Thursday, December 30, 2010

60,000 and 165,000!

I noticed that the counter for this blog just passed 60,000 visits in the three years/two months since I installed the counter, and so I checked my 15 year-old site, Bike Hike and Paddle, and it is approaching 165,000 hits!  Thanks to all my visitors!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Volo Bog with my StickPic

I've been solo hiking and backpacking for 20+ years which has garnered me countless awesome photos of magnificent locales, but I've always been there by inference since there's been no photographic evidence of my being there.  That's now changing thanks to Rod and David, the inventors of The StickPic, a tiny, light device that attaches your still or movie camera to your hiking pole, allowing you to take photos and movies of yourself as you hike.

 Here's a closeup of the StickPic on my camera.  They make a number of different models to fit the variety of hiking poles available.  As you see, it simply screws into the camera's tripod socket...

 ... and then the tip of your hiking pole is wedged into the white round opening of the StickPic.  In places where you are concerned about losing your camera, simply attach its strap to the hiking pole.

Just make certain you know how to put your camera into timer mode.  The  StickPic "learning curve" is very short.  In fact, my second attempt at a photo and all photos since have been spot on, and the videos are also pretty easy.  Of course the first and last few seconds of video filming will be of you reaching for the camera, so those few seconds should be cut from your video.

Check out this video I made as I hiked through the snow of Volo Bog today...

The gadget weights a mere 10.8 grams (about the same as 3 1/2 Saltine crackers) and takes about ten seconds to attach to your camera.  And it's not exactly a big ticket item, either -- only $11.99 and they ship it USPS immediately for an extra $1.61. Here's the contact info (and no, I'm not connected to them in any way except as a satisfied customer)
114 Arleta Ave
San Francisco, California
USA 94134

(415) 350 5282

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Eve Celebration

Continuing a 70+ year tradition in our family, the cousins gather and celebrate the birth of Jesus!  Hallelujah!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Thank You! Thank You!

Here's an excerpt from an email I received from American Hiking Society:



You video is fantastic!  We really appreciate you putting it together for us and I think this is right in line with what we needed for the Travelocity site (and our website in general which we will definitely showcase it on).

Wow!  They liked it!  And grateful thanks to my friends and family who viewed the first draft of the promo video and offered valuable suggestions for improvements, many of which I incorporated into the revised version of the video which is now public.

FYI:  In 2010 AHS volunteers worked on 53 different trail projects (Volunteer Vacations) dedicating 16,840 hours of volunteer labor, resulting in $351,114 of estimated value in sweat equity given to the U. S. Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and various trail organizations.   Over 440 miles of trail were built, maintained, or re-vegetated with the hardworking hands of AHS volunteers.

If you're curious what a week in the woods is like on a trail project, check out the video:

Friday, December 17, 2010

American Hiking Society Reviews 2010

In 2010 American Hiking Society volunteers worked on 53 different trail projects (Volunteer Vacations) dedicating 16,840 hours of volunteer labor, resulting in $351,114 of estimated value in sweat equity given to the U. S. Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and various trail organizations.   Over 440 miles of trail were built, maintained, or re-vegetated with the hardworking hands of AHS volunteers.

I worked on two AHS projects in 2010, one in Utah building this bridge...

...and another in Arkansas, working on the Buffalo River Trail with this group...

If you are curious what a project is like, watch this 4 minute video...

...and if this looks like Volunteer Vacations are something that might interest you, go to and check out the projects available in 2011.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Video I Made for The American Hiking Society

Over the last 14 years, I've volunteered on 25 week-long trail projects from Maine to Arizona and from Florida to Washington State, in some of America;s most magnificent locales. Twenty of the projects have been with the American Hiking Society, three with Sierra Club, one with Appalachian Mountain Club, and two for the local county forest preserve district.

AHS asked me recently to make a video of the projects I've worked and my thoughts about those projects, a video they wish to use for promotional purposes with their partner, Travelocity, and also on their own site.  Here's the 4 minute movie I made for them (double click to enlarge...)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Village Singers Party at Barb's

Last night we again celebrated another successful concert series with our traditional party at Barb's lovely home.  After a wonderful meal and stimulating conversation (something we aren't allowed during rehearsals)...

