Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Hiking Lake Fayetteville Trail

A bit chilly to bike today, so we hiked the 6 miles of Lake Fayetteville Trail...

Of all the times we've hiked here, we encountered far more hikers, mountain bikers, dog walkers, and disc golfers than any other day. It was good to see so many availing themselves of this marvelous facility and the bright, sunny day.

I guess they agree with me -- Any day in the woods is a GREAT day!

Adopt A Dog!

If you want someone who will eat whatever you put in front of him 
and never say it's not quite as good as his mother's


...then adopt a dog.

If you want someone always willing to go out, at any hour,
 for as long and wherever you want...


..then adopt a dog.

If you want someone who will never touch the remote, doesn't care about football, and can sit next to you as you watch romantic movies


...then adopt a dog.

If you want someone who is content to get on your bed just to 
warm your feet and whom you can push off if he snores...

..then adopt a dog !

If you want someone who never criticizes what you do, doesn't care if you are pretty or ugly, fat or thin, young or old, who acts as if every word you say is especially worthy of listening to, and loves you unconditionally, perpetually...


..then adopt a dog.

BUT, on the other hand, if you want someone who will never come when you call, ignores you totally when you come home, leaves hair all over the place, walks all over you, runs around all night, only comes home to eat and sleep, and acts as if your entire existence is solely to ensure his happiness...


..then adopt a cat!

That's what I did!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Why Seek Adventure?

You can't cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.
--Rabindranath Tagore

Who dares nothing, need hope for nothing.
--Johann Friedrich Von Schiller

An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.
--G. K. Chesterton

A large volume of adventures may be grasped within this little span of life, by him who interests his heart in everything.
--Laurence Sterne

It is only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up, that we will begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it were the only one we had.
--Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.
--Robert F. Kennedy

It is only in adventure that some people succeed in knowing themselves - in finding themselves.
--André Gide

In a world where there is so much to be done, I felt strongly impressed that there must be something for me to do.
--Dorothy Dix

Fortune and love befriend the bold.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Pride of the Ozarks Barbershop Concert - 2009

For the second year in a row, we attended the concert of the Greater Ozarks Chapter of The Barbershop Harmony Society (formerly the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America.) This year's concert, entitled "I Have A Song To Sing," was held in the modern auditorium of Rogers (AR) High School. The group lost some membership from last year but still had a wonderful blend and very fine sound...

Did you notice the young men in the front row? It's good to see youth involved with this old-time traditional American music endeavor. And speaking of youth, one of the guest groups was the Rogers High School "Debonair Men" seen below, accompanied by 2 violins. This group is in its first year of existence and sounded wonderful! The entire concert was dedicated to music educators -- be they school faculty members, people who give lessons in their homes or studios, or volunteers who lead community groups -- all important components of carrying on music traditions in our country and around the world. From the program: "It is the right of every man, woman, and child to experience the joy of singing. Music is the expression of the soul and the all-embracing language of the world." Amen!

"Melody Lane," including two men from the chorus, entertained next. These four gentlemen together represent over 100 years experience in barbershop music!

...followed by "High Definition," a group only 1 1/2 years old but already Central District Champs and 13th in the world in an international competition. They were fabulous and got a well-deserved standing ovation from the audience.

The final numbers saw all on stage joining in song...

Like last year, we spent another enjoyable afternoon listening to the concert, despite the non-Arkansas-like weather outside featuring 34 degrees and hours of snow flurries (without accumulation, fortunately.) A tasty dinner at Outback on the drive home capped off a great day!

Here's last year's post.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Bombastic Proverbs #3

Ten familiar proverbs are re-written into lengthy sentences utilizing large (bombastic) words. Read each and see if you can decipher the familiar proverb. The answers are at the bottom of this post.

Do not utter loud and passionate vocal expressions because of the accidental overturning of a receptacle containing a whitish, opaque, nutritive fluid.

Don’t cry over spilt milk.


1. It invariably comes to pass that the more massive the individual, so much greater is the force he exerts upon impact with terra firma.

2. Lack of factual background and expertise in any given area often leads one to an emotional state of ecstasy, joy, and bliss.

3. Those members of feathered tribes who exhibit punctuality and promptitude consequently ensnare and possess the slimy, crawly creature.

4. A body of persons abiding in a domicile of silica combined with metallic oxides should not carelessly project small geological specimens.

5. An addlepated beetle head and his specie divaricate with startling prematurity.

6. It is none other than a maleficent horizontally propelled current of gaseous matter whose portentous advent is not the harbinger of a modicum of beneficence.

7. Aberration is the hallmark of Home Sapiens while longanamous placability and condonation are the indicia of super-mundane omniscience.

8. An irrepressibly inquisitive disposition eventuated the demise of the feline.

9. Labor uninterrupted by essential recreation constrains within the male progeny Jonathan a proclivity for lacklusterness.

10. Equity and justice are nonexistent in the pursuit of amorousness and bellicosity.


Answer Key:

1. The bigger they come, the harder they fall.
2. Ignorance is bliss.
3. The early bird gets the worm.
4. People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.
5. A fool and his money are soon parted.
6. An ill wind blows no good.
7. To err is human, to forgive, divine.
8. Curiosity killed the cat.
9. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
10. All’s fair in love and war.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Death of Our Salesman

I was doing 45 miles-per-hour in a 30mph zone and thought for sure I’d be stopped by an officer, but I didn’t care. Heading east on Foster Avenue, I passed the snowy fields and barren trees of LaBaugh Woods Forest Preserve and knew there would be no cross streets for a mile or more -- so I notched it up another ten mph as I zipped past Gompers Park and its short hill where I used to sled when a tyke. I crossed Pulaski Road with the green light and knew Swedish Covenant Hospital was a mile or so ahead on the right and tried to recall where the parking lot was from my visits here five years earlier.

