Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to where I want to retire!
Okay, I’m getting ahead of myself. What else is there to do in Sandusky once Cedar Point is out of the way? Probably quite a lot, as well as other parks by Cedar Point (their waterpark and also the challenge park). But we’re only here for one more day, so what do we do?
Well, we go further afield of course!
Sandusky is on the shore of Lake Erie, one of America’s great lakes. These lakes are bloody huge, so much so that, in some of them, oil tankers are required to move oil across. And of course they’ve got islands. So where are we going?
Why, to those islands of course.
More specifically, Put-in-Bay and Kelley’s Island.
Bessie guides us to the docks where we park the car and catch the JetExpress ferry to Put-in-Bay, first of all. The ferry is pretty cheap, and with a name like JetExpress, pretty fast. It’s one of those strange catamaran things that goes like the clappers. In any case, we sit on the top deck which, despite the weather, is a bit chilly. I’ve got my backpack on loaded with coats just in case and swimming clothes and towels, as we aim to go for a bit of a dip later.
On the way we manage to get a few pictures of Cedar Point as we go past. In fact, the picture at the top of each page is one of those pictures.
To describe these islands as anything but idyllic would be an understatement.
We arrive to, basically, small-town, olde-town America. The town of Put-in-Bay is one of those that you imagine you’d find in the American countryside back in the 50’s, when kids would save up their cents for a glass bottle of frosty cola that costs a quarter, then take it to share with their friends. It’s like a scene from one of those “endless summer” films where children would just play baseball, adults would work and the elderly would sit on the porch sipping lemonade all day and sharing gossip.
It’s still early in the day – well, 10am, which is early for the lazy pace of life here. Apparently, according to Wikipedia, Put-in-Bay has a single bank, which is open one day a week, though it does have a Dairy Queen and a Subway. Also, during winter school kids coming from other islands travel over the ice of the lake on ATVs and you can, if you’re feeling brave, drive over the ice to Canada.
The sun is picking up and we’ve got a few things on the island that we want to do. The island of Put-in-Bay (well, I think it’s actually called South Bass Island) is only a few miles in each direction, and we’re walking along the main road through the centre of the island towards the main tourist bit, around Perry’s Cave.
I’ll also quickly point out that transport on the island is a bit different. People do own cars and can drive them as they want. However, with the place being so quiet and generally peaceful, most people tend to use modified golf carts to get around. You can actually rent them from the port, as well as bikes (but seemingly nobody uses them). So, as we walk, we do have the occasional golf cart race by (well, as much as golf carts can – at one point it’s a bit harrowing how they take corners) with about six people in.
We get to the Perry’s Cave area at about 10:30 after a nice peaceful walk. And when I say peaceful I mean it. The houses here are all the old American wooden country houses, painted white and angular with the afore-mentioned porches with rocking chairs and tables, ready for lemonade-sipping.
Around here is the world’s largest geode, which is a big shiny rock. However, we’ve arrived a bit early for it to open, so instead we go across the road to the, well, big touristy bit – Perry’s Cave. Or Crystal Cave. I forget which one.
Wait, Wikipedia says it’s Perry’s Cave. Crystal Cave is the geode.
A bit of history. South Bass Island played a pivotal role in the war of 1812 when US naval commander Oliver Hazard Perry (great middle name) sent his men here to recover. They drank from the water in the cave and were restored to full health, so they could sail from the island and defeat us Brits (the ungrateful sods).
In 1892, the Hotel Victory opened on the island. It was a huge hotel with 625 rooms and it quite prominently used the alleged healing properties of the water to advertise itself, claiming that a dip in the water (which they pumped from the cave) would cure any ailment. Of course it didn’t work. The hotel burned to the ground in 1919 – which some people believe was down to an unhappy customer who didn’t feel sufficiently rejuvinated.
In 1915 Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial opened. It’s a big monument – we didn’t visit it. But it’s got a high observation deck.
In any case, into the cave. This is done through the main Perry’s Cave bit, which does have a lot. Aside from the cave (and gift shop, of course) there’s adventure golf, a vintage car museum, a butterfly house and some sort of maze.