...all 25 adjourned to the family room to view the video of the concert and enjoy our efforts from an audience perspective...

Now we enjoy a few weeks off before beginning the process anew with 4 more months of rehearsals for our Spring concert series.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!

Monday, December 6, 2010

"Messiah" Concert by The Village Singers of Lake Zurich

Our two performances of "Messiah" this weekend had record attendance, with a nearly full house on Saturday and a need to add extra seats on Sunday -- a grand total of approximately 500!

Here's a video of excerpts from all choruses and soloists (Double click to see full screen.)

Friday, December 3, 2010

In Memorium: Ron Santo

Ron Santo (age 70) died Thursday, December 2, 2010 in a Arizona hospital, due to complications from bladder cancer and diabetes.

Wrigley Field was a mere mile from my childhood home at Addison and Paulina Streets, and we kids often walked to the field after classes at Hamilton Elementary School.  Wrigley Field's double doors on Waveland Avenue were opened during the seventh inning to allow exit from the park, and we kids were allowed free entrance then, and since attendance was so low, we could often get front row seats in the left field bleachers. Over those childhood and teen years, my favorite players were Hank Sauer, Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins, and of course, Ron Santo.  At that time, only his roommate knew he was a Type 1 diabetic, information he kept secret because he feared repercussions if ownership knew.

Career highlights include:

-- debut on June 26, 1960;
-- led the National League in putouts every year from 1962 through 1967 and again in 1969;
-- nine-time National League All-Star;
-- led the league in walks four times, in on base percentage twice, and in triples once;
-- hit for a .300 average and hit 30 home runs four times each;
-- only the third baseman in major league history to post eight consecutive seasons with 90 RBIs (1963-1970)
-- winner of five consecutive Gold Glove Awards for fielding excellence (1964-1968);
-- set or tied National League records by leading the league's third basemen in total chances eight times, in games, putouts and assists seven times each, and in double plays six times;
-- from 1966 to 1974 he held the National League record for assists in a single seasons;
-- set National League records for career assists (4,532), total chances (6,777) and double plays (389) at third base;
-- his National League total of 2,102 games at third base fell 52 short of Eddie Mathews' league record;

-- his 164 games at third base in 1965 remain the major league record.
-- establishing a league record with 364 consecutive games at 3rd base
 -- career batting average -- .277
-- career home runs -- 342
-- career Runs Batted In -- 1,331
-- 1973 Lou Gehrig Memorial Award

And yet he was denied entrance to baseball's  Hall Of Fame! 
(Perhaps he'll make it as a broadcaster)

Santo joined the Cubs' broadcast booth in 1990 as the WGN radio color commentator and he worked with play-by-play announcer Pat Hughes, and these radio broadcasts are also known as the Pat and Ron Show. (Photo below) He has also worked with Harry Caray, Thom Brennaman, Steve Stone and Bob Brenly. Santo also briefly worked with Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers commentator Wayne Larrivee. He also did commercials for Seattle Sutton's Healthy Eating, which he endorses, and for years plugged his Ron Santo restaurant and his Ron Santo Pizza.  In Chicago, Santo is known for his unabashed broadcast enthusiasm, including groans and cheers during the game. As excitable as Santo is when a great play for the Cubs occurs, he is equally as vocal in his displeasure.  Fans regularly heard "Oh, no!" when errors were made, and "Oh, boy!" when he was truly disappointed in their performance.  He was truly the voice of Cubs fans.

Santo became the first player in major league history to wear a batting helmet with protective ear flaps, when in 1966, in the midst of trying to break the Cubs' modern consecutive-game hitting streak record of 27 games (set by Hack Wilson in 1929), Santo was sidelined for nearly two weeks following a pitch thrown by the Mets' Jack Fisher (beaning) that fractured his cheekbone and ended his consecutive playing streak. When he returned (and broke the hitting record with a 28-game streak he was wearing an improvised ear flap on his batting helmet in order to protect the injury; ear flaps have since become standard equipment on batting helmets.