Today, Saturday, December 18, 1976, had been an eventful and fruitful day, but it had certainly begun far better than it was ending. Kent had come over and we had rehearsed our skits for the upcoming coffee house we were co-directing for Advent Lutheran Church in Streamwood, our choir’s annual fundraiser to purchase items like robes and music. Later I had rehearsed the youth group, the Luther League, in their skit “Dr. Frankenbeans.” Nancy and I were sponsors of the group and loved working with the church’s teens. Following rehearsal, we had held a brief steering committee meeting with the officers to plan future meetings and events.

Then from 7 to 8:30 pm, we had gone Christmas Caroling with the Luther League, visiting shut-ins of the church and bringing some Christmas joy to their lives, as well as ours. Finally, the singers had progressed to Pastor Wayne’s home for the annual Luther League Christmas Party, and while in the midst of some game, the phone call from Mom had come and I immediately left for the 30-mile drive to the hospital. Dad had just been taken by ambulance to the emergency room following a heart attack while in the washroom.

The drive down the Northwest Tollway and then the Kennedy Expressway remains a blurry memory. Somehow I knew what I would find at the hospital. Dad was 61, just four months shy of his 62nd birthday on April 9th when he was going to retire, but he never took care of himself. He suffered from high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, never exercised, and he was a longtime alcoholic, unable and unwilling to kick the addiction. Seven years earlier he had suffered a stroke that had temporarily slurred his speech and given him a limp, and though he had pretty much fully recovered, he had not made any lifestyle changes.

I recalled coming home seven years earlier after a day of teaching at Wells High School and found him lying on his bed. Mom was at work and Dad was supposed to be working, too, and I panicked as I saw him there in bed, at first appearance looking dead. I feared the worst as I watched him for the longest time until finally I saw his chest rise and fall and felt a pulse in his wrist. That was about the most scared I had ever remembered feeling. Until now, as I hurried to the hospital, that is.

Dad had had some tough times in his life. His Dad, Christian Bader, had been killed in World War One fighting for the German army, having never had the chance to see his yet unborn son nor marry Dad’s mother, Eva Maria (Anna) Morlock (photo below).

Later, Anna and Dad joined other family members and immigrated to the United States, entering through Ellis Island and settling in Chicago. At age 28 he met 19-year-old Edith Barteldes, my mom, at the Schiller (German) Club Ball. They married in 1943, had two great kids, and created a wonderful, loving home life. Dad worked for Stanley Tools for many years, and after being laid off when business slacked, he eventually got a job running the hardware department at Wieboldt’s Department Store in the Lincoln/Belmont/Ashland shopping district, just blocks from our Paulina Street apartment which was owned by Grandpa. But Dad didn’t just sell tools -- he had mastered them, too. I always believed there wasn’t a thing he couldn’t build or repair, and his workshop had every tool imaginable which he lovingly taught me how to use and care for.

As I roared down Foster and passed the adjacent Montrose and Bohemian National Cemeteries, I feared the worst. My thoughts rewound to the last time I had driven this same street at high speed nearly five years earlier -- but under far more joyous circumstances. Nancy and I had been living in our first apartment on Edmunds Street in Jefferson Park, and at 4:15 am, her water had broken and I had rushed her to Swedish Covenant Hospital for the birth of our first son, Scott Alan, on April Fools’ Day of 1972. How excited Dad had been and how he had loved Scott these last five years.

I was grateful that Dad had survived the stroke, had been able to attend our wedding in 1969, and had gotten to know his grandson. But down deep somewhere I lamented, fearful that he would never get to know his second grandson, Steven Andrew, who would be born in just seven weeks.

I found the parking lot nearest the hospital emergency room entrance, and as I hurried to the door I realized that Mom and Dad had only been in their new home for ten days – the only home they had ever owned. He had to be okay because he had so much to live for, what with Christmas coming, and his second grandson about to be born, and owning a new home to enjoy. I entered and saw Mom, crying and crestfallen, and I knew immediately that my worst fears were realized. The hospital clergyman escorted me into the room where Dad’s body lay on a table and I spent many minutes sobbing and silently saying goodbye, my hand gently holding his already cold hand, and after kissing his forehead, I exited, took Mom home, and began the long process of funeral preparations. I called home to inform Nancy, spent the night on Mom’s couch, and the next day, with Mom and my sister Linda, we made the arrangements.

Christmas, 1977, was but one short week after his death and barely days after his funeral, and its joy was tempered and muted for our entire extended family. Just six weeks earlier, our dear Uncle Fritz had been tragically killed in a grisly traffic accident while returning from Ames, Iowa, late on November 11th in a snowstorm. Involved in a fender-bender accident, Uncle Fritz had walked to the rear of his car to survey the damage when another vehicle had slammed into him, pinning him between the cars and amputating his two legs. He bled out before help could arrive. Our annual Christmas Eve celebration, usually one of the highlights of the year with carol singing, great food, and gift exchanges, was instead a bittersweet gathering which reflected both the joy of the birth of Christ and the sorrow of the untimely passing of two of the three remaining patriarchs of our extended family.

Memories and love survive to this day, along with the usual regrets over "what could have been" had he lived longer.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Random Facts #19

  • Isn't it interesting how the word "politics" is made up of 'poli' - "many" in Greek, and 'tics', as in bloodsucking creatures?
  • It is important to watch what you eat. Otherwise, how are you going to get it in your mouth?
  • Do not underestimate your abilities -- that is your boss's job.
  • Truth endures; a lie is a momentary illusion that ends up a
    trap filled with burdens.
  • An optimist is a person who starts a crossword puzzle with a pen.
  • To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.
  • As you approach one of life’s roadblocks, look both ways.
  • The deepest feelings always show themselves in silence.
  • An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth just makes for a bunch of blind toothless people.
  • Gossip columnists are the spies of life.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Rubik's Cube..

...is widely considered to be the world's best-selling toy. Invented in 1974 by Erno Rubik, a Hungarian architecture professor and sculptor, the cube has six faces -- each face comprising 9 red, white blue, orange, green, or yellow colored squares. Each face turns independently utilizing a pivot, thus mixing up the colors. For the puzzle to be solved, each face must be a solid color.

