Saturday 25 March 2017. Burned Prairie and Curtis Road

It was 60 degrees F and cloudy this morning at 7:50 as I topped off Rhododendron’s tires and headed out for, in accordance with the wind direction, parts south and east.

The ride was smooth and swift and was not strongly drawn to stop and photograph until, close to Windsor Road, it started to rain.

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Didn’t have to wait at all for the light to change at Race and Windsor. Maybe they’ve worked out the timing, or maybe I just got lucky.

Meadowbrook was beginning to show green from a distance.

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Got the customary shot of McCullough/ Davis creeks from the Rabbit Statue bridge.

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Over the bridge, around the corner and on a little way noticed that a section of last year’s growth had been burned away,

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leaving the ground charred and almost bare and affording a view far into the middle of the prairie. Was glad to see this bit of prairie management. Hoped it would reduce what seemed to be disease in some of the prairie plants.

Saw a beaten path from the toward Davis Creek and followed into the water.

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In the creek was an abundance of filamentous green algae. Near the stream, rocks and logs were covered with soft green moss.

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Back along the path, most of the prairie still was pale gold.

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Red-winged blackbirds perched on old compass plant stalks and on the tops of bird houses.

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and announced their presence.

Noticed how much easier it was to ride with the temperature at 60 than it was when it was in the thirties!

Rode on to Windsor and turned east into its bordering sidewalk and then to Philo Road and eastward on Curtis Road.

There was a southeastern breeze that required some extra exertion, but knew it would mean ease on the way back.

Rode downhill pretty much all the way to High Cross, not much encumbered by the cross wind.

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Turned back at High Cross Road.

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The way back was indeed uphill, which made me think that a route for the future (especially with a west wind) would go out Curtis and back another way, at least between High Cross and Philo Road.

And then, at Philo Road the path went downhill again. Hooray!

Saw a nice roadside tree just before Race street.

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Back near Meadowbrook noticed in the tree plantation across the street that a lot of the trees looked poorly, which may have been why there has been so much cutting. Maybe it was not that someone wanted the area cleared.

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The rain stopped.

And back in the neighborhood there were golden daffodils among copious blue Scilla and early manifestation of Virginia bluebells.

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Oh, welcome, this leading edge of extravagant, profligate springtime!

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Thursday 23 March 2017. Errands Across Campus on Thursday of Spring Break

It was about 45 degrees F and cloudy at about 3:30 pm as I hopped on Shadow and headed west for Champaign.

Part of my little family had gone south with the car for a spring break father-and-son bonding trip and another part was sick with the current version of the “bad cold” that’s been going around. So like a good mom I got on my bike and headed in the direction of my son’s apartment to bring him a “basket of goodies” to help him feel better.

Traffic was spring-break light but still running on Green Street. Am starting to get used to the pedestrian cross walks where cars in all directions stop and pedestrians cross diagonally. But it’s been a process.

Stopped at the campus bike shop to get a light combination lock for Rhododendron, but should have known that their selection would be totally high-security. Ended up spending $40 for a locking chain. No one forced me, but kind of wished I’d used more fiscal restraint. Well, now I have a good lock.

Filled my backpack (after paying) with bottles of flavored fluids (heavy!) requested by my cold-afflicted son, and delivered them to his apartment. After giving his dog a walk decided a pot of chili was something he could manage to get together and headed back out through light rain

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to another grocery store. Stopped at Harvest Market,

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an upscale place, where, oddly, could not locate a bike rack. So just used my new lock to bind Shadow to a post near the entrance.

After navigating through one distraction after another (but was glad to have been offered asparagus, which I did buy, at the entrance) through the store and forgetting an important item on the list, checked out, rode back (downhill!) to deliver the goods.

With love. Got the asparagus ready to pop in the microwave but let my son take on the chili. And was off.

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On the way back it started to rain a little more heavily.

Stopped for a view of the Boneyard Creek at Scott Park.

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Did not see any waterfowl there today.

Headed on back toward campus on the Boneyard Greenway, which runs behind the buildings on Green Street.

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Not sure bikes are supposed to be on that passage but didn’t see any signs forbidding them.

Stopped at Cocomero on Wright Street, the frozen yogurt place, something I’d been meaning to do, because I’d been wanting to have some of those chewy black “bubbles” they put in drinks (to be sucked up through large-diameter straws). Yum! And spring break meant no traffic or crowds. Had my tapioca “bubbles” in a delicious mango smoothie, suggested by the proud proprietor of the store. As a counterpoint to the “bubbles” it was fruity and smooth, indeed, and not too sweet!

Sat at the counter in the window with a great view of the sparsely-peopled edge of campus, especially the unfortunately brown Alma Mater statue and of Altgeld Hall.