On September 28, 2003, Santo's jersey #10 was retired by the Cubs organization, making him the third player so honored behind his teammates Ernie Banks (#14) and Billy Williams (#26.)

As part of the publicity surrounding "Ron Santo Day" at Wrigley Field on August 28, 1971, he revealed his struggle with diabetes. He was diagnosed with this disease at the age of 18 and was given a life expectancy of 25 years. Santo has had both his legs amputated below the knee as a result of his diabetes: the right in 2001 and the left in 2002.  In 2004, Santo and his battle against diabetes was the subject of a documentary, This Old Cub. The film was written, co-produced and directed by Santo's son Jeff.  In later years, serious heart surgeries and bladder cancer slowed him down but didn't end his broadcasting career or diminish his effervescent optimism and joy for life and for his beloved Cubs.  Rather, he joked about his legs, his cancer, his heart ailments, and his toupee. 

Santo has been endorsing the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation's annual Ron Santo Walk to Cure Diabetes in Chicago since 1974, and has raised over $50 million for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). In 2002, Santo was named the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation's "Person of the Year". He also sponsored an annual golf outing to raise money for JDRF.  Santo also inspired Bill Holden to walk 2,100 miles from Arizona to Chicago, to raise $250,000 for diabetes research.

(Information from Wikipedia)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Hallelujah! (Chorus that is)

Concert week is here! The Village Singers proudly present Handel's "Messiah" this weekend, and here's a sneak preview for you -- the "Hallelujah" Chorus.  Our community chorus is composed of 50+ local residents under the direction of Nick Juknelis, chorus director at Lake Zurich High School, and we are accompanied by Tara on piano and as well as a dozen strings from the Lake Zurich Orchestra. (double click to open in YouTube and see full frame.)

Saturday Dec. 4th, 7pm

Sunday Dec. 5th, 3pm


Alpine Chapel

23153 W Miller Rd

Lake Zurich, IL 60047

Adults $8.00

Seniors and Students $5.00

Children under 12 - Free

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Extreme Acrobatic Biking

 I've biked 7500 miles on my mountain bike the last three years, but not the kind of biking Danny MacAskill does in this video called "Way Back Home" as it follows him on a journey from Edinburgh back to his hometown Dunvegan, in the Isle of Skye.  (click it twice to get to YouTube for a full screen.)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Muppet Show: The Swedish Chef and the Turkey

We always watched "The Muppet Show" on TV and my three favorite characters were not those usually most beloved by others.  I favored the two old hecklers up in the theater box, Statler and Waldorf, and The Swedish Chef.  In honor of Thanksgiving Day, here's a brief video clip featuring the Swedish Chef getting ready to roast the turkey...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Preview of the Upcoming "Messiah" Concert by the Village Singers of Lake Zurich

Handel's "Messiah" (part 1) will be presented Saturday, December 4th at 7pm, and again on Sunday, December 5th at 3 pm. Below is a video from yesterday's rehearsal featuring brief excerpts from all 6 choruses in Part 1, as well as the "Hallelujah" chorus.  All will be accompanied by piano and strings, as well as all the solos which will be performed by outstanding soloists in our group. The concerts are December 4th and 5th, 2010.  Our community chorus is composed of 50+ local residents under the direction of Nick Juknelis, chorus director at Lake Zurich High School.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Palatine Concert Band performance

Last night was another delightful concert by this fabulous community band. Due to a fire at the usual Cutting Hall venue, the performance was moved to Palatine High School's auditorium. The featured guest artist was renowned tenor Marc Stingley...

Here I am with my son, Scott, who has played with the group since graduation from the University of Illinois 14 years ago...

Palatine Concert Band website

Friday, November 12, 2010

Biking and Hiking and Family

Been a bit busy lately and hence lax at posting, so here's a "catch-up" post. I drove Mom and Linda to a family funeral in Louisville, and though Aunt Mary's passing was sad, we celebrated her 90 years of life and had a wonderful reunion with Uncle Otto and our cousins...

