Sunday, December 28, 2008
Cleveland -- It was 36.1 degrees and windy when we departed from the east suburbs of Cleveland today. There was a Wind Advisory in effect, and indeed the wind was blowing. Aberrant 60-degree temperatures from the day before had cleared the last of the snow in the area. Even the little piles in shopping centers and along highway medians were gone. The grass was surprisingly green. I recorded a red-tailed hawk in the woods of Bratenahl, just north of I-90.
Firelands -- The Firelands are a section just west of Cleveland, mostly in places like Erie County. Cleveland's root date to the time of the colony of Connecticut and the Western Reserve of the tiny state, which once extended in a narrow swath all the way from the Atlantic Ocean to the shores of Lake Erie. Along the Firelands, we dropped off the Allegheny Plateau to flatter land. We traversed deep ravines along the Vermillion, Huron and Black Rivers.
Black Swamp -- Most of northwestern Ohio was once a vast, post-glacial swamp known as the Black Swamp. Settlers drained the swamps for farmland soon after arriving in the 19th Century. There are still a few remnants of the swamp, and on a post-thaw day like this many of the rivers overflowed their banks. In Williams County, in extreme northwestern Ohio, there was more snow on the ground than at any other point on today's trip. North-facing slopes held snow, as did a few woodlands.
Michiana -- A region that includes the South Bend-Mishawaka-Elkhart trifecta, Michiana is a land of rivers and creeks and farms and lake-effect snow. It also is home to the RV Hall of Fame, a tantalizing roadside attraction in Elkhart. A couple more red-tails were recorded here, and at least one accipter sat on a fencepost. There was some ice on the agricultural ponds, but mostly it had melted in the big thaw of the past few days.
Dune Country -- Gas-a-roo is a formerly independent gas station on Calumet Avenue in Hammond, Ind., that is now owned by Valero. It's a great place to fuel up on the way back from Ohio or the Dune Country. Here we discovered that the massive snow melt had also occurred in the Chicago region.
Chicago -- Our city was icebound when we left on Wednesday. There's nary a trace of snow now, except a few black piles of a snow-like substance along a few highway medians. This now is the wettest year in recorded Chicago history--for the second time this year the Des Plaines River is flooding.
The final tally: seven red-tails, three accipters (sharp-shinned hawks or cooper's hawks), at least four dozen white-tailed deer, acres of flooded farmland and a winter jaunt across a lovely landscape.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Thursday, December 18, 2008
We had a snowfall of about 4 inches on Tuesday that snarled the evening rush hour. Tonight, we're expecting a big winter storm. The forecasts have varied a bit, but at least 6 inches are expected overnight with as many 12 inches at the Wisconsin line. We're under a winter storm warning right now. It's been a snowy December.
I've noticed that the snow sort of insulates sound a little bit and makes everything echo-y on our block. Noise travels farther in extreme cold, and when it's super-cold and clear you can hear the Red Line train all the way from our house (no way you'd hear this in summer). You also can hear cars on Lake Shore Drive more clearly. What really strikes me are the airplanes that fly west over Lawrence Avenue on their way to O'Hare. When it's frigid, they sound like they're just a few foot over the rooftops.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Backpacker Magazine recently featured the native caribou population on Lake Superior's Slate Islands. The big ungulates crossed over to the islands on icy Lake Superior years ago. The 200 or so reindeer there now have no natural predators and enjoy a peaceful existence in a provincial park.
The Slate Islands were formed by a meteorite likely 450 million years ago. The islands are the central uplift from the collision. Impact may have taken place during the Orodovician period. Favorite Orodovician fauna: the arandaspis, a type of jawless fish.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
I extracted the bike from the basement and hopped on in the alley. The first few pedals came easily, and I felt like I glided onto Clarendon Avenue. Once on the lakefront path, I continued dancing on the pedals. My chain ring ticked over like a metronome as I sailed northward.
I began to recalibrate my winter workout plan. As long as the paths were free of ice and snow, I could bike all season long. No need to spend hours in a claustrophobic gym. I reached the turnaround at the north end of the path.
Here, the metronome stopped, the idyll ended and a ferocious blast of wind sent me careening to one side of the path. I continued to plow forward, for a time riding on a spongy path that only made the thigh-burn more painful. I finally made it to pavement near Foster Avenue. The wind gusts continued furiously. They would abate to about 15 mph on occasion, and I would surge momentarily. Making it to Lawrence Avenue was like climbing Mont Ventoux.
I turned west on Lawrence and an explosion of wind from the south sent me toward the curb. I tacked into the wind all the way to the relative shelter of the Lake Shore Drive viaduct.
