Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Florida as seen by Floridians...

You know you're a Floridian if...

* You never use an umbrella because the rain will be over in five minutes.

* You think a six-foot alligator is actually pretty average

* Every other house in your neighborhood had blue roofs in 2004-2005

* “Down South” means Key West

* You know that anything under a Category 3 just isn't worth waking up for.

* You know the four seasons really are: Hurricane season, love bug season, tourist season and summer.

* Your winter coat is made of denim.

* You can tell the difference between fire ant bites and mosquito bites.

* Anything under 70 degrees is chilly.

* You know that no other grocery store can compare to Publix.

* You recognize Miami-Dade as ' Northern Cuba '

* You dread love bug season.

* You've worn shorts and used the A/C on Christmas and New Years.

* You are on a first name basis with the Hurricane list. They aren't Hurricane Charley or Hurricane Frances. You know them as Andrew, Charley , Frances , Ivan, Jeanne & Wilma...Irene...Cheryl...Rita Mary... Alison

* You know what a snowbird is and when they'll leave.

* Flip-flops are everyday wear. Shoes are for business meetings and church, but you HAVE worn flip flops to church before.

* You have a drawer full of bathing suits, and one sweatshirt.

* You get annoyed at the tourists who feed seagulls.

* A mountain is any hill 100 feet above sea level.

* You've hosted a hurricane party.

* You can pronounce Okeechobee, Kissimmee , Withlacoochee , Thonotosassa and Micanopy.

* You understand why it's better to have a friend with a boat, than have a boat yourself.

* You were 25 when you first met someone who couldn't swim.

* A good parking place has nothing to do with distance from the store, but everything to do with shade.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Kayaking Long Lake

An easy put-in is the Long Lake Trailhead parking area of the Lake County Forest Preserve District which provides access for paddle craft into Long Lake. The lot is located on the south side of Rollins Road, just west of Fairfield Road where the bike trail crosses Rollins Road

This lovely lake is in north of Chicago, near the Illinois/Wisconsin border. This is how I get to the lake.

These mallard ducks and I had the lake pretty much to ourselves on this beautiful August Thursday. I only saw three power boats in the hour-plus I paddled the perimeter of the lake, though I am certain that weekends and holidays must be a zoo out here since the Chain O'Lakes is the busiest inland recreational waterway per acre in the United States drawing weekend crowds of 30,000 and holiday crowds of 100,000.

The lake can be circumnavigated in about an hour, though for a longer paddle, a channel at the northwest corner of Long Lake allows access to Fox Lake and the entire Chain O'Lakes, a waterway system composed of 15 lakes connected by man-made channels and by the Fox River, a tributary of the Illinois River. It encompasses more than 7,100 acres of water, 488 miles of shoreline, and 45 miles of river.

Houses almost entirely surround the lake, though the southeast corner is a large wetland and the forest preserve district owns land around their put-in. Several small beaches exist for local residents.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

"Messiah" Rehearsals Underway

Excitement is running high following last night's first rehearsal by the Village Singers of Lake Zurich of Handel's "Messiah" for our Christmas concert dates of December 4th and 5th...

Accompanied by violins, we will be performing the first two sections of the Oratorio, including the Recitatives and Arias, with the chorus singing "And the Glory of the Lord," "And He Shall Purify," "O Thou that Tellest Good Tidings to Zion," "For Unto Us A Child is Born," "Glory to God," "His Yoke Is Easy," and concluding with "Hallelujah."

Rehearsals are Monday evenings, 7:30 to 9:30 pm, at Alpine Chapel, under the direction of Nick Juknelis. For more information, go to the Village Singers website.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Community Roundup

Today the Wauconda Chamber of Commerce sponsored a Community Roundup for the Liberty Lakes community in Fieldbrook Park, which featured vendor booths, Bike Safety Rodeo, live bands, Maxx the Police Dog, a bike parade, and free games and activities, and ice cream all afternoon.

