“Yakking” it up!


Wednesday’s schedule had a minor change. The class that I normally teach, the academically unofficial class of my three former, real adult Oakton Community students, has come to a temporary close as we have actually managed to finish a book, “Le Petit Prince.” Since one of our triumvirate of students is out of the country for a bit, we have decided to have a two week hiatus.

That being said, the fact that I had the afternoon totally free allowed Mike and me to go to the Skokie Lagoons for some ‘yakking,’ as some have called it. Note the heavy duckweed; it was kind of surreal gliding through it.

I came home around 1:30; we had a pizza lunch, and then started preparing the car for our foray into Winnetka.

Despite my sports’ app saying it was an 1 hour and 11 minute journey, it was, in fact closer to two hours, I am not sure what really went wrong with the time thing. It did seem accurate in its report that I traveled about 3.7 miles, however.

The weather was sunny, pretty cool, and at first there were few kayakers. For the most part, kayaks are the nautical vehicles of choice there, perhaps the kayak rental having something to do with that.

Mike went to go fishing, came up fish-less in the end, but it was worth the try. I enjoyed trying out the Eddyline kayak for a better than fifteen minute, Loch Ness like try that was had at Devil’s Lake. It did well. It is a sit-on kayak so that slows it down a bit in the water and makes it a bit harder to keep it going in a straight line but the rudder it has makes all the difference in the keeping it on track, or ‘tracking’ as they call it. We also bought the Eddyline as a fourteen footer since that would aid the tracking, the Pungo, sit in kayak, is a twelve footer (which they also told me would aid tracking, those extra few feet). I was originally considering a shorter kayak, for ease of transport, but changed my mind after talking to the sales people.

We had a great time and it worked well from start to finish. I must say that we did a good job in kayak choices. Both of them are really good fishing kayaks and Mike has been working on a functional anchoring system.

It is exciting to think about the next season as we get going sooner and have more time to kayak.

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ESL Conversation Hour



I am still getting back on track for the week. Camping seems to take it all out of you.

On Monday I spent the day finishing up the camping cleanup: washing clothing, airing things out, and doing my Oakton work that I normally finish up on Sunday. The next few days have flown by. I decided that camping is not a bad thing to do so I have spruced up my camping supplies. I took my boots in to see if my beloved Raichles were salvageable and my very savvy shoemaker in Bannockburn told me it was time to throw them out. I headed to Erehwon where I checked out boots and purchased a Thermarest pad to sleep on when camping. Tuesday, during Koerner Daycare day, Mike and I took a run to REI where I purchased Vasque hiking boots and a collapsible five gallon jug for camping. Next purchase? A good sleeping bag. I thought I had one but truth be told, I am not sure. Is that a sign of age?

Yesterday we had Kelsey in the morning. She is suffering from a couple bites, and we are assuming they are spider bites since the mosquitos were pretty much non-existent. I located the ‘Apaisyl’ from France, a great way to calm down allergic reactions to bites. It is absolutely amazing and I have to make sure to get more the next time I am in France. I picked up Samantha at 11:30 AM from kindergarten and we spent a day having all kinds of fun.

Monday morning was spent at Oakton with tutoring, ESL Conversation hour, and such; today is the same, add into that my Office Hours for the week.

ESL Conversation Hour is an amazing situation I have taken on. On Monday we had several reps from Korea, one from Iran, one from Syria, and yet another from Mexico. Each person brings something special to the table and each one has a different ability in English. We discuss everything from culture to what each and every person is currently doing. Wednesday’s meeting of Conversation Hour included all aforementioned ethnic groups with Iraq and Ukraine as well.

I have recently changed my format of doing the Conversation Hour. Since retiring from high school teaching, I have always taken it upon myself to take notes during tutoring sessions and I have applied it to Conversation Hours as well. The first time, I started using my laptop and sending the notes via e-mail. Then I morphed into using an iPad with a separate keyboard. That allowed me more freedom, as I was able to move the screen around so that I, along with my tutee, would be able to see the screen. Then, for a while, I had my laptop and shared screens with the iPad; that works quite well. Now I am using my separate blue-tooth keyboard with my laptop and can show the screen to everyone (using a wireless mouse to control things). I can set the laptop across the table and meet everyone’s needs. After the session, I e-mail it. It is a win, win situation and those who still need to take notes for better memory acquisition can, but most do not.

