Sunday 22 May 2016. Spring Farmland, Punctuated with Flowers

It was 53 (or so) degrees F this morning at 6:30, the air pretty much calm and the sky cloudless.

It was time to take Rhododendron out for some smooth distance. Nice as it was to be able to see the scenery on Discovery II, it was more work to pedal, especially uphill and into the wind. Would just have to get over the shoulder, hip, knee, and back issues the road bike might induce.

Thought, “the beauty of the morning.”

So headed without stopping out Main Street. Looked for the fox across from the Dart plastic factory but this morning did not see it. Maybe it was there right at sunrise and I was too late.

Passed Weaver Park, crossed University Avenue, cut through the Beringer subdivision and came out on High Cross Road, on and under which the traffic was pleasantly sparse.

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Felt mostly quite comfortable!

Though a lot about my late friend Nancy, whose memorial (“celebration of life!”) was yesterday. Nancy, the great mobilizer of the gifts of others, and I took many an early morning bike ride together. The scents in the air, the songs of birds, the color of certain flowers, the angle of the sun, all called forth memories of those rides. A sweet sadness.

Mostly just wanted to ride this morning without a lot of stopping, but there was that black and green land everywhere which today I found charming.

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The corn plants, for example, were so small and tender.

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Then along Brownfield Woods saw some great waterleaf (Hydrophyllum appenduculatum)

img_6447semi-hidden among the multiplying leaves of jewelweed. This stretch next to Brownfield Woods is the only place I’ve ever seen this species, which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s rare, of course.

And the last few few woodland Phlox flowers still held forth.

Then northward again, through the farm land.

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Had passed this sign many times and was curious about it but never enough to stop. Until today. So now, at last, I know what “aeronomy” means. Yes, it has to do with air, with the atmosphere, but not with agronomy, which it sounds like. (See link for a lot more information.)

Kept going and reached the lovely sway in a the road at Champaign County highway 20.

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Rode on, looked to the west and saw blue sky and black land trimmed in grass green.

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Boring? Pure? My central Illinois.

Some way north of the sway in the road passed a farm where a dog was barking. Thought I’d remembered from last year a dog at this place that didn’t chase or bite me and hoped it would be the same this time. Yes, fortunately, (perhaps because I looked straight ahead and went at full speed) there was no problem. But wished there was another way back so I wouldn’t have to chance an attack on the return trip. Tried to imagine the worst possible scenario–the dog tearing off a piece of my calf or my crashing over the bike to the ground at high speed. Thought about friends and acquaintances who’d had bike crashes–took them a while to recover!

But it was a sunny morning, not far from human presence (i.e., assistance if needed), and my iPhone was charged. Was ready for (my picture of) the worst.

Even so, approaching the dog place, could feel the physical manifestations of fear: sweating, heart racing, shortness of breath, and didn’t like them. Really? How the body responds to the wacky mind! Maybe I could just call on good old denial, because, really, given that I’d already gone past safely, the odds were good that it would be the same on the way back. Ignore it and it probably will go away. Not real courage, but nevertheless it often serves.

And, again, the barking dog did not attack. Whew! Vitals returned to normal.

Rode back pretty much without stopping, but was attracted by the profusion of showy evening primrose (Oenothera speciosa) (actually not quite native to Illinois but to parts a little farther south and west) in the wildflower garden across Main from the west edge of Weaver Park.

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As I started taking pictures of the abundant pale-pink four-petaled flowers, the beginning of the Vivaldi Gloria filled my head.

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Yes, flowers can do that. Especially with the foil of acres of agriculture. It was a great conclusion to the beginning of the day.

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Saturday 21 May 2016. East Curtis Road Under Clouds

It was 54 degrees F at 6:30 this morning under an overcast sky.

After some internal debate decided to take Discovery II to East Curtis Road, where I haven’t been for a while. Chose the hybrid bike to be able to see better. And it was a little nicer on the low back.

Stopped for lupines

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and for new peach-yellow cabbage roses.

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And then rode and rode south on Race Street, past Meadowbrook Park.

Noticed again to the west side of Race how much growth had been cleared from the Forestry Plantation across Race from Meadowbrook.