...and also got caught up with three of their cousins whom I hadn't seen in 40 years, and Mom got to visit her with dear childhood friend...

I've been biking as the weather has allowed and have set a new personal record in annual mileage with over 2500 miles and am still getting rides in as the temps allow. The elk in Busse Woods didn't seem to mind the weather...

...and when the temps drop below 50, our group cycles into hiking mode in our local preserves. Today we did 4+ miles in Crystal Lake's two preserves and then had lunch at Colonial and conversed for another hour...

Friday, October 22, 2010

Biking with Swans

Biked 20 miles today on the Millennium and Ft. Hill Trails and saw these swans...

... as I hit 2400 biking miles for the year -- a new personal record with weeks of biking weather still ahead.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Sights While Biking Today...

Today our group met in Crystal Lake, and despite the 45 degree temps, we set off to bike the McHenry Prairie Trail. But first we biked over to check out the brand new Three Oaks Recreation Area off Main Street just south of Northwest Highway. There is a paved trail from the Prairie Trail to cross Main Street and it is equipped with a flashing yellow light you can trigger to stop the cars -- and it worked -- they stopped! The area is an old quarry turned into a large lake, very similar to the marvelous Independence Grove created by the Lake County Forest Preserve District some years ago. Its amenities include picnic pavillions, fishing piers, boat rental (rowboats with trolling motors, canoes, kayaks, sailboats, paddleboats), beach, hiking trails, and a playground/spray park. The 4,400 square foot lake house will include shower/locker rooms, a concessions area and a patio.

Then we biked south on the trail. Yesterday, a huge fire hit the old Toastmaster factory along the trail in Algonquin. It has been a derelict building for many years and an eyesore to the community and bikers on the trail, and was scheduled for demolition soon. Crews were busily working on removing the embers and remaining walls as we biked past the scene...

The temperature never got above the low 50s as we biked, and the fierce cold wind hampered our return trip, but after 2 hours on the bikes, we rewarded ourselves with a stop at the Colonial restaurant. Great morning!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Videos of My Latest Adventures

Here are five videos of my adventures the last
5 weeks in Utah and Arizona...

1) An American Hiking Socierty "Volunteer Vacation" in Utah's Manti-LaSal National Forest where at 8800 feet in the Wasatch Mountains we built a 31 foot bridge...

2) A Road Scholar/Elderhostel program out of St. George, Utah, which taught us photography teachniques while visiting Zion, Bryce, and Grand Canyon National Parks with two professional photographers...

3) My three hour hike up The Narrows (Virgin River) of Zion National Park...

4) A Sierra Club outing -- rafting the Colorado River through Utah's Canyonlands National Park and Catarct Canyon's rapids, and including a service project of removing invasive Tamarisk...

5) A Road Scholar/Elderhostel program out of Page, Arizona, which included hiking the magnificent Antelope Slot Canyon, rafting the last remaining 15 miles of Glen Canyon, a tour down into Glen Canyon Dam, and a concert by our coordinator, Joanna Joseph...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Back home and biking...

Travel is wonderful and experiencing new adventures is exhilarating, but home is still home and the place one chooses to be located. Today it was back to biking the Des Plaines River Trail west of Libertyville with Patti and Dave and enjoying Fall's magnificent palette...

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Rafting Cataract Canyon and Removing Tamarisk: A Sierra Club service project

This Sierra Club service outing was a joint project of the Sierra Club, The Tamarisk Coalition, Canyonlands National Park, and O.A.R.S. (Outdoor Adventure River Specialists.) We spent 6 days on the Colorado River, rafting about 100 miles, camping five nights on the shore in Canyonlands National Park, hiking three times, spending two days assisting national park rangers remove invasive tamarisk trees to create new camping areas and restore native vegetation, and then rafting the 30 rapids of Cataract Canyon before returning to Moab, Utah.

The first 50 miles was flat water so our four rafts were lashed together and we motored downriver, stopping to hike the ruins across from Lathrop Canyon. Here's a photo of the ruins (click to enlarge photos)...

