Posted June 22, 2019 – Narrated by Carmen
It was a gas, a blast and it went too fast.
The 10th annual Airstream Family Reunion at The Mothership in Jackson Center, Ohio was group camping nirvana.
Beauty felt the love.
Since it was all about her, we sprung for a pair of new stilettos. She pulled out of the bay strutting four more inches in height. The technicians replaced her 18 year-old axles and gave her a lift to boot.
Now, with more clearance underneath for access, damage control, and roomier dry-docking for our kayaks, the possibilities are limitless.
After bidding farewell to fellow Airstreamers and our favorite restaurant – J. Marie’s in downtown Wapakoneta …
… we set out for Put-In-Bay, traveling over hill and dale and through adorable small towns.
After the best breakfast In The World at Pilgrim Family Restaurant in Findlay …
… we continued on, past swollen river banks, flooded commercial areas, and farms…
Detours led us to higher ground and we arrived at Port Clinton by early afternoon, setting eyes on Lake Erie for the first time.
The Ferry ride
More confident since the ferry ride to Port Townsend, I boarded the little Miller Ferry completely sober (no dramamine). I wanted to observe the lake. Depending on conditions, I’d go paddling before sunset.
The day was sunny and calm. The $82 one-way twenty-minute-ride went smooth as silk with no stomach upset.
Put In Bay, South Bass Island, Ohio
From the dock, it was only a five minute drive to South Bass State Park where Jim’s amazing good luck struck gold again with a last-minute one-week reservation.
From “America”- as Put-in Bay locals call the mainland – it took about an hour to get to the island, set up camp and hit the town.
From the moment we disembarked, we were puzzled by the words DON’T GIVE UP THE SHIP emblazoned on Flags, mailboxes, and graffiti.
As a navy brat with the surname, Perry, I’m embarrassed to reveal that I had to google that famous battle cry. Thanks to Wikipedia – early American history from grade school came flooding back.
Well, hello Put-In-Bay. Let’s explore!
The island life fever struck immediately. It didn’t take much for Jim to talk me into a beer rather than a paddle.
So, we hitched up Pico and walked the short distance to town and stopped in the Put In Bay Brewery and Distillery for IPA, friendly conversation and tips from the wonderful staff who hail from all over Ohio to work through the summer season.
We arrived a week before season truly began. Everything was open, but we’d miss the concerts, the clam bake, the wine festival ... but at least the sunsets were playing free concerts every night for pre-season viewing.
Jim checked the campground office everyday for cancellations, but no luck. We would have to make the best of a short seven-day stay.
It seemed like it was raining all over the world, and Lake Erie got her share. Fortunately, there were breaks – and I set out the following morning on my kayak.
From the campground, I turned right paddling north along the shoreline toward Put-In-Bay, only a 30-40 minutes one-way trip. I stopped at PIB for a bit of R&R and to salute Perry’s Victory Monument – one Perry to another – from the water.
On the way back to the campground, I could clearly see the famous Benson Ford and other lake houses …
On another day, I took a misty mid-day paddle to one of the tiny “pudding” shaped islands. The craggy caves and inlets seemed to keep a muscular grip on the secrets and stories of these waters.
Hikes, bikes and walks
Most days, we wandered the island on bikes and took quiet nature walks with Pico.
Nothing is very far away in Put In Bay and the hills are low and few – but that doesn’t hinder the golf-cart rental biz.
Day-trippers from “America” rent the open-air vehicles at the ferry and off they go ogling the charming houses and cabins tucked in beside the lake, streams and ponds.
But tourists buzzing around is music to the merchants ears. Summer tourism is the primary industry here. Throughout the Springtime, the guest houses, resorts and B&B’s break out the porch paint, fluff the cushions and furnish the deep porches so guests can bask in the tranquility of lake life …
Everyone seems to be competing for house and garden awards.
For such a tiny island town, PIB hits every sweet spot.
There’s a vibrant night life …
Fishing and recreational boating …
Attractions for the kids …
The best crepes ever at The Forge …
… and, forested areas with birdsong and leaves rustling on the soft lake breeze to help one to sleep off all that chow and excitement.
Put-in Bay is also a historic island resort.
The Battle of Put-In-Bay – also known as The Battle Of Lake Erie – was fought and won here. The towering monument, Perry’s Victory – a National Park site – is an ever present reminder in the distance.
All visitors must pay homage to the town’s founder, Joseph DeRivera at the amazing new tree sculpture in the town square.
We can’t believe we missed the wineries – but we often sighted the old vineyards along the road – some dating back to the 1850’s. The annual wine festival is a hot ticket for island wine enthusiasts.
The Lake Erie Islands Conservancy works to protect and preserve the ecosystem of the Bass Islands. With only 150 residents on PIB – including – some who winter on South Bass Island with no doctor or pharmacy – this is a close knit community. Not only do they run the tourism show, but they are also the guardians of an exceedingly fragile environment.
Everywhere – in the cemetery, parks, and nature trails – memorials to deceased neighbors give testimony to the strength of community and to the quality of life they all treasure.
It’s a marvel, really.
PIB is the little town that can do anything.
With the kayaking festival in full swing, we were unable to secure even one more day. So, reluctantly, we boarded the ferry home and pulled away from South Bass Island, leaving the charms of island life behind.
We felt stronger in body and spirit for being there – experiencing the community, living deep in the elements and immersing in history.
Oh well … back to America.
This time the ride was bit rough …
But, no worries. We’re ferry people now. It’s easy. Just remember to set the brake and DON’T GIVE UP THE SHIP!