I returned home just 30 minutes later, warmer, wiser.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Among the locations shuttered since yesterday are Carl Sandburg's birthplace in Galesburg. Other notables include lovely Lowden State Park and its nearby sibling, Castle Rock State Park. Both offer hiking opportunities in the upland woods of the Rock River Valley. Also closing: Jubilee State Historic Site, which sits within Jubilee College State Park (to my knowledge the state park is remaining open). The significance? Jubilee College was founded by Philander Chase, who also founded Kenyon College. Jubilee College, one of the first in Illinois, has been closed since Abraham Lincoln's presidency.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
1. Northern Cardinal
2. Blue Jay
3. Red-bellied Woodpecker
5. Mute Swan
6. Canada Goose
7. American Crow
8. Downy Woodpecker
9. Hairy Woodpecker
10. White-breasted Nuthatch
11. Tufted Titmouse
12. Black-capped Chickadee
13. Cooper's Hawk
14. American Tree Sparrow
15. Tundra Swan
16. Rock Dove
Thursday, November 27, 2008
As noted previously in this blog, Americans are generally spending much less time outdoors. As sprawl encroaches on habitat, more animals will become comfortable raiding Dumpsters and bird feeders. And the few people who still venture outside might be more susceptible to scary animal encounters.
(I happened upon an alley rabbit in our patio the other evening, for example.)
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Monday, November 10, 2008
by Gordon Lightfoot
The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy.
With a load of iron ore - 26,000 tons more
Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty
That good ship and true was a bone to be chewed
When the gales of November came early
The ship was the pride of the American side
Coming back from some mill in Wisconson
As the big freighters go it was bigger than most
With a crew and the Captain well seasoned.
Concluding some terms with a couple of steel firms
When they left fully loaded for Cleveland
And later that night when the ships bell rang
Could it be the North Wind they'd been feeling.
The wind in the wires made a tattletale sound
And a wave broke over the railing
And every man knew, as the Captain did, too,
T'was the witch of November come stealing.
The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait
When the gales of November came slashing
When afternoon came it was freezing rain
In the face of a hurricane West Wind
When supper time came the old cook came on deck
Saying fellows it's too rough to feed ya
At 7PM a main hatchway caved in
He said fellas it's been good to know ya.
The Captain wired in he had water coming in
And the good ship and crew was in peril
And later that night when his lights went out of sight
Came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.
Does anyone know where the love of God goes
When the words turn the minutes to hours
The searchers all say they'd have made Whitefish Bay
If they'd fifteen more miles behind her.
They might have split up or they might have capsized
They may have broke deep and took water
And all that remains is the faces and the names
Of the wives and the sons and the daughters.
Lake Huron rolls, Superior sings
In the ruins of her ice water mansion
Old Michigan steams like a young man's dreams,
The islands and bays are for sportsmen.
And farther below Lake Ontario
Takes in what Lake Erie can send her
And the iron boats go as the mariners all know
With the gales of November remembered.
In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed
In the Maritime Sailors' Cathedral
The church bell chimed, 'til it rang 29 times
For each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald.
The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee
Superior, they say, never gives up her dead
When the gales of November come early.
Today is the 33rd anniversary of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Locations throughout the Great Lakes are marking the anniversary, including along the North Shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota and in Toledo, Ohio. I plan to fill a snifter with brandy, light a candle and listen to Gordon Lightfoot's masterpiece. I hope you'll join me.
Saturday, November 8, 2008
Monday, November 3, 2008
--Holding the No. 1 spot for the millionth year in a row (10,000th?) is red-winged blackbird. Mind you, this survey takes place in May.
--The top 20 includes birds like indigo bunting (12th) and tree swallow (13th) but not american crow (25th).
--DeKalb County, just west of the Chicago area, recorded the most eastern screech-owls, 13.
--Iroquois County, 60 miles due south of Chicago and a strange mosaic of prairie, farmland, sand, savanna and woodlands, recorded the most brown creepers (12).
--The most red-winged blackbirds were found in McHenry County, northwest of Chicago (4,421 of 61,289 statewide). It's funny because you can see just about 61, 289 red-wings on any ride through the Midwest in May or June, I swear.
I could parse this data forever.
Friday, October 31, 2008
Friday, October 24, 2008
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
We began looking for a footprint or any sign of the direction we needed to go. There was a deer print and a coyote print, but nothing human. The GPS indicated we were on the same side of the creek as the trail, the one we had lost and needed to find again. A quick foray into the dense woods and brush near the creek yielded nothing but even spongier sods. It was on toward 5 now, the sun still warming the vast, grassy plateau. One more crash through a stand of conifers, following the GPS' wayward directions, and still no sign of the trail. It was disconcerting, but we had our packs and water and so would have been OK for the night. And we knew we needed to follow the creek downstream if nothing else.
