Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Little Wrigley Field (aka Little Cubs Field)

While in Freeport, Illinois, I followed the signs to "Little Cubs Field," having no idea what I'd find. This is what I discovered...

"A nearly exact duplicate of the Cubs’ Wrigley Field – on a much smaller scale – it provides a fun venue for people of all ages to enjoy America’s pastime. Though this “friendly confines” will not host major league games, it provides a place for baseball fans of all ages to experience the thrill of participating in a tournament or watching a game in a simulated major league setting."

I grew up a mile from Wrigley Field in the '40s, '50s, and '60s, and spent many enjoyable hours in the friendly confines, and I was astounded at finding this treasure which takes great care to replicate everything about Cubs Park.

Here's a closeup of the scoreboard and bleachers. Click to enlarge and you may see that the Cubs are beating the Mets 21-0 with 22 hits and the Sox are beating the Yankees 8-0!

You can find this park at the intersection of McKinley and Empire, between U.S. Route 20 and Business 20 and west of Illinois 26. Of course, the honorary street sign at the intersection reads...

...and behind the outfield walls there are signs that read "Sheffield" and "Waveland."

And of course it wouldn't be Wrigley without a statue of Harry Carey...

And yes, the foul poles fly the six retired uniform numbers, three on each pole.

Little Cubs Field website

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Jane Addams Trail

In 1887 the Illinois Central Railroad ran a line north from Freeport, Illinois to Madison, Wisconsin through Scioto Mills, Red Oak, Buena Vista and Orangeville. The Jane Addams Trail is built on this “Madison Branch” route and is a segment of the Grand Illinois Trail that traverses northern Illinois from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River.

The trail honors Jane Addams, renowned humanitarian and Nobel Peace Prize winner who grew up in Cedarville, Illinois, a mere 2 miles from the trail. A round-trip ride totals 26 miles and you cross 21 bridges on the route. Beginning in Freeport, this 10 foot wide crushed limestone trail traverses a heavily wooded area and in fact is tree-shrouded in most areas, though occasionally you get expansive views of the surrounding farmland. The trail surface is in excellent repair despite being used by snowmobiles in the winter, and I saw several road bikes negotiating the trail with no difficulty.

If you travel all the way to the Wisconsin line, the Badger State Trail takes over and will get you to Madison after 40 more miles of riding. Be aware that Wisconsin charges a day use fee for all their state trails ($4 in 2010.) If you want to end your ride in early, the town of Orangeville offers rest and relaxation just 2.5 miles from the Wisconsin line. The trail is at the bottom of this hill...

The northern section of the trail parallels Richland Creek...

Twenty-seven species of trees, 120 species of herbaceous plants, and 25 species of woody shrubs have been identified along the trail. Several areas were blasted through limestone, making for picturesque pedaling...

Trail access with parking, shelters, and restrooms can be found here:

In Freeport -- on Fairview Road, south of U.S. Highway 20, approximately two miles west of Illinois Highway 26

In Orangeville -- on High Street, east of Illinois Highway 26

Red Oak, Red Oak Road (Parking Only)

McConnell Road (Parking and Picnic Table)

The Freeport trailhead parking lot is alongside the Illinois Route 26 Overpass. This concrete bridge is the longest bridge in Illinois to cross a railroad line (now the current Jane Addams Trail) and a creek, while curving and slanting up (or down) hill - all at the same time. Initially completed in 1928 with the opening of the first Illinois Route 26 bypass, the bridge is still in use.

Jane Addams Trail website


Long Prairie Trail

Today I biked the entire 29 miles (round trip) of the Long Prairie Trail in Boone County just east of Rockford, Illinois. The rail bed was built in the 1850s as a section of the Kenosha Division Rail Line and was bought by the Chicago and Northwestern in the late 1800s and operated until the 1960s.

The trail passes through woodlands, farmer fields, native prairie land, and the small agricultural communities of Capron, Poplar Grove and Caledonia. The trail runs just south of Illinois Route 173 in each town and parking in lots or along side streets near the trail is available in all three towns. Trailhead lots are located 1) at the eastern terminus, just north of 173 on County Line Road in Capron, and 2) in Caledonia, just south of 173 at the intersection of Main and Front Streets.

