Tuesday 29 April 2014. Windy Ride to Yankee Ridge w/ a Shooting Star Stop

Set out on Rhododendron for parts southeast at 1:30 pm today. The temperature was 61 degrees F and the sky a mixture of clear and cloudy, depending what part of it you saw. It was windy, briskly from the south-southwest, which meant the trip out involved providing energy (work) to counteract the air in motion. It made me think of a line in a Talking Heads song, “Air can hurt you, too.”

Stopped to photograph “my” awakening apple tree and the spring flowers that surrounded it.

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Sped (slowed a little by the headwind) along the western edge of Meadowbrook Park, right over McCullough Creek without stopping, alas, but heading directly for the middle of the prairie to see whether any shooting star flowers had opened. Was very happy to see the water on the trail, evidence of the recent, much-needed rain.

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Took a while to locate the little shooting star plants among last year’s prostrate yellow-grey grass, but did find them at last, and at least two had open flowers already!

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It was difficult to get a good focus on the flowers, for some reason. Remembered this difficulty from last year.

Checked farther down the path to another place where I’d seen a few plants last year, and there were quite a number of patches of them in bud.

Then headed out toward Philo Road and on to Yankee Ridge.

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It was work to proceed southward!

Had wanted to go farther, but between the wind and the shortness of time, turned back just after going over quiet Yankee Ridge on Old Church Road.

Really enjoyed the help from the tail wind on the way back!

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Sunday 27 April 2014. A Bit of Struggle to First Street

Heard the first avian announcement, the rousing robin solo (How do they decide which robin gets to do it? Is it the same bird for several days in a row or do they take turns? No, in nature they’re more likely to fight over it, I think. Or maybe the early bird is just stuck with it….) at 4:15, no kidding, this morning!

Later, getting ready to go out, heard a white-throated sparrow, though not in the “largo” version, alas.

Made it out by 5:50, when it was cloudy and 54 degrees F, with that strange easterly wind blowing.

Determined, after several days during 30 Days of Biking of short trips to put in a few miles. So headed out for south First Street, even though I still felt a bit under the weather.

Noticed that “my” apple tree was coming back to life, which, together with the quiet of the street in the rest of its spring array, was energizing.

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Short trips in the middle of the day can be nice enough, but there’s nothing like devoting the quiet time of the morning to observing the world around one as it is. Even fighting a cold.

Stopped at the prairie planting on Florida Avenue to see what was emerging.

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Passed by Japan House and noted that the fabulous cherry blossoms were a few days away from their future glory.
Headed west on Windsor and stopped to check out the Izzak Walton pond at First Street. Saw only a single goose and mallard duck, but spotted a bunch of aligned goose feathers on the ground. Couldn’t imagine how that happened, except maybe that the rest If the goose escaped a predator. (?)

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First Street was windy, though mostly with a cross-wind, which didn’t impede progress too much.

Passing the U of I Swine Research facility noted a particularly assertive olfactory presence.

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Wanted to ride far enough out First Street to pass all the new housing developments. Not sure I did, but turned back where there were some Angus cattle in the front yard.

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On the way back was glad First Street was mostly downhill, because the wind was angling a bit northeasterly. For 54 degrees (and I having cycled through the winter, for crying out loud!), I was rather cold, and not sure whether the joy of being on the road was outweighing the discomfort. It was curious example (though not extreme, as these things go) of pain and pleasure duking it out. Thought of how much more pleasant it would be later in the season. But that was getting away from the precious present moment.

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Which now is distinctly a pleasure to recall.

Saturday 19 April 2014. White Flowers in Brownfield Woods

It was 39 degrees F (Brrrrr! Good thing I checked and dressed approriately!) and clear this morning at 6:10.

Was glad to catch a view of the sky just before the sun became visible. The dawn (bird) chorus had been going for a while already. Heard woodpeckers and was pleased to locate and actually see one in action. Hard to believe that little creature could make so much sound!

Then heard my beloved white-throated sparrows, of which my neighborhood seems to have plenty. They sing the heart of spring, at least to my ears. This morning did not hear the “Largo” variation, though did frequently earlier this week. Also, of course, were cardinals, robins, and other birds I would like to tune into more.

Today headed northeast toward High Cross Road and Brownfield Woods, enjoying the Main Street bike lanes on the way.

Saw the sun come up as a quite large pale yellow-orange disc among the little grove of oaks across from the Dart (formerly Solo Cup) plant. 20140419-082117.jpg
Crossing over I-74 realized I needed to visit my friendly bike shop so I could make the gear shift work again.

Stopped at the possum-bone site at the northeast corner of the bridge and documented the progress of time and weather on the bones I’d first spotted as a road kill two years ago. After the bones are clean and separated, they seem to change little, though it does seem like they get rearranged, perhaps by curious animals.

My thoughts gathered around the subject of death on this day before Easter, the whole day that everyone agrees the dead body of Jesus lay in a tomb. Thought of “Obamacare” and whether it would force people to be more realistic about death, about the deaths of the old and the young, about whether alienation was not worse than death, about what my yoga practice might teach me about death.

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Then pedaled down a wonderfully quiet High Cross Road, feeling well enough but noticing I’ve been more receptive on previous trips.

