Gorgeous Galena

I woke up this morning feeling great; no soreness at all from yesterday’s 2,000 yard butterfly.  But, I truly am a Butternut; I am watching the Women’s 100 meter butterfly preliminary heats of the Olympic Trials, on live streaming, split screen, while I am writing this post.

Our arrival day in Crystal Lake was a relaxing and enjoyable one.  After a wonderful lunch in downtown Crystal Lake and a stop at Trader Joe’s (love, love, LOVE!), so Laura could shop for dinner groceries, I got in a much-needed and much-craved-for swim workout.  Jeannie had recently treated Wayne to a membership at an amazing fitness club (http://www.healthbridgefitness.com) and got me in on a guest pass.  I should have brought my camera; this place was phenomenal!

Laura, a gourmet cook, treated us that evening to one of Wayne’s favorites:  Spaghetti and meatballs.  It was Father’s Day, after all!

The following day, we were off to Galena (www.galena.org ).  Laura had told me what a gorgeous and charming place Galena was.  I figured it had to be, to warrant 2 ½ hours of driving each way.  Wayne likes to drive; especially his new Ford Fusion Hybrid.  But, this place must be outstanding to make that kind of drive for a DAY TRIP worthwhile.  It was.

Galena was love at first sight.  Actually, I was already in love before we got there, because the drive through the countryside was so beautiful; much like New Zealand.  It was so green, and, as we drove further north, there were rolling hills dotted with farms that included those classic red barns you see in coffee table books and wall calendars.

Having never been to the Midwest (I had visited 21 states; mostly around the coasts and southern border, but nowhere in the Midwest), I only had a preconceived image in my mind of what the perfect Midwestern town would look like.  This was it.  Check out this photo on the cover of “The Galenian”:  http://galenianonline.com/main.asp?sectionid=2&subsectionid=31 . I could easily imagine spending a month there with Bruce (during the best weather, of course) staying in a rented cottage and spending our days kayaking on the river or exploring the surrounding areas.









Spending the day in Galena was fabulous, though.  After a delightful lunch at Golden Hen Café (http://www.goldenhencafe.com ), we browsed the shops lining the main street of downtown.  Laura and I both splurged at Galena Garlic Company (www.galenagarlic.com), falling in love with their incredible aged balsamics.  We each ordered bottles to be shipped to our home; I couldn’t resist the Wild Blueberry Balsamic, Mango Balsamic, and Cinnamon Pear Balsamic.  These flavors, as well as about 25 others were available for tasting and we tasted many of them- straight.  Honestly, these were good enough to sip straight!  It was almost impossible to resist so many of the other flavors; coconut being one of them.  Maybe next time…

(Look at the above photo carefully…  What’s wrong with this picture???)


Our plan was to have dinner at One Eleven Main (http://www.oneelevenmain.com) , but we had plenty of time to enjoy before then.  So, Wayne took us to the West Street Sculpture Park (www.weststreetsculpturepark.com) ; an interesting collection of found object sculptures created by John Martinson.  I will let the pictures speak for themselves…





Questioning Wayne about the location of Galena, in relation to Wisconsin and Iowa, led to something I never expected; a drive to state #23 on my list:  Iowa!  It was just a 20 minute drive away to see the northernmost section of the Mississippi and Iowa, so off we went!  We drove through more beautiful countryside, before continuing by bridge over the Mississippi River into Dubuque, Iowa.  Just over the bridge, a short drive, was Riverwalk; a beautifully landscaped coastal sidewalk along the river.  There was even a small beach I could walk down to, so I could stick my finger in the Mississippi River water.  I was in Iowa and the Mississippi River!  (Well, sort of; they didn’t allow swimming or wading…)




We returned to downtown Galena to enjoy a delicious dinner at One Eleven Main.  I chose the totally decadent dish of Gnocchi with spinach, onions, mushrooms (extra; hold the bacon), cream, and Romano.  Delicious and definitely decadent!

The drive back to Crystal Lake, during the golden light of sunset, could not have been more beautiful.

The farms I had enjoyed on the drive in now took on a golden hue and they just sparkled.  And, to our surprise and delight, after it got dark, something else sparkled (or sparked!), as well:  Fireflies!

I had only seen one firefly before; out on our community golf course, after picking wild blackberries.  (Shhhh, don’t tell anybody; we weren’t supposed to be out there!)  And, let me tell you what a delight that was!

Being a Southern California girl, I had never seen real fireflies before.  My only exposure to “fireflies” was the fake ones at Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean ride.  And, honestly, I thought those were fakes, as in, FAKE.  Yes, of course they were fake, but I thought the entire idea of fireflies lighting up like that was fake!  I didn’t think they did that!

So, our visit to Crystal Lake and Galena ended in the most spectacular way; driving by fields of fireflies putting on a show for us.  It was the perfect end to a wonderful visit; just like the fireworks show that concluded our visit to Chicago.  And, the flight home was no less beautiful…


P.S.  Thank you for joining me on this journey; I have appreciated your kind comments!  If you would like to see more photos from this trip, view the last album at:  www.ExquisiteCards.Fototime.com

Until November, I will be staying fairly close to home; just a short trip to Greenville, SC, to swim in the USMS Dixie Zone Championships.  But, don’t be surprised if I pop in now and again with posts on past travels that have yet to appear in my blog!

