Archive for March, 2011
SIEVERT — Last week, I attended my first meeting of the Quincy Bicycle Club. To say I learned a lot from the seasoned group of cyclists, would be a gross understatement. For anyone considering taking up cycling as a hobby, QBC is a wonderful resource to get you started. Everyone is knowledgeable and glad to share stories and tips that will make your new hobby even more satisfying. Even better, QBC gives you a network of new friends to go on group rides with and those can be a lot of fun. I invited Greg Davis, a long time QBC member to share a little more about the club here on Get Out:
DAVIS — It`s been a tough winter for us cyclists. Some us have found ways to cope, like using a rear wheel stand (often called a trainer) to put on miles during the off season. Others turn to the ever-more popular “spin” classes as found at the YMCA or the New-Fit facility. A select few like Terry Bauer have just never stopped riding, even putting in a short trek during our now infamous 22-inch snow. Most, however, have had to be content in just waiting for Spring to spring so we can dust off our trusty steed, air the tires and find how out of shape we have become during the cold, dark, wet winter months.
If you belong to the Quincy Bicycle Club www.quincybicycleclub.org you have had the benefit of monthly meetings filled with interesting programs and plans for the upcoming season. We`ve heard from a Quincy Police Dept. bike patrol officer, a participant in last year`s Hawaii Ironman Triathlon, several health care professionals, a gentleman who experienced the Race Across America (RAAM), reports on various rides around the area and received tips on planning and executing a European bicycle vacation.
There are so many facets to bicycling. With the prospect of $4 a gallon gas on the horizon there are those of us that at least partially ride for economic reasons. Couple that with the benefits of reducing traffic congestion and getting some much needed exercise it`s easy to justify the freeing experience of getting there under your own power. I`ve found that riding with others adds a completely new dimension to the sport. This is where the Quincy Bicycle Club can be an important resource. Beyond the meetings, which decrease in emphasis once riding weather arrives, there are many opportunities to join an “organized” ride. Contrary to common perception, the bike club is not made up of all youth oriented, spandex clad, hyper-fit, high mileage “bikers” that blow off traffic laws and attempt to take over the roadways. Rides are available for everyone from families to pros. On top of specialty rides there are the weekly jaunts that cater from beginner to expert.
The focus is to promote the benefits of cycling and let each participant find the level at which they are comfortable. Rides will often encompass ages from teens to seventies (although not usually on the same ride). If you are new to the sport I suggest first that you seek professional assistance in getting a quality bicycle. Nothing will dampen your enthusiasm faster than an ill-fitting, sub-quality or poorly-maintained ride. Next, check out the Pedal Pushers who will begin meeting at the main shelter house in South Park every Thursday at 6 p.m. beginning April 28. If you are more advanced the Intermediate and Advanced rides have already started up. they meet Mondays and Wednesday, respectively, at 6 p.m. in Madison Park. There are Time Trials on Tuesdays, also at 6 p.m. in Madison Park and a Saturday morning ride to Liberty for breakfast at Mike`s Place that begins at 48th & State, 10 a.m.
Just to touch upon a few more opportunities the bike club helps with bicycle safety rodeos, provides information on many cycling opportunities throughout the Midwest, assists with the Friends of the Trails annual Fun`d Ride (held this year Aug. 20) and works to promote cycling as a healthy and safe activity for all ages. I invite you to check them out.
People who know me know I love to be active. I don’t blink twice when someone suggests we go hike 10 miles, bike all over town, or climb an active volcano. But running? Running is a different story. I’ve never been quick, and I’ve never found my “groove” enough to keep a good pace up over long distances. However, in the spirit of setting goals and achieving something I can be proud of, I’ve decided to run the 5k in this year’s Bridge the Gap to Health Race on May 14th. Once I made the decision, I put out the word, and quickly a half dozen friends and my husband were on board too.
And we’ve all got good reason to be excited! The event itself is beautiful. The courses cross both bridges over the mighty Mississippi, and it’s not every day you have the chance to take a jog with a view like that. It’s a great opportunity to get in shape, achieve a goal, and help people all at once.
Bridge the Gap to Health is now in its 11th year in Quincy. The event consists of 5K (3.1 miles), 10K (6.2 miles), and half marathon (13.1 miles) certified courses, a 5K walk (with competitive or leisure categories) and a walking half marathon. The event draws over 2,500 participants, making it one of the premiere runs in Illinois.
