My son and I spent a great day on Put-in-Bay today. I had barely even heard of PIB until a few years ago. I knew that once, when my sister was about 18, during the contentious summer of my parents’ divorce, my Mom agreed to let her go there for the day and that it was, vaguely, some type of party island for young people. Nobody I ever knew was going there at any time for anything, that I can recall. However, some years back, during a high school class reunion, one of the old friends I reconnected with told me he lived and worked on the island. His FB pictures are often of blissful, lakeside sunsets and it looked like a nice place to go. I took my son up for a visit, then another on my own, then last fall I ran a 5K race up there, which was about the most perfect course for a semi-aged, definitely broken-down runner like me, with a relatively easy course. It’s held late enough in the year that the somewhat brisk winds coming off the lake as you jog by offer the perfect balance of refreshing and beautiful. I’ll be running that race again in two weeks, knees willing.
This area of northwest Ohio is one that’s been a revelation to me in recent years. It’s truly a waterside, marina culture that’s unlike anywhere else I’ve been in Ohio. It hits you in the face as the lake air comes in your windows and your car speeds across the expanse of bridge that stretches over the beautifully gleaming water, seagulls atop almost every streetlight like some kind of lakeside sentries. Adorable beach bungalows are interspersed with roadside vegetable stands and wineries, dotting the landscape as you get closer to the ferry dock. Being a tourist destination, things are laid out in an easy-to-navigate fashion, with plenty of signage, easy parking, ferries every half hour (during the busy season) and, on the other side, an island small enough that can be traversed by foot, bike or rented golf cart, no car required. I’m not the world’s best traveler, but this is easy enough even for me and a very active little kid.
Sure, there are a lot of kids partying there. But there are lots of people of other ages there as well. On today’s ferry ride over, many families were on board, dressed up to go to a wedding. Island regulars and residents had an art show going in the park, and if you avoid the bars with an obviously over-the-top party scene heavily skewed toward the very young, it can be a great way to spend the day. Each time I take my boy, we do something different. Today, we visited the Butterfly House, where there are exotic butterflies by the dozens, lighting on everything and everyone. In the entryway, their bodies hang upside down in trays, busily changing out of their chrysalises, preparing to live out their colorful, flower nectar-sweetened, short lives. We went to the lighthouse and the candy store, and D did a lot of playing on their ample playground. Thankfully, he let me skip taking him on the carousel, as those always make me sick. And he tried on at least a dozen funny hats in one store just to make me laugh. Alligator hat. Jester hat. Raccoon hat. Even a pizza hat! The fedora was my favorite; this boy is going to be a lady killer. We ate ice cream and skipped rocks at the water’s edge and generally just lived and forgot about our problems for a while.
We were both exhausted by the time we left. He was asleep before I even pulled out of the parking lot. The blazing rays of the sun in my rearview gave me a burst of energy for the drive home, reflecting on the shiny, silver surface of semis sharing the road with me, and in the windows of passing houses. The gorgeous sliver of sun finally sunk into the clouds providing the most purple sunset I have ever seen in my life. It was hard to keep my eyes on the road, because all I wanted to do was watch that purple sunset. Chasing right behind in the sky it was a gauzy, cotton-covered moon, on the verge of fullness. A fullness reflective of this day, which I was so glad to have.