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It used to seem quite vast, but now the horizon, a cell phone tower, and stacks of logs were visible in and behind it.

Then just rode and rode south on Race Street, right past Meadowbrook Park to Curtis Road, where, if I recaled correctly (and I may not have), a house that used to be at Washington and Vine had been moved,

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and placed at the top of the “hill,” to the right, among the clump of trees.

The road extended pleasantly eastward; it was nice change from the parallel extension on Windsor Road, which borders Meadowbrook Park for a lovely stretch but also the ever-expanding Clark-Lindsey Village, the construction on Windsor, and houses across the road.

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Crossed High Cross Road and proceeded eastward, noticing the curious distribution of the lovely butterweed.

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Each field, even when contiguous, seems to have its own distribution (from very sparse to almost solid) or lack of this conspicuous flower. My guess is the difference lies in herbicide regimes. Just my guess.

Riding Discovery II was pleasant enough, especially the view of the landscape, but it was more work than Rhododendron would have been, especially on uphill grades. Trade-offs.

Enjoyed the jog south shortly after High Cross and rode only to Cottonwood Road, when it was time to return.

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Tried to capture the lovely bit of roll in the land to the south of Curtis as I approached Race

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but it wasn’t easy. Trust me, it was very nice, somewhat less subtle than it appears.

It started to sprinkle but never became a problem. Was just in keeping with the greyness of the morning. It was not an exciting but more a serene ride. Another kind of joy.

Friday 20 May 2016. Catching the Early Sunrise

It was 53 degrees F at 5:17 this morning as I headed toward Meadowbrook Park on Discovery II. Decided it was worth going a little more slowly to be able to sit up and get a better view of the scenery.

Stopped for lupines

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And noticed pink reflections in the windows of the house in front of which the lupines were planted.

It was the sunrise!

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Was so glad to catch it, at last, even if the iPhone camera did not capture the subtleties of its colors.

Rode steadily, in comfort under the now quite business-green-leafed trees along Race Street, to Meadowbrook, where aready walkers were enjoying the new light. Exchanged greetings with them and then lingered a while, looking upstream into the sunrise, at the rabbit-statue bridge before getting a picture.

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Again, the colors of the sunrise over McCullough Creek did not all show up in the photo.

Got a few more sunrise photos

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Including one with a deer about to cross the field of view.

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There were quite a few deer, collected in two groups in the middle of the prairie over which the Freyfogel platform looked.

Spiderwort were visible

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but not thickly and still mostly away from the path.

Then went on to the morning’s next activities.

Thought about how small a window these morning rides are, full as each one is, on life with all its tangled worries. They are a little less brief than the sunrise, and the more precious for that, for being possible and always in some way joyful no matter what else may be happening.

Thursday 18 May 2016. First Meadowbrook Spiderwort, Under Glaring Sun

It was 48 degrees F this morning at 5:50, with some good-sized clouds in the western sky but none to the east. So right away the sun came up brashly and made it hard to look at the landscape the way so many previous cloudy mornings had allowed.

Still, made a point to get a view of the lupine “family”

img_6343-1, the population of stately flower spikes.

And also had to greet the beginning of the bloom of the yellow cabbage roses.

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Rode on. At Race near Windsor were clouds to the west.

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At Meadowbrook Park stopped for the customary shot of McCullough Creek below the rabbit-statue bridge, this morning.

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Could hear from this place a woodpecker, I think, making an unusually rapid but not especially loud hammering.

Farther on the path, the sun was too bright to make me want to take a photo, but looked to see whether the blue flag irises were blooming. Used the zoom of the “dedicated” camera to check for blooms and thought I saw one. Unconvinced that it was what it seemed to be, screwed up the resolve to enter the wet, willowy barrier and get close enough to see for sure.

Was very surprised to see no blooms or even buds among the blades of iris leaves. Do they bloom later than I thought? Might they not even bloom this year?

Rode to the Freyfogel observation deck where there was a tree swallow, firmly settled, at the same corner where I’d seen it before.

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Walked around the structure to the opposite side and looked out at the prairie and the sky, and spied, under the strong sunlight, a spiderwort flower, my first sighting of the species at Meadowbrook this year.

