Sunday 12 May 2013. A Wobbly Ride to the West.

Surprisingly chilly this morning: 36 degrees F, and with a bit of a northwesterly breeze!  But at least the sun was out.  Did take gloves (in May?!?), fortunately.

Decided to ride west on Florida/Kirby Avenue, a busy thoroughfare during most of the day, most days of the week, but certainly manageable early on a Sunday morning.

Still, there was a fair amount of traffic.  May have had something to do with U of I graduation, which was today.

The route on Kirby Avenue in town does not tempt me to take pictures, as a rule; guess there is too much to be careful about, even on a Sunday morning.  The scenery improved west of Duncan; did like the crossing at Copper Slough.  Of course, then came the narrow bridge.

Kirby Avenue Crossing Copper Slough

But then Blue was doing something rather troublesome: the front wheel seemed to pull alternately to the left and right.  I think it may be the result of a lot of riding in the snow and rain and not doing the needed maintenance to counteract the ravages of the weather.  Actually, it was doing it the whole way, but by Duncan Road the slight pulling got to be tiring and rather annoying.  In particular, it kept me from enjoying going downhill at high speed over the interstate overpass.  And it made it hard to turn my inner upper arms out, (see last Sunday’s post) an action that alleviates neck tension while cycling.  It was downright distracting.  And tiring.  But kept on.

Noticed that more and more the trees were arrayed uniformly, continuously, in business green.  Seemed like another life-metaphor: in

Less Pink, More Green

youth one wants so much to stand out, like a blooming tree; eventually one needs to get practical and make a living (all those green leaves for the practical work of photosynthesis).  But it’s not necessarily tragic.

Had planned a longer ride, but somehow I always forget how much distance there is just to get out of Champaign.  Turned back at Staley Road.  Good thing the net slope eastward was downhill!

Closer to home, wound through the U of I Campus, among graduates and their family members of all ages.  Stopped by the persimmon

Persimmon Trunks and Sky

trees near the Architecture building.  Love that blocky bark.  Also could see the pecan tree (only one on campus as far as I know, still with little light green leaves behind them, all against the clear, blue sky.

Liked this sign on Lincoln Avenue.  It can make sense for bikes to use sidewalks along busy streets, provided cyclists use caution and

A Reasonable Alternative

courtesy.  I just know that with a little more awareness, everyone can get where they’re going safely.


Saturday 11 May 2013. Quickly Checking on the Shooting Stars

6 am, 40-some degrees F, cloudy, enough of a (westerly) breeze to require waiting for plants to stop waving before taking a photo.

It was to be a very quick ride to Meadowbrook to check the shooting stars.

On the way on Race Street did stop to get a shot of some black tulips and the first iris blooms.

Black Tulips and First Irises

Also stopped to photo some flowering trees in the Timpone Grove in Meadowbrook: lovely blooming little planted trees with the grass

Little Flowering Trees and Lawn

recently mowed under them.  Not exactly a native landscape but nevertheless attractive.  I fell for it.

Rode quickly over the rabbit bridge and on to the little bridge over Davis Creek, to which I locked Blue.  Then proceeded on foot on the bikes-

Wet Soft Path

prohibited, very soft, wet path to the inside of the prairie.  At the corner where the path split between more wooded vs. open alternatives was the place I knew the shooting stars to be.  They were there, all right, though not especially obvious if one didn’t where to look for

Shooting Stars 11 May 13

them.  Seemed to recall that they’d grown taller in past years, but had no data to support this conjecture.  Still they were graceful on their little stalks, the blooms like yellow-billed bird heads, looking down, white petals like feathers streaming upward. (Made me think of the later-blooming  yellow coneflowers, whose “faces” look up, with petals streaming downward.)  The first showy native prairie flowers of the season!

Sunday 5 May 2013. Western Miles in Light Green, Pink, and White

Packed a poncho this morning at 5:50 am, when there already was plenty of light, even with the clouds.  The temperature was 52 degrees F and the air was pretty much calm.