The best part of Bridge the Gap is how much it helps our community. All of the registration fees and proceeds from the event benefit the Quincy Catholic Charities MedAssist Program. According to their website, MedAssist has helped over 3000 patients obtain around 30,000 prescription medications at a value of over $8 million in the last eleven years. That money all stays local and helps Quincy area families (regardless of their religion).
If you’re not ready to commit to the run but still would like to experience the event, there are ample opportunities to volunteer. The race requires course guides, people to distribute water to runners, safety volunteers and much more. If you’re interested in volunteering for the race, email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
So here’s my challenge to you, Quincy. Get out and run (or walk) with me. We’ve got a month and a half to get ready, and the pride we’ll have from completing a challenge, helping needy folks get assistance to afford their prescription medication, and from our healthier hearts is immeasurable. I know we can do this!
To register for the Bridge The Gap to Health Race or for more information, visit www.bridgethegaptohealth.com They’re also on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BridgeTheGapToHealth All donations to the QCC MedAssist program are tax-deductible. Visit the Quincy Medical Group website to find sponsor information, past winners, training tips, photos and much more: http://www.quincymedgroup.com/bridgethegap/index.html
If you’re like me, you took advantage of the beautiful Spring weather we had this weekend and spent some time outdoors. It seems harder to fit that kind of fun into a weekday when you’re not home until 5, but here are 2 quick and easy ideas to get the whole family out of the house on a weeknight!
Bob Mays Park & The Cedar Creek Trail
Pack a picnic dinner (or grab some Subway) and head to Bob Mays Park! Bob Mays is located on North 18th near Quintron Way and features 50 acres of grassy area, brand new playground equipment and the Cedar Creek Trail. The paved 1.5 mile trail is especially versatile, and its many uses were evident this weekend. Kids were riding big-wheels or bikes, people were walking dogs, one man was running laps as part of his training for a marathon, and whole families were skipping rocks by the side of the creek. The grassy area is great for tossing around a football or a Frisbee, and the trees are far enough apart that the area would be perfect for kite flying. Park amenities are lovely and clean. I especially appreciated the well-maintained bathrooms, informative Park District kiosks, solid benches, and readily available doggie waste disposal bags.
Illinois Veteran’s Home & Deer Park
The Deer Park at the Veteran’s home, located on North 12th street just past Locust, has been a favorite destination for my family since we were kids. In addition to deer, there are geese, llama, ducks, swan, peafowl, and bison at the park. The best way to experience the park is to grab a loaf of stale bread and maybe a bag of carrots and toss bites to the animals as you walk around the outside of the enclosure. Facilities include covered picnic tables, restrooms, water fountains and a playground. There are also numerous things to see walking around the Veteran’s Home campus, such as beautiful fountains, the Eternal Flame monument, Tanks and Helicopters and statues. Be sure to visit the All Wars Museum, and don’t miss the opportunity to talk to your kids about the heroes of past and present wars who fought for our country. The museum hours are Tuesday-Saturday from 9am to 12pm, and from 1 pm to 4pm. Sundays from 1pm-4pm. Guided tours are available for individuals, classes or groups and can be arranged by calling 222-8641, ext 338.
The year was 1988, and the bike was purple with unicorns dancing up rainbows on the bars. It was exactly as you imagine it. My mom stood beaming next to the streamer-clad handlebars, and my dad had a socket wrench in his hand and the proud and exhausted look of someone who thought that bike assembly would be much easier than it was. A Bike Birthday is one a kid never forgets. I think that year I rode every free moment, just to get the whoosh of wind through my hair when I went down The Big Hill on the Ellington School playground.
The purple bike is long gone now. I’m only a scant 11 months from leaving my twenties behind. But this year, on a chilly February day, I left my driveway on my new bike, and it was 1988 again. I rode down Maine Street from my house that I now own, and I swear I could almost hear my mom yelling to get out of the road and stay to the sides. I might have gotten some strange looks from passersby who would have thought the cold, gray day wasn’t bike weather, but in my mind, it was sunny, my hair was crimped and tied with a big poofy bow, my stirrup pants were tucked into my saddle shoes, my mom was watching, and it was the perfect day for biking.
