Sunday, September 30, 2007

Chicago, Chicago! I'll Show You Around. . .

Ah! Beautiful downtown Chicago!

Especially on a gorgeous fall day with a fresh breeze blowing out of the northwest, clear skies, low humidity, and temperatures in the 60s.

The shot below of the new Trump Tower (left, under construction) beside the Chicago river will give you an idea of the kind of weather we enjoyed.

Carol and I and daughter Elizabeth took a roughly 7-mile walking tour around the Chicago loop and Streeterville. I'll show you a few of the highlights.

We found a children's park and playground that was tucked away in a neighborhood very close to the downtown skyscrapers. That was unique in itself, but we couldn't resist this drinking fountain.

Daughter Elizabeth simply adores anything to do with turtles and tortoises (she can tell you the difference -- in fact her one pet is a Mediterranean marginated desert tortoise named Brutus).

Below Elizabeth poses with the sculpture.

And here it seems she and the happy tortoise are sharing a funny joke.

We were intrigued by some of the acrhitecture of the Chicago town homes we found. In the picture below each has a different style, color, and surface for its facade. But to further delineate where one stops and the next starts, they aren't quite parallel to the street. Rather, each one angles just slightly toward the street, and then the next one is offset back about 3-4 feet and again angles forward.

It's an interesting effect.

You'd never know you were within a few blocks of the bustling downtown business areas.

The house in the center below is another example of a unique facade, color, entryway, fence, and roof.

Take a closer look at the fence. Fancy, no?

We had walked quite a long way north from the river to the edge of Lincoln park, and then turned back south along a different street.

Once back in the downtown area we walked along LaSalle Street for a number of blocks, and at one point passed not far from the city's huge public library. It's the red building below with the greenish roof.

I thought the sculptures at the roof's corners were gargoyles, but they're not. Have a closer look.

We continued south on LaSalle until we reached the huge Chicago Board of Trade building, with the statue of Ceres (the goddess of grain) on top. The we turned east on Jackson Street to head back towards our starting point near the lakefront.

As we walked along what we thought was Jackson Street, Carol snapped the shot below.

Can you read the sign on the building?

If not, here's a close-up.

We stopped. We had been walking on LaSalle street before, and then we had turned on Jackson. We thought!

We turned around and walked several blocks back the way we had come. When we arrived at the place we had turned, sure enough the intersection was plainly marked and we HAD come south on LaSalle and we HAD turned east on Jackson.

Confused, we turned around and retraced our steps on Jackson, checking the street signs at every corner. Then we found the LaSalle St. sign on the side of the building again. This time we ignored it and kept going. We still have no idea why it's there.

The last photos are taken along Michigan Avenue shopping district, known as the Magnificent Mile.

Along the sidewalks are huge fenced-in planting areas in which the city each year plants all manner of gorgeous non-native flowers and shrubs that seem to thrive during the summer.

See Below. . .

Daughter Elizabeth (pictured at the far left in the shot below) told us that each fall as the temperatures begin to drop and all the plants would otherwise freeze, the city sends out trucks to take them all out of the planters.

What to they do with them? I have no idea.

In many of the planting areas were (somewhat strange, in my opinion) displays like the one below.

It's a partial manikin with a leather top and a skirt made from textbooks.

Either art, or a new back-to-school look.

I think I'll go with art.

End of tour. Hope you enjoyed Chicago.

We certainly did!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

On to Indiana

After 5 days of golf in Georgia, we hit the road and headed north.

I kept telling Carol, "North, Miss Tessmacher! North!" (Think Gene Hackman in the movie "Superman.")

We spent the night in Indianapolis, and then went farther north to South Bend where we found a GORGEOUS golf course called Blackthorn. It was probably in the best condition of all the courses we played on the trip. On about the 5th hole we looked up a hillside and saw a creature nosing about. Was it a squirrel?

Carol took the camera and eased closer and closer until she took this shot. It sure didn't look like it had a bushy tail.

