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  • Mikah Meyer

Your Turn to Clean the Bathroom, Canada!

Unit #36 / 413 - Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial

"If _______ wins this election, I'm moving to Canada!"

It's a threat that's made by any part of the political spectrum, during every election since I can remember.

But I wonder in what time period that phrase became socially acceptable? Surely at one point in history it would've been blasphemous, perhaps even treason, to present such an assertion.

That's because Canada has not always been our "Friendly neighbor to the north." In fact, I would argue that Canada is less like a neighbor, and more like a roommate. Such that it takes a major blow up over when to wash the dishes, or what temperature to set the thermostat, before an affinity can be reached.

Our argument, however, wasn't over who would take out the trash, but who would control large swaths of North America.

In the early 1800s, Canada's landlord/controlling power, Britain, and the newly independent United States were essentially searching for the biggest room in the house to claim for themselves. Each nation was trying to control as much territory as possible while dealing with their Native American squatters in the backyard (who, to be fair, were actually there before anyone tried building a house).

This reached that proverbial blow-up in 1812, when the United States declared war on Canada (Britain) to try and solve this better room/territory dispute, among other issues.

One of the theatres in which this war was fought was on Lake Erie. The furthest south of the Great Lakes, it was key to controlling water access to Lake Michigan/Superior, and therefore crucial to holding onto land like present day Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota (and who knows what else if controlled).

So on an island in southwest Lake Erie, Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry (his real middle name) prepared for a gentleman's battle as part of a gentleman's war (what I'm told this meant is that rather than surprise the unprepared British at their shipyard in Ontario, Perry sailed up there and told them the U.S. was ready to fight whenever they were).

A couple weeks later, six British vessels attempted to pass north of South Bass Island en route to supplying their stations near Fort Detroit (shortest water crossing between the two nations).

So Commodore Perry, at the ripe age of 27, led a fleet of nine ships to battle, and through a series of unfortunate, dumb luck, and "destined" events (you'll have to visit to hear about those), the United States hobbled their way to victory--securing control of the coveted waterway.

However, much like the battle fought at this memorial's sister park, the River Raisin National Battlefield Park, this one suffered extreme casualties, including 8/10 of those on the United States' main vessel the Lawrence.

Six of those men, 3 British and 3 American, are now buried in the crypt of a 352-foot-tall memorial, making Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial the tallest open air observation deck in the National Park System.

As the name suggests, part of this memorial recognizes those who fought to create the present day United States, but the other focus of the park, and the town/island that houses it, is to celebrate the enduring peace that's resulted since that war.

That Treaty of Ghent, signed on Christmas Eve 1814, has resulted in the longest undefended border in the world. Allowing Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial to "celebrate 4,000 miles of peace" as Ranger Kathie proudly said while staring off the observation deck toward mainline Canada (viewable on a clear day).

That peace has not only resulted in a lack of war ships on the Great Lakes, but an opportunity for us housemates to argue over more petty things, such as whether we should allow Air BnB guests, er...whether or not Canada really would be worth moving to if ______ wins the next election.

3 Perry's Victory Highlights (You Can Do)!

1. Climb the Memorial

$5 for an adult and free for those under age 15, it provides stunning views of Lake Erie, South Bass Island and the town of Put-In-Bay

2. Take Advantage of Local Attractions

The Lake Erie Shores and Islands Visitor Bureau stays busy offering a plethora of options in this vacation destination. Anchoring those is Cedar Point, the "Roller Coaster Capital of the World."

3. Explore South Bass Island

A quaint village at times and a rowdy party town at others, this island is small enough (under 4 miles long) that most visitors rent golf carts to cruise around town.

If you don't want to part with your vehicle (or if you live in it like I do), Miller Ferry offers daily roundtrip or overnight passage. And be ready to contend with some other people, as the small island welcomes 150,000 - 200,000 visitors per year, mostly between Memorial and Labor Days.

Upcoming Units (COMMENT with recommendations. What should I do at each park? Local interesting detours? Food stops?)

Ohio to New York to Vermont to New Hampshire to Maine

-James A. Garfield National Historic Site

-Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site

-Women's Rights National Historical Park

-Fort Stanwix National Monument

-Martin Van Buren National Historic Site

-Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park

-Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site

-Appalachian National Scenic Trail

-Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument *New NPS site added 1 week ago*

-Saint Croix Island International Historic Site

-Acadia National Park

The journey thus far:


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