Shore Thing

Well, we’re back. My daughter Chloë and I had a most enjoyable drive from Ann Arbor to Brooklyn, with a stopover on Saturday night in State College, Pennsylvania.

We traversed a splendid transect of rural and industrial America, and, being in no particular hurry, took a couple of little detours. The first was a brief hop northward from Route 80 to catch a glimpse of Lake Erie; we achieved this in the town of Lorain, a western suburb of Cleveland. This was the third year I’ve made this round trip to fetch Chloë at the end of the school year, and each time I’ve thought about the Shining Big Sea Water just a few miles away, all unseen. This year we decided to take a peek.

Lorain is flat and functional as you approach the lake heading north along Baumhart Road; the farmland is speckled with warehouses, garages, and other structures for which any aesthetic decision-making clearly went no further than the color of the paint. The ultimate mile or so of roadfront is occupied by the Ford Motor Company’s enormous Lorain Assembly Plant, where, most recently, Econoline vans (but over the years Falcons, Fairlanes, LTDs, Torinos and other signature models) were born. The plant is empty now, though, its prestigious “Salaried Parking” lot deserted. The last Econoline rolled off the line on December 14, 2005, at 11:00 am.

Baumhart Road ends at Route 6, just at the edge of the water (that’s the same U.S. Highway 6 that, having begun in Bishop, California, passes through lovely Wellfleet, Massachussetts, on its way to Provincetown at the tip of Cape Cod, and which was once the longest highway in America), but our view of the lake was blocked by a freight train sitting on the old New York Central tracks. So we took a right, heading east along West Erie Avenue, always looking left for a gap in the shorefront apartments and private houses, and finally found what we wanted: Lakeview Park, a charming spot in the middle of town. A shady greensward overlooks a sandy beach and the main attraction – the clear and seemingly limitless expanse of Lake Erie. Here’s a snapshot:

Things were pretty quiet there today, but it was not always so; Lakeview Park was the wrong place to be on the afternoon of June 28th, 1924, when a tornado blew ashore there, with calamitous results.

There’s more to tell, but central Pennsylvania deserves its own post, and it’s getting late.

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