July 15th, 2014

krazy koati

And the last known survivor

I should mention our hotel, the Glass House Inn, had signs meant to suggest it'd been a travellers rest area since 1762, which was charming. It's a classic old-style motel, with doors for each room opening onto the parking lot, and in front of each is a hitching post complete with horse's head. They also had an in-ground heated pool, which we never found time to use, because we're bad about that.

For our return day we figured to head back west, presumably stopping in Cedar Point for a couple hours as that's a pretty good midpoint. But we thought to look up what lighthouses might be in the area and discovered three in the Erie area, one of them on the mainland and two on Presque Isle. The one on the mainland --- the ``Land Lighthouse'' --- is the oldest, the third attempt to build a lighthouse there, and in what's presently a city park. We'd parked in a little lot inside a gate by a house that gave off hints of being a private home, only, then, why was there a parking lot for five cars? But then why were there four cars parked in there and nobody but us prowling around the lighthouse? Well, nobody came out and yelled at us, anyway.

The Land Lighthouse had a timeline pointing it out as the ``First U.S. lighthouse to shine on Great Lakes'', though the sign on the building claims it's the ``First lighthouse on the Great Lakes''. I'm curious what Britain and Canada would say about the matter. As mentioned it's the third lighthouse on the area and it struck me many of the lighthouses we'd seen up north were the third or fourth on the spot, with earlier ones failing in shockingly little time. It seems easy to construct a narrative of the young United States figuring it can build lighthouses much cheaper than the United Kingdom would, only to learn that a cheap lighthouse falls over much sooner than an expensive one does.

While driving to Presque Isle we spotted what looked like a lighthouse closer to town and turned in to see it. That was an observation tower on the shore, set near the replica of the brig Niagara of Oliver Hazard Perry fame, and from it we could see Presque Isle and the Commodore Perry monument over there. We also got to learn a little more about the area in the War of 1812, which was the sort of ramshackle and kind of sad affair that gets places named Misery Bay.

Presque Isle has a welcome center literally across the street from Waldameer, but the park itself is on the peninsula, and we drove into it and kept feeling like we were lost on a single-lane road. The problem was we'd imagined Presque Isle to be much smaller than it actually is, maybe about the size of Cedar Point's point, so when we kept driving and driving and driving we assumed we'd somehow missed the lighthouses.

We hadn't, of course, but were relieved to find the first one, which is fenced off as it's a private residence. You can go up pretty close to it and take pictures, which surely the private residents appreciate, though. Also inside the gate is an octagonal metal contraption that looks for all the world like half-decayed playground equipment but we couldn't figure what it might be. So we spent time wandering around the beach and enjoying its appearances.

We did manage to get lost looking for the next lighthouse, but that's because the peninsula gets wide enough to support several roads at once and the other lighthouse was by a Coast Guard facility. This mistake did take us to the Commodore Perry monument, where I parked in the middle of a swarm of every midge in the world, and we prowled around that monument. Besides the tower it had a fountain/moat built around it a couple decades ago, so around the fountain were plaques saying what the engraving at the base of the monument, now too far away to read, said. At least most of them are; there's some engraving that's not repeated by readable plaques.

The park also mentions the ``interesting'' fate of the ships from Perry's battle. Some were burned, some were deliberately sunk for storage and later raised for various purposes. The most interesting fates: ``The Niagara was sunk in Misery Bay around 1822 and raised in 1913. A replica of the Niagara, Pennsylvania's flagship, sails from Erie's Maritime Museum'', which you'll note doesn't actually say what happened to the Niagara. And then ``The Lawrence was refitted after the battle and served during the remainder of the war. She was sunk in Misery Bay around 1822, raised in 1835 and sunk again, raised in 1875 and sunk near the city of Erie, raised in 1876, cut in two, and sent to Philadelphia for the centennial celebration.'' I admit not knowing what happend to it after this, but I like to imagine it got sunk and raised simultaneously until it vanished in a fit of aftermath.

The last of the lighthouses was a squat, retangular thing, on the end of a concrete pier, very much like the ones we'd seen in Muskegon last year. There were quite a few people fishing and even more fish, though we don't know what they were doing to get together.

While we took copious photographs we didn't get Lighthouse Society stamps because those were back at the welcome center, which is off the peninsula and back near Waldameer Park. We parked in the relative shade and started walking toward the center when a bird began dive-bombing me. bunny_hugger figured it was going after insects near me that we just didn't see, but it came back several times over missing me by inches. I had to conclude it was personal, and that I was probably too near its nest with, presumably, chicks. And we did find quite nearby a birdhouse. When I stepped away from it the bird stopped on the birdhouse to perch and bunny_hugger identified it: it was a purple martin, the first she'd ever to her knowledge seen. Apparently those birdhouses in the Waldameer park were doing exactly their job.

The woman at the gift shop knew vaguely of the lighthouse stamps, though only found two of them right away. When bunny_hugger mentioned the third she found that. We didn't have her lighthouse passport book, but did have some paper to use to get stamps --- two of each, for safety's sake --- to cut out and paste into the book later. I think we also set off a bit of confusion when bunny_hugger asked how to make a donation to the park, the clerk went back to find advice. I was worried they thought we were talking about, you know, the kind of donation that gets your name on a plaque instead of, like, five or ten dollars.

Well, we got all that straightened out and picked up a few souvenirs, and wondered about a set of ``animals of Presque Isle'' which included stuff like polar bears. Also we learned just how the locals say the name: it comes across more as ``presk i'll'' than how I want to pronounce it. It's comforting, I suppose, to learn that if I ever run out of Michigan place names to mispronounce I'll still have plenty of midwestern locations to get wrong. I'll never run out of Michigan place names to mispronounce.

Trivia: There were 80 bank failures in the United States in 1905, and only 53 failures in 1906 (34 state banks, 13 private banks, and 6 national banks). Source: The Panic of 1907: Lessons Learned from the Market's Perfect Storm, Robert F Bruner, Sean D Carr.

Currently Reading: A Call To Arms: Mobilizing America For World War II, Maury Klein.