Thursday, July 31, 2008

Farmer's Market

We checked out Wauconda's weekly Farmer's Market this afternoon. Twin Gardens (which we've heard of on WGN Radio) was advertising "sweet corn so sweet you can eat it raw." What??? That's preposterous, I thought! So the guy gives us an ear free to try, which Ellen is doing in this photo...

... as she stands alongside a gentleman who bought 6 dozen ears of this corn last week and is back for more. The guy was right -- we did eat the entire ear raw, and bought a half dozen to eat at home (and they'll no doubt be even better steamed and with butter.)

The we went to see the Pixar film "Wall-E" which is extremely well done and worth seeing, especially if you have kids and want a good family flick.

Millennium Trail milestone

Ellen began serious biking a year ago and purchased her new Trek bike last fall. Her personal best mileage month has been somewhere around 250 miles this year as she developed stamina and strength. Today she passed a new milestone -- 400 miles for July -- and she is very close to hitting 1500 for the year thus far. Here she is on the Millennium Trail with the abundant Yarrow wildflowers framing the trail...

Congratulations, Ellen, and you keep on going, girl!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

McHenry Prairie Trail biking

We beat today's 90 degree heat by biking 21 miles on this mostly tree-shaded trail. Obviously, this section of trail is not shaded but had a bench for a water stop...

One area had a work crew laying asphalt for a new driveway, which we had to bike over. The heat radiating from the new material was overwhelming! What a job to have on a hot day!

Another reason we chose this trail segment was its proximity to a Boston Market restaurant in Crystal Lake near our trailhead. Unfortunately, the Boston Markets in our area have both closed, so we have to get our occasional "fixes" while in other communities.

Today's ride set a new personal record for me. I've been tracking biking mileage for 10 years, and only once did I surpass 400 miles for a month (back in 2004), but today's ride put me above that mileage with still tomorrow to exceed it farther! And I'm only 80 miles from my personal best mileage for a whole year (1732 miles in 2005) with many months yet to go, so I should be able to far surpass that old record.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Random Facts #16

1. If you stand at the bottom of a well, you would be able to see the stars even in the daytime.
2. The word “lethologica” describes the state of not being able to remember the word you want.
3. You can stop a sneeze by pressing your tongue to the roof of your mouth.
4. The average person’s left hand does 56% of the typing.
5. An iguana can stay underwater for 28 minutes.
6. The first man-made item to exceed the speed of sound is the bull’s whip or leather whip.
7. No words in the English language rhyme with month, orange, silver or purple.
8. The state with the highest percentage of people who walk to work is Alaksa.
9. Most people fear public speaking more than death.
10. If you put a raisin in a glass of champagne, it will keep floating to the top and then sinking to the bottom.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Poem #36: Our Trek Through Life

All travel the personal journey
from sunrise to sunset,
successively savoring delectable moments
and weathering detestable ones,
hoping some glorious past
will once again come to pass.

The goal of life is not merely to survive
but to love what we do,
to flourish and thrive,
as we boldly trek back beyond the backside of life’s beyond
to become one with our noon’s vibrant wilderness.

And when our individual dusk draws imminent,
when we no longer respire but expire,
we bequeath to Mother Earth our body’s nutrients
but not our soul’s essence,
for it remains glorified by those people and things
which we have uniquely touched,
and thus, we cause
Eternity to become ours.

copyright 2003 by Chuck Morlock

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Noah in 2008

In the year 2008, the Lord came unto Noah (who was now living in the United States) and said: "Once again, the earth has become wicked and over-populated, and I see the end of all flesh before me."

"Build another Ark and save 2 of every living thing along with a few good humans." He gave Noah the blueprints, saying: "You have 6 months to build the Ark before I will start the unending rain for 40 days and 40 nights."

Six months later, the Lord looked down and saw Noah weeping in his yard - but no Ark.

"Noah!" He roared, "I'm about to start the rain! Where is the Ark?"

"Forgive me, Lord, begged Noah, "but things have changed. I needed a building permit. I've been arguing with the inspector about the need for a sprinkler system. My neighbors claim that I've violated the neighborhood zoning laws by building the Ark in my yard and exceeding the height limitations. We had to go to the Development Appeal Board for a decision."

"Then the Department of Transportation demanded a bond be posted for the future costs of moving power lines and other overhead obstructions, to clear the passage for the Ark's move to the sea. I told them that the sea would be coming to us, but they would hear nothing of it."

