Our 2018 Road Trip, Part 4: Return to Presque Isle

seagull walks!

A lonely seagull watches the sunset, ponders the meaning of its existence, and/or stays on the lookout for fish to murder.

We often look back at our old photos and wish we could return to many of the places we visited on our earlier road trips for further adventures or at least better photos. Our travelogues are frequently imperfect and in need of reshoots because of our own inexperience. our limited resources, or uncontrollable circumstances at the time. We do what we can with the tools and skill sets available. Our innumerable rough edges are among the many reasons MCC will never be a commercial success or The Greatest Blog of All Times.

Most years, we’d rather keep pressing forward to new places we haven’t seen, but every so often an opportunity for a do-over shows up on or near a path we’ve charted. This year’s trip happened to offer quite a few second chances. Our next stop was one of them.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year since 1999 my wife Anne and I have taken a trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. Normally we’ll choose one major locale as our primary objective, drive that-a-way, and concentrate on exploring the vicinity for a few days before retreating.

We crafted this year’s itinerary with a different approach. Instead of choosing one city as a hub, we focused on one of the motifs that’s recurred through several of our trips: grave sites of Presidents of the United States of America. Our 2018 road trip would effectively have the format and feel of a video game side quest — collecting nine American Presidents across ten presidencies, four states, seven days, and 2000 miles…

Erie bench!

The all-new, all-improved Lake Erie.

Our dinner at Sara’s had been based on a recommendation from an acquaintance. It had another edge over any competition in that it was directly on the way to Day One’s final destination — Presque Isle State Park, a peninsula on the eastern coast of Lake Erie. Also previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: Presque Isle’s first appearance in our lives was on Day Two of our 2004 road trip:

It was still raining Monday morning, but we headed undeterred to Presque Isle State Park, the premier Pennsylvania spot for sightseeing on scenic Lake Erie at its southeast corner. The skies through most of the week would stay dispiriting and blah and rendered 2004 one of our grayest trips on record…

This year’s visit was blessed with far better weather than 2004’s. The naturally blue features this time were actually blue instead of gunmetal gray. From a logistical standpoint, Erie’s location six hours from Indianapolis made it a great overnight rest stop before we launched into the long leg of our journey through upstate New York. Best of all, park admission was free, and no special events were being held to crowd up the place. It was nearly a romantic setting for just a few fisherpeople, a handful of families, several hand-holding couples, dozens of bicyclists, and us.

beach and sandbars!

No sand sculptures this time, though. Kind of a trade-off.

Erie city!

Presque Isle curves until it nearly looks like Jack Skellington’s hill. From its inner east coast we could see downtown Erie back on the mainland.

factory and boat!

We still can’t afford a boat, but those who could were a welcome part of the seaside ambiance. The factories, not so much.

Presque Isle had a few features Anne wanted to see, or see again. First in line was the Oliver Hazard Perry monument, a 1926 obelisk honoring the War of 1812 hero who, in the Battle of Lake Erie, pulled off an extremely rarity: a solid victory over the mighty British Royal Navy, who learned at his hands what surrender felt like.

Oliver Hazard Perry memorial!

Perry’s ship didn’t fare so well and later sunk in this spot, nicknamed Misery Bay. Today the name appears ironic.

Special feature #2 was at the far, far end of the park, miles from the entrance. A combination of low speed limits, pedestrians, bicyclists, and other exercising locals made for very slow going.


Also not helping: geese, our longtime nemeses back home.

Our reward for driving persistence was a short walk on a concrete pier to Erie Harbor North Pier Light, built in France and operational since 1857. In recent years I’ve noticed Anne likes lighthouses. If nothing else, mapping routes to them also happens to take us near pretty bodies of water.

lighthouse 1 pier!

Presque Isle side quest item #2 of 3, straight ahead.

Anne and lighthouse!

Thus was her wish for this photo op granted. Long live me.

pier view!

The view of Presque Isle from the lighthouse.


Next to the lighthouse pier, “KEEP OFF” signs stood as slient sentries for these unexplained sand piles. Presumably a work in progress, hopefully for a fun objective.

shore waves!

Tiny waves breaking on the nearby shore, mesmerizing me until I realized Anne had kept walking and left me 200 feet behind.

Another lighthouse on the north shore appeared in our 2004 photos, but Anne wanted a better shot with fewer storm clouds in it. It was a great reason for a long walk on the beach at sunset, which I understand is a thing normal couples love. For once, I see their point.

long beach walk!

So many footsteps to walk in, so little time.

Anne and beach!

Lovely subjects are great subjects to photograph. The beach was okay, too.


Once again, forbidden sand.


A compliant seagull held still for me. I didn’t even have to say “please” or bribe it with breadcrumbs.

us and lighthouse!

The Presque Isle Light has seen a few improvements since 2004. Among other things, they built a new fence, installed a flagpole, and replaced a lengthy white chimney pipe with a squatter, barely noticeable fixture.

We happened upon the 1872 lighthouse at the same time as another, younger, vastly better-dressed couple. In the spirit of travel courtesy, I took their photo using their enormously expensive camera with dozens of confusing buttons, and in exchange they took our photo using Anne’s primitive Canon PowerShot. If you happen to know a generous couple with magazine-cover looks, who posted a picture of themselves in front of this lighthouse on or after July 7, 2018, chances are that was my work. If we could arrange to transfer just 1% of their Likes to this entry, that would be great.

Our Presque Isle encore, and the first day of our vacation, effectively concluded right about here. We retraced the miles back to the mainland, passed Sara’s once again, and wound up stuck at a stoplight that remained red for several minutes until we realized it was broken. While the natives held their positions and resorted to honking — possibly in an attempt to hurt the traffic control box’s feelings — we veered left into the nearest strip-mall parking lot, made our way to an exit onto the next street over, fetched gas across the way, and continued onward to our hotel, leaving the still-red light and dozens of stubborn drivers behind.

To be continued!

* * * * *

[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for other chapters and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email sign-up for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my TV live-tweeting and other signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]

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