They also sponsor a Farmers' Market every Thursday from 3-7 PM through October 7th on Main Street in downtown Wauconda!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Biking Moraine Hills SP video

Yesterday we biked at Moraine Hills SP and I used my new Kodak PlaySport Zx3 waterproof video camera. This brief movie was practice to judge its capabilities both indoors and outdoors. All in all, I'm happy with the results, especially considering its price of only $125. Next month it goes on 2 whitewater rafting trips in UT and AZ, which will be the real test!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Deer Galore

I've been seeing deer all over the place, no matter which forest preserve bike trail I've been on. Here I am on the Millennium Trail...

...where I came upon these youngsters browsing the grass and completely undisturbed by my presence...

The trail around Independence Grove also had a pair of very young fawns who were undaunted by passing bikes, walkers, and vehicles...

As I biked the Des Plaines River Trail with Dave and Patti, we passed this deer, and even though we stopped briefly to enjoy her presence, she didn't dart off, just watching us and returning to her browsing...

These very young fawns were right on the loop trail that branches from the Fort Hill Trail within the former Four Winds Golf Club grounds, in the vicinity of the southern bridge over the water channel. We watched each other for five minutes before another biker started them and they took off.

Perhaps I'm spotting so many deer due to my increased mileage. I just passed 2000 biking miles for the year, the earliest I've ever hit the mark, and I'm on pace for a personal record mileage mark. I also have had more flats this year than ever before (three so far) -- probably because (as I just noticed) my tires are worn down so much they match my bald head. New tires are on order and should be installed within a few days in preparation for my six week trip out west.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

NICER Meeting

The bimonthly meeting of NICER (Northern Illinois Chapter of Elderhostel/Road Scholar) featured one of our favorite presenters, as Bill Hinchcliff returned to present another of his Chicago programs, this one entitled "Travel through Chicago and See The World: Celebrating Chicago's Amazing Ethnic Diversity." Bill is well known for his architectural tours and presentations in and about Chicago and has given many architectural tours for the Art Institute as well as numerous other well known institutions and educational groups.

The first part of the title is a quotation from Mayor Daley, reminding us that Chicago is one of the world's most diverse cities, right up there with New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, London, and Paris.

With slides and engaging commentary, Bill took us on a journey through the city, highlighting along the way a dozen or so of Chicago's 77 neighborhoods, stretching from the Far North Side to the South Side, including Ukrainian, Polish, Swedish, Bohemian, German, Irish, Mexican, Chinese, Lithuanian, and Orthodox (Russian) Jewish Chicago. He touched on topics such as history, culture, religion, and food, and took us on slideshow journeys through Chinatown, Bridgeport, Pilsen, Rogers Park, Noble Square, Back of the Yards, Lawndale, Lincoln Square, and Andersonville.

Thanks, Bill, for another stirring and educational presentation!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Deer in Lakewood Forest Preseve

As I biked 20 miles on the Millennium and Ft. Hill Trails through Lakewood and Singing Hills Forest Preserves today, I spotted this deer about 50 feet off the trail. She must have been as curious about me as I was of her, because as we stared at each other, every 30 seconds or so she took a couple of steps toward me, then stared some more. This continued for 5 minutes or so until she was startled by something...

...and bounded away...

A mile later as I biked the loop trail (old golf course cart path) in the former Four Winds Golf Club, I came upon these two youngsters who also were curious about me. They also intently studied me for several minutes, and the one on the left took a few deep breaths as if trying to get my scent. (Perhaps she did get a whiff since I was 16 miles into the ride and it was 86 degrees already!)

The only way the ride could have been better would have been another muskrat sighting in the pond. Fun day in the forest preserve!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Biking Wisconsin's Ozaukee Interurban Trail

This trail follows the electric railway line linking Milwaukee and many of its northern communities from its inception in 1905 to the end of all operations in 1951. The mostly paved trail runs 32 miles north from Mequon through Cedarburg, Grafton, Port Washington, Belgium, and ends in Cedar Grove.

