Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Off to See the Eagles-- Day 1: Driving McBytes and McLincoln

We left to go see those magnificent birds with their perpetual attitude problems (ever seen a bald eagle that doesn't look mad about something?) on Monday.

Drove Illinois highways 120, 47, 176 and 23 to US-20 in Marengo, Illinois. then west. Stopped in Marengo at McDonald's for a bite to eat and tried out their new chicken McBytes that lived up to expectations. As Andy Griffith would say, "G-o-o-o-o-d."

Next stop was that really nice Stevenson County/Freeport Visitors Center just east of town on US-20 (the US Grant Highway). Good place for a bathroom break, plus information, plus a bit of local history. This year they feature the Lincoln-Douglas Debate that took place in town back in 1858. I wrote about this today on my Cooter's History Thing Blog.

Then, it was driving on one of the most beautiful stretches of highway anywhere, US-20 west of Freeport. Those who think Illinois is all flat should cruise this. First you have your roller coaster road (up and down) and then your striking valley vistas as the road runs along a ridge.

Once past Stockton, with its hard-at-work bears in the gazebo, it especially gets to be striking. Then, there's that little Elizabeth town and the final drive into Galena.

More to Come. --RoadDog

Monday, February 27, 2012

Off to See the Eagles

We're off later today to see those bald eagles out along the Mississippi River.

We're not expecting see see many, perhaps even none because of the warm winter we've been having. But, even if we see just one, the trip will be a success. Then, there are all the places we like to go between Dubuque, Iowa and the Quad Cities.

Dinner at the Log Cabin in Galena, Illinois.

Here's Hoping. --RoadDog

"The Cherry Street Inn" Is Now the Royal Victorian Manor B&B

From the Feb. 2nd Northwest Herald.

In March 2008 airline pilot Everton Martin and wife Karla Stewart-Martin bought the old home after doing an extensive search for a B&B to run. They saw the place and immediately knew this was what they wanted., naming it the Royal Victorian Manor. Personally, I would have liked to see the name Cherry Street Inn, but that would probably cause problems with the movie theater.

They converted the home, which had also been used as a convalescent residence and opened in June 2010. They have five suites ranging in price from $125 to $175. They live on the third floor in former attic space. The common area is on the first floor.

http://www.royalvictorianmanor.com/

Marty Rachford, written about in an earlier entry on the place, was one of the people remodeling his old home. He reroofed it and returned a spire that he and his brother had been removed when they sold the place in 1988.

A new white picket fence and entry way also was put up. The ones from the movie had been removed after the filming, so the place looks more like it did in the movie.

Obviously, the Martins were booked solid during the recent Groundhog Day celebration.

The movie made its producers $70.9 million in 1993 when it was released.

I'll Have to Save My Dough and Stay There Sometime. --RoadDog

Saturday, February 25, 2012

About the "Cherry Street Inn" from the Movie "Groundhog Day"

This would be the Bed & Breakfast where Phil Connor, the Pittsburgh weatherman spent all those "stuck" days while he was learning to be a good person.

Phil wakes up everyday to "I Got You Babe" and the wacky deejays talking about the weather, cold and predicted snow. Everyday he battles that alarm clock and looks out the window at the snowless street and is condemned to repeat the day, which can be different until the end. Finally, he looks out after becoming a "good guy" and sees snow. Actually, this was the very first scene filmed and that is real snow, the only real snow they had during filming. The rest of the time, it was ice ground up and placed in patches around town and the square.

The movie didn't win many awards when released, even so, it has become an American film classic. And, it has become Woodstock's movie.

One realtor, Rick Belairs, was an extra and still uses the film when showing prospective buyers around homes for sale in Woodstock.

The home was built in 1894 by Woodstock judge J.P. Barnes. Marty Rachford had an eleven-year old brother die in the house when his family lived there and they had his wake in the house. Families living in it after his family sold the place would always call Marty if anything went wrong because he knew the place so well.

Next, New Owners and a Real B&B. --RoadDog

Friday, February 24, 2012

About That "Cherry Street Inn" B&B Where Bill Murray Stayed in the Movie "Groundhog Day"-- Part 1

From the Feb. 2, 2012 Northwest Herald "Famous houseoverlooks Groundhog Day festivities" by Jerry Kuyper.