Across the creek, over a dense logjam, the grass appeared matted and something like a trail was discernible. The trail took us up a slight rise, and on the other side we found a well-used campsite. Steppingstones crossed to the other side of the creek. Moments later we heard the sounds of voices and relocated the trail. Whew.
Dolly Sods Wilderness is a land of steep ravines, waterfalls, dense woodlands and--oddly enough--bogs. Imagine the wooded slopes of the Allegheny Mountains and the Monongahela National Forest. Then picture a secret wilderness, a surreal slice of Canada, draped across flat mountaintops--those are the spruce-and-cranberry laden sods.
Day One began hiking about three miles up Red Creek Canyon. The weather was perfect and remained so all weekend--70s for the highs and 40s for the lows. The trail was lined by massive rhododendrons, 20-feet tall in places. The rhods, in some areas forming a tunnel around the trail, were omnipresent along the wooded slopes on this trip. The first night also called for a dip in frigid Red Creek, a broad, boulder-strewn stream.
Day Two, before getting lost, called for a long uphill to the sods. The trail was steep and rocky. It was a relief to reach the boggy, 3,500-foot-high plateau, but even here the ankle-breaking rocks persisted. The aforementioned sod detour derailed our camping plans a bit. We had to high-tail it to get to a real campsite before dark. The result was an 11-mile day on Saturday, and we actually ended up closer to the car than where we began (if that makes any sense). The 15-mile loop was complete when we hiked out on Sunday morning.
Appendix: 2008 has been the Year of the Merlin. After observing a nesting pair at Bay Furnace Campground along the shores of Lake Superior in May, I spotted a merlin while we were lost in the sods. It spooked a group of robins, nuthatches and chickadees.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
In preparing for the journey, I went to Acronym yesterday. Among the notable purchases were trekking poles and gaiters. The trekking poles are not just old walking sticks that you find on the ground. These are made of space age material and even have shock absorbers. The gaiters are rather like nylon spats. They hopefully will protect against water, nettles, thorns and ticks. More to report later from the Old Dominion!
Sunday, October 5, 2008
Saturday, October 4, 2008
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Amid all of the unpleasantness out East during the past couple weeks, the House approved a critical piece of legislation. The Great Lakes Compact prohibits diversion of water outside of the lakes' basin. The House passed this essential legislation 390-25. Chicago, in case you're wondering, is still considered part of the Great Lakes Basin even though when I do the dishes the water eventually flows toward the Mississippi River and the Gulf. Historically, before the reversal of the Chicago River, our water drained to the Great Lakes. Thankfully we still have an exemption and can partake in the sweet water of Lake Michigan.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
There are no shortage of recreation options in this section of central Wisconsin, as more than 75 percent of Juneau County is made up of public land. We came for the Whooping Crane Festival in Necedah and to camp at Buckhorn State Park, which turned out to be a gem. Our site was on the shores of Castle Rock Lake, the fourth-largest inland lake in Wisconsin and a part of the Wisconsin River Flowage.
The festival included a bus tour of nearby Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, home to several dozen reintroduced whoopers. We did in fact see four of the extremely scarce cranes and now can add them to our life lists. we also saw trumpeter swans, a harrier and dozens of sandhill cranes in the refuge. In all, we tallied 41 species for the trip including an osprey and a bald eagle from our campsite.
Just four hours from Chicago, this is definitely an area to return to--wild enough to harbor wolf packs and black bears.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Monday, September 15, 2008
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Today, conditions have worsened. Flooding has caused an evacuation in the Northwest Side along the Chicago River. Best I can tell, every waterway around here has flooded--the Fox River, the Des Plaines River, DuPage River, Salt Creek, Calumet River, Thorn Creek. The Flood of 2008 will be one to remember.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
"The most common form of terrorism in the U.S.A. is that carried on by bulldozers and chain saws."
Monday, September 8, 2008
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Friday, August 29, 2008
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Sunday, August 17, 2008
This brings me to the Gordon Lightfoot classic "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald." Where has this song been hiding all these years? Yesterday, the 6-minute epic came on a classic rock station here in town. There are so many great lyrics in the song, but here are some favorites:
Lake Huron rolls, Superior sings
in the rooms of her ice-water mansion.
Old Michigan steams like a young man's dreams;
the islands and bays are for sportsmen.
And farther below Lake Ontario
takes in what Lake Erie can send her,
And the iron boats go as the mariners all know
with the Gales of November remembered.