"Getting the wood was another problem. There's a ban on cutting local trees in order to save the spotted owl. I tried to convince the environmentalists that I needed the wood to save the owls - but no go!"

"When I started gathering the animals, an animal rights group sued me. They insisted that I was confining wild animals against their will. They argued the accommodations were too restrictive, and it was cruel and inhumane to put so many animals in a confined space."

"Then the EPA ruled that I couldn't build the Ark until they'd conducted an environmental impact study on your proposed flood."

"I'm still trying to resolve a complaint with the Human Rights Commission on
how many minorities I'm supposed to hire for my building crew."

"Immigration and Naturalization are checking the green-card status of most of the people who want to work."

The trades unions say I can't use my sons. They insist I have to hire only union workers with Ark-building experience."

"To make matters worse, the IRS seized all my assets, claiming I'm trying to
leave the country illegally with endangered species."

"So, forgive me, Lord, but it would take at least 10 years for me to finish this Ark."

Suddenly the skies cleared, the sun began to shine, and a rainbow stretched across the sky. Noah looked up in wonder and asked, "You mean you're not going to destroy the world?"

"No," said the Lord. "The government beat me to it."

Ellen and KC bird...

... both hard at work in the den...

Deer Grove Biking

Having some shopping to do and (we thought) a softball game for Steve, we took the bikes over to Deer Grove to ride the mountain bike trail. For 19 years I lived near the preserve and spent much time there, biking the perimeter trail over a hundred times and hiking the dozen interior trails so often I knew every twist and turn. In the winter, I'd bushwack/explore off-trail and I've visited every section of this magnificent 1800 acre preserve, the first the Forest Preserve District of Cook County purchased 90 years ago to preserve the rolling upland forest, wooded ravines, wetlands, picturesque meandering creeks, and two lakes. I love this place so much that when hiking, I always took a garbage bag and over the years, removed dozens of bags of trash left behind by the a**holes of the world.

So, several times a year I return to my old friend to bike or hike, and each time it is a glorious reunion, replete with many fond memories. In this photo, Ellen coasts down one of the many hills...

... and here she negotiates one of the "legal" single-track segments across Quentin Road in Deer Grove East.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Des Plaines River Trail Cook County -- the whole thing!

Today's errands were routed so that we could ride on the southernmost section of the Des Plaines River Trail through Cook County. We did 27 miles from Des Plaines at Algonquin Road to North Avenue in Melrose Park and back in a leisurely 3 hours biking time. Ellen has now completed the entire 60 or so mile trail round-trip from Wisconsin to Chicago -- much along the river and all through luscious forest preserves like below...

These Cook County Preserves are 50 or more years older than the Lake County preserves so dense forest predominates, making for shadier/cooler riding. This section is dirt trail and has a few underpasses to allow safe passage beneath a few of the busier roads - but not all of them. Of course, the underpasses are also older and not always in good repair or dry (notice the standing water, mud, and cracked concrete)...

... all of which more closely replicates mountain biking, so that's a good thing! And I know of an area where (I presume) kids have built mogul hills to play on, so we did, too! Again, more like mountain biking!

We saw many others enjoying the beautiful weather and utilizing the trails and the picnic areas, so we were surprised that even with all the activity, we saw 8 deer, including 2 very small spotted fawns. This particular deer was so used to people, she let Ellen get within 10 feet and never flinched (look in the grass to her left.)

Friday, July 25, 2008

Frogs & Crabs

Another beautiful day -- 80 degrees and sunny with lower humidity -- so we drove up north to bike the northern extreme of the Des Plaines River Trail through Wadsworth Savanna and Van Patten Woods to the Wisconsin border. We practically had the trail to ourselves for the entire 13 mile ride! (This retirement business is sure dirty, thankless, work, but we daily labor to do the job, even if we often have to do it single-handedly!) Here's a shot of Ellen taking pictures of a frog below the bridge over the Des Plaines River. (Did you wonder how I'd get the "frogs" from the title into this post?)

After biking, we headed to Gurnee and celebrated my successful 3 month diet during which I've lost 21 pounds -- by eating a delicious appetizer, Caesar salad, and lunch at Red Lobster. Yes, the appetizers and both our meals had crab meat (hence this post's title.) Here's Ellen photographing her salad. To see her photos showing our main courses, see her blog.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Lake County Fair 2008

The Lake County Fair is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year, which is the final year in this location in Grayslake. The new facility is currently under construction in Libertyville. Tons of people attended on this magnificent day, as seen below:

Two bands were playing today -- The "Band on the Run," a Paul McCartney and Wings tribute band from the Chicagoland area that was voted the “2007 Best Tribute Band” (photo below), and the Bucket Boys, a hip-hop percussion duo combining music, laughter, crowd interaction and positive life skills, using a medley of junk collected from wrecking yards, trash bins, basements and attics.

