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Hot Times Ahead. More Summer Adventures

Frank Brichetto

Chicago Correspondent

Hello again my adventurous friends. August is upon us and it’s hot and humid, and the city has been frying us lately, hasn’t it? That never bothers us, when adventure calls.

Friday evening, August 6th, is get-ready time: put your canoe and paddles on the roof rack, pack snacks and a good lunch into your cooler and be ready for an early start. Be sure to bring along good hiking shoes.

Our early start, right at 7am, today, Saturday, August 7th , is at Elly’s Pancake House, 5050 N. Cumberland, Norridge https://ellysrestaurants.com/ellys-in-norridge-illinois/. Look at this menu! I’m having cappuccino, of course, and their Gravlax Benedict, with salmon rather than bacon, and oh, yes, this is good.  How’s that baked Apple Pancake you guys are splitting?  Your faces say you’re enjoying it! Now that was worth eating!

Time to finish our coffees and hit the road for a full day at Moraine Hills State Park, 1510 S. River Road, in McHenry, Illinois, https://www2.illinois.gov/dnr/Parks/Pages/MoraineHills.aspx.  It’s really not that far from the city, but it’s huge, geologically so different from the flats of Chicago, and has miles and miles of hiking trails for us to explore. Three of the trails are crushed limestone; let’s feel that satisfying crunch while we walk the Leatherleaf Bog and Lake Defiance Trails. They’re well marked, color coded and one way, so we can relax while we move along. The Bog is actually a “kettle” formed when a huge chunk of glacial ice separated from the glacier and melted. This one holds a floating mat of sphagnum moss and leatherleaf plants, surrounded by a moat. Isn’t that cool? We always keep our eyes wide open, because – Look! Is that a real Sandhill Crane? There are lots of Great Blue Herons, and Green Herons as well, and we might even see a mink or two. Wow.

Lake Defiance was formed the same way, but is much larger, 48 acres, and most of the surface is open water. Don’t you just love the sunlight on the water, and the quiet? No car noise! Do you believe we just hiked about seven miles? I’m hungry, aren’t you? Let’s have some lunch, then bring out the canoes, and get out on the water.  I agree, paddling around a small, quiet lake is rewarding in so many ways. The waves are small, the shores are undeveloped, close, and very pristine, so taking this different view of natural beauty is a different feast of the senses.

Thank you, friends, for joining us, drive home safely. Sleep well tonight, because tomorrow a different adventure is in store.

Go ahead and sleep a little later today, Sunday, August 8th, and we’ll meet you after church for lunch before we head downtown for “Sundays on State”, https://loopchicago.com/events/sundays-on-state/. Hosted by the Chicago Loop Alliance, these events draw inspiration from Active Transportation Alliance’s Open Streets program of 2011-12, resurrected last year as the Open Dining and Shared Streets initiatives. Sundays on State is the Loop Alliance’s most ambitious project yet, with more than 70 experiences for us to enjoy, everything from live music and art performances to face painting and mini architecture tours. Many of the performances are right on the street, but there are a couple of stages, and we’ll take in some Jazz and a bit of Bluegrass, amid the other musical offerings. “This is going to be State Street like you’ve never experienced it before,” Chicago Loop Alliance president and CEO Michael Edwards said in a statement. “It’s not every day you get to watch a wrestling match or take a yoga class in the middle of the most iconic street in Chicago.”

While we don’t know the exact lineup for our day yet, the list is always long, and includes notable performances by the Joffrey Ballet, The South Side Jazz Coalition, and many more. There’s a vast array of activities for us to join, such as classes from Bikram Yoga, dance lessons or other sorts of fun workouts. Food trucks and carts abound, ooh, can you smell that polish sausage already? There will be many retail booths as well, and no doubt some brilliant artwork on dazzling display. The fun starts at 11am, we expect to arrive before 1:00pm, so stay in touch and meet us at the Lake St. “L” Station. We’ll probably stay until things wind down at 8:00pm, which gives us just enough time to get home and prepare for the work week.

