Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Columbus Day

Pretend with me for a moment that Columbus really did discover America. Even though there were plenty of other explorers here first, including Leif Erickson some alleged 500 years prior. I know I misspelled his name, but if you google him they spell it with a "c" on some sites and a "k" on some others so I just used both. None of those sites mention the thousands of Native Americans that were lodging in the undiscovered land.

Not every state celebrates Columbus Day, but Illinois does. We close the schools and the banks and use it as an excuse to play in the beautiful fall leaves. This year even Dan took off work and we decided to take a drive up to Lake Geneva. We had thought about going on Saturday because it was Octoberfest up there but when the temperatures plummeted and the rain came we adjusted our plans. Bonus - Wisconsin doesn't close the schools for this particular "holiday" and so the downtown streets weren't nearly as crowded as we'd expected them to be on the sunny and 62 degree Monday afternoon.

We went first to the place my son had been dreaming about since the last time we were in Lake Geneva...the comic book store. The owner is almost as entertaining as the merchandise. I dare you to stump him on a character or plotline. He makes the Big Bang Theory actors look like actors.

After carefully perusing the myriad shelves of Marvel, D.C., X-Men and other assorted hereos and villains, Ryan selected his five Heroclix figures and laid out his remaining stash of babysitting money. Or he would have had he remembered his wallet. I floated him the loan. That took about an hour.

We walked up and down the cute shops and looked around before ducking into the Caribou ordering one smoothie and one coffee for the five of us and played a board game for another hour. It was glorious.

After our considerable warm up and relaxation we ventured to the beach where the wind was whipping full force off the lake. We let the kids run up and down the docks, take pictures by the fountain in front of the Riveria and pet the horse sadly bridled to the costly carriage ride before making our way to everyone else's favorite store...Kilwins. If you don't know Kilwin's I'm very sorry for you. It's the candy, fudge and ice cream parlor of yore where they make it fresh in front of you, sell it by the weight and you know your purchase will never make it back to the car.

We took a ride through the rustic drive that spans 2.6 miles just west of the town where it winds past the estates that used to belong to the Chicago Wrigley family (yes, THAT Wrigley) and other well-to-do types. We'd be happy to set up camp in any of their gatehouses or servants quarters among the splendor of the autumn trees.

We parked by the Convenant Harbor Christian Camp which has some of the most breathtaking foliage surrounding the lake for the photo op. The state of my hair in the above photo can attest to the velocity of the wind coming off the lake. That or a small dog jumped onto my head at the last minute.

We headed back to town and ate dinner at the famous Popeye's where they were serving a seasonal Octoberfest menu including locally made Bratwurst. Oh. Man.

We left just before sunset and watched the sky turn all shades of pink and orange on the way home. We were back in our driveway at 7pm.

Columbus may not have had much of anything to do with "discovering" America, but I was more than happy to use a holiday in his honor to celebrate the country we live in during my favorite season with my four favorite traveling buddies.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Ryder Cup

So the Ryder Cup is over and sadly the U.S. lost after blowing a tremendous lead through Saturday. But I have to say it didn't keep me from being happy for the Europeans who never gave up even though they were written off by the majority of the commentators and dealing with a crowd that never let them forget they were most certainly not the home team.

Welcome to Chicago.

It took place a mere three miles from my house which definitely amped up the traffic, though there was more action in the sky than on the ground on Saturday with helicopters, blimps (Go Snoopy 2) and the mischieveous skywriting planes puffing out their messages of hope (one of which is shown above).

They also wrote "We Believe" - "Paddy Power" and "Where's the Love" while we watched from below on a perfect fall day.

My husband went and watched one of the practice rounds, but honestly it was more fun to be near, but not there for the actual rounds.

I love golf and not just because it was a pre-requisite for being my Gramps' granddaughter, but that probably helped. Almost as soon as we could walk he was teaching us to golf at a little park district course in Barrington near his home. It was only five holes and there was a locked box at the first one where you'd put your $2 fee per round (over time it went up to $5). I don't think the honor system was working too well because they eventually got a paid staff person to sit there and collect the fee.

We were so young our bags were one leg of an old pair of jeans cut off and sewn at the bottom with a stick attached so you could carry it. My gramps would put a six iron and a putter in it and send us on our way. His instruction mostly consisted of telling us to hit all the cigarette butts, leaves and broken tees on the course for practice and the constant mantra "Keep your eye on the ball!"

He golfed that course over 300 days a year up until the day he died at 89. In his latter years he stopped bothering with a bag and just brought the trusty six iron. He'd turn it backwards to putt. The staffers called him "One-Club Charlie." He also used to sneak on the second hole so he wouldn't have to pay the fee. That's the depression era mentality for you.

I love that my beginnings in golf were humble and that I didn't become acquainted with the sport through the ranks of a Medinah Club membership (though the course is gorgeous). I love that my kids love to go to a driving range and smack the balls over a lake while celebrating height and splash effect as much as distance.

I've never watched much golf on T.V. and I probably won't start now, but it was fun for a few days to have such a prominent event down the street. And I'm grateful for the lesson my son took away: you can be down without being out.