Between 1980-82, over 100 million cubes were sold, and it is said that 1 in 3 households in the Western Hemisphere possess one. By 2009, over 350 million cubes had been sold worldwide, making it the world's best-selling toy ever. Its sales also were credited with helping the Hungarian economy out of Communism in the 1980s.

There are exactly 43,252,003,274,489,856,000 different positions (over forty-three quintillion) yet speed-cubers can solve it in as little as 11 seconds. Here's a video of one way to solve the puzzle, and here are written directions for solving it, including a PDF you can download.

Back in the '80s, I purchased a small pamphlet which provided a format for solving the puzzle. I memorized the steps, practiced a bunch, and was able to solve it in under 3 minutes and I thought that was really good! But "Speed cubers" try to set world records as fastest solver of the cube. The record I have seen posted is a mere 11 seconds! Of course, some speed-cubers have to put their own personal touch on the record, so they solve it while blindfolded, spending about 1 minute memorizing the unsolved cube that was handed to them, and in another minute, while blindfolded, they solve the cube. Still others solve it while underwater on one breath, solve it one-handed, solve it using chopsticks, solve it while drunk, solve it while free-falling from a plane, or solve it with their feet.

Here's what a cube looks like in pieces...

Other versions of the traditional 3X3 cube include 4X4, 5X5, and even a 20X20 cube. Here's how a cube is assembled.

But be warned if you try to emulate these Rubik's aficionados, because "Cubist thumb" and "Rubik's wrist" are documented medical conditions that can be incurred by addicts. And if your addiction gets too extreme, there of course is C.A. -- Cuber' Anonymous to assist you!

More info for those so inclined can be found in Wikipedia.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Worthy Quotes #21:

The national anthem of hell is, I Did It My Way.
-- Peter Kreeft

Sometime they'll give a war and nobody will come.
--Carl Sandburg

Your smile is a muscle and sometimes you have to force yourself to exercise it.

Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you.

Think you can, think you can't; either way you're right.
-- Henry Ford

Faith is not the belief that God will do what you want. Faith is the belief that God will do what is right.
-- Max Lucado

Treat others with respect. It's not just the right thing to do; if you don't, it will almost always come back and bite you.
--Pat Sajak

If a dog will not come to you after having looked you in the face, you should go home and examine your conscience.
--Woodrow Wilson

It does not require many words to speak the truth.
--Chief Joseph, Nez Perce Tribe

Everything becomes a little different as soon as it is spoken out loud.
-- Hermann Hesse

Monday, March 23, 2009


Are you 55 or better? Do you like to travel? Enjoy spending time with people who share your passions? Want to learn while engaged in an enjoyable activity?

If so, Elderhostel is an organization with which you should familiarize yourself. I joined 7 years ago, have participated in 21 programs, and highly recommend their offerings. Here are posts about the canoeing program ...

...and the Behind the scenes at Disney program, both from last month...

A love of learning, and a love of being in the company of exceptional people while visiting new locales, and a love of participating in engaging environments -- all create extraordinary experiences -- which is what Elderhostel has been providing for more than a quarter-century. "Exceptional learning opportunities for adults at a remarkable value" is their motto, but in a nutshell, Elderhostel is older folks going to school without homework, without tests or quizzes, with long recesses, with nice people from all over the country, and with really good food service.

Elderhostel was founded in 1975 on five New Hampshire college campuses, based on the idea of inexpensive lodging and non-credit classes. As it evolved, Elderhostel programs left college dorm housing and moved to quality motels/hotels, and the meals similarly improved. In fact, many programs provide local, cultural cuisine to add to the "educational component" required of all programs. Our Mexico/Copper Canyon trip included local restaurants and even featured a "home visit" where we were served a traditional home-cooked meal by the matriarch of the home. Another program in Florida took us to local black churches for delicious home cooked meals.

Today Elderhostel serves 160,000 participants annually, offering nearly 8000 programs in the USA and Canada, with an additional 1251 programs in over 90 countries on 6 continents. Since Elderhostel is a non-profit organization, you eliminate the middle-man fees usually found in travel programs. There are 698,853 Elderhostelers living in 524,568 households with an average age of 71.7 years, of whom 62% are female. Over 4 million people have participated in a trip since Elderhostel began.

Elderhostel strives to offer low-cost, stimulating trips, and you can find a program to match any interest you wish to pursue. Programs can be found that cover one day or several weeks, though most are 5 days long. The average cost for US programs is a bit over $100 a day, a bit over $200 a day for international trips. Everything except transportation to and from the site is included in the advertised fee -- all meals, taxes, lodging, excursions, group shuttles to sites while on the trip, activities, lectures, and even all gratuities. No ups - no extras!

Best of all, perhaps, is the Travel Assistance Plan that is automatically included in the cost of the program. It provides 24-hour coverage in any emergency during the trip, including medical evacuation.

United States & Canada Programs International Programs
Emergency medical evacuation
Motor vehicle return to your home
Baggage delay insurance
Assistance with lost or delayed baggage
Help with travel document replacement
Emergency medical evacuation
Limited medical coverage for an accidental injury or sickness
Baggage delay insurance
Lost, stolen, or damaged baggage insurance
Medical escort

And Elderhostel membership is completely free. Membership gets you free catalogs of all the offerings, though many use the convenient online search capabilities of the Elderhostel site, which also allows you to sign up online. Or you can call their toll-free number and speak with a live person for answers to questions or to register for for a program.

Many communities even have "alumni" groups which are local chapters composed of experienced Elderhostelers and those interested in learning about the organizations. I belong to the Northern Illinois Chapter of Elderhostel (NICE) and we meet every other month (photo below) and share our latest Elderhostel adventures, hear guest speakers, and socialize over lunch afterward.

As I mentioned, twenty-one of my adventures have involved active outdoor Elderhostel programs, all of which are listed here and include info and photos on each. Or go here for Elderhostel's description of program categories. It's free and could change your life! And just for fun, go to their website, type in a topic of interest to you, and see what programs are available for that topic. One warning, though -- Elderhostel trips can become addictive!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Ozark Moonshine

“Da da da, da da, da da, da dum,” Casey sang, roughly approximating the guitar/banjo melody of the famous theme song from the movie “Deliverance.”

