Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Biking McHenry's Prairie Trail

We biked 23+ miles on McHenry County's Prairie Trail and the spur of the Hebron Trail on a sunny but chilly 50 degree windy day. Here Ellen and Patti pass beneath one of Richmond's old wooden bridges...

... and here they cross over a modern trail bridge on the Hebron Trail bypass around Genoa City, Wisconsin on the Illinois border. Then we looped around through the town and headed south on the Prairie Trail back to Peterson Park on the banks of Lake McCullough in McHenry.

As we left the streets of Genoa City to return to the trail, the access runs between 2 houses, and a frenetic dog always chases us along his property line, alarming Patti, as seen here as she hugs the side of the trail as the dog, seen next to the tree, barks at her.

A rest stop in Richmond provided by the McHenry Bike Club is a welcome temporary respite from the chilly wind...

... and a Burger King lunch at the end of a nearly 3 hour ride is also a fine reward to a great day of pedaling.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Liberty Lakes Condo Association

Yesterday we hiked an hour at Lakewood with Patti and Dave, and for the fourth time this month, rain forced us to shorten our hike. In fact, we just got back to the cars moments before the deluge descended. Today it was cold but sunny and we hiked in Deer Grove Forest Preserve and were pleased to hear and see birds again after the long winter. We also saw a deer for a change (Ellen has begun calling this place "Deerless Grove.")

Then in the evening I attended the 2nd Annual General Meeting of my townhouse community where the board updated residents on the past year's activities and marked the end of the terms for our first Board of Directors. It was evident from the reports and discussions that their first term was packed with huge problems and many significant accomplishments by this tireless group of dedicated residents who tackled the weighty issues facing our young association. The group met 25 times during their 12 month tenure to serve the residents and help forge a solid foundation for our new community. We residents owe a debt of gratitude and heartfelt thanks to these talented and dedicated people! Below are (l to r) treasurer Bruce Phillips, president Mark Chavin, secretary Nicole Zanon-Toche, vice-president Thomas Preston, and director Chris Stec.

Election results for the 2008-2009 term found (l to r) Vickie Stewart, who has served on the Social Committee this past year, joining Mark, Nicole, Thomas, and Chris on the next board.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Village Singers Concert week is here!

Concert week has arrived, and both of the bass section Chucks came to rehearsal early to prepare the raffle tickets for the big intermission drawings...

... and then the final regular rehearsal on stage demonstrated that the chorus is well prepared for the shows next weekend.

One more rehearsal Friday night and then concerts on Saturday and Sunday. Don't miss these wonderful shows! You can go to the Village Singers web site for more info.

Senior Citizens on a Date

Dorothy and Edna, two elderly widows, are talking: 

Dorothy: "That nice George Johnson asked me out for a date. I know you went out with him last week, and I wanted to talk with you about him before I give him my answer." 

Edna: "Well, I'll tell you. He showed up at my apartment punctually at 7 P.M., dressed like such a 
gentleman in a fine suit, and he brought me such beautiful flowers! Then he took me 
downstairs to a limousine with uniformed chauffeur. Then he took me out for a marvelous dinner of lobster, champagne, 
dessert, and after-dinner drinks. Then we went to see a show. Let me tell you, 
Dorothy, I enjoyed it so much I could have just died from pleasure! Then back in my apartment, he turned into an absolute ANIMAL. He went completely crazy, tore off my expensive new dress, and had his way with me two times!" 

Dorothy: "Goodness gracious! So you're telling me I shouldn't go out with him?" 

Edna: "No, no, no... I'm just saying, you better wear an old dress!"

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Singing Hills Forest Preserve

Today we hiked in Singing Hills FP which abuts my townhouse community. We began on the trail I roughed out through the wooded portion of the preserve a couple years ago, where we discovered this guy sunning himself...

...and then we explored part of the 75 acre addition recently purchased by the Lake County Forest Preserve Board. This woods had been a shooting preserve and the signs remain...

