Driving up through Ohio, after a short visit with Carli and Sarah in Columbus, we followed the signs north to Toledo heading for Michigan. But wait a minute! Our last camp host, Larry, told us about an Ohio State Park in Puddin’ Bay. An island on Lake Erie that was his favorite “adventure land” growing up.
Stopped for fuel and directions near Oregon, Ohio (we told the gas attendant we took the wrong exit and our GPS was out of juice as he shrugged looking at our license plate). We knew we were near when just a couple miles up the highway we see an Ohio State Ferry sign for Put~in~Bay. That’s it! Puddin’ Bay. Holy Toledo! We almost missed it. That’s the place 80-year-old Larry, with heavy southern accent, was talking about. So we drove onto the ferry destined for Put~in~Bay.
Pulled into South Bass Island State Park and were pleasantly surprised with the laid back appeal this place has for the folks that have been coming here for years. A special place for reunions, summer vacations, weekenders, or even day trippers. A throwback to a vacation Larry might have had in the tiny village of Put~in~Bay of years past.
Put~in~Bay, or PIB, to the 500 locals who call it home year round, has the old~fashioned feel that is a rare find for us as we are always on the move for off the beaten path destinations. Felt like a four day mini-vacation packed into our travel bags.
Stopped at the visitor center to pick up lots of FREE literature on the history, hot spots, and hideaways this small island on Lake Erie offers. Rented this putt~putt golf cart a few days and explored.
The historical reference this island has is the naval battle of the War of 1812. American Admiral Perry defeated a mighty British fleet in this bay and made famous the naval slogan “Don’t Give up the Ship” as many American lives were lost as were several naval vessels. Admiral Perry prevailed and now at the point of the island overlooking the battle site stands the Perry Memorial to protect the peace between Canada, Britain, and America.
Tooled around town and couldn’t help but notice how it reminded us of our summer vacations in small town America. For me it felt like Ely, Minnesota. For Hali, Uncle Rolf’s cottage on Lake Ontario. Along the cart path, children sold soda pop for a dime, a penny candy store, a Friday night fish fry, and locals gearing up for the pooch parade on Saturday.
Stopped for a scoop of Ohio’s signature ice cream, buckeye fudge. And even though the the other claim to fame of Put~in~Bay is they’re the Lobster Bisque Capital of Ohio, we passed on it and went for the perch tacos which are nearly as famous. Anyone remember the old~school suppertime chant with forks and knives banging on each side of the dinner plate, “Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner!”? They’ve been doing that here since the 50’s.
Back at camp, where we set up on the very spot the Victory Hotel once stood, we reminisced about but what Larry must have experienced here back when he was a young kid with a thick southern accent. Now only the ruins of that luxurious hotel remain just feet from our campfire (ironically the Victory Hotel burned to its foundation in 1919), and though golf carts now line the streets, the penny candy store still stands.
This would have been a special spot for old~timer Larry, back in the day. And for us, Puddin’ Bay has been just as special. Thanks Larry for steering us off track.