Retreating to Lakeside again and again

Lakeside view by Bruce Stambaugh
The view of the dock and Lake Erie from Hotel Lakeside's front lawn. Kelley's Island is in the distance.

By Bruce Stambaugh

There are lots of places I would love to visit in the world. But every Fourth of July, you can find me with my wife at Lakeside, Ohio.

Fountain in front of Hotel Lakeside by Bruce Stambaugh
Wind blew the fountain's water in front of Hotel Lakeside.

Why do we keep going back? I’ll be a typical man and answer that question with another question. How can we not return?

We find the summer resort a respite from our busy schedule. A random survey of Lakesiders would likely reflect that common answer.

You could argue that respite can be found in plenty of other locales, too. But there is only one Lakeside, and the best way to appreciate it is to visit there.

The quaint town on the shores of Lake Erie mushrooms from 600 year-round residents to 3,000 summer vacationers. Gate fees are required from mid-June through Labor Day weekend.

I could list 100 reasons why we savor Lakeside each summer. But I’ll pare it down to a pertinent few pleasures we experienced during our latest stay.

Friends gather on the porch by Bruce Stambaugh
The porch at Maxwell's Hospitality House in Lakeside, Ohio is an inviting, relaxing place.

First and foremost has to be the renewal of relationships with friends, some who we only see at Lakeside. Of course, we stay in touch via email or phone. But we only see most fellow Lakesiders while we are actually at the Chautauqua on Lake Erie

We enjoy where we stay, and we always board at the same hospitality house. We like our hosts and their guests, most of who return the same week annually. We have a lot in common, share food, stories and values.

The Patio Restaurant at Lakeside OH by Bruce Stambaugh
The signs said it all.

We cherish the familiarity and ambiance that Lakeside affords. Doughnuts at The Patio Restaurant, ice cream from Coffee and Cream and pizza from Sloopy’s are all part of the Lakeside experience if we so choose

But we value the special surprises that always seem to plop in our laps. We run into friends from home or people we know that we had no idea even knew about Lakeside. It’s always fun to reconnect and discover how each found the resort town.

P.A. Dunfee of Lakeside, Ohio piloted his 1968 restored Lyman. by Bruce Stambaugh
P.A. Dunfee, Lakeside, Ohio, piloted his restored 1968 Lyman boat.

This year we had an extra special treat. A resident of Lakeside that we got to know through our hosts at Maxwell’s Hospitality House invited my wife and I for a ride on his restored 1968 Lyman inboard motorboat.

With the temperatures and humidity at the wilting stage, we leaped at the opportunity. The wooden boat, originally built in nearby Sandusky, glided through the slightly wavy water with ease. We cruised past Lakeside just beyond the dock.

Lakeside cottages by Bruce Stambaugh
Steamboat style cottages, typical of some of the older homes in Lakeside, Ohio, were decorated for the Fourth of July.

During out week’s stay, we also took in some of the evening entertainment that comes with the price of admission. Workshops, museums, tours and worship are also available for children through adults

Running at Lakeside by Bruce Stambaugh
The path along Lake Erie in Lakeside, Ohio is a popular place for exercise or just strolling.

Each morning I stretched my legs by walking the two-mile parameter of the lovely village. Walkers, runners, bikers and dog-walkers alike bid each other a friendly Lakeside hello or a nod

Besides the exercise and human interaction, I got to absorb beautiful gardens, charming restored cottages from Lakeside’s beginning in 1873, watch night hawks glide, stroll along where old trolley tracks once ran and glimpse tennis matches on both asphalt and clay courts.

Round porch at Lakeside, Ohio by Bruce Stambaugh
Inviting round porches can be found attached to many homes in Lakeside, Ohio.

I enjoyed a personal Lakeside moment, too. I found a lakeside bench under the generous shade from the large stand of old growth trees and watched the ferries shuttle between Marblehead and Kelley’s Island.

In that Norman Rockwell setting, time seemed to simply stand still. That alone is reason enough to treasure our annual Lakeside vacation.

Concert in the park by Bruce Stambaugh
Concerts in the park are always popular at Lakeside, Ohio.

That’s what friends are for

By Bruce Stambaugh

The sky was clear blue, the morning’s puffy cumulous clouds having moved on. The north wind discouraged any humidity, and helped keep the temperatures tolerable.

Earlier my Amish neighbor had tethered the hay he had mown the evening before, fluffing it up for the breeze to blow away any remnant moisture. The barn swallows that had circled his horse drawn machine still skimmed the ocean of cut hay for insects.

I imagined the next day my neighbor, his family and his circle of friends would follow their given routine of making hay. I have marveled at their consistency each and every harvest of hay, oats and wheat. Their combined labor is as affable as it is proficient.

But isn’t that what friends are for? Like the classic Dionne Warwick/Stevie Wonder song belted out, “For good times, for bad times, I’ll be on your side forever more, that’s what friends are for.”