In the neighborhood, the late tulips were coming on, the early ones finishing or finished. The magnolias were much more light green than pink, but the apples and crabs were profuse with white or pink blooms.  The moist air carried their faint scent and also the strong, sweet perfume of Viburnum.

The oaks were leafing, but the leaves were still small, tender, and limp, interspersed with catkins.

Tender Young Oak Leaves

Missed the peak of the dawn chorus, but did hear a cardinal’s  “churby, churby, churby, chur” song.  Noticed an absence of white-throated sparrows, until I stopped to photograph a clump of Viburnum on Race near Windsor, when the sound of those three distinctive

Viburnum Windsor and Race

notes (from the Dvorak New World Largo) came from the wood lot across Windsor Road. This bird didn’t seem to be “longing,” as they often do, that is, sweetly wishing things were some other way, but sounded like it had actually arrived at contentment with exactly the way things were.  Ah, what a little sound can evoke!

Headed west on Windsor with a brief stop at the City of Champaign Prairie Restoration.  It was getting green, something yellow (an exotic mustard?) starting to bloom.  The lone goose (same one?) I’d seen there before was sitting in vegetation in the far side if the ditch.

Under the Windsor/Neil viaduct pigeons made strange, echoing, moaning sounds.

Place of Eerie Pigeon Sounds

It was good to head out west on Windsor in mild weather.  In mild weather, one’s senses are more free to take in the landscape.  Saw so many gorgeous, full-blooming crabs and also dogwoods: white ones and pink ones.

The Windsor bridge over I-57 was under construction: an already rather dangerous (for bikes) passage was down to one stoplight-regulated lane.  Was glad it was Sunday morning; there still were more cars around than would have expected.

Got as far as Staley Road then turned south between the farm fields and recent construction toward Curtis.  All the recent rain had delayed this year’s planting but encouraged the growth of roadside grass and  fine, light green carpets of weeds.  They

May Field, Staley Rd

glowed in the new morning light.

Enjoyed the bike lane on Curtis Road.  Came across a fair number of earthworms, of at least three sizes, but they were spread out enough to

Worm's Eye View

avoid, as far as I could see.   The sky, with its breaking-apart clouds, was expansive.  On the long straightaway reminded myself to turn

Expanse of Sky on Curtis

my inner upper arms out to take the shoulder blades into the back, as in, e.g., the concave stage of Prasarita Padotanasana (bike yoga!).  It really relieves the neck tension cycling can bring, as long as one can keep doing it.

Peeked at the sunken pond off Curtis at Prospect, though couldn’t see much from where I stopped, and then enjoyed the path along Prospect Avenue with its many blooming crabs, some  with petals starting to rain down.

Raining Pink Petals

The rain held off for the whole trip.  It was another lovely morning in the landscape in springtime.

Saturday 4 May 2013. Crossing Campus by Bike in Early May

Squeezed in a quick ride to the University of Illinois campus this morning, with the goal of going from the far Urbana side, across the main Quad and to Champaign in the most efficient yet lawful (that is, rather than using paths that may be more direct but intended only for pedestrians, staying on designated bike lanes) manner possible.  Riding early on a Saturday morning eliminated most of the hazards related to pedestrian traffic, which, of course, when classes are in session is a major factor involved in traversing the Quad.

Both Urbana and Champaign recently have been trying to become more “bicycle-friendly,” most obviously by increasing the number of bike lanes along many streets.  And yet, it remains tricky to go across campus (legally, safely) by bike.  This affects both students, who need to get between classes by bike, and also cyclists who just want to get from Urbana to Champaign in the central part of the two towns.  I know it will takes some careful study, engineering, and money to remedy this problem.  But ultimately I think it is a worthy goal.  So here I will just point out a few places where attention might profitably be focused.

The starting point for this trip was Illinois Street (not far from downtown Urbana).  The tricky part started in the passage west from Goodwin Avenue.  The photographs are captioned with notes.

