August 5, 2010

In and Out of the Quad Cities

Gail and Toni 2

Contributed by Gail McPike and Toni Hall

There ain’t no cure for the Summer Time Blues…. So says Eddie Cochran, a rock and roll pioneer.

We’ve got those low down, mean ole’ dog day summer time blues. Ever since Eddie Cochran penned that song way back in 1958, it has carried some special meaning for us. Summer is jubilant. Summer is carefree. Summer is casual. Summer is friends, activities and lazy nights on the deck. But summer is too short. We decided yesterday, when we rule the world – our first command will be for an extra month of summer. As you read this the count down to Labor Day is underway. For us that
weekend marks the official start of autumn. If only we could cram a bit more into the summer season…

The IH Mississippi Valley Blues Festival
Speaking of the Blues; we along with thousands and thousands of others made it to the easiest Blues Festival in America. A half million people of our generation made it to that big show in Woodstock. (We didn’t go, but we watched the movie twice so we consider ourselves experts.) Unlike our music festival, the people at Woodstock had lots of hassles. They had to walk miles just to get there. The grounds were muddy, the restrooms were dirty, and they ran out of food early in the weekend. We, on the other hand, had plenty of parking, food aplenty and some of the cleanest porta-potties (if there is such a thing) in the entire western world.

On Friday we journeyed down to the river front to watch two great acts. The first act was Shirley King, the daughter of the legendary B.B. King. A point of trivia for you – her daddy BB is 84 and still playing concerts all over the world. Shirley is our age (born in 1949), and she packs the musical energy of a 30 year old. But the energy that Shirley carts around is just a drop in the bucket compared to the second act – Little Ed and the Blues Imperials.

Little Ed is one of the last of the real deal Chicago Blues guitar showoffs. He can play guitar behind his back, over his shoulder and it is reported he can play while standing on his head. We can’t attest to the inverted head stand part – but we got a real thrill when Little Ed jumped down from the stage and played guitar as he walked around in the crowd. At one point he stood next to your blues suffering Toni. We didn’t see anything that exciting on the Woodstock Movie.

Saturday the Blues Fest featured Red, White and Boom. Sandwiched between a dozen or so hot blues acts came the QC Symphony’s 4th of July Concert and one of the biggest fireworks show we’ve seen in a very long time. The crowd on the Davenport and Rock Island River Front had to be pushing 30,000 people. It was touchingly patriot. But firecracker finale wasn’t the end of the night.

Saturday ended with a foot stomping session of Louisiana-style Zydeco. Rosie Ledett is the crown princess of South Louisiana Swamp Music. She’s a button-pushing, rock-n-roll accordion grandma like none you’ve seen. Rosie comes to the QC for various shows a couple of times a year. If you have a chance, you’ve got to see her. As they say down New Orleans way – Laissez les bons temps rouler (Let the good times roll)!

Mary had a little lamb, wonder what she did with the wool?
We traveled to Midwest Fiber and Folk Art Fair on July 16th at the Lake County Fairgrounds in Grayslake, Illinois. Fiber translates into wool, wool equals yarn and yarn, well you know, we love to knit. Grayslake is north of Chicago and just a smidgeon south of the Wisconsin state line.

Once more we find ourselves being drawn to wool and fibers in a quest to learn more about yarn. Maybe it’s a journey. It could be our personal “Roots moment”, Gail at least claims to be Scotch Irish. And the highlands of those countries are home to more sheep than people, but we digress. We were amazed at the information flowing at this event and the massive selection of fleece, yarn and other goodies.

For those of you who are fiber deprived, did you know each breed of sheep is known for their own special wool? Some is good for socks, some for sweaters and some of it isn’t much good for anything. But then again mutton has to come from somewhere.

We also saw some angora rabbits. Imagine this – a lady sitting down at a spinning wheel. Beside her is a fluffy cute bunny about the size of a large cat. The spinner combs the bunny and pulls away with a handful of loose fur. Instead of throwing it away, like we do when our dogs shed, she spins it into the softest angora yarn. So now, as Paul Harvey would say, “You know the rest of the story.”

We are so happy that there are many of these events in our area. We are planning to go to the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival in September and will be following other events into the winter. We are contemplating a winter knitting retreat – anyone interested can drop us a line at .

Music in the parks
You can almost picture life back when times were simple – back before TV, cars and all things modern, like air conditioning. During those “good old days” people spent their summers outside. Porches became living areas. Shade trees were gathering spots. And communities
gathered in the early evening hours to enjoy music at the local park.

We relived that tradition at Lincoln Park in Rock Island where we traveled to see a free concert by the Riverboat Five. It was presented by the park district on Tuesday, June 29th. There was food available and lots of music and dancing. The night before, Toni and her hubby Phil saw the group Coupe de Ville at Stephens Square at the Moline Activity Center. It, too, was free and presented by the park district, plenty of great music and dancing. All four of our park districts have great summer programs including free concerts and entertainment. Check them out on the web or in the papers. Who knows you may see us cutting a rug like Fred and Ginger.

And the Theater, too
You know we love live theater productions and we were hitting it hard again. On Saturday, July 10th, we made one of our road trips to Des Moines to see Jersey Boys at the Civic Center. It was spectacular. We would see it again today if we could and we recommend it highly. We also saw the production of Oklahoma by the Countryside Community Theater at North Scott High School. We try to attend one or both of their production every summer. There are many of these local production companies and we hope that you are out and about to see some of them.
Coming Attractions… and our quest

August is upon us and there is still much to do. It is Fair time. First we will have the Mississippi Valley Fair and then the Iowa State Fair. (Our State Fair is the best state fair.) We are planning to attend. There will be the River Roots festival on the river and many other exciting events.

King Arthur’s young Percival touched the Holy Grail as a boy and through his immaturity fails to realize the importance of the moment. Later in life, Percival’s very existence as a Knight of the Round Table centered on re-finding that same great goblet – it was his Quest.

We too have a quest (with a small q). The quest for the best burger deal in the Quad-Cities fills our minds. It was our trip to the infamous Bill’s Toasty Shop of Taylorville, IL that started the conversation. Where are the good hamburgers in the QCA? Hubby Frank always a buzz kill said, “You can get a pretty good hamburger anywhere if you have money, but it takes skill to find a good one on the cheap.” (Writer’s note: Frank is the cheapest man alive today.)

Here is a short report from our quest: Rookies on Brady Street has burgers for a buck on Wednesday night, Bent River Brewing Company has burger baskets for a mere 3 dollars on Tuesday and Symposium has a burger basket deal for a deuce (but you need not pay with a 2 dollar bill). Now we ask you, we implore you, and Frank begs you; send us a tip on the best cheap burger in the QCA. is our email address and finding a great burger for a buck is our quest.