I am Definitely a ButterNUT!

Before I fill you in on what happened at the pool today, it occurred to me that you deserve my THANKS(!!!) for reading my blog.  Surely, I have worn out your patience by now…  And, surely, you must be wondering when I am ever going to get back to Illinois in my blog!  Soon.  Really.  I promise.

But, first, I would like to share an e-mail I received from Sally, the owner of Gold Coast Guest House B&B ( www.bbchicago.com ):

Wow, Elaine…..you are so talented!

Between the gorgeous photos & the copy…you should TEACH blogging.

With your permission, I would like to forward it to the Chicago Tourism Bureau. (they send me Travel Writers & other Media people).

I think they would enjoy the photos & commentary.

Thanks again to you & Laura for choosing the Gold Coast Guest House & for your nice comments in your blog.

42 years shows a wonderful friendship!

Warm regards,


Sally’s e-mail made my day!  I have greatly appreciated the comments you all have sent via e-mail or on this blog, but, you are my friends and family; perhaps a bit subjective in your assessment.  But, this one came from somebody who barely knows me.  It really made me feel that perhaps you weren’t just being subjective after all.

So, off to the pool I went, feeling jazzed about Sally’s comments; just the extra spark I needed to inspire me to… fly. 

For those who don’t swim, butterfly is more commonly known as “fly” to those of us who compete in swimming.  And, it is known as the most demanding stroke; especially racing it at the 200 meter distance.  But, that was definitely not what I did today.  Endurance fly is a completely different animal (insect?) than racing the stroke.  It’s slow-going; keep the kick easy and the glide long.  And, breathe every stroke; a necessity to survive swimming butterfly for any distance.

So, today, I set out to break my personal best of swimming 900 yards of fly non-stop; a mark I hit two weeks ago, after I realized I really could swim 200 yards of the stroke and perhaps race it someday.  This time, I placed the camera on a tripod, so Bruce wouldn’t have to hold it for 20 (or more…) minutes.  And, this time, I gave him my dive slate, so he could keep track of my yardage for me; something I neglected to do last time.  (If I had known it was 900 yards, do you think I would have stopped there with only four laps to go to make it to 1,000?  It was only after viewing the video that I realized I came up short.  But, I was still ecstatic at having made 200 yards, so what the heck?)

The camera started and off I went, keeping a watch on deck for a quick look, now and then.  The first 200 yards was a bear, but once I got over that hump, it was starting to feel good.  When I hit the 900 yard mark, I took a quick look at the watch:  20:00; thirty seconds quicker than last time.  Cool!  Only four more laps to go to make it to 1,000!

Little did I know, shortly after the 1,000 mark, the camera decided to stop recording and write to the memory card, instead.  Perhaps the file got too big?  But, Bruce started the camera up, again, a few strokes down the pool.  So, I have two videos of my swim;

Part 1: http://youtu.be/4PJouksr3wI

Part2: http://youtu.be/BfKKZa3uUYM

The camera on the wall was keeping track of my swim, too, though, and the time stamp on my videos was, as well; just in case you have any doubts about me actually doing this.  Besides, Bruce was my witness!  And, we all know what an angel he is, right?

At this point, I decided to keep on going, because I still felt good; no pain in the shoulders and plenty of energy left in the tank.  Maybe I could make it to 1650 yards (known as “The Mile” in swimming competition)?  Yes, I could- and, I did!  From what I can tell between the two videos, I reached the mile in 37:39; slow, for sure.  But, I did it!  And, I kept on going…

At the 2,000 yard mark, I saw two legs right in front of me on deck, just as I touched the wall.  Uhhh-ohhhh!  Bruce came over to tell me the memory card was full and stopped after 1,825 yards.  @*#%!!!  Yes, I really did say it.  Loudly.  (I hope the kids at the outdoor pool didn’t hear that nasty word.)  But, I could have kicked myself in the *&@ (butt) for not having my larger memory card in my camera. So, feeling like the butter was taken from my fly, I quit.  I know I could have kept going, too.  I was feeling goooood!  And, as I sit writing this post, I am not even feeling sore.

When Dr. Braun, the surgeon who operated on my shoulder read that I had swum 900 yards butterfly, he sent an e-mail with this reply:


Amazing!!! When I want to go 900 yards//// I take the car!

Dick Braun”

I wonder what he’ll say about me swimming 2,000 yards of fly… Surely, he is thinking I am a NUT.  And, yes, he would be right.  Officially, I am a “Butternut”, qualifying as a swimmer who has swum 500 yards of butterfly (or more) continuously.  This is my t-shirt:

Butternut T-Shirt.JPG

And, with that, I now leave this loooong post, once again, nowhere near Crystal Lake (or anywhere else in Illinois).

Soon.  I promise.  Soon.