Monday, June 30, 2008

Poem #34: The World Awhirl

When the globe too rapidly whirls,
shuffle aside and peer within,
retreat somewhere you love,
embrace someone you cherish,
allow your mind to catch up with your body
and sanction your soul to ensnare your mind.
You cannot control the winds
so skillfully manipulate the sails
and steer a course true to yourself.

Dissect the rainbow,
unpeel it hue by hue and layer by layer.
From red to violet, lay aside each band
and reorder the spectrum as you desire.
Then uproot the Rocky Mountains,
invert its majestic snowy peaks
and plug the expansive Grand Canyon.
Contain a cloud within your mind
and exhale a contrail with each breath.
Let your voice fill the universe
with the content of your universal heart.

For all is possible within your mind.

copyright by Chuck Morlock 2000

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Softball and WaucondaFest

As we headed out the door to bike, the rain started, so we aborted, waited 30 minutes, then tried again after the rain ceased and the skies improved. Ha! Four miles into the ride, the rain resumed and we headed back home. Fortunately, the next window was longer, giving us a chance to get to Steve's softball game. Here he is, tracking down a fly in center field...

... and again, just getting nipped at first trying to beat out an infield hit.

Unfortunately, they lost 16-5, and now are 1-3 on the season.

Then we drove back to Wauconda and got supper at WaucondaFest while enjoying the music of Stockwood, a returning group to the Fest, known as the "World's youngest Beatle tribute band." I saw them here last year and had to see them again.

The four guys met as students at Dean Street Elementary School in Woodstock, Illinois in May of 2004. They do not lip sync, and yes they play their own instruments (quite proficiently, I might add) as well as all four contributing as vocalists. They really are a wonderful and remarkable group despite their young ages -- 11, 13, 14, and 15! Keep up the good work, fellows! (BTW: Their roadies include proud parents and grandparents.)

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Train Lady

Elaine Siltes, the "train lady" of North Barrington, opened her 10-acre estate's grounds to allow the community to view her indoor and outdoor train layouts. Her business, Huff and Puff Industries, allows her to design and manufacture custom model railroads for businesses and homeowners nationwide. Her outdoor garden layouts, with over 6000 square feet of waterfalls, bridges of all varieties, and thousands of colorful plantings, represent 20 years of labor...

... and the premier gardens are being showcased by New York-based Garden Conservancy, which benefited from today's open house entry fees.

The indoor layout, valued at $2 million dollars and recently donated to the City of Chicago, models Chicago, including the CTA...

... and Wrigley Field...

... and downtown including the lakefront and Millennium Park...

... as well as downstate Illinois. Numerous trains were operating, both inside and outside, and the hundreds of patrons, including lots of kids, were all enjoying the gardens, trains, grounds, and weather.

For those into specifics: This railroad contains: 60 switches, (turnouts), 64 blocks, 2 interactive freight and passenger yards, 61 automations, a missile silo hidden under a city park, 2 custom lift bridges, and a complete prototypical signaling system. It required 36,000 lineal feet of wire and is powered by 8 transformers. The Wandering Tree RR operates 16 trains, 2 trolleys, operating truck and car roadways, an operating drive-in movie theatre, 2 elevated trains, 2 subway trains, 2 helixes, and 54 interactive automations. For more info go here.

WaucondaFest 2008 - Day 3

The last 3 days were predicted to be stormy, but all 3 were great summer days. After our usual bike ride, we headed over to WaucondaFest for lunch and then caught the first performance by the All American Lumberjacks Show. They compete in 10 events with this "on the road" tour group, and five were demonstrated for us at this performance (the other 5 would be at the next performance.) The two competitors were both young guys, both college grads (Univ. of Minnesota and Winona State), and both World Champs -- one five timer and one a seven-time champ -- so these were high profile competitors. One competition was chainsaw cutting while on a spring board up on a pole. Normally they'd be way up a tall pole, but not today...