“Dum dum dum, dum dum, dum dum, dum dum,” Dwight echoed, and soon all at the table were laughing, including me, the brunt of the joke.

“You know, Chuck, Arkansas is as bad as Tennessee or anywhere else in Appalachia,” cautioned Len. “They got lotta men there who like other men.”

“Better take your gun on this trip,” suggested Casey.

“Yeah, ‘cause you can be sure they’ll all have their guns with them!” laughed Dwight.

I had started this thread of conversation a few minutes earlier, responding to the innocuous question, ‘What are you doing over spring break in two weeks?” I had simply related that I was going to do a solo backpack on the Ozark Highlands Trail in northern Arkansas, and suddenly I was being lectured on imagined stranger-danger encounters in hillbilly country, and this conversation continued nearly every day as our vacation approached. I laughed good-naturedly each time the banter began, but I didn’t realize how deeply the repartee had influenced my subconscious until the third day of the trip.

On Saturday, March 22, 1997, I left at 5 am. The prospect of backpacking after a long winter made the ten-hour drive go quickly. I checked into a Best Western Inn in Branson, Missouri, at 3 pm and immediately went for an hour walk down the main drag, reveling in the warm 65 degree afternoon while stretching my legs from the long car drive and scouting out what shows were available that evening.

Branson is famous for its dozens of theatres offering fine family entertainment at moderate prices. Over the years I’ve seen The Oak Ridge Boys, The Osmond Brothers, Glen Campbell, Andy Williams, and the fantastic violinist, Shoji Tabuchi and his electrifying daughter, Christina. March is still pre-season, so not all venues were open yet, but there was still a good selection of performances and plenty of seats were available for all shows. I decided to see the Jim Stafford Show, remembering him from his time on the old Smothers Brothers television show, and I got a ticket for that night’s performance – third row center.

The next day I drove south into Arkansas, parked at Don Hankins’ house, and paid him $40 to shuttle me to Ozone Campground where I began the backpack on the Ozark Highlands Trail, a 165-mile route through the magnificent Ozark National Forest. I was only hiking 30 or so of those miles as I worked my way back to my van, and that first day I covered a bit over 12 miles, quite a bit considering the long winter of reduced exercising. Lunch was at the picturesque slot rock area along Lick Creek, and that entire day I encountered only two people, equestrians out for a ride along a creek.

Solo backpacking is far different from backpacking with others. For many people, solitude is the most unappealing aspect and they have no desire to go days without companionship. I love going with others and most of my 60+ backpacks have been with friends or groups, but solo hiking also has advantages and going alone is better than not going at all if no one else is available for a trip. The opportunity to dwell in your own mind uninterrupted for long periods of time is not a bad thing, and great thoughts are more probable when so engrossed in thought. I always carry two books with me and find plenty of time to relax and read, and poetry often oozes out of my mind while I’m out in nature for days at a time. I’ve always subscribed to the words of my sixth grade teacher, Mr. Ernest Palincsar, who wrote in my elementary school autograph book: “Cultivate your mind so that when you’re alone, you’ll be in good company.”

A drawback to solo backpacking is not having someone with whom to share the scenic beauty, though taking photographs like this of Cedar Creek...

... and vista-inspired poetry help alleviate this shortcoming. A larger problem is having no one to assist should you encounter trouble, so constant caution and vigilance to danger are paramount when alone. Having to carry all the gear yourself is another downside, as is having to get your pack on and off unassisted, so both of these temper how much and what gear you take. Two or more minds are often preferable when confusions arise regarding route finding and map interpretation, but on the flip side, being able to determine your own timetable and hiking at your own pace are advantages of soloing. A final drawback is not having anyone to share daily camp chores, but of course there are fewer dishes to wash and less food to prepare when alone.

I crossed Cedar Creek at 4:30 and chose a spot to set up camp since the guidebook showed the trail about to join an old logging road just up the hill. I much preferred spending the night close to the water source and while I was still deep in the woods, not alongside an old road. The strenuous hiking had killed my appetite, so I skipped supper and rested in the tent, reading a novel. I left the door unzipped, head sticking out into the warm air, and every so often I stopped reading and just stared at the beauty of the forest. Since spring was just beginning and leaves were scarce, sight lines through the trees were astounding and the barren brown topography beautiful in its own way.

After darkness hit, I continued reading with my flashlight. Then the bulb died. A spare bulb is stored in the base of the Mini-Maglight, but the bulbs are not the screw-in type, having two long, slender wires that have to be carefully inserted into two small holes. I knew I would probably break off one or both of the wires if I tried to do it in the dark and I didn’t want to go out to get my matches from my backpack leaning against a nearby tree. Since I was feeling tired, I decided to just let myself doze off, so around 7 pm, I zipped the screen door shut to keep critters out, left the outer door open since it was still warm, and fell into a deep slumber.

Hours later I awoke, startled by something up the hill, and discovered a powerful spotlight glaring down on me from the hilltop, illuminating the tent and me and partially blinding me from its incredible brightness. With sleepy, unfocused eyes, and a half-dozing, cloudy mind, I felt apprehension as I observed vague figures moving down the forested hillside toward me. The fine meshing of the mosquito net screen door obscured clear vision, but I recalled the map showing the old jeep road atop the hill’s ridgeline and realized the approaching strangers must have parked along the road and no doubt had made whatever sound had awakened me so suddenly. I recalled the jibes from the guys at work about the Deliverance people who populated this backward region and fear regarding their motives washed through me. Why would these half dozen or more locals spotlight my tent and rush down toward me? Perhaps I had inadvertently stumbled upon a backwoods moonshine operation or a marijuana farm or a crack factory? Maybe they were after my gear and money? Or maybe Casey and the guys were right and this was a sexual attack?