It is the usual time out, just around 6:00 AM and the sky is darker than coal. Seasons are changing.

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Day 3 of Camping and the final hike and climb







Our second night camping was after a lovely, warmer day and some good hiking and climbing (not on my part). We came back to the campground and found Christian getting dinner ready to go. Jambalaya was the main course and served, as I think I previously mentioned, with fresh rolls. Everything has pretty much been cooked and baked on the fire in the fire ring. The trick is generally to burn the wood until it falls apart into bright red coals. The cast iron Dutch oven is used to cook, the lid even being used to do things like fry bacon.

We ended up in our tents by around ten and despite my waking up around 6:00 AM, I forced myself to stay in my sleeping bag until 7:00 AM. We got up, got moving, put breakfast together, and finally broke up camp, packing our cars.

We managed to find a good path to another climb, one in which we utilized huge stone steps, put there by the CCC many years ago, and went to the top of a large cliff where we had a most beautiful vista. Mike and Christian scored a climb and Laura and I were up with Kelsey on the top. The views and the weather were amazing.

Mid afternoon, we ended up deciding that given the windy weather that perhaps a final kayaking session was out of the question. We ended up heading home and stopping for dinner at a truck stop. Home by 6:30 PM and then it was time to put away things and shower.

What a great weekend! I had a great time, camping for the first time in which I didn’t have the main responsibility for everything and I really enjoyed it. I am so appreciative that my kids invited me to go along. It has been a long time since I have camped, going back to camping with Michael’s group in the Boy Scouts.

Photos were my obsession during this trip and I took well over four hundred. Once home and everything put into its place, I sat down and went through them. I got some amazing photos, which documented a wonderful weekend.

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Camping in Wisconsin, Day 2: Being de-soled!

My boots have bitten the dust!

My boots have bitten the dust!

Site 329 in the Ice Age Section of Devil's Lake campground.

Site 329 in the Ice Age Section of Devil’s Lake campground.

Our new sunshade protects the food preparation area of the camp.

Our new sunshade protects the food preparation area of the camp.

Mikey is in 'teacher mode' with Samantha and a daunting cliff to climb.

Mikey is in ‘teacher mode’ with Samantha and a daunting cliff to climb.


Our first night camping actually found me falling asleep right away; that was the good news. The bad news is that I really wasn’t very warm during the night and the drop to thirty-four degrees drop was a bit more that anyone would have expected given the high heat we have recently had. Autumn is hitting us with a vengeance but I am guessing that summer shall come back with some sort of major strike back.

In the morning, after a wonderful breakfast of pancakes and sausage with hot coffee, we prepared for a hiking, climbing outing. I started out by finding out that my wonderful Raichle hiking boots had the soles coming off. That meant that I had to wear the other shoes I had. Considering that I had a pair of flip-flops and a pair of Keen sandals, I did not have much choice. Add into that the Keen sandals had been worn for my fifteen-minute foray into Wisconsin’s version of Loch Ness with the fog rolling in and furious waves (on the previous day). That said, the sandals were still good and wet. I thus ending up hiking in wet sandals, the good news there is that once on, they dried relatively quickly.

Our hiking outing searching for a climbing moment for Samantha, Christian, and Mikey was a bust, with me falling twice (without any wounds, having plenty of padding to ward off a bad injury) and Samantha falling one time. Samantha knocked the back of her head slightly on a rock but was only blessed with a slight goose egg.

We ended up dropping off Mikey at a CCC parking lot and then he went across the road to do reconnaissance on a major cliff reached by a set of block stone stairs, a ‘Stairway to Heaven’ of sorts that was dangerous and with an amazing vista.

We went back for lunch to relieve Laura from Kelsey duty and after a lunch moment, we took lunch to Mikey and left Christian to deal with dinner preparation and taking care of Kelsey. Our phone situation is curious as I had pretty much no service at all, although once on top of the major hill (which is huge and reminiscent of mountains and is, in fact, the remnant of a mountain range higher than the Rockies), I was able to connect with Mary Kay and inform her that I had arrived. I am guessing that she already knew that.