Today, Thursday, August 12th, make sure you pack your picnic basket right after work, and meet us early, on the lawn, at Ravinia Festival, 418 Sheridan Rd, Highland Park, for “Voice and the Violin”, a sure to be enthralling concert. Featuring the world renown violinist Joshua Bell, and the equally famous soprano, Larisa Martinez, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, with Michael Stern conducting, will lead us through a magical evening with pieces from Rossini, Mozart, Chopin and even Bernstein. This will be richly satisfying and uplifting, as both Bell and Martinez are both amazingly talented.

A different sort of trip is on our agenda today, Saturday, August 14th, when you meet us (You will, right? We always count on you.) at the Illinois Railway Museum, https://www.irm.org/, 7000 Olson Road, Union, Illinois for adventure aboard real, operating, trains. Buy tickets online, in advance, and we’ll arrive just after opening at 10:00am.  Today we’ll get to ride on an old steam powered train, as well as electric and maybe even diesel powered trains.  The steam powered trains are endlessly fascinating; look at those huge boilers, generating tons of horsepower and torque, fired by coal furnaces that were shoveled by hand. Incredible. Much of today’s steel making knowledge and technology arose specifically to contain and safely harness the power generated by these engines. WOW! Some of them weighed a million pounds!

This is the largest collection of historic railway equipment in North America. They have Pullman cars for us to board and inspect, to experience luxury travel at its finest, 70 years ago. There are electric streetcars that take us through the museum’s 100 acres, with stops that include the Schroeder Mercantile Store and the Central Diner, which dates back to the 1930s and has wonderful views of the streetcars outside. There’s so much here, we can’t possibly take it all in today, so let’s plan a return visit in winter for the Happy Holidays Light Experience. It’s too bad we can’t take a train with a Pullman car back to the city after such a thrilling day.

This Saturday, August 21st, let’s do something completely different. Dress up, as best you can, in Elizabethan English fashion, and accompany us to the Bristol Renaissance Faire, Bristol, Wisconsin, https://renfair.com/bristol/. As we walk through the gates, we’re transported back to 1574, and the town is in full celebratory action, awaiting a visit from Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth. There will be minstrels and knights strolling about, jesters, and merchants, and food from England and from far-away places as well. Shall we take in the Pubs? Watch the jousts? Yes to both, I say in my best (but very bad) English accent, and I’ll have a hand at the axe throwing as well.  The Queen! The Queen has arrived, with all her entourage, let’s follow them to the square and hear her pronouncements! Huzzah, huzzah!

There are several stages in our town; we’ll see various performers demonstrating 15th century entertainments, ranging from vocal groups to sword fights and even Shakespeare has been known to put on a play. Perhaps we will watch the glass blowers, jewelers, leather workers and other craft masters as they work their trades, and pick up a trinket or two to remind us of the magic.

Sunday, August 22nd is the annual Air and Water Show. It’s greatly abbreviated this year, we’ll still get there early, because while the fun starts at noon, the crowd arrives at the lakefront, from Oak Street Beach north to Fullerton Avenue, way before that.  The US Navy’s Blue Angels precision flying team will be the only show this year. The mission of the Blue Angels is to showcase the teamwork and professionalism of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps through flight demonstrations and community outreach while inspiring a culture of excellence and service to country. Their displays always amaze.  https://www.chicago.gov/city/en/depts/dca/supp_info/chicago_air_and_watershow.html

This party is over at 1:00pm, but we certainly don’t need to go home yet. Today is another Sunday on State festival and doesn’t that sound just like the right place to go after watching the Blue Angels? We have no idea who will be on any of the stages, or what activities, food vendors, or retail booths will be open and, honestly, we don’t care.  It’s just simply wonderful to stroll State Street, take in the sights and sounds of the city we love: the music, the food, the artwork on display; it’s all wonderful.

The month is almost over, but not quite, so today, Saturday, August 28th, let’s visit Chicago’s Greektown neighborhood, https://greektownchicago.org/,  for the Taste of Greektown Festival,  on South Halsted St., from Adams to Van Buren, for a full day of Hellenic and Mediterranean food and culture. There will be friendly faces, live music, Greek dancing, and of course wonderful Greek food from Chicago’s famous Greek restaurants. It’s family friendly, of course, so bring the kids and introduce them to yet another language and culture that is so different from our everyday experience.

The kids are getting tired, we can see, and it’s been a long day, a fitting end to a long, adventurous month. Thank you for joining us so often, friends and readers, so until next month, keep adventuring!

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