Ohio, April 2015

Lake Erie! An amazing library! They’re play clothes, Captain! Well, lets start with that.

We watched the Sound of Music, and I was reminded of one of my favorite parenting mantras. During the many, many times over the years when I was in public with one or more children clad in stained, ill-fitting, and /or torn clothing, I would silently say this to myself.  I would get the hairy eyeball from people with and without children, at least I would think I was getting the hairy eyeball, and I would realize how we looked unkempt and possibly homeless and I would recall the scene. Julie Andrews (as Maria, the nun-apprentice-turned-nanny) says it beautifully as the captain’s children are embarrassing him, climbing trees, wearing outfits that Maria had made of discarded curtains. “Children should be able to play without worrying about their clothing,” she says, or something like that. YES! Thank you, Rodgers and Hammerstein.

ReCreation Land

My brother went camping so we only saw him briefly. Interestingly, he went out to a place in southeast Ohio called ReCreation Land. It looks like it is worth a trip someday.  I have been hiking in Hocking Hills area near beautiful Athens, Ohio, and this is not too far from there to the northeast.  Apparently, the energy company AEP reforested some land they had strip-mined for coal.  A depressing way to start out, but I guess we have to take what we can get sometimes.

Lake Erie

Lake Erie never disappoints. We went on a day that was warm and sunny at my parents’ place, but as we got closer to that large body of water just a few miles (as the crow flies) north, the weather got cooler and foggy.  By the time we reached the waters edge, we couldn’t see far at all. But that, of course, didn’t stop us. I was only a little bummed that we didn’t get to see any ice that may have been floating out farther from the shore- we just couldn’t see that far.


The Morley Library

Wow I thought I’d died and gone to library heaven. I had gone to the library in Painesville, Ohio as a teenager, and again as an adult but I hadn’t visited for many years. I had heard it was rebuilt but I was flabbergasted by what I saw as we pulled into the parking lot. It was a new, giant, brick and stone building that I later found out was built in 2005.  The children’s area was larger than our whole library!

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We had the egg hunt in my parents’ back yard, fancy clothes, a big dinner, and lots of movie-watching.  Three generations of females posed on the back deck, photographed by my Dad the proud husband/Dad/Grandfather.


And that is what we did between driving West and later back East across PA a couple of weeks ago.  It was bittersweet knowing we are not planning to be there next year, and seeing the kids-ok, I guess all of us- get older during the Easter egg hunt every year.  Welcome Spring!

Chardon and Lake Erie, Ohio, End’o’September, 2014

It was time to visit the grandparents again, so we headed West across the Allegheny Mountains and north to our favorite Great Lake.  The trees were beginning to change color, yet the weather was warm enough to take a dip in Lake Erie.  First, though, we had dinner in the lovely little city of Chardon.

While there are many small cities and towns in Ohio that have succumbed to economic woes and the accompanying population loss, Chardon was looking quite well.  There was a town square with a lovely gazebo flanked by historic brick buildings, and there were flower baskets hanging along the shops, and a neat bricked sidewalk.  Also, there was live bluegrass music in the gazebo on that Friday night.  We  saw a farmer’s market in the square, an historic town clock that was working, and people enjoying the music.  I was marveling at the surroundings and the perfect evening, while my less-optimistic brother, who grudgingly survived last year’s harsh winter there, commented “yeah, enjoy it now because there will be three feet of snow on it next week!”

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The weather was sunny and warm every day, and every day I attempted to get the kids to the beach, but they wanted to be spoiled by my parents, jump on the neighbor’s trampoline, and play with the neighborhood kids instead.  One day I finally succeeded.

We went to Fairport Harbor, home of an historic lighthouse and its little corner of the Lake Erie beach.  It was summer-like weather without the crowds and parking fees, what not to like?

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We saw sailboats – too bad we didn’t have the Dragonfly along.  The kids were happy cartwheeling and enjoying a little bonus summertime.

After a few days there, we headed back East, but not quite home, we had another adventure up our sleeves, stay tuned for part 2 of this little trip!

Lake County, Ohio, April 2014

Easter came and again we were drawn to Northeast Ohio like… like seagulls to the shores of Lake Erie?  Like bargain shoppers to the Great Lakes Mall?  I don’t know a great metaphor here but I did in fact travel I-80 with my offspring to cross the substantial width of The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in both directions yet again.  The trip exceeded my expectations since the kids opted to stay six days instead of four, we had a great Easter egg hunt and an amazing Easter dinner, we celebrated my parents’ 53rd (!!!) wedding anniversary, we had some sunny weather, and we explored a castle ruin on a misty day.   We took advantage of three parks not too far from the grandparents’ place, two of which were new to me!  First, the castle.

Squire’s Castle/ North Chagrin Reservation 


I cannot believe I had never been to this place in my years growing up not too far away. Besides being in a beautiful 1,700 acre park with wetlands and a plethora of trails and picnic areas, it might be haunted by Mrs. Squire!  It seems that Feargus B Squire, wealthy V.P. of Standard Oil in the late 1800’s, had planned to build an estate here but abandoned plans and sold the property.  Feargus was indeed planning big -what we explored is the shell of the gatehouse, which was used as his residence while planning the rest of the property prior to his ditching and selling the place.  The ghost story goes that Mrs. Squire didn’t like the rural life, died there and haunts the castle.  Deadohio.com, a website I clearly need to spend some time with, has some great photos and a few more details on the legend.  As for us, it was a great place for hide-and-seek and there just may have been unicorns in the distant fog that day!