At one time it was a family home before being cast" in the famous "Groundhog Day" movie as a B&B. Today, it is actually a B&B, a great new role for it. Liz and I aren't big on B&Bs, partly because they are so expensive, but, this is one I would definitely consider staying at, if for no other reason than to look out that window down the street that Bill Murray's character did day after day. The view is the same, but the room was actually at a stage set in nearby Crystal Lake, Illinois.

Marty Rachford sure remembers the house. He grew up there and used to earn extra money helping Kenny DeVries do repair work at the place in the 1960s. One day he was complaining that he sure didn't want to do construction work for the rest of his life and DeVries told him that you never know what you'll end up doing.

Today, Rachford owns Marty's Alpine Construction in Woodstock.

That house he worked on at 344 Fremont Street is where his mother and father (Kady and Fred) raised a family of eight from 1961 to 1988.

Today, the three-story home with attic, wrap-around porch, cupola and white picket fence is better known as the Groundhog Day House.

More to Come. --RoadDog

Thursday, February 23, 2012

NTN Cruising This Past January-- Part 2

We went to two more NTN sites in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.


SIDELINES

There could not have been a possible vehicle in the whole state of Mississippi that wasn't out driving and getting in our way as we drove to this place after leaving the BW3. This is your typical small strip mall sports joint with high ceilings and lots of TVs.

No one else was playing as the place was really quite dead except for one other customer. Exceptionally friendly bartender and cook.


CORNER SPORTS BAR

Good-sized crowd at this place considerably south of Hattiesburg and near some sort of a military installation. Unfriendly though and especially the bartender. No one playing the game. Definitely a place we would not go back to.

We then drove into Mobile and got our room for the next three days. There are several NTN sites in town, but we had already been to them. We did play at Baumhower's where we first experienced that high-pitched Red Wolf Howl that Arkansas State fans give each other. In addition, the University of Arkansas was playing a bowl game, so we got to hear the pig sounds their fans make. I tell you, it was a real animal experience.

A-Ohhhhhhh! A-Ohhhhhhhh! or Whatever the Sound Is That Wolves Howl. --RoadDog

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Lake County's Discovery Museum/Curt Teich Postcards

Lake County, Illinois.

Located in Wauconda, this is one of your local museums that is based on giving folks an interactive experience. I will be writing about their Civil War High Tech exhibit in my Saw the Elephant Civil War Blog. Unfortunately it is not there any more, hopefully with the technology hands on part of it going to some other local museum.

The museum is set in the beautiful Lake Wood Forest Preserve.

Definitely a highlight for any roadie would be the Curt Teich postcard collection. This company was a major producer of post cards back in the 1900s and the collection was turned over in tact to the museum. Just the place to find what things looked like in the past.

Worth a Visit. --RoadDog

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

NTN Cruising This Past January-- Part 1

Whenever Liz and I are on vacation, we make it a point to stop at new NTN places whenever we can.

We ended up going to ten new sites in Illinois, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida this past trip to the Gulf Coast. Sadly, we were the only ones playing in all but one place.



THIRD BASE-- SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOIS, Jan. 4th.

We've been to all Springfield sites, except this one that just got it recently. It was kind of hard to find it, southwest of the downtown. The first thing we noticed was that there are hardly any places to sit in it. Friendly people, though and found out it is more of a late night, younger crowd joint. The place gets crowded and that is why there are so few seats.

Judging by the low scores, not many people play, but it was early in the month.



Next, we hit all three places listed as being in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

BUFFALO WILD WINGS-- HATTIESBURG, MISSISSIPPI Jan. 6th

We hit all three places in the afternoon and this was a rare BW3 (what us old-timers called Buffalo Wild Wings, in the early days called Buffalo Wild Wings & Weck, hence the w3. Here we are in the heart of Brett Favre land, University of Southern Mississippi.

Friendly bartender and this was a rare time when no one else was playing. Usually, there is at least one person playing in BW3s, even if it is just the poker game.

Always really love spending $5 for soft drinks at these places just for the two of us, especially when we aren't going to get refills. then, there's the buck tip.