Hidden Bike Path w:Old Sign
You really have to know this is here, especially turning from Goodwin.  Note the barely visible sigh indicating that it probably is a bike path.
As the path jogs south on Matthews Avenue, the signage is a little better.
As the path jogs south on Matthews Avenue, the signage is a little better.
W Inside of Quad w:Gorgeous Trees in Flower
This is close to the western extent of a reasonably straight route across the quad.  At Wright Street one is met by two one-way streets going only east.

I think it might be worth making a more detailed study of a better trans-CU bike route, but here is a start.

Thursday 2 May 2013. Greening

Time 9-10:30 AM; Temperature 66 degrees F; Sky partly sunny; Wind mostly calm. Destination Meadowbrook Park.

The spring garden flowers were out in what seemed like a second big wave.  The white flowering shrubs are giving way to pink and purple: apples, crabs, dogwoods, redbud. Narcissus and hyacinth fading; tulips succeeding.

Along Race Street were some oak trees with some straggler leaves from last year still clinging to the branches as well as this year’s

Gold-Green and Brown Oak Leaves

tender little gold-green new ones.

All the trees are getting leaves, their shapes becoming less distinct, merging into masses. Funny how already I miss their bare branches.

Davis Creek still runs into McCullough.  Around the streams, green was rising.

Rising Green, Davis:McCullough Creeks

On the prairie, more green was visible through the thatch. Red-winged blackbirds and tree swallows presided.

RWBB Landing RWBB Landing on Old Compass Plant Stalk

Early shoots of compass plants were visible.

New Compass Plant Shoots and Old Baptisia Pods

Upstream from the Windsor/Vine bridge, in McCullough Creek, swam a group of seven or eight mallard ducks, all drakes.

Drake's Club

The beaver-chewed places on the alders downstream from the bridge continued to darken.

Fading Marks from the Beavers

Along the Peg Richardson Hickman Wildflower Walk was blue woodland phlox (Phlox divaricata); closer to the pavilion was Jacob’s ladder (Polemonium reptans), which was

Woodland Pholx

harder to photograph.

After all that winter waiting, it seems like everything is moving so rapidly.  Must remember not to worry about the many events I will miss but only appreciate each wonder that does get caught.

Tuesday 30 April 2013. It’s Not Really Flat!

30 Days of Biking Day 30!

Was very eager to get out for a decent ride, this ring the final day of 30 Days of Biking.  The weather cooperated completely, it was 66

Little Gingko Leaves against the Sky

degrees F when I set out at 10:45 and 72 on return.  Thin clouds spread across the sky; the mild wind was from the south.

Planned to head toward Philo; had to stop at Meadowbrook first to check the progress of the shooting stars (Dodecatheon meadia).

Parked Blue and walked toward the “soft path.” noticed in McCullough Creek near the deer bones a couple of rocks with what looked like some kind of eggs attached to them. Also heard the sound of busy toads.

Deer Bones and Rocks with Eggs in Creek

In the prairie there was a crackling sound. Did not see any movement. Was it old grass drying in the warm sun?  Was it warm shoots

Cup Plant and Compass Plant Shoots

pushing up through the thatch?

There were a couple of open shooting star flowers; last week it seemed like there would be more by today, but this promised a prolonged

First Shooting Star Bloom Farther


On Philo Road between Curtis and Old Church noticed what looked like puffs of smoke at intervals along the base of a line of evergreen trees.  They turned out to be clouds of insects, some kind of fly, I would guess.  It’s still early enough in the spring to be impressed by the

Cloud of Insects

appearance of flying insects.

Have to admit my energy for the trip was lower than it seemed I’d had last year.  So it goes with so many of our enthusiams, I mused a little sadly. But pressed on into the south wind to Philo and Old Church and then over Yankee Ridge.  Loved seeing the little curves in

Yankee Ridge, Looking East

the landscape and hearing its quiet.  Stuck me as a centering kind of place; the belly button of Velo du Jour.

