out in the lake to confirm the report before the decision was made to turn around and return to the dock. As we approached the mouth of the Lake and the Bay, it appeared to be calm, so we cruised on under cloudy skies. As we reached the Toledo Harbor lighthouse, the sun and smiles appeared. This lighthouse is now under the protection of the Toledo Harbor Lighthouse Preservation Society, who has been given a grant to build a dock and boat ramp so that access can be made available. On our return trip, we cruised by the Turtle Island lighthouse ruins. We saw remnants of heavy equipment sitting on the island where an attempt to restore the property had been abandoned. After docking, our next stop would be the Manhattan Range Rear Light; again for a quick photo-op as it is also located in a parking lot of a business. Then, according to our itinerary, a mystery light would be our next destination.
The mystery light turned out to be the Cedar Point lighthouse, located in the camping area of the Cedar Point Amusement Park. We were met at the gates by Robin Innes, Director of Public Relations, who guided our bus back to where the lighthouse was located. Most people on the bus didn’t know that a lighthouse existed on these grounds, and those who did, had never seen it. When the Cedar Point Amusement Park acquired the land it was an abandoned structure without its tower and lantern room. It could have easily been bulldozed into the ground, but they opted to restore it and it sits unoccupied in the middle of rental cottages and cabins. And, it's not very often that you can take a picture of a lighthouse with some of the tallest and fastest roller coasters in the world as the backdrop. I believe everyone enjoyed the mystery light. We then headed to Marblehead where we were greeted by the ladies and gentlemen of the Marblehead Historical Society, led by Doris Rowbotham, for the opportunity to climb the lighthouse and visit and shop in their museum, which was opened especially for our Chapter. They then served us dinner, (BBQ chicken and ribs and sides) which we enjoyed on the park grounds around the lighthouse and museum in the coolness of the setting sun. This group was so hospitable to us that we did not want to leave, but we still had one more lighthouse on our itinerary to see that day, Old Port Clinton. So off we finally went to Port Clinton and Brands Marina to visit and photograph the lighthouse. Upon our arrival; we found a birthday party underway near the lighthouse. Always being the last off the bus, I come down to the lighthouse to take my photos, only to find that most of the group had joined the party. “Oh no” I thought, “I’ve told the people who gave me permission to enter the marina that our group is a very respectable group and here they are crashing the party”. But I was soon to find out that they were invited to the party as it was for Frank Markunas, a former lightkeeper of this lighthouse, who was celebrating his 80th birthday. Tony Pasek signed the birthday banner "Happy Birthday and Best Wishes from the Chesapeake Chapter, U.S. Lighthouse Society". Wanting to stay and listen to his tales, we reluctantly boarded the bus and headed to our lodgings for the evening.
Before departing our lodgings on day three, Dave and Heather bade farewell to our group to head home to Indiana. We then headed to our first destination for the day, the Huron Harbor Lighthouse; where some made it all the way out on the pier to the lighthouse, while others photographed it from a distance. We then headed to Lorain Breakwater; where I had made several attempts to arrange for a tour out and inside the light, but unfortunately it was unsuccessful. So, we viewed and photographed it from the shore. Off to downtown Cleveland where we were scheduled to take the harbor/river cruise on the Goodtime III. Upon our arrival I found out that the cruise schedule was moved back an hour; so some went over to the Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame, or just sat and relaxed on the benches along the waterfront until boarding time. After finally boarding we enjoyed a hot buffet lunch aboard the ship before leaving the dock. After being on the bus for two days, this cruise afforded us the opportunity to just sit, relax, visit and enjoy the cool weather and sunshine. At the mouth of the Cuyahoga River we viewed the Cleveland East Pierhead and Cleveland West Breakwater lights from a distance. We then cruised up this snaking river passing its many cement plants to its first lock where we turned around and headed back towards Lake Erie. This river with its twists and turns makes you wonder how the ships and barges are able to maneuver through it. Capt. Rick, knowing that our group was aboard, cruised right past the pierhead and breakwater light and made a U-turn in Lake Erie to give us the opportunity to photo the lights up close.