I didn't know that the Dandy Warhols, a brilliant American rock band, covered the Lightfoot epic.
Additionally, the Chicago Tribune featured an editorial on the importance of the lakes today.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Monday, August 11, 2008
Elsewhere, the Detroit Free Press reports that "Michigan has it all." Indeed, what a state, and still so much to explore.
Finally, a man and his son set out to trace Marquette and Jolliet's route from St. Ignace, Mich., down the Mississippi River watershed. Sounds like quite a trip. Canoeing the open water of the Great Lakes, though, wouldn't be for me.
Saturday, August 9, 2008
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Last year, a huge thunderstorm hit Chicago on an August afternoon. There was more than 12 inches of water on Lake Shore Drive in sections. Several of the willows that line Lincoln Park were taken out by straight line winds. There was severe tree and structural damage in Lakeview. I rode up on a sidewalk to clear the flooded Wilson Avenue viaduct.
Last night, the tornado siren by the neighborhood gas station sounded for the second time in three years. We scurried to the basement with a radio and Blackberry (love the radar on the Blackberry). There was a tornado warning for central Cook County, and a tornado was seen near Elmhurst. It was projected to sweep through Chicago, and ultimately Montrose Harbor. A sheet of wind blew through somewhere near 8:15, and we lost power for about an hour. At 8:30, the tornado warning expired. Reading reports today, I don't think a tornado ever touched ground. I do know that thousands were still without power today. Another wild August storm in Chicago.
Sunday, August 3, 2008
Saturday, August 2, 2008
Thanks to one of the correspondents for the tip on this nice story in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Full disclosure: the author used to be in a fantasy league with me.
Friday, August 1, 2008
At Lollapalooza in Grant Park today, birds included one rock dove, four american crows and one ring-billed gull. People far outnumbered Aves.
Last, in what really is more important news than anything today, the Phoenix Spacecraft confirmed water on Mars.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
The Chicago Tribune reported today that algae has bloomed out of control on the bottom of Lake Michigan in the past three years, largely due to exotic zebra and quagga mussels. It's sad to hear that the whole native food chain is being altered and that the lake bottom is no longer all boulders and gravel but instead cloaked in algae.
And one state park is the first in Michigan with green restrooms. The shower building at Grand Haven State Park was replaced in an eco-friendly fashion.
Monday, July 28, 2008
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
7:54 p.m. -- My viewing begins with a pleasant surprise. Commentator Phil Liggett is interviewing Garmin-Chipotle's team director. I hadn't heard Liggett or Paul Sherwen much in primetime this year.
7:55 -- Now Craig Hummer takes over the announcing duties. He is Mario Mendoza to Liggett's Babe Ruth.
7:56 -- Commentator Bob Roll makes a simile involving a snow leopard.
8:00 -- A quick check of Runway, which is recapping last week's episode and Jerry's hideous outfit.
8:07 -- The model elimination process on Runway seems arbitrary and unfair.
8:10 -- Keith looks a bit like the lead singer of Suicidal Tendencies.
8:11 -- Back to the Tour, an interview with Christian Vande Velde who hails from suburban Chicago. He was a General Classification contender until yesterday. He keeps a great diary that sometimes appears in the Tribune, but I can't seem to locate it online.
8:14 -- Helicopter shots show the incredible vistas--lakes, waterfalls, peaks--of the Alps.
8:18 -- Back to Runway, where Stella explains her project while aiming to erase memories of last week's garbage bags.
8:21 -- Tim Gunn uses the phrase "hot mess" in a nod to last season's champ, Christian Siriano.
8:28 -- At the Tour, Peter Velits is alone leading the stage with two groups of chasers following. The Peloton is 1 minute, 45 seconds behind. The GC contenders are in Chase 2.
8:30 -- I read a profile of Tour leader Frank Schleck a couple years ago. He seems like a good guy and he's from Luxembourg.
8:36 -- Andy Schleck, Frank's younger brother, was second in this year's Giro d'Italia and is having a great Tour. Veteran rider Stuart O'Grady says Andy will be an all-time great.
8:40 -- Back on Runway, Leanne takes her creepiness to a whole 'nother level when guest judge Natalie Portman is introduced.
8:46 -- Nina Garcia provides this blast to Wesley: "Shiny, tight and short is the quickest way to look cheap." And I just realized that Wesley has been wearing white shorts this whole time.
8:52 -- In France, Jerome Pineau has joined Velits on the lead, and they approach the base of L'Alpe. The first group of chasers is approaching.
8:54 -- 13.8 kilometers to the summit of the famed mountain.
8:55 -- Velits has cracked.
8:56 -- GC contender Carlos Sastre attacks with Denis Menchov right behind.
