Summer mornings, as the sun rises, I ride my bike four miles to Columbia Road Beach, clatter down the steps and wade into Lake Erie.
I dive under, kick hard to warm up and settle into a rhythm, breathing left and right and left again. Unlike in the pool, there are no markers of time or distance. No lanes, no lines, no time clock. Just me and the blue lake and the pink tinge of sky – and the fish, of course. I try not to think about the fish.
This is why I love Lake Erie.
I love the lake because in this noisy world of high tech and hard edges, it is sensual. The feeling of cold water on your skin and sand massaging your feet. The sound of waves, tumbling over each other on the way to shore. The sight of sun glistening as light bounces off the shiny smooth surface.
The lake is primal, carved away by the glaciers in the last Ice Age, but constantly changing. A north wind could make the water wild and angry, with waves that crash onto the Shoreway. Or it could be as placid as a pond.
Lake Erie is integral to Cleveland’s identity. It’s why the city exists, first of all, founded by Moses Cleaveland where the river meets the lake. It’s our prettiest feature, our calling card.
And it’s vital to so many Clevelanders: the sailors at a dozen yacht clubs. The sun worshipers at the beach. The men and women who stand on the rocks at East 55th or Edgewater marinas, hoping to catch a walleye. The diehards who drive around with paddleboards on their roof racks, in case they find time for a dip. The artists who transform beach glass and driftwood into works of art.
That’s the community we hope to galvanize with RocktheLake.com.
When the opportunity came for cleveland.com to take over the website, I hoped to manage it, as just one part of my job as trending and breaking news manager. I’d been hard news all of my career, from covering rinky dink City Council meetings in the Chicago suburbs to covering the reform Cuyahoga County government. And I loved the adrenaline rush of big news and enterprise that made the world a better place.
But I couldn’t stop thinking about the opportunity to write and edit RocktheLake full-time, to be the Lady of the Lake, as my colleagues tease. It seemed a natural fit for me, and not just because navy-and-white stripes and Sperrys are my wardrobe staples.
I wasn’t even six months old when I took my first dip in Lake Huron, a few blocks from where I was born in Point Edward, Ontario. Every summer, when we journeyed back to Canada, my mom took us to the beach, where we’d play with cousins for hours in the waves.
Now, my parents have a cottage there, and my kids play with their cousins. We kayak, we pretend to surf on a giant floating mat, we play baseball on the sand, we watch sunsets and take dozens of photos because the colors keep getting better.
The Great Lakes feel like home.
I figured, since I spend as much time around Lake Erie as I can — running along its shore, learning to sail, collecting beach glass with my kids — I might as well make Rock the Lake my full-time gig.
And so I asked to veer away from hard news, to tell the stories of lake lovers like myself. To create a gathering place for events and attractions and try to define Cleveland’s lakefront renaissance. And to explain why Clevelanders should care about the environmental issues that affect our Great Lake.
I can’t wait to dive in.