My Kind of Town?

editors note: I did write this on Sunday, but had some issues transferring the pictures, so things got delayed until Monday.

OK, so as promised last week, tonight is going to be the recap of “The Dee’s Take Chicago”. Or in my case, re-take! This whole trip to Chicago was really for Grace. I lived in the big city for about 5 years combined and grew up within a stones throw for the first 18 years of my life- visiting the Grand Lady many times.

As mentioned in last weeks entry, we traveled from the Keweenaw to Geneva Lake for my mom’s memorial service, as well as to grab any things from my mom’s house we wanted to keep with us. Our trip started pretty bright and early on Friday morning. We drove to Harvard IL to catch the train to Chicago. There were a lot of “firsts” for Grace and Nora on this trip, the first first was to travel on a train. The trip from Harvard in the far NW of the Chicagoland area takes around 90 minutes, as it makes pretty much all of the stops all the way there, but is still a much better way to go than driving. I really do not know how long it would take via driving these days, but back when I would take the train in, it would be close to an hour without traffic. So despite having to make all the stops, I think we still came out ahead as far as commuting time. 

Once reaching the station in Chicago, we were met by a friend from Jacobsville of all places. She lives in Chicago and when she heard that Grace and I were going to go there, she convinced Nora to tag along and be with her while Grace and I painted the city. She took us to her apartment and then we grabbed breakfast. After that, she drove us to our hotel, where Grace and I dropped of our luggage and then it was off to the Shedd Aquarium. From that point on, it was just Grace and I for the next 44 hours or so. 

It was so cool to watch Grace’s face light up as we drove around the city and she saw the mightiness of the buildings and other features of the city. I can only imagine what it was like for her to see all of this at her age. By the time I was her age, I had been downtown at least a dozen times and had driven right past it on the Kennedy expressway and south Lake Shore Drive probably 30 more times.

I can say that it has been probably 40 years or more since I have been to the Shedd Aquarium, so it was quite the experience for me to see all that had changed in that time. The giant tank that is the cornerstone for the aquarium is still there and has not changed much at all. It is so huge, it probably will never change either! I was able to snap a shot of Grace in front of it while a shark swam by in the background. A new exhibit in the past 40 years is one where persons can reach into a shallow tank and “pet” the stingrays.

We spent a good chunk of the afternoon taking in all that the Shedd had to offer. We ended exiting out of the front of the building, which meant that we had a bit of a walk to get to where we would be able to flag down a cab. Add to that the fact that it was the first day of Taste of Chicago, and traffic was a nightmare in the Grant Park area. we ended up walking over to Michigan Avenue and then north up that until we were past the Art Institute, that is where the mess of humans and vehicles dwindled to regular Friday afternoon traffic and we flagged down a cab to take us to the Blackhawks store. We picked up some merch at the Hawks store and then got to our hotel where we checked in and then I collapsed for a brief while before we had to get ready for the next adventure of the day.

That next adventure was to take the elevators to the 95th floor of the Hancock building where we would have dinner at the Signature Room. My date put on a beautiful dress for the occasion and I did my best to keep up with her look. Unfortunately, the weather decided to be uncooperative with us for our dinner and provided us with a beautiful view of nothing but the gray of clouds. Just as we were finishing up our meal, the clouds tried to depart and did enough so that we could at least look down and see the ground and specks of people walking below, as well as glimpses of some of the buildings around us. After dinner, we strolled back to our hotel room, relaxed and eventually drifted off to sleep.

The next day found us grabbing breakfast at an off the beaten path restaurant, which proved to be very popular despite it’s quiet neighborhood location. As we approached, we saw a line reaching down the sidewalk and my mind immediately starting thinking of a plan “B” for breakfast. However, we got very lucky and upon reaching the hostess station, we were met with the person seating folks. She asked how many in our part and immediately after I said 2, she pointed to a table outside and said “take that one”. I was very happy that we did not have to stand in line or find another place to eat and the food was most excellent!

With full bellies, we flagged down a cab, which took us to the Wrigley Building where we then took the shore hike to do the one thing that probably all tourists do when they visit Chicago in the warmer weather. That being go to see Cloud Gate, or “The Bean”. I had seen it when I was in Chicago around 6 years ago, but Grace really wanted to see it and I really wanted her to see it, so that is what we did.