I quickly went through my daypack and found my Charter Arms Bulldog Pug .44 special, a five-shot revolver, and reassured myself that it was loaded. For safety reasons, I always carry it with an empty cylinder as the next to fire, so I only had four bullets for six or more attackers. Not good. Where are the spare shells? Oh yeah, at the bottom of my pack, outside ten feet away leaning against a tree. Also not good. And no flashlight to use, either. Oops! Situation not looking good at all!

I stared at the descending strangers, trying to wish them away and also make out their faces, movements, and intentions. Maybe the spotlight wasn’t really shining on me but on some animal beyond me, or maybe it’s just randomly pointing down the hill to allow them to hike down safely for whatever innocent purpose they were pursuing.

But this seemed mere wishful thinking. The searchlight was too powerful, too blinding, and too purposefully directed at me, and they were heading directly at me. Why are they not talking, calling out to one another or to me? Well, obviously they think I’m sleeping. After all, there are no lights coming from my tent or my camp. So what are my options? Limited at best. Virtually non-existent. I couldn’t run in the pitch darkness. I could fight, but I was outnumbered and out gunned, and I’m not much of a fighter anyway. I could try hiding, but the spotlight was all seeing. What should I do? I felt paralyzed from sleepiness, fear, confusion, and indecision. I just kept staring at the approaching men and praying this was all just a bad dream, but it was far too real to be a dream.

Though it seemed much longer, only minutes had passed since I’d been suddenly awakened. I concentrated on the spotlight now, studying it, for something seemed to have changed. What was different? The shape of the light beam was rounder now, and even brighter still, and larger, and even seemed to be a bit higher above the hillside’s crest. Of course -- they were carrying the light down the hill with them! And they were nearly here!

Then all at once, clarity replaced the fog of sleep and my eyes focused more clearly, and I sheepishly laughed aloud at myself as I reveled at the biggest, brightest, closest view I’d ever had of a full blazing moon now clearing the crest of the hill in its full majesty and making the entire hollow in which I was camped as bright as if in daylight, and for the first time in minutes, my heart and respirations returned to normal and I was overcome simultaneously by two intense feelings – relief and foolishness – as I realized the spotlight was the moon and the attacking strangers were merely tree and bush branches shimmering in the light breeze.

February 25, 2005

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Seven Wonders of Illinois...

...were chosen in 2007 from thousands of nominations by citizens. The Illinois Bureau of Tourism whittled the list down to 84 destinations representing 12 from each of the state's seven regions, and Illinois residents then voted online for their favorite locales, which are:

Northern: Starved Rock State Park near Utica
Central: Allerton Park and Retreat Center in Monticello
Western: Black Hawk State Historic Site near Rock Island
Southern: Rend Lake, Benton
Southwest: Meeting of the Great Rivers Scenic Byway (Mississippi, Illinois, and Missouri Rivers)
Chicago: Wrigley Field
Chicagoland: Baha'i House of Worship, Wilmette

(More photos of Illinois are available here.)


Did you know Illinois is an Algonquin Indian word that means “tribe of superior men”? Following you'll find interesting facts about Illinois along with up-to-date Illinois visitor and economic impact information.

2007 Illinois Tourism Visitor Information

  • The largest drawing tourist destination is Chicago's Navy Pier

  • In 2007, Illinois welcomed nearly 89 million domestic visitors, 20.5 million for business and nearly 68.2 million for leisure purposes. The top five states providing visitors to Illinois were Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan and Missouri.

  • More than 1.1 million overseas visitors traveled to Illinois in 2007 ranking Illinois tied for 6th most popular U.S. state. The top five markets for international visitors to Illinois were Canada, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Germany and Japan.

  • Illinois ranked 9th in the U.S. in its share of total domestic travel and 6th in traveler spending.

  • The average age of Illinois leisure visitors was 45; the majority were married and they had an average annual household income of $73,000.

  • Primary activities for leisure travelers to Illinois included shopping, dining, entertainment, touring/sightseeing,

(from Illinois Bureau of Tourism)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Johnny Ray Watson

I've previously related my love for bass singers, and I’ve had the pleasure of hearing Johnny Ray Watson sing at our church, The Village Church of Barrington, three or four times. Each performance was a blend of marvelous music from his rich, smooth, resonant, booming bass voice interspersed with his homespun stories of his family and life -- ultimately all wrapped around testimony of his love of God and how it developed.

He recounted hanging out in his high school hallway with friends (in hometown Lorenzo, Texas) when the music teacher walked by, heard him conversing, and in a resolute, firm voice herself intoned, “Report to me after school in the music room.” That changed his life, which had been dominated by basketball. You see, Johnny is 6’ 7” tall, was a star on his team, later was the leading scorer on his McMurry College (Abilene) team, and was named most valuable player in 1971. He had his heart set on a pro-basketball career, but God had other plans for him, because a leg injury ended his playing days.

After college, he headed for Dayton, Ohio, to seek his fortune singing in night clubs. But in the year away, he says, “I went against every teaching of the Gospel. I was so stupid. I ended up coming home dejected and my spirit broken.'' After his disastrous foray into drugs and other worldly pleasures, he came again under the influence of his church-going, singing, praying family, and that family and church rescued him. He openly credits, ''My dad left me a legacy; he showed me how to live and taught me how to die.”

For the past 35 years, Johnny Ray Watson has been the featured artist by some of America’s great ministries, including three years with the Billy Graham Crusades (“And that is like no other experience” he says), numerous events with Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, the America for Jesus Rallies, the Professional Athletes Outreach, and numerous churches and small organizations. His itinerary has included appearances in Asia, Europe, South Africa, the Middle East, and the Caribbean.

But his heart really goes out to one of the oldest prison ministries in the country, which leads to another of his stories: his numerous visits to prison to see his son. As a result, for more than 20 years, Johnny has worked with one of the oldest prison ministries in the country, Bill Glass Prison Ministries. Alongside professional athletes and other performers, he visited hundreds of prisons across the country and connected with thousands of prisoners. He also served as the Co-Chair of The Turner Foundation's Commission for Hope, a Commission specifically geared toward serving young people, those in the inner cities, and those in prison.

Another highlight was in his own Texas, seen in the AP photo below...