Two big events were the Motocross races (both 250cc and 450cc)...

... and our favorite venue, the dirt arena featuring 2 competitions -- the figure 8 races where you try to avoid collisions...

... and the demolition derby, featuring 12 cars out to wreak mayhem on the other 11 cars until only one remained running. Despite the dirt track being watered 3 times, dust still flew adding to the fun but lowering the photo quality. In this photo, 2 cars are powering into each other in reverse, with much damage already evident to each vehicle...

There was one woman driver (seen below in the pink) and here she clobbers another car into the wall just as she gets hit from the side...

It was very interesting afternoon and evening, and we hope to return to the fair for a second dose of excitement this weekend (and some more great food!)

Des Plaines River Trail biking

We met Dave and Patti at Half Day Preserve and biked 26 miles to Independence Grove and back, with lunch at the Independence Grove Cafe. You can see a bit of the 115 acre lake in the background. The beach and boat rentals are just down the hill from us, as is the elaborate Children's Grove playground. The Forest Preserve District bought this old quarry in 1979, and after about 18 years of collecting over 6.5 million dollars in royalties from the mining operation, they closed the quarry and invested $6 in earthwork to develop this facility.

"The Cafe" is located by the Overlook Trail -- a spur off the DRT encircling Independence Grove along the rim -- so several dozen bike racks are available and the area nicely landscaped with indigenous prairie plants as seen here (our bikes are in upper left.)

In this photo you see why the trail is billed as "multi-use." We always pull off to the side so we don't spook the horses.

We are now over 300 miles in July on fat tires, and well over 1500 miles for the year.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Birds, Wildflowers, Biking, & Extension

I could fill my 3 bird feeders every day and they'd still empty them within hours. Here's a shot of the feeders and the wildflowers surrounding them. The birds are even reluctant to fly off when I approach, and they immediately return as I depart. The red-winged blackbirds seem to be the biggest pigs, but robins, grackles, sparrows, and many others also partake. The mourning doves eat the spillage on the ground.

Today we biked 14 miles on the Millennium Trail which traverses 2 sides of our sub-division and we encountered a triple-wide stroller carrying the cutest triplets. It took up over half the trail width. Some visitors have wondered what I mean when I mention a profusion of wildflowers. Look at each side of the trail. The white yarrow dominate in this section, but yellow daisies and black-eyed Susans, yellow and purple coneflowers (Echinacea), and blue larkspur are also liberally sprinkled throughout the foliage, creating a veritable artist's palate of coloration (click to enlarge picture.)

Construction of the new 2 mile spur trail to and through the former Four Winds Golf Course and then over to Ray Lake Farm Preserve is progressing, with gravel having been laid and rolled this week.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Des Plaines River Trail biking

It was a perfect 75 degrees and party sunny, so we headed to Independence Grove and biked 25 miles north, enjoying the abundant wildflowers, birds and bunnies, squirrels, and this curious gal who stopped on the trail and watched us for a minute or more before continuing off into the woods.

The DRT is my favorite of all of Chicagoland's several dozen bike trails because its entire 30+ mile distance traverses 7700 acres of forest preserve land. Today's northernmost section travels over 4 miles through Wadsworth Savanna Preserve without a road crossing. At Independence Grove we took in the view from the Overlook Trail (as well as some ice cream at the Cafe.)

Monday, July 21, 2008

Rain delay...

... so we postponed our bike ride 2 hours while the storm vented its fury. So I picked up my new iPhone and decided to do a bit of "research." Along with the several dozen free 3rd party applications I downloaded from the iTunes Apps Store, I also purchased a program called Comic Touch which allows you to add captions to photos and also add some special effects. My "research" was determining what each of the special effects could do. Their names are "bulge", "squeeze", "dent", "light", and "stretch" and here are a sample of each:

(Yeah, I know -- they are all a vast improvement for my appearance!)

Then I tried the caption option, adding some words to my buddy Greg's mouth, as his hand came off the paddle while guiding our raft over Nantahala Falls in North Carolina 2 years ago...