8:57 -- In New York, Suede has won the challenge.
8:58 -- Wesley is eliminated and Leanne somehow goes on to sew another day.
8:59 -- In the Alps, Menchov is in difficulty with 12.2 kilometers to go.
9:02 -- I love the chalk messages on the Tour's roads. The group just rolled over 'ANDY' and 'FRANK.'
9:08 -- Bernhard Kohl, who is in second in the Tour and leading King of the Mountains, is fading. Only to quickly bounce back.
9:10 -- Sastre is 48 seconds ahead of the yellow jersey group.
9:16 -- Sastre is the "virtual" leader of the Tour right now, says Roll.
9:20 -- If I were a spectator at the Tour, I don't think I'd run beside the riders and pour water on them. But that's just me.
9:29 -- Andy Schleck and Vladimir Efimkin attack. Sastre has extended his lead to 2 minutes, 5 seconds.
9:38 -- Phil Liggett takes over the call with about a mile to go. And Sammy Sanchez, the Basque rider, is on the attack.
9:42 -- Sastre captures the stage and the yellow jersey.
9:44 -- The GC contenders finish 2:14 behind. The Tour will be decided during the Stage 19 individual time trial, and Australia's Cadel Evans (1:34 back) appears to be the favorite.
Monday, July 21, 2008
Sunday, July 20, 2008
What strikes me about this is that, to me, this isn't typical purple martin habitat. Usually they reside near golf courses, farms, airports or other open spaces--this is quite an urban area. Open enough, though, that a red-tailed hawk was present to feast on the martins, according to the story.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Oh, and I posted the three-point stance photo.
Monday, July 14, 2008
Saturday, July 12, 2008
Lake Superior has 50 percent of the water mass of the Great Lakes and 2 percent of the fish. Lake Erie has 2 percent of the water mass and 50 percent of the fish.
Full disclosure: the expert quoted in this story is the uncle of one of my best friends.
Elsewhere in Willoughby Hills, a sighting of a northern mockingbird. The harbinger of global warming was seen at Airport Greens Golf Course. Also, the plague of eastern kingbirds this summer continues. Several seen at the golf course.
Friday, July 11, 2008
Also, maybe I haven't camped in the lower Midwest in midsummer for a while, but there were a ton of bugs around. A plague of daddy longlegs descended on our tent, and the mosquitoes were fierce in the morning. Our tent was set up on a hardpan dirt surface that made sleeping incredibly uncomfortable. Anyway, we'll probably stay in the nearby Potawatomi Lodge next time around.
It was a perfect summer morning amid the glacial lakes, marshes and woodlands of the region. We meandered a bit by car and found the point where Indiana, Michigan and Ohio come together. Representative really of nothing, though there was a stone marker signifying the convergence of the boundaries. It took a three-point stance to straddle all of them at once.
All told--40 plus bird species already and should be more to follow.
Saturday, July 5, 2008
7:30 a.m. - Versus begins the telecast with a dramatic narrator describing the geological forces that shaped the Alps.
7:34 - Ah, Phil Liggett, Paul Sherwen and Bob Roll make their first appearance.
7:36 - A lengthy conversation about doping. The past two Tours have been ravaged by drugs. Team Astana, including new signee and 2007 Tour winner Alberto Contador, already has been banned this year for past transgressions.
7:44 - Top sprinter Tom Boonen has been barred from the tour for using a "social" drug: cocaine.
7:47 - Predictions for Stage 1. Sherwen: Oscar Freire. Liggett: Thor Hushovd. Roll: Fabian Cancellara. Craig Hummer (I miss Al Trautwig): Riccardo Ricco(?).
7:50 - The last time the race ended in Plumelec, in 1997, the winner was Erik Zabel. Zabel is in the Peloton today, too.
7:56 - There are two American teams in the Tour for the first time: Garmin-Chipotle and Team Columbia.
8:00 - We join the stage in progress and there's been a crash near a feeding station. A Cofidis rider went down in the Peloton. He has to abandon just 55 miles into the Tour.
8:02 - T-Mobile no longer is fielding a team in the Tour. This is the team, once known as Team Telekom, that had given us the likes of Jan Ullrich and Andreas Kloeden. They were like the Cobra Kai of cycling. They'll be missed.
8:08 - There's an early breakaway. I've never neard of these guys other than Thomas Voeckler. They have a 4 minute, 11 second advantage.
8:12 - Liquigas again is fielding a team. I will look up what Liquigas does before the end of the stage.
8:23 - The crashed rider is diagnosed with a broken wrist. Cyclists break wrists and collarbones like we get paper cuts.
8:33 - There's a guy playing bagpipes next to the road.