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It was a moment to savor, this little slice of spring break.

Then headed home, past the handsome (thanks partly to its current renovation) Natural History Building, with the handsome spreading burr oak in front of it.

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Almost home, stopped for a shot of golden yellow Forsythia, that early and brief herald of springtime,

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against a still-unleafed tulip poplar and the grey March sky. Let the spring arrive, as slowly as possible!

Sunday 19 March 2017. The Sunken Pond to the West

It was 31 degrees F under clear skies at 8:38 this morning as I rolled Rhododendron, its rear tire restored (i.e., in inner tube replaced), out of the garage to head a little way south and west, at last!

Unfortunately my shoulder was not especially pleased by the riding position on Rhododendron, the road bike. But was able to use what I’ve learned in yoga about rolling the inner upper arms out, pressing the bottom of the shoulder-blades into the back, bringing the sternum forward, and releasing the trapezius toward the waist to lessen the strain. The difficult part is maintaining the actions. No end of practice.

Destination this morning was the sunken pond on Curtis and Prospect. Wondered if there would be ducks there as I’d seen in the past.

Stopped first at the rabbit-statue bridge in Meadowbrook Park for the customary photo of the confluence of McCullough and Davis creeks.

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Noticed buds on the nearby arching red blackberry brambles.

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Also heard hammering woodpeckers and red-winged blackbirds posted in high places calling with the first three notes of the theme of the original Star Trek TV series.

Did not go any farther into the park but made the “Texas-exit” back to Race Street and took a view of the forestry plantation

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Rode out of town and as always, the first opening of the land to farm fields was exhilarating.

Rode west on Curtis and stopped on the bridge over the Embarass River to look down at animal tracks,

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The sunken pond, without its trim of prairie flowers, looked smaller than I remembered it.

It was occupied by the pervasive Canada geese, not a lot of them, but they were spread out around the pond and seemed to have serious designs on the place.

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The only other waterfowl evident was a mallard drake.

It’s hard to imagine a time when the population of Canada geese was in decline. I think it’s nice to have them around, but they do seem to view a pond similarly to how European explorers once viewed the Americas: “empty space,” and tend to take over to the exclusion of other inhabitants.

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Rode into an east wind on the way back, and felt achy thigh muscles, but the joints seemed ok. Good tired!

Sunday 12 March 2017. Spring Forward–Brrr!

It was 21 degrees F under a cloudless sky at 7:55 this morning on which, just a short time ago, we (the entire USA, except Indiana, as far as I know) had just purposely removed an hour from the day. As if the day wasn’t barely long enough already. But there it was, Daylight Savings Time. Nothing to but embrace the remaining day. And look forward to when the hour returns in the fall.

One encouraging event for this morning was that I’d finally fixed Rhododendron’s (rear) flat tire and was happy to be rolling the road bike out of the garage. I’ve enjoyed riding Shadow (a mountain bike), but in the flatlands, those 27-inch road-bike wheels can move a body along at an exhilarating clip. Oh, yes!

Nevertheless it was cold this morning, which curtailed my thirst for a long ride. So set the modest destination of the Japan House garden.

Rode between the rows of cherry trees lining the path to Japan House, noticing the sparseness of buds on their branches.

The sun slanted on the carpet of bald cypress needles with the sizable, vertically furrowed trunks with horizontal branches rising above it.

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Checked on the Winter’s Ghost” Hellebores

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which were full of blooms, if turned down toward the ground.

Saw that the weeping willow by the pond was well into greening,

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and that robins were out in force.

Heard but didn’t photograph plenty of vocal red-winged blackbirds, and noticed that grackles also had returned.

Turned back homeward before my fingers got too cold.

Cold as it was, 21 degrees F is not especially unusual for March, it’s just that it’s been so mild till now that the spring bloom is well along, and this blast of cold feels like an affront. But the daffodils in the neighborhood were not collapsed in limp heaps, the way impatiens are after the first hard frost in fall would be.

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Was glad for these hardy yellow star-faces standing up to the cold!

Sunday 5 March 2017. Inexorable Spring

At 7:51 this morning it was about 38 degrees F under mostly clear skies.

My rides seem to be getting shorter and shorter, but at least there was time to behold some splendid spring (so early!) blooms in the neighborhood.

There were hellebores, or “Lenten rose,”

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of which, somehow, I was barely aware until not long ago. Now I see them everywhere and even have some in my yard! They are quintessential party-down flowers: they arrive early and stay late!

Also gorgeous were the dwarf iris.

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They are smaller than their later-blooming relatives but still spectacular.

When the weather warms I’m hoping to expand my bike travels!