I don't know if I've ever been anywhere with more traffic than here in Hattiesburg.

Eight More to Come. --RoadDog

Monday, February 20, 2012

Sorry to See King Tower Cafe Closed

From the July 7, 2011 Tama (Iowa) News Herald "King Tower Cafe is closed."

I read about this in the Summer 2012 Lincoln Highway Forum and then went to the local paper for more information. We've stopped here several times and it was a highlight of eating experiences along the old Lincoln Highway. Good prices, great food and lots of friendly locals. So hearing this made us glad we had and, of course, we're hoping the place reopens.

Just the neat Indian head neon sign outside is enough to get any self-respecting roadie to pull over.

King's Tower Cafe, on Tama's east side was found to have a notice on the door saying the place was closed because of the US-30 expressway bypass that took a lot of business away.

Wes and Irene Mansfield opened it in 1939 and it originally was called King Tower One Stop because it had a service station, truck stop, tourist cabins, a mobile home park, wrecker service and 24-hour cafe.

Several other businesses along the old US-30 also have gone out of business because of the new by-pass.

It's the Same Old Story. --RoadDog

Spotted on One One of Our Recent Travels

Especially had a chuckle on this teeshirt, "Please Don't Give This Man Any Beer. Signed, His Spouse."

Liz threatened to get me one of these, but I kindly declined.

And, speaking of beer, we hit five local bars over the weekend.

FRIDAY

It was Happy Hour (well, not here in Illinois where it was illegal, but the time is about what used to be the old HH time) at Dry Dock (the old Kokomo's and before that Fringe Benefits where I used to deejay regularly back in the day). Domestic bottles were $1.50.

Then, on to the Route 12 Bar on US-12 in Fox Lake for one of the best $4 third-pound Black Angus burgers and fries you're going to find anywhere and $3.00 23-oz. drafts. Joined by friends Kevin and Kelly.

SATURDAY

Mardi Gras Party at Captain's Quarters with LTJ (Lap Top Jockey) and band Rhythm Kings. Met friends Sue, Paul and Kristina. Enjoyed that $4 Johnsonville brat and fries and $2.50 Coronas. Got my beads.

SUNDAY

Terry Spizzirri and Gregg performing at AJ's Horsin' Around in Round Lake Park in the afternoon and a stop at Squaw Bar for Paul's 57th birthday.

Hey, tune in WXRT tonight at 9 PM CST for Tom Marker's Bluesbreakers Show, tonight called Lundi Gras in honor of tomorrow. Nothing but music from Nawlins and Louisianne!!

Always Good Times in the Area. --RoadDog

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Liz Helped. Blogger Did Nothing.

I'd still be up the creek without a paddle had it not been for wife Liz who, after three hours figured out what the good Google folks had done. Probably that second Tuesday thing.

Hey, this is an outstanding place to put your blogs, but come on. You goof it up, admit to it and fix it without us having to go through the wringer. Had it been me figuring it out, it wouldn't have happened. I AM NOT ANY GOOD at figuring out new stuff.

All blogger would say was that they no longer supported my browser. After awhile, I figured out what my browser was (well, Liz did). That gives you an idea how successful I would have been at figuring out what happened.

You Must help Us Inept. --RoadDog

No Soup for Me, At Least for Awhile. That Means No Blog Entries

Blogger says it no longer supports my browser.  They didn't say why.  Anyway, it is very hard to access anything on the usual computer I use.  I'm doing thiis on another which seems to work alright, at least for now.

I sure would like to know why I lost their support.

Oh. well. I have lots of other things I can do.

Bye for Now.  --RoadDog

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Filming of the "Groundhog Day" Movie: Part 4

Usually, you will find famed McHenry County resident Jim May telling groundhog stories and stories about early life in the county. 

Rick Bellairs was an extra back in 1992 and says many of the people you see in the scenes are locals.  He can be seen in the crowd scenes on the square (Gobbler;s Knob) and in the scene where Bill Murray's character catches the boy falling from the tree.  His car appears in the scene where Murray takes money from the bank truck (perhaps the one that drove by).

