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Brian Fleck

On the road again

Walkin'

This year’s ride started as planned Thursday morning. After winding our way through the familiar streets and trails of Iowa City we soon found ourselves on Black Diamond Road, a remote ribbon of tar going from nowhere to no place. Sometimes I wonder why I love cycling but rolling quietly over roads like the Black Diamond brings it all back. It’s the sun on your back, the forgotten cemetery you would have missed if in a car, the smell of clover, the time to remember and reflect while you inch your way along… At mile 16 we arrived at the KTZ’s Roadhouse in Windham.

Boulder nuts

Walkin'

Sabra and I recently returned from a trip to Colorado where we ran into a shocking development.
No, I’m not talking about legalized recreational marijuana… yet. I’m talking about brunch. It seems people in the Centennial State rarely eat breakfast or lunch these days but have instead opted to go with brunch.

Beef Days beeristory

Walkin'

The first Solon Beef Days I attended was in the early 1980s.
Back then, the entire city was an open container zone during the celebration. People came and went from the beer tent and the half dozen taverns in town with cup in hand. Individuals also hauled in their own coolers bringing in more beer and liquor. People around town, myself included, scheduled family reunions and parties to coincide with the festival and often tapped a keg or two.

Alas, poor Bobby

Walkin'

So if brother Bob floated up dead in the lake at the bucolic Bender’s Fishing Camp, who would be the prime murder suspect? I can imagine creating a case for any one of several dozen defendants as the actual killer.

To prank or not to prank

Walkin'

A reoccurring theme at Bender’s Fishing Camp is the prank.
Someone, for example, put four big catfish in our live well. The hoax is extra-impressive when one considers that while almost every game or pan fish available in area waters– northern, muskie, bass, walleye, perch, blue gill, crappie– the lowly catfish is not on the list. Did someone actually import the fish just to play a prank?

And the murder mystery continues . . .

Walkin'

Besides the folksy crew that runs Bender’s, there’s a small sect of people making an annual pilgrimage to the fishing Mecca. They’ve been returning to the same spot on the same week for decades to commune with nature in the rustic setting and fish, fish, fish. Little Bro Bob has given nicknames to most of them:

Some beach, somewhere

Food for Thought

Besides the cast of interesting characters running the Bender’s Fishing Camp, I arrived with two of my favorite Chicago fishing pals: brother Bob and his friend Rob, aka Gonzo.

A wink from Amtrak

“I’m sorry, Ma’am,” the overly officious clerk told Sabra, “but I can’t let you on the train with that ID.” The train was the Southwest Chief, run by Amtrak between Chicago and Los Angeles.

Wings and more wings

Walkin'

No remembrance of hot wings can be complete without a nod to Buffalo Wild Wings (BWW). It started in 1981 when a James Disbrow moved from wing Mecca (Buffalo, New York) to an abyss (Kent, Ohio). Unable to find a decent wing in the Buckeye State, he decided to open his own restaurant. One thing led to another, and today there are more than a thousand locations with a half-billion dollars in assets.

The wing revolution

Walkin'

It is the height of culinary art, pure dining perfection: the hot wing.
Wikipedia fills in the details on how these little limbs of bliss originated in Buffalo, New York, at a place called the Anchor Bar. Although accounts vary, the basic story is the same. Owner Teressa Bellisimo created the first hot wings in a commercial setting sometime in the late 1960s on a whim to use up a surplus of chicken wings. The wings were fried in oil and then coated with a mixture of butter and Frank’s Red Hot Sauce.

The patented horse shot

Walkin'

Softball was the sport of choice during the long summers of my youth.
We played it Chicago-style, in the street with a 16-inch (in circumference) ball, a size favored in the greater Windy City area. I don’t believe anyone in the entire neighborhood actually bought and owned a new ball or bat. Instead we used old balls, soft as pillows, and cracked wooden bats, pockmarked from hitting rocks and held together with duct tape.

Bullies I’ve known

Walkin'

Until third grade, I had the protection of my older brothers from bullies. In 1960, however, they were both off to junior high and I walked the 1.8 miles to Jonas Salk Elementary School alone.