Sunday 26 January 2014. Ice on McCullough Creek

This morning at 6:45 it was 21 degrees F and solidly cloudy; dark for the hour. there was some form of light precipitation falling–sleet? Freezing rain?

Chose Blue to ride again this morning. Don’t know whether the wider tires with a lot of tread really are safer, but let myself feel more confident because of them.

Faced a brisk headwind riding southward toward Meadowbrook Park. The street was largely clear and dry, but had to be aware of slick or snowy patches.

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Stopped to track the progress of the winter apples.

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Decided because of the wind to make it a short trip: to the rabbit statue bridge and back.

Took yet another shot of the “wonky Christmas tree.” Not sure why I can’t

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resist photographing it; it doesn’t really change from one time to the next. It just strikes me as so comical.

Rode down the curving path to the rabbit statue bridge, slowly. A thin cover of snow was better than ice; felt pretty confident about it today.

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Stopped at the bridge to see the ice that had formed in McCullough Creek. The ice spanned the creek bed in places, but water also ran in gaps. Liked the patterns of the ice edges.

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The upper part of gap on the downstream side of the bridge kind of suggested a penguin.

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Felt a bit rushed and sad to have decided to cut the trip short. Funny how some days any amount of time can be quite enough but that today felt a little “cheated.”

Got a picture on the way back of the layers of piled and melted snow with new layers over it.

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Got a shot of one of the abundant pot holes on Race Street. This winter with its extreme cold, interspersed with brief thaws, has been murder on the pavements.

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It was a short ride but was glad my fingers were not cold! Toe warmers in the mitten part of the glove-mittens seemed to do the trick.

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Saturday, 25 January 2014. A Glimpse of the Arboretum in Snow

6:45 am, 30 degrees F (didn’t believe it at first, the previous reading was -2, and there is talk of closing schools Monday for subzero temps), a northerly breeze was blowing and a bit more snow had recently fallen over the partly melted mounds.

This morning’s ride was a bonus, made possible by an unexpected gap in the schedule. Thought of just riding down the street again–always there is something to see, always it’s good to get out au velo and meet the morning and its weather.

So filled Blue’s tires: enough snow had melted that my son was able to get it off of the rack at school and bring it home. Was glad it was available; Rhododendron has been serving me well in the elements so far, but Blue is a mountain bike, after all, made for more for more uneven surfaces, like snow and ice.

Set out, then, under the waning, slightly less than half-full moon, which presided a good way up, half-way between the eastern and western sky.

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Felt comfortable enough to go “somewhere,” (i.e., beyond just down the street) and thought the arboretum and Japan House garden would be a good brief destination.

It was!

Was amazed at how quickly a pleasing landscape presented itself: snow, trees, little hills, morning calm.

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Could not get very far with Blue up the path around Japan House. But stopped for a little view of evergreens with lots of animal tracks leading to a little pine.

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It doesn’t always happen this way, but today felt very contented to be in this quiet, beautiful place for just this short time.

On the way back stopped for a distant view of the Idea Garden framed by snow and sweet gums with their dangling (and dropping), ornament-like seed-structures.

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And rode home carefully, taking this snowy winter as it comes.

Sunday 19 January 2014. A Really Short Ride Through Frozen Slush

At 7:20 this morning it was 18 degrees F under a heterogeneously partly-cloudy sky. The ground was white with a thin layer of new snow that covered the older, melted-down mounds. The streets were coated with a thin and loose but definitely frozen layer of slush.

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Earlier this morning I sat with a friend recovering from surgery in the hospital. We talked a little, but also she needed to rest, so there was time just to look out the window and watch clouds. Even though I like (a lot!) to watch the sky on my bike rides, it was a special pleasure to sit with my friend, looking through the fixed frame of the window and seeing just how much the clouds move in different directions and change and don’t just march pre-formed across the sky. Also got to see the very first light come up, and then a textured band of clouds illuminated in orange-pink from below. How often does one get to sit, undisturbed, for pretty much the whole performance of the sunrise?

The actual trip this morning was just down the street to the coffee shop.
Went slowly and carefully through the slush. Missed my Meadowbrook fix but did touch the weather with my road bike, Rhododendron.

Sunday 12 January 2014. Embracing a Little Fear

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Missed last week’s ride because of being out of town, so did not get to test my mettle against the heavy snow and extreme cold if that Sunday morning. Most likely my mettle would have had to pass; even Velo du Jour has its limits. Would definitely have liked to do some walking through the snowstorm, however!