After that, we worked ourselves back down to the museum campus and took in the Field Museum of natural history. That is a rather enormous place and I explained to Grace that because we had more plans for the day, two of which required being to them at specific times, we would not be able to take in the whole museum. So once in, she studied the exhibit map and came up with a game plan. I was a little surprised by some of her choices, but learned that one of the things that really interests her from history is the Egyptians. Of course one cannot visit the Field and not go say hi to Sue, so we took in a brief documentary in the discovery of Sue and how her remains were removed and then reassembled. After that, it was time to go visit the old girl herself. It was my first time seeing Sue as well and both Grace and i were amazed at the size and look of that T-Rex skeleton. It is the most complete skeleton of a T-Rex ever found (to date) and was discovered right here the good old US of A, more specifically the Badlands of South Dakota.

Time was ticking and after visiting with Sue, Grace and I moved on to the next event of the day, which was to take the elevator to the 103rd floor of the Willis Tower. Actually, you take one elevator to the 90-somethingth floor and then another to the 103rd floor. Once there, you pop out onto the north side of the building. The weather for that high observation point could not have been better. Clear skies and fairly low humidity, so the visibility was about as good as it gets for the summer months.

We worked our way around the windows. I pointed out some of the things we were able to see, including the building where I lived with Burt and Baileys just before moving to the UP. The big thing to do while on the observation deck of the Willis Tower is to go into “The Ledge”. Actually there are 5 of them and not just one. They are boxes made entirely of glass that extend out of the building, so once out there, it feels like your floating just outside the building. There being 5 of them and so many visitors wanting to go out into them, you have to wait in line for almost an hour to get your chance to be in one. Your time in one is limited based on how many are in your group. They have attendants at each ledge that will let you know when your time is up, as well as take some pictures of you out there, which you can choose to get or not get when you get back to the ground floor. You also have enough time to take some shots of your own, so I snapped a shot looking down and of Grace lying on the glass floor. I have to admit that it was worth the wait. I am not one for lines at all, but it was cool to be out there!

The final event of the day was to head up north to Wrigley Field to take in the Zac Brown Band. We got there with plenty of time to spare (didn’t concerts used to start nearly on time?). We watched the stadium fill up with others, as well as watch the band members come out of the outfield wall and walk over to the stage. It was a great concert, Grace’s first, and now she is hooked, already picking out concerts that she would like to attend!

After the concert, back to the hotel and then off to bed. On Sunday, Grace and I had breakfast in the hotel and then headed back to the train station to meet up with Nora and head back to Harvard.

Back to the events of last week, it was another pretty busy week with things on the to-do list. Nora Grace and I were able to paint all that needed to be painted in the apartment above the shop. We also got some of the flooring done. We should be able to finish the flooring this week and then all that will be left to do is trim and build some kitchen cabinetry. It will then be done and I will have that monkey off my back!

Grace was challenged to a kayak race by our neighbor. She is quite competitive and does not lack for confidence, so she quickly agreed. It was decided to have the race yesterday afternoon. The finish line cannot be seen from the starting line, so Nora and I decided to be at the finish line and watch them come around a point and head for the finish line. Grace was the first to appear and had a sizeable lead at that point. Her lead only grew as the race went on and she finished about 2 minutes before her competition.

So that gets you ll caught up on not just the last week, but the big city trip. Have and great week ahead and…

Good night from the Keweenaw..


Turn the Page

Forrest Gump said that life is like a box of chocolate. I suppose so, but I have always seen it more like a book. There are many stories within a story. Characters come and go, the pages are grouped into chapters and the chapters combined tell the whole story.

Well, I guess you could say that a major chapter in my life has come to an end. For 50 years of my life, I was fortunate enough to be able to spend time in the family home on Geneva Lake. At first, it was for weekend visits, but soon turned into long weekend stints in during the summer, which led to a few week long (or more) stays during the summer break in school and then during my summers off from college, I would live there all summer, even becoming a WI resident for a period of time.

My mind is chalk full of memories from all of those years, fishing off the dock, going with my dad via boat to get doughnuts from the deli in Williams Bay, snowmobiling on the lake during winter and the games of rag tag, water skiing, knee boarding and tubing with friends all summer long. 

