Sunday 21 June 2015. Summer Solstice, with Clouds

This morning of the longest day of the year (and Fathers’ Day) it was 70 degrees F and, surprise, surprise, cloudy at 6:00. Wonder if I would have had better success at being up and, (this was the hard part) out the door for the precious extra daylight of this time of year if the sun had been visible on the horizon. Even with the delay caused by the clouds it just was hard to attain escape velocity any sooner than at the habitual time. Which still is early enough to enjoy the light and open space of a morning bike ride.  So enjoy, already.

The iPhone weather ap said there was a 100 percent chance of storms at 6 am, which threw a wrench in my plans to put on some miles this morning. Oh, the uncertainty! So settled for staying close and focusing on the flowers just coming into bloom at the Florida and Orchard prairie garden and on a quick trip to check on the lead plants at the City of Champaign Prairie Restoration on Windsor Road near Neil Street.

Planned to take Rhododendron, but found that, incredibly, the front tire was soft!?! Thought I’d solved the problem of the previous repeat flat (glass embedded in the tire, which I removed, for crying out loud!). It wasn’t flat, but neither was I going to just fill it up and ride. Time for a visit to the bike shop.

So off on Discovery II I went, stopping for a shot of the new apples on “my” tree.

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At the Florida Avenue prairie garden, the dominant color was green, followed by the yellow of black-eyed Susans and false sunflowers.

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Less than exciting, after the drama of the abundant spiderwort and Penstemon, of which there still was a little.

On closer inspection, there were Monarda,

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swamp milkweed

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(as well as common milkweed and butterfly milkweed, not pictured), vervain,

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thimbleweed,

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and milkvetch

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as well as hordes of mosquitoes. The speed with which I was covered with itching bites made me marvel at the methods to which creatures resort to sustain themselves and how absurd the concept of theft is to them. Made me consider that the mosquito is as unconscious of the suffering it causes me as I am, most of the time, of the suffering caused by e.g., my purchase of goods, e.g., perhaps this nifty iPhone, made by underpaid workers. Of course, the mosquito is not equipped with the means of consciousness that I am. Funny how the long chain of steps between me and suffering can muffle that consciousness.  

So didn’t stay long, even though the diversity of flowers was tempting.

Rode on down Florida Avenue and turned south on Fourth Street, which only recently had been continued to Windsor Road. It was quite a lovely road that swayed pleasantly and, I’m sure, intentionally back and forth on its way to Windsor.

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Then turned west on Windsor and was delighted to see the lead plants in mid-bloom around the sign for the City of Champaign Prairie Restoration.

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Was glad the photos I’d just cleared (out of phone space!) let me take a few shots.

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especially the one showing several clusters of spikes.

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Was glad after several years of missing the bloom here I finally caught it!

And maybe next year I’ll be out for the solstice-time sunrises.

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Friday 19 June 2015. Green Again, but with Dots of New Flower-Color

On this very grey, moist morning it was 70 degrees F at 5:30 with very light rain.

The rain delays the early light (and obscures the sunrise, alas), but still I haven’t been out quite at the beginning. The only thing for it is to do nothing else before heading out the door. Maybe tomorrow.

Took Discovery II out for a spin to Meadowbrook Park. 

Stopped to look at the Amanita mushrooms, new fruiting bodies of which were still emerging from the ground, but others were well into the decay stage.

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At Meadowbrook, McCullough Creek under the rabbit-statue bridge was high and grown up with green.

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The cup plants on the southeast corner of the bridge were very green and healthy looking, the eponymous cups formed by the joining of two leaves around the square stem filled with water.

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Farther along the path noticed flowers of obedient plant, just these few, wit mini-images of them in the raindrops clinging to surrounding dead grass stems.  Just think what sharp focus could have looked like!

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Farther down again were the year’s first yellow coneflowers, their “faces” lifted to the sky, their golden “hair” streaming down behind them.

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Checked the lead plants at the Freyfogel Overlook and saw plenty of dark blue flowers with bright orange stamens. Oh, yeah!

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Lead plant is weird and wonderful!

Noticed there still were a fair number of spiderwort blooms about, but they were becoming less numerous. The Penstemon have mostly faded.

Saw some low, very pink pasture rose and took a photo.