... with Johnny Ray Watson, left, leading relatives and friends of the late Lyndon Baines Johnson in singing a chorus of "Battle Hymn of The Republic," during ceremonies to commemorate the 100th birthday of former president Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2008, at the family cemetery on the LBJ Ranch, located near Stonewall, Texas. Lynda Johnson Robb, in the blue and white dress, wearing a hat, holds hands with her sister, Luci Baines Johnson. To the right is Ian Turpin, Luci's husband; Catherine Robb, and her father Chuck Robb, Lynda's husband; and Nicole Covert, Luci's daughter, far right.

Below is a YouTube clip -- not very good video or audio quality -- but it gives a taste of this wonderful gospel singer's talent.

Last time he appeared at my church, he hobbled up to the podium with a cane and sat for the performance. About 13 months before, he tore his Achilles tendon in an accident caused by ''A 19-year-old brain in a 50-year-old body.” Because of his diabetes, the injury has been slow to heal and for a while they thought he was going to lose the foot. He spoke of his 5 surgeries in 5 years and added, “I have some trouble with the effects of my diabetes. I can keep it under control if I watch my diet…but I like to eat.” He also relates, ''I had the same throat surgery that Julie Andrews had. There was a six percent chance I'd sing again. For three months, I couldn't speak. The waiting was the most agonizing time, but it brought me closest to my faith and trust in God.''

Johnny currently lives in Bastrop, Texas with his wife, Brinda Kay and family, and is artist-in-residence at Riverbend Church in Austin. I hope he returns to my church for more performances.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Church Signs #10

In my driving trips across all 50 states, I often spot clever, amusing, and
thought-provoking signs in front of churches of all denominations, and long
ago I began jotting them down. I'll gradually post them here for your entertainment and edification.

  1. Use your past as a springboard, not as a couch.
  2. Our attitude is the crayon that colors our lives.
  3. Learn about our prophet-sharing plan.
  4. No day is dark when the Son is present.
  5. Something you can give and keep: your word.
  6. Don’t fear all ghosts. Believe in the Holy Ghost.
  7. The vitamin for a Christian is B 1.
  8. The best things in life are not things.
  9. Don’t count your years – make your years count.
  10. Nothing ruins the truth like stretching it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Random facts #18

1. During eight years of Seinfeld, Cosmo Kramer went through Jerry Seinfeld's apartment door 284 times.
2. Clouds fly higher during the day than at night.
3. The cost of raising a medium-size dog to the age of eleven is $16,400.
4. The youngest pope was eleven years old.
5. Most lipsticks contain fish scales.
6. Tom Cruise had attended fifteen schools by the time he was fourteen.
7. The average number of people airborne over the U.S. in any given hour is 61,000.
8. In medieval England, beer was often served with breakfast.
9. In all three 'Godfather' films, when you see oranges, there is a death (or very close call) coming up soon.
10. Intelligent people have more zinc and copper in their hair.



Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Worthy Quotes #20:

In wilderness is the preservation of the World.
--Henry David Thoreau

The ideal condition would be, I admit, that men should be right by instinct; but since we are all likely to go astray, the reasonable thing is to learn from those who can teach.

You are today where your thoughts have brought you; you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you.
—James Allen

Give the gift of love. It's returnable.

Only a life lived for others is worth living.
-- Albert Einstein

Praise undeserved, is satire in disguise.
--Alexander Pope

We can do no great things; only small things with great love.
-- Mother Teresa

Though you can give without loving, you can't love without giving.
-- Tom Drout

Everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects.
--Will Rogers

Monday, March 16, 2009

Chicago Cubs turn down offer to end curse?

This plastic statue of Colonel Harlen Sanders graced the outside of an Osaka, Japan KFC franchise until 1985 -- but then some excited fans of Japan's Hanshin Tigers baseball team, which had won its first Central League championship in two decades, celebrated by tossing the statue into the nearby Dotonbori River. Apparently, the (probably over-served) fans determined that the Colonel resembled the Tigers power hitter, former major-leaguer Randy Bass.

Years later, after the Tigers fell back to their losing ways, fans blamed the bad luck on "The KFC Curse" and a local TV station sent a diver into the murky water in hopes of turning up the colonel. No luck.

Until this week, when divers searching for unexploded bombs stumbled upon the colonel's torso, and the next day found his legs and right hand. Maybe the curse is now over. Maybe the team will regain its winning ways.

But the story doesn't end there. A letter was sent to the Chicago Cubs -- another team battling a "billy-goat curse" imposed even longer ago -- a letter offering to bring this curse-breaking statue to Wrigley Field for Opening Day. Last I heard, the Cubs have turned down this magnanimous offer, preferring to rely instead on a game plan built upon pitching-hitting-fielding. I believe such a plan has been tried many times before to no avail during the last 100 fruitless years.

Could a stab at a curse-breaking statue hurt?

The History of "Amazing Grace" by Wintley Phipps

I admit to being a wannabee bass. For 48 years I've sung in church and community choirs and love music. Many of my favorite singers are true basses -- names like George Younce, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Jim Nabors, Johnny Cash, Ed Ames, J. D. Sumner, Paul Robeson, Johnny Ray Watson, Johnny Hartman, Richard Sterban, Harold Reid, Tim Duncan, and of course, the first bass I ever recall hearing on the radio, George Beverly Shea. Bev as he preferred being called, sang for 50 years on the road with Billy Graham, and after retiring, was replaced by Wintley Phipps. My first intro to Wintley was on a Bill Gaither Homecoming DVD, three performances from which follow below.

Below is Wintley singing "Amazing Grace," but after hearing a bit of this amazing singer, please click the video that follows and hear his brief but poignant "sermonette" on the history of Negro Spirituals -- many of which are written using the "slave scale" or pentatonic scale, the five black notes on the piano -- and Wintley's explanation of how "Amazing Grace" came to be written as the first "white man's Negro spiritual" by John Newton, a former slave ship captain turned evangelical Anglican priest, whose life and conversion are described in the song lyrics. But the tune Newton chose for his words is a Negro slave chant melody he no doubt heard his captors singing on one of his slave ship journeys.

