Sunday 30 April 2017. Big Wet Finish for 30 Days of Biking

It was 55 degrees F with steady rain falling

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as I donned rain gear and went forth for a ride.

Getting the phone out to get a photo was not easy: it got wet pretty fast. But did manage a few, including a white and a pink dogwood (it’s been a great year for them!) in the same shot.

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Florida Avenue was wet and green.

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At the Japan House Garden, rain pooled under the now-leafy-green cherry trees

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The hellebores still looked great in their present manifestation and now surrounded by hostas.

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The pond on the far side of the garden looked quite full.

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Enjoyed being out connecting with the weather but wished I’d put on the shoe-covers a friend had given me. They were still wet from yesterday and did not keep my shoes bone dry then but would have kept out most of the buckets of water with which my shoes were now filled. Now I know.

Noticed that the word “exhilarated,” which often occurs to me on bike rides, was not what I would have used to describe my state of mind just now. The discomfort of wetness was a bit distracting and looked forward to being out of the wet clothes.

Still, was glad to have fulfilled my 30 Days of Biking pledge with all the other joyful cyclists!

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Sunday 23 April 2017. Brownfield Woods with Woodland Phlox, and Sighting the Fox

It was 38 degrees F under clear skies at 6:05 am, the sun about to come up. Rolled Shadow out of the garage to head east and north, per the wind direction. Have learned my lesson that even a reportedly small wind velocity can make a difference when it’s blowing straight at you. Also, had been wanting to visit Brownfield Woods (to the east and north) to see the bloom of the Dutchman’s britches but never managed that. Now it was time for woodland Phlox and didn’t want to
miss that, too.

Headed out Main Street, past the little grove of burr oaks.

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Noticed a good-sized reddish, furry creature lounging under the oak trees that didn’t seem especially perturbed by my presence. It seemed to be the Sunday morning fox right around where I’d seen it on several Sundays in the past, as if waiting for my visit. Marveled at the “bushiness” of what appeared to be its tail. The only feature I wasn’t sure about was its face, which could have been a cat’s. A very large cat’s. After I took several pictures and so had been staring at it for a while, it got up and ambled back away from the street and toward a line of trees and the sound of a multi-breed chorus of barking dogs.

Rode on Main Street until it ended at University Avenue, crossed University and rode through the Beringer subdivision. Checked the ponds but saw no ducks.

Crossing the I-74 bridge was very glad to be wearing the felted mittens I’d just finished making

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Saw not one but two dead possums along the road that paved the bridge. No pics of that for the blog. Remembered the possum remains I used to observe (described in older posts) at the north side of the bridge that had taken years to decompose and be grown over. Didn’t plan to follow these the same way but made a note to look next time I come this way.

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Was happy to reach Olympian Drive and turn back.

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It was kind of disappointing to look back and notice how I’ve been taking fewer and shorter rides than I used to. But no use not enjoying where I was then! And where I am now, reflecting on it.

On the way back –tailwind!–stopped for shots of woodland Phlox.

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This seemed to be a good year for them,

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and today appeared to be the peak of the bloom.

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Oh, lovely stars of blue! Was especially glad to have caught this bloom because of having missed the Dutchman’s breeches.

Butterweed, which bursts yellow in seemingly random patches of sometimes great abundance in farm fields and near streams

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provided a striking yellow contrast.

Saw the fox (was convinced for a while that it was a cat but the ears decided the ID) again on the way back.

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Saturday 22 April 2017. Through the Marathon to See Blue-Winged Teal

It was 45 degrees F under cloudy skies with an east-northeast wind this morning at 7:45 as I walked Shadow out of the garage. My goal was to bring a pair of binoculars to the sunken pond, (the purported historical buffalo-wallow) in Weaver Park, and and see whether any ducks were stopping there for spring migration, as they had in previous years.

An obstacle to this goal was the running of the Illinois Marathon, a big community event, the route of which pretty much circled inner Champaign-Urbana and blocked my path to anywhere away from the center of town.

Actually was excited to be close to the festivity of the event and waited for a while at the corner of Green and Cedar to watch crowds of medium-serious runners,

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a couple of whom I recognized and cheered for, pass by.

After a little while of watching turned south away from the route and rode along Washington Street until the route joined Washington going east.

Rode on the sidewalk paralleling the runners until the route went south again at Kinch Street.

By this time there were enough gaps between groups of runners that I could slip across the street and proceed to Weaver Park. Here is a view from the other side.

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Made it to Weaver Park, with its unimproved “trails,”

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but nice row of windbreak (Osage orange?) trees.

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Saw that there were, alas, the pervasive Canada geese (though not many) but also some duck-looking fowl. Whipped out the binoculars and was delighted to locate 5 or 6 pairs of blue-winged teal! Even got an iPhone shot where you might be able to detect some non-mallard ducks.

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The binoculars also revealed a single striking black and white duck way across the pond that would dive completely under the water and resurface after a little while. Would call it a lesser scaup but was unable to get a photo.

After the stop at Weaver rode on to the east with the thought of crossing High Cross Road,

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which is a great place to view the sky,

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but my hands were cold (knew then that I should have worn these,

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which I’d just finished knitting (without a pattern!) and felting), so turned back.

The way back was almost clear of runners; took the liberty of cheering and shouting encouragement to the ones at the very end. And headed home.

Saturday 15 April 2017. Spring Along South Race Street.

It was 62 degrees F at 7:25 this morning under partly cloudy skies as I aimed Shadow into the southerly breeze toward Meadowbrook Park.

Had actually wanted to go north to see the Dutchman’s breeches at Brownfield woods but changed my mind in favor of a return tailwind.

My right calf hurt some: snapped the knee back a little too quickly when it went “out” yesterday, and it had other effects. (The answer is more practice, of course.) But not bad enough to keep me from keeping today’s part of my 30 Days of Biking pledge.

