The lake effect is most commonly associated with the weather. Here in Ohio, we have wind chill factors in the winter, the heat index in the summer, and the lake effect. When the weather forecast indicates this condition, we shudder and buckle down because rough weather is coming, especially for those living near the lake. But there is another effect that the lake has on us and is related to the idea of being on island time. Life around large bodies of water feels different.
“Read a thousand books, and your words will flow like a river.”Lisa See
In my post Creatives Need to Play I talked about getting out and playing. Throwing a dart at a map and then going there to explore is a part of how Ginger and I decide what adventure to go on. Our plans this past weekend changed at the last minute, so we threw darts. The dart landed at Conneaut in Ohio. We had a destination but no particular plan. The first stop was all we knew, and that was only to get us some place. We would decide the rest when we got there.
Ginger and I love small, kind of quirky museums. So it made perfect sense to start our journey at the Conneaut Railroad Museum. This museum has a couple of highly detailed and whimsical model train sets depicting life back in the 50s and 60s. There is also plenty of artifacts and memorabilia from railroading that span much of the 20th century.
The main entrance is to the baggage room. There are waiting rooms on either side of this. The one to the right, and the smaller of the two, is where the men would sit so they could smoke their pipes and cigars while they waited. The waiting room on the left was for the women and children.
The big attraction of this museum is the locomotive, coal car, and caboose. The scale and engineering of the locomotive are daunting. A volunteer showed us around, explaining in great detail all the major systems of this impressive piece of machinery. As is fitting – there are still working tracks behind the depot – passing freight trains drowned us out.
Lake effect – Erie style
In The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the elves feel drawn to the west and the ocean that separates them from it. Once allured, they are never the same. I understand that attraction and feel at home near the water. It made sense to find a park near the beach to have lunch and explore. To our surprise, we found a beach that we could drive on. The sign suggested that only four-wheel-drive vehicles should attempt it. As you can see from the picture above, we didn’t listen.
We weren’t the only ones. Vehicles lined up all along the shoreline. There was even a U-Haul. There were canopies, beach chairs, and towels laid out. One group tossed a football, and another father and kids played catch.
Ginger promptly removed her shoes and waded in the warm lake waters. I followed. The water is very shallow here, and we walked out quite a distance and just stood, allowing the water to lap at our legs and kiss our skin.
I love the feel of sand on my feet. It almost feels sacrilegious not to go barefoot on the beach. Close to the water, the sand is cool. Move inland even a short distance, and the sand gets hot. I remember times of running across the sand as quickly as possible because of the scorching heat.
When our feet had enough heat, we headed back into the water and walked the shoreline, hand in hand, reveling in life and each other.
Heavenly Ice Cream
I’ve found that towns near lakes have an abundance of charming local shops and restaurants. Spending time in the hot sun and warm waters requires a trip to an ice cream shop. We couldn’t resist visiting The Heavenly Creamery.
This ice cream shop is inside a restored historic church. Most of the seating is on church benches. At the front, just perceptible behind Ginger, is the pulpit.
There are so many choices of ice cream that it would take a long time to exhaust them.
As we sat there and reflected on the day, we decided that the lake and ice cream could effortlessly call us northward to Conneaut in the future.
What is the lake effect?
I realize that, as an outsider, I see things in a stylized and romantic way. These idyllic views would change some if I live in these places. Extraordinary can become ordinary. The magic of the extraordinary is we notice it. The ordinary easily slip from our view.
The effect for me is this: I get to explore and live differently, even if only for an afternoon. The pace of life is different. I get away from my ordinary and step into the extraordinary. I love small lake towns because there is a charm in them. There is an adventure in every one of these places if I look for it.
The effect goes deeper, though. Rivers, lakes, and forests all have a spirit about them. Some will say that there is a real, though not necessarily tangible, presence. To an extent, I would agree with this. There is something elemental about these places that grounds and inspires me.
Walk through a river, or in a lake, or through a forest and the stories will flow.