Saturday, March 19, 2011

On Route 66

Above: Ikey, a very sweet Sheltie, calls Funks Grove home.

When dad was flying back to Chicago from Palm Beach not only did he save all the chicken on his salad for Rufus, he also read about a place called Funks Grove in the American Way magazine:

Like a fine wine, maple syrup delights.

U.S. tapping seasons typically peak in March — making it a perfect time for visiting any of the country’s many sugarhouses, where sap collected from maple trees is transformed into utterly sweet (and always unique) maple syrup. For a pure taste of pleasure, try these:

Funks Grove Pure Maple Sirup; Shirley, Ill. The Funks’ family-owned syrup-making enterprise dates back to the late 19th century. Today, their sugarhouse and store are a favorite stop among Route 66 buffs. Specialties include jugs of pure maple syrup, chocolate-covered maple truffles and rich maple cream.

So, sure enough, with the article in hand dad was soon getting his kicks on Route 66. You see, he learned that Funks Grove is one of the designated roadside attractions that dot Route 66, one of the original U.S. highways. Route 66 was established on November 11, 1926 -- with road signs erected the following year. The highway, which became one of the most famous roads in America, originally ran from Chicago, Illinois, through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California, before ending at Los Angeles, covering a total of 2,448 miles

In the 1950s, Route 66 became the main highway for vacationers heading to Los Angeles. The road passed through the Painted Desert and near the Grand Canyon. Meteor Crater in Arizona was another popular stop. This sharp increase in tourism in turn gave rise to a burgeoning trade in all manner of roadside attractions, including teepee-shaped motels, frozen custard stands, Indian curio shops, and reptile farms. And, of course, the popularity of Funks Grove in Shirley, Illinois which was established long before the highway.

At Funks Grove dad met Ikey, a very affable Sheltie, and Kiko, a slightly deranged looking, but very sweet, Shih Tzu. Before leaving with two very large bottles of Maple Sirup (yes, that's how they spell it), dad learned from the owners of the small, very busy, very delicious smelling shop that many visitors on a nostalgic trip across America visit the Grove. They said that more often than not the cross -country travelers that stop in are visitors from Europe who are traveling the entire route.

As soon as he got home, dad was in the kitchen whipping up a batch of simple, but delicious pancakes. Mere vectors for maple syrup boiled down only hours before. You see it's maple syrup season. At Funk's Grove they collected the last sap for their "sirup" just the day before dad's visit.

BTW, we learned that actor Daniel Radcliffe, aka Harry Potter, was just recently introduced to the charms of Maple Syrup.

“You will see me probably drink an obscene amount of maple syrup. I’ve never had maple syrup before about three weeks ago, and now I could freebase it. Pints of it.” - Daniel Radcliffe

Simply Delicious Suddie Cakes (serve with Funks Grove Maple Sirup)

1 cup flour
2 tblsp sugar
1.5 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs beaten slightly
1.25 cups milk
3 tblsp melted butter

Mix ingredients together and cook cakes on a piping hot cast-iron skillet or griddle

Forget the Treadmill. Get a Dog.

UNLEASHED Among dog owners who went for regular walks, 60 percent met federal criteria for regular moderate or vigorous exercise, a new study says.

If you’re looking for the latest in home exercise equipment, you may want to consider something with four legs and a wagging tail.

Several studies now show that dogs can be powerful motivators to get people moving. Not only are dog owners more likely to take regular walks, but new research shows that dog walkers are more active over all than people who don’t have dogs.

One study even found that older people are more likely to take regular walks if the walking companion is canine rather than human.

“You need to walk, and so does your dog,” said Rebecca A. Johnson, director of the human-animal interaction research center at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine. “It’s good for both ends of the leash.”

Just last week, researchers from Michigan State University reported that among dog owners who took their pets for regular walks, 60 percent met federal criteria for regular moderate or vigorous exercise. Nearly half of dog walkers exercised an average of 30 minutes a day at least five days a week. By comparison, only about a third of those without dogs got that much regular exercise.