After the rain ended, we met Patti and Dave for lunch at Culver's before biking 13 at Moraine Hills State Park. We saw our first ever state park fox on the trail, but he scampered into the prairie grass before I could get a photo of him.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Biking, Wildflowers, Cranes, and Baseball

We biked 15 miles on the Millennium Trail, enjoying the profusion of wildflowers exploding into bloom among the prairie grasses...

... and viewed the sandhill cranes, browsing the newly-mown prairie grass meadows...

Then Steve dropped by for lunch prior to his softball game...

... where he prevented a home run from topping the fence, although 6 others did as they lost 17-4.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Busy day...

... so we got in a very early 15 mile bike ride, including checking out the extension (under construction) to the Millennium Trail west of Fish Lake Road, which will take the riders between the Autumn Grove and Symphony Meadows sub-divisions, and then up and over a hill and around the new Volo Village Hall...

Then we visited Mom and took her to Wonton Gourmet Restaurant (Asbury doesn't serve Chinese food) and visited for a couple hours until she had to go downstairs to join the Bingo players. So we headed to Woodfield Mall for some errands and then over to the Rosses for supper at Buona, and finally over to Vine Tastings in Roselle to enjoy the performance by Jim (of "Class of '68") and Rich (of "White Saddle Band") who together cal themselves "On the Air." Both are excellent musicians and fine soloists, and when together, take turns leading and harmonizing. Scott and Sarah joined us here for a few hours. All in all, a busy but wonderful day, despite on-and-off rain.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Moraine Hills SP biking

Two couples from our group are out of town -- one in Colorado and one in France -- but we met Dave and Patti at the state park at 7am (they have a commitment later in the morning) and biked 13 hilly miles. The early hour guaranteed we had the place to ourselves, and also allowed us to see 8 deer, including 2 spotted fawns. We also were able to bike in upper 70 degree temps instead of the 90s later today. It did not prevent me from getting several bites right through my shirt, presumably from horse flies, and also to find a tick crawling on my sock and heading towards my exposed leg.

The floods have finally receded from their rushing over the dam a few weeks ago...

... to their moderate flow now...

Here's the crew as we observe the situation at McHenry Dam...

Then we had breakfast at McDonalds because Dave loves the pancakes and coffee. Now we head out to REI and elsewhere to get some necessities for our western trip next month.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Points to Ponder #13:

  • How is it that we put man on the moon before we figured out it would be a good idea to put wheels on luggage?
  • Why do people pay to go up tall buildings and then put money in binoculars to look at things on the ground?
  • Why do doctors leave the room while you undress for a physical exam when they're going to see you naked anyway?
  • Why do toasters always have a setting that burns the toast to a horrible crisp, which no decent human being would eat?
  • If Jimmy cracks corn and no one cares, why is there a stupid song about him?
  • The sum of the intelligence on the planet is a constant; the population is growing.
  • How long a minute is depends upon which side of the bathroom door you are on.
  • The one who snores always falls asleep first.
  • Embrace every hard-earned facial line and wrinkle, for each testifies to having lived a rich emotional existence.
  • Say and do as you wish with one exception – do not complain about aging for it confers stature and wisdom.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Poem #35: No Muss, No Fuss, No Cuss

I was a high school English teacher/reading specialist. Critical reading was therefore one of the skills I imparted to my students be they lower level or advanced. I tried to engender within them a healthy skepticism for what they encountered in print, because so many erroneously tend to grant automatic credence to anything that appears in print. I tried to force them to think for themselves and to automatically question anything containing a 100% word -- i.e. all, none, always, never -- because very little in reality can be summarized with such words. Blindly accepting such statements makes one's life easier, because if you accept it as true, you don't have to critically think about anything. This poem emphasizes this philosophy:

No need to think.
No muss, no fuss, no cuss.

Naivete -- espousing all,
cynicism-- doubting all,
evil twins, slaying reason by freeing the mind from thought.
Just smile and nod, or scowl and tsk-tsk.
Your job is done.
No need to think.
No muss, no fuss, no cuss.

Yes, or no? Always, or never?
True, or false? All, or none?
Hundred percent, or zip? Black, or white?
No grayscale. No hues nor shades.
No need to think.
No muss, no fuss, no cuss.

Maybe's and sometimes's forbidden.
But's banished, probably's prohibited.
What-if's relegated to oblivion.
No need to peer deeply within the mirror of your consciousness.
Scrutiny unnecessary.
The easy way out.
No need to think.
No muss, no fuss, no cuss.