8:34 - A check of Wimbledon -- Serena Williams leads Venus Williams by a break, first set. NBC doesn't bother with last names in its score box.
8:50 - Sprinter Alessandro Petacchi is barred this year for too much nasal spray, says Liggett. Cycling is bizarre.
8:54 - Another crash and a Liggett-ism. Frank Schleck, a "pre-race fancied rider," is part of the crash.
8:59 - Back to NBC, where Venus has now won a break to tie the set.
9:05 - Venus wins the first set, 7-5.
9:10 - The Peloton has cut the lead to 2:29 behind the eight-rider breakaway. Twenty-five miles to go.
9:17 - Peloton is 1:28 back as a Cofidis rider goes on the attack. And now another attack. The group accelerates and decelerates. Sherwen says this will only help the Peloton catch them.
9:21 - Lilian Jegou and David de la Fuente do break away and there are six chasers 49 seconds behind them. About 20 miles to go.
9:27 - Sherwen says the chasers are only "prolonging the agony" now and the Peloton catching them is inevitable.
9:35 - Jegou and De la Fuente trade slipstreams. I love cycling etiquette. And now they chat a bit. Sherwen says most riders speak French.
9:36 - A crash in the Peloton. And one rider comes up with his rear wheel in hand. The Pelton continues its merciless push forward.
9:44 - The Peloton is only one minute behind the leaders. Ten miles to go. The leaders are trying to stay away and at least wear the yellow jersey for a day.
9:45 - A few hundred miles north, in England, Serena and Venus both hold serve, 3-3, second set.
9:51 - Peloton just 18 seconds behind the lead duo. Ten kilometers to go.
9:56 - Another crash, this time on a narrow climb. Another wrist injury perhaps.
10:00 - The Peloton churning forward now with three kilometers to go. Team Columbia at the front.
10:02 - There's a narrow stone bridge that everyone is worried about. Peloton makes it across intact.
10:02 - Erik Zabel, 1997 stage winner here, is near the front!
10:03 - And a rider attacks. Team Gerolsteiner reels him in and sends its own rider out.
10:04 - Now the attacks are coming from everywhere.
10:05 - And "fancied rider" Alejandro Valverde has some burst in his legs -- and takes the stage.
10:07 - Back to NBC, and Venus has won her fifth title at Wimbledon.
FYI, Liquigas is a gas product distributor in Italy.
Friday, July 4, 2008
An article in the Tribune today bemoans the cold temperatures beach-goers will encounter this Independence Day. I have gone swimming in the lake this year, and it takes some elan to get into this water. I first stepped in and nearly sprinted out. Then I saw a group of four-year-olds splashing around and figured if they could do it, I could. Well worth it when air temparatures are hot, but not this weekend.
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
"Similarly, distinctive lifestyles (such as nocturnal, raptorial and pelagic, i.e., living on the ocean or open seas) evolved several times. For example, contrary to conventional thinking, colorful, daytime hummingbirds evolved from drab nocturnal nightjars; falcons are not closely related to hawks and eagles; and tropicbirds (white, swift-flying ocean birds) are not closely related to pelicans and other waterbirds."
Saturday, June 28, 2008
I really hadn't ever spent an evening sitting right next to Lake Michigan in Chicago. It felt like we were hanging out at a weekend home--maybe on the opposite side of Lake Michigan near Saugatuck or something. There was a lot to see there--the lifeguards rowing in after a day at various North Side outposts, kids playing basketball in the park, a guy swimming off the breakwall, the pilings from an ancient pier, lightning flashing over the lake to the north. I saw a few things I had never seen in Chicago before. Two shooting stars. Constellations Cassiopeia and Cepheus. A moth the size of a kinglet. We also saw a killdeer and heard a common nighthawk. It was the kind of experience that had me longing for more interaction with nature here in town--or at least a few more summer evenings on Andy's porch.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
I've come to find that blocking out distractions at the gym is near as difficult as the feats of strength and tests of endurance we undertake. In order to summarize the madness, I've broken the "gym people" into five broad categories.
THE NARRATOR--This person likes to loudly detail all of his or her actions in the gym. "Let's see if I can do 150 on the bench this week" or "maybe next time I'll do the leg presses" or "wow, I'm sore." It's best to avoid eye contact with this person. Actually, it's best to avoid eye contact with most everyone at the gym.
THE TV ADDICT--This person turns up the volume on the one crappy gym TV so that it can be heard over the whirr of the treadmills and ellipticals. Usually he or she prefers a show like "American Idol" or "Deal or No Deal."
