September 24, 2003

Presque Isle

Today we went along Lake Erie through Pennsylvania and into New York. I dub this region "The Land of Excessive Lawn Care". Seemed like every house had acres and acres of lawn and it was all perfectly green and carefully clipped. I lost count of how many people we saw out tooling around on their little lawn tractors or pushing their mowers around their yards. It's almost like there's a local ordinance or something.

We stopped near the city of Erie at the Presque Isle State Park. They pronounce it "presk" and say the name is French for "almost an island". It's a small low peninsula, little more than a really big sandbar, actually. I say "small", but it's got a 14.5 mile perimeter, so it's not insignificant. There's a road all around the perimeter and a parallel multi-use trail for bikes, blades, and peds.

There's some argument about how the thing formed. Some say it's a byproduct of glaciation 11,000 years ago, others that it's a purely sedimentary formation in the last thousand years. It's strange because it's the only obvious protuberance on the entire shore of Lake Erie. It was disconnected from the mainland repeatedly as the thin spit leading out to it washed away and reformed, but they took care of that in the 1950s with a whole lot of rock.


The shore on the Lake Erie side has beautiful sandy beaches, so anyone who knows Becky won't be surprised to hear that it was less than five minutes from the time we parked at one of the beaches until her toes were in the water. This was Great Lake number 4 for her tootsies.


The pictures show the intermittent breakwater they've constructed to prevent the erosion of the beach. It's an interesting effect. Sort of alien.


While Becky was wading, when I wasn't taking pictures I was skipping stones. This beach is a stone skipper's paradise. If you can't skip these stones then you can't skip stones.


Becky can't skip stones ;-).

At the visitor center they had some really interesting maps of the Great Lakes. Erie is the shallowest with its deepest point being only 210 feet. Compare that with something like 1500 feet for the deepest parts of Superior. Most of Erie is only 50 feet deep. The other fascinating map there was one showing all the "ghost ships" (meaning sunken) in the vicinity of Presque Isle. There's at least 100 of them! The dates were from 1800 into the middle of the 20th century.


At the visitor center we also learned that when Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge was a kid he was a lifeguard at the park. Apparently when he became governor a lot of money found its way back to the park. Glad to hear he's good for something.

We swung through the town of Erie and were going to eat there but we didn't have change for the parking meter. Instead we drove farther along the Erie shore skipping back and forth between highway 20 and highway 5, both of which run parallel to I-90. After way too much driving, we ended up in Westfield, NY where we ate at Vine City Restaurant. It wasn't terrible, but wasn't great either. Good onion rings.

From there we headed out 394 to Chautauqua whose claim to fame is having more "u"s and "a"s in close proximity than any other city. (Actually it was originally a training camp for Sunday school teachers. These days it's home of the Chautauqua Institute which does a whole passel of educational things.) It's on the shore of Chautauqua Lake which is about the same size as Lake Sammamish back home. Supposedly Chautauqua is home to boatloads of artsy antiquey establishments, but we didn't see any of them. We didn't hunt too hard though.

We crossed the lake on highway 86 and went down to Jamestown which is home of the Lucy and Desi museum which we didn't care about but thought was amusing (the fact that such a thing exists. We didn't go to it!). It's also the home of an Audubon Society nature preserve and the Roger Tory Peterson Institute. These we would have liked to have gone to, but it was quarter-to-five when we hit town and both were closed.

We headed North on 60 back to the shores of Lake Erie and did more 20/5 skipping until we saw the Angola Motel. Hunted down a couple of grocery stores to supply our rarefied tastes in comestibles, scoped out the local Curves for Becky's morning workout, drove out to Evangola State Park, then headed back to the motel for an evening of picture resizing/cropping and blog writing. There's no phone in this room so the upload will have to wait.

Posted by jeffy at September 24, 2003 06:43 PM

i found this Blog while searching for pictures of Presque Isle to put as my wallpaper. We are quite proud of our little piece of waterland here in Erie and I am glad someone else found it intrigueing (sp) enough to write about it.
If you ever want to watch a great movie with fictional characters who are from Erie, check out Tom Hanks in "That Thing You Do".

Posted by: Leo at January 16, 2006 08:02 AM
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