Sunday, May 17, 2015

VCB Worship Volunteers Annual Picnic

The predicted dangerous thunderstorm must have been delayed, because we (thankfully) had a gorgeous, sunny, 80 degree afternoon for our annual picnic to thank all the volunteers from the choir, orchestra, band, ushers, sound booth, etc., etc. at The Village Church of Barrington.

Village Singers at The Garlands

Yesterday evening we were invited to repeat our "Broadway Rocks!" performance of classic '60s rock songs by the great groups of that era at the prestigious Garlands in Barrington, Illinois. An audience of about 50 retirees enthusiastically enjoyed hearing the hits from their era, though to be truthful, many of us performers were also around during those years!

I began the performance with the opening narration for Proud Mary, a song often associated with Ike and Tina Turner, but which was also a staple in Elvis' concerts.

We also sang the songs of The Beatles, The Mama and Papas, Billie Holiday, The Beach Boys, Jersey Boys (The Four Seasons), and Motown.

 Ensembles also sang a medley of the Shirelles tunes and "My Boyfriend's Back."

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Rafting the Colorado River: Kremmling to Bond

During our three weeks in Steamboat Springs in 1987, a rafting trip on the Colorado was another of our activities.  It was a long drive to and from the river, but still a good trip. Though this was mainly a float trip, there were a few rapids, with the professional photographer of course waiting at the best rapid.  Unfortunately, I had no camera along and this is the only photo I have of that trip.

My sons and I are seated right in front, all with Cubs hats on!

Mountain Biking Colorado's Spring Creek Trail

Back in the summer of 1987, we vacationed for three weeks in Steamboat Springs, where we hiked 15 miles on what I later discovered was the Continental Divide Trail. I noticed what were obviously campsites along the trail and realized you could backpack and camp wherever you wanted in the national forests.  That began my love of backpacking, and I eventually backpacked 60-plus times in 50+ wilderness areas across the country.  

We also rented mountain bikes in Steamboat, and following the directions of the bike shop proprietor, we biked up Buffalo Pass Road which involved some walking the bikes on steep sections of the gravel road (cross training I call it!)  We then turned off onto Spring Creek Trail and had a marvelous long downhill ride on nice single track with gorgeous views.  You can see the ski slopes in the distance in this photo.

Mt son was 15 and took right to what was a new sport for us flatlanders from Chicagoland!

I enjoyed it so much, I eventually bought a mountain bike back home and began 25+ years of biking gravel trails in the prolific forest preserves around Chicagoland, something I still do now to the tune of 2500+ miles per year.  Here I am coasting down the mountainside.  Too bad you can't see the huge smile on my face!

Ever since my youth-years in Cub and Boy Scouts, I had a deep passion for the outdoors in general and forests in particular, and scenery like this still fuels that passion.

You can check out all my adventures at my other blog called Bike, Hike, and Paddle.

Rafting Wyoming's Snake River

Here are some golden oldie photos -- our first whitewater rafting experience, and what ultimately propelled me on three decades of adventure vacation experiences.   It was August of 1982 and my family was visiting Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks for the first time (I've now been to both 10 times.) While in the town of Jackson, we went to an outfitter to sign up for a raft trip but were told that my youngest son, who was 5, was too young for the trip.  We turned around to leave, and when they saw it was a whole family or no business, they said okay, but to hold him tightly and keep him in the center of the raft and down low, and we said okay.  

The first and third photos are mine, using a waterproof disposable camera, so please forgive the poor resolution.

We knew nothing about whitewater rapids or rafting, but we knew we'd enjoy the marvelous scenery of the Bridger-Teton National Forest, as seen above.  The trip involved 8 miles of the Snake River's class II and III rapids, including the two biggest rapids on the river, Lunchcounter and Big Kahuna.

Below is the professional photographer's photo of our raft just seconds before we hit Big Kahuna's six foot tall standing wave.

I'm in the second row on the left, obvious with the bald head.  Next to me is my youngest son, then my wife, and then my ten-year old son (seen between the two ladies in the front right of the raft.)

None of us left the raft, but someone in another raft did as seen below...

Unfortunately, since my youngest had to stay low in the raft most of the trip, he was constantly sitting in cold water and got pretty cold, but his joyful (and fearful) shouts in the rapids showed he was having a ball like the rest of us.  When it was over and we were back on land, I asked him if he had enjoyed the raft trip, and he said "Yeahhhhhh" with chattering voice.  When I asked if he'd like to do it again, he quickly said, "Not right now."  We did do another raft rip a few years later, but it was a float rip on the Colorado River (simply because there was no whitewater near where we were vacationing.)

And I've done a couple dozen raft trips, many of them multi-day trips.  Check my website, Bike, Hike, and Paddle to see more of my adventures.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Village Singers of Lake Zurich Spring Concert

Here's an 11 minute video of our 90 minute concert, featuring brief snippets from 28 classic rock and roll songs from the '60s, by Elvis, CCR, Tina Turner, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Carole King, The Four Seasons, (Jersey Boys), and various Motown classics...