Is your mind a weed patch, overgrown, jungle-like,
or a tended garden yielding unbounded fruit?
Farm your mind, deracinate the apathy,
tend the furrows, fertilize with ideas,
water with knowledge, allow the light in.
Cultivate your mind.

Then when alone, you'll be in good company.

Able to think.
And well prepared to muss, and fuss, and cuss.

copyright 2003 by Chuck Morlock

Monday, July 14, 2008

Random Facts #15

1. Charlie Chaplin once won third prize in a Charlie Chaplin look-alike contest.
2. Arachibutyrophobia is the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth.
3. In ancient Egypt, priests plucked every hair from their bodies, including their eyebrows and eyelashes.
4. 0.3% of all road accidents in Canada involve a moose.
5. The average person laughs about fifteen times a day.
6 . 50,000 cells in your body will have died and been replaced by new cells while you have been reading this sentence.
7. By law, every child in Belgium must take a harmonica lesson at primary school.
8. While performing her duties as Queen, Cleopatra sometimes wore a fake beard.
9. Peanuts are one of the ingredients in dynamite.
10. Bulletproof vests, fire escapes, laser printers and windshield wipers were all invented by women.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Biking and Softball

We grabbed a quick 10 mile ride on the Millennium Trail before Steve's double header. Both of us neglected to take our cameras, and of course, we regretted it. If you read these posts, you may recall I've been lamenting that our resident pair of sand hill cranes had not returned this year. Well today we saw them browsing in a newly-mown section of prairie grass, and then around a bend and past some trees, and there appeared another pair calmly eating. And we had no cameras! And I didn't even have my iPhone camera, because it was back home by my computer gettting music put into it.

Then on to the games! Two were scheduled today - fortunately back-to-back. It was a cool 75 degrees but with 20 mph winds and even stronger gusts. Infield sand was blowing around willy-nilly and fly balls were either going nowhere or traveling great distances. Steve played right field one game and pitched the other game, but suffice it to say, neither outcome was happy as they lost 22-11 and 19-0. To paraphrae Mr. Chicago Cub, Ernie Banks: Maybe next week!

But ALL was not lost. We took Steve out for a nice supper at Potbelly's and some good conversation.

iPhone G3

Today after church, I headed to Woodfield Mall's Apple Store because the Apple website showed this store as still having new phones in stock. I was determined to not stand in long lines waiting for the new model as so many did the last few days. I arrived at the store 75 minutes before its scheduled opening and found myself second in line, and as I talked with the gentleman ahead of me, an Apple employee came to the door and asked what we were looking for. We both replied we wanted the 16 GB white iPhone, so the fellow invited us both in, and within 13 minutes I was walking out with my new activated phone. Upon arriving home, I loaded all my settings into it from my old iPhone, then synced my music, photos, and movies, and was ready to roll. Later we purchased a replacement SIM card for my old phone and are now in the process of activating it on Ellen's account.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Wauconda Rodeo

Yes, you read that correctly -- a rodeo in suburban Chicago! In fact, it was the 45th Annual Wauconda Rodeo, sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce. I'd love to show you all sorts of great photos of the events using my 300mm telephoto lens, but the "production company" prohibits cameras from even being brought into the facility, much less used to snap pictures. What bullshit! I did, however, get a shot of the stunning sunset from the stands, using my dinky 2MP iPhone camera...

Featuring cowboys from the International Professional Rodeo Association, we watched steer wrestling, calf roping, barrel racing, saddle bronc riding, and bull riding. A troupe of 8 ladies also performed an equestrian precision riding demonstration. And of course, the clowns were there, too.

Writer's group meeting...

... at Don's place in Sedgebrook, beginning with lunch and conversation in the cafe...

...followed by sharing our latest memoirs, getting "caught up" since our last meeting was 7 months ago, and having light dessert. Seated (l to r) are Phyllis, Pete, Evie, and Don (Ellen is out of the photo on the couch.)

Our next meeting will be at my place following the NICE meeting in Grayslake on October 11th.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Fox River Trail biking

Patti and Dave are finished with the festivities surrounding their son's wedding, and Len and Marlene have returned from their trip to China, so the group reunited today for an 18 miler on the Fox Trail south from East Dundee. Here's a shot of our meeting area...

... and a wonderful eggs Benedict breakfast at Benedict's finished a perfect morning.