The paved trail runs for 14.5 miles and is relatively flat. The pavement is mostly in good repair, with a few short sections that are bumpy from roots, frost heaves, etc. The trail on the north joins the gravel Stone Bridge Trail which runs another 6 miles to the Roland Olson Forest Preserve. The trail has several rest stops with seating and also signs explaining the history, geology, and flora of the the region. Several sections are raised 30 feet above the valley floor and the steep sides lead to visions of human labor arduously constructing this high berm in the 1850s without the benefit of today's motorized machinery.

Occasional farm fields come into view as seen below, but a century and a half of use as railroad and trail have spared the trees along the trail from the plow and allowed them to mature and shroud much of the trail creating a green tunnel as seen in the two photos above, which provides lovely scenery -- and on hot days, respite from the heat.

Plans are in place to extend the Long Prairie Trail to Rock Cut State Park on the west and to the town of Harvard on the east.

Rails-to-Trails page for this trail

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Wheaton and WaucondaFest

I drove out to Wheaton to drop off some stuff at Scott's and pick up the dining room buffet he and Sarah have borrowed for the last decade but no longer need, and then he and I biked on the Illinois Prairie Path despite the 89 degree heat and checked out this sculpture along the trail...

They have a successful vegetable garden this year which Scott showed off...

Then I dropped in on the annual WaucondaFest for a bit...

...and also checked out the canoe/kayak launch area at Bangs Lake and discovered they had built a boardwalk and created a nice nature walk on the lakeshore...

Next week when the bubbub of the Fest is over, I'll be bringing the kayak down for a circumnavigation of the lake.

Friday, June 25, 2010

BP Irony?

Here's a sign found in a BP gas station...

... and here's an antique sign decorating the exterior of a restaurant we passed. With all the bad publicity that BP is receiving now, perhaps they should consider reverting back to their old name...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Fox River Trail Biking

After all the days with rain this last week, we needed a beautiful day and received it! The hour drive to our starting point was almost for naught when we discovered the trail closed for the construction of a highway bridge and adjacent pedestrian/bike bridge over the Fox River. We went closer to check out what the project entailed and found this...

It's quite a large job they have underway and it is scheduled to take 18 months to complete, but we did notice that no one was working on the bridge above the train tracks, and the tracks are only used on weekends by the trolley museum, so we followed the lead of some other bikers and utilized a detour to allow us to complete our 18 mile bike ride...

The reward: A fabulous lunch in the courtyard section of St. Charles' Pub 222 after turning around in Batavia and beginning the return trip to our vehicles...

The powers that be could have erected signage with information telling people to begin their bike ride a mile south (in the forest preserve lot) and thus avoid the necessity to detour.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

IRTA Summer Luncheon

...(Illinois Retired Teachers Association) was held today at Rolling Green Country Club in Arlington Heights -- a beautiful facility offering marvelous food and wonderful service.

Following lunch and a few announcements, retired social studies teacher Kim presented a slide show and talk on his trip to Rapa Nui, Chile -- better known as Easter Island -- and the history and culture surrounding the widely famous 887 monumental stone statues called moai. A very informative and interesting show!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Get All Your Ducks in A Row!

As you can see, I did!

We spotted the ducks as we biked the loops of Moraine Hills State Park today, and I also got all of us in a row, too. Here are (l to r) Len, Marlene, Dave, and Patti...

With all our frenetic retiree schedules, this was the first time this year we were able to get all 5 of us together for a bike ride!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day in Wheaton

After church, I drove out to Wheaton and parked at Herrick Lake Preserve (DuPage County) and biked 24 miles through the lovely Herrick Lake Preserve and the adjoining Danada Preserve, and then rode the connector trail to and through Blackwell Preserve...

Then on to Scott and Sarah's for conversation and an introduction to their Wii game -- bowling and tennis, followed by Mexican dinner at Front Street Cocina...

Steve picked up my Mom so she could share the afternoon with us.

We also checked the progress of Scott's model railroad down in his train room. He is modeling the Denver and Rio Grande Western from Denver to Glenwood Springs and this level will be the two huge curves (Big Ten and Little Ten curves) heading west out of Denver as the tracks gain elevation for the mountains...

Wonderful Father's Day guys -- thanks!!!

Saturday, June 19, 2010


I spent a most enjoyable 2 hour lunch today with a former FHS student who graduated in '84. She had served as manager for the cross country team I coached and it was a joy to see the amazing young lady and mother Lorraine has become in the interim. The conversation flowed non-stop as we got caught up on the intervening 34 years.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Wildflowers of Moraine Hills State Park

Peter Oprisco at Independence Grove

I'm sorry to say, I was unaware of our local celebrity, Peter Oprisco, until hearing him last night at Independence Grove, the "crown jewel" of Lake County Forest Preserve District. This free concert was the first of nine this summer and featured Oprisco who legendary Grammy-winning jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis (another Chicagoan) called "The Rolls Royce of jazz singers today."