Our second hike was at the "Loop" where the Colorado River makes a sweeping 270 degree turn doubling back on itself, where we hiked up the 700 feet to the saddle, enjoyed the vistas of the river both before and behind us, and then hiked down the other side where the rafts picked us up again...

...and where we saw these petroglyphs pecked into this rock...

Then it was on to "The Confluence" where the Green River meets the Colorado River. We camped here two nights to assist the river rangers with their Tamarisk removal project. Here Gordy and Norm hike through an opening cut out by the rangers and their chainsaws so we could all access the dense, overgrown forest of invasive Tamarisk trees. These trees propagate quickly and completely take over an area, preventing access, denying light and water to native vegetation, and disrupting native fauna. The hard-working, dedicated rangers, Steve, Kyler, Clay, and Skyler busily chainsawed the tough trees and then we removed the pieces...

Below, Jerry and Mike lug a large stump to the slash pile, as Norm, left, and Tim, right look for the next area to be cleared, and Gordy in the background wrestles another log to be removed. The rangers were impressed with how efficiently we 14 volunteers cleared the downed rubbish, allowing all four rangers to concentrate on chainsaw work. Even our four river guides joined in our efforts because the Tamarisk interfere with their livelihood by dominating the river banks. Finally, the rangers applied a herbicide to the remnant tree trunks to kill the roots which can extend 100 feet into the ground and which could still sprout dozens of new trees.

After many hours of work, this huge area had been successfully cleared. All the tons of debris were placed along and over the edge of the cliff where next Spring's rush of winter melt water will take the debris down to the river level and hopefully knit with sand to rebuild beaches here and farther downriver.

We also assisted in the next phase -- the replanting of native Cottonwood trees at Spanish Bottom which began earlier this year starting with 17 trees. They were just a few feet tall when planted but now stand over 8 feet tall. Of course, since this is a high desert environment, watering is required, and this is accomplished with three huge water tanks holding a total of over 1600 gallons which feed irrigation tubes which we hand-calibrated to drip-deliver five drops of water per second to each tree...

Of course, the rangers have to come every few weeks to refill the tanks using a pump and 300' of fire hose stretching from the tanks to the river, so we unrolled and connected the six hose segments down to the river as Chris, Jerry, and Gordy position the hose to refill the tanks for the rangers...

The final adventure was negotiating the 30 rapids of Cataract Canyon. The river is much calmer this time of year, running at a mere 7000 cfs (cubic feet per second) compared to 70,000 cps and more during the spring runoff period, so class 2 and 3 rapids are the norm now instead of class 4 and 5, but it was still an exhilarating, cold, wet ride. Here's a photo as a huge wave was about to completely inundate our raft...

Here are our three Sierra Club leaders, Mike, Larry, and Gordy...

...and here are our four exceptional guides too hard at work to cooperate with the photo op (Jeremy and Paulie cooking, and in the background, Seth and senior guide Christian.)

...and here is the entire stalwart group posing after our hike up to the top of the "Loop..."

Front row: Frank, Larry W., Tim C., Dave, Chris, Steve, Larry G., Mike, and Norm
Middle (seated) row: Tim H., Chuck, Gordy, and Jerry
Back (seated) row: Joe and Rick

We had a wonderful week on the water, despite the attempts of the weather to spoil our trip. The first two days each saw an hour of 30+ mph winds blowing sand at and into our tents, which were inundated with 1/4 inch or more of sand both days even though the tents were closed up tightly. Several tents were flattened but still usable after these storms. The third night featured three hours of rather brisk winds doing the same with the sand as we tried to sleep. The worst was day four as we descended from hiking up to the Doll House formations atop the 1400 foot high cliff. As we were halfway down, the strong winds brought sand, then pea-sized hail, then a cold, biting rain. Drenched and chilled after the 40 minute wet hike back to camp, I discovered my tent destroyed by the storm...