Another race used high-performance chainsaws and they made 2 cuts through 10 inch hardwood -- one downward and one upward -- in 4 seconds! Jamie is finishing his down cut and about to cut back upwards...

Another competition was axe throwing, but my favorite was the log boom run. Five lathe-rounded cedar logs were tied together and floating in a 10,000 gallon tank, and each guy had to dash 50 feet across and the 50 feet back against the clock. As the logs bounced and rotated and became wet, it became tougher to complete...

... and each fell several times into the 50 degree water, which of course wet their $300 shoes which have 30 spikes each. Here Jamie falls, but Jamie's 3rd run was round-trip in 7 seconds (he is the world record holder at 6 seconds.)

Afterwards, Ellen got one of the cut-offs and Jamie signed it...

See the posts below for more WaucondaFest pictures.

Friday, June 27, 2008

WaucondaFest 2008 - Day 2

We stopped in again to grab a bite to eat and catch tonight's first band, The Rockaholics, featuring our mayor on bass guitar.

Later tonight, an 80s classic rock band will perform. There was still a decent turnout, though not as large as last night -- probably because American English performed last night. (See the post below.)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

WaucondaFest 2008

WaucondaFest for 2008 opened tonight, so we went for supper at what is in essence a mini-Taste of Wauconda, featuring nearly a dozen local restaurants, from Oriental to BBQ to burgers and brats to ice cream sensations, and more!

The rides are always a hit with the kids and teens, and the games of chance also drew participants...

... but the adults were enjoying the annual appearance of American English, the premier Beatles cover band in Chicagoland, and according to Sam Leach, the original promoter of the Beatles, "The best Beatle band on the planet!" and "The Beatles Incarnate" after hearing them -- and now he promotes them. Although Chicago is their base of operations, in August they highlight International Beatle Week in Liverpool, England.

Great show! Good food! Lots of fun. Check back here for updates on the next 3 days of activities we attend at WaucondaFest.

Fox River Trail biking

Today we biked 20+ from Dundee south to South Elgin and back. Though one can't compare flooding here in Chicagoland with the hardships endured in central Iowa and all along the Mississippi River, over 400 homes have been flooded along the Chain of Lakes and Fox River. All boating is still prohibited on the Fox and no-wake boating restrictions apply on the Chain.

Here's a view of the roiling water at the Elgin Dam. (Hey, Greg -- bet you'd like to try this with your kayak -- or even your canoe?)

... and we had to detour over the bridge due to flooding of the bike trail underpass.

Lunch was at Dairy Queen because our favorite man with the hot dog vendor cart in Carpentersville wasn't there today. That was our sole complaint on this beautiful, sunny 88 degree day, especially since the forecast even as of yesterday was for rain all day today!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


After giving blood Monday and oral surgery yesterday, Ellen wanted to get outdoors, so we tried a short bike ride on the Millennium Trail between rain storms (unsuccessfully as we were rained on heading back.) Last week on the trail, a couple who were walking asked if we'd run into the skunk on one section. We said no, and they said they'd encountered it and turned around to avoid it. Today, I noticed flashes of black and white, went back, and saw this...

... so naturally I got closer and it turned out to be 3 baby skunks huddling together in one ball. Neither of us had brought our cameras due to the imminent rain, so I took this photo with my iPhone camera -- no zoom and only 2 MP, so I couldn't blow it up any larger. (And I didn't want to get TOO close since mama skunk was probably nearby!)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Emerald Ash Borer beetle

This killer is on the loose!

Emerald ash borer (EAB) is an exotic beetle discovered near Detroit in the summer of 2002. The adult beetles nibble on ash foliage, causing little damage, but the larvae (immature stage) feed on the inner bark of ash trees, disrupting the tree's ability to transport water and nutrients. Emerald ash borer probably arrived on solid wood packing material carried in cargo ships or airplanes originating in Asia. Emerald ash borer is also established in Windsor, Ontario, was found in Ohio in 2003, northern Indiana in 2004, northern Illinois and Maryland in 2006, western Pennsylvania and West Virginia in 2007. Since its discovery, EAB has killed more than 30 million ash trees in southeastern Michigan alone, with tens of millions more lost in Ohio and Indiana. In response, regulatory agencies and the USDA have enforced quarantines in Indiana, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. (The information above is from the official website by the USDA, state agencies, and universities.)

