Tag Archives: Lake Erie Islands

Time to go to Cleveland…

18 Feb

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In late December we packed a few bags and pointed the car toward Cleveland. The city is full of good restaurants, great architecture and fun things to do. Instead of  heading directly to the 216 we stopped in at the Liberty Aviation Museum in Port Clinton OH. Established in 1991 to showcase WWII aircraft, the museum is located on the grounds of the Erie-Ottawa International Airport. We enter off of State Rd, the complex is huge, parking is easy. The lobby gives way to Gallery 1, Civilian Aviation, display cases and glass shelves display aviation items and National Air Race memorabilia; I’m not really into planes so I’m not sure what I’m looking at. I walk around looking at displays and reading signs, suddenly I find myself fascinated. We are near the Lake Erie Islands, you’ve probably heard of, if not been to, Put-In-Bay, I guess I never really thought about it but airplanes were an important form of all-season travel between the islands and t0/from the mainland. An old billboard reads “Fly Island Airlines” on the famous Tri-Motor, hhmm, what is this Tri-Motor? 

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The Ford Tri-Motor is an American 3-engine transport aircraft brought to the world by Henry and Edsel Ford, production started in 1925 and ended in 1933, 199 were made, it was nicknamed The Tin Goose. Henry Ford brought us the first paved runway, the first passenger terminal, hangar, airmail and radio navigation. Over 100 airlines flew the Tri-Motor, the design was superior to other airliners providing comfortable passenger service, safety and reliability. It spurred the first coast-to-coast flight by Transcontinental Air Transport (later TWA), in 1927 a Ford Tri-Motor was used for flight from Key West to Havana Cuba. Locally the Tri-Motor was a familiar sight over Lake Erie, it hauled passengers and freight, was used as an ambulance, school bus, hearse and mail plane. The plane had the capability to take off and land on short runways like the ones on the islands. Tri-Motors were used by second and third-tier airlines well into the 1960’s, I read some are still in use today.We continue through the gallery looking at black and white photos, TWA uniforms, models of planes and steamships; we watch a short film about Lake Erie ice fishing. Tables are being set up in Hangar 1 for an upcoming special event, we pop in for just a minute to check out the red plane, a silver 57 Chevy and an beautiful green Chrysler.

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It’s a short walk out the back door to the next building into Hangar 2, here we find a bevy of military vehicles; tanks, Jeeps, motorbikes and planes. Information and photos accompany most displays, there’s a lot to take in. A Grumman TBM 3E Avenger and a North American Harvard IV look small in the vast space. A vintage B-25 airplane named Georgie’s Girl features a beautiful woman with a halo (scantily) dressed in white, this would be Angela, the other side belongs to Helena, in red, with horns and a tail–cute. Another section of the building is dedicated for restoration, there’s a lot of it going on. We get a guided tour of the area, the big project is the PT 728 WWII boat. Sitting disassembled on jacks and cinder blocks there’s much work to be done, pieces are scattered about, new engines are covered, waiting to be installed. When finished, the hope is to be able to take tourists out in it. The museum is also home to the Tri-Motor Heritage Foundation and the Tin Goose Diner, a 1949 diner out of Elizabeth NJ.

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We’re off to the Cleveland Museum of Art, one of the world’s most distinguished comprehensive art museums and one of our favorites. Our DIA membership gets us into the special exhibition The Jazz Age: American Style in the 1920’s for free. This is the first major museum exhibition to focus on American taste and art during the 1920’s and 30’s. I love this time in American history, think about it, WWI had ended and we won, confidence was high, money was flowing, women earned the right to vote, European designers came to America, American artists studied and traveled abroad, social mores were redefined. It created a culture of elegance, glamour, decadence, extravagance; it was an era of change and contrast, and it was oh, so beautiful!  

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Look at these pictures; vibrant colors, streamlined designs, sumptuous materials. Cleveland’s own Rose Iron Works created the stunning Muse With Violin Screen, made of wrought iron, brass, silver and gold plating it’s a real eye catcher. The jewelry is to-die-for, dazzling diamonds, emeralds, pearls, much of it Art Deco in design. One look and you know what period the furniture is from, great lines, not necessarily comfortable. I recognize the white chair with the striped fabric, it’s on loan from the DIA, the super-cool green desk and chair were manufactured in Grand Rapids MI. Extravagant clocks and watches, amazing silver tea service sets, coffee servers, candle holders. Check out the massive chandelier, it’s incredible, opulent, all of that crystal, it reminds me of a fountain, it was made for the 1928 International Exposition of Art and Industry, as were many of the items in the exhibition.

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Attention to detail was really important, everything was pretty; perfume bottles, mirrors, hair brushes. The trophy for a 1923 ice skating competition is made of rock crystal to look like frozen water, silver, lapis lzuli and marble. Moving on to fashion, there’s a lovely display of dresses, think ‘flapper’; fringe, rhinestones, multi-levels, scalloped hems. Gone were tight fitting waistlines; women threw away their corsets and opted for a loose fit, they bobbed their hair, smoked cigarettes and danced. Automobiles followed fashion and design, the red 1937 Cord is a perfect example of streamlined design. I’m hoping the exhibit will travel to Detroit, I’d love to see it again.

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Every time we get to Cleveland there’s something new on Lorain Ave, tonight we’re having dinner at Xinji Noodle Bar. Located in a 2-story brick building the decor is industrial and playful. The brief menu is filled with Asian and Korean favorites, I sip on hot green tea waiting for our dinner to arrive. The Vegetarian Ramen is mushroom broth with a variety of mushrooms, Napa choy and of course, noodles, it’s soooo good! The Korean Fried Chicken Bao is outstanding; white chicken, sweet and spicy chili, pickle and Taiwanese cabbage, I think I could eat another. The Spicy Pork Dumplings came highly recommended, I can see why, they’re delicious. Another great find!

