Sunday 10 August 2014. Surprises to the South

This morning at 5:45 AM it was 68 degrees and cloudy, and according to the phone weather ap, there was a good chance it would be storming before I got back from my ride. Did prepare to the extent of getting a plastic bag to protect my purse, but did not bring any rain gear for myself. Could always change if it did rain.

Last night I looked at the Illinois gazetteer (Google Maps is great but sometimes I just like to hold the map and put my finger in the route) And noticed I could pretty easily connect two favorite roads, Race and First Streets. Also noticed I’d be circling the upper Embarass River and crossing some small tributaries. The distance of the trip would be somewhere between 18 and 20 miles. At last, a little distance!

So headed south on Race, under the grey clouds. Stopped for a photo of this year’s crop on “my” apple tree. The apples are up high in clumps and partly red.
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Planned to pass Meadowbrook without stopping–way too many sights to observe and still make some miles, but made a “deal” with myself only to peek at the cardinal flowers from the rabbit-statue bridge and move on. It was right on the way, after all. Mostly I kept the deal, except couldn’t resist speeding over the bridge and having to turn back (from where was a nice view of cup plants and tall Coreopsis)
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to stand on it and behold (distantly, alas), the cardinal flowers. Was surprised a tiny red spot showed up in the quick photo. 20140810-082627.jpg
Then made a “Texas exit” (which expression I like mostly because of the alliteration) over the grass back to Race Street.

Loved the opening of the countryside at Curtis Road, even though a fair amount of rain seemed inevitable. Was ready for it! My knees felt good (Think I hit on a good yoga sequence yesterday! Say “yes!” to practice!) and felt energetic and comfortable. Let it rain!

Stopped to photograph a stand of prairie plants that seemed to have been planted like a crop, though there were several species close together: cup plant, big bluestem, and at least one species I haven’t seen before. 20140810-084059.jpg
Looked it up; it’s glade mallow (Napaea dioica), which apparently is rather uncommon.
The corn through which the road passed was still dark green and almost menacing (ok, not quite) in its vigor.
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Still wasn’t sure when the tassels had dangled their polleniferous stamens or whether that still would happen. But there were plenty of large ears, some already starting to bend back like they do when they’re ripe.

At Champaign County Highway 18 was not sure whether to go west right away or jog east first and then south before heading to First street. Wasn’t sure I’d have enough time, and the road was unknown, e.g., with respect to dogs. Almost turned west, but then a little “voice” of daring managed to whisper to me to go for it, and I went for the little jog to the east before heading on south to section road 800 N. Though promised myself to be better prepared for the possible problems of a longer trip, at least to bring a tire pump.

Wasn’t sure that 800 N went through, (didn’t make a note of it during my perusal of the map) so briefly turned on the cellular data for the iPhone and saw a lovely bending road that followed a ditch that emptied into the Embarass.
The road went over the stream parallel to a railroad bridge.

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Next to the stream (to the left of the area photographed) was a marker: a cross with flowers, a person’s name, and the years 1940 and 1964. Supposed this was the site of her untimely death. Didn’t photograph the marker; felt it would have been intrusive.

The rain held off and the ride was pleasant. There were very few houses on the way, and the ones that were there didn’t seem to have a place for outside dogs that might come bounding after me. Did notice, however, an extreme lack of anything like the native plants that were blooming profusely at Meadowbrook; even the exotic clover and chicory were absent for a good stretch. Made me wonder how hard it would be for farmers, or even the state, to plant (or just not totally mow) a few species of natives along the roads.

Soon 800 N ran into 1200 E, First Street.

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On the way north was happy to see cup plants across the road from where a nice mini-prairie had been planted, in front of someone’s home. Looks like they’re spreading. Also was delighted (and surprised) to see bright red star-shaped flowers (with Baptisia leaves in front of them, like at Meadowbrook)–royal catchfly!
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There actually were two (that I spotted) different clumps.

The cup plants in the mini-prairie were vigorous, photogenic, lovely. They were large and lusty, with big flowers blooming from the leaves three sets down from the top.
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It was an altogether lovely ride; was glad to have pushed my limits just a little.

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