I bring this info to you, having just passed the survey tree on my bike ride (just a couple miles down the Millennium Trail from my house.) Note the purple box high in this photo below:

Lower on the tree is info about the box and the survey. 750 such sticky traps have been placed in the Chicago area, baited with Manuka oil which is an attractant to adult EABs.

Infected trees have been found in these suburban Chicago areas (click on photos to enlarge):

As always, Wikipedia has info on this destructive critter.

George Carlin One-liners

George Carlin died at age 71 of his fourth heart attack. An article in today's paper ranked him as the county's 2nd best comedian behind Richard Pryor and ahead of Lenny Bruce. As a retired English teacher who loves the English language, including playing with its idiosyncrasies and vagaries, I've always appreciated Carlin's command of our language and his uncanny ability to poke fun at the hilarity of many of our idioms, often sagaciously expressing deep philosophical points as he mocked our language. In honor of Carlin's life, here are some of my favorite one-liners from his hilarious routines:

  • Saliva has been found to be a carcinogen, but only if ingested slowly over a long period of time.
  • Do infants enjoy infancy as much as adults enjoy adultery?
  • If you try to fail, and succeed, which have you done?
  • Why is it called tourist season if we can't shoot at them?
  • Where do forest rangers go to "get away from it all?"
  • Can a stupid person be a smart-ass?
  • Does killing time damage eternity?
  • Why is it that night falls but day breaks?
  • Have you ever imagined a world with no hypothetical situations?
  • How do you get off a non-stop flight?
  • We have mileage, yardage, and footage. Why don't we have inchage?
  • The day after tomorrow is the third day of the rest of your life.
  • I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman, "Where's the self-help section?" She said if she told me, it would defeat the purpose.
  • Is it true that cannibals don't eat clowns because they taste funny?
  • One nice thing about egotists: they don't talk about other people.
  • If the police arrest a mime, do they tell him he has the right to remain silent?
  • Why do they put Braille on the drive-through bank machines?
  • How do blind people know when they are done wiping?
  • How do they get the deer to cross at that yellow road sign?
  • Why do we park in driveways and drive on parkways?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Fox River Trail biking

Today we met Len and Marlene and Dave and Marty and biked 16 miles. The others had afternoon commitments so we cut the ride a bit short, in order to have time for the most important part of the get-together -- a nice meal at Colonial Restaurant -- where I ran into a retired colleague, Leslie, a fellow English Department chair from our sister school, Palatine High School. It was wonderful briefly reconnecting again after 7 years!

Afterwards, we took care of some errands and gave blood at LifeSource.

Go, Cubbies!

It's nearing the end of June, and our Chicago Cubs are still at the top of all baseball:

-- the best winning percentage in baseball at .632
-- the most wins with 48
-- the fewest losses with 28
-- have won their last 14 games in a row at Wrigley Field (including 21 of the last 23 games at home)
-- have a home record of 32-8
-- and have beaten our counterparts on the South side 9 of the last 10 head-to-head meetings

Now, if they can only improve their record when away from Wrigley Field, and get Zambrano and Soriano off the disabled list, maybe their 100 year drought since winning the World Series will finally end.... because we loyal fans sure have a really severe case of the "100 year itch!"