To digress slightly, on the night we got back, when it was at least single digits below zero with packed snow and ice on the streets, and I went out to do a little shoveling, saw a cyclist leisurely tooling past my house. When I exclaimed out loud, “Wow!” the cyclist, without missing a beat, “popped a wheelie,” as we used to say, and continued calmly on one wheel for a little while and then back down and out of sight. Was very impressed!

But back to the velo du jour. It was 30 degrees F and very cloudy at 7 this morning with a bit of a southwest wind as Rhododendron and I headed toward Meadowbrook Park.

Stopped for a shot of the apple tree, on the branches of which still were some dark, shrinking apples.

The city of Urbana had been hard at work clearing the streets, and felt reasonably safe riding them southward.

Was eager to see Meadowbrook after the snow. The paths there were mostly clear, but not without patches of ice to negotiate. Worried about ice on the curves of the downhill stretch approaching the rabbit statue bridge, where normally it’s so much fun to coast at high speed.

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But took a deep breath and went, trying to remember the little example of acting in the face of fear. Wondered whether this exercise could help develop courage for other types of fear and discomfort–loss, difficult relationships, etc. Maybe, though I bet it requires really consciously connecting them. Can well imagine a sky diver afraid to visit a sick relative.

The span of the bridge was amazingly clear and dry. So stopped there to look down at McCullough Creek, with Davis Creek joining it and running today.

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Was pleased to stand still for a moment over the creek and take in the unique appearance it presented. Truly, it’s not a spectacular place, but after many visits, noticing the small differences from one to the next can be as satisfying as noticing different sunrises. Also reminded me that one can take a view of the passage of any instant of one’s life as if standing calmly on a bridge and beholding it pass like a river. Must remember next time things get crazy.

Proceeded along the big loop, coasting over the icy spots with more confidence.

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Stopped to get some shots of old bush clover, dark against the pale twists of

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dried grass. Still love old compass plants and Baptisia pods, (dried grass, for that matter) but this year the bush clover have captured my imagination.

As I was concentrating on photographing these darker plant remains, the clouds thinned enough to reveal some blue and for the early sun to call forth a little more color on the winter prairie.

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By the time I reached the closed Windsor/Vine bridge, the fear of ice was pretty well over for this trip. There was the discomfort of cold hands, but that was a lot less about uncertainty and well within tolerance.

Realized that the lichens had not caught my attention this trip and just stopped for a look at a tree I knew had some.

20140114-105155.jpg It might be interesting some time to follow one tree, even one patch on one tree, to see how the lichens grow, develop, and change.

Realized also that I’d gotten used to, even fond of, the winter landscape: the snow, the structure of the tree branches, the wider view of the streams, of the prairie. Seems almost funny to remember the sense of loss when the colors subsided in the fall.

Driving snow or piles of it might stop a velo; otherwise can’t wait to see what the next ride will bring!

1 January 2014. New Day, New Year

On this New Year’s Day at 7am it was 23 degrees F with a mostly cloudy sky. The clouds were loose enough to allow the sunrise to have good color, however,

20140101-085520.jpg to which I was alerted by the pink tinge all around outside as I departed for Meadowbrook Park on Rhododendron.
It was a fitting beginning of the year, an event something like reaching the marker for the beginning of a round of circular knitting.

Had a pleasant ride to Meadowbrook, enjoying the changing sky on the way. Got to see the sun-disc just clear the horizon.

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Then stopped and briefly lay on my back in an open space of turf grass, looking up at the sky to watch the light come up.

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It was nice to have something to look at in addition to the blue sky (and floaters). Really liked the changing gradation of light and color.

Was going to bypass McCullough Creek without photos but noticed the ice was different than last time, so did stop.

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Remembered to check the saplings with lichens a little farther down. They didn’t stand out so much today.

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Wonder if they are more prominent when the temperature goes above freezing.

Saw a lot of lovey dark bush clover remains among the pale dry prairie grass but didn’t stop for a photo; even with the glove/mittens my fingers were getting cold, so tried to keep them covered unless a shot was irresistible.

At the Freyfogel Overlook saw three deer in the path. They disappeared in the time it took to get out the camera.

Was still kind of put off by the well-marked closure of the Windsor-Vine bridge over McCullough Creek, but followed the detour around and downstream a little way to where last year were bright orange gashes (presumably from beavers) in the alder trees along the banks. There was no sign of this damage evident, and shoots surrounded the beaver-pointed stumps.

20140101-093051.jpg Thought of the word, “healing,” and hoped a lot of that would be happening in the coming year.