Thursday, June 2, 2011

Sandusky, OH to Waterloo, IN on US Route 6

Spent this oppressively hot (mid-90’s) morning in Huron and Sandusky before hoofing it 130 miles through flat farmland to Waterloo, Indiana.

Began at a local breakfast favorite: Bernadi's in Huron a bit east of Sawmill Creek on Route 6.  Known for their “midway fries” at Cedar Point Park, since 1942, Berardi’s branched out and serves a terrific, fresh breakfast.  My “Asparagus Scrambler” had perfectly sautéed veggies, great home fries and toast for just $6.59. The place doesn’t look like much from the outside, but be assured it’s fine.

I rode along with a Lake Erie Shores expert, Jill Bauer, who let me in on lots of this area’s best attractions and history. 

Nickelplate Beach
Huron, OH
Huron is an antithesis to the craziness of Cedar Point Amusement Park down the road.  It’s got a nice clean sandy beach (open to the public) and Huron Playhouse – the oldest continuously operating Summer Stock in Ohio. 

Maples Motel
Sandusky, OH
If you are into hunting for beach glass, there’s a place to follow that passion; Sheldon’s Marsh Nature Center.  Get your Zen on while walking a paved path to the beach here while all the Route 6 traffic zooms by to get to the thrill rides .

If you want a CHEAP place to stay within a few miles of Cedar Point, book a $49 Maples Motel Room.  Brick and not much to look at, this place is clean and cool and has been getting lots of press for its affordability.

Sandusky is a tourist town, with all the ancillary services and attractions that one of the largest Theme Parks in the country requires.  Once such niche is the “Indoor Water Park” and Sandusky has 4 of them! How much fun can a family have in one place? 

To get to Cedar Point Park, you take a right onto a mile long causeway.  The park employs thousands of employees each summer (many from abroad, many college kids) and welcomes over 3.5 million visitors annually.  It’s constantly rated The Best Amusement Park in the country.  I did not ride any of the 17 roller coasters.  I did not eat any candy apples.  I bypassed the park entirely (though if thrill rides are your thing, then by all means spend a day or three), and headed with Jill to “historic downtown Sandusky.”

Hand Carvers at Merry Go Round Museum
Sandusky, OH

Merry Go Round Museum
Sandusky, OH
Sandusky, OH
Amazingly, the town was laid out in a Masonic symbol (the town founder was a Mason, apparently), with circles and roads at strange angles.  Route 6 signs are easy to follow in town and will lead you to the marvelous Merry Go Round Museum.  For $6, you can ogle the carved horses (and other creatures), take a ride on a fast, indoor carousel, and watch carvers in action.  Over 300,000 people have visited this museum since it opened in the old Post Office in 1990.  The carousel fits perfectly inside the rotunda. If you ask, a museum employee will turn on the very loud Worlitzer organ.

Downtown Sandusky is a transportation hub for boats from Ontario (both the Maple Leaf and US Flag fly here), and ferries out to “the islands.” I admit to being an ignoramus when it come to the Great Lakes and had no idea that there were islands so close to Sandusky.  In fact, there are two; Put In Bay and Kelley’s Island – each with its own personality.  Kelley’s is for slower-paced nature lovers.  Put-In has lots of shops and eateries.  There are coal docks, freighters – the commerce of the Lakes – and some great “NY-like” restaurants in downtown Sandusky.

Zinc (French Bistro
Sandusky, OH
For an inventive, fresh and tasty lunch, go to Zinc Brasserie.  I had the Tai Beef Salad and it was chock full of baby greens, red onions and cherry tomatoes.  A perfect mid-day meal.  If you just want to pick up a piece of excellent fried fish and eat it on a park bench, stand on line at Sandusky Fish Co. – which has been rated best fish shack by a slew of publications. 

Trout Camp
Sandusky, OH
West of town, fishermen (and fisherwomen) fly to the public Cold Creek Trout Camp and “members only” Sunny Brook Trout Club.  Stocked freshwater creeks (that never freeze in the winter) are stocked with the tasty fish.  The creeks happen to be very photogenic; if you’re going to fly-fish, might as well be a beautiful place.

I didn’t have a chance to visit the Fireland’s Winery, but Jill told me that out of the 15 wineries in the area, Firelands is the oldest and the only one that offers a self-guided production tour; you can look down through glass to see what goes on below.
Toft's Dairy
Sandusky, OH

Three local counties are referred to as the Firelands.  Why?  At the end of the Revolutionary War, many Connecticut homeowners were burned out of their homesteads by the retreating Brits.  The new government rewarded these patriots with new land in the “Western Reserve,” which is why many towns around here have names similar to mine back in CT: Norwalk, Greenwich, New London. 
Toft's Dairy
Sandusky, OH

Before leaving Sandusky entirely, I had to, just had to, join the crowds at Toft’s Dairy.  A working dairy that offers 51 ice-cream flavors, it’s a local icon and common meeting place.  It also has some of the best ice-cream (I had the Philly Mint) I’ve ever  had.  The crowds are here for a reason. 