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Random Facts #14

1. The shortest war in history was between Zanzibar and England in 1896. Zanzibar surrendered after only 38 minutes.
2. The largest cell in the human body is the female reproductive cell, the ovum. The smallest is the male sperm.
3. In the course of an average lifetime you will, while sleeping, eat 70 assorted insects and 10 spiders.
4. The pupil of an eye expands as much as 45% when a person looks at something pleasing.
5. An ostrich's eye is bigger than its brain.
6. It is physically impossible for pigs to look up to the sky.
7. A polar bear's skin is black, its fur is not white but actually clear.
8. You burn more calories sleeping than you do watching television.
9. The average human body contains enough fat to make seven bars of soap.
10. You are more likely to get attacked by a cow than a shark.*

*This is true in my life. I've never been attacked by a shark, but I was threatened by a bull once while mountain biking in Arizona's White Mountains in an area that had open range grazing.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

McHenry Prairie Trail biking

Today we biked 23 miles, choosing this trail because its one of the few local trails still high and dry despite the near-record rainfall and flooding. Here are Dave and Patti...

It was a magnificent 80 degree day, but nothing noteworthy except for 1 long snake on the trail and tons of birds. We were disappointed to discover the restaurant in Genoa City, Wisconsin where we had hoped to lunch is out of business. And we were lucky we weren't biking this trail this weekend because a carnival was setting up at our trail parking area in Peterson Park. It'll be a zoo here this weekend!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

More Points to Ponder

  • Can a hearse carrying a corpse drive in the carpool lane ?
  • If the professor on Gilligan's Island can make a radio out of a coconut, why can't he fix a hole in a boat?
  • Why does Goofy stand erect while Pluto remains on all fours? They're both dogs!
  • If electricity comes from electrons, does morality come from morons?
  • Do the Alphabet song and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star have the same tune?
  • Why did you just try singing the two songs above?
  • Your imagination has a job to do. Allow it.
  • Living your dreams trumps dreaming.
  • Impressing others should not dictate lifestyle.
  • What disease did cured ham actually have?

Diversified Portfolio

I only biked 12 miles today after yesterday's long ride, and when I took off my sweaty shirt and reached into the drawer, I pulled out this one which I had purchased months ago during cold weather and then packed away.

I've always liked the "Life Is Good" series of shirts, but this one really "spoke" to me when I spotted it because it represents my 3 favorite outdoor pursuits -- backpacking/hiking, kayaking, and mountain biking.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Millennium Trail Biking

Sunny, windy, 68 degrees -- perfect for a bike ride -- so I did 26 miles out my door onto the Millennium Trail to its terminus at Mundelein High School. For those who live in an area without the benefit of hundreds of miles of dedicated recreation trails through forest preserves, see if you can identify the 2 buttons in this photo:

Trail planners endeavor to have trails cross major roadways at traffic signals, and here in Lake County, since our trails tend to be multi-purpose, they install walk/don't walk signals and provide bikers and pedestrians with a button to push to activate the walk signal. They also provide equestrians with an upper button for the same purpose -- so take another look at the pole in the photo.

After leaving Lakewood Forest Preserve, the trail becomes paved and travels alongside and 10 feet from Hawley Street. The ambiance of the lush forest disappears, but you still have views of lovely 1 acre homesites and 2 golf courses to the south. The trail also passes the new Del Webb/Pulte community of Grand Dominion, their second foray into the northwest suburbs of Chicago, so I biked through the developing development. Like its Arizona counterparts, it has lush landscaping in the common areas and a completed and huge recreation center abutting a large lake and wetlands, which is circled by a bike/walking path...

They must be selling pretty well because plenty of homes are occupied and many more under construction. Unlike its Arizona counterparts, it is built on hilly terrain which allows numerous ranch homes to have full walk-out basements. I also spotted many with 3-car garages. Of course, I did not see any of the desert landscaping used out west.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Soggy Moraine Hills SP Biking

Right at the start of the Blue Loop, we saw this large snapper turtle burying eggs in a hole she had dug along the trail. When we walked the trail last Friday, we saw 2 places where raccoons (presumably) had dug up eggs and left just shell debris.

