Wednesday, February 28, 2007

February 28, 2007

I know there are a lot of holes in the Bobber-Everest theory. For one, why isn't hunting included? Surely it is one of the riskiest outdoor endeavors out there. And if fishing is included, hunting should be, too. Also, my definition of outdoor recreation is unclear. Basketball, backgammon and badminton also constitute outdoor recreation among many others.

And what do I have against bobber fishing to rate it even lower than walking? I actually first fished using a bobber and a cheap Daiwa rod and reel. It's an easy introduction to the sport. I suppose bobber fishing is emblematic of the laziest recreation I can imagine. The bobber fishing I envision is done from shore on a very still body of water. You don't even have to hold the rod but can set it on the ground and wait for the bobber to move.

In other news, Illinois is staging a contest to determine the state's seven wonders. Sauk Valley Newspapers printed a list of the seven wonders of the Sauk Valley. I came up with a list of the seven wonders of Uptown: the vacant lot behind our house, the intersection of Lawrence Avenue and Sheridan Road, Montrose Point, the Romanian communist party headquarters building, the Death Star, Essanay Studios and Majestic for Men. I will be explaining these choices in future posts.

Monday, February 26, 2007

February 26, 2007

Today, cyclist Jan Ullrich announced his retirement. "The big German," in the words of cycling broadcaster Paul Sherwen, won the Tour de France in 1997 and was a five-time runner-up. Last year, it finally appeared Ullrich would have a chance to win again with Lance Armstrong retired. Instead, he and dozens of other top riders were banned on the eve of the Tour because of alleged involvement in a doping scandal. That's how his career ended. "My world broke together a little, honestly," said Ullrich, who was fired from the T-Mobile team. The director of German cycling essentially said good riddance in his farewell to Ullrich.

Ullrich always stayed in the saddle--even on the toughest climbs he didn't rise out of his seat. He enjoyed disco dancing in the off-season and often reported to the Tour overweight. He even was banned one year when he tested positive after taking Ecstasy at a club. Like Adrock of the Beastie Boys, Jan had the uncanny ability to look totally different every time you saw him. I saw his picture on the Web today, and I still wouldn't recognize his face if I passed him on the street and he was wearing the German champion's kit.

There was something tragic about Jan. A few years ago, he trailed Armstrong by just a minute before the climactic individual time trial. It rained all day during that stage, and Jan wiped out on a curve. He finished second again.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

February 25, 2007

The long-awaited post that was conceived before the ski/tire adventure...there is an outdoor recreation spectrum. I'll call it the Bobber-Everest Scale. On one end are car camping and bobber fishing. On the other end ultra-marathoning and mountaineering. In the middle are paddling Class V rapids, rock climbing and long-distance cycling. Cross country skiing in Illinois is closer to bobber fishing. Pretty much, I've only engaged the first half of the spectrum, and really haven't even pushed the midpoint.

Duration is a key factor. A 14-day car camping trip doesn't send the needle closer to the midpoint when all you've done is lift a beer and drive to town for more hot dogs. A single-day event, like a marathon, though, will send you to at least the midpoint, if not further. Five nights of backpacking, though, bring you closer to the Everest side of the continuum versus one night of backpacking in the same place. One of my more memorable recent experiences, hiking Humphreys Peak, was completed in just one morning. Still, that tops the overnight backpacking trip to Forest Glen Preserve in Central Illinois.

One of the main factors in ranking the spectrum is risk. Surfing I put ahead of downhill skiing because drowning scares the crap out of me. On the Everest side, instant-death altitude sickness tops the risks involved in endurance marathons.

Here is a sample of the continuum at minimum levels of activity. Since the intensity ratchets up so much for the last few activities, the midpoint on the activity list is probably much closer to the Everest end.

Bobber fishing
Cast-and-reel fishing
Car camping
Fly fishing
Mountain biking
Road cycling
Cross country skiing
Downhill skiing
Rock climbing
Ice climbing
Alpine mountaineering
Himalayan mountaineering

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

February 20, 2007

After months of obstinance, I've finally decided to convert the Journal into a blog. Blogs have been a constant topic in professional development trainings I have attended. I understand why, but I don't think they are going to revolutionize media. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe this is why my family bought a Beta instead of a VHS. It just feels kinda like the late '90s Web boom. There's a great documentary about that heady time called "" Two longtime friends in their 20s start a Web site that allows people to pay all government-related fees (parking tickets, taxes, licenses, etc.) online. They're handed a a lot of start-up money by venture capitalists. The business goes bust, and soon enough they've turned on each other with all of the accompanying greed, malice and vitriol you could imagine. I hope that isn't the end result of this blog, but I guess I'll have no one to blame but myself. I'm not sure yet how to deal with the Journal archives in relation to the blog.

Part of the allure of the blog is the enhanced search ranking possibility. Sadly, has always been buried on the 20th page of a search--even for strings like "moraine view state recreation area." The name of the blog is "driftless area" after the hilly, unglaciated portions of Illinois and Wisconsin. My second and third choices were Possible Watershed and Squirrel Rampage, respectively.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

February 18, 2007

I was composing this post in my head on the way to a cross country ski trip yesterday morning. I had a topic in mind, but now I may have to save that for another time--the trip was eventful unto itself. I had planned to try out a new ski locale, Deer Grove Forest Preserve, northwestern Cook County, but wound up where I always do: Moraine Hills State Park near Island Lake, Ill. It was still snowing when I departed Chicago. By the time I arrived at Moraine Hills, it had begun to clear. I strapped on my new pair of skis and charged off from the Pike Marsh parking area. I thought I was Bjorn Dahle somewhere in Lapland. Snow conditions were great, and the skies were blue when I reached the three-mile mark. Here I began to feel extreme pain on both heels. It felt like a dull knife was sawing at my Achilles tendons. The perils of a fresh pair of boots can rear up for both hikers and skiers, apparently. I had to push on, though, as I was at least three miles from my car. I considered catching a ride from someone but decided to forge forth. Every stride required the Achilles incisions to continue. I tried to ski flat-footed which is as absurd as a giraffe on roller skates. My stamina was OK, but the pain in the heels persisted. I was picturing a pathetic airlift out of exurbia. I slowed my pace and took advantage of glides and long downhills. I was relieved when I got to the car after a total of more than seven miles.

The adventure wasn't over, though. On the way back from Moraine Hills, I took I-94 south toward Chicago. At the Lake-Cook toll plaza, my driver's side front tire went flat. I struggled to a gas station. There I borrowed a lug wrench from an employee, but it didn't fit properly. I finally called for roadside assistance. The tow truck driver broke his lug wrench in addressing the issue. Running out of options, he towed me to "the only place that I know is open nearby." Now, I broke down in Northbrook, which is located in a heavily commercial area of the north suburbs. The driver suggested we head 15 miles back north to Mundelein so the tire could be replaced. I decided to go along with it, but as soon as we got back on the expressway we passed a National Tire & Battery. I kept it to myself. We wound up in a low-slung industrial park. He directed me into a cramped waiting room. Inside there were two six packs of some sort of Bacardi malt liquor beverage and a six pack of Heineken. Someone walked in the door and cracked open a cold one. I sighted at least five men wandering around and one other would-be customer. The workers grumbled a few words in Russian to each other, and the tow truck driver went off somewhere else for a smoke and conversation. The tone of the setting was drug deal about to go bad. The driver eventually did unload the car, and the mechanic was friendly enough. And the bill was palatable. By the time I made it home, the blisters on my heels were just another detail of an eventful day.