Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Midwest crude

Just as a little good news is coming out of the Gulf, finally, there is an oil spill right here in the heart of the Midwest, in the Camp Chicago area. There are some really sad pictures today from Marshall, Mich., depicting the fallout from a burst pipeline near the Kalamazoo River. The river flows all the way to Saugatuck, Mich., where it empties into Lake Michigan, but that's beyond the point. There's some serious degradation of a stream under way right in the middle of the Lower Peninsula. Let's hope this story receives more attention and steps are taken to contain and clean up the spill.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Beached carp

Chicagoist picked up on the closed beaches yesterday, and a savvy reader pointed out that the situation could literally open the floodgates to the asian carp. The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District opened the sluice gates at Wilmette, Chicago and the Calumet River early Saturday morning, sending rain-swelled waters into Lake Michigan and potentially riling carp haters from here to Hamtramck.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Bad water

I was rebuffed in my attempt at my annual swim in Lake Michigan. Heavy rainfalls from the past few days caused the city to open the Chicago River locks and send our sewage overflow into the lake. So today's beautiful blue waters were actually not that pristine, and all city beaches were closed. And St. Louis gets a reprieve from the sewage flowing southwest out of Chicago.

Humidity humility

Today dawned cool with a magical light breeze from the north. It's been a hot summer, and mostly we've been scurrying to and from our air conditioned vehicles, homes and workplaces. We've had the most 90s in July since 1987. Today promises to be a delight, and I may even work in my annual swim in Lake Michigan.

The forecasts have called for lower humidities today, though the humidity at Montrose Point right now is 100 percent. I've noticed this often is the case with a lake breeze. I don't really care--the temp is a refreshing 67.5 degrees, a merciful departure from the heat.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Drifting away

This has been quite a fallow period for the driftless area blog. I'm still hoping to post on occasion. The Contador-Schleck battle in the Tour is reason enough alone (if you're a sports fan, tune in tomorrow at 6:30 a.m. EDT). I've taken to Twitter: create a login and follow me @bobdolgan. Much easier to keep up-to-date and I can span about a zillion topics at once.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Long ride

The Taste of Chicago is the last place where you would actually want to consume food. Huge crowds. Miles of pavement. Barrels of garbage. Searing heat. Ring-billed gulls circling you're every move. I've long held the view that it's best to stay away.

Yesterday, though, I decided that if I can't beat 'em, join 'em. I targeted two vendors--Vermillion, for its mango-cumin fries, and Pegasus, for its loukaneko Greek sausages. The fries did not disappoint, a wonderful blend of tangy and spicy. The sausages were good, too, served on a buttery pita.

The 8-mile bike ride to the Taste was mostly uneventful. I tacked all the way there in a 15 to 25 mph wind from the southwest. There were thousands of people on the lakefront, many who disregarded the bike path and focused on sauntering, standing and wandering. Thankfully, nary an accident was to be found.

The ride back wasn't as smooth. Navy Pier was closed (because of the fireworks?) so I had to take a bizarre route north. I was south of the Chicago River and needed to get over it. The problem was I was the path was at ground (river) level (most all the streets in this area are one or two stories up). I biked west along the river, discovering some beautiful quiet spots I never saw before--even a riverside wine bar--a reminder that getting lost can be a good thing. I plowed through the crowds and finally got to Columbus Drive. It was two stories above me, accessed by a metal spiral staircase. I decided to forge on to Michigan and the stairway there. I biked under Michigan Avenue on a catwalk over the Chicago River and discovered a wide balustraded cement staircase. I slung the bike over my shoulder and proceeded up to Michigan.

From there, I walked the bike--no way I'm biking on taxi-laden Michigan--all the way to Huron or thereabouts. I got on the bike and pedaled toward the lake, free of the bulk of fireworks traffic. Somewhere near Chicago Avenue and the lake, I took a tunnel under Lake Shore Drive to the lakefront path. Again, slinging the bike over the shoulder and proceeding down steps.

People were starting to gather all along the lakefront at this point, but few were biking north. I made great time with the tailwind. Near Irving Park Road, I began encountering people walking to the Montrose fireworks display. I was hoping I could still see the display, but time was running out. The plan was to watch from friends' 22nd floor apartment in Edgewater.

I got on the bus at Sheridan and Lawrence and within about 15 minutes made it to the apartment building. It was raining a little, but not enough to stop the show. I made it to the 22nd floor and saw not one but all three fireworks displays! And I even had enough time to drink a beer.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Bicycle kicks

There's been a strange energy all day in Uptown as we prepare to host one of three lakefront fireworks displays. The lakefront parking lots have been jammed since 9 a.m. Organizers have actually moved the fireworks launching area nearer to the Montrose Dunes preserve. The dunes themselves will have additional temporary fencing and an army of security, volunteers and lifeguards.

I'm biking right into the maelstrom this afternoon. I'll be leaving one sea of humanity for another--the last day of the Taste of Chicago. Then I'll dodge another mass of people, for the Navy Pier fireworks display, only to encounter the first mass again as I approach Montrose. Good times! It should make for compelling reading later.

Friday, July 2, 2010

New watersheds

A new front has opened in the fight to stop the asian carp's encroachment on the Great Lakes. The ugly bottom-feeders have now reached Huntington, Ind., via the Wabash River (and Ohio and Mississippi watersheds). Huntington is a few miles from Fort Wayne, and there are ditches and waterways that connect it to the Maumee River, which feeds into Lake Erie. (If Chicago has to re-reverse the river, Fort Wayne should have to fill in those ditches, I say!) Another report says the carp has moved up the Ohio River as far as Indiana, but that no breeding records exist for the Ohio stretch. Phew. Moving farther up the Ohio would tap into another set of waterways that would draw it closer to the Great Lakes.