Starting with the weather, the most pleasant surprise of 2012 around here. Today's temperatures shot up to 88oF (31oC), shattering the 1938 record of 77oF (25oC), and the eigth straight day of record temperatures. Still some local differences due to that huge lake at the end of our street; the surface area of Lake Michigan is about twice that of the Netherlands, and the water still is friggin' cold. So this afternoon it was 20oF (10oC) cooler at our front door compared to just 3 miles inland, but still very, very pleasant.
The warm weather has woken up both flora and fauna, with splendid white blooming magnolias, mellow yellow strings swinging casually from willow trees and splashes of bright yellow forsythias and daffodils. Birds are enjoying this unusual surprise as well, and are singing their lungs out. To provide some idea of this craziness, take a look at the peony buds shooting up over 20 centimeters just five days after the last posted picture (see Macro Spring). No need for a macro lens anymore........
To make better use of the great weather, GABROEN bought a nice Cannondale commuter bike last weekend. Gabri's is on order and will come in in a few weeks, but the great family-owned local bike shop Alberto's actually delivered mine on Saturday. So we checked out the ride to the office on Saturday, and I have been riding the 8.5 mile route both on Monday and Tuesday. Over 6 miles is on a separate bike path - thank you, Illinois Department of Transportation - and it sure is a nice path.
So far none of these rides have been uneventful. On Saturday, Saint Patrick's Day, we found a drunk celebrator shouting things at Gabri that are not fit for repeating here - we believe he wanted to make a point that she was not wearing the traditional Irish green. Coming back from work on Monday afternoon I took a wrong turn and found out that "NO OUTLET" signs are there for a reason. And Tuesday I was the hero of three 11-year olds out on the bike path as well, with one of the them having her bike chain come off. To their credit, they were far from shy asking for my help, and far from getting their hands dirty. So two very greasy hands did get the chain back on, but the only thing they missed was that the bike was set in a different gear than where she had replaced the chain. I looked at the bike for 3 seconds, switched to the correct gear and she was good to go. "Omigoh, omigoh. How did you do that? Omigoh, you're like a bike magician!"
So there you have it: the connection between continued record breaking weather, exploding spring colors, a new way of commuting and the birth of a chain whisperer. Now how do the Illinois primary elections yesterday fit in? Well, I don't want to make GABROEN a ranting blog about politics, but I would have much preferred to say that the Republican presidential candidates had the Illinois heat going up to their heads and were only temporarily blurting out idiocies. Unfortunately that doesn't seem to be the case - they are outperforming the eight days of warm weather with months of campaigning with bizarre quotes. Suffice it to sum up all that craziness with Rick Sanatorium getting the Dutch up in arms when he claimed that seniors are en masse fleeing The Netherlands because they are afraid of being euthanized in hospitals for budgetary reasons and the ones that stay wear "don't euthanize me" wristbands. I would never think i would say this, but it sounds to me like Sarah Palin indeed knew more about foreign policy than the good ol' boys running for this year's Republican nomination because she could "see Russia" when she was out in Alaska shooting moose from a helicopter.
I'll just keep my fingers crossed that today's beautiful sunset over Obama's home state Illinois is not a symbol for an end of his era..........
GABROEN on behalf of a ranting Jeroen