Summer is Finally Here! Chicago in June
Your Chicago Correspondent
Do you believe the bleak, wet, and too frequently dreary Spring season we’ve had? Well, things have finally changed for the better so there’s no time to waste while planning and experiencing our many June adventures. It’s exciting, isn’t it, spending so much time outdoors in the warm (frequently hot, but really, after the past winter, who cares?) sunshine, smiling and even getting a good tan. While we go on our many adventures this month, please remember to still bring a mask, especially to indoor events, and sunscreen for the time we spend outdoors. There’s a lot of time to be spent outdoors, so…
This month we are diving right into the deep end, as the Chicago Blues Festival returns to a full-sized, multi-site celebration of Blues. It starts today, Thursday, June 20th, so if you can get to Millennium Park, early, please go, then we’ll meet you around 4:00pm. Yes, we want to stop first at the “Mississippi Juke Joint Stage” (Chase Promenade North) and take in some Southern style Blues at the hands of Eddie Cotton, Jr., a master at Blues and R&B guitar. I really like his stuff, and it gives me confidence that the Blues are indeed alive and well, even if they aren’t getting anywhere enough airplay.
After that, let’s just head over to the “Rosa’s Lounge Stage”, where who knows what legendary Blues legend or rising star might be onstage? All that we know ahead of time is that these great musicians, who have all called Rosa’s Lounge “home”, will be taking turns on stage. We’ll hang out here until 7:30pm, and then stroll back to the pavilion to hear Shemekia Copeland, “Queen of the Blues”. What a great night this has been, and the festival has just begun. This will be a fun weekend, so let’s meet up at a few times to take in some more wonderful Blues.
This coming weekend includes Father’s Day, so let’s spend the entire time doing what Dad wants. (Can’t you just hear him sighing “Finally”?) Pack for the weekend, and, starting today, Friday, June 17th, put the road bikes on the rack, and follow us into southeast Michigan. We’ll leave after breakfast, and drive all the way to Fennville, Michigan, where we’ll sit and talk while we eat our way through lunch at Crane’s Pie Pantry and Winery, https://www.cranespiepantry.com/. We’ll order our sandwiches, relax for a while, then indulge in slices of pie, filled with fruit grown right on the orchard and vineyards outside. Peach, blueberry, apple, strawberry, if we each pick something different, we can all share dessert over a bottle of blueberry wine. Yes, it’s quite sweet, but perfect with this lunch on a day like today. We’ll also pick up a couple of bottles for the rest of the weekend, before we stretch a bit and get back on the road.
Now comes the surprise; your dad and I are both signed up for this year’s National 24-Hour Challenge, www.n24hc.org/, that crazy sounding bike ride we’ve been talking about. Yes, and your dad, if he hasn’t told you already, signed you both to be his support crew, so there’s no backing out. Besides, you’ll see, it’s fun. When we get to Grand Rapids, we’ll check into our hotel, unload, and start preparing for the weekend. Don’t worry about dinner, we’re having spaghetti, that most celebrated pre-ride dinner, with hundreds of riders and crew people, so let’s head over there now; dinner starts at 5:00pm.
It’s Saturday, June 18th. Yes, we’re leaving early; breakfast is at 6:00am, and it takes time to get everything ready on-site and coordinate with the other crew members (you didn’t really think I would leave it all to you, did you?). Now for the organizers’ crew-and-rider meeting, before the gun goes off at 8:00am and, BANG! we’re on our way!
Come on, dad, we’re in this together and it’s a glorious day for a long bike ride. Look how people we’ve never met come out to see the spectacle and cheer us on. Everybody for miles around knows that this happens every year on this weekend, so it’s actually very easy, but we still must pay attention. When was the last time so many drivers and passengers gave you cheers and thumbs up as they passed?
Our first loop is fifty miles of rolling hills through mixed Michigan countryside; now we’re riding past corn and soy fields, after the next turn, (see it coming up?) it will be a section of forest and we’ll get some shade. There’s a check point at 25 miles, so we’ll stop and get full water bottles from our crewmates who drove ahead of us.