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Also saw some nice compass plant leaves.

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Checked the place where I’ve been seeing lead plant over the past few years, now that I know what the first shoots look like, and there, wit a lot of sun on them, they were.

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Had some time and wanted to add a few miles, though was not brimming with energy.

Decided to get close to Yankee Ridge

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and turn west instead of east.

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Which I did, and coasted a while down that lovely slope until I came to the Barnhart Prairie Restoration.

Saw golden Alexanders there but no spiderwort. Did like the rather abundant clusters of erect prairie dock leaves and was going to photograph one, but my phone’s battery had run out of power.

It was a little relief not to worry about taking any more pictures the rest of the pleasant way home.

Sunday 15 May 2016. Cold Morning in May

It was 39 degrees F (yes, according to the phone ap!) and partly cloudy this morning at about 6:30 am as Rhododendron and I headed toward South First Street. Had been expecting the cold and accordingly put on layers against it.

Felt completely comfortable in the weather as early on made a stop for a lupine “family portrait “

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The pale yellow spikes apparently were beginning to outnumber the deep pink ones.
And didn’t go far before a huge, creamy pale pink puff of a peony blossom beckoned.

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Wondered whether the cold had an effect on it.

On the way south and west stopped at the Florida and Orchard prairie planting, where the only native blooms I could see still were golden Alexanders, but with foliage of many coming attractions emerging densely,

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most notably the stacks of broad, vertically-folded, pale alternating leaf-pairs of the common milkweed.

Rode south on Lincoln Avenue toward Windsor road and stopped for look at cows under a nice cloud.

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Made me think of my sister the vet and her family’s dairy farm in Wisconsin, where yesterday they had snow (!?!). Was glad this reminder of her life was so close and accessible to me.

Rode west on Windsor and saw a great blue heron wading in the “pond” to the east end of the City of Champaign Prairie Restoration. Of course it took off before I could get a shot with the iPhone, though did manage to snag a poor though documentary photo with the dedicated camera.

Because this morning was so atypical with the unseasonable cold, the phrase, “one (unusual!) morning in May” occurred to me, and then, of course, the James Taylor recording of a traditional song by that name. What a great duet he and Linda Rhonstadt did on that one.

Noticed here the first spiderwort of the season in bloom! Did not, however, tromp through the vegetation to get a close shot. Soon enough there will be flowers close enough to the path to observe easily.

Checked the area in front of the sign for evidence of lead plant, which seemed to turn up nothing until I noticed small shoots emerging from fairly high up on some dead-looking woody branches.

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It was a satisfying discovery, something I hadn’t known before: exactly how the plant makes its return from winter dormancy.

Then doubled back slightly to ride south on First Street.

The little corn plants in the fields to one or both sides of the road seemed unharmed by the cold. Got a photo of a field with curved rows.

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Was feeling calm and mostly neutral, ready for a little fatigue. The ride was pleasant enough, smooth and sometimes rather quiet, and only after a while did I begin to suspect a coming push-back from the north wind. Indeed, the grass along the road did seem to be bending in the direction in which I was traveling, and perhaps also slightly toward the road as well. Hoped the westward component would lessen the strength of the headwind on the way back.

Stopped at the lovely prairie planting a little farther down: it featured blue indigo (Baptisia australis)

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(note the tidy lawn and non-native evergreens in the background), white blackberry blooms,

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and then, spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis)!

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Rode as far as County Road 900

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and turned around.

Yes, the wind blew from the north as I headed in that direction. It was more effort than the way out, but not so much as to make the ride unpleasant. Thought as I rode of people, deceased and alive, who used to be in my life but are no longer. My memory of and gratitude for them was so vivid this morning.

Stopped at the Starbuck’s on South Neil for a spinach wrap and coffee and to rest.

Then cut through the street just to the west of Neil (it does go through) to St. Mary’s Road, the neat, narrow road where sports and animal science (and veterinary medicine) meet.

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I like sports well enough (though I seem to have been attracted to people who don’t), and in a sense owe my existence to it, as my parents met because they both were on basketball teams. But it does make me sad to see the historic round barns behind a golf course.

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At least the barns and the vet school are not likely to be displaced.