I loved “the lake” growing up. When my parents first bought the place on the lake, things were a lot different than they are now. Geneva Lake and the town at the east end, Lake Geneva, were both fairly sleepy, laid back places. As time progressed through the late 80’s and into the 90’s, it became more and more popular and a playground for the rich from the Chicago area. The old lake houses that snugly sat on the shores were torn down one by one, to make room for an oversized mini-mansion, squeezed into every last inch of spare space of lakefront land. Don’t get me wrong, the new homes are beautiful works of art. However, gone is the sleepy, laid back feel that the lake used to have.

The lake itself has changed too. Most all of these new homes have professional landscapers taking care of things, which means irrigation systems, fertilizer and pesticides. Some of those chemicals end up back in the lake and the lake has been slowly eurtifying over the past 20-30 years. I will save you the google look-up and explain that eurtification is the build up of nutrients in water that causes things like algae to proliferate. Back in the 70’s and most of the 80’s, the lake was crystal clear. When the surface was like glass and the light just right, you could see the bottom clearly at a depth of 20 feet or more. The only thing that limited your visibility was the amount of light. These days, you are lucky to see the bottom of the lake in 8 feet of water and it is only getting worse. 

Why the big dissertation on Geneva Lake and the town of Lake Geneva? Well, last Monday I took one last look at it as we left what was my parents place. With my mom dying in April and my sister living in Oklahoma and my brother living here in the Keweenaw, there was no longer a reason to keep it in the family. So back in late May it sold without even hitting the market. The new owners are actually the neighbors on the west of the house and were super nice in giving us time to get everything out and ready for them. 

It was bittersweet to be saying good-bye to the lake. So many great memories, but they are all about the good times I had with family and friends and not so much the actual lake. Most of the friends I had while being there have faded into chapters of my past life, so there really was not as much to let go of as one might think 50 years would build. The only reason for me wanting to go there in the past 20 years or so was to see my family. I actually think the laid-back and somewhat sleepiness of the UP reminds me a lot of the lake in the 70’s and is a part of why I love the UP so much.

I think the saddest part for me was watching Grace have to let go. She has always been very sentimental and not only was she having to say good-by to the lake, but the place where she saw her grandma the most. I am grateful that her times of sorrow during saying good-bye do not last very long. She is able to get right back up on her horse and resume living life as our “Gracie-J”. We also had my niece take a family picture in front of the house before we left.

We departed the lake around 4 pm (central) and arrived at around 12 am (UP time). Brought our bags in and crashed for the night. The rest of the week has been pretty uneventful. Nora worked a couple of days, but got to work from home on Thursday and then takes most of the Fridays and Mondays off during the month of July. Our cherry tree was ready for picking by the middle of the week, so Grace and Nora did a lot of picking and made an awesome dessert out of some of them. There are more ready to pick, so we will have to get at it this week.

We have also had a fair amount of warmth this week. So the pool has been getting a regular calling. Although, I was awoken from a deep sleep by Nora telling me that one of the hoses had sprung a leak and we had lost a lot of water. So I stumbled out there and found a nice crack in the line from the pump to the chlorinator. The pump/filter/heater/chlorinator plumbing is a hodgepodge of PVC pipe and those flexible hoses you get with a lower end above ground pools. It works great, until one of the flexible hoses springs a leak! I was able to turn off the valves and stop the leaking. I also got up to the hardware store to find the needed ingredients to fix things and we are back to filling it! We probably lost around 1/3rd of the water, which equates to around 2400 gallons. The outdoor spigot has been returning water to the pool since around 8:30 this morning and 91/2 hours later, the water has come up about half the way it needs to. We could have still used it today, but Nora and Grace had quite a bit going on. With tomorrow’s high looking to be close to 90, I am sure we will be in there!

Our trip south last weekend also included some frolicking in Chicago for Grace and I. Nora also spent some time in the city, but most of it was spent with a friend from here in Jake who lives in the burbs. That is a whole journal entry in itself, so I will save that material for the next time! Enjoy your week and…

Good Night from the Keweenaw..


Happy Birthday America!

Ok, so I’m a day early, but I figured I had better write this week or folks will think I am done with my own yearly birthday ritual. I do have legit excuses the past 2 weeks. I forget what was going on two weeks ago, but last week I traveled to the Mayo in Rochester for a 3 month follow up to my pacer and lead replacements. All went well. The pacer is working optimally and the lead the same. They also said my atrial flutter has improved noticeably and they want to try some med changes, rather than an ablation at this point to try and bring my other rhythm issue into better shape. For that, I have to see a different group of doctors in the cardiac department and have to wait until early September for my consult with them.