... but the new land, comprised of wooded hillside and wetlands alongside the golf course, makes a wonderful addition to the preserve. A particularly lovely wooded knoll abuts our townhouses and would make a terrific walk-in picnic area for our residents. We passed this huge old oak tree with four trunks coming off the main trunk stem. What a wonderful climbing tree it would make for youngsters (as well as for the young at heart!)

Our bushwacking off-trail required that we check ourselves after returning home, and sure enough, I found a tick on my clothing. He is now swimming through the sewer system somewhere. So everyone - Be careful out there. They're back!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

More Points to Ponder

  • Politicians and diapers have one thing in common. They should both be changed regularly and for the same reason.
  • There will always be death and taxes. However, death doesn't get worse every year.
  • Brain cells come and brain cells go, but fat cells live forever. I am a nutritional overachiever.
  • I plan on living forever. So far, so good.
  • The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right time, but also to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Deer Grove East hike

We met Patti, Dave, and Len at Deer Grove East FP and hiked 4 miles on the paved path due to all the recent rains, and again we got back to the cars just as the thunder rumbled and rain began falling. On the drive to Walker Brothers Restaurant, a fierce deluge struck -- the second consecutive hike here which ended with rain, and too reminiscent of our bike ride Tuesday which finished in a drizzle. We did experience a first for a hike: A crayfish (or crawdad for you Southerners) crossing the trail, which Len picked up and carried back to the nearby water.

A sumptuous breakfast ended the morning, and while at Walkers, we called Marlene who is babysitting the grandkids in Colordao, and passed the phone around so all could say "Hi."


The little princess sure has it rough!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Lunch with Mom & Linda

We picked up Mom and met Linda at Buona in Itasca for a wonderful lunch, and then over to Linda's for a visit and to see their remodeled kitchen and loft/den.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Words to Live By

Use what talents you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.
-- Henry Van Dyke

If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you, if the simple things in nature have a message you understand, Rejoice, for your soul is alive.
-- Eleanora Duse

Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight. Extend to them all the care, kindness and understanding you can muster, and do with no thought of any reward. Your life will never be the same again.
--Og Mandino

My moments of keenest satisfaction and most complete mental peace have been those when the grandeur of nature's artistry has cast its spell over me.
-- Clarence Mills

For in the end we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we have been taught.
-- Baba Dioum

You see things and you say, "Why?" But I dream things that never were and I say "Why not?"
-- George Bernard Shaw

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Moraine Hills SP biking

On this our 8th consecutive day of biking, Nature finally caught us, raining on us the final 25 minutes of our 13 mile ride. We did seek sanctuary for 10 minutes in a grove of White Pines at McHenry Dam, along with a biking group of 12 ladies seen in the background.)

Then we headed over to Culvers to warm up, dry out, and get a bite to eat.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Village Singers of Lake Zurich Concerts Approach

Less than 2 weeks until our 2 performances (Saturday, May 3rd and Sunday May 4th) and the group is working conscientiously to master and memorize the chorus pieces as the soloists and group ensembles put the finishing touches on their pieces. (Information and map available here.)

It's always rewarding and stimulating to realize that the songs that were so difficult and new and challenging 3 months ago, now are such beautiful sounding pieces which will delight the audience and provide the chorus members with feelings of accomplishment and pride. Come to one of the shows and see for yourself!

Van Patten Woods biking

We took advantage of yet another 70+ degree day. First we went to the Lowe's in Gurnee and I bought this new BBQ to replace my 13 year old unit...

It's the identical grill that Ellen has and she recommended it highly, and I also bought the rotisserie accessory like she has. I needed the van to carry the new grill home, so we put the bikes in the van and then drove over to Wadsworth Road and biked 13 miles on the somewhat soggy Des Plaines River Trail through Wadsworth Savanna Nature Preserve, the 991 acre Van Patten Woods (named for the first president of the Lake County Forest Preserve District), and around the 74 acre Sterling Lake (a former quarry.) The trail was wet in a few places from the recent flooding, and one section was still under water as seen here...

... and in this photo below which shows a couple of many picnic tables under flood water.