Post-Concert Party

About 25 of the chorus members celebrated the successful concert weekend with a party at the famous Gilmer Road House, enjoying great food and sparkling conversation, while viewing the video of the concert...

Friday, February 20, 2015

2015 Biking Venice: Art, History & Culture with Road Scholar

This Road Scholar biking program, officially titled "Adventure on Two Wheels: History, Art, and Culture in Venice, Florida," was based in Venice at the Hampton Inn. Though Florida was experiencing an uncharacteristic cold snap this week, we dressed in layers and hit the roads and trails, and with a few optional rides, I managed 87 miles for the four days of biking.

Monday began with Sue Chapman of the Venice Area Historical Society portraying Bertha Palmer Potter, a wealthy Chicago businesswoman and socialite who first visited the Sarasota area in 1910 and was so enamored that she purchased 80,000 acres, and four years later added another 19,000 acres to her land holdings. The performance revealed the lifestyle, grandiosity, intelligence, business acumen, civic-mindedness, women's rights activism, and idiosyncrasies of Bertha as she took her inheritance of eight million dollars and more than doubled it.

Then we biked through the Venice historic district, stopping at Centennial Park, the old San Marco Hotel and Kentucky Military Institute building, and over to the arboretum/park.  After some free time, we re-grouped for a ride to the Venice Pier, and then back to the hotel.

On Tuesday, we biked to Clyde Butcher's Venice Gallery and Studio.  Clyde is called the "Ansel Adams of the Everglades" and we admired his black and white masterpiece photos.  Then his protege, Paul Tilton, gave us a tour of the studio and explained the extraordinarily technical and laborious process by which Clyde creates his photographs using large format film cameras, and then enlarges, masterfully improves every section of a photo by burning and dodging, and finally prints and mounts his photos. Here's a picture of part of his studio and some of his dozen-plus enlargers...

Next we biked to the Venice Train Depot where George Miller from the Venice Area Historical Society spoke to us about the history of Venice as well as the history of the refurbished depot...

Then it was on to Caspersen Beach pavilion for a picnic lunch after which we walked the beach looking for shark's teeth and watching the endangered gopher tortoises...

...after which we biked back to the hotel via the Venetian Waterway Trail alongside the Intracoastal Waterway...

...and enjoyed the murals depicting the history of Venice on the back wall of Venice Gondolier's print shop along the trail, just north of the school complex. Here's the first mural featuring early influential citizens (including Bertha), the turpentine industry, the railroad's arrival, and the Kentucky Military Institute's winter home. The second mural commemorated the airfield, circus, and train depot.

On Wednesday, we biked the Legacy Trail north and then turned west to visit Historic Spanish Point, and after watching the visitor center video, we explored the 30 acres of lovely gardens and historic structures located alongside Little Sarasota Bay. Then after biking to Casey Key for lunch, we biked back to the hotel. Here's a photo of the sunken garden at Spanish Point...

Thursday we boarded a motor coach for Myakka River State Park, part of the original land purchase of Bertha Palmer Potter. She passed away in 1918, and during the 1930's, the government purchased 17,000 acres for the state park as part of President Roosevelt's New Deal. It is one of eight Florida state parks developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the 1930's, and it has been expanded to 37,000 acres.

At the state park, we boarded one of the two large airboats for an hour boat ride on the Upper Myakka River where we saw a number of alligators and wading birds...

After a picnic lunch at the pavilion, we biked back to the motor coach for the short ride to the Spanish American Riding School, home of the "Original Herrmann's Lipizzaner Stallions of Austria." Founded in the 16th century by the Hapsburg Royal family of Austria, the Lipizzan breed was first established by Archduke Charles at Lipizza.  The breed was saved from extinction and given protected status by General George Patton as World War II was nearing its end, when riding at night and hiding by day in a clandestine mission, Colonel Herrmann and his father (also named Colonel Herrmann) smuggled the horses from behind enemy lines. The story was dramatized by Walt Disney in the 1963 film "Miracle of the White Stallions" which we viewed before visiting the 200 acre ranch. Below is Herrmann's daughter who runs the business now.

Austria's original Spanish Riding School website (which celebrates its 450th anniversary in 2015)


Here's a photo of our intrepid bikers who prevailed over cold and windy weather  in usually warm Florida:

Front row (l to r):  Larry D., Kay C., Larry C., and Beth
Middle row: Julia, Carol, Kathy, Margaret, Nancy, and Marion
Back row: Richard, Chuck, Dick, Bob W., Marty, Bob T., Kay W., Grant, Allan, Trudi, Susan, and Gary
Not in photo: David and Louise

And our leaders, Mary and Larry...


Additional photos (which can be downloaded)

Here's a video of our week's activities:

Friday, February 13, 2015

2015 Biking South Florida's Gulf Islands with Road Scholar

This was a repeat Road Scholar active outdoor adventure program for me, and as good as the program was three years ago, this "revised" program was even better!  We were based in Naples for the first three nights and then boarded a bus for Sanibel Island for two days of biking and one night of lodging, before returning by bus to Naples for the fifth night.

