In which our intrepid hero passes motorcars and motor hotels to reach the shores of Lake Erie…
One day, when my sister and I were little, we were playing in the backyard of my grandparents’ house in El Paso. We got a little bored and were wondering what to do when I had a brainstorm. I went inside and brought out a spiral notebook—I almost always had one with me, because I loved to draw, even at that early age—and on a page of that notebook, I drew a treasure map, snaking around the outside of my grandparents’ house. It had a dotted line for the adventurer to follow and even a big X at the place where the treasure would be. When I was done, my sister and I started following the map, tracing that dotted line until finally we came to the place on the map marked by the X.
And you know what? There was no treasure there! Despite the fact that it was clearly marked on the map, there was no treasure in the actual spot. And I learned a valuable lesson that day: you make your own treasure.
[Remember that you can click on each image below to see a larger, better image]
When last we met, dear reader, I was heading northwards, on an expedition to the Lake Erie shore, taken on the day after Thanksgiving, November 29, 2013. I was close to the lake, but not there yet. I was still in the tiny village of Bloomville, Ohio (population 956 and shrinking, salute!).
Bloomville has definitely seen better days since its beginnings in the 1830s. In the late 1800s, Bloomville had nearly 700 residents, not much shy of their number now, and had several newspapers and numerous businesses, including a furniture dealership, a bookstore, a harness shop, a dry goods store, a pharmacy, various grocers, several doctors, a number of agricultural-related businesses, a barber, and others. For some eleven years, Bloomville hosted The Oar Factory, described as a “great industry,” whose loss dealt an economic blow to Bloomville. Bloomville also had the Bloomville Sash, Door and Blind Factory and Sawmill, in addition to Bloomville Mill Company, the Tile and Drainpipe factory, Shoutz & Son’s Steam Flour Mill, and several quarries and limekilns. In the photograph above, we can see Bloomville in less optimistic times. There’s only one working business in this photo, a bar called the Swack Shack.
But Bloomville does have some life to it; it even has a bank and a library.
This large building was once Bloomville’s Masonic Temple. Not only does it say that right on the building, but you can also see a little Masonic emblem mounted to the front of the building (2nd floor, far right).
Enough of Bloomville. Let’s head north back into the countryside. I show this photo of a small corn bin in order to tell a story on myself. After I moved to Ohio, I began to see lots of these structures—but they never had any corn in them, so I wasn’t sure what they were for. I finally decided that this was a sort of cage in which chickens or turkeys could be kept. I assumed that for years—until I actually saw a full corn bin. Most corn bins these days aren’t wire or mesh, but have solid walls, so you can’t see anything inside. I googled “corn bin” to see if there was anything interesting I could add to this, but was surprised to discover that a huge proportion of the Google results consisted of news stories about people getting trapped in and often dying in corn bin accidents. One of them had the following grim quotation: “An Iowa man knows he beat the odds, saying ‘My whole life I’ve been told that once you go down in a grain bin, you die.’” Of course, that wasn’t this kind of corn bin (and I am sure did not have cobs), but still—that was a long litany of bad news stories.
Judging by the architecture and the windows, this was probably once a small schoolhouse.
I was impressed by this old but well-kept-up farmhouse. I will say that the building once had what was clearly a large and nice porch, which has since been taken down. I see this a lot on these old buildings and I can only assume that once a wooden porch began to rot and fall apart, a lot of times the owner simply deemed it not worth the effort to construct another porch and decided to go it porchless instead. That to me is a shame. I absolutely love porches and my own house has virtually no porch at all—certainly not one you can sit down on and enjoy the neighborhood—so I suffer from a great deal of porch envy.
This was a nice enough barn, but what struck me about it was the sign with the word “America” on it. Just “America.”
These old cars were an interesting sight to behold as I drove down the road. The tires would seem to indicate some attempt to restore them or turn them into “hot rods,” but the bodies of the vehicles indicate that this never actually happened.
Here’s a closer look at one of them. Does anybody recognize the model?
Here’s a quick glimpse at another Ohio town, Bellevue, Ohio (population 8,202, salute!), which I visited previously in August (see Excursion 8, Part 6). I was hurrying to get to Lake Erie, so I did not tarry.
North of Bellevue, I came across the scene for this, my favorite photograph of this section of the excursion. I loved this old truck, a mix of green and red rust, and I was able to compose the photograph in a way to provide depth to it, too, so that it wasn’t simply a close-up of an old vehicle. I also consciously tried to make the photograph timeless (there was, for example, a modern car just off-camera to the right, which I studiously avoided). I would like to think that this photograph is an example of good composition.
I did try a couple version of the photograph in post-processing, to try to give it even more of an “out of time’ feel to it. I liked this version, because the vivid greens enhance the color scheme, while the vignetting creates a “through the porthole of time” sort of feel.
Here’s a verison of it in a sort of yellowed/sepia black and white—again, an attempt to produce a time machine effect. It is nice, but you lose the nice red-green color combination.
Outside of Sandusky, on U.S. 6, we begin to see a bevy of old motor hotels, relics from the glorious era before the dawn of the Interstate Highway. In those days (roughly 1920s through the early 1960s), U.S. 6 was one of the most important highways in the country, stretching from California to Massachusetts. During the period 1936-1964 it was the longest highway in the United States. It once had a great many motels along its length, but the interstates dealt them a heavy blow, and many no longer exist. A few still eke out an existence, somehow. The Value Inn Motel, above, is one of them, a lesser light. It probably survives solely because it is only a couple of miles from Cedar Point, a major amusement park and weekend destination. Unless you are hiding from the cops, you might want to find other accommodations—the Expedia reviews are dreadful (but fun to read).
I was much more taken by the nearby Mecca Motel, not so much because of the building—which, as you can see in the background—was unremarkable—but because of the name and the sign (including the neon “Honest”). Reviews were only slightly better than the Value Inn, so visitor beware.
As this 1950s era postcard suggests, it was once rather nicer. I think the sign got better as the motel got shabbier (the motel sign of Dorian Gray).
Not all of these old motels are so shabby, though. The Maples Motel, with another great neon sign, has consistently very positive good reviews.
And, finally, we arrive at the shores of Lake Erie! You can already see a bit of ice in this photograph—in fact, in the winter to come, Lake Erie would almost completely (about 95%) freeze over, the most amount of freezing in a long, long time (and which would drive many of these birds elsewhere to find food).
One is reminded with this shot of two of the main features of Lake Erie: 1) this shot is taken on private property; the vast majority of Lake Erie is closed to the public with no shoreline access, thanks to Ohio law that gives property owners shoreline ownership); and 2) Lake Erie is also an industrial lake.
One last cheerful shot of a little restaurant I couldn’t ignore: the sea-monstery Lemmy’s Restaurant in Huron, Ohio, featuring perch, perch and more perch! Lemmy is apparently the Lake Erie Monster (LEMmy).