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August Adventures, Hurray!

Frank Brichetto

Chicago Correspondent

Friends and readers, this pandemic and resulting restrictions have been frustrating, and we all often wish it would be over, but it’s not. Please remember to bring your face masks on all of our adventures this month and use them as needed or required. My thanks to all of you for your understanding and compassion during this crisis.

WOW! It’s August already, and Illinois is in Phase 4 of its reopening plan.  It’s also, typically, hot and sunny, and while we can feel the shortening of the days, they are still long, pleasant, and calling to us for more adventures.  Here we go!

Cantigny Park was the family estate of the Joseph Medill family.  His grandson, Colonel Robert R. McCormick, renamed it “Cantigny” after the World War I battle in which he commanded an artillery unit. Cantigny, the first WWI battle in which US troops participated, was fought and won by the First Division on May 28th, 1918.

The park is a wonderful place that we have yet to explore, so today, Saturday, August 8th, let’s meet early, at  1S151 Winfield Road, Wheaton, Illinois, https://cantigny.org, shall we, and walk around the lovely grounds and spectacular gardens, even walk through the “tank park” with actual battle tanks depicting 100 years of mobile armor.  Let’s start by taking in the impressive Visitor Center, complete with a 1/25 scale map of the park, and drink in some world history that is well worth remembering. After our explorations we can slake our thirst and ease our hunger at Bertie’s Bistro, where outdoor tables are appropriately distanced, and the food is tasty and satisfying.

This morning, Sunday, August 9th, we’ll meet early, right after breakfast, and go visit, once again, the wonders of nature presented to us at the Garfield Park Conservatory, 300 N. Central Park Ave., www.garfieldconservatory.org. It looks like the indoor rooms might still be closed but there are more than ten acres of outdoor gardens, in all their summer splendor, to walk through and explore the carefully tended trees, plants and especially flowers. We’ll need to make reservations in advance, online or by calling 773-638-1766. Can we agree on 10:00am, or the closest open time we can secure? We’ll only have an hour and a half to wander around, but that’s enough.

After that interesting and truly beautiful encounter with nature, we’re hungry.  How about you? It’s now almost lunch time, so let’s eat! I’m thinking we should order carry-out from Kai-Zan, http://www.eatatkaizan.com, often touted as Chicago’s best Japanese restaurant. It’s not far from the Conservatory, at 2557 W. Chicago Ave., (773) 278-5776, so we’ll order, then chat for a while; please, wait here while I pick up our orders. Sure, we’ll eat here, in a quiet part of the park just away from the Conservatory grounds.

What am I having, you ask? Hmm, the Green Monster sounds fabulous: shrimp tempura, unagi, and crab wrapped in avocado, topped with mayo & masago, but so does the Salmon Teriyaki, grilled salmon with sweet teriyaki sauce, an array of side dishes, rice, and miso soup. It’s so hard to decide!

Has this not been a wonderful weekend? Stay safe, please.

Let’s really stretch our legs today, Saturday, August 15th, and head out for a long bike ride. The Illinois and Michigan State Trail is calling us, so load your bikes, fill up your water bottles, pack a solid lunch as well as some carry-along snacks and we’ll roll.  The official trailhead is in Channahon State Park, Channahon, Illinois. It’s a bit of a drive from the city, so leave early and we’ll meet you there about 9:00am.  Two of the canal’s locks there for us to examine, rebuilt from the days when this was an important shipping route from the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River.

We’ll ride, out and back, as far as we want; the round trip could be over 100 miles! There are other locks, and a number of other historic sites to visit, but let’s save the sightseeing for another day.  Today, let’s just ride with a steady pace that lets us see the scenery and “smell the roses”, but keeps us moving along, south and west, until we find a place where we can eat our snacks and relax before we head back to Channahon and those luscious lunches we packed.  We could easily do 30 to 35 miles, round trip, but, what’s this? You want to go farther? Lead the way!

It’s time to get out of town for a long weekend.  This Friday, August 21st, take the day off and we’ll book a couple of rooms for two nights in Galena, Illinois, and take in some visually enchanting, historically significant sites, and have bold adventures! Let’s go!

