Tuesday 28 April (Day 28 of 30 Days of Biking) 2015. First Shooting Stars

It was 57 degrees F and mostly sunny at 12:30 this afternoon when I took Discovery II out for a ride to Meadowbrook Park to see whether the shooting stars (Dodecatheon meadia, prairie flowers) had yet made their appearance.

Rode south in Race Street, succumbing again to the urge to photograph “my” (because I like it) apple tree. The last, really attenuated, shriveled apple was still there, but the real attraction was the incredible bloom.

And, happily, the blossoms were abuzz with bees. Very likely there will be apples this year!

The flowering trees along Race Street were full of blooms and the tree leaves were still small and light green–loved the prolongation of early spring that the cooler temperatures provided.

At Meadowbrook got off of Discovery II near the garden plots to walk toward the soft path through the prairie. Stopped at the little wooden bridge to get a view of McCullough Creek, with the little waterfall over the fallen tree.

Then walked in to the middle of the prairie, which still was dominated by last year’s flattened, bleached plant remains, with green shoots and small leaves just starting to be evident among them.

Was not sure the shooting stars would be up yet. For sure their bloom was not past!

Spotted some leaves on the left (north, more or less) side of the path that could have been shooting stars, and sure enough, they were.

But it looked like some creature had eaten their tops–the first prairie plants must make good eating for winter-hungry animals.

Nearby, though, were more plants, with whole leaves and buds, and then also an open flower!

Looked to the left and right as I proceeded along the path to check for plants in other places and found some on the left, between the first patch and one on the right I’d seen for several years. The first one was pinkish, this last was white.

I apologize for the blurry photo, but it seems like I always have had trouble getting shooting stars clearly focused. still, it was a happy event to see them.

Back on the paved path, took a turn into the short loop and on to the the Richardson wildflower walk, where the woodland phlox (Phlox divaricata) were just starting to bloom.

The phlox with their gorgeous blue asterisks of flowers were as pleasant to see as the shooting stars, though they are much more common and don’t provoke quite as much anticipation and detailed following of their distribution and development.

Another spring woodland flower I found in bloom a little way down the path was Jacob’s ladder (Polemonium reptans), the blooms of which also were a beguiling blue.

Noticed two plants of them, fewer than there were last year and many fewer than in years previous. Repeated observation of nature makes one aware of change and loss (ask any botanist!), of how it never is quite the same from one year to the next. Like all of life, one can never take the scene for granted or expect to see it again but only appreciate what is here now.

On the way home stopped to take in the glory of crab and apple trees, fully loaded with fresh blooms, against the blue sky.

They were in shades of pink and also white.

Knew they would not last long, but was grateful to be awake for the beautiful, eternal moment.



Sunday 19 April (Day 19, 30 Days of Biking) 2015. Venturing to the North

This morning at 6 it was 57 degrees F and mostly cloudy.

Today, inspired by 30 Days of Biking and the earlier arrival of the morning light, planned to try a less-traveled route: north on Lincoln Avenue. Rode Discovery II; wanted to test whether it would be more comfortable for the slightly longer distances than yesterday’s ride on Rhododendron which my shoulders begged me not to repeat, odometer and aerodynamics notwithstanding.

So first rode north on Race Street, where I stopped to look again at the newly opened river walk along the Boneyard Creek. So far, it’s been hard to like this well-intentioned public works project. For one thing, now that it’s done it’s nearly invisible from street level; unless you know it’s there (which I do because it took so long to build and I stopped many times to observe its progress during construction), you would have no idea there might be something to stop and see.

But I did stop and saw a couple of mallard ducks (and then some tiny little ones, I’m pretty sure) 20150419-081357.jpg
which didn’t startle because the foot bridge over the creek was solid and noiseless. Must be the result of the gradual, careful construction.

Really do want to like this new feature of my dear Urbana. I think it may become more appealing as the green space gets more green. 20150419-081929.jpg
The streets of Urbana at sunrise felt unusually quiet and spacious, as though I’d reserved a whole section of the county for the purpose of my personal relaxation and reflection. Held that thought a while, and no one objected. Such potential, such power!

Rode past Crystal Lake Park and the labyrinth, where I got a photo
but did not stop to walk. This was a day to ride.

Along along the Carle/fairgrounds parking lot passed crab apple trees, just starting to bloom, with their faint but distinctive fragrance.

Rode past the county fairgrounds, where it smelled like livestock must have been not so long ago, and past Busey woods, where there were lacy new yellow-green leaves but no deer today.

And then on North Lincoln and over I-74, which I wouldn’t want to do any other time but on a lovely, spacious Sunday morning, and on toward the UPS station and the Urbana “recycling district.”
after which the road wandered pleasantly, though past some signs of human activity of which I wasn’t exactly sure and didn’t slow down to investigate.