Once past Yankee Ridge was filled with gratitude to be out in the country even pedaling into the wind. Felt buoyed and supported by the

A Hill! Down the Road Toward Philo

very same wind with which I struggled.

Really noticed the up and down roll of the road. It’s Illinois, but it’s not perfectly flat.  Ah, the subtlety!  Last year was aware of individual ups and downs; this year was able to put them together in more of a pattern; a deeper kind of appreciation.

Looking forward to coming spring and summer trips and watching the landscape go through the growing season.

Sunday 28 April 2013. Some Good Rainy Miles

30 Days of Biking Day 28.

At 5:40 this morning it was 54 degrees F and darker than it would have been otherwise because of the rain. The rain was not heavy enough to dampen the dawn chorus, which greeted me energetically as I stepped out my front door, the most prominent singers being white-throated sparrows.  Not just one, but several at the same time were practicing the first notes from the opening theme of the Dvorak (“New World”) Largo. One voice sounded a little out of tune from the others, but the overall effect was sweet and full of encouragement to go out and ride into the rain.

The encouragement was much appreciated as the prospect of finally getting some miles (only three days left of 30 Days of Biking!?!) in the rain was less exciting than if there had been, e.g., the slightly less than full moon or a colorful sunrise to see.  Also, was trying to see if I could follow my own directions just to ride east into the countryside instead of checking the progress of the shooting stars at Meadowbrook Park.

But after the white-throated sparrow send-off, and with the still-plentiful white-and-pink-flowered trees along Washington Street,

Magnolias in Early Rain, Washington St

headed straight east with a full heart, mostly protected from the rain by my blue poncho and only needing to wipe my glasses a couple of times to see where I was going.

The rain softened the dreariness of Washington Street west of High Cross Road, and east of High Cross, the land, edged with lush green

Washington E of High Cross in Early Rain

(“to die for,” as a friend put it) opened up, the edges of the horizon also softened by the light rain.  Thought of the word “expanse.”

Water sat in corners of fields. The exact paths of tractors through the black soil were visible.

Wet Fields w:Tractor Tracks

Worms were scattered (widely enough to avoid without much difficulty) on the road.  Seemed like they came in two sizes: medium-small

As the Worm Turns

and quite large.

Rode just past Cottonwood Road then turned back.  Had thought of retracing my path on Washington to go home, but felt adventurous and decided to turn north and cross I-74 before heading back on High Cross and home via Main Street.  At the southeast corner of the Cottonwood bridge was a thicket of plum (I believe) just coming into bloom.

Plum Blossoms at I-74

Remembered then that I’d be passing the possum bones on the High Cross bridge back over I-74.  Whenever I stop there (though both front and back bike lights were flashing) I think, “this is not the best place to stop.”  Especially covered in a blue (not the most assertive color) poncho. Resolved then to get something very bright, like a lot of yesterday’s Illinois Marathon runners had, to wear and be visible when cycling.

Was struck by the changes, not only of the bones but of the garbage surrounding them.  Thought the silver wrapper from “White Grape flavored Cigarillos”  (marveled at the existence of such a product) was definitely new, but a look at previous shots suggested it had been there a while.

Possum Bones after 11 Months

Coming home on Main Street glanced at Weaver Park and planned my next visit to see how spring was manifesting at the pond.

Along Main street the rain let up and then stopped by the time I reached downtown Urbana.  Here took my customary illegal ride down the Sunday-morning-deserted sidewalk of Main Street, where there is a posted $100 fine for riding on the sidewalk.  I get the spirit of

Breaking the Law

that–what person stepping out of a shop wants to be run over by a bicycle?  But it kind of contradicts the image of bicycle-friendliness that Urbana is trying to cultivate.   Wouldn’t you know that the next day there was an article in the Daily Illini about a measure to require a bicycle safety class as an alternative to the fine for violators.  Made me glad I live in Urbana, after all.