Toledo… Harbor?

lighthouseOur first day in Toledo for bike camp afforded my partner Kevin and I a little free time. We had heard about a state park called Maumee Bay, and figured a little fresh air would do us some good.

“It’s on the beach!”

Okay, I’d never been to the Midwest, so there were a couple facts that I was about to learn which caught me by surprise. 1) Ohio has a coastline, kinda, because Lake Erie is big enough, I suppose that it’s collision with Ohio  might be called a coastline. 2) Ohio shares an international border with Canada, kinda, though the border is some miles out in the aforementioned lake.

None of these facts having occurred to myself or Kevin before heading to Maumee Bay left us lamely unprepared for an afternoon on the beach. Pulling into the expansive parking lot, we saw bathing suits, grills laden with meats, folks enjoying volleyball and other activities. Kevin and I had nothing other than our shoes and our company garb, and as we walked along the pathways, thick grass on either side, I felt a desperate need to throw a frizbee. We were missing out!

But all was not lost. We stumbled into a modestly bustling public events sort of area where canopies were set up near a band shell. A woman approached us from beneath her shade and asked us for a contribution.

“Save the lighthouse!” she said, shaking a donation jar at us. When I played naive out-of-towner to sidestep any obligation to contribute, the woman explained that this cluster was an event by a landmark conservation society with the aim of preserving and restoring the Toledo Harbor Lighthouse, which had gone unused and had been ravaged by vandalism.

“Here’s a model of the lighthouse,” she gestured toward an eight foot paper mache rendition of the famed beacon, “And if you walk up on that rise, you ought to be able to see the lighthouse off in that direction, about two miles out.”

“Splendid!” and I was off to the beachhead.

The lighthouse was out there, a speck on the horizon, as were the border patrol boats. The water was pleasant enough, and for some reason the presence of shells in the surf struck me as improbable. What is this wizardry? Some kind of… inland sea? In Ohio? Where am I? The mysticism wore off when, further down the sandy beach, a large sign proclaimed that bacteria levels in the great Lake Erie was unusually high, and that people with weak immune systems ought not go swimming.

Back in the event cluster, I bought some nice greeting cards featuring the Toledo Harbor Lighthouse in watercolor by a local artist. Kevin and I discussed coming back to this pleasant state park later, only with swimming suits and floaties and hotdogs, but we never did.

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