THE WEAKLING--These people put way more weight on the machine than they should. They can do one or two reps of 400 pounds but then the whole rack comes crashing down for everyone to hear when there joints give out.
THE SPEEDSTER--This person doesn't really do a complete curl, leg press, bench or anything. They fly through every set in a really half-ass way, mostly achieving nothing.
THE FRIENDS--These people actually have a loud conversation across the gym, yukking it up while "American Idol" blares on the television. Believe me, when you are on the treadmill at Mile 1.5 (hey, I'm still rehabbing) and your thoracic diaphragm is about to explode, these are the last people you want around.
Saturday, June 21, 2008
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
On the beautiful fifth tee, which is right next to the blue waters of Lake Michigan, a northern mockingbird was flitting between a thicket and the rough before the fairway. While range maps indicate the "american nightingale" lives throughout the Lower 48, it still is an oddity to see one north of the Butternut region of Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. Mockingbirds, of course, are really common in the South, but growing up near Cleveland, I remember seeing only one. Now, they are fairly common there. Some would say this is a harbinger of climate change. Other observations at the course included black-crowned night-heron, chestnut-sided warbler and warbling vireo. No sign of the beavers on the sixth hole pond.
Sunday, June 15, 2008
Friday, June 13, 2008
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Correct me if I'm wrong, but Lake Delton is not the place where amphibious vehicles show visitors around (?).
I've never been a fan of large reservoirs. Other than providing a lot of Depression-era jobs, they lack the character of natural bodies of waters. Give me a slough or a bog any day over a massive lake in a place like Kentucky that shouldn't have lakes.
Sunday, June 8, 2008
Right now there is a seiche warning in effect for the lakefront in Chicago: Statement as of 3:52 PM CDT on June 08, 2008
... Lakeshore Flood Warning in effect until 9 PM CDT thisevening... The National Weather Service in Chicago has issued a Lakeshore Flood Warning... also known as a seiche warning... which is in effect until 9 PM CDT this evening. A 2 foot drop in lake water near Chicago this afternoon indicatesthat a seiche is in progress across Southern Lake Michigan. This is a very dangerous situation for waders along the Chicago Lakeshore. Water levels may fluctuate rapidly... takingunsuspecting waders out to more open waters. A Lakeshore Flood Warning means that flooding is occurring orimminent along the lake. Residents on or near the shore in thewarned area should be alert for rising water... and take appropriate action to protect life and property. Evacuate docks... piers... and breakwalls now.
A seiche (pronounced saysh) is sort of a non-tidal wave...and a type of cuttlefish.
Saturday, June 7, 2008
Puffins, at just 12 inches, about the size of a blue jay, fall into the category of birds "that you'd think would be bigger." Bird guides have a way of distorting size and so when you see birds in the wild they often are much smaller than what you have imagined for years and years. Some examples include all sandpipers (many are the size of sparrows), most owls, empidonax flycatchers and rails.
Puffins, by the way, are a member of the Auk Family (Alcidae), which includes some really interesting seabirds like razorbills and murres. It also includes the dovekie, which is only 7.5-9 inches and breeds on seacliffs in Greenland. Peterson describes the dovekie as "chubby and seemingly neckless."
Thursday, June 5, 2008
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
There was a post on Illinois Birders Exchanging Thoughts this week about a deer at Montrose Point. Definitely an unusual sighting for the lakefront, but really not all that surprising. One cougar already was in town this year, beavers reside at the nearby golf course pond, coyotes arae known to reside in the park, a fox lives near the point and of course many birds do, too. But it's still hard to picture the deer getting to the lakefront from the nearest deer havens, which are well inland.
Today, a deer was seen in a small garden in the Northwest Side community of Logan Square (video above). Is it the same deer that was at Montrose?
(Note to Tribune Web staff: your embed code is near as long as the Bible.)
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Monday, May 26, 2008
Today was rather like the first few chapters of "Trumpet of the Swan." Seney National Wildlife Refuge is a natural wonderland of bogs and swamps in the middle of the UP. Trumpeter swans, unlike anywhere else east of the Rockies, are everywhere here--we saw 48 on one pool alone. Other sightings included an osprey, on nest, ruffed grouse, common loons and pine siskin.
Sunday, May 25, 2008
Kayaking in Lake Superior, we had a stunning realization. The rock wall above us wasn't draped with quartzite, but with ice. Our guide spoke of a Memorial Day a few years back with ice floes on the lake.
It's hard to put into words what we saw today, but of course I'll try. Emerald waters, multi-hued sheer rock walls, sea caves, waterfalls plunging over stories of rock.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
There's no doubt that this trip is perpetuating the world demand for petroleum, but the scenery so far has been worth it. In Munising right now, camped in nearby Christmas right on Lake Superior. There's a merlin in our campground, and they sell sake at the local supermarket.