Felt that fear of a possible dog as I passed homes close to the road (“no dogs, please, no dogs…”). Noticed that the sky was quite cloudy and it would be pretty uncomfortable if it decided to rain while I was out here. Decided after sizing them up, though, that today’s clouds were not especially threatening.

Rode to Ford Harris Road and turned west, though wasn’t sure I wanted to venture too far in that direction. Worried slightly that the train that came along might be endless and force me to turn back,
but it was of a reasonable length and passed quickly. And the inviting wide-openness of the pre-growing season fields impelled me forward.

Ford Harris passed a long stretch of crop fields where I could and did relax. It was pure enjoyment: optimal temperature, no traffic, an expanse of sky and land. Was aware of Champaign-Urbana and its urban workings to the south but also that I was, for now, peacefully outside of it. Need to keep that image–to imagine moving just outside of worries and concerns for a while and being even briefly in a peaceful expanse.

Was glad to have chosen Discovery II for the ride. It was more comfortable at this distance than Rhododendron had been.

Continued west to Market Street, by which I returned to town and found myself on a lovely bike lane behind Market Place Mall. 20150419-085457.jpg
It was a longer in-town ride than I usually do, and the sights were less appealing, except for some urban “wilderness” that reminded me of how I discovered nature growing up in Chicago.

Rode homeward toward Urbana on University Avenue in the very light Sunday morning traffic. Saw another sign for Urbana, a bicycle-friendly community, which I’ve been noticing all over town since the start of 30 Days of Biking.

It was an altogether most pleasant, refreshing ride. Hope to do a lot more of those as the days get longer.

Saturday 18 April (Day 18, 30 Days of Biking) 2015. Straight Out Race Street

At 6 this morning it was 55 degrees F and partly cloudy. Robin soloists had been performing since 4:30, at least, and the dawn chorus was well underway by 5:30. The white-throated sparrows were in great form, including one who repeated the first notes of the New World Largo theme several times. Also one seemed to improvise a bit at the end of its song.

Today’s destination was due south on Race Street, wanted to see how far I could get before I had to turn back and make it to work on time.

Stopped not far along to get a shot of the disintegrating but still attached lone former-apple among all the sudden leaves and flower buds.

Wonder if it still will be there when this year’s apples appear.

Just north of Windsor Road looked up and saw a large (red-tailed) hawk perched above me on a street light.

Noticed different smells: fallen pink magnolia petals, daffodils, a bit of skunk, strong Viburnum. Spring warmth liberates fragrances.

Rode along the edge of Meadowbrook Park, and was pulled in once again by the sight of the “wonky Christmas tree.” Today liked best the angle where it seemed to be going into a yoga pose.

But also liked the “speed skater” angle.

Just a bit down the path saw three deer (one large and two small) running–don’t know if I cut off their path and they freaked or if they were just frolicking, or fleeing, for their own reasons.

Stopped at the rabbit-statue bridge over McCullough Creek to get a photo of the light coming behind it.

Especially liked the reflection in the water.

Then made the “Texas exit” back to Race Street and caught the sunrise before Curtis Road.

Was surprised along the way this morning to see people standing outside of buildings, hear voices, to see someone in a car parked on the roadside and then a large parked truck that delivered some agricultural product. Really was not used to so much human activity on a bike ride, especially at sunrise. Had a small pang of fear that it could mean danger. But then it turned out to be fine, at least for me.

Funny how it almost seems like all the farms and houses are uninhabited props in the scenery when one sees it repeatedly early in the morning.

Logged 12 miles for the round trip, and it mostly felt good–knee and hip just starting to complain, and of course, the cranky shoulder. Hoping it’s a matter of bike fit; really want to get a good bike and stretch the rides longer. But one way or another, will continue biking, observing, and posting through the advancing season.

Friday 17 April (Day 17, 30 Days of Biking) 2015. Into the Double Dark

This morning at 5:30 it was 50 degrees F and quite foggy. Though still quite dark, the dawn chorus (led by the urgently earnest robins) was well underway, and actually had been for a while.

This would be a quick ride to Meadowbrook Park, with not a lot of photos. (Fog in morning light makes one chase images like few other phenomena….) Just wanted to get out into it.

The fog got especially thick at Meadowbrook. It was almost scary.

Rode to the rabbit-statue bridge and first got a shot to the south side of it.
Noticed that this fog left the pavements mostly dry, though there were some drops of condensation under some of the trees.

Then stood on the bridge and looked at the familiar view of McCullough and Davis creeks and got a very dark photo.

Then turned around and headed back, enriched by the encounter with nature in the damp dark. Got back safely, in time for a swim!

And after swimming got a photo of the cherry blossoms at Lincoln Square,

if just to counterbalance the double-dark foggy shots.