Leaving the Lake Erie shoreline, the land flattens considerably and becomes nearly 100% farmland.  Sagging barns, multi-story grain elevators, oasis’s of forests and proud farm homes sporting family names and dates break up the monotony. 

Route 6 stays a two lane road most of the way, except for a few miles when it triplexes with 6/20/19.

National Construction Equipment Museum
Bowling Green, OH

At National Construction Equipment Museum
Bowling Green, OH

Bowling Green, OH
The route skirts the college town of Bowling Green, but there’s one quirky museum that’s worth a gander for a certain type.  The National Construction Museum in Bowling Green is a bit tough to find. (No sign from Route 6 – but you take a right onto Liberty Hi Rd. and go about 1 ½  miles – you’ll see it on your left).  It looks like a nondescript warehouse, but this warehouse contains 75 of the most meticulously restored construction, surface, mining and dredging equipment anywhere, from horse-drawn pieces to cranes.  Big Bertha – a “Crawler Crane” – came from a Sandusky marina.  There’s an electric version of Mike Mulligan’s Steam Shovel – a Marion Model 21.  And there’s an old Studebaker Automatic Sprinkler Wagon – fully automated.  All machinery is in working condition.  It’s a bare-bones museum in need of work, but what a find!

Back on Route 6, I passed wind turbines, agricultural stores, John Deere dealerships, and tractor Trailer sales and rentals.  Definitely out of the recreation area.

And then – the very large and welcoming Welcome to Indiana sign!!

Butler, IN Eat 'N Haus

Dozzy Coburn and friends at the "Mayor's Table Butler Eat N Haus
Butler Eat N Haus

The first town I hit in Indiana is Butler, and I was ready for dinner.  Good thing it’s Chicken Buffet night at the Butler Eat ‘N Haus, owned by warm, but camera-shy Robin Helbert.  My B&B hosts for the night (Maple Leaf B&B in Waterloo – more on that later) had invited me to meet them, and little did I know that we’d be joined by 6 others at the “Mayor’s Table.”  It was a great, feisty bunch of retirees that included the (deceased) Mayor’s wife, “Dozzy” Coburn.  The buffet was good, homemade and cooked just right – all for $7.25 per person.  I tried the Sugar Cream Pie (an Indiana concoction of lots of sugar, milk and flour – no eggs), while trying to keep from cracking up at the antics and comments bursting forth around me.  Dozzy told me that after the restaurant had labeled her usual table the “Mayor’s Table” other patrons began to complain.  So the other tables were called the “Whiners Tables.” The names stuck. 

Butler is a town that caters to the farms and recycling steel mills in the area; and the shops reflect that.  No “boutiques” or “galleries” here.  But if you need a pair of Red Wings or any other type of steel toe boot, you can cross the street to Worker’s World, owned by Ron and Linda Buss.  Jeannie Jensen (at the Mayor’s Table, as well) has worked there for 10 years and handed me the card.  They’ve got a website and ship all over the world.  It surely is a Worker’s World.

Red, White and Blue Parfait
Maple Leaf B&B
Waterloo, IN

Maple Leaf B&B owners,
Ken and Candi Sturber
Waterloo, IN
STAY: At the only decent (and in this case quite lovely) B&B around; the Mapleleaf Inn in Waterloo, IN. Owners Candi and Ken Sturber, retired teachers, purchased this 1920’s house in 2002 after
working in the Camping Ministry.  “We were too young for the rocking chair,” said Candi, so when they discovered that the house that Candi loved when she first saw it in the 1970’s was on the market, the Sturbers took it as a “sign from G-d.”  Everything just fell into place.  Though Candi and Ken “serve with Christian love,” faiths of all kind are welcome to their peaceful and nicely appointed B&B.  Small details, like a flashlight and earplugs by the bed (the house sits near train tracks), breakfast orders taken in the evening (Candi has prepared breakfast as early as 4:30am for workmen), and coffee brought upstairs before breakfast, make this a very pleasant stay indeed.  Candi’s “Red, White and Blue Parfait” is made from fresh strawberries and blueberries picked from her family farm in Ohio.  Her fresh-baked cranberry-orange scones are a favorite of the many Tea Parties she hosts (complete with hats) for many different groups.  The Maple Leaf recently hosted a 4-generation group of women. A special place.
Candi Sturber's Scones
Maple Leaf B&B
Waterloo, IN


  1. Sounds like you are having fun. You have definitely convinced me to visit Sandusky. I knew you would love the Maple Leaf B&B. Looking forward to your next post.

  2. Thanks for visiting the Lake Erie Shores & Islands region of Ohio, Malerie. It was a pleasure meeting you. Safe travels on the rest of your journey!
    Jill Bauer


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