Into the cave we go! We have to wait a few minutes for the first tour of the day so we wait outside in the pleasant morning sun. The cave is actually accessed through the gift shop, and go down some very steep narrow steps (quite a lot of them actually, so this is definitely not something for the infirm). Once we’re down we’re told not to touch the ceiling if at all possible – or in fact anything much. This is because of the stalagmites and stalactites – the big spiky bits. Basically, these things grow. They grow at a slow rate to us (but a reasonable rate for rocks) and touching them, even slightly, puts human chemicals on them, stunting their growth for a few hundred years.
The cave itself has quite a low ceiling so there’s lots of ducking as we follow the laid-out path through with the tour guide. There are various rock formations that look like animals and are sign-posted as such. There’s also a pool at the end with amazingly clear water. Scarily it looks only a few metres to the bottom but the tour guide tells us it’s about 60 feet, with plenty of caves that divers have explored.
Well, it’s not really a museum, more of a converted barn. Still, there’s a lot of vintage cars and all sorts of strange automobiles in here, with my favourites being an old but shiny popcorn van and an ice truck from 1930 that has never left the island. My particular favourite though had to be the old Model T Snowmobile, which pretty much looked like an old car but with the front wheels replaced with skis and the back with treads.
We also decide to have a go on the adventure golf. Which is basically mini golf, but with a more elaborate course that goes through artificial caves and such. I like this. Adventure/mini golf is my kind of sport, and I can normally do quite well (though mostly through sheer luck) and get one or two hole-in-ones.
Kelley’s Island is actually the closer of the two to Sandusky, and you can even see Cedar Point from the island itself. Apparently, at weekends and evenings (especially around “Spring Break”) Put-in-Bay can get quite crowded with people frequenting the bars. Americans allegedly aren’t pleased at this place’s reputation. Hell, they should see what we do to, well, just about anywhere Brits frequent.
However, Kelley’s Island is the more laid-back of the two, with seemingly less bars and a generally more wholesome look. Not that Put-in-Bay wasn’t wholesome, but there are a fair few bars.
Again, we walk along the main road that cuts through the middle of Kelley’s Island, going right to the end this time to the beach and glacial grooves and generally just taking in the peace and quiet in the afternoon sun.
The glacial grooves are apparently the largest in the world, and basically resemble a prehistoric skate park. For those interested in facts, it’s a 400 by 35 foot gash left by the advancement of the Wisconsin glacier 30,000 years ago.
Kelley’s Island used to have mines and quarries on it – in fact, looking from the back of the glacial grooves you can see a small cliff and the remains of some of the quarries. Also, having had a quick look at houses here on the net (early planning you see) I did find a house for sale that used to be a boarding house for mine workers. 8 bedrooms (admittedly small but you can knock them together I’m sure), just a couple of minutes walk to the shore and then a few minutes walk to town, for $140,000.
The beach is very pleasant – there are a few people there, generally just having fun. Of course the water was cold – to me it’s always cold and I’ll always squeal like a girl and very cautiously edging further into the water. It’s a very nice beach area with plenty of trees.
Yep, could just picture myself living here. Of course I may well get bored after a while, and having to get a ferry to and from the mainland for work every day would be a pain (I don’t think there’s many offices on the island). But, at retirement age, if I have a nice amount of cash…
After drying and changing we head back to the other shore and town, where the JetExpress port is, and head back to Sandusky to pick up the car. Maybe we should have had dinner on the island and THEN headed back, but the prospect of Friendly’s (and getting a HUGE amount of ice cream and lava cake) was too tempting…
And so we’re done in Sandusky. Since this trip we’ve actually discussed doing another, very similar trip but making some different stops. Each time we’ve always said we’d come back to Sandusky, do two days at Cedar Point (but also having the option to go to the water park on the second day) and also spend two days doing the islands – one day for each island.
An early night is necessary in any case, because tomorrow we’ve got a huge drive to Philadelphia ahead of us…