Although the on-and-off rain canceled  Monday's first day of biking, we still managed to visit much of what we would have reached by bike in Naples, including the Naples Museum in the old train station, the historic Tin City shopping area, and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, where we went on a tour of their remarkable wildlife hospital, a boat tour of the mangrove canal, and a lecture on raptors, including a visit by this red-tailed hawk, Horatio. Despite the rain day, we still managed over 70 miles of biking the other three days!

On Tuesday, we biked 29 miles, first visiting the historic Naples Pier (which we missed yesterday due to the rain) and then continuing biking north against a wicked 20+ mile per hour headwind to Bonita Springs' Barefoot Beach Preserve with their protected gopher tortoises and crashing waves.  Our leader, Mary, also led us on a naturalist walk on Saylor Nature Trail...

That evening we had a lecture by the knowledgeable and entertaining Bob Nesmith on the hydrology and water flow of southern Florida, and how it was disrupted to allow development of the southern Florida, the repercussions of that disruption, and the efforts to restore the natural flow of water. Bob's easy going style and ability to talk in non-technical-jargon English was exemplified by this simplified  explanation: A marsh is a grassland that is under water, and a swamp is a forest that is under water.

On Wednesday, we boarded the bus to travel to Sanibel Island, where we hopped on our bikes for 23 miles as we toured the island on its marvelous bike paths.  Our first stop was a talk by Charles LeBuff  as he recounted the history of Sanibel as well as the stories surrounding its lighthouse. He lived on the island for much of his life and actually lived in the cottage next to the lighthouse for 22 years while working 32 years for the "Ding"Darling National Wildlife Refuge as a refuge biologist.


Then after biking to lunch, it was over to CROW, Sanibel's Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife.  After perusing the displays, we were treated to a visit by the raccoon Trouper who at eight weeks of age was beaten with a golf club and left for dead.  Through the tireless efforts of Miss Dot, the blind and brain-injured Trouper (held in her arms below) has been given a home and rehabbed as much as possible.  Trouper has his own website and serves as an ambassador for preventing animal cruelty and educating school children to respect wildlife.  We were also given a tour of their clinic and the organization's grounds.

After spending the night at the lovely Sundial Resort on Sanibel, we were treated to this sunrise during breakfast.

Then we biked to the "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge, one of over 560 such preserves across the country.  After a tour of the visitor center and a talk about the tireless efforts of editorial cartoonist, Ding Darling, which led to the ultimate creation of this wildlife refuge, volunteer Patsy took us on a guided  bike tour of the four mile Wildlife Drive, where we enjoyed the wildlife sightings along the way and the information about the types of mangrove trees and their importance to the environment.  We also hiked the Calusa Trail.

After biking to lunch, we continued on to the Sanibel Historic Village which consists of a number of buildings moved to this site from elsewhere on the island to preserve examples demonstrating what  life was like here in the earlier days.  As a retired teacher, I'll show you the interior of the old Sanibel School, which though smaller than the school I attended in Chicago in the 1950s, still is very reminiscent of my old schoolrooms albeit on a smaller scale here.

Here's a photo of our stalwart group of bikers and our two leaders:

(l to r):  Ruth, Linda M., Jim, Edda, Emilie, Larry D., Chuck, Allan, Lee, Barb, Linda T., Trudi, Rick, Bill, and Connie

Seated in middle: Our leaders, Mary and Larry 



Here's a video of our week's adventures:

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary (Blair Audubon Center)

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary conserves 13,000 magnificent acres, and not only protects a fragile 500-year-old forest of bald cypress trees which had been slated for timber sale (like its neighboring forests had been), but also provides vital habitat for migratory and permanent wildlife, some of which are on the endangered and threatened lists. In addition to the cypress forest, Corkscrew contains strangler figs, native grasses, pond apple and red maple trees, as well as the seasonal ghost orchid plant.  Egrets, heron, ibis, anhingas, and other migratory birds call this home, as well as gators, turtles, deer, and owls.

A 2.2 mile boardwalk protects the delicate environment as well as the visitors as they wend their way through the cypress forest, pine flatwoods, swamp, and wetlands.  Various side branches of the boardwalk take you to other points of interest, including a raised platform overlooking the prairie.

Here's the map of the property...

A dozen or so  Cypress Trees (which are relatives of the redwoods) have been tagged as "Landmarks" and awarded names of local activists influential in birthing the Corkscrew's existence, national officials with the Audubon Society, and national figures who began the conservation/preservation movement in our country -- namely John Muir, Aldo Leopold, and President Teddy Roosevelt.  Below is the Leopold tree which is over 500 years old, 98 feet tall (despite losing its top to hurricanes), and has a 22 foot circumference at chest height.

Here are some of the birds I was able to photograph. First, an anhinga drying its wings in the sun...

A black-crowned night heron nestled in the undergrowth...

A great white egret...

Some hungry white ibis...

...and a snowy egret (now protected from plume hunters.)

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is located at 375 Sanctuary Road, Naples, Florida, 34120 -- located 15 miles east of I-75 at exit 111  (239-348-9151)