Peter is a smooth, dulcet, mellow crooner and he regaled us with songs of Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Dean Martin, Fred Astaire, Bobby Darin, Elvis, and the like, and each selection began with an informative intro as to the song's history, composer, etc. This is his second year performing here as part of the "Concerts in the Plaza" series and many of the spectators had been here last year to see him, too. There was a good-sized crowd despite this being a make-up concert after being rained out on Tuesday.

Peter has a talented seven piece band backing him up, and in the tradition of the old-time bands, they had musical interludes between some verses which allowed Peter to travel through the audience and shake hands, and he obviously relishes meeting the fans up close.

After singing several Academy Award winning songs from the 30s/40s/50s/60s -- songs everyone recognized and often knew the words to -- he asked what song won this year's award as best song -- and no one knew. Then he asked about last year's winner, and no one in the large audience knew. So he explained his preference for songs that people leave humming the tune of, songs with lyrics that tell a story, songs sung so you can actually understand the words. And the audience clapped in wild approval with his statement.

As an experiment, I took some video with my new Nikon D300s camera and was pleased with the result. I have to take the video without using the viewfinder (since the mirror is in the up position) and though I can zoom, I have to also manually re-focus, so the result is a bit shaky, but here are three brief excerpts to give you an idea of his voice and stylings...

So I heartily suggest seeing him if you get the chance, and he also has albums for sale on his website and on iTunes.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Palatine Concert Band Performance

Yesterday was the first non-rainy evening in a while -- perfect night for the first of three outdoor performances by the extraordinary Palatine Concert Band...

As usual, there was good turnout, and the bugs even cooperated by not being too bothersome...

My oldest son has played with this group for over a dozen years, and I had the pleasure of sitting with my daughter-in-law who had the evening available.

The band will have 2 more outdoor concerts in Palatine this summer on July 7th and August 4th. Put those dates on your calendar and enjoy the music!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Another Nice NICE Meeting

I led off the meeting with a brief movie of our active, outdoor Exploritas program, Florida's Fragile Coastal Treasure: Snorkel the Coral Reefs

I was followed by Joe who showed photos and described their experiences on Art History in Belgium and Holland...

Next Les showed photos and talked of their program in Albuquerque New Mexico’s Conversos and Crypto-Jews detailing the Jews who fled to New Spain in the New World and secretly practiced their religion after being driven out of Spain in 1492...

The meeting ended with Bob's movie showing his adventures in Arizona Hiking the Slick Rock, Slot Canyons and Red Rocks of Lake Powell, as well as his beautiful photos of his independent guided hike of Upper Antelope Canyon's magnificent slot canyon...

As usual, the group then adjourned to nearby Hillside Family Restaurant for lunch and more conversation...

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Hawks win Stanley Cup!!!

The Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup!!!

Patrick Kane's goal occurs at 50 seconds in the above clip, with the replay about 1:15 in the clip.

I was watching it live and Kane's shot was from an impossible angle. He knew at once it was in the net -- but no one else in the stadium knew. There was no horn or red light signaling a goal, but Kane skated the length of the stadium, tossing his gloves and stick into the air, and jumped into the arms of goaltender Niemi who certainly couldn't have seen the goal from his end of the rink, yet both celebrated and the Hawks benched cleared and all celebrated at the Hawks net, though the officials took another 30 seconds to declare the Hawks as champs. The Hawks fans in the stadium erupted and the Flyers fans were understandably quiet and fearful, and then following the announcement, booed.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Photo Artistry

How do you suppose I did this to my own photos?

Did I laboriously paint colors into my black and white photos?

Have I mastered some form of magic?

Is it a new special type of camera?

Is it a trick of lighting?

Nope -- none of the above. It's a new app on my iPad called ColorSplash, it's fun, and it's obviously easy to master and simple to convert full color photos into black and white photos with a splash of color or I wouldn't have been able to do it!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Young teenage Italian tenors

Check out this video of 3 teenagers -- only 14 and 15 -- singing "O Sole Mio" like they were adult opera stars. Amazing voices!

Click this link -- -- their performance begins about 30 seconds into the video clip.