Bellairs is now a realtor, but at the time was between jobs and went in for a casting call.  He said extras had to be available daily, wearing the same clothes in the same spot repeatedly as Murray's character repeated many events in the film.

"I can spot myself, but don't blink," he says. 

He went on to appear as an extra in other films like "Sleepless in Seattle" and "Hoffa."

The History of the Filming.  --RoadDog

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Filming of "Groundhog Day" Movie-- Part 3: Bringing It Home

Why was the movie filmed in Woodstock, Illinois,  instead of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania?  Hey, those folks are still mad about it (and I don't blame them).  If I lived there, I probably never would have watched the movie.

Harold Ramis and his scouting team went all over the Midwest looking for possible locations.  Many involved with the movie were from the Chicago area and wanted to keep it close to home, but they went as far away as Iowa and were particularly interested in Mineral Point, Wisconsin.  At this time they were thinking of a main street town, one where the business district is located along one street like Punxsutawney.

A stop in Baraboo, Wisconsin, on their way back impressed them with the town square.  With Phil Connor being stuck on one day, the idea of an enclosed area like a square fit the general motif.  Harold Ramis wanted to know if there was a town closer to Chicago with a square.  Location manager, Bob Hudgins, knew of a place called Woodstock and they stopped on the way back.  He had previously been involved with shooting scenes for the "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" movie there.

They arrived late in the day in December, just as Woodstock Opera House Director John Scharres was closing.  He opened again for them.  "I gave them the hard sell," Scharres remembers.  "You really don't have an idea of what Woodstock is until you see it from a higher altitude."  And then they went up to the top of the tower.  On the way down, Ramis told Hudgins to make it happen.  It did.

The Opera House ended up in the film as the Pennsylvanian Hotel, where the non-talent Rita and Larry stayed.  Phil Connor was not impressed with it.  The outside is seen many times in the film.  One scene of Rita checking in was cut.

A week was spent turning the building next door (now Stage East) into the fudge shop, shown in the film where Rita hates chocolate.

More to Come.  --RoadDog

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Filming of the "Groundhog Day" Movie-- Part 2: A Fall and a Hog

About that fall from the tower.

There was one part of the movie where Phil Connors repeatedly committed suicide and one of the most striking was his fall out of the tower, which was filmed at the Woodstock Opera House (Pennsylvanian Hotel in the film).  This is also where Rita stayed and is featured in one of the face slaps where Phil then opens the door for her.

Of course, Bill Murray did not take the plunge.  It was done by stuntman.Rick Le Fevour of Woodstock (who was at the Saturday movie site walk).  He is part of Midwest Stunts based in Chicago and has appeared in and coordinated many stunts in movies, including the "Batman" franchise ones.

He says "Groundhog Day" was a rare chance to work close to home.  The bell tower stunt was tricky because he is usually leaping violently after an explosion or running.  This stunt required a slow, easy fall.  Filming took place on a cold day and he was just wearing pajamas and a robe.

Bill Murray actually fell a few feet from a makeshift padded platform from a different tower opening.  Le Fevour fell ten feet from the main opening into an air bag.

he also coordinated and performed stunts in the chase scenes filmed in Bull Valley and Union after Phil Connors decides that the only way to get out of February 2nd was to kill the groundhog.

When Murray was in the shot, the groundhog was nibbling on his fingers and he wore protective gloves. (I've heard the woodchuck actually bit Murray).  When Le Fevour was in the shot, the groundhog was in his lap, which had no protection.  "he was running around on my leg.  I was just praying he didn't bite me."  I can sure imagine why.

Groundhogs Can Bite.  --RoadDog

The Filming of the "Groundhog Day" Movie-- Part 1

From the Feb. 2nd Northwest Herald "Wild about the hog" by Jami Kunzer.

Pam Hockemeyer remembers the filming of the movie, twenty years ago, very well.  She owned a Prairie Patchwork mercantile on the Woodstock Square at the time, and, if you look closely, when Bill Murray steps into the puddle, you can see the awning of her place at 106 Cass St in the background.  Today, the Backdrop store is there.

In addition, she and her son Michael, then a middle school student, were extras in the film, but their scenes were not included in the final presentation.

