In which our intrepid hero encounters a reasonably great lake…
I grew up in the desert and as a result have always been fascinated by large bodies of water. As a kid, I had never seen any body of water larger than the Caballo or Elephant Butte reservoirs in New Mexico. When I was a freshman in college in San Antonio, I drove one night with friends to the Gulf of Mexico, but it was pitch black and I didn’t see a thing! I don’t know how old I was before I ever saw an ocean. So bodies of water—large rivers (the Rio Grande doesn’t cut it!), large lakes, oceans, bays, all of that stuff—is sort of like a fascinating foreign country to me.
[Remember that you can click on each image below to see larger, better versions]
So when I had an opportunity to drive along the shores of Lake Erie and take some pictures, I grabbed it. I had to be in Detroit for an ASL event and had all day that Sunday to get home from Detroit. So I planned a leisurely excursion: I would drive east along the shore of Lake Erie, then about halfway across the state, make a right and head south and see a little bit of north central Ohio.
I was mightily tempted to take some pictures in Detroit, especially along Gratiot, because of the dilapidated and abandoned buildings there, but managed to keep control. I passed through Toledo, but had planned not to take any pictures of the city on this trip (I’ll have some more dedicated time for Toledo in the future). However, as I was going down the freeway, I caught a glimpse of one very worn down building and I decided I just had to snap a picture of it. I got off the freeway and managed to navigate my way back to the building I had spotted, below.
This actually turned out to be a lesson for me. If you look at the building from this side, it looks like yet another abandoned old industrial building. This is the side of the building I saw from the freeway (though from an angle from the direction of the trees, I think).
However, look below for the other side of the building. From this side, we see that it has actually undergone restoration and is clearly occupied. I don’t know if those are offices or apartments or what. But it was nice to see that there was definitely still life in this building!
On the outskirts of Toledo, I came across this refinery. The sign here says “Toledo Refining Company,” but it actually seems to belong to the company PBF Energy. It refines crude oil from the U.S. and Canada. Back in 1988, I worked for a few months for a contractor at a Chevron refinery in El Paso. There were no signs about search dogs there at that time. I did, however, have to shave off my beard for safety reasons (so it has been 25 years since I have shaved my beard off!).
A bit more cheery than an oil refinery was this ice cream shack, the Dairy Depot in Oregon, Ohio.
Once I got past the environs of Greater Toledo, I began to approach lake country. Some years ago, I had to drive from Detroit to Cleveland, so instead of taking I-80, I drove the whole way along the lake shore. I found it fascinating, because I had never really thought of Lake Erie as a likely vacation destination, when in fact, almost the whole shoreline in one way or another is dedicated to what we can call lakeshore leisure. One great example of that can be seen below. What you see there all along the horizon is a row of trailers and campers, and behind them a row of boats, indicating the presence of a marina there. I’ve probably driven through villages in Ohio with fewer people than this temporary town.
One thing I discovered, though, was that, from the road, it is really difficult to actually get a gimpse of Lake Erie. There is no real equivalent of Chicago’s Lakeshore Drive in northwestern Ohio. Even when you get frustratingly close to the lake—as in the below shot—you don’t actually see the lake!
What can you see, instead of Lake Erie? A nuclear energy plant: the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station, which dominates the surrounding landscape like no other feature. It’s been the source of two of the five most dangerous nuclear power plant accidents since 1979, so congratulations, Oak Harbor, Ohio!
What I’d discover, so many times (only a few of which are represented here) is that I’d take a picture of something—in this case, the Happy Hooker bait shop), only to find that it was the nuclear power plant which still dominated the picture. There’s sort of a Mount Doom aspect to it.
It was a surprise to me, the first time I drove along Lake Erie, to find out how dominated much of it was by small residences along the lakeshore, typically second homes or timeshares or rentals. I will call these “lake shacks” just as I called their riverine equivalents “river shacks.” At some points, they are crowded so close together that you can barely even see the lake. And, believe it or not, Lake Erie is actually in this picture. There is a tiny sliver of it visible between the two cottages in the middle, barely distinguishable from the sky above the lake. Hey, can I take lake pictures or what! At the time I took the picture, I was not even aware the lake was visible.
Lots of people in the area make money by renting rooms, shacks or trailer spaces to lake-ationers.
It actually took me a long time and a lot of failed tries before I could actually find a place where I could, from a road, see the lake itself. That was largely due to this large elevated lake residence—I could look under the house and see the lake. Notice the tiny sailboat in the distance?
Notice, too, the no trespassing sign. These are ubiquitous along Lake Erie (as we shall see). Sadly, Ohio is a state whose laws basically do not allow most Ohioans access to one of the state’s greatest natural features: its Lake Erie shoreline. A recent Ohio Supreme Court decision made it even worse, ruling that public access to Lake Erie only begins “where water usually stands when free from disturbing causes.” This means that in Ohio, the shoreline is not de facto public (like the California coastline is, for example). Rather, people can own property right down to the water line—not even the high-water mark, but the lowest water mark. Because of this, you can’t even walk down Lake Erie’s shoreline unless you are at a rare “public” beach. Ohio gives a big “screw you” to its own citizens, as well as all visitors from other states.
So in places like the below stretch of the lake, you can see the lake, but you can’t actually touch it without being arrested for trespassing. Nice, huh?
I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a pre-fab lake shack.
There is a lot of variety in lake shacks: different styles, a wide variety of ages, different sizes. This one has been here a while; you see the large television aerial designed to pick up a distant transmission, made obsolete by the satellite dish.
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