Our first stop is to check in at the Cloran Mansion Bed & Breakfast, 1237 Franklin Street, Galena, https://cloranmansion.com, 815-777-0583. It’s so luxurious, cozy, and comfortable, all at once, we just couldn’t resist. All settled in? Good, let’s talk about some of “Historic Galena”, reading plaques, window shopping and gazing in the different stores. Some real shopping? Certainly, Poopsie’s, 402 S Main St., https://poopsies.com, looks like fun. We can eat anywhere you like. The first place with open, outdoor seating will be excellent, I’m sure.

Now, get some sleep, rest up for tomorrow.

Let’s take breakfast leisurely this morning, Saturday, August 22nd, then walk about Galena for a few hours, because the city is just so charming. Now it’s time to head out to our main adventure for today.

Remember The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn? Here we are, about to take that Mississippi River Cruise, just like Huck. We’re starting from Chestnut Mountain Resort, 8700 W. Chestnut Mountain Rd. (800) 397-1320. Their website tells us: “Our 1.5 hour Mississippi River Cruises take you for a scenic voyage down the mighty river where you’ll view wildlife, learn a bit of the area’s history, see geographical curiosities and glimpse the breathtaking riverscapes on one of the area’s most compelling adventures.”

I’m already excited. Just getting to the dock will be an adventure, because we’re taking the “Alpine Slide” from the departure area all the way down to the river. It’s a warm weather bobsled ride! Check it out here: https://www.chestnutmtn.com.

I smell pizza and suddenly I’m hungry. The Sunset Grille is here, and they have sandwiches and appetizers as well as pizza, so let’s eat.  Don’t worry, I made reservations before we started our cruise, so our table is waiting. Oh, this is good.  Don’t you agree?  How are things in your life? Did the kids get through the school year in good shape? Goodness, it’s great to be able to just sit, together, and catch up again.  Thank you, my friends, for your company.

The two of us will just walk together through Galena a bit more, before we return to the B&B for an evening of private relaxation and recovery from the stresses of work and life, so you lovebirds are on your own. Have fun (wink, wink).  See you bright and early!

Another leisurely breakfast this morning, Sunday, August 23rd, will get us ready for the day, and what a day it will be! We’re heading to Long Hollow, 3247 W. Longhollow Rd., Galena, where the Canopy Tour is awaiting us. It starts with a short ride through the forest to a platform, set up in a tree.  We climb up, clip our harnesses to the safety cables, grab the handles and zoom down our first zipline to the next platform.  Isn’t this exciting? I can’t stop grinning and laughing. Now, do it again. Did you know we were going almost FORTY miles an hour? Oh, boy, and we’re not done yet, oh no.  It’s time to rappel down to the ground! No, I’ve never done this either. You go first.

Look! It’s a suspension bridge, complete with Indiana Jones style ropes and planks, then even longer ziplines and a surprise ending that I won’t spoil in advance.

Here we are back on solid ground in an open field and the adrenaline rush still has me in its thrall.  Whew!  Do you believe we’ve been at this for two and a half hours? Let’s calm down, back in town, with lunch at whatever place grabs your fancy (It’s your turn to choose!) That was awesome!  Thanks again!

This Saturday, August 29th, meet us, please, about 9:00am, at Benedict’s La Strada, 40 N. Williams St, Crystal Lake, Illinois, to indulge in some truly excellent morning food. Outdoor seating, of course! YES, Lobster Benedict is calling me, with its English muffin halves topped with sautéed spinach, real lobster meat and béarnaise sauce. You say it’s the Benedict’s ala Munich, with two potato pancakes, grilled Sheboygan bratwurst, caramelized onions, poached eggs, mustard hollandaise sauce, for you? Excellent choice!

That was fabulous, wasn’t it? Now we’re fully charged up for the day and off to Three Oaks Recreation Area where we’ll do some hiking, take in a few “scenic overlooks” and walk off breakfast before heading over to The Quarry, http://www.thequarrycablepark.com, a pair of fresh water lakes in an old gravel mine that is now a wonderful recreation area. On South Lake we can rent canoes or kayaks to paddle about, or perhaps a sailboat is more your style? Afterwards, how about some swimming for an hour or so?

Time now to head over to North Lake, and some cable wakeboarding.  There are even jumps and other features; very exciting. Yes, I wiped out, gloriously. No, I’m not embarrassed, just hungry, so let’s eat, right here, at the Quarry Bar & Grille.  Tasty food, well served, at lakeside. This is a perfect summer day, and a great way to end our adventurous month.  Thank you friends, we’ll meet again in September.

August 2020