I went to my first meeting of the Quincy Bike Club on Thursday night. You couldn’t ask for a nicer or more diverse group of people. Some people in the group biked thousands of miles a year, others (like me) had just bought their first bike as an adult. Some were in their twenties, and there was at least one spry septuagenarian sitting among us. As I sat wondering what could bring a group of people that seemed so different
together, a man behind me started recounting one of his rides from last summer. As he discussed the particulars of the trip: road conditions, parking areas, where to fill your water bottle… a big grin spread across his face. And that’s when it kind of hit me. You don’t need Doc Brown and a DeLorean to go back in time. You just need to delight in the moments where you can feel like a kid again. That’s what brings these people together. Each person there had a Bike Birthday once, and each person still reveled in the feeling of wind rushing through his or her hair.
As for me, if you see me out riding, don’t worry. I’ll come back to the future when I’m through.
(The photos above are from July 1990. By this time, my sister Brandi (4) has inherited my old purple bike, my brother Chris (6) is on the blue bike, and I’m 8, on the pink one.)
If you’re reading my blog, you probably have at least some interest in tales of adventure, so I thought today I’d share 3 book recommendations that will set your feet in motion and give you new appreciation for the outdoors!
The Savage Summit, by Jennifer Jordan
This is the story of the first 5 women to summit the infamous mountain known simply as K2. K2 is the vicious next-door neighbor of Mt. Everest, and has the dubious distinction of being 2nd most deadly mountain on earth (behind Annapurna, another neighbor). Standing only a few hundred feet lower than Everest, K2 is deep in the heart of the Karakoram in one of the most desolate and beautiful places on earth. Savage Summit explores the motivations and challenges Wanda Rutkiewicz, Liliane Barrard, Julie Tullis, Chantal Mauduit and Alison Hargreaves all endured to join the elite climbers of 8,000 meter peaks. Jennifer Jordan does an admirable job of chronicling the factors that led each woman up K2, and only sometimes, back down it.
A Walk the Woods, by Bill Bryson
My friend Sarah recently recommended this book to me, and it is one of the most funny, touching, adventuresome pieces of literature I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. A Walk in the Woods follows the true story of author Bill Bryson and his unlikely hiking partner Katz on an ill-planned and entirely underestimated bid to walk the entire 2,100 mile Appalachian trail. Bryson’s deadpan humor combined with cantankerous Katz’s belly-aching make for a smart and surprisingly funny account. I was hooked from page one, and by the end, I either really wanted to go hike the Appalachian Trail, or really wanted to sit on the couch and never see another trail as long as I live. I’m still not sure which!
Help! A Bear is Eating Me! By Mykle Hansen
Friends, for a funny frolic in outdoor-themed fiction, feast on this tasty tale by Mykle Hansen! I was sold on reading it by the title alone. Help! A Bear is Eating Me is a scant 132 pages long, but for Marv Puskin, who is trapped under his SUV and, sure enough, is being eaten by a bear, I imagine 132 pages seemed interminable. The real question in this hilarious (and maybe a little raunchy) story is: do we like Marv enough to even care if he gets eaten, or are we really rooting for Mister Bear?
*The Savage Summit and A Walk in the Woods are available at the Quincy Public Library. I borrowed Help! A Bear is Eating Me from the library as well, through inter-library loan. Ask your friendly librarian!
Siloam Springs State Park used to be like the jean jacket in the back of my closet. I always knew it was there, I just didn’t think I had much use for it. But in the last year, I’ve dusted off the jean jacket and headed out to Quincy’s closest state park for some of the most accessible, most affordable fun a person can have in the Quincy area.
The beautiful 3,323-acre park is an ideal spot for anyone who enjoys the outdoors. The park is perfectly suited to hunting, fishing, camping, boating, picnicking, bird watching, playing on the playground with the kids, or for a great hike. There are no fees, save for hunters or boat rental.
