photo: Michelle Zivoder

O.K., so it was the Nautica Queen, not the clipper ship Cutty Sark( I don’t know what was in the thermoses in the back of the bus), and it was tootling along from the mouth of the Cuyahoga River out to the breakwater protecting the shoreline at Cleveland from the wilder exuberances of Lake Erie but it definitely was a trip worth taking on a perfect summer day.  Sunny, warm, dry…with a breeze…off the portside or starboard…forward or aft or something…what more could one want?

So part of the fun is the bus ride itself; you get to see the stuff that you don’t see while driving yourself because you’re busy watching the road–and from up high!–AND you get to comment on the route that the bus driver is taking to get to wherever it is you’re going–particularly if you’ve actually been there before and can’t BELIEVE he’s going on the Turnpike instead of shooting directly for I-480.  Where do they GET these directions?  And you can do all this while whizzing along talking to people in the other seats, never once having to worry about some (unprintable) idiot on your tailpipe or turning from the wrong lane.

It’s a great look at some of the history of Cleveland too.  You can see the old industrial sites and the new bridges, “The Flats” and the General Sheave Company, advertising for Cruzan Guava Rum, the Bingham luxury loft apartments and the Wm. Edwards Company on the brick walls down by the waterfront, which once upon a time was a much more down-and-dirty commercial/industrial site.  You can see new construction going up as well–bright blue bridge, red swinging crane. It’s a different world now.

You can also see “sea”gulls, although they’re not necessarily from the sea.  Popular belief is that they started coming to the Great Lakes after the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959 but they may very well have been here for quite some time before that since they’re all about looking for food and following boats–lake boats or ocean boats– is usually a good bet for scavengers seeking tasty tidbits.  At least they’re not zebra mussels.

A sculler goes by, skimming his dart of a boat across the brown river, heading for adventure.

So, cast off and head out.  Pass the movable black iron bridges–clever, really, raising the railroad tracks so boats can come through, then lowering them so the ore from the boats can be shipped out in the train cars–affectionately known as the “Iron Maiden” or the “Iron Curtain” (As many as 60 trains ran here in a day in good times.  There are about 330 bridges over the Cuyahoga, in total).  Pass the abandoned Coast Guard station.  Spot the 1911 lighthouse out past the breakwater; it went solar in 1966.  Whiskey Island(actually a peninsula since the relocation of the river mouth) once the site of extensive industrial development, now, partly parkland–and Cleveland’s second hospital, the Pesthouse,  after the cholera epidemic of 1832– in view as the buffet lunch is announced.  Good food good service.  The gulls get none of this.

A flotilla of Canada geese…a parasail…a chick on a Ski-Doo closely pursued by a dude in an even flashier craft–plenty of sights to see.

What can be seen as the boat cruises along?  Well, a lot of the attractions that Cleveland boasts of–not the orchestra, “lake effect” is hell on stringed instruments–including the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the Great Lakes Science Center (big windmill generator there), Browns Stadium, Progressive Field, the Cleveland Cliffs ore boat Wm. S. Mather, Burke Lakefront Airport…not hard to figure why the Shoreway is so named.  Like the man said, “Green City, Blue Lake” (He forgot “Brown River”, although anyone would have to admit that the Cuyahoga is certainly better than it used to be, back in the days of the “burning river” episode.  We’re still working on it.).

Consider it a successful trip as long as none of the Red Hat Ladies fall over the rail while boogie-ing  near the stern to the piped-in music.

Exit down the gangplank, exchanging pleasantries with the crew encouraging us to return soon.  Two of the crew members are local good kids, Emily and Brent Marshall, who are swabbing decks, toting beverages, being exemplary sailors for the summer, before college kicks in again ( They didn’t even make me walk the plank.).  You can even pick up a commemorative photo made on the way ON to the boat…to impress all of your landlubber friends.

And then, “Home again, home again, jiggity jig.” (It’s from a nursery rhyme; I left off the first part about “To market, to market, to buy a fat pig.”  No porkers on this trip).  Did you notice that the air conditioning vents on the bus are in the window wells?  Much better distribution; no hot spots or icicle corners.  Something to remember in this weather…or not, if the cold fronts don’t behave themselves.