It was another majestic day for a ride -- our 7th day in a row of biking -- and our reward on the way home was a meatloaf meal at Boston Market.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

On the Trail Again

Another glorious day in the 70s, so after singing both services at church, we hit the Millennium Trail and biked 15 miles -- our sixth day of biking in a row -- which put us over 600 miles for the year. And tomorrow is supposed to be even better. Hooray for Spring!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Poem # 29: Our Days Gone By

On life’s chitboard
our tally of “done days” mounts
as our supply of days yet to come dwindles.

Four downstrokes crossed diagonally
measure handfuls of bygone days
as surely as do gray hairs,
receding hairlines,
wrinkles and bulges,
aches and pains,
all providing incontrovertible confirmation
of the passage of personal eons,
as vast deserts of sand grains
swiftly speed through our personal
hourglasses of life.

Always, the upper bulb of our hourglass
remains clouded,
disallowing a glimpse
of the sum of grains yet to flow.

Alas, life has no undo icon
or whiteout bottle,
no gargantuan eraser
poised to eradicate
every oops on our personal
roadmap of life --
all our mis-statements,
errors of judgment,
omissions and commissions,
slights and fights.

We may reflect on bygone days
but can only live the Today
and improve the Tomorrows.

Hence the word hope.

copyright Chuck Morlock 2004

Friday, April 18, 2008

Biking the Fox River Trail

We met the R's and K's in East Dundee and biked 21 miles south today. It was a gorgeous 70 degree day in Chicagoland with enough light cloud cover to keep us from squinting and perspiring. This was Ellen's first ride on this segment of the Fox River Trail, so we took her on the "clacketty, clacketty" bridge as we call it, which crosses the Fox under the Tri-State Tollway bridge, and makes a side trip to the Tyler Creek Forest Preserve. Here's a shot of Ellen, Marlene, and Patti on the bridge whose decking is wood planks on metal supports, hence creating the clacketty sound as you vibrate each board.

The trail underpass in downtown Elgin was well under water, necessitating a detour on city streets as we approached the casino.

Our favorite section is the mile-plus "roller coaster" hills between Elgin and South Elgin, seen below.

Our reward today -- a superb late breakfast at Benedict's in East Dundee!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

190 visitors yesterday!

This site recorded a record 190 page loads yesterday, with 134 of them being new visitors. Below is a map of the locations of the last 100 or so visitors:

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Millennium Trail biking

It was a beautiful, sunny 73 degree day -- the first in the 70s since the middle of last October -- so we braved the 30+ mph wind and pushed our way for 10 miles on the Millennium Trail, which we haven't biked in 5 months. It was a pleasure to be back on this trail which I sort of consider as "my trail" since I ride out my garage door right onto it. They have installed rest benches every half mile, the fruits of a Boy Scout Eagle project, and they have also updated the trail maps on the sign posts as seen in this photo (click to enlarge):

The trail is dry despite all the snow melt and rain, though all the wetlands along the trail are now ponds and lakes. Here's Ellen as we pass one in the vicinity of the former Wauconda Apple Orchard, and for the first time...

... the resident swans were near the shore, so I worked my way through the underbrush to get a few pictures of them in all their regal glory.

It's a Muskrat!

Ellen finally saw the tail (see 2 posts below this one) and it was long "like a rat's tail," not a canoe paddle beaver tail. Here he is chawin' on a reed...

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Biking the Fox River Trail

It was a sunny and windy but dry day, so we met Patti and Dave for lunch at the Crystal Lake Panera and then biked 20 miles south. We paused for this photo on the bridge over the very flooded Fox River, then continued on...

... stopping in East Dundee at the Piece of Cake Bakery for a pastry treat.

Another beautiful (and delicious) day of retirement!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Muskrat or beaver?

Directly behind my townhouse is a large detention pond (filled with dormant reeds), and abutting that, on the property of Singing Hills Forest Preserve, there is a natural depression which becomes a lake during wet periods as seen below.