Took that lovely, precious central Illinois hill of St. Mary’s Road down to Lincoln Avenue and homeward.

Stopped to photo one of so many gorgeously blooming neighborhood Rhododendrons

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and headed home.

Friday 13 May 2016. Lots of Friendly Deer but No Iris and No Shooting Star

This morning I made it out the door by 5:30 am, before the reported time of sunrise! It was a good start for witnessing the season of light! (Now to continue the “trend!”)

Did stop for lupines

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And for the white irises that had bloomed the previous fall.

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Approached Meadowbrook this morning from Vine Street and stopped at the Windsor/Vine bridge, which was full of foliage, especially of alders.

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Rode on the path close to the creek. Near the Peg Richardson Hickman Wildflower Walk saw a small group of deer that did not seem bothered by my approach.

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In fact, one came closer to me when I stopped.

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It’s hard not to gently talk to them when they’re so “friendly”. But soon was on my way toward the rabbit-statue bridge to see what today’s manifestation of this part of McCullough Creek would be.

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Farther on the path got a sunrise shot

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and saw another group of curious deer.

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A little way down, looked among the willow shoots to see whether there were any blue flag iris in bloom. Actually had prepared for the iris foray by wearing protective shoes, knowing that the ground between the path and the patch where they grew would be wet.

Walked on into the wet, soft ground to the iris place but saw no sign of flowers! It was disappointing, but at least got accurate data.

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Then walked with the bike on the soft path into the middle of the prairie to see about the shooting stars.

On the way in saw what looked to me like popcorn scattered over the ground,

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which on closer examination revealed to be blackberry blossoms.

At the shooting star site there were a few leaves visible but not a single flower or flower stalk. Shooting stars certainly aren’t the kind of plants to leave their seeds lingering about in view much after the flowers finish. Wondered if the deer had eaten them. Their season is so brief. (Also, it’s still pretty dark at at 6 am in April, the month when they start to bloom, so I have fewer opportunities to follow their progress.)

The deer were some consolation, but did feel a sobering (a very useful word that implies objectivity and detachment) sense of the inexorable transience of nature.

Thursday 12 May 2016. On the Way to and from the Edge of Trelease and of Brownfield Woods and in Between

At about 6 this morning it was 62 degrees F and mostly cloudy.

Set off on Rhododendron for east Washington Street. Noticed that the tree leaves, increasingly of “business green” were closing into a canopy over stretches of Washington.

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Thought I would go at east as far east as Cottonwood Road, and then decide how far north to go.

Noticed where Washington Street opened into the countryside that along the south side of the road, on the edge of the field (the one that’s for sale) full of butterweed there was what looked like wheat (winter wheat, apparently, already in seed) growing alongside the road.

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Then, not far along in a flooded corner of the field, saw three or four shorebirds wading.

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I think they were two different species: pretty sure one was a killdeer, and the other some kind of sandpiper I’d seen before. But they were too far away to ID with any certainty.

Turned north on Cottonwood, that very quiet country road. Proceeded north over the I-74 bridge, where a fair amount of traffic passed beneath me. Rode to Trelease woods, and noticed quite a few woodland Phlox plants with several flowers each.

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Made me think that last week there would have been an incredible mass of blue woodland Phlox flowers here.

A little way down was a lovely mass of delicate pink wild geranium flowers.

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Rode north on Cottonwood to Oaks Road, at the southwest corner of which intersection was a puddle and the sound of frogs.

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At first when I stopped, the sound paused, but after I stood quietly for a while, it resumed, and actually got quite loud. Oddly, I could not actually see a single frog, close as I was. Their cammo was doing its job.

At High Cross Road turned south, stopping on the edge of Brownfield Woods,

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where there were more woodland Phlox.

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Also in bloom was Virginia waterleaf (Hydrophyllum virginianum),

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the flowers of which are not especially eye-catching (just my opinion) from a distance but lovely when viewed up close.

On the way back felt some wind resistance and actually felt more tired than usual at this point on the trip. It wasn’t largely distracting from the enjoyment, but did wonder about my plans for increasing mileage through the summer. No doubt the coming (?) warmer temperatures will help.

Was glad to get back and glad for having gone out.