Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Poem #15: Friendship


Would you be a ship within a bottle,
safely scanning a sea you never sail,
horizon visible but untouchable,
dreams dreamt but unfullfilled,
ever the untouching, passive, avoiding,
shipwrecked recluse?

Rather, be a bee,
immersed in cooperative effort,
creating, nurturing, non-stopping,
affecting all you touch, pollinating new life,
insignificant amongst the multitude
but vital to that multitude.

Friendship is paradoxical:
anchor and lifeline,
ballast and burden,
lifeboat and walking-plank.

Extending your hand is an act of courage
and desperation,
for we leave something of ourselves
whenever we touch others.

What do you leave?

by Chuck Morlock
copyright 1997

Monday, July 30, 2007

Des Plaines River Trail Ride

Patti, Dave, and I did 25+ long, hot, wonderful, 89 degree miles on the trail today, with lunch at the Independence Grove Preserve Deli/Cafe. Along the trail we spotted a fawn (look on left side of trail in the shadows) and...

... the Great Blue Heron atop the branch in the green scummy water, hoping some fish will attempt escape out of the slime.

Good ride amidst good scenery with good friends. Can't ask for a better day of retirement than that!

Sunday, July 29, 2007


Magnificence viewed from my family room window!

Triple Header

Today was the start of Steve's softball double-elimination playoff tournament. It began with a 10am game which ended quickly after only 5 innings with his team losing 22-7 per the slaughter rule. This was the game they thought they could win today. In the photo below, Steve makes an acrobatic over-the-shoulder catch in right field.

We returned to the field for the final game at 3:30, which they expected to lose and thus be out of the playoffs. Instead, they led from the git-go and held on for a stunning 15-13 victory. Way to go, team! Below is Steve playing 3rd base and getting the force out on an opposing runner...

... and this pic shows a hot line drive off his bat.

With no time for rest, their win put them into the 3rd game of the day which was a see-saw battle and which they surprised themselves again by coming from behind and winning 10-8. This photo below shows an unsuccessful attempt at a double play after a force out at 3rd.

In the 4 years I've been attending his games, these last 2 showed the best consistent play by this team, so who knows what might happen next week if they can continue this stellar play. Tune in next week, fans, and find out how they do.

In Memorium: Grace Pooler

Grace Pooler treated her three teen grandsons to a trip of a lifetime to Germany, and the four of them were members of our Globus tour last month. Grace was a very young 69 years old and her vibrant energy and personality made it hard to tell she wasn’t a peer of her three grandsons instead of their grandmother. She captured the heart of all of us on the trip and we all felt fortunate to have gotten to meet her. On the afternoon of our tenth day, she was stricken by an apparent blood clot to the heart in the parking lot of the cuckoo clock maker’s store in the Black Forest, and despite the efforts of emergency personnel and hospital staff, she passed a few days later. Grace was mom of 4, grandmother of 7, and great-grandmother of 1. According to the boys, she reveled in her job as “grandma” and doted on them all, and her death, though sudden and tragic, occurred while “spoiling the boys rotten” while enjoying Germany with them. I extend my condolences to her family and friends.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Lake County Fair

I've only attended one county fair and that was a few years back while traveling through Gunnison, Colorado. Four decades ago we regularly visited the Wisconsin State Fair because it was much closer to Chicago than the Illinois State Fair in Springfield. So today I went to Grayslake and walked all the exhibits and was immediately reminded that fairs are not only visual experiences, but also olfactory ones.

Let me crow!

Let me out!

Let me sleep!

Equestrian competition

A new event was the Mutton Bustin', a take-off on bronco bustin' but designed for kids six and younger and under 60 pounds. They don flak jackets and helmets and compete to see who can stay on the back of a ewe the longest.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Yet more Arkansas sights not seen in Chicago

Biking between storms

Rained all night and into the morning, but the radar showed a window without storms before they return this afternoon, so we met at Moraine Hills State Park for a quick 12 mile ride. The temp was 77 degrees, the sky cloudy, the foliage wet, and the humidity several hundred percent, but the rain held off and we had an enjoyable ride. Left to right are Len, Dave, Marlene, and Patti.