Back on the bus we headed up the road to the Fairport Harbor Lighthouse and Museum; where they were waiting for us to arrive and had the doors open and some gift shop items outside on tables to help alleve some of the congestion in their tiny shop. But, we squeezed and crowded into it anyway to make sure we didn’t miss purchasing something that wasn’t outside. While there we were treated to a special blowing of the old fog horn. It was wheeled out of the storage area on a cart. Fair warning was given to everyone before they set it off; then “there she blows.” After everyone climbed, shopped, toured their museum and obtained all the photos they wanted, we drove down to the Fairport Breakwater lighthouse for a photo-op. This was our last lighthouse stop for the day and we headed up the road to Erie, Pennsylvania and our lodgings. Dinner was at the hotel this evening and we had a special surprise for the Liebrecht twins, Lauren and Paula. With their 50th birthday being a few days away, we surprised them with a small birthday celebration and a cake with one of their favorite lighthouses, Bodie Island, pictured on it. The twins serve as docents for that lighthouse several weekends a year. We presented them a pair of musical dancing and singing hamsters that were sporting walkers and wearing tees one which stated “Over the Hill”. To know Lauren and Paula, you also have to know about their three hamsters; Pemaquid, Ponce and Nantucket. This celebration was only a small surprise of events that were being planned by the Chapter’s board to celebrate their “50th”. Tired folks then headed to their rooms to rest while others continued the party in and around the pool.
Our last day on this lighthouse tour became a slow leisurely morning even though it was not planned to be that way. Our first stop was at the Erie Land Light; where “caretaker” Pat Scutella opened the base of the light for us. Pat had asked permission from the City of Erie to have us climb the tower; but due to the always same reason for not climbing, liability issues prevented it. (This issue is quite understandable owning a lighthouse of our own.) After speaking with Pat on site; he had hopes that it might become possible if we should return in the future. Dave Hannum had given me a Harbour Lights Artist Proof (only 12 in existence) of Erie Land and asked me to present the piece to Pat during our visit; which I did. He was much appreciative. After spending more time than planned, we headed over to Presque Isle State Park and drove back to the Presque Isle North Pier lighthouse, where just about everyone walked out the pier to the lighthouse to take pictures. Then off to the Presque Isle Lighthouse. I tried up until trip time to access this lighthouse. It has been done in the past; but only by permission of the Park Manager that resides in the facility. Since it had been recently opened to the public for a Park Festival; she was not receptive to open it up again for us. Again, maybe our timing will be better if we return in the future. So, we walked on the beach in front of the lighthouse to take our pictures. We asked everyone, and they did, to respect the property as she knew we were coming and we did not want to spoil our chances to come back and go inside. After shopping at “The Nature Center”, it was off to lunch at Quaker Steak ‘N Lube, a favorite haunt of Lauren and Paula. After entering and being seated, Juan had to unlock the bus so that everyone could retrieve their cameras to take pictures of this place. Hats off to Lauren and Paula for always talking about eating at one of these facilities; it was good food and good times to end our tour. Running way behind our schedule, tired and full from lunch, we headed back to Baltimore.
I want to personally thank Dave Hannum, a board member of the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association, for assisting me with the arrangements of this trip. His knowledge of the area, information and contacts saved many hours of planning for me. Special thanks goes out to Tony Pasek who researched and created the timelines for our brochure and also finding the postcards that were handed out to everyone on the trip. Thanks to Lauren and Paula Liebrecht for all of their assistance that is always given to me when I’m leading a group on our trips. Without these ladies, I could not accomplish everything. Thanks, Anne, for taking care of selling the Chinese auction. And, special thanks to everyone on the trip that stepped forward without hesitation to help load and unload the bus and carry items in and out; i.e.; Loft merchandise and auction prizes to name a few. And, you are probably tired of hearing this, but my sincere thanks always goes out to Robert, my husband, who puts up with my stress and moods before, during and after these trips. He plays a very important part in trip planning and helping to make them a success.
This trip is now a memory to most of you and your pictures will hold that memory. Having or not having hot water will fade away. Breakfast not being served on time will fade away. Eating dinner in a room that felt like a sauna will fade away. Getting back home over 2 hours late will fade away. Laughter on the bus, led by Karen McMichael, sliders that don’t work on Bingo cards and half of a half of a chicken will hopefully never fade away. Your laughter and smiles will always be the best memory for me. Your smiles are what keeps me going to help plan some of the best lighthouse tours, I hope, you have ever taken. I look forward to seeing those smiling faces again in 2008.