So enough on why I was absent the past two weeks. I will give you the heads up that I will also be absent next Sunday, as we are heading south later this week for my mom’s memorial in Lake Geneva and will be back early next week. This will be the final time that I will ever be in my folks home there and will actually be visiting as tourists, not relatives of locals. We closed on the house sale back in June and the possession by the new owners will take place once my sister leaves after us next week. 

There have been lots of persons asking me if I will miss the place and my honest answer is: not that much. My mom and dad no longer live in the home and all of the fun I had there revolves in things that I did with my great friend when I was going through High School and College, so it really is not about the place, but the friendships.

So lets see, what has been going on around here… Well, yesterday, Nora had a family reunion for her mom’s side of the family. It was not large and a few family members were missing, but still a great time was had by all. The first activity was breakfast in the community center, then some chatting and then I took some for a boat ride on both the big lake and the portage waterway. The conditions were perfect for that. The big lake was like glass on our side of the peninsula and the waterway never gets too rough down here at the south entry because it is not wide enough for the waves to build. 

After that, they hustled up the road a bit to tour our friends homestead. They have open air and sheltered gardens, some small livestock and then a pair of old quarries on their property. Plus our friends have done a ton of research on their property and cand give lots of colorful information information about things there. The day then ended with a supper at the community club, followed by some more chatting and then everyone went back and probably crashed. I know we did!

Although the activities are over for the reunion, all of the relatives from out of town are still here and will be joining the rest of Jacobsville in the annual Independence Day celebration. Even though this will be the 3rd year running, I think that fact and the fact that Nora and I plan to host if until we can’t, makes it legit to say “annual”. It looks like the weather has already canceled any outdoor activities, but there will still be a potluck lunch at the community center.

As for things going on outside of Jacobsville, I really don’t know! Between being out of town and working my tailfeathers off getting the apartment further towards completion and the outside ready for the reunion and Independence Day celebration, I have not been to town much in the past 2-3 weeks. Kind of a nice thing really. I am sure that the strawberries are approaching ripeness, there might even be some early berries already being sold by youngsters alongside the roads in Houghton/Hancock. Lake Linden will be having their fireworks tonight with the show shifting up the road to Copper Harbor for tomorrow night.

After that, I am sure there are things going on in the Keweenaw every weekend the rest of the summer. I know the Eagle Harbor and Copper Harbor art fairs will both be happening. As will the bike festival at Copper Harbor. Lots going on all summer, but for the Dee’s, once we are home from my mom’s memorial service, I think we will be staying put for just about all of the rest of the summer. Which is a REALLY nice thing!

The weather has been quite nice the past few weeks. Many days of dry and sunny weather. We do get some rounds of thunderstorms every third or fourth day, so have not had to water the garden or watch the grass brown up. The temps…well I guess they could best be described as all over the road. From highs in the upper 80’s on some days to 50’s on a few others, we are still seeing it all. The big lake is still not warm at all and when the winds are from the east or northeast, our temps struggle to hold in the 60’s.

I think that gets you all caught up on things. Hope your Independence Day is/was safe and a ton fun!

Good Night from the Keweenaw..

Cruising Along

Not much to write home about this week. It was the most beautiful week of weather we have had so far this warm season. Most of the days found us in the upper 60’s to mid 70’s for highs with ample sunshine. It has ramped up the mosquito population to a very high level, but with some bug dope, they are not much of a bother. We never did have blackflies this season, but I hear that the nasty little buggers were out elsewhere. 

Everything is pretty much fully filled out and now we just sit back and enjoy the different wildflowers that bloom throughout the summer. Our cherry tree bloomed about 2 weeks ago and is now in the process of filling the fruit. The fruit will be ripe beginning around the 4th of July and I am hoping for a bumper crop, as it is a sweet cherry tree. 

My buddy and I did get the pool put up on Wednesday and then the water tanker came Thursday to fill it up. It took 2 loads to get it almost full. The water was around 4″ from the full level and I have been using our water out of the spigot to fill it the rest of the way. That is a slow process, as I cannot do that and have decent water pressure in the house, so I have to just squeeze in times when I can use the spigot. The water from the spigot does not come out all that fast, which also leads to the slow going. I could probably get away with letting it go overnight, but it would be my luck that suddenly the flow rate increased and it over filled the pool and flooded a portion of the yard. 