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It wasn’t terribly sharp, alas, but liked the overall composition.

Saw a hawk with distinctive head markings up on top of the fence at the northeast corner of the park near Windsor Road. Not a red-tail; guessed a Cooper’s. It let me get pretty close but took off when I went for the camera.

Then headed north on Vine and on to the pool. 

Monday 15 June 2015. To the Little Prairie on the Book Bindery and a Little Beyond

At 5:20 this morning it was 72 degrees F and cloudy but with big gaps in some of the clouds. Was glad the forecast had been revised and the storms that were predicted for this morning were delayed.

The goal for this morning was to swim at the outdoor pool, but first wanted to enjoy the bonus June daylight and ride a bit.

Rode north on Race and around Crystal Lake Park to the labyrinth

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but did not stop to walk it.

Rode north on Coler through the little woods (and observed my abdominal muscles releasing and the breath becoming more smooth: the effect of trees!)

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and then to the little patch of prairie plants in front of Lincoln Bindery. (Wondered what the Internet and tablets were doing to its business.)
Saw quite a few stately Baptisia in bloom.

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Also there were white prairie clover,

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just beginning to bloom. Could see that the purple prairie clover would be blooming soon.

Then turned west and north on Lincoln Avenue, a major artery of Urbana, but the traffic at this hour was comfortably light.

Crossed the bridge over I-74 and felt that sense of expanse below me and awareness of many people in the middle of their morning journeys.

Went only as far as the UPS facility, across the street from which is some kind of large pit, which seemed rather mysterious to me, especially with the sun coming up over it.

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Of course, there is no doubt a simple explanation for it that I just don’t know at the moment. Not infrequently, mystery is a function of ignorance.

Turned back and noticed the fragrance of linden, and saw some heavily flower-covered linden trees near the interstate.

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Ah, the smell of early summer!

Came back to Lincoln Bindery and down to the turn around the northwest corner of Busey Woods, the top of the hill with the road between the woods and the cemetery. Have taken many photos of this place in an effort to show its dramatic plunge but have never succeeded in exactly conveying it, sonI usually refrain, anymore. Today, though, the light on the cemetery grass was, I thought, especially attractive.

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Then rounded the corner and coasted down the hill at high speed, enjoying the proximity to the woods and its power to calm.

Not sure I’m going to make the crack of dawn before the solstice (Sunday!), but this was not bad for getting out in the extra daylight.

Sunday 14 June 2015. Inter-Urban: to the Center of the Universe (Philo) and Back

It was 73 degrees F at 5:35 am (still haven’t managed to be out at first light, alas, regardless, it was effectively early), the sky mostly cloudy, but with gaps.

Yesterday’s ride to Tolono inspired me to do another inter-urban–if a near one–to Philo, the (or “a”) purported (according to its water tower) center of the universe.

Did stop for cabbage roses.

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And for the mushrooms,
under the wall of spruce trees, which have been continuing to emerge.

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Maybe they’ll keep coming up till frost. Is this new or had I just not noticed before? Another preconceived notion (the here-today-gone-tomorrow nature of mushrooms) possibly biting the dust.

Sped to and over McCullough Creek (but hit the brakes before the turn) on the rabbit-statue bridge at Meadowbrook Park and came back to get a shot of the rising sun over the high water.

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There were spiderwort, Penstemon, Baptisia, purple coneflowers, and apparently unperturbed deer among them.

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Most exciting was the appearance of the long-awaited lead plant blooms!

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And then on to Philo!

The wind seemed to be coming from the southeast, the direction in which I was headed. Maybe that contributed to the difficulty I had settling in to enjoy the ride. It wasn’t terribly uncomfortable, just not quite “fun.” But was reasonably confident that things would improve, as they always have, to date.

On the way to the crest of Yankee Ridge was amazed at how quickly the corn had become so tall and such a dark green.

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Farther south, a dog barked as I passed a very “architectural” house on Yankee Ridge Road, but seemed to recall this dog and that it didn’t give chase last time, bark notwithstanding, and kept pedaling, without incident.

Took Champaign County Highway 18 east; it was mostly clear of cars. Turned south on State Highway 130, for the short distance to town; it also was pretty clear. By this time felt wide awake and comfortable, enjoying the quiet roads.

