Sunday 23 February 2014. Ice Again

It was 21 degrees F this morning at 6, under cloudy skies. As is the way in central Illinois, yesterday’s intimations of spring were today obliterated. Once again the front walk was full of stuff to remove: frozen slush dusted with a little powdered sugar-like fresh snow. It’s not like we haven’t been keeping up with it! Oh, well; guess it’s just this winter’s featured task.

Got Rhododendron out of the garage (read an article in Active Trans that said tire width didn’t make that much difference in winter cycling) but stopped for a photo

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It was interesting to see evidence of the ups and downs of the temperature and precipitation.

20140223-082532.jpg. Was amazed and impressed by the cyclist I saw coming down the same street I decided was too treacherous to ride on. They didn’t even seem to realize it was dangerously slippery. Guess I felt a little envious of that calm courage. Reminded myself though that even this was like being jealous of the Olympic snow-boarders or figure skaters and their impossible (for me) flips and spins.

Ah, but even in “defeat” of the aim to ride, it was good once again to be out to meet the morning and its unique weather!

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Saturday 22 February 2014. Undeniable Intimations of Spring

At 6:40 this morning, it was 28 degrees F under a mostly sunny sky, the sun, against a pale, restrained palate, already fully visible and too bright to look at directly.

It was back to below freezing after a bit of warmth; actually, a whole lot of weather happened since last week, most dramatically the brief but copious rain that washed away much of the long-accumulated snow. Flowing water in the streets and all over!

Remembered sitting in the passenger seat while my almost-16 year old son practiced driving yesterday; felt like we were driving through Minnesota: the blue sky reflected in all the “lakes” in the farm fields.

I’ve loved this snowy winter but must admit the water moving the snow along was exciting, as was the thought of getting back on Rhododendron to Meadowbrook Park!

Gave the chain some lube before heading out, but it took a while for it to stop skipping from stiffness.

Stopped at “my” apple tree, which apart from a very few very small, shriveled ones, was now bare of fruit.

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The half-moon was visible, a little more than half way to the western horizon.

Though much of the rain and melt water had drained in town, some still sat in large puddles.

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Got a shot of the melting snow mounds around the Race Street parking lot at Meadowbrook.

20140223-084226.jpg Passed the “wonky Christmas tree” and did get one photo for my own records but not for today’s post.

Did stop briefly to sit on the grass before the rabbit statue bridge where the frost on the dry, flattened grass suggested the word, “magical.”

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There was a fair amount of ice on the path on both sides of the rabbit statue bridge over McCullough Creek. The creek was satisfyingly high, though well in its banks. Davis Creek ran plainly and vigorously. It was good to see the water, knowing it had been dry there before and likely would be again: a point in the ever-moving rhythm.

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A bevy of runners came over the bridge; wondered if I’d stumbled into a race and asked, but they said they were just training. Was amazed at how little the ice impeded their progress.

Rolled over the bridge and onward over the flat ice on the other side, accompanied by a loud, satisfying crack as the thin layer on the path broke under the wheels. Stayed steady and went on!

Noticed a variety of bird sounds, including woodpeckers (winter birds!) and red-winged blackbirds, staking territorial claims from various tree tops and also from the top of the Freyfogel lookout. More a sign of spring, it would seem.

Saw a fair number of deer, scattered across the inside of the big loop path.

Got a "selfie" of my shadow looking at the prairie near the Marker statue to the west.

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Stopped for a close-up of the remains of some compass plant seed heads, worn by the weather to little bowls, the bottom of each surrounded by a ring of short prickles.

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Saw coyote scat on the edge of the path and another dark mass near it that proved to be a frozen shrew (no pics). Wondered why a creature that needs to eat as much as it does was out in this cold winter. Was it fooled by the rain?

Wanted to walk by McCullough Creek downstream from the Windsor/Vine bridge, but shortness of time allowed only for a short stop at the “beaver-chewed alders” site.

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The path near the Hickman Wildflower Walk was quite icy, and just as I started to wonder whether I’d make it across the stretch without falling, Rhododendron went down! But fortunately only my pride was hurt. If there had to be a fall, this was a good one.

Noticed I wasn’t wide awake for parts of the trip; paradoxically, the more one goes out to look, the sharper one’s awareness is, and, alas, lately the trips are infrequent. Still, any moment of any awe (there was plenty!) is its own very satisfying universe, as it were. Always, always, between the stretches of sleep and numbness, there are small and large wonders, ready for the beholding.

Noticed also no discomfort of cold this trip! Must be really acclimating to the cold winter at last! Or maybe it’s the anticipation of spring.

Sunday 16 February 2014. Short Icicle Walk

At 7:45 this morning it was 21 degrees F and mostly cloudy, though the sun-disc was clearly visible low in the southeastern sky. On the ground was yet another layer of new snow, this three or so inches particularly light and fluffy.

Have been hit by the virus that went through my house that I thought I’d escaped (or a different one) and so gave up the idea of winter cycling this weekend, alas. But couldn’t bear the thought of not being out with the snowy landscape for a whole weekly cycle, and determined at least to walk a little in the fresh snow and look for some good icicles, which are plentiful this winter.

So applied the necessary layers and stepped out, sans vélo, (only for emergencies, of course) briefly into the winter morning.

Quickly found icicles, though I think there were more of them and larger yesterday or the day before.

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Stopped at Carle Park to document the state of the snow.

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Noticed that feeling under the weather made finding attractive images more difficult.

Then turned around and walked home. On the way got a couple more icicle shots.

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Was truly glad to be out!

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Even thought I could do a little shoveling, though that proved to be a mistake and was glad I succeeded in persuading my older son to finish the job.