She crept closer still, and stopped when the creature sat up on its hind legs and looked at her. To her amazement, it asked her if she knew what day this was!

She was too dumbfounded to answer, so it told her, "Humph! It's GROUNDHOG DAY!"

"So, what're YOU looking at?!"

"If you come any closer, I'm diving down my hole. I mean it!"

"Okay. Goodbye!" And he was gone.

But when Carol turned around to see where the creature had been looking over her shoulder, she saw the REAL reason he dove for cover!

This red-tailed hawk had a lean and hungry look as he stared down towards his would-be lunch!

We played on through the turn and approached the 14th tee. Look what we saw there...

This was NOT the same groundhog, so it must indeed have been the local version of Groundhog Day (although we never did see Bill Murray.)

This one too sat up and posed for the camera briefly before scurrying away in an apparent fright.

Carol again looked behind her to see if any threat loomed, and sure enough...

When she turned back around she had JUST enough time to catch one last look at the hawk's desired lunch before it (he) darted away out of sight.

The remainder of the golf was uneventful.

NEXT: On to Chicago!

Monday, September 24, 2007

"One Misty, Moisty Morning. . .

"When out across the heather,
I chanced to meet an old man,
Dressed all in leather."

Or so begins a nursery rhyme we used to read to our kids when they were little. The picture below reminded me of the rhyme. It was taken in the early morning mists of a Georgia golf course, on the second phase of our September vacation a few weeks ago.

You can't really tell, but that's dew on the grass that looks so white in the sunshine.

The third hole of this particular course is a very steep down-hill par 3, with a pond between the bottom of the hill and your target. Like this:

You can see from the water surface how hard the wind is (not) blowing.

A few holes later came this daunting par 5, with another downhill tee shot over water followed by a long uphill fairway.

Can you see why we enjoy golf in Georgia so much?

At a later water hazard this denizen was checking us out rather closely.

We asked him why he was standing like that, and he replied (below), "Because I want to. You got a PROBLEM with that?!"

"There. Does THIS suit you better?"

We ignored his nasty attitude and circled around behind him to try to sneak in for a better photo. Just as we were getting close he stuck his head up and spotted us.

We were much too close for his comfort, so he departed. When it comes to "fight or flight," these guys almost always select "flight." Maybe that's because they can.

Besides, he had what might have been a girlfriend across the water and I think he was trying to show off for her.

Does she look impressed to you? Nah, me neither.

Then carol took a shot of another flying creature . . . a very colorful one.

Finally, she found one more who was willing to pose for her.

What's that you say? "How was the golf?"

Who cares? The surroundings and the scenery were wonderful!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Vicarious Vacation

One of my readers commented that he enjoys a vicarious vacation by reading descriptions of my travels.

Well, he said something like that. That was a paraphrase.

Anyway, so as not to disappoint, (and as you may remember, I promised!) below are some shots from the first few days of our recent trip. By the way, we put 4,500 miles on the old van and spent 11 nights in our camper on the trip... for those of you keeping score

Our first stop was Tampa to visit daughter Christina, her husband Johnny, and (most importantly) our grandson Trevor. We went to a street festival with them over labor day weekend, and I have a few shots of that experience.

Below you'll see Trevor interacting with some dogs that other people brought. You'll notice that the dogs are on leashes. You'll also notice that Trevor is in a harness and on a leash. (That's Trevor in the yellow shirt, in case you're confused.)

You might wonder why Trevor is on a leash.

Here's why:

This is Trevor when he's NOT on a leash. That's his mom, Christina (my daughter) pursuing.

Here (below) we see Trevor interacting with a large tortoise. Like most 2-year-olds, he loves all kinds of animals.

Well, maybe not ALL kinds. He probably doesn't love wasps. Or mosquitoes. Or rattlesnakes . . . Okay! He loves SOME kinds of animals! Specifically, the ones he can pet and that don't bite or sting him! Just BE that way. (Literalist.)

