I couldn’t stop smiling when I tried wakesurfing. (Kelly Hand)

Well, it’s been quite a summer.*

Instead of “rent-a-cars and westbound trains,” though, I’ve been rocking Lake Erie from Put-in-Bay to Historic Ashtabula Harbor.

What have I learned? How to wake surf, for one. Why Lake Erie makes the Grand River Valley perfect for growing grapes. How to text a buoy to get the latest lake conditions.

I rowed in my first regatta. I went to Cleveland Race Week and raced my first sailboat, too. I toured Tall Ships and posted a 24/7 live video stream of the Norfolk-Southern Bridge over the Cuyahoga River, for boaters to forever consult.

As we head into Labor Day weekend, the unofficial end of summer, the hectic sunny pace of life on Lake Erie will grow cooler, slower, shorter. We’ll start daydreaming of the stuff we want to do next summer, the festivals we can’t wait for and the activities we want to try.

Before then, though, let’s enjoy Labor Day weekend, whether you’re beaching it, heading out on the boat or watching the Cleveland National Air show. 

And take a look at the summer 2018 adventures on RocktheLake. Maybe you’ll get some ideas for fall.

Ziplining in Geneva-on-the-Lake: I screamed, a lot. But it was fun to maneuver the ropes course 24 feet above the ground and fly through the air. The course gives grown-ups a chance to play!

Try ziplining on the shores of Lake Erie, in Geneva-on-the-Lake

Put-in-Bay and Kelleys Island: I took my kids on their first trip to the Lake Erie islands, on a Monday-Tuesday early in June. It was quieter than I had expected, with loads of quaint Americana and zero bacchanalia. I loved learning about the War of 1812 at Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial. The kids loved the golf cart.

All you need to know for a summer family adventure at Put-in-Bay, South Bass Island

What to do with kids on Kelleys Island

Blazing Paddles: We celebrated the rebirth of the Cuyahoga River with the river’s first stand-up paddleboard race, hosted by Share the River.

Blazing Paddles race celebrates healthy Cuyahoga, 49 years after river fire

Summer Solstice: I livestreamed the actual event, the pink sun dropping into Lake Erie on the longest day of the year. But we also hosted our first RocktheLake Summer Solstice Sunset photo contest, where readers voted for the best shot.

Meet the Summer Solstice Sunset photo contest winners

Lakeside: I also took the kids to Lakeside, to play shuffleboard, swim in Lake Erie and just generally soak up the charm of a tiny town with lots of kids on bikes and streets full of adorable cottages with big porches. I even raced a sprint triathlon there!

Vintage — and modern — views of Lakeside Chautauqua: Remember When

Avon Lake Summer Market: About 10,000 people came to browse shabby chic lake decor, jewelry, T-shirts and more at the annual market. It was packed on Friday afternoon!

Meet the friends who founded Avon Lake’s smash hit Summer Market: Erie Interviews

RocktheLake organized lists on where to rent a boat, where to hunt for beach glass and where to find the best Lake Erie T-shirts.

Because you can’t have summer without T-shirts. And you can’t have summer in Cleveland without Lake Erie.

Tell us about your favorite Lake Erie summer adventures on Facebook.

* This is a Jimmy Buffett reference, of course. How on earth did I edit RocktheLake for a year and go full-on Parrothead only once?