The section from Cedar Grove through Belgium and into Port Washington is largely farmland and the trail has an active rail line adjacent to the trail. In Port Washington, Grafton, and Cedarburg, there are missing sections requiring bikers to detour on streets, with green "Bike Route" signs directing you to the trail's continuation. This multi-million dollar bridge carries the trail over I-43 between Port Washington and Grafton...

As you enter Grafton, you cross the Milwaukee River on this bridge...

The trail from Grafton to Cedarburg crosses many residential streets with scenic views of neighborhoods and parks. It only gets better as you enter the charming community of Cedarburg. Historic bridges carry you over Cedar Creek. and you'll be tempted to explore the inviting restaurants and shops. South of Cedarburg, the trail again becomes rural, passing through the communities of Thiensville and Mequon, again with an active rail line alongside.

Thee are no trail parking lots, but on street parking is abundant near the trail in all the towns. For more specific info on parking, see this chart.

Ozaukee Interurban Trail website

Rails-to-Trails page for this trail

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Biking Wisconsin's Eisenbahn State Trail

The Eisenbahn Trail's name is a tribute to the German settlers in this area and translates to "Iron Road." The railroad was completed in 1872 as the North Western Union Railway and soon became the Chicago and North Western's principal route between Green Bay and Chicago. This 25 mile trail extends from the historic city of West Bend into the scenic countryside of eastern Wisconsin past the glacial landscape of the Kettle Moraine State Forest and is operated by Washington and Fond du Lac Counties. The northern 20 miles are crushed stone and the southern 5 miles are paved.

This is one of the newer trails since the rail line wasn't abandoned until 2000 and the trail opened in 2005. The northern section passes through lush farmland, and though it is mostly flat, the trail has slight rises and falls as it bypasses the bigger hills seen in the distance in the photo below...

Supplies are available in Campbellsport, Kewaskum, and West Bend, and you get views of the Milwaukee River in several places...

Other than the 4.5 miles between West Bend and Kewaskum which run alongside Highway 45, the trail offers solitude and quiet. Occasional marshlands intersperse the farmland as seen below, and the 4 sandhill cranes I spotted along the trail were a special treat.


Eden: State Highway 45 travels through Eden. Parking is available at the Eden Community Park at the trailhead.

Campbellsport: State Highway 67 and County Highway V travel through Campbellsport. The trail is adjacent to Fireman's Park where parking is available.

Kewaskum: State Highways 28 and 45 pass through Kewaskum. Parking is available next to the trail in downtown Kewaskum between Highway 28 and Second Street. The trail also runs adjacent to River Hills Park where parking is available.

West Bend: State Highways 45 and 33 pass through West Bend. Parking is available in lots near Water and Washington streets and is also allowed along city side streets.

Wisconsin DNR page for the Eisenbahn Trail

Rails-to-Trails page

Monday, August 9, 2010

Glacial Drumlin State Trail

This 52 mile trail is another of the fine Wisconsin State Trails. "Drumlins" are cigar-shaped hills created by glacial forces and are accompanied by adjacent wetlands, ponds, and rivers, all of which create lovely countryside. The trail is the railroad right-of-way which was opened in 1882 and was a challenge to build. Pilings sank in the bottomless muck, creating dangerous passage for trains, and once a trail derailed and is still buried down there somewhere!

A farmer bought the marsh from the state in the 1940s, widened and deepened a 3 mile stretch of Koshkonong Creek, and removed a dam -- all of which dropped the water table 6 feet and allowed him to farm the rich muck soil. Here's what it looks like today...

The trail runs from Cottage Grove to Waukesha, with the southern 13 miles being paved and the remainder of crushed stone. The trail crosses the Koshkonong Creek five times, crosses the Crawfish and Rock Rivers on large iron bridges, and traverses Upper and Lower Rock Lakes on a 1/4 mile long bridge from which this shot was taken...