You can see that one pole snapped and tore the rain fly in numerous places, rendering it unusable. Joe's tent was similarly totaled, but the head guide, Christian, fortuitously had two of his tents as spares which Joe and I gratefully used the final two nights. Frank's tent, which was located between Joe's and mine, was seen flying away by several who had stayed in camp. It tumbled over and over and uphill, ultimately landing against trees about 40 feet away from its starting position. Its rain fly was badly torn but duct tape made it operable. Witnesses described the wind as a vortex which seemed to hit our three tents.

Here's a video of our adventure...

More photos in my gallery.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Where Rock Meets Water -- Antelope & Glen Canyons: A Road Scholar Program

This Road Scholar/Elderhostel program is a three night "snapshot" program out of Page, Arizona, and is one of many fine programs hosted by Northern Arizona University. Included in the activities is a tour of the famous Upper Antelope Canyon, the most photographed slot canyon in the Southwest. (Click to enlarge photos.)

The colors are vivid and changing as the light changes, and the sand stirred up by visitors' feet allows you to capture shafts of sunbeam light as seen below..

The second activity was a raft trip from the base of Glen Canyon Dam down to Lees Ferry, the only 15 miles remaining of the magnificent Glen Canyon which almost in its entirety has been under Lake Powell for 50 years.

After a bus ride through the two mile tunnel which had allowed dam builders and machinery to travel from the rim to the canyon floor, we boarded the Colorado River Discovery company's rafts. The dam and bridge can be seen in the background behind our superlative guide, Jennifer...

A rest stop 1/3 of the way down the canyon offered petroglyphs for us to enjoy...

The scenery was spectacular as we rafted the canyon, with the cliffs soaring from 700 feet to over 1400 feet above us until we reached our take-out at Lees Ferry, which is also the put-in where rafters were preparing their craft for the 260 mile trip through the Grand Canyon.

The final activity was a visit to Glen Canyon Dam which creates the large reservoir called Lake Powell, the second largest man-made reservoir in the United States after Lake Mead at the other end of the Grand Canyon.

The tour featured a 50 story elevator ride down to the bottom where we got a peek through glass windows into the generator room with its eight huge turbines which generate an average of 451 megawatts representing 6% of the total electricity generated in Arizona and 13% of the electricity generated in Utah. Four units were producing power during our tour.

Below is a "runner" recently removed from service in a turbine when replaced by a newer, more efficient model. The runners are what rotate as the water surges through them, causing the turbines to generate electricity. Notice the Glen Canyon bridge high above in the background.

Here's another view of the bridge overhead, taken from the generator level. It was interesting to learn that the bridge was built first. Otherwise, workers and equipment would have had to drive over 200 miles to get to the other side. The bridge was fully constructed in California, then disassembled, and half driven to each side of the canyon for re-assembly.

The program's final night was a special treat as our superb coordinator, Joanna Joseph, played guitar and sang for us and led us in a sing-a-long.

And here are the singing/hiking/rafting Road Scholars enjoying the "concert" by Joanna...

As a bonus -- If you have time, I suggest you take the tour of Lower Antelope Canyon by yourself for only $20. It is completely different from the upper canyon.

We were a bit surprised when the guide indicated we'd be entering the narrow crack seen in this photo.

Unlike Upper Antelope Canyon where you walk directly into the slot canyon, you must descend a number of ladders or stairs during your tour of Lower Antelope Canyon, which is why it isn't recommended for people with walking disabilities or height issues or claustrophobia.


In this photo you can see how far the people are below me. Stifle any tendency you might have to walk as you take photos or gawk at the vivid colors and ethereal shapes, because of the possibility that there might be a ladder ahead to be negotiated...

Our guide used our cameras to photograph us under the one arch on the tour...

Sunlight created constant wondrous sights for us...

Be aware that the elevation you lost descending into the canyon must be regained by climbing 4 or 5 flights of stairs at the end of the 1/3 mile long canyon, and then you walk up a dirt road back to the parking area.

Here's a video of our Road Scholar program including Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon, rafting Glen Canyon, touring the dam, and the concert by our leader, Joanna...

More of my photos of Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons are available here.