That pretty well sums it up. Friends want the best for you no matter what. They sympathize with you, empathize with you, are honest with you and you them. That friendly formula leads to trust, understanding and compassion.

As humans, we all need that. We are social beings, and unless you are Ted Kaczynski or Lizzie Borden, friends mean the world to you.

Sitting on the porch alone, I had to think about my circle of friends. I was humbled and honored to recall how many times others had come to my rescue or reassured me or celebrated with me or mourned with me or just took time for a visit.

These may seem like ordinary occurrences. But to me, they are extraordinary events, given that they all involved friends.

Food seems to be an important ingredient in friendship. We have enjoyed many a meal around a table with friends, meaning family, neighbors and acquaintances. No matter how tasty the entrées, the fellowship is always the dessert.

A home in Lakeside, OH by Bruce Stambaugh
A home in Lakeside, Ohio. - Bruce Stambaugh

Years ago when we moved from the home we built in the western part of the county to our current home in the east end, friends clamored to help us. Thanks to them, the difficult task was made simple.

Each time we visit our beloved Lakeside, Ohio we are greeted with hugs and kisses from people we may only see there. They are our vacation friends, but from the reactions you would never know it.

When I pushed my grandsons on side-by-side swings so high they bounced out of their seats, they giggled and laughed like little girls. The bright sun wasn’t the only thing warming me that morning.

Reading the blog by the parents of a special newborn child helped me better understand their critical situation. I marveled at how calm and objective their writings were, especially given their uncertain situation.

A birder friend called to tell me about a very rare bird in the neighborhood. Without his kind gesture, I would have missed the Vermilion Flycatcher.

Butterfy on cornflower by Bruce Stambaugh
A butterfly enjoyed the wildflowers in our backyard. - Bruce Stambaugh

Which reminds me that friends are not confined to human beings either. Pets, sunsets, thousands of blinking fireflies rising from the flowering alfalfa and ripening oats, robins chirping their contentment with the day all qualify as friends by my definition.

All these people and creatures and natural events have abundantly blessed me. Isn’t that what friends are for?

Holmes County sunset by Bruce Stambaugh
A recent sunset taken from our back porch. - Bruce Stambaugh

A change of venue for the grandkids

By Bruce Stambaugh

When our daughter told us that her husband had accepted a new job in Harrisonburg, Virginia, we were ecstatic. Although we enjoyed our visits to Texas with our family and their neighbors and friends, we found the flights from Ohio tedious.

With the move to Virginia, our grandchildren would be a quick six-hour drive away. I mean quick in the most liberal sense.

We enjoyed flying but to fly three hours to Texas without a direct flight really consumed an entire day. Add together the drive time to the airport, check-in, security navigations, waiting at the gates, and flight connections and a good day was gone.

Driving to Virginia would be a whole lot easier. To be sure, we knew the route by heart. We drove it often to visit our daughter in college in Harrisonburg. She had met our son-in-law at Eastern Mennonite University, and they had lived and worked in the city for a couple of years after their graduation and marriage. Now he works for the school.

There were multiple ways for us to get to Harrisonburg, an expanding city in Virginia’s beautiful Shenandoah Valley. As long as the weather was good, our favorite route was also the most demanding, climbing and descending eight mountain passes. It was a scenic, curvy drive.

Last week, we made our first trip to Harrisonburg in a decade. Our daughter and her family had moved from Texas, but settling in with three youngsters and a husband who works full-time isn’t the easiest thing to do.

Our excuse was to help our daughter and her husband unpack and to get organized in their Virginia home. Our motive was to see the grandkids. The ever-thoughtful Nana packed up containers of frozen sweet corn and applesauce and we headed southeast.

It was fun to travel again through familiar towns like Elkins, Harman, Franklin and Seneca Rocks, all in West Virginia. Not surprisingly, little had changed in those 10 years. But once we hit the mountains, the road seemed windier than I had remembered, even though it was clear some of the curves had been softened and widened.

I would have gladly crossed 18 mountain passes for the chance to see our two grandsons and granddaughter again. I last saw them in Texas at the end of February.

I was amazed at how much they had matured, if indeed you can say a six-year old, a four-year old and a nine-month old mature. But there were definite differences. The two boys, Evan and Davis, played together well, yet were equally content to play independently, too.

Evan surprised me with how well he could read, even though he had just finished kindergarten. Davis, too, showed his inquisitive prowess with delving questions. When we weren’t watching the World Cup on television, we played soccer on their expansive wooden deck.

Maren cuddled right up to me. She seemed more intrigued with my beard than my conversation, however. When the discussion went sour, Nana was the designated diaper changer.

Maren is crawling, curious and exercising her best operatic voice, although not always in harmony with her energetic brothers. She is one adorable little girl, and has saucers for eyes that match the same Paul Newman blueness of her brothers.

Our stay was much too short. You can be sure that now that they are only hours away, there will be many more visits to come. After all, we have the drive down pat.