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Alicia Explores the Southtowns: Angola on the Lakes offers a story of inspiration and adventure

THE SUN IS SHINING EVERY DAY – A spot to sit and watch the water at Lake Erie Beach Park.
ANGOLA — I drove down Route 5, the spirit of adventure pumping through my veins. I had no certain destination; no specificities. A bar of chocolate infused with chile peppers was in one hand and my other hand was on the wheel. The sun was shining with heavier golden hues, as it was later in the day, but not late enough for a masterpiece of colors to spread over Lake Erie.

I drove out of the city limits, where the streets became less and less grid-like. The trees multiplied and the air seemed just a little bit fresher. The miles began ticking by and, as the wind whipped my hair around, I let go of the need for a destination. Finally, I approached the sign “Angola on the Lake” and took a right.

I was not sure of what I would encounter. This place reminded me what I imagine F. Scott Fitzgerald described, when he wrote of Nick Carraway and Jay Gatsby in his famous tale of hopeful, tragic love. The roads narrowed and the beams of sunshine ceased from the blanket of trees that covered the area.

A blend of the two fantastical “Great Gatsby” settings, East Egg and West Egg, were two worlds of living; two worlds of money. Angola on the Lake is both. There are houses that are quaint and adorable, while just down the way there are those of extravagant beauty. In a matter of a few miles, a person can go from vast fields of greenery to a mild conglomerate of civilization. The roads are narrow and winding and all I could picture was Gatsby’s cruising swiftly in his Rolls-Royce, back to his mansion on the waterfront, with only the bittersweet tribulations of love torturing his soul.

WHERE’S THAT CONFOUNDED BRIDGE? – Angola on the Lake has discreet and serene places for walkers, thinkers and explorers. Photos by Alica Greco.
On a long narrow strip of Lake Shore Road, I came across a bridge. A walking path led to a red metal bridge. The overlook from it was simple and beautiful; a tree stood with twisted roots and the sunlight shone through the cracks of the bridges frame, leaving yellow strips on the walkway. I could hear Robert Plant’s voice repeatedly asking if “anyone has seen the bridge.” Maybe three cars passed by in my time standing there, so in meditation. I absorbed the silence of the scenery and the sound of the wind’s blowing the tree branches.

Although I ventured off into Angola with no specific destination, I found myself in search of something. In the beginning of the summer, while being given a general tour of the Southtowns, I found an iron gate that read “Vineland,” or something of the sort. The memory of that gate became a hazy one, after the time passed, but I remember being utterly inspired when I saw it. I left the bridge in search of this gate, hoping I could capture it in a photo.

While driving around, I came across Lake Erie Beach Park near Castaway’s Waterfront Bar. After parking my car, I explored this Western New York shore that I had never experienced before. It was a beautiful beach day; since fall has been slowly creeping up, the sand was a tolerable temperature for walking. In the distance, a woman strolled by herself against the small waves of water. A group of kids bounced a basketball around in the parking lot, probably still unable to accept that school has begun and their season of freedom was over.

My intrepid journey was coming to an end. The sun was starting to set and my stomach was begging for more than just the nourishment of chocolate, but I wanted to make one more stop.

BEWARE – This tunnel on Pigman Road (Holland Road just down Route 5) is home to an urban legend of “the Pigman.”
I read of an urban legend: Pigman Road. Just down Route 5 off Holland Road near Evangola State Park, a haunting story is told about the “Angola Horror.” Natives are familiar with the historical and tragic train wreck that took place in 1867. Many were injured and 50 people died in the fiery crash; those who could not be identified were buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery, a place I became very familiar with, while attending Canisius College. For four years, my neighbors across the street were tombstones.

Pigman Road is a place explored by curious youth and ghost hunters, alike. Whether you believe in the supernatural or whether you have are skeptical to superstitious tales, there is definitely an eerie feeling to the one-lane tunnel. Unwelcoming graffiti scales the walls and the silence is deafening. Quite honestly, I am surprised I even worked up enough courage to stand there alone, snapping photos; horror films’ trailers usually have me stepping out of the room quickly or discreetly plugging my ears, to hinder my imagination.

I shook away the chills, started my car and made my way back to the city. The sunset illuminated the Skyway and I thought of my escape to Angola on the Lake, as I approached the city lights. With a novel currently in the works, I found it to be a place of inspiration. It is a storybook spot and I can only hope that, one day, I will find that iron gate.


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2013-09-14 | 14:35:02
2013-09-14 | 14:44:52
Iron Gate
I know exactly what gate you mean and it fascinates me, too. I have always wanted to learn it's story as I often point it out to visiting friends and family.
2013-09-28 | 10:08:00
the iron gate is on lakeshore across from the area called the dogpatch , it is just past sweetland rd going down lakeshore away from the city,, past sweetland , before the s turns. enjoyed your adventure!
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