Hiking is my preferred activity at state parks, and Siloam Springs has got everything I need. The trails are all easy to moderate for most hikers, with only a few that present noticeable inclines, and none that risk much in the way of hazards. There is a wide variety of trails, that range from the just under a mile long Old Village Trail to the 4 mile long Red Oak Backpack trail. My most traveled route is a combination of the Deer Run trail (which starts right at the parking lot of the ranger station), to the Hoot Owl Trail (which features the park’s steepest incline, but rewards you with beautiful views over the ridges), and then back up the Old Village trail. This 4 mile loop offers a variety of views, different trees and habitat, a nice spot along the creek to eat a lunch or fossil hunt in the creek bed, and it crosses one of the main park and shelter house areas if you feel like playing on the swing set for a few minutes.
You might think that trail hiking is an activity best saved for warm summer months, but let me give you a few good reasons to get out to
the park sooner than later! First: No bugs yet. No bug spray, no mandatory tick check when you get home, no flies or mosquitoes, and fewer spider webs to stick on your hat. Second: Quiet. You’re not going to run into a bunch of other hikers. Third: Wildlife! Jays, cardinals, deer, hawks and the occasional owl are the winter inhabitants of the park, and the lack of foliage make the viewing that much easier. The red tail hawk calls in the area rang out like bells, and deer moving through the trees are easy to hear and easy to spot.
My day-pack for hiking at Siloam includes a couple bottles of water, a camera, gloves and maybe a sack lunch. In the winter and spring, waterproof shoes are pretty critical, as portions of the trail will be soggy, particularly after snow melt. I also recommend bringing an extra layer of clothes even if the day is nice. Weather can change fast this time of year, and once the sun starts to go down, so will the temperature.
Check the Department of Natural Resource’s website for more information and for directions to the park. http://dnr.state.il.us/lands/landmgt/parks/r4/siloamsp.htm
Stay tuned for my follow up article on why morel mushroom hunting at Siloam Springs is the best part of Spring, but don’t expect to find out where my top-secret-awesome mushroom spot is at the park, because I’m not telling!
I’m addicted to a game on my iPhone. It’s not Angry Birds.
Okay, it’s not only Angry Birds.
It’s called Geocaching, and it’s a great example of technology and adventure working hand in hand. A standard “Geocache” consists of a box or container that has been hidden somewhere in the world. That container holds a log book where the people who find it can write their names and share their thoughts. Some caches hold small items that are meant to be taken and then passed on to the next location. Proper Geocaching etiquette says that when you take an item, you should leave something of equal or greater value in place of anything removed from the cache.
You find a Geocache by going to one of several websites (eg: www.geocaching.com) that list the location of a cache via its latitude and longitude, and you plug that information into a portable GPS device. Or you just download the App. I first got the free “Intro” App for my iPhone, but quickly moved up to the paid version (also available for Droid). It’s really simple to use. You hit the search button and a list will populate with caches near you. Then you hit “Navigate” and a GPS map will pop up, and you follow the map until you reach your destination. Piece of cake, right? Well, kind of.
Caches can be incredibly tricky. Some are in desolate locations. They can be out in the woods, in National Parks, or on top of 14,000 foot tall mountains. They can also be in the parking lot at the mall or stuck to a flagpole at a local bar. To reach some caches, you have to go on a long hike over difficult terrain, but others are handicap accessible. The caches can be as big as five gallon buckets with lots of items in them, while others are the size of marbles with just a tiny strip of paper inside. Many are very well camouflaged and right under your nose every day.
My friends Jessica and Mary and I went out looking for caches for the first time recently, and it was quite an adventure. Following the maps and deciphering the clues makes you feel like a modern day pirate searching for buried treasure. Then combining forces to find the cache itself takes some outside-the-box thinking. One of the caches we found was cleverly designed to look like an electrical outlet. If Jessica hadn’t noticed that the paint color was slightly different than the color on the pole, we would have given up on finding the cache all together.
The most amazing part of Geocaching though, is the sense of being connected to people through the outdoors. My friends and I had a great day finding caches in Quincy and Keokuk. We later logged our finds on the Geocaching.com website and looked at the broader community. There are millions of caches hidden in dozens of countries, and each person who has hidden one wants to show you something about the great outdoors that has importance to them.
My favorite cache of the day was one in Keokuk named, “While the Chief Isn’t Looking.” The cache was a small container hidden in the vicinity of the statue of Chief Keokuk in Rand Park. The cache was simple; just a tube with a log book and a pencil, but the view from the top of the bluff looking out over the Mighty Mississippi was simply breathtaking. Looking out over this inspiring view, and sharing the outdoors with my good friends was a sublime moment, and I can’t wait for our next Geocaching adventure.