Sunday 12 April (Day 12, 30 Days of Biking) 2015. Delight and Discomfort Beyond the Barrier

The phone weather ap said it was 39 degrees F at 6:15 this morning, though it felt warmer. The sky with its half (the left half, that is, waning) moon was clear in places and filled with swaths of thin-ish clouds in others. The wind blew, mostly gently, from the north and east. “Light and variable,” perhaps.

Took Rhododendron, the road bike, for this trip; wanted to keep gradually extending the distance of these rides as daylight becomes more plentiful, and it’s nice just to check the odometer, with which Rhododendron is equipped. Also, if there’s any wind, it’s easier to ride in the forward stance. Just have to do shoulder work later.

Headed east on Washington again today, determined to go farther beyond the barrier at High Cross Road.

Smelled skunk in two different places on the way. Spring.

Just east of High Cross Road the sun rose and the road beckoned
through the gap in the barricade,

through which I passed.

A short way down the road was a flooded corner of a field in which there were 8-10 ducks, not mallards but was not sure what. The iphone could not capture a recognizable image, but did have my little just-a-camera with a bit of workable zoom. Got two shots, the second as they took off, revealing blue patches in the wings: blue-winged teal (Anas discors)!
Here is a rough sketch:

Was glad these migrants were availing themselves of central Illinois hospitality, which let me behold them.

Cut north on Cottonwood Road, over I-74 and along Trelease Woods.
Dutchman’s breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) were at the peak of their bloom and widespread on the forest floor and slightly to the outside of the fence.

Noticed how the white flowers were tinged with pink just before they were fully formed and open.

Then rode on to Oaks Road, back west to High Cross and then south. Stopped along Brownfield Woods, where again were lots of Dutchman’s breeches.

Also, there was some tooth wort (Dentaria laciniata).

Farther down High Cross and over the I-74 bridge, cut through a subdivision and noticed more ducks (and only a pair of Canada geese) in the central pond. Figured they were teals and maybe also some mallards; here is an iphone photo of the pond.

Honestly, those are ducks in the water.

Got some zoomed photos on the little just-a-camera. (At home zoomed up the photos more and realized that there were three different species: blue-winged teal, lesser scaup (Aythya affinis),

and northern shoveler (Anas clypeata).

Way cool!

On the way back on Main Street, a smallish (so not a red-tail), rather stocky (so not a Cooper’s) grey-mottled hawk (I thought), flew about two feet directly in front of me, across my path. Maybe it was a screech owl. Love those close encounters.

But back home had a less pleasant close encounter as a result of this otherwise lovely 12-mile ride: discovered a tick, one of the small ones, on my leg. Wow. Good shots aside, maybe it would have been wiser not to kneel right in the vegetation.

When one gets carried away by the intoxicating beauty of nature, remembering skunks and ticks can lend a note of sobriety.

Friday 10 April (Day 10, 30 Days of Biking) 2015. Obstacles and What to Do About Them

It was 43 degrees this morning at 6:15 and mostly cloudy.

Missed my usual morning swim (note to self: always have a clear safety circle when practicing Sirsasana, especialy early in the morning, especially when doing a variation using a block) but was able to get in a bike ride. Rode east on Washington Street, as the pink magnolias were just starting their brief but glorious bloom.

Hadn’t ridden Washington Street for a while and enjoyed the smooth surface.

Was happy to make a quick stop at Weaver Park, though it always involves crossing a non-path area. For whatever reasons, Weaver is not an especially accessible park. But got to hear frogs–not bullfrogs, for sure, but didn’t know which they were. Also there were wary ducks (too far away to identify) and just a few geese. Noticed that the prairie surrounding the pond (once a buffalo-wallow, I’m told) had recently been burned.

Was a little dismayed to see that Washington east of High Cross Road still was closed, as it had been since last summer.

At least it was possible to climb the ledge where the road ended and where it began again.

Noticed that there was a layer of brick in the old road.

On the way back was smacked with quite a head-wind. Less observing was possible, just paced myself and mostly enjoyed the exertion.

Thursday 9 April (Day 9, 30 Days of Biking) 2015. Meadowbrook After Two Storms

Rode out on Discovery II this morning at 11-ish am, when it was about 68 degrees F. There had been a storm early this morning, like yesterday, but though the sky was still cloudy and the pavements wet, at the moment no rain fell.

Rode out toward Meadowbrook Park on Vine Street and took a clockwise big loop of the park.

Encountered quite a bit of water on the path, and quite a few displaced earthworms.

Looked at Davis Creek from the little bridge. It was high and fast.

And at the rabbit-statue bridge, McCullough Creek looked like it was just starting to get back in its banks.

On the way out of the park, was taken with the greenness of the “wonky Christmas tree” and its surroundings.

Was glad to see water for the very quickly (almost too quickly, after week after week of grey and brown) advancing greens and other colors of spring.