The flooded section on the Red Loop along River Road (see pictures from our hike last Friday a few posts down) was twice as deep today, and biking through its 100 yard length today gave us all wet socks and shoes -- a small price to pay compared to the hundreds of flooded homes upriver from here or the many thousands flooded out in western Illinois and in Iowa. I couldn't stop to take a photo until I reached dry land, so this photo doesn't show us in water so deep our sprockets were in water.

No additional rain today, but the state park is the wettest I've seen it in a long time. The trail is kept in excellent condition, but numerous wet spots are evident, and the levee section of the trail was nearly flooded over in 2 places on the Yellow (Dam) Loop.

Today we were joined by fellow retired Fremd colleague Marty and her husband Dave. Here's the group shot: (l to r) Len, Patti, Dave R., Dave E., Marty, and Marlene.

The current and water level are even higher than Friday as seen from the nearly equal levels on each side of the McHenry Dam, and the last of Wisconsin's torrential rains haven't even gotten here yet!

Our joy at being out on such a beautiful day was tempered by the activity at the dam. Earlier, several older gentlemen in a rented rowboat lost control of the boat, were swept through the dam's open spillway gates, and capsized, and the man who wasn't wearing his life jacket was drowned. Emergency personnel were still on the scene, taking photos and interviewing witnesses. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father's Day in Wheaton

Scott and Sarah hosted Dad's Day. The plan was for the 4 of us to bike on the Illinois Prairie Path, but the thunderstorms negated that idea, so we talked and looked at photos from their Boston trip. Here's Sarah with 2 of their cats...

... and Scott in the train room, still in the early stages of his model railroad layout construction. This section models the Denver yard of the old Denver and Rio Grande Western days. The other wall has the other rail yard, and eventually 2 more levels will model the Colorado scenery between the 2 yards, all the way west to Glenwood Springs.

Supper was at Macaroni in Wheaton, and here's a photo with my 2 sons.

Thanks, guys, for a great day!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Millennium Trail Biking

Finally a dry day -- and a beautiful 79 degree day to boot. We headed out on the Millennium Trail and biked 20+ miles. It was Ellen's first time biking to Lakewood Forest Preserve and then continuing on to do my favorite section -- the 5 mile round trip through the most beautiful section of Lakewood -- with its dense forest, three lakes, and endless hills as seen in these pictures...

It was a lovely ride and a good workout, Ellen's last before leaving tomorrow to tend to some business back in Arkansas.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Moraine Hills SP Hike

Strong thunderstorms struck 3 times during the night, but all looked pretty clear in the morning, so we met Len and Marlene and Dave and Patti and hiked 6+ miles at MHSP. The park opened late (just as we arrived) because they had to clean deadfall off the road, and small puddles on the trail were more annoyance than obstacle, until we reached this area ...

The depth was only ankle deep at most, so we plowed through, as chivalrous Dave carried Patti across the 30 yards of flood so her sandals didn't get wet.

McHenry Dam was about as high as we've ever seen it, as both sides of the dam are nearly the same water level. Numerous fishermen were wetting line, and the great blue heron seen on the dam in this photo was their main competition (click photo to enlarge.)

Ours hearts go out to those in this area and across the Midwest whose homes are flooded or destroyed by the strong storms of late and the over-abundant rainfall all Spring. In fact, people in this area are fighting floods for the third time in only 9 months!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

More Worthy Quotes

Writing is like prostitution: First you do it for love, then for a few good friends, and then for money.
-- Moliere

What is the use of a house, if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?
-- Henry David Thoreau

Write injuries in sand, kindnesses in marble.
-- French Proverb

Each day affirm that there is nothing in this world that can stop you from transforming your life, opening your heart, loving yourself, and sharing your love with everyone you encounter.
-- Yogi Amrit Desai

The child said: "What are you doing? Don't you see nobody is listening? Why do you continue shouting and shouting? Why?"
And the man answered the child, "I'll tell you why. In the beginning, I was convinced that if I were to shout loud enough, they would change. Now I know they won't change. But if I shout even louder, it's because I don't want them to change me."
--Elie Wiesel

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.-- John Muir


Ellen planted blue petunias and blue & white peonies to add some color to the lilac bushes by the front porch. How do you like them?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Go, Cubs Go!