The crew and cast spent six months in town and some bought quilts from her shop.  (The main filming, however was about half that).  Bill Murray bought a couple and the crew bought one for director Harold Ramis and his wife as an anniversary gift.

One of her quilts can be seen in the background of the bachelor auction as well and two her pillows can be seen in the scene where Bill Murray tries to seduce Andie MacDowell in his room.  It can also be seen where Ned is thanking Phil after the auction for buying all that insurance.

She managed to collect a lot of movie memorabilia, including a Tip Top cafe menu, groundhog props and miniature signs announcing, "Now filming in Woodstock Groundhog Day with Bill Murray."  She also took pictures inside the cafe and of "Gobler's Knob."

When she owned the store, she had a wall dedicated to it.

More to Come.  --  RoadDog

Monday, February 13, 2012

New Illinois Lottery Commercials Feature Route 66

I am sure enjoying the new Illinois Lottery commercials featuring a giant orange ball rolling through Chicago and ending up in Springfield.  Even better, it features one definite Route 66 scene taken at the back of the Route 66 Association of Illinois' Hall of Fame and Museum in Pontiac (that huge mural).

Once out of the Chicago area, there were lots of two lane road shots and grain elevators that might very well have been Route 66.

Hey, this is one commercial I'll stop what I'm doing and look at.

Rolling With the 66.  --RoadDog

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Some More Information on Anton L. Westgard

Not only was he a pioneer in roads, but also photography.  He took lots of pictures of the nation's early roads.

He was born April 16, 1865, in Norway and immigrated to the US at age 18.  He bought his first automobile in 1903 and was married two times.  Sometimes he would take his eldest son on his auto trips.

In 1911, he drove across the US in a transcontinental drive, not the first time it had been done, but the first time in a truck.  In all, he drove across the United States several times and wore out 18 cars in the process.  He died in 1921 from syphilis.

Westgard Pass in California's White Mountains is named after him.

He had a Chicago connection as well.  He was married the first time in Cook County as well as naturalized in Chicago.

An Interesting Man.  --RoadDog

Friday, February 10, 2012

A.L. Westgard, Auto Pathfinder

After getting his commission from the AAA to map three transcontinental highways, "This he did, making three transcontinental trips in one year: The Northwest Trail from New York to Seattle, The Overland Trail from San Francisco to New York, and the Midland Trail from New York to Los Angeles.

Shortly thereafter, the Pathfinder people attached a plaque to a door of his vehicle noting the feat. 

Circa 1919-20, Westgard wrote a book about his adventures which contained many fine photographs.  he retained a chauffeur to do the driving while, with pen and notebook, he was able to record mileage, directions, sights, road conditions, etc., without distraction.  Mrs. Westgard along with Pan, the family dog, would sometimes accompany him."

Even to drive across the US today is hard, but to do that in 1912, when roads often were no more than a road in name only is mind boggling.  Plus, writing in a vehicle going over those bumpy roads had to have been a lot of fun as well.

Quite a Guy.  --RoadDog

Never Heard of Him, But A.L. Westgard an Early Auto Pathfinder-- Part 1

I came across this man's name in "The Tioga Pass Road on the Midland Trail" article by George Clark in the Summer 2011 Lincoln Highway Forum.

Here's what Clark wrote:

"A.L. Westgard was regarded as the fore-most auto-trail blazer of the time (1910-1920)--'the Daniel Boone of the auto age.' For many of his trips his conveyance was a Pathfinder touring sedan, a little-known, short-lived nameplate manufactured by the Motor Car Manufacturing Company of Indianapolis, Indiana.

He is said to have worn out eighteen Pathfinders during some seventeen years of his trail-blazing career.

In 1912, he was commissioned by the American Automobile Association of New York to route and map three transcontinental highways.

I had never heard of him before, but have since done some research which I will write about in the next week or so.  Plus I will finish what George Clark had to say about the man.

How About a Real Pathfinder Doing His Thing in a Pathfinder?  --RoadDog

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Carrying On at the Hog's Celebration-- Part 1

After the movie, Liz and I walked over by the site of the old Tip Top Cafe where, in the movie, Phil Connors crammed all the food into his mouth.  It was not a restaurant during the movie filming.  Several other restaurants have tried to make a go at the site in the last twenty years, but all have failed.  I was able to eat in the place the most recent time it was open and ate at that crook in the wall by where Bill Murray sat.