In the photo above, we all stopped to see the sand hill cranes in the photo below. As we began the ride, the gear cable snapped on Len's hundred year old antique Schwinn Suburban. He resurrected it from his garage a year or so ago, took it to the local bike shop, and -- no lie -- ran into the same fellow who had sold it to him over 30 years ago. (I think the refurbishing job consisted of replacing the huge five-foot tall front tire and the tiny back tire with 26" tires.)

The photo below shows Marlene and Patti cruising down the last of the roller-coaster hills on the red loop. At McHenry Dam we saw Great Blue Heron and Great White Egrets again trolling the water for fish as it flowed over the dam. There were a couple fishermen, but fishing must have been poor today because there were more guys playing poker than fishing, and it looked to me like they were betting with worms.

Poem # 14: Aging

The legs were a bit weary this morning, reminding me of this 1997 poem I wrote. I wonder if you can relate to any of its sentiments? If so, leave a comment of affirmation.

Early Onslaught Decrepidation

Off to the kitchen to get a drink
of water, was it? No, juice, I think.
Friends just laugh, and then they chuckle,
aware of how I now must struggle.

Is aging wonderful, or one huge pain?
How does one jump-start a brain?
An idea's there and immediately gone.
I used to remember. What's gone wrong?

And that's not all, I'm sorry to add,
for many abilities which I once had
relied on, and even revered
have similarly disappeared.

Knees now wobble, fingers do drop,
my mouth dribbles and will not stop.
Eyes squint and hair falls out.
Enter arthritis, phlebitis, and gout.

The back goes out just moving a printer.
Fat awaits the nuclear winter.
Nose is running like a deer.
Cellulite relishes a new home here.

Damn that male-pattern hair loss,
and coping with that yuppie boss.
Less and less pure innocence,
but more odiferous flatulence.

Anxiety over cancer, heart attack and stroke.
Start the exercise, stop the smoke.
Age spots, hello! Teeth, goodbye!
Wrinkles aplenty, complexion awry.

Mind will suddenly become a blank,
bladder, in a flash -- a full tank,
both without the slightest signal.
Can't sit still, got to wriggle.

Cholesterol and blood pressure rise.
How dare you call me "Thunder thighs!"
Allergies I never had
now affect me really bad.

Poignant movies make me weep.
Retirement nightmares mar my sleep.
Race walking is now a crawl.
Watch that crack cause I might fall.

For many decades we’d ignore
such small aches and pains galore,
and now it seems such banality,
our tardy push to banish mortality.

Are we foolish, wise, or vain
subjecting mind and body to pain,
to fight these ravages of time,
expressed in all this rhythm and rhyme.

Of course we must pursue this course,
riding our personal improvement horse.
So join the masses, don't be boors!
I've upped my standards. Now, up yours!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Sinking Sun over Singing Hills

I managed to get in 11 miles on the bike after supper when our on-and-off all day rain ceased, and as I biked the Millennium Trail in Singing Hills Forest Preserve, I was treated to a pre-sunset as the still lingering high clouds put a haze over the sinking sun.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Gilmer/Fairfield Update #4

Did a quick ten-miler on the bike and checked out the progress on the intersection reconstruction on the ride. The I-beams have been installed to carry Gilmer over Fairfield and it appears the rebar work is nearly done, so I imagine concrete will be poured soon. Then they have to frame and pour the approaches on each side of the bridge deck. This shot looks east over the new overpass deck.

Fairfield is done. This shot looks south at the Fairfield underpass. The curbing is in along the walls, blacktop is down, and the gravel shoulders are completed. In fact, I saw a pickup truck drive around the "Road Closed" barricades on Fairfield, then up the ramp to Gilmer, and head west on Gilmer, again onto the shoulder around the barricade. Hopefully, the job will be done soon and we'll all be able to safely and legally do the same drive.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The bloomin' Prairie State

I'm back in Illinois after the tour of Arkansas state parks and went biking at Illinois' Moraine Hills State Park. Most know that Illinois bills itself as the "Land of Lincoln" as advertised on our license plates, but fewer realize we are also known as "The Prairie State," and the evidence was in full bloom as we biked today, with prairie grasses, thistles, and wildflowers coloring the landscape as we biked.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

What is it?