If you think of the Mississippi River Flyway as a super-highway for migratory birds, then right now it’s the morning rush hour.
I was feeling a little under the weather this weekend, so a low-key adventure was just what the doctor ordered this Sunday. Some girlfriends and I grabbed our cameras and a pair of binoculars, loaded up the Camry and took to the road for some amazing bird watching.
According to the Audubon website, up to half of North America’s migrating waterfowl and many shore birds use the Mississippi Flyway to navigate between their winter haunts and their summer digs. It’s not hard to see why birds choose this route. As the ice pack breaks its hold on the river, the fish and other food sources become abundant. Also, the river is such an easy marker of North and South for the birds to follow, that it’s like a natural GPS.
The tri-state area is something of a cross roads of the birds this time of year, and it’s not uncommon to see mixed groups of birds sitting out on the water. Sunday we came across a particularly odd “flock” of canvas backed ducks, mallards, seagulls and white pelicans.
Our driving route gave us the best views of birds I could have asked for. We started on the Quincy riverfront and headed north on Bonansinga Drive. We then took a left by Bear Creek (W County Road 1550) and a right up County Road 423 E (this is the first right you see after Bear Creek. Quincy natives will know this as the “Bottom Road.” The road takes you all the way to Warsaw where I can confidently guarantee Canadian Geese sitting along the riverfront. From there, we headed towards the Keokuk Bridge — stopping briefly on the Illinois side by the boat launch for some bald eagle watching, and then we headed over the bridge to the Keokuk riverfront.
Your bird viewing will be different depending on the time of day and your luck, but we saw the following birds all on one Sunday (estimates of numbers where applicable):
- Bald Eagles (12)
- Blue Heron (1)
- Red Tailed Hawks (10)
- Canvas Back Ducks
- Mallard Ducks
- Golden Eye Ducks
- White Pelican Flock
- Turkey Vultures (the biggest flock I’ve ever seen. 100+)
- Wild Turkey (1…what was he doing out there?!)
- Killdeer (2)
- Canadian Geese
- Assorted year-round birds including Common Grackle, Cardinals, Robins, Sparrows, Doves, Seagulls
Hello, I’m Laura Sievert, and I’m new to The Local Q and the “Get Out” blog. (Read my bio here.) The “Get Out” blog is a source for outdoor and active lifestyle articles from here in the region. I’m an enthusiastic and engaged Quincy native, and am excited to share some of my experiences with you.
If I only had time to tell you one thing on this blog, it would be:
Adventure is out there.
Lucky for me, I can tell you lots of things. It is, after all, a blog. So I thought I’d start by explaining a little bit of what I will add to the “Get Out” blog.
What this blog is to me:
I hope it to be a great resource for creative ideas to get out and about in the greater Quincy area. We’re living in an amazing part of the country. There are over 120 State Parks or designated recreational areas in Illinois alone. That’s thousands of acres to explore. There are limestone caves, amazing wildlife, geologic and historic sites, a desert (Yes, a sand and cactus filled desert in Illinois. I’m not kidding.), rivers, lakes, wetlands, prairies, places to climb, hunt, hike, swim and ski. You get the idea. We might not have the Rocky Mountains in our backyard, but we’ve got plenty of great ways to “Get Out” and have an adventure.
“Get Out” will also feature local sports, teams, clubs and activities you may not have heard about. Have you ever heard of Wally Ball? Do you wonder when sign up for sand volleyball starts? Ever thought about joining a bike club? What’s ultimate about a frisbee? I’ve got you covered.
Adventure is not intimidating! You don’t have to be an Olympic-caliber athlete to get out and experience our area. I hope to present lots of options for the adventurous souls of all levels. You can bookmark pages that interest you. Go attend a meeting of a club. Click on links and plan your own trip. Reading about an adventure is good; going out and having an adventure is great!
I very much hope you enjoy this blog. I’m excited to learn and have adventures right along with you. To co-opt a quote from the legendary mountaineer, Sir Edmund Hillary: “Why ‘Get Out’ and explore our area? Because it’s there.”