Several times last week, I saw a dark shape swimming in an open area amongst the reeds, and today it was perched on a mud/foliage mound eating reed stalks. Despite binoculars and a 300mm lens on my digital SLR Nikon, I can't tell if it is a beaver or a muskrat, since I haven't gotten a clear view of its tail to see if it is either a long snake-like tail or a floppy paddle-like tail. Anyone have an idea from this photo? (Click photo to enlarge.)

It's a muskrat -- see here.

Moraine Hills State Park hike

Today we hiked 6+ miles in 2 1/2 hours at Moraine Hills State Park, since many of our other hiking venues are under water or muddy. The over-abundant rain on top of the snow melt have rivers and lakes well above flood levels, as seen here on the Fox River. The trees in the river are on an island which is not currently an island, and houses across the river from the state park had water lapping at their walls. One looked as though you could drive a boat into the garage, and numerous docks and piers downriver were under water.

At McHenry Dam, Dave, Ellen, and Patti are in front of the dam which has water at the same level on each side of the dam wall. The lock doors and the spillway are all full-open to allow maximum water flow out of the Chain-of-Lakes system.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Poem #28: How To Write Better

Employ terse verse.
Eschew obfuscation.
Elucidate succinctly.
Bowdlerize redundancies.
Deracinate folderol.
Personalize abstractions.
Embody panache.
Opine divine.

(just kidding, sort of)

Saturday, April 12, 2008

NICE Meeting today!

Eleven attended today's meeting of the Northern Illinois Chapter of Elderhostel as president Pete welcomed everyone and took care of the business that needed to be covered...

...after which Bob showed a DVD he had made of his Elderhostel hiking program at the western section of the Grand Canyon out of Peach Springs, Arizona. The program featured 5 hikes along the rim and down into the canyon.

Then Chuck and Ellen presented a movie of their 2 Elderhostel paddling programs, the first out of Brooksville, Florida (paddling the South Withlacoochee, Hillsborough, and Weeki Watchi Rivers), and the other out of Stephen Foster State Park in White Springs, Florida, (hiking along the Suwannee River, paddling the Suwannee and Ichetucknee Rivers, and numerous local foods and folk arts/crafts.)

Finally, Pat, Executive Director of I-PLUS, related the services and philosophy of her program, Independent Positive Living Under Supervision, which enables homeless individuals/families of Lake County and the surrounding counties to transform their lives and become contributing members of the community.

Following the meeting, Pete treated everyone to lunch at the nearby Hillside Restaurant where engaging conversation ensued and all bid farewell until the next meeting in June.

(l to r: Bob, Ellen, Phil, Ed, Pete, Judy, Dixie, Pat, Adrian, and Jan)

If you are 55 or older, you too can participate on Elderhostel adventures. There is no charge for signing up. Over 8000 programs are offered every year and cover any interest you can think of. Sign up today!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Reunited and hiking again

Our Friday morning hiking/biking group (which we do depends on the weather) reconvened at Deer Grove East Woods for a 4 mile hike today (l to r: Dave, Chuck, Len, Patti, and Marlene.)

In case you wondered, the picture above was taken by Marlene's high school friend, Carol, who joined us today. Here she is surrounded by Patti and Marlene.

We caught a window between thunderstorms, but did cut the walk short when dark clouds, strong wind, and some drops of moisture struck. So we adjourned to Walker Brothers and had a marvelous breakfast.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Princess, M&M

M&M got right back into the swing of things here at home after our 3 month sojourn down south. My little princess likes to sit in the chair next to me at meal time, and after an egg breakfast, she communicated a desire to sniff at what I had eaten, so I pushed the plate over to her seat and took this picture:

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Random Facts #12

1. The world’s highest railroad is the Central Railway in Peru which climbs to 15,694 feet in Galera Tunnel on the way to Machu Picchu.

2. Snakes are immune to their own poison.

3. Davis Achison was President of the USA for just one day in 1849, and he spent most of the day sleeping.

4. Prince Charles and Price William never travel on the same airplane just in case there is a crash.

5. Butterflies taste with their feet.

6. In 4000 BC Egypt, men and women wore glitter eye shadow made from the crushed shells of beetles.

7. The Neanderthal Man’s brain was bigger than modern man’s.

8. 40 people are sent to hospital for dog bites every minute.