This is also the site of the mud puddle, "Watch out for that first step.  It's a doozy."  Although the actual site is now under landscaping, there is a nearby plaque.  This is also the side of the street known as Ned;s Corner, where Needlenose Ned accosted our "hero" every day.

I was able to get in and out of the Thoughtfulness Shop on this stretch of square.  This is one of those stores I should never go into as there is too much of the stuff I like inside.  But, I got out without buying anything.

Then, it was across the street to the Swiss Maid Bakery for our annual Groundhog Cookie.  Unfortunately, they were out and we had to settle for a Smiley Face Cookie.  To paraphrase Rita, "And I hate smiley faces."

Then took a walk on the west side of the square where Liz's mom was in assisted living at the Village Cove, now Murphy Block Studios.  She had a room overlooking the square.  I always kidded her that she was going to have to hang in there and keep the place until I was ready for it.  Living on and enjoying all that Woodstock square has to offer would be a great place to live out my waning years.

Heading to the Opera House.  --RoadDog

Back to the Hog

From the Feb. 3rd Chicago Tribune.

Well, it was a week ago that our own Woodstock Willie prognosticated an early spring.  Temps have been in the upper 30s and 30s since then, with a cool-down to the 20s due this weekend.  After our last five years of cold and snowy winters, this is a real appreciated break.  Thanks Willie.

Feb. 2nd, that "other" hog, Punxsutawney Phil emerged and saw his shadow, meaning six more weeks of hard winter.  Chicago WGN meteorologist Tim McGill, on the Chicago Weather Center blog, "Punxsutawney Phil is a punk when it comes to weather forecasting."  he cited one study that had Phil being right only 39% of the time.  "We might as well ask a giraffe for stock picks...."

Of course, the good folks in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, where 18,000 revelers descended on Gobbler's Knob outside town last Thursday, are still mad that Woodstock, Illinois, was chosen to stand in for their town in the famous "Groundhog Day" movie.  They insist any other groundhog doing the forecasting is a charlatan.

Punxsutawney has celebrated Groundhog Day since at least 1886, making Phil's 126th prognostication.  They claim Phil is immortal, which he must be since the typical woodchuck, er, groundhog, only lives six to eight years, perhaps he is.

Charlatan, Smarlatan Says Woodstock Willie.  --RoadDog

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

NTN Cruising

Whenever Liz and I hit the road, one thing definitely on out to-do list is to visit NTN sites and play.  Some folks target Civil War battlefields (like us), others want to visit lighthouses (like us) and others go to the bars and restaurants (like us).

But, in addition, we like to drop in at places with NTN.  That's good for the company to come in and make sure the bartender and owner of the bar know that we are there because they have NTN.  That's just good for business. 

Since we started keeping records of visit, we have been to 953 places at the conclusion of our most recent trip.  I'm sure that is a lot more than anyone in the NTN/Buzztime Corporation has been to.  If they want to know what's wrong with their product, we could sure tell them.  But, they seem to be disinterested in what we have to say.

And, There Sure Are a Lot of Problems.  --RoadDog

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Partying With the Hog: At the Movies

I was able to once again make my way out to Woodstock, Illinois, for the 20th annual Groundhog Days Festival.  This year marked the 20th anniversary of the filming of that great movie.

I've attended at least seven times.  Hey, where else ya gonna have this much fun on a cold winter's day?  Only, this time, it wasn't very cold, practically tropical with sun and temps up to the 40s, which probably explains why the biggest crowd I've seen was there, probably 800 to 1000, almost too many for me.

And, wife Liz even decided to go, quite a rarity.  We stopped at McDonald's there in Woodstock on Il-47 for breakfast.  The place has nice murals of Woodstock square scenes.  I was kind of hoping Liz would be too full to have that super expensive theater popcorn.

Nope, didn't work.  It didn't cost anything to get in, but I did get nailed $10 for popcorn and pop.