Later that weekend we went to the beach. Isn't that what one is supposed to do in Florida? And on Labor Day weekend? C'mon, it's traditional!

So there we were at the beach, and Trevor wanted to show off his soccer skills. Well, why not? Tiger Woods was showing off his golf skills at two, shooting his first sub-par round at Augusta National and beating most of the pros that year in the Masters pro-am, wasn't he? So who's to say Trevor won't be the next Becket of soccer, like Tiger is the current Nicklaus of golf?

That guy in the red tee shirt is Trevor's Grandpa, showing the young prodigy how to kick the ball like a pro. Note Grandpa's pink feet. That's the result of LOTS of summer hours spent outdoors (on a golf course) with golf shoes and socks on.

Here's Trevor showing how fast he learns:

And finally, one more shot of his obvious skill and talent (not to mention his good looks and stellar personality -- watch out, girls!)

(NEXT: On to Georgia for a week of golf!)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I promise

Pictures and stories are coming. Soon, I hope.

I'm still digging out. Today at work was chaos -- everyone seemed to have saved up all their HR-related problems and issues until I returned. Invariably they would begin with, "Hey, I know you just got back and have a ton of stuff to do, but this won't take long..."

And usually it didn't. Things like problems with their uniform and laundry service. Problems with health care claims. A screw-up with somebody's prescription drug mail order. Several dozen signatures needed. Approval of routine purchases and work requests, because it wasn't urgent before but now after waiting a couple of weeks it was.

You get the picture.

"How was the trip?" Halfway through my two sentence answer they'd interrupt with the sentence above (second paragraph).


Luckily my boss is on a sales trip to mainland China (seriously) this week and won't be back until Monday. I'm sure he'll have several projects that could wait till I got back, but now have to be done by the end of the month (read: the end of next week).

Then, when I got home from work this afternoon, it took me over an hour to go through all the mail that had accumulated while we were gone. Bills needed to be paid (one by tomorrow!), some papers I filed, and then most of the rest went into the OTHER file.

But gimme a few days and I'll have stuff to tell you.

I promise.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Home again, home again, jiggedy-jig.

Two long days of driving, followed by unpacking. Barely had enough daylight to mow the jungle that used to be my yard. Mowed much of it on the highest mower deck setting, but the tall grass and weeds occasionally choked the mower. Need to re-mow in a few days at a lower setting.

Tired. Glad to be home, but not looking forward to the "same-ol' routine." Early rising tomorrow to go to the office, and likely a stay-late afternoon to get a little more caught up.

MAYBE I'll have time to browse some blogs over the next few days. Hope so. I'll try.

Then maybe I'll write some coherent posts again. Might even find time for some humor.

We'll see.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The view from the top

...of the Sears tower, looking north along the shore of Lake Michigan.

Today is our last day in Chicago before heading home, and we're playing tourist

If you go, try to pick a clear day when the horizon is razor-sharp. It's worth the $12.95 price of the one-minute ear-popping elevator ride.

And for some contrast, here's the view looking southeast.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Still alive

In Chicago for the weekend. Done lots of driving, lots of golf. Had a great visit with Christina in Florida (which she chronicles in her current post on her blog.) Now visiting my other daughter.

I should be home by the middle of next week. I MIGHT even get a chance to visit some of your blogs then and comment. But only if I get to come home from work for a few hours every day, which is doubtful based on the work emails and phone calls I've been getting while on this trip.

Thanks to all of you who have stopped by while I've been away to see if I've posted anything.

And sorry, Viki, but it looks like this will be yet another year that I've visited your great city and not taken time to meet you. Some day... Some year...

Oh, and Tracye...? My daughter here tells me that you've been complaining about my lack of recent posts. If you're going to lurk about and read my blog, you might leave a comment every now and then. Oh, yes! I know you're there! (There are few if any secrets in the Earle family.