9. The poison-arrow frog has enough poison to kill about 2200 people.

10. In the last 4000 years, no new animals have been domesticated.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Points to Ponder

Good health is merely the slowest possible rate at which one can die.

Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day. Teach a person to use the Internet and they won't bother you for weeks.

Some people are like a Slinky ... Not really good for anything, but you still can't help but smile when you shove them down the stairs.

Health nuts are going to feel stupid someday, lying in hospitals dying of nothing.

All of us could take a lesson from the weather. It pays no attention to criticism.

Why does a slight tax increase cost you $200.00 and a substantial tax cut saves you $31.46?

In the 60s, people took acid to make the world weird. Now the world is weird and people take Prozac to make it normal.

We know exactly where one cow with Mad-cow-disease is located among millions and millions of cows in America, but we haven't got a clue as to where millions of illegal immigrants and terrorists are located. Maybe we should put the Department of Agriculture in charge of Immigration?

Monday, April 7, 2008

Back to the routine...

Vacations and travel are wonderful but it's always great to return home and see family and friends and get back to all the routine activities. Saturday was unpacking and a quick bike ride and on Sunday church, a 15 mile bike ride, and the birthday party (see post below.) Today was a 5 mile hike in Lakewood with Dave and Patti, followed by lunch at Culvers, and a lot of catching up to do after 3 months apart. After all the hiking and biking in Arkansas, Florida, and Georgia, it was pleasant to see deer again...

Then then as the week continues, it's back to the routine of chorus rehearsal, church volunteering, and church choir. Tune in again for future adventures!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Birthday party for Two

Today was a joint April birthday party for Scott and Kasia at Kasia's place in Chicago. Here, her sister Anne brings in the birthday cake (which has far too few candles) as Scott and Kasia look on...

... and Scott opens gifts as Suzie, Edith, and Susan observe...

... and Kasia dons her paper headlamp, given in lieu of the actual item.

We relished the wonderful food from Smoque BBQ (recently featured in this Food Network video) which specializes in Austin, Texas style dry rub brisket , Memphis style ribs, pulled pork drenched in western Carolina sauce, and Kansas City style baked beans. Of course, all was supplemented by numerous side dishes by Kasia and other family members.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Back home...

... in Wauconda after the 700+ mile drive from Fayetteville. In the 3 months I was in Florida and Arkansas, we mountain biked over 500 miles, kayaked or canoed 75 miles, hiked 100+ miles, and shoveled NO snow! M&M made the long 11 hour drive okay -- not pleased with the van's motion or the road noise, but quiet and docile, mostly in my lap where she apparently felt safest. Upon arriving home, she immediately checked out all her favorite places and toys and was obviously happy to be home again.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Bikin' and more bikin'

We've been taking full advantage of the mostly 50/60/70 degree Arkansas temperatures this month, biking every day possible, and hiking when we couldn't bike, and we racked up 230 miles on our mountain bikes despite regular bouts of rain and constant winds of 20+ mph. Many of the rides have been on back roads outside Fayetteville since the dirt forest trails are all muddy or under water. Today we returned to the creek crossing...

... which was rushing with a foot of water at its deepest section...

... and which provided a measure of fun for us. Nothing like this back in Wauconda!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Random Facts #11

1. The pelican breathes through its mouth. It has no nostrils.

2. A lobster’s kidneys are in its forehead and it’s teeth are in its stomach.

3. Frogs never drink. They absorb water from their surroundings by osmosis.

4. Boanthropy is a disease in which a person thinks he is an ox.

5. Reindeer like to eat bananas.

6. Mosquito repellents don't repel. The spray blocks the mosquitoes' sensors so they don't know you're there.

7. Mozart wrote “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” when he was 5 years old.

8. The average person presses the snooze button on their alarm clock three times each morning.

9. A crocodile can’t stick out its tongue.

10. Sound at the right vibration frequency can bore holes through a solid object.