As usual, I tried to cram too much into a traveling day. I left Akron early in the morning, and headed towards my first stop, the southern end of the Western Reserve Greenway. After riding there I headed on towards Erie and my first visit to Presque Isle State Park. I write “first” as I’ll undoubtedly be back.
Presque Isle isn’t an island, but a peninsula. The French name means just that, “almost an island.” If you look at a map of Lake Erie, you’ll note a large clawlike peninsula jutting out into the lake, protecting the city of Erie. That sandy, flat strip of land gives Erie, Pennsylvania’s fourth largest city, one of the best natural harbors in the world. In the war of 1812 the US Great Lakes fleet was moored at Erie, and Presque Isle timber was used in the ships Oliver Hazard Perry led on September 10, 1813 in the Battle of Lake Erie. To protect the fragile ecosystems and the land’s historic significance Presque Isle is preserved as a state park.
My riding route was based on the one provided in a guidebook, but in my haste I made a mistake in my starting point. I chose the Tom Ridge Environmental Center parking lot, which seemed like a good idea until I discovered its located on a hill overlooking the park. The roll downhill was fun, but I wasn’t relishing the climb back up at the end.
Once I reached the park a mile later I had flat ground to cruise on. Bikes aren’t restricted to the bike and walking path, but I saw no reason to not use it. This was a summer weekday, and traffic on the path was busy. I had to use caution as I passed walkers, wobbly beach cruiser riders, and the occasional slow surry.
Had I arrived earlier I’d have taken in more of the sights. My cycling guidebook suggested taking a water taxi to Erie and riding through town back to the park. I could have packed my swimsuit in my panniers and stopped for a dip into the cold lake water. Instead I was on a tight schedule to get to my friend Troy’s farm in Cambridge Springs, so I sped through my 14 mile ride. I stopped at the Perry Monument, the lighthouses, the beach…..had I arrived earlier I could have visited Perry’s ship the Niagara, which is moored in Erie, but that will wait until next time. Instead I stopped at the Perry monument, both lighthouses, beaches and moorings and overlooks….. I packed a lot into two hours.
The climb out of the park and back to the Tom Ridge Environmental Center was difficult, but I made it. My seven miles an hour was slow, but my cruising speed was higher when you consider how often and how long I stopped. Next trip Erie and Presque Isle gets an entire day, and perhaps two of them.