Next week, one way or another, will do a proper bike trip, in the true manner of Velo du Jour!

Saturday 8 February 2014. Making and Reading Tracks

This morning at 6:45 it was 10 degrees F and cloudy. Another thin layer of new snow covered the streets and the piles (seven more inches, I believe, since last week) of older recent and much older snow.

Had not repaired Blue’s problem (the gears spin instead of making the wheel turn). And actually, today wanted to be at and see Meadowbrook Park more than necessarily biking there. So kind of cheated this morning by loading Rhododendron in the car and driving to Meadowbrook. Heard that the paved path was plowed so it couldn’t be too hard of a ride. And there would be no cars to worry about.

Felt closed in and a little sad to pass the familiar sights from the car. Was not about to stop the car for photos. But did notice that a few tenacious old (what could be under their skin?) apples still clung to “my” apple tree.

Today got an angle of the “wonky Christmas tree” that made me think of going into Parivrtta Ardha Chandrasana (revolved half-moon pose).

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Liked the snow on the exposed tree roots hanging over and log across icy McCullough Creek. Davis Creek was not flowing visibly, though it may have been moving under the ice and snow.

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Felt a little less connected to the landscape for getting there by car, and maybe that I could just have walked, but soon was in the groove. There actually was a coating of packed snow and ice in places under the dusting of new snow, so felt like I was getting snow-riding experience.

It was interesting that even with all the snow that had fallen, the prairie was not very white; the darker vertical elements (grass and forb remains) were evident.
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Wondered whether there might be deer about, and just then my eye was caught off to the right by what looked like several white dish towels being thrown in the air at different times: the “flag” tails of aptly-named white-tailed deer. No photos, alas.

A little farther down the path got a shot of a group of tree trunks by Davis Creek that suggested to me the word “enclave.”
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Near the Marker statue, on the path, was a record of the movements of chicken-like (presumably pheasant) feet in the new snow.

20140208-083935.jpg Could not tell quite what had happened, but the prints did suggest some sudden activity, two birds interacting? Was reminded a little of diagrams of football plays.

Farther along were plenty of deer prints but didn’t photo them: they didn’t call up any particular mystery.

What did call up mystery were the dog-like tracks with no human tracks near them. There were at least two animals; got a shot of their paths criss-crossing.

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Were they coyotes, which are well-known to be at Meadowbrook? Maybe they were just a couple of neighborhood dogs out for a stroll. Actually had no confidence in my ability to tell whether the tracks were made by coyotes or dogs, even though I watched two dogs make tracks that I examined afterward.

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Was starting, off and on, to get cold feet and hands and was glad of not having to bike home in the cold, I’m a little embarrassed to say. Thought it funny how I’ve been able to layer and be comfortable walking or shoveling, even in the sub-zero temps we’ve been having, but biking and taking pictures just leaves me cold, so to speak, ha, ha, only literally, of course!

Even with the cold could not (or would not–what is the difference?) resist a wide shot of old prairie clover.

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Also caught some lovely dark, danglingBaptisia pods.

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Was so pleased to be out on the winter prairie, the words: “Happy, happy, happy!” flashed across my mind.

Not tired yet of the snow!

Sunday 2 February 2014. Too Much

Did not make it out the door till 8 this morning, when it was 19 degrees F, with the clouds beginning to break up and the air calm.

The water from yesterday’s rain and melting snow that had not run off had frozen solid.

The straps of my helmet were stiff.

It definitely was a day for a “just down the street” ride.

Hoped Blue’s brakes weren’t frozen, and, indeed, they did function.

Got down the driveway, but soon after, the chain came off.

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Got the chain back on and made it about three quarters of the way to the first busy street when turning the pedals ceased to make the back wheel turn, but only turned the gears. Darn. Poor Blue; guess I pushed it too far.

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Was disappointed, walking the bike back home. But was still glad to be out in the cold ice-and-snow morning with the singing cardinals.

Saturday 1 February 2014. Exploring the Edge between Brave and Stupid

Had another schedule gap this morning and of course was eager to get a ride in. The clever picture on my weather ap at 6:45 was of apparently bouncing little spheres: freezing rain was my guess. The temperature was 34 degrees F (downright warm, especially for this time of day!), and the darkness from all the clouds made it seem earlier than it was.

Thought about riding to Weaver Park, which I’ve passed a number of times recently and wondered what it’s looking like inside. But that would mean riding on Main Street, which involves crossing some relatively busy intersections and didn’t want to factor that element in with the weather as it was.

The moment I got outside realized this would be a “down the street” ride, if that.

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The rain was more than a drizzle and the street was shiny with ice. Decided I needed to wear a poncho, suited up, and carefully took Blue down the driveway and into the street.

Slowly, slowly, made my way over the ice-covered bricks. Really, though, think it was easier than walking. Thought, “Skating, skating, just like the Winter Olympics!”
Then thought, “What if I fall?” Was able to convince myself there wasn’t much horizontal momentum and I’m not that far from the ground, so as long as a speeding car doesn’t run me over, how bad could it be?

Yet also thought–“Is this brave or is it stupid?” Decided it was limited enough that it would be neither extremely brave nor stupid. But it made me think that so often the line is not so clear.

But there was no day-dreaming! My focus just could not leave the icy street under my wheels. Now here is a way to do meditation; monkey mind doesn’t stand a chance on a slippery street au velo!

Made it to the coffee shop and sat down to write this!

On the way home through the thick, wet slush, was strongly reminded of playing in the snow as a child. Also thought of being out in a boat on the (Rock, was it? Illinois?) river in the rain in the days when I was a field biologist. Really felt for this little while that I was playing in the weather; it felt fresh and intensely joyful.

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Just hoped it wouldn’t be too damaging to the bike.