Friday, May 23, 2008
Blogging live from Green Bay, Wis., where summer still seems a long way off. Most deciduous trees still don't have leaves (though it's quite balmy tonight and probably over 50). We're headed even farther north tomorrow--to Munising, Mich., and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Hope to have a chance to blog from there.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Also, the Lower 48 low for yesterday was 23 degrees in Tomahawk, Wis., about 325 miles north of here. There's a chance I could be reporting from a similar latitude this weekend. More to come...
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Monday, May 12, 2008
I try not to do this too much, but I do have blind spots. I sometimes dislike the invasives that rule our city, I say things like "the crows are having a convention" when they are cawing a lot, and enjoy seeing an underdog red-winged blackbird mob a red-tailed hawk. The implication for habitat restoration is interesting, too, as these endeavors are centered on removing non-native plants--serious biobigotry perhaps.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
Chicago was home to one of Nau's four stores, and the store already appears to be closed. Nau donated $200,000-plus to charitable causes in its brief existence and gave customers a choice of social services, environmental and other causes to choose from on every purchase. It also used sustainable practices on everything from the way the clothes were made to how they were shipped. It only stocked a few items in stores in hopes of mitigating the environmental costs of shipping tons of merchandise around the country (customers were encouraged to have items shipped to their homes).
I'll miss Nau, even if some of the fashions looked kind of like Greedo's outfit in the first Star Wars movie.
Saturday, May 10, 2008
It was fairly quiet at Montrose today, but I totaled 35 species. There was a yellow-crowned night-heron at the pond. This is a rare sighting for Chicago as we are at the northern extreme of its range.
Elsewhere, in North Suburban Vernon Hills, a chimney caught fire because of a bird nest. No one can seem to figure out what kind of birds built the nest. I have a guess.
Friday, May 9, 2008
Thursday, May 8, 2008
Here in Chicago, spring still appears to be running behind because of the frigid winter we had. Our front-yard bulbs and ferns are not near as tall as they were this time last year.
Monday, May 5, 2008
I was able to get some evening birding in today. The conditions were pleasant: mid 60s and clear and I found 39 species in a limited timeframe. I took a quick detour on the way home to a small, kidney-shaped pond that serves as a water hazard at Marovitz Golf Course. There is a tangled, fenced area with a bunch of downed willows that is usually good for a few spring migrants. Peering through the fence, I noticed a round form on a big log about 10 yards away. I assumed it was a stump until I saw it's paws, whiskers and matted fur (pelt?). The big rodent froze for a while, gripping a willow shoot. Then it proceeded to munch on the shoot in a fashion similar to a yard mulcher. A second beaver was in the water swimming away from shore. Meanwhile, there were two golfers finishing the hole about 100 yards away. The perching beaver continued to gnaw on limbs, this as golfers and joggers and cyclists passed within view.
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Second, I couldn't let April end without one last post about the weather. The low of 31 yesterday at O'Hare tied a record, and the high of 44 was extremely rare. On Monday, snow fell in much of the area. We may have seen the last freeze of the season. According to meteorologist Tom Skilling, a "heavy frost" has never struck the lakefront beyond May 14. Seven to 15 miles inland, the corresponding date is May 29.
Our visit to Indiana Dunes was tainted by a new ban on alcohol in Dunewood Campground. Not just consumption of alcohol or possession of alcohol, but all alcohol. Like $5,000-fine-and-possible-imprisonment alcohol. (The rule was enacted in February 2006.)
I love Indiana Dunes. Our camping trip there was very nice--few people, secluded site, crisp air, good scenery. But it was hard to relax knowing the bottle of wine and 22 ouncer of beer we had could send us to jail. Now, I've camped and drank in many places where there was an alcohol ban. Typically, I shrug this off as a nuisance and then quietly will have a few. Not here. Besides dozens of scary signs, a fellow camper told us that he and his party were thoroughly searched the last time he was there. This isn't relaxation in the woods. This is like entering the Green Zone.
I would argue it's un-American to outlaw drinking in a campground. Nipping from a flask on a brisk night by a campfire is everyone's right. Clearly there is no harm in this.
Indiana Dunes should focus on important rules regarding quiet hours and take the lead from progressive camping locales like Wisconsin and Quebec. Twenty-four hour quiet hours should be established, and you should not be able to hear other campers from your site at any time. All music should only be played through headsets.
We didn't get "caught" drinking, but the spectre of the possibility made it hard to relax. We should have probably left when we saw the first sign. Now we know not to come back. Campchicago.net ratings will be adjusted accordingly.