After Mike had conquered the cliff and then come down from it, he helped Laura and Samantha try it out, with less success, but being far braver than I am, they managed to do quite well, in my estimate.

We went back to the camp to find that Kelsey had not slept but had instead chosen to sit and play on the special tarp put up for her. We had an amazing dinner of Jambalaya and hot, fresh rolls made in the fire. This was preceded by a quick trip that Mike and I made down to an area of possible climbing on Sunday.

Luckily, better sleeping weather was had and we enjoyed the temps that were just a little warmer than the night before. What a blessing!

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Camping in the ‘Ice Age’ (a campsite at Devil’s Lake, Wisconsin)

Almost at the campground...

Almost at the campground…

Interestingly enough, techno Rich was without any connection to the Internet and phones all weekend as we were in Wisconsin near Baraboo. I missed posting for several days and will now post what was missed…

Mike and I had done various things to prepare for our camping departure. I had put the tent, the sun shelter (which ended up being great against the rain), and a few other things. He had put everything together, the climbing equipment, and had even put the kayak on the roof of MK’s car.

We ended up leaving after breakfast on Friday. Mike took me out to breakfast and well; it ended up being a bit less than expected. In fact, I am planning to ‘Yelp’ our breakfast venue as a whole bunch of unpleasant things occurred. I kind of feel bad as perhaps I was a destroyer of a great breakfast place for Mikey, but hey, it happens.

We sat down, they took our order, it all took a long time but we were not really in a rush, and when we ordered juice, the server took away our coffee mugs. Luckily, Mike and I had had some coffee and since the Newport Coffee House was nearby, we decided to get some extra coffee to take with us. As we were waiting to get our food, I see an insect crawling on top of the wooden divider between the booths. It looked like a roach. On closer inspection, it was. Mike flicked it off and I proceeded to smash it, and since I was wearing vibram hiking boots, it took a bit of time to do so. I then told the hostess who seemed sympathetic and said that she would talk to someone about it. Mike and I then looked between the booth and the window and saw all sorts of alimentary detritus, obviously not cleaned in a while, we looked because we wondered why a roach might be in an area away from food preparation. Then, our food came. I had ordered pancakes that were supposed to be served with caramelized apples and a syrup involving the pancakes and pecans. They were sprinkled with pecans as well. The apples were not cooked and not caramelized, it looked as if they had been cooked a bit and then doused with some syrup. In the end, there was really nothing more done than an ‘I am sorry.’ We were sorry as well as this is a restaurant that is off of our lists. So we had a less than great experience. Our time at ‘Eggsperience’ was nothing but an ‘Effsperience.’

About ten, we headed toward Baraboo, not too far from Wisconsin Dells. We went through Madison, and despite feeling a bit full from our less than perfect breakfast, we stopped at Culvers and did our best to eat lightly. We each had a burger and fries and headed north from there.

Around 2:00 PM, we arrived at Devil’s Lake. By this time, it had been drizzling for some time. It was surprisingly cold. We pulled the kayak off of the car and walked it down to the beach area. There were no people to be found and so my virgin voyage on the Eddyline kayak took place. I was originally planning to take about an hour but due to the fact that Devil’s Lake looked like Loch Ness the moment I got on the water, it was a fifteen-minute trip. It was creepy as the fog started curling from the middle of the lake toward the shore and the force of the water made me glad that the kayak has a rudder. Mike went out after my fifteen minutes and quickly came in and then we packed up and went to find our campground.

We found that it was a bit confusing, but Christian had told us that we were at 329 in the ‘Ice Age’ part of the camping area. We drove around a bit and quickly found it. We arrived before Christian, Laura, Samantha, and Kelsey. We worked in the drizzle and got up the special Kelty Sunshade tent and our tent. By the time we were almost done, we went to the campstore and bought some wood for our campfire and to cook with.

I am not even sure when the Glencoes arrived but then we all worked together as they set up their tent and we started preparing for dinner. We had started a fire before they arrived so we could have hot coals to cook with, Christian had a menu prepared: Wisconsin sausage, potatoes, all preceded by an apéritif (Scotch and vodka drink mixtures).

The nasty drizzle turned to some sun, the sun went down and the fire burned brightly. It has been a long time since I have camped.

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