Rode into Philo on Fillmore Street and then behind some grain elevators on a road that became rather gravelly, to get a shot of the water tower.

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Which, if it’s too small to read, says “center of the universe” (no “the,” by the way). Which reminded me of the quote (associated, from my Google search, with Nicholas of Cusa, Pascal, and Voltaire, at least) “God is a circle (or sphere) whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.” I leave it to the reader to track its actual source.
Turned back as it started to sprinkle. Didn’t expect the rain to amount to much, but tucked the iPhone into some knitting in a zip lock bag deep in the middle of my backpack, just in case.

On the way back saw a goldfinch in the middle of Yankee Ridge Road that did not fly away when I approached. It was obviously injured, maybe dead. On closer inspection could see it was alive

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and wondered whether I should move it to the side of the road so it wouldn’t get run over by a car. Had nothing and could see nothing with which to pick it up so just grasped it with my hand to move it. Well, it didn’t seem to recognize or appreciate this “gesture of kindness” and squawked and struggled to escape with all its remaining might. Wondered whether it actually might have been more humane to let it get run over. I thanked it, futilely, for its beauty and rode on.

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On the way back stopped for a shot of the edge of a cornfield at Old Church Road near Philo Road.

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Liked how it defined the slight roll of the land, which is so lovely but hard to convey in an ordinary photograph. In central Illinois, the landscape is all about subtlety.

Planned to ride past Meadowbrook without stopping on the way home but had to catch the “bouquet” of flowers near the northwest corner, next to the new Clark-Lindsey houses.

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I hope the people who live there are able to enjoy the gorgeous landscape just outside their door.

Saturday 13 June 2015. To Tolono with the Prairie Cycle Club

Velo du Jour broke new ground this morning as I, for the first time, joined the Prairie Cycle Club on their Saturday morning ride from Meafowbrook Park. Have wanted to do this for a long time but have hesitated; not sure why. Guess I just wanted a buddy to help break into the group.

Who happened in this case to be a fellow yoga student with whom I had a conversation at a party last week. Thanks, Nancy!

Went with the group that took the most leisurely pace, though several of the cyclists wore cycling jerseys and cycling shorts and rode fairly serious road bikes.

Here we are about to depart from the Race Street parking lot.
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The moderate wind was from the southwest, so it was determined that the destination would be Tolono, via Race, Airport Road, First Street, and County Road 800 E, a distance of about 10 miles.

Not far south on Race Street, one of our number, another first-timer, had bike trouble. We waited while fellow cyclists tried to help correct the problem,
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but it did not yield to their efforts and the new cyclist decided not to
continue the trip, alas.

Loved riding in this group of people I knew slightly or not at all. Noticed that talking made the route pass quickly but that it wasn’t possible to observe as much as when I’m alone. Must say, however, that it was very nice to have the route determined by someone else and not have any of my personal mental space taken up with deciding where to go.

On south First Street observed the blue-green of a field planted in oats, which I can’t recall seeing before in Velo du Jour. Did not get a photo because it didn’t seem the group was ready to stop.

But did get a shot, a little ways south, of of a field of winter wheat.

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Amber waves of grain, right here, in June!

Turned west toward Tolono on County Road 800 N, which was a little nicer entrance to town (and one without barking dogs) than the one (East Washington St.) I used on my recent solo trip here.

We all crossed US 45 and stopped at the Casey’s for water or a snack. One of our number enjoyed a slice of scrambled egg breakfast pizza.

Some of the group went on to Sadorus; the rest returned to Urbana, with the wind at our backs! Saw a bluish streak of a bird that I was pretty sure was an indigo bunting cross our path.

Hope to ride with the Prairie Cycle Club again soon!

Thursday 11 June 2015. Oriole and Baptisia

It was 70 degrees F this morning at 5:30, the sky spread with a thin layer of cloud.

Went for a quick spin to Meadowbrook Park on Discovery II.

Observed the abundant yellow and the few pink cabbage roses and apple tree but did not stop for photos.

Did stop to check on the Amanita mushrooms under the spruce trees.

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There were a fair number of them but spread out, not in large clusters or rings, and many seemed rather beat-up. Not like the amazing display of last fall.