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Having a nightcap at Stone Mad Pub has become a Cleveland tradition for us. The place is charming; lots of wood, not too loud, a fireplace and great service. We hang out at the bar people-watching, chatting with the bartenders; Kris enjoys his whiskey, I’m having Bailey’s, my idea of dessert. It feels good to relax, to escape the real world, even if it’s only for a little while. 

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OHIO: Put-IN-Bay Part II

9 Jun

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We have finished lunch, with a bag of chocolate and a hot cup of coffee we continue our journey on South Bass Island; time to check out downtown. Back on Catawba Street, Kris points our trusty little green cart towards the business district; most of the tourists and summer residents will not arrive until Saturday, there are no crowds and getting around is a breeze. Cafe’s and bars are prevalent, patios are decked out with pots filled with colorful flowers, patrons linger over ice-cold beer at the Put-In-Bay Brewing Company. Buildings are a mix of Victorian and modern structures, souvenir t-shirts and hats hang on racks outside storefronts, a tiki bar complete with sand is doing a good business this afternoon.

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Delaware Ave serves as main street; boutiques, restaurants and bars facing the harbor give visitors an amazing water view. The first thing I notice when we make the turn is the line of golf carts parked along the curb, ours blends in with the other rentals, many independently owned carts are customized to the owners liking. Walking down the street, each establishment we pass has some variety of live music; a row of artificial Palm trees decorate a patio, tourists can indulge in ice cream and pizza. The Round House Bar is intriguing, we have to poke our heads in to check it out; opened in 1873 as the Columbia Restaurant, it remains an island favorite. Built of wood, it is all original except for the interior floor and front porch; inside a red, white and blue canopy is suspended from the ceiling, the round bar sits at the far end of the space, lovely wood moldings still surround the windows and doors, the neon “Whiskey” light above the front door is cool–clearly the ‘chicken patio’ is a new addition. The waterfront is active, a series of construction projects are in the works, the Jet Express has just delivered another group of folks to the island; yes, the summer season has begun!

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With time left before our ferry leaves, Kris is taking the scenic route back; after passing the excitement on the waterfront he turns on to Bay View, the scenery is gorgeous. On the left, a large estate features an elegant yellow house with a three-story tower overlooking the smallest of the Great Lakes. Built in the 1800’s, the Doller House belonged to Valentine Doller, PIB’s wealthiest citizen, it is now home to Put-In-Bay Winery; a glass of wine would be perfect about now. Making our way to the back of the house, we enter the sales and tasting room. Glass in hand we have a seat at one of the tables that sit on the front lawn, we sip our wine and watch the boats, aaahhh, this is the life.

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The rest of the drive takes us through the residential area; tiny cottages are nestled next to modern vacation homes with private beach fronts. Fishing is popular, charter fishing boats do a good business at PIB. The island offers golf, hiking trails, biplane rides, helicopter tours and para-sailing.We find ourselves back where we started, turn in the golf cart and wait to board the ferry; the group headed back to the mainland is small. Back at Catawba the line of cars heading to the island is super long, cars are turned off, people stand near their vehicles taking cold drinks from coolers, talking to others while they wait. We are headed south then east on 163 along the coastline.

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 Sitting in Sandusky Bay, off the coast of Marblehead Peninsula is Johnson’s Island; a causeway takes us to the island for a $2.00 fee. Driving around, we come across a group of homes surrounding a cove; perched high above the water they are expansive, elaborate winding staircases lead from backyard to marina below. Continuing our exploration we spot an old cemetery; a large sign explains that Johnson’s Island was a Confederate Prisoner of War Depot in 1861. This is actually a Confederate cemetery holding the remains of more than 200 men who were imprisoned on the island. The lawn is freshly mowed, slender white headstones form long straight rows, a black iron fence runs the perimeter of the cemetery. We walk over to the statue of a Confederate soldier atop a pedestal, the sun is low in the sky, the statue casts a long shadow across the open gate, a banner reads: Confederate Soldiers 1861-1912. From reading I learn the first prisoners arrived here in April of 1862, captured at battlefields such as Fort Henry and Fort Donelson, they came from the states of Tennessee, North Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi. In 1864 rations were cut, the prison was overcrowded, in closed in September of 1865; this is considered Ohio’s most significant Civil War site.

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We are back in the car and crossing Sandusky Bay, so far our journey has led us over bridges and causeways crossing bays and lakes; we are not done…. This time we pay the .50 cent toll for the pleasure of driving on yet another causeway: Cedar Point Road; the homes are amazing, as is the lake view. Back on Route 6 we hug the shoreline through tiny beach towns, when we reach Vermilion we stop for a late dinner. I can’t tell you how many times we have passed The Old Prague restaurant, it just so happens it was never at meal time, that is until tonight. Inside the door we are welcomed and seated at a table near the window; I am extremely hungry and thirsty, our server recommends a Primator Premium Dark, a Czech dark lager, how can I go wrong? After quickly scanning the menu and placing our order we watch as heaping plates of food arrive at nearby tables, the place  has the feel of an old-fashioned family restaurant, servers are on first name basis with customers. First to arrive is the sampler plate: breaded  sauerkraut balls, deep-fried slices of meatloaf, cheese sticks, fried potatoes, applesauce and a horseradish-type sauce; every single thing is delicious! The chicken paprikash and dumplings is outstanding, the chicken is moist and just falls apart, the sauce, a creamy goodness, the dumplings, some of the best we’ve ever had. We are still a good hour or more from Cleveland (via the scenic route) where we will be staying with a friend for the next couple of days. The remainder of the ride on the Lake Erie Circle Tour is an old familiar one for us, but one we enjoy each and every time.

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