Was greeted on the way by flowers and tender foliage under the light of the spring morning.

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Nearing Windsor Road, across the field from the U of I Pollinatarium, stopped to look at baby ginkgo leaves against the sky.

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Then looked up and saw a great blue heron overhead!

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At Meadowbrook rode to the rabbit-statue bridge for the dear customary view of McCullough Creek

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Took the shortcut back to Race Street, past a fence from the top of which burst a swarm of male goldfinches, some of which lighted on a nearby tree! Here, if you look carefully, is at least one of them.

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Rode on as far as Old Church Road.

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On the way back stopped for a look at the “wonky Christmas tree.”

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Closer to home saw parrot tulips

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Spring was lush and beyond “sprung,” but still so young. As always it was a privilege and a joy to witness.

Friday 14 April 2017. Glorious Meadowbrook Spring: Shooting Stars, Bluebells, Jacob’s Ladder

It was 51 degrees F at 6:15 this morning with the sun about to rise. Had planned to swim but when the guards were late and the pool not yet open just opted for a bike ride to Meadowbrook Park to see if the prairie was starting to awaken.

(It was!)

But first saw the neighborhood’s madly-flowering trees,

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Like this crab apple.

At the Vine Street entrance of Meadowbrook Park saw serviceberry (what’s the story behind that name?) with cottonwood catkins dangling above.

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Crossed the Vine street bridge over McCullough Creek and saw frogs and fish stirring under the surface of the water.

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Then rode on the path that paralleled the creek and in the recently managed area south of the organic garden plots was surprised to see Jacob’s ladder (thought fewer than in previous years) still there and almost in peak bloom.

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Was drawn in by the more common but lovely ephemeral Virginia bluebells on the “forest” floor.

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Toward the west end of the organic garden plots saw a full, beautifuly blooming (crab?) apple.

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Turned south along Race Street toward the sunrise over McCullough Creek at the customary viewing spot,

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as well as the early light shining on the nearby rabbit-statue

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Rode down to the entrance to the “soft” path and saw shoots of rattlesnake master, edged with dew drops, emerging through the thatch of last year’s prairie growth.

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A little farther on got close to a deer.

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Actually there were two deer, the other not visible here.

The area around the path to the inner prairie had been burned, and it was easy to see from a good distance the patch of shooting stars near where the path split into three.

Welcome, welcome shooting stars!!

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They looked well, maybe thanks to the burn.

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But farther down the path where I used to see pink shooting stars there were none, alas.

The little compass plant shoots were, however, making the their way up from the ground

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Then rode homeward, admiring the line of blooming crab apples across Windsor Road.

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Was glad for today’s change of plan.

Friday 7 April 2017. Colder and Windier Than Expected

This morning, the seventh of 30 Days of Biking, at 6:50, it was 35 degrees F under clear (at last!) skies. Was psyched to get back (at least closer) to a daily bike ride!

Checked the wind speed and direction (WNW at 9 mph, a velocity that didn’t seem to dictate a direction for the ride) and decided on a trip west on Windsor Road.

Felt that suspicious ease as I rode south on Race Street, which would mean resistance on the way home. Did not feel overdressed in the down coat!

Rode out Windsor–into the wind–and decided at Fourth Street that it was enough. What kind of lightweight was I?
But my face was cold from the wind and just didn’t care to prolong the experience.

There was plenty to see on the way back.

In the pond to the west were a number of ducks, apparently not all mallards.

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So wished I had a better zoom to identify them.

Got a shot of the “State Farm Center” (I still think of it as the Assembly Hall) from the southeast.

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Then downhill on St Mary’s Road, riding the west wind! Yippee!

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Stopped for a round barn shot.

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At the end of St. Mary’s Road at Lincoln Avenue stopped at the U of I horticulture Idea Garden

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for a view of some lovely spring blooms.

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There were hyacinths

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and yellow tulips, most artistically composed.

Then in the neighborhood closer to home were lovely hellebores.

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On another day I will go farther.

Sunday 2 April 2017. Cherry Blossoms Plus a Nice Ride

It was 43 degrees F under mostly cloudy skies at 6:45 this morning as I headed out on Rhododendron on this second day of 30 Days of Biking

Noticed yesterday that the cherry blossoms at Japan House seemed to be in bloom, so made that today’s destination. After that planned to continue the ride to the south and west to reach my 30 Days of Biking goal for this year (my fifth, if that’s possible!) of at least 10 miles a day.

Indeed, the cherries were in bloom!

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It was unquestionably the proverbial religious experience, especially standing under the canopy they made, looking up into the pale, tender petals.

In addition to the cherries, the bloom of the hellebores in the garden had, if you can imagine, developed since my last viewing.

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And not only did it seem to be the optimal day for the cherry bloom, the exact time of day seemed perfect as well: the early morning sun managed to slip through the clouds enough to softly illuminate the cherry petals.

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It was beautiful upon beautiful, and I knew it wouldn’t stay this way for very long. But it was the kind of moment that “fills eternity.” So glad to have caught it!

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Then rode south on Lincoln and straight across Windsor Road where Lincoln turned into into a gravel path and past an Illinois Natural History Survey facility, next door to the U of I Bee Lab,

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toward Curtis Road.

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Looking to the west over the unplanted plowed field, the sky showed some interesting features.

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Rode to First Street, along the side of which there was a road-killed possum and, alas, the smooth, pink, motionless baby possums she’d been carrying scattered around her. No pictures here.

Then west on St. Mary’s and south a little for coffee and egg bites at Starbuck’s on south Neil.

On the way home stopped on St. Mary’s Road by the vet school for a horse portrait.

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Coasted at speed down the big hill to Lincoln Avenue and into the day.