Wintley Phipps is an ordained minister of the Seventh Day Adventist Church. He has performed for the last 6 presidents, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, and Oprah, and he sang at Diana Ross's wedding. He has also sung at 2 Democratic National Conventions, at the Vatican, on "Saturday Night Live" and at National Prayer Breakfasts. He founded the U.S. Dream Academy, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to providing a values-based, interactive, tutorial and remedial education program targeted at children and youth-at-risk through community Family Learning Centers located in various states.

This organization came about as a result of his 6 years serving on the board of directors for Chuck Colson’s ministry, Prison Fellowship. He traveled to various prisons around the country and had a wake-up call. “They all looked like my sons,” says Wintley. “For a moment, I thought I was on a black college campus.”

He studied the problem and discovered that nearly 2.8 million children live with a parent in prison today. Children with parents in prison are six times more likely to end up in prison themselves and over two-thirds of juveniles in the criminal justice system are family or children of prisoners. And since eighty percent of the inmate population is composed of high school dropouts and dropouts are more likely to commit crimes and be incarcerated than those with more education, he founded the Dream Academy to fight the problem at its roots. “We aim to break the cycle of incarceration by giving children the skills and vision needed to lead productive and fulfilling lives,” says Wintley. Amen!

If you enjoy dramatic readings, check out Wintley's rendition of James Weldon Johnson's famous poem, "The Creation" from another of the Gaither Homecoming series, shown below. (BTW, as the camera pans through those on the stage, near the end, the faces of fellow bass-profundos George Younce and George Beverly Shea are shown transfixed by Wintley's captivating performance. And the portrait seen on the back wall is Billy Graham.)

And here is Wintley with another dramatic reading of another James Weldon Johnson poem, "Come Down, Death."

Attending one of his church services and listening to one of his sermons must be special treats!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Buddy Green, Harmonica Maestro, playing his "Classical Medley" at Carnegie Hall...

Buddy Greene, a regular performer on Bill Gaither's immensely popular "Homecoming Tours," performed "Classical Medley" on Gaither's 2002 "God Bless America Live from Carnegie Hall." His website is here.

I'd venture that you have NEVER heard these classical pieces played on a harmonica, so here is the clip of Buddy playing "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring," by Johann Sebastian Bach, "Piano Sonata in C" by Mozart, and "The William Tell Overture" by Rossini (known to most as the theme from "The Lone Ranger.")

Buddy also sings, is a master on the guitar, and he writes music, most notably for Mark Lowry's lyrics on "Mary Did You Know." Here are Mark and Buddy singing this poignant and popular Christmas song they co-wrote...

If you've never read Mark's lyrics to the song, here they are:

Mary, did you know
That your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Did you know
That your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know
That your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you've delivered
Will soon deliver you

Mary, did you know
That your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Did you know
That your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know
That your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little boy
You've kissed the face of god

Mary, did you know?
The blind will see
The deaf will hear
And the dead will live again
The lame will leap
The dumb will speak
The praises of the lamb

Mary, did you know
That your baby boy is lord of all creation?
Did you know
That your baby boy will one day rules the nations?
Did you know
That your baby boy is heavens perfect lamb?
This sleeping child you're holding
Is the great I am

Mark Lowry is a long-time member of Bill Gaither's "Gaither Vocal Band" and supplies uproarious (and clean) comedy for the group, as well as touring both as a solo act and with Sandi Patty. We were pleased when we discovered Mark was again part of the cast at Gaither's Orlando "Lovin' Life Homecoming" we attended last month as I reported here.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Lake Fayetteville Trail damage from ice storm

The rains kept us indoors for 2 days, and the cold blast that hit the South prevented us from biking, but yesterday we put on our winter jackets (from when we left Chicago in early January) and ventured out to my favorite area here, the Lake Fayetteville Trail. We drove to Veteran's Park to begin our hike, but it was closed due to storm damage. So we drove to the Botanic Garden to start there, but signs declared the trail closed due to danger from falling limbs. So we drove to the marina lot and hiked the paved trail which had been cleared. The carnage from the ice storm of late January was rampant. Tops of nearly all trees are gone as well as many branches, and piles of tree debris lined the paved path, awaiting removal.

The State of Arkansas' oldest and largest Black Oak Tree survived but sustained damage as seen here...

Here is the same tree on January 12, 2009 when we hiked here...

... but signs of incipient Spring blossom, even around the carnage the storm inflicted on them...

When we reached the end of the paved segment, we noticed the dirt trail (my favorite and the longest segment of the trail) had been cleared, so we continued hiking the 6 mile loop. As it turned out, the entire trail had been cleared by workers and volunteers, though evidence of the destruction surrounded us as we hiked...

Dozens of whole trees were felled by the storm when their shallow root systems couldn't support the added weight. Seven such downed trees lined the trail here, with root balls sporting bright yellow dirt...

Despite the carnage, we were pleased more damage hadn't been incurred, and in a month when green replaces the brown, the forest will again beam with life, and as the years advance, the damaged trees will recover their height and breadth, for Mother Nature miraculously heals what she injures, just as She heals the damage constantly wrought by Man.

Friday, March 13, 2009

In Memorium: Paul Harvey Aurandt

Like tens of millions of other Americans, I was saddened by the news of the death of Paul Harvey while I was on vacation in Florida. In fact, we heard the news while driving on (fittingly) a dreary day with pouring rain and temperatures 30 degrees lower than the days before. I caught his morning report daily while at home in our beloved Chicago and his Noon report as often as possible. And even when on the road, wherever I was across America, I'd put the radio on "scan" setting at Noon, hoping to find his signature "Paul Harvey News And Comment" featuring his resonant voice proclaiming, "Stand by for news!" and was disappointed if I could not locate a station carrying the broadcast.

When he began his "Rest of the Story" segments in 1976, I immediately loved their obvious deep research (by his son, Paul, Jr.) and their surprise endings, and I would attempt to guess whom he was talking about before he revealed the name at the conclusion. I am happy to hear that Doug Limmerick will continue the series, though it will not be quite the same as when we heard Paul intone, "Hello Americans, I'm Paul Harvey. You know what the news is; in a minute, you're going to hear ... the rest of the story."