The water was also very dirty and contained a lot of organic matter, coming from the lakes. The first load of water came from the Hubbell boat launch and the second from the White City boat launch. I’ve been doing a lot of shocking, filtering, vacuuming and skimming of the water and it is almost crystal clear. When the pool was first filled, you could not even seen the bottom! I am hoping that when we do the filling next year, we can just draw the water from Lake Superior. I have a couple of places that could be used for that process. I know it will still not be as crystal clear as pool water, but it will be a whole lot cleaner! Plus I am not fond of the water from the Hubbell boat launch or anywhere from Torch Lake. There is a certain level of contamination from the mining era, we are told that the levels of contamination are below anything dangerous to humans, but I still do not swim in the Torch Lake. The good thing is that the sand filter will remove any of the heavy metal contamination from the water and the water from the White City boat launch do not contain any of that contamination.

The week ahead looks like it will have some decent pool weather, with 70’s and low 80’s just about every day except for tomorrow. That will work out about perfect, as I should be able to get the pool filled up completely and will probably have to shock it one more time before it will be “gin clear”, the way I like it.

I guess that about covers it for this one. Have a great week and happy Flag Day two days early!

Good Night From the Keweenaw..

A Cool Start

So I think I can finally say that summer is here. Just about all of the trees have filled out. I have cut the grass at least 3 times, Nora has all of her flowers planted, I planted a small garden today, the mosquitos have arrived in full force and all of the snowbirds have returned to Jacobsville. With that said, the summer so far has been a cool one. Most daytime highs have been in the low 60’s with lows just about every night in the low to mid 40’s.

I’m not complaining by any means. With the exception of the arrival of the mosquitos, it has been perfect weather for working outside. Most of our days in the last 7-8 have been sunny, with a breeze, sometimes a strong breeze, but that is how I will take it for doing the outdoor work that comes at the end of each winter. I don’t work quite as hard and fast as I used to, so I find myself wearing a sweatshirt most of the time, but I know the 70’s and 80’s will soon be here on a regular basis.

We have have had some 70’s and 80’s too and is was just around a week ago when we strung 2-3 of them in a row. We haven’t had any need for the AC, as Lake Superior has been doing a great job of that so far. Sometimes a bit too good of a job! it’s amazing what just a couple of hundred feet will do!

Memorial Day we hosted a little outdoor cookout and the temps at the cemetery during the service were in the low 80’s, yet at our place, they were in the upper 60’s to around 70. Thankfully the mosquitos had not really appeared yet, so we were all able to enjoy a great day under the sun and getting caught up on how everyone’s winter went. We really have a great little community here in Jake. I was not around in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s to witness the community then, but I hear the stories about how close knit the community was and I am happy to say that things seem to be very similar these days, only a very new crowd, with just a few from the 60’s and 70’s still hanging around! 

Before forget, I have two pieces of info to share. First is that the Laurium Glacier melted on Memorial Day. It was a little surprising to me that it did not make it into June, as it was still considerably large in mid May, but I guess the 50’s and 60’s and all the rain we had the final 2 weeks of May was enough to do it in. I have not yet gone in to figure out who the winner is, but will be doing so in the next day or two.

The second item is that I was asked to do a podcast interview with Logan Hyrkas on his “The Obsessed Podcast”. It was a fun interview to do and we really got into a lot of the things that have shaped my life. So if you are interested in knowing more about your’s truly, have a listen! Just be sure to give yourself 1 hour and 35 minutes! I am grateful for the opportunity to chat with him and share more about what made me the person I am today.

Really not much else to say, I have been busy with a number of different things, including STILL handling my brother’s estate as well as now my mom’s. I am also spending quite a bit of time at the Barndeeminimum. The bathroom just needs some trim and the flooring put down and it will be 100 percent done. I also have to prime the rest of the apartments walls and ceilings and plan to get that done this week. Nora has said she will handle the painting of the walls and once that is done, the flooring can go down, which Grace has said she will help me with, trim will go in last and then apartment will be done! It will be quite nice to have that done! Then it’s on to finishing the shop, but there will be a lot of enjoying summer going on too!

Last but not least is the full sized version of this entry’s intro picture. I don’t need to most of you what it is, but Nora went for an evening drive around the “Loop”, swinging by White City to have a look as well. I have dozens of photos of the lower entry light, but yesterday evening’s lighting, the clouds and the yacht coming in compelled me to take another pic!

Good Night From the Keweenaw.