We've seen the movie countless times so seeing it from the beginning is not all that important.  We got there 30 minutes into it and ended up sitting in the very worst seats, as Bob Uecker would say, "the front row."  That means sore necks from looking up like that.

Oh, Well, What's Enjoyment Without a Little Pain.  --RoadDog

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Off to See the Groundhog...Again

Only this time, I won't be seeing Scooter, the little furry varmint with serious overbite, who stood in for Woodstock Willie a couple days ago on the actual Groundhog Day.  I found out Scoot is a direct descendant of the original groundhog who co-starred with Bill Murray back when the movie was made, twenty years ago.

I was looking at video I took Thursday morning and Scooter (AKA Woodstock Willie)  was quite cool, calm and collected at first, especially when given something to eat.  But a bit later got quite antsy and it was all his handler could do to hold him.

Sadly, WW won't be making an appearance today, but the big one with a human inside will be around.  Most all of the shops around the square will be open all day so will go to them, including Thoughtfulness, a store I shouldn't go into because of all the things in there I like.  I'll have to get my yearly groundhog cookie at the Swiss Miss bakery (which you can see a part of at the corner where the old man always tried to get Phil Connors to give him money.

They Say He Is a Groundhog If Ever There Were a Groundhog.  --GroundDog

Friday, February 3, 2012

Bill Murray and the Puddle: Twenty Years Ago

From the Feb. 2nd Northwest Herald "Wild about the hog" by Jami Kunzer.

Hard to believe that it has now been 20 years since Bill Murray, playing the role of Pittsburgh meteorologist Phil Connor stepped into that puddle in the street in front of the movie's Tip Top Cafe, and did it several more times before he realized that he was in a loop and had to keep living Groundhog Day indefinitely.

That puddle is now plaqued, well, there is a plaque near the actual spot where bricks in the 1850s road were removed for the scene.  Until a few years ago, that is, when the town put up a garden at the spot. (I still think they should have built the garden around the spot.

But, people still visit the town square in Woodstock, Illinois, to see the movie sites.  Most every outside spot you see in the movie is around the square or the town.

To commemorate the 20th anniversary of the movie's filming, a five day celebration is under way.  I went to the second one, the groundhog prognostication yesterday and am getting ready to drive back for the Shake Off the Winter Blues Charity Dinner Dance at the Moose Lodge in Woodstock (where the Groundhog Day Dance and Bachelor Auction was held in the movie.  No, Bill Murray, nor his piano teacher, won't be there, but it will be fun anyway.

Of course, tomorrow is the big day with the movie showing, chili cook off, site walk and symposium.

Getting My GroundDog On.  --RoadDog

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Woodstock Willie Did NOT See His Shadow

Just got back from the 20th annual Groundhog Day Prognostication in Woodstock, Illinois.  And believe me, even Phil Connors would not have been able to look down that street from the B&B he was staying at in that movie by the same name.  I was wondering if we would even be able to see Woodstock Willie.

We had some real serious fog here in the Midwest outside of Chicago.  I was even wondering whether to even attempt driving the 17 miles to Woodstock Square.  I did.  It wasn't fun, but I was able to get there just a few minutes before the rodent (or whatever) was pulled reluctantly from his stump.

More to Come.  --RoadDog

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Here's a New Way to Celebrate Groundhog Day

As I sit here thinking about whether I want to dive the 17 miles over to Woodstock, Illinois, to see whether or not Woodstock Willie sees his shadow or not tomorrow.  The prognostication occurs at 7:07 AM, mighty early for us old retirees to be getting up.  Liz has already nixed the idea for herself.

From Phil Vettel in the Jan. 31st Chicago Tribune.

"Groundhog Day" writer/producer/director Harlod Raimis (who was also the doctor in the movie) is an investor in Harry Caray's restaurants and partner at the Navy Pier one (the other at 33 W. Kinzie).  In honor of the movie, tomorrow, both restaurants have a special deal.

If you come in Thursday and order lunch, you can return Friday and get it for free.  We'll call it a Phil Connors thing.

However, certain restrictions apply.

Too Bad I Don't Go Into Chicago Much Anymore.  I Hate to Get Ripped Off (Although This Sounds Like a Good Deal).  --RoadDog