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 Headlands Beach

Lake Erie beckoned and we heeded the call.  I try to go there every visit, but the January weather this year kept us away.  April was much nicer and we went to the East end of the beach this time.  There are lovely sand dunes there, a unique protected habitat for certain grass species and the birds and butterflies that use them.  It was very peaceful there as it was too cold for swimming so the crowds were elsewhere.  The wind in the grasses was beautiful, as were the driftwood and rocks we found.  This beach doesn’t have the playground on the beach like the Fairport Harbor Beach, but sand, driftwood and stones are just as entertaining, maybe more so.

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We had the place to ourselves, the sun was right, and I took too many pictures.  Really built this amazing driftwood structure and we went back later and it was still there!  And there were ladybugs and headstands at Headlands that day.

Gully Brook

We are always happy to explore muddy areas and creeks, and we did just that at Gully Brook Park.  This natural area has a long history of appreciation from Ohio nature lovers and was made into the park and protected land only in 2011.  It was another new Metroparks park for me, and not too far from Squire’s Castle.  About a hundred years ago, this land was known for wildflowers, hawk and owl habitat, and large elm trees.  As it happened, I-90 was routed through the area in the 1950’s and changed it drastically.  The preservation of a mile of creek and over 170 acres of natural lands is a triumph for people and wildlife here, since it came after years of organizing and since it is bordered by the large highway and could be further ruined and paved over to the detriment of the non-human inhabitants.  As it is, the wildflower-covered hills are no longer.  But we can enjoy the wetlands, ravine, and paths that are now there.

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Addendum July 2013 Headlands Beach State Park


I thought we had done all our trippin’ in Ohio and then we went to Headlands!  And we saw a goddess!  We go here once in a while, and it really is a nice beach.  There is about a mile of natural sand along the lake with preserved sand dunes and driftwood and rocks by the water.  The day before we were there they had just had a festival and there was a beautiful, professionally done sand sculpture as we entered the beach.

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Really is looking through the other side in L photo

It was incredibly windy and the kites were a huge success.  The kids did go swimming, but with the wind and lower temperatures it was too cold for me.  There were lifeguards and white-capped waves, not too many people swimming.IMG_0932


We have been here in winter, too, collecting stones and looking at driftwood.

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Headlands in January 2013. I make the kids go almost every time we are in Ohio to get them out of the house and to appreciate a unique natural place.

Here is a photo from April 2010.  There is a strip of melting ice and the kids were playing on it in their warm-weather clothes.

They also made sand-angels that time!

Awwww, Fiercely was only 10, Cleverly 7, and the twins 4!!  Thanks, Lake Erie and Headlands, we’ll be back.

Northeast Ohio July 2013, and several times a year going back to, oh, at least 2000

So, we Fantastics go to Ohio more than your typical East Coasters and the reason is this: grandparents.  Once in awhile the Fantastic grandchildren get to hang in the Cleveland suburbs- they experience houses built in the 20th century, sample the life of lawns, driveways, and strip malls, and witness the teenage stomping grounds of their vagabond mother.  We have found excellent things to do in the area that we will now share with our loyal readers.  A-hem, loyal readers, I give you… northeast Ohio.

Lake Erie.

Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it!  Its  GREAT lake, after all, right?  So, this lake is the shallowest of the Great Lakes, and while it may be is famous for catching on fire due to pollution in 1969, it is much cleaner these days, it has sand and its own tide/surf report, and this guy walked across it to Canada one winter when it was frozen. 



Fairport Harbor’s historic lighthouse, the kids heading into the lake

This trip, we enjoyed swimming at Fairport Harbor.  We actually tried to go to an excellent YMCA outdoor pool nearby but balked at the entrance fee – close to $50 for me+offspring.  It’s worth mentioning here that if you are a Y member, as we used to be, you could go there for free, and you could enjoy the water slide, toddler pool, and climbing wall rather than leading your crying, disappointed children back to the parking lot, but alas we let our membership lapse so we headed to the beach.  They charge by the car at Fairport Harbor Lakefront Park Beach and that charge, my friends, was $3.00.  It is only $2.00 if you are a resident!  What can you get for $2-$3 these days I ask!


Really and Truly by some dunes, Truly flying a kite

The park has lifeguards, playgrounds, a roped-off swimming area, and nice landscaping with sand dunes and small trees.  There’s even an institution that calls itself a Yacht Club nearby.  Its not the ocean, but it is surprisingly ocean-like in atmosphere in a small-town Ohio kind of way.

Lake Metroparks System

Lake County, and Ohio in general, has a park system that is truly splendiferous.  We went to Beaty Landing which had a nice path, many birds, and some riverfront land where there are nesting eagles at times!


looking out from the viewing platform at Beaty(L), Cleverly and Truly on the path

There is also a bike trail nearby called the Greenway Corridor.  It is no Greater Allegheny Passage like we enjoyed last year on a bike-camp trip, but it is nicely re-purposed from the old Baltimore-Ohio Railway line and it is a great start.

Penitentary Glen is another nice park in the area.  It has a great name, referencing the gorge terrain which they say, like jail, is easy to get into and hard to get out of! There is a wildlife rehab and education center here, along with beautiful grounds, paths, and the lovely gorge.


Cleverly on a butterfly bench, Really as an eagle egg, Fiercely in beekeeper garb, and a resident hawk

Random events

So we were just beginning our ill-fated trip to the YMCA pool when we went past the Concord Fire Dept and Historical Society, which also happens to be the site of my first-place performance at the frog jumping contest circa 1982 (feel free to name drop me to impress your friends).  We saw a few antique cars parked in a field and strangely, we heard pipe organ music, like what you would hear on an old-fashioned carousel.  What could it be?


Well, it was the Happiest Music on Earth, of which Dr. Ron Bop is happy to explain its pleasing effects on the human nervous system.  We had stumbled on to the Mid-America Band Organ Rally at the Lake County History Center.  What luck!  So we checked out what we could from the road because again with the budget and all, but I just love that this really happens.