Remembered seeing some Dutchman’s breeches on the edge of Brownfield Woods on a recent drive on High Cross Road, so kept an eye out for them. Sure enough, did see some and stopped for for photos.

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There were more as I rode on north, plenty on the edge, and even more were visible inside the fence.
Then saw a nice clump of toothwort.

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And then there was a nice patch of bloodroot, not as far along as the ones in my yard, which were about done.

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The lush flowers were a delicious treat and worth the entire ride!

Heading back, noticed some bones embedded in the asphalt of the road, a more common occurrence than I would have imagined pre-Velo du Jour.

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Riding home, continued to enjoy the almost total absence of cars from the “unwinding ribbon” of High Cross Road.

Thought also about the long winter from which we’ve just emerged and how spring certainly is a kind of resurrection.

Saturday 12 April 2014. Here Comes the Spring: First Meadowbrook Flowers!

At 6:15 this morning it was 45 degrees F, the sky with wide cloud masses but with enough of a gap to view the emerging sun-disc.

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At the rabbit-statue bridge heard and also saw woodpeckers, hammering loudly up above. The other birds mentioned in previous posts, red-winged blackbirds and song sparrows, added to the soundtrack of the morning. And earlier in the trip, closer to home, recalled the earnest cardinals, the insistent (“you have to believe me!”) robins, and, at last, a heartbreakingly sweet white-throated sparrow. Noticed also on the way a bird-noise that took me a moment (because my mind was elsewhere) to identify as a flock–a “murder?”–of crows.

Saw a number of deer in the middle of the prairie but didn’t try to photograph them.

The tree swallows were swooping around the Freyfogel Overlook. Too fast for photos-you’ll have to take my word for it.

Was moved by the bare hint of color (yes, especially green) coming to the prairie landscape.

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At the still-closed Windsor-Vine bridge cut through the “small loop” to check opposite the garden plots for early woodland flowers, the search for which yielded bloodroot!

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Loved the way the plant resembles a little figure standing huddling a blanket around itself.

Had energy and time so headed south on Race Street and over toward silent Yankee Ridge.

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Felt filled from bottom to top with the newness and the sweetness of this spring morning.

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Wednesday 9 April 2014. First Signs of Shooting Stars

63 degrees F and sunshine at 3 pm.

Meadowbrook Park was crowded with people like me, wanting to be in nature in the beautiful (spring, at last!) weather. Being typically an early-morning visitor has spoiled me with expecting calm and solitude. It’s a different thing, also good, to enjoy nature among others doing likewise.

Sped across the rabbit-statue bridge over McCullough Creek (wheee!)
and did not go back for photos.

A little farther down the path noticed a willow tree just beginning to show hints of light green.

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Ah, the sweet, so temporary, edge of spring!

What I really wanted to see on this trip was any sign of shooting stars (the flower), for which I had to go on the “soft”–it is now–path where the prairie was edged with some trees, where bikes are forbidden.

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Well, I claimed the spirit of the law and carefully walked Rhododendron in toward where the shooting stars had been in previous springs.

Took a while to look among last year’s flattened, dry vegetation and finally spotted leaves I suspected were those of shooting stars.

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Was happy to see them, happy to catch them at the beginning of their appearance for the year, happy to linger close to the ground for a little while and inhabit the just-waking prairie.

Retraced my path and headed back over the rabbit-statue bridge over McCullough Creek

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And home.

Tuesday 8 April 2014. The Most Fun Ride in Urbana

Going to have to think hard about this ride from last week…

I believe it was chilly, with maybe a north wind. Anyway, the clouds over downtown Urbana were large and billowy.
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Headed to Crystal Lake Park/Busey Woods for some downhill action.

But first passed some other rather nice scenery, like the county fairgrounds and northern edge of Busey woods.
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Just above that cool hill stopped for a photo; wanted to show what a dramatic drop it was. But the traffic was fairly brisk, and thought to myself: “This is NOT a good place to stop!”

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But it was great fun to speed downhill between a cemetery and a wooded park, and gave a joyful little yell as I went down.
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Passed the Urbana Outdoor Aquatic center; was so glad it was completed!

Rode through the park just below Broadway, a lovely little wooded trail.

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And quickly home. .

Monday 7 April 2014. Rain Ride

It was 46 degrees F with light rain at 2:15 pm.

Donned a blue poncho and headed to Meadowbrook Park. The rain was not heavy enough to seriously impair the ride but did call for a little more attention to the road. Also got to chalk up a ride in some different weather.

At Meadowbrook took the downhill path to the rabbit statue bridge at full speed, duly noting the warning in front of the bridge.

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Flying over the bridge was a little rush, and a chance to hone my skills as well as my courage.
(Note: did come back after the “stunt” to get the photo.)

Also then stood on the bridge for a shot of the rain making circles on the surface of McCullough Creek.

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Down the path a little way noticed that the lichens seemed to be growing back on the brushy trees near Davis Creek.

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The rain fell a little more heavily, the wind kicked up from the north, and my fingers started to get cold as I rode directly home. But was glad to have been in, close to the rain, and it was a good way to work out the day’s worries and frustrations.