Paul's spin on news was to interject his opinions, too -- very strange in journalism -- but he was upfront about it as the name of his show proclaimed, "News and Comment." He also was a devout supporter of his regular sponsors, exclaiming, "I am fiercely loyal to those willing to put their money where my mouth is."

Several coined words in our language are attributed to Paul Harvey -- Reagonomics, bumper-snicker, skyjacker, and guesstimate.

One of Paul's trademarks was how he could paint word-pictures for our mind, poetically authoring his prose. I found this quote by Paul: "You trust me to paint pictures on the mirror of your mind, and I will let you feel such agony and ecstasy as you would never be able to feel by looking at it."

Another Paul Harvey quote I enjoy: "If pro is the opposite of con, what is the opposite of "progress?"

I end this post simply, as Paul always ended his reports: "Good day."

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Signs of our times

Here are three interesting signs I ran into on the trip. The first was outside a cutesy shop in Crystal River, Florida...

This was in a consignment shop in Hendersonville, NC...

And this was in the Green River BBQ in Saluda, NC...

It pays to always have a camera with you!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

More Points to Ponder #15

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.

A prism is a place for light waves to commit minor refractions.

There is nothing too strange to have happened, only things too strange to be believed.

Helen Keller could only see the possibilities.

Was Edison afraid of the dark?

The best things in life are not things.

The longest distance between two points is often the shortcut.

The question is not what you look at, but what you see.

Hearing something 100 times is not as good as seeing it once.

Middle age is when you burn the midnight oil around nine p.m.

Digging the Garden

An old Italian lived alone in New Jersey. He wanted to plant his annual tomato garden, but it was very difficult work, as the ground was hard. His only son, Vincent, who used to help him, was in prison. The old man wrote a letter to his son and described his predicament:

Dear Vincent,
I am feeling pretty sad, because it looks like I won't be able to plant my tomato garden this year. I'm just getting too old to be digging up a garden plot. I know if you were here, my troubles would be over. I know you would be happy to dig the plot for me, like in the old days.
Love, Papa

A few days later he received a letter from his son :

Dear Pop,
Don't dig up that garden. That's where the bodies are buried.
Love, Vinnie

At 4 a. m. the next morning, FBI agents and local police arrived and dug up the entire area without finding any bodies. They apologized to the old man and left. The next day the old man received another letter from his son:

Dear Pop,
Go ahead and plant the tomatoes now. That's the best I could do under the circumstances.
Love you, Vinnie

Monday, March 9, 2009

Florida signs you don't see in Chicago

Do Florida residents simply not tolerate certain behaviors, so signs are posted to inform visitors of this int0lerance? Or do Florida residents exhibit these behaviors so regularly, they need to be reminded NOT to do such things?

It's nice to provide parking spots for bikes.

(Actually, it signifies parking for vehicles of people who drove here to bike on the trail.)

A nice way to remind you about the presence of snakes, as well as to caution you to be aware.

Be careful where you park your vessel!

(Wow - this is post #801 in under 2 years. How time flies when you're having fun!)

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Fayetteville's Ice Storm of 2009

Winters are far less severe down here than back in Chicago. However, winter can throw some mean punches, even in these southern climes. We biked today and saw firsthand some of the damage from the devastating ice storm of January 26 and 27, 2009, while we were down in Florida enjoying the warmth.

Streets in this area of town are still lined with piles of downed tree limbs and branches, awaiting pick-up by the city. It is a rare tree that isn't horribly misshapen from missing branches, as most upper limbs are missing -- broken off by the weight of the ice or cut off by chainsaws. On the far west side of town, the city has set up a dump site, operating 9 hours a day, 7 days a week. Trucks pick up the debris, or residents can drop off debris, and it is mulched at this site. Piles of brush 10 feet tall and taller dwarf the pickup trucks in this photo dropping off cut-off branches, and these piles must extend for well over an acre...

... while this red crane with a claw grabs a load of debris and drops it into the large chipper machine, and then the yellow dozer piles the mulch in other huge piles on the right side of the photo. Quite an undertaking, and it has been going on for over a month!

Here's a video of the storm -- beautiful scenery and at the same time dangerous -- and with devastating results to roads, power lines, and trees. I think I'd rather live in Chicago and tolerate the snow storms rather than be susceptible to annual ice storms.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Heading home...

... to Fayetteville, AR from our active and varied 7 week vacation. Our first stop in Augusta, Georgia had TV reports rife with storm alerts for the winter snows pummeling deep into the Southeast states but which stopped just before hitting us.

The next day we drove through the majesty of those 8 inches of snow draping the Georgia and North Carolina landscapes, and the next three nights we were the guests of Karma and Lowell in their lovely snow-decorated mountaintop home in Hendersonville, NC.

We talked for hours, reminiscing about our decades as colleagues at Fremd HS. It's often joked that if you want to the solve the troubles of the world, put the teachers in charge, and we solved many of our planet's ills with our cogent discussions.

We augmented Karma's delicious meals with dinners at the Mezzaluna Restaurant in Hendersonville and the Green River BBQ in Saluta. Tours of the Biltmore Estate in Asheville and the Carl Sandburg Home in Flat Rock added to the enjoyment of our visit, but much time was spent in comfy chairs conversing with friends.

Next it was a scenic drive over the mountains through the Great Smoky Mountain National Park...

... where Ellen was briefly tempted to embark on the 1972 mile hike north from here to the terminus of the Appalachian Trail atop Mt. Katahdin, Maine...

A walk through quaint but commercialized Gatlinburg, TN and supper at Texas Roadhouse ended the day, and Saturday we headed north and west through Tennessee's magnificent hill country and Arkansas' burgeoning Spring green-up, driving the nearly 800 miles to Ellen's place in Fayetteville.

The trip is over and catching up on the 7 weeks of mail and chores await, but the memories of this adventure will remain for years.