Can you identify these things?

Answers: A) A leaf eaten by some insect, leaving only the veins of the leaf remaining, with brown leaves beneath it.

B) Close-up of a rolled bale of hay.

C) A resting dragon fly with wings closed.

Ozark National Forest Hike

My final day in Arkansas had us hiking 7+ miles on the Lake Wedington Trail -- a roller coaster trail up and down various ravines and hollows -- heading to the picturesque bluff area. Though the overlooks were disappointing because trees now obscure the views, the rock formations through and over which the trail wends were marvelous and reminded me of sections of Red River Gorge which I backpacked a month ago with Bob.

Our reward (other than the joy of three hours of strenuous workout in the beautiful surroundings of the national forest) was hot fudge sundaes at Braum's in Fayetteville. Yummy!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Eatin' well in Arkansas

Ellen is an accomplished chef as seen in this photo of our supper following the mountain bike ride -- barbequed pork tenderloin with Dijon marsala sauce on rosemary garlic pasta and fresh cauliflower and punctuated by a fine German white wine. Scrumptious! (And it was the first time she had cooked this meal.)

Mountain Biking Lake Fayetteville Trail

Today we biked the rugged mountain bike single track trail at Fayetteville Lake, a 6.5 mile loop through the woods, up and down hills, around trees, and over rocks and roots and ruts, with plenty of mud holes thrown in for good measure. It was wonderful!

Here Ellen "cross trains" as she walks the bike up one of the multitude of uphills, many of which came after downhills with tight 150 degree turns at the bottom and peppered with huge roots, causing you to lose all momentum and making it impossible to pedal all the way to the next summit. Kudos to Ellen, for this was her first mountain biking adventure, and though apprehensive and tentative at first, she finished with a smile on her face and joy in her heart at having had so much fun and having successfully completed the loop.

Here I finish the uphill slug after my rear axle slipped out of its bracket due to the torque and pressure I was applying to the pedals. I flipped the bike over onto its handlebars and seat in the classic on-trail repair mode, re-seated the axle, tightened the quick release hub, returned the chain to its sprockets, and continued the ride.

It was a wonderful 88 degree day in a magnificent forest and a great workout. You can't ask for more than that!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Ozark Folk Center State Park

Another day, another Arkansas State Park. And yet another wonderful adventure. This state park celebrates the folk arts practiced here over the last centuries, and we watched demos of woodcarving, barrel making, weaving, quilting, cooking, dress making, doll making, typesetting, pottery, blacksmithing, furniture making, basket weaving, broom making, candle dipping, and more, and heard a band with guitars, fiddle, mandolins, banjo, hammered dulcimer, and bass fiddle.

We also visited an old house and a one-room school house.


I just checked my website and discovered that the number of visits passed 150,000! Yippee!

You, too, can visit Chuck's Backpacking Bonanza to see what all the fuss is about.

Little Rock

On to Little Rock where we biked part of the River Trail -- the part that wasn't closed by flood waters of the swollen Arkansas River. We also biked the Big Dam Bridge which was retrofitted onto the top of the existing Murray Lock and Dam. At 4226 feet in length and 90 feet in height, it is the world's longest pedestrian/bike bridge built for that purpose.

We also visited the Clinton Presidential Library and Park alongside the river bank and adjacent to the Downtown area and the River Market (which was empty due to the 95 degree heat.) Clinton was elected governor of Arkansas for 5 terms, so this city is the perfect location for his museum.

Having to go through an airport type security check to enter, we learned that all presidential libraries, though built with private funds, are then turned over to the National Archives and Records Administration and as government buildings require security. The library visit began with a movie highlighting his life and narrated by him, and displays included memorabilia from his career, accomplishments year by year, gifts received from visiting dignitaries, speech excerpts, and included replicas of the White House Cabinet Room and the Oval Office (photo below.) It was a very interesting visit.

So okay -- where is the namesake little rock? And is there a big rock around here somewhere, too? After all, Illinois has both a Big Rock and a Little Rock near each other.