The researchers tracked the exercise habits of 5,900 people in Michigan, including 2,170 who owned dogs. They found that about two-thirds of dog owners took their pets for regular walks, defined as lasting at least 10 minutes.

Unlike other studies of dog ownership and walking, this one also tracked other forms of exercise, seeking to answer what the lead author, Mathew Reeves, called an obvious question: whether dog walking “adds significantly to the amount of exercise you do, or is it simply that it replaces exercise you would have done otherwise?”

The answers were encouraging, said Dr. Reeves, an associate professor of epidemiology at Michigan State. The dog walkers had higher overall levels of both moderate and vigorous physical activity than the other subjects, and they were more likely to take part in other leisure-time physical activities like sports and gardening. On average, they exercised about 30 minutes a week more than people who didn’t have dogs.

Dr. Reeves, who owns two Labrador mixes named Cadbury and Bella, said he was not surprised.

“There is exercise that gets done in this household that wouldn’t get done otherwise,” he said. “Our dogs demand that you take them out at 10 o’clock at night, when it’s the last thing you feel like doing. They’re not going to leave you alone until they get their walk in.”

But owning a dog didn’t guarantee physical activity. Some owners in the study did not walk their dogs, and they posted far less overall exercise than dog walkers or people who didn’t have a dog.

Dog walking was highest among the young and educated, with 18-to-24-year-old owners twice as likely to walk the dog as those over 65, and college graduates more than twice as likely as those with less education. Younger dogs were more likely to be walked than older dogs; and larger dogs (45 pounds or more) were taken for longer walks than smaller dogs.

The researchers asked owners who didn’t walk their pets to explain why. About 40 percent said their dogs ran free in a yard, so they didn’t need walks; 11 percent hired dog walkers.

Nine percent said they didn’t have time to walk their dogs, while another 9 percent said their dogs were too ill behaved to take on a walk. Age of the dog or dog owner also had an effect: 9 percent said the dog was too old to go for walks, while 8 percent said the owner was too old.

“There is still a lot more dog walking that could be done among dog owners,” Dr. Reeves said.

And the question remains whether owning a dog encourages regular activity or whether active, healthy people are simply more likely to acquire dogs as walking companions.

A 2008 study in Western Australia addressed the question when it followed 773 adults who didn’t have dogs. After a year, 92 people, or 12 percent of the group, had acquired a dog. Getting a dog increased average walking by about 30 minutes a week, compared with those who didn’t own dogs.

But on closer analysis, the new dog owners had been laggards before getting a dog, walking about 24 percent less than other people without dogs.

The researchers found that one of the motivations for getting a dog was a desire to get more exercise. Before getting a dog, the new dog owners had clocked about 89 minutes of weekly walking, but dog ownership boosted that number to 130 minutes a week.

A study of 41,500 California residents also looked at walking among dog and cat owners as well as those who didn’t have pets. Dog owners were about 60 percent more likely to walk for leisure than people who owned a cat or no pet at all. That translated to an extra 19 minutes a week of walking compared with people without dogs.

A study last year from the University of Missouri showed that for getting exercise, dogs are better walking companions than humans. In a 12-week study of 54 older adults at an assisted-living home, some people selected a friend or spouse as a walking companion, while others took a bus daily to a local animal shelter, where they were assigned a dog to walk.

To the surprise of the researchers, the dog walkers showed a much greater improvement in fitness. Walking speed among the dog walkers increased by 28 percent, compared with just 4 percent among the human walkers.

Dr. Johnson, the study’s lead author, said that human walkers often complained about the heat and talked each other out of exercise, but that people who were paired with dogs didn’t make those excuses.

“They help themselves by helping the dog,” said Dr. Johnson, co-author of the new book “Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound,” to be published in May by Purdue University Press. “If we’re committed to a dog, it enables us to commit to physical activity ourselves.”