The trail alternates with wooded sections and serene countryside, occasional farms, and periodic towns and villages which can provide you with various services. A century-plus of rail use kept the rail corridor unfarmed, so the trail verges are mature trees and foliage. I biked the day after a huge thunderstorm and had to circumvent numerous downed trees until I encountered the work crew with chain saws who were clearing the downfall...

Wood-planked bridges now provide great viewpoints of the wetlands where a host of wildlife thrives. Like me, you may spot large sandhill cranes, an ancient species with bright red adorning the tops of their heads, or hear spring peepers and chorus frogs announcing their presence. I watched a hawk circling above with the usual retinue of annoying small birds chasing it. Butterflies, frogs, grasshoppers, and chipmunks predominated on the trail -- and I seldom stopped or slowed down due to the prolific mosquito population.

Trail passes, required for ages 16 and up, can be purchased at self-registration stations at trailheads. The cost in 2010 was $4 for a daily pass and $20 for an annual pass.

The trail has multiple trailheads with parking:

I parked in the lot in Lake Mills, on Highway 89 by the old railroad station in the southern section of town, and then biked both directions.

The western trailhead in Cottage Grove can be reached from Madison by taking US 90 south to Route 147 (Stoughton/Cottage Grove/ County N). Turn left in 4.5 miles onto County North Drive. The trailhead is on the right in the center of town.

The Jefferson trailhead is closest to the trail's midpoint. In town, Hwy 18 becomes W. Racine Street and after several blocks crosses the Rock River. Turn north on Route 26 and go a couple of miles to West Junction Road and turn right. The trailhead is just past the intersection on the left. This is the location of the one on-road section of the Glacial Drumlin Trail, but signs will guide you to trail. NOTE: In 2010, road construction had this entire area disrupted.

The eastern trailhead is in the Fox River Sanctuary in Waukesha. From Interstate 94, take Highway 164 (North Street) for 3.1 miles to St. Paul Avenue. Turn right on St. Paul and go to Prairie Avenue (0.2 miles). Turn left on Prairie Avenue and, in 0.4 miles, turn right on College Avenue. Look for the Fox River Sanctuary parking lot and the trailhead.

Glacial Drumlin State Trail website

Wisconsin DNR's Glacial Drumlin page

Maps can be found here.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Long Lake Trailhead Parking

Lake County Forest Preserve District just opened the Long Lake Trailhead parking area which represents an access for paddle craft into Long Lake and from it, to Fox Lake and thus the Chain of Lakes...

It also connects to the adjacent Chain of Lakes Bike Path along Rollins Road to the town of Fox Lake, as well as into Grant Woods. Thanks, LCFPD!

The lot is located between Rollins Road and Lakeshore Drive just west of Fairfield Road where the bike trail crosses Rollins Road.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Hawai'i Adventure Trip

In 2003, I participated in a 14 day Elderhostel active outdoor adventure program in Hawai'i which included the islands of O'ahu, Maui, and Kaua'i. A few years back, I lost all the digital photos in a hard drive crash but recently discovered a CD on which I had backed up the photos. So here is a brief movie showing the highlights of the trip, including coastal and jungle hikes, two kayak trips, surfing, tours of historical and cultural sites, and much more...

Monday, August 2, 2010

Moraine Hills SP biking

Our group gathered at Moraine Hills State Park and biked the 13 miles for one final time before the other four leave on vacation trips. We met earlier than usual to beat the onset of the predicted heat which has "blessed" us recently. In fact, we finished July with 16 days of 90 degree weather -- up from 4 such days last year -- and with nearly 9 inches of rain in July, it was one of the wettest in Chicago's history. But despite the heat and rain last month, I managed to set a personal record for monthy biking mileage with 440 miles. (My previous best month had been 424 miles in 2008.)

We were pleasantly surprised to see a pair of sand hill cranes browsing in the park at McHenry Dam...

... and also enjoyed the abundant wildflowers...

Lunch in Lake Zurich at Walker Brothers ended a wonderful morning with my friends.