Rode to Meadowbrook, sped over McCullough Creek on the rabbit-statue bridge and came back to see a Baltimore oriole on the point of land just above where Davis Creek empties into McCullough.

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Not a great photo but still documentation.

Rode on the path with abundant spiderwort and locally abundant Penstemon to my left and right. Saw a deer up rather close to the left any a little farther down there was one to the right.

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They did not mind when I stopped rather close up and looked at them. In fact, the second one (no antlers but large like a buck) dropped his head into the vegetation, presumably to eat, without worrying that I might be a predator. Thought of the word “unperturbed.”

Farther down the spiderwort were so lovely I just had to have another photo of them.

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Just to the northeast of the little arched bridge over Davis Creek caught sight of a stately common milkweed just coming into bloom.

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Checked the lead plant near the Freyfogel Overlook, but there still were no dark blue-violet flowers.

Did get shot of sun-dappled spiderwort, however.

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Close to the Windsor/Vine bridge saw Meadowbrook’s first false sunflowers of the season.

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And along Windsor road, where the prairie had been burned, were abundant flowers: Penstemon, spiderwort, Baptisia (whose spikes of white flowers were just starting to appear across the prairie) and purple coneflowers.

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Could also see leaves of prairie dock, tall Coreopsis, rosinweed, and rattlesnake master.

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Summer approaches!

Sunday 7 June 2015. Ten Miles Out on Curtis Road

This morning it was 65 degrees F under thinly cloudy skies (that is, the sun still was visible) and a fairly stiff, consistent breeze blew from the southeast.

It was 5:40 by the time I got out the door. Can’t seem to get going as early as I’d like this June, alas, especially if I don’t get to sleep at a decent hour. Early to bed, early to rise…. Yes, I guess it’s true, and even truer than it used to be.

Found out at a party I attended last night that Curtis Road was a nice, dog-free way toward Homer Lake. So brought out Rhododendron (with its two sound, full tires) and headed south.

Stopped to look at the mushroom place and found some

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but it was nowhere as dramatic a showing as last fall. The mycologist (someone who studies fungi) co-host of the afore-mentioned party was not surprised (nor impressed) by my report of these late-spring Amanitas.

At McHenry Street (a little north of Windsor Road) a great blue heron flew over my head, but couldn’t get the phone out in time for a photo.

Then looped around Meadowbrook Park as quickly as I could, though the spiderwort

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and Penstemon were not to be ignored.

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Saw a few deer in their reddish-brown spring coats standing among the blue and white flowers (which made me think of the word “fresh”), but didn’t get a photo.

Headed east on Windsor, south on Philo, and east on Curtis. There were a few houses fairly close to the road (which, the road, that is, zigged and zagged a little, and pleasantly) but no dogs. Yes! At about five miles, however, felt tired (though no localized pain) and questioned the wisdom of getting out with not enough sleep. Again, are we having fun yet? Had thought about riding sixty miles on my sixtieth birthday (next month!); this wasn’t an especially positive indication toward that goal.

But pressed on. Was determined to get at least twenty miles out of this trip. A second wind would come, no doubt.

Just then, saw a little patch of land with headstones on the east side of the road, and made a short stop to check it out.

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Some of the headstones were unreadable, some were for people who had died in the late 1800s, others were dated as recently as 2013.

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A substantial fraction of this handful
of grave markers was for very young children,

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bespeaking a grim fact of life not so very long ago.

It seemed like an ideal place for a cemetery, out away from anything in particular; truly peaceful. Wondered whether there would likely be any new graves here in the future.

Rode up to where the road touched the Salt Fork, at the intersection of county roads 1200 N and 1975 E,

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where the trip odometer was at just past 10 miles, and I turned back. By this time was awake and able to enjoy the narrow, quiet, dog-less road.

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The southeast wind was friendly at this stage of the trip, and I put the “pedal to the metal,” so to speak. It felt good to go fast and to breathe deeply. Fun, after all!

But after stopping for coffee and getting this post started noticed I had a flat tire!?? Never until this year have I gotten a flat tire in these trips and then in the past few weeks had two. What gives?

But fortunately had the mini-pump and got home without too much difficulty.

And, on a different note, just want to wish a very happy birthday to Horse Badortes, wherever you are.