The Cubbies won again tonight and still lead the majors with a 42-24 record and a phenomenal Wrigley Field record of 28-8!

After a 100 year drought since the last World Series title and a heck of a lot of disappointing years during my lifetime, it's fun watching their success, though in the back of our minds there is the lingering thought, "What will go wrong this year...?" At least we'll enjoy the good times while they are here.

Palatine Band Concert... the Park. Tonight the Palatine Concert Band began their outdoor concert series on a beautiful 70 degree evening with the half moon above (along with the inevitable aircraft beginning landing patterns to O'Hare Airport -- fortunately they are just seen, not heard.)

They opened with "The Star Spangled Banner," followed by Chattaway's "Parade of the Tall Ships," Stuart Johnson's "A Circus Suite," John Williams' "Raider's March," William Schuman's "Chester Overture," Frank Ticheli's "Cajun Folk Songs," Michael Brown's "Opening Night On Broadway," and Franz von Suppe's "Poet and Peasant Overture."

Sarah also made it the concert despite a last minute cat emergency requiring her doctoring skills as she was leaving the vet clinic.

Additional concerts this summer will be on July 9th and August 1st at 8pm.

Six Flags Great America...

... in Gurnee, Illinois, was our adventure today. It's been 10 or more years since I've been here (since the boys have grown and gone) and Ellen had never been to a Six Flags park. The entrance with the grand view of the lagoon and carousel surrounded by Mums was as beautiful as ever...

The American Eagle coaster was our first ride, though no photos are available from the ride because the camera was in my pocket and the locked-down safety bar prevented me from reaching it. The ride was as jerky and bumpy and fun as ever, and the views from the highest hill were still as wonderful as I recalled. Having grown up with Chicago's Riverview Park just a mile from home, I fell in love with wooden coasters at a young age, and the Eagle is one of the best!

Next came 2 trips on the log flume ride, with both of us getting thoroughly drenched both times. It was 80 degrees with no wind and light cloud cover shielding us from direct sun -- a perfect day for this outing! I forgot my hat after the first ride (I was sitting on it during the ride) and since we had to go in through the entrance line tor retrieve it, I figured we might as well ride again! Besides, the line was only 5 minutes long for the flume ride, and the longest line all day was only 20 minutes!

The daily entry fee to Great America is now over $50, but I discovered an online special -- buy one ticket and get one free -- so I couldn't resist taking Ellen here. It was a sagacious decision, as we both greatly enjoyed the day. Ellen's favorite ride was the Ragin' Rapids which is also one of my favorites, and again we got wet...

A new attraction is 13-acre Hurricane Harbor and I was amazed to discover there is no extra charge. It can hold 7100 bathers, though there were nowhere near that many here today. It must really be a zoo when full! Three towers offer a dozen or more slides -- some on mats, some on inner tubes, some just body slides -- as well as a wave pool and a lazy river to float with tubes. Next time we bring our swim wear!

They've added additional areas for younger kids, making Great America an even finer family attraction. And since I've always been a railfan, we rode the Scenic Railroad. It's fun to see the park's back-areas and see some of the attractions from a different view. The trees and bushes, which had been newly planted when we first visited the park over 30 years ago, are now huge, and many brushed against the train cars as we passed.

Here's a view of the main drag from the train overpass...

The IMAX Pictorium with the world's largest 3D screen featured an excerpt from the Planet Earth series called "Shallow Seas." As befitting that series, it was exceptionally well done, though an undisclosed "technical difficulty" made it a 2D show.

You can see it was a perfect day to visit the park. I've been here on days when you were constantly elbow-to-elbow with people. It was far more relaxing today, and even food lines were not that long at lunch time.