Our bikes are working perfectly, so saddle up, my friend, we’re on our way back to start/finish at the high school. Check our table here, do you need a snack? It’s been fifty miles already. Let’s do another loop, then we’ll evaluate, OK? It’s not a race, it’s a challenge, we’re here to see just how well and how far we can ride in twenty-four hours. You’ll continue to be surprised by how smoothly it all goes and the distance you’ve ridden.
See? On one of the longest days of the year, we’ve ridden all day and now it’s evening. I think we deserve to stop. The crew has hot dogs and hamburgers on a little grill, don’t they smell wonderful and taste so incredibly delicious? Of course, you’re hungry, eat up. Then put your lights on, front and back, and let’s get a few night loops under our wheels. It’s only seven and a half miles, and there are “cherry picker” stands lighting up every turn and intersection, with a Barry County Sheriff or Deputy to keep us safe. Let’s wave and say thanks to every one of them.
It’s been a long night, but look east – sunrise! Isn’t it beautiful, out here in the country, away from the haze, buildings and air pollution that surround Chicago? Feel how much warmer it is already? Come on, we can make it!
And we did! It’s Sunday, June 19th, Father’s Day, and we just rode our bikes for most of 24 hours. Quite a challenge! There’s breakfast, and the awards ceremony in just a little while. Let’s go shower and be ready. Yes, our muscles are tired, and it will take both hands to sit or stand for a few days, but aren’t you mentally wide awake, still wound up from all the effort? Let the others drive you home, because the drive will get you relaxed and because zzzzzzz…
Monday, June 20th, is the date of this year’s Juneteenth federal holiday in the United States, commemorating the emancipation of enslaved African-Americans. It is also often observed for celebrating African-American culture. June nineteenth marks the anniversary of General Order No. 3, issued by Union General Gordon Grainger, which transmitted the Emancipation Proclamation to the people of Texas, the last state still holding slaves.
To help the celebration, tonight is the opening of the Millennium Park Summer Music Series, so please meet us there with folding chairs and picnic stuff. We’ll find a place on the lawn and snack and talk until 6:30 when Femi Kuti, https://www.femikuti.com/, a renowned Nigerian saxophonist, composer, bandleader, and activist takes the stage. He has expanded his afrobeat genre; can you pick out hints of hip-hop, electro, even punk in his music? He’s followed by HAT, https://www.remix-culture.org/hat, a Moroccan born artist giving us a giant audio-visual show that takes passages from traditional musicians and remixes them into new electro beats. How’s this for a wide-ranging cultural presentation with unusual beats and rhythms?
Today, Tuesday, June 21st, marks the Summer Solstice, the day with the longest daylight hours and shortest night. Go home, kiss your partner, grab the kids and go to the park for a whole lot of outdoor family fun time. Enjoy it, because tomorrow daylight is shorter than today. Don’t forget to make reservations for this weekend.
Summer is rushing by, it’s time to spend some quiet time in the country. Today, Saturday, June 25th, we’ll venture out to Nettle Creek Lavender Farm, https://www.nettlecreeklavenderfarm.com/ 8255 Pioneer Road, Morris, Illinois, just to breathe in that wondrous scent of fresh lavender. We have reservations for the guided walking tour, about an hour, learning of the lavender and flower varieties that are grown on this farm. We’ll also see the herb garden, apiary (honeybee houses), small orchard, even the greenhouse with its vintage green glass windows. It’s all so interesting, I just love it. Don’t you? Now it’s time to pick our own bundle of lavender to take back home. Thank you for joining us.
Well, we’ve had adventures through the whole month, but, wait, this Sunday, July 3rd, marks new fireworks display for Chicago. Instead of Navy Pier, the display will be from barges floating farther out in the Lake, shot higher than ever before, and visible from at least Grand Ave. on the north (which means Navy Pier) all the way past 55th St. on the south (Jackson Park). Holy cow, will this be something to see. We’ll be taking a train downtown early and see if we can get a decent place on the Pier. Feel free to join us, as this will be spectacular!
Monday, Independence Day, is July 4th, and we will picnic with the extended family. Whatever you decide to do, please take a few moments to remember those assembled in Philadelphia, worrying, talking, debating over the need for the colonies to reject English rule and declare independence. They did this knowing full well that if they failed, they would, in Benjamin Franklin’s words “all hang, separately.”
So, until next month, readers and friends, let’s remain grateful for what we have, and honor the courage and wisdom of those who created this country, back in 1776.