Sunday 21 January 2018. To Thawing Meadowbrook in Fog, with Lesson

Got out on the road on Shadow at about 7:30 this morning, after applying some lube to the chain. The temperature was 41 degrees F under clouds and fog but no wind to speak of.

The streets were wet but clear; small piles of snow remained along their edges from last week’s snow-fall and low temperatures. In other words, they were not interfering with passage “au vélo.”

Checked “my” apple tree and found a few fruit still attached.

Riding south on Race Street, stopped to get à view of the enveloping fog.

The wintry fog made me think of death and funerals. So far in my life I’ve never arranged a funeral and wondered whether it would be worth learning how to do it before it was necessary, like a scout project, to be prepared. But did not make a decision.

Stopped again just before entering Meadowbrook Park to see the fog through the pine planting,

a doorway of mystery.

Stopped at the rabbit-statue bridge to check the state of McCullough Creek.

Which was melting but still with some ice.

Stopped to get a view of thistle remains against the foggy winter prairie

and of the of the path receding into the fog.

Across Douglas Creek, the fog lent drama to the forms of the bare trees.

Saw a particularly full raindrop hanging from a budded twig near the path. After a bit of struggle was able to focus the iPhone camera on it,

and was reasonably pleased with the result: an inverted microcosm.

Stopped then at the Prairie Viewing Station

which previously I had carelessly referred to as the “Freyfogle Overlook ” but henceforth will use its official name. Really have to work on tightening up accuracy in the blog. The more integrity the better!

Got a view of old compass plants

old goldenrod

and Baptisia pods.

At the Windsor /Vine bridge

noticed wet, uneven ice on the path leading to the bridge. The smoothness of the ride so far had given me confidence to traverse this small patch of ice, which I don’t think would have been a problem if my way were straight ahead. Unfortunately, I had to turn slightly to the right to get over the bridge, but my momentum kept going forward, the bike slid under me, and I went down.

It was a minor, slow-speed, not entirely unexpected fall, but a nearby friendly golden retriever was concerned, and she and her owner hurried over to make sure I was ok. We were joined by two other concerned passers-by, but soon all were convinced I was fine.

Headed home across Windsor Road, enjoying the amazingly responsive traffic signal, and with renewed respect for the laws of physics.


Sunday 14 January 2018. Japan House Garden with Frozen Pond

At 7:23 this morning it was 6 degrees F and clear with minimal wind.

Dressed warmly and unlocked RhododendronShadow’s brakes still were pretty frozen–for a minimal ride in the cold. The streets were salty but clear and dry, which was favorable both for safety and for the condition of the bike.

Heading south on Race Street, noticed (just hadn’t looked for a while) some lingering apples on “my” apple tree.

Then continued west on Florida and south on Lincoln to the Japan House garden, technically part of the U of I Arboretum.

The sun (already launched for a while) was rising above the frozen pond.

Checked the hellebores under the bald cypresses, the ones with the “Winter’s Ghost” marker)

and found stiff but green leaves.,

apparently reading to resume photosynthesis as soon as the temperature goes above freezing. Wondered whether the bloom (often underway by early February) would be much later this year.

Got a photo of bare cherry trees ,

The frozen pond,

and the sculptural evergreen shrubs accented with a stone architectural feature

of which I may have heard the name but don’t remember it, alas.

As I looped around the pond thought about spring and bringing friends here when the weather is more hospitable. But for completeness was glad to have been here in the cold.

And that was today’s little ride!

Saturday 13 January 2018. A Short, Cold Trip with Sticking Brakes

This morning at about 9 it was 11 degrees F, the sky clear blue with a 12 mph north wind.

Did not plan a long trip, but wanted at least to visit the Japan House garden.

Unfortunately, the condensation precipitated by suddenly warm after very cold weather had frozen Shadow’s brake cables. The back brake could not be engaged at all; the front worked a little but then would not release all the way. So had to pedal against the break. Alas. It was good exercise, but I thought not great for the brakes themselves.

So just rode to the yoga studio to prepare for this afternoon’s class and then to the coffee shop to catch up on the backlog of winter posts.

At least wanted some winter image, so on the way to the coffee shop stopped to look into the Boneyard Creek from the bridge on Lincoln and Green.

Lo and behold, there was a pair of ducks managing to swim on the surprisingly unfrozen water.

Also stopped for a view of some bare trees on Lincoln Avenue.

This one made me think of preparing to go from Salamba Sarvangasana (supported shoulder stand) to Parsvaikapada Sarvangasana (one leg to the side shoulder stand).

It was not much of a ride but much better than none!

Sunday 7 January 2018. Frozen Meadowbrook

It was 17 degrees F under cloudy skies this morning around 7:45 when I rolled Shadow down the snowy driveway and toward Meadowbrook Park. Race Street (and about half the width of the bike lanes) was mostly clear, but a south wind blew toward me, making me even more mindful that I haven’t been biking as much as I used to.

Felt plenty warm in the ensemble of long down coat, sweatpants, mohair socks and waterproof boots, fleece gloves/ felted mittens, and fleece balaclava hood. But still didn’t want to stop for too many photos, exposing those cold-prone fingers to the heat-sucking air.

Crossed Windsor Road with almost no wait. It’s funny to remember my impatience before the system was fine-tuned.

At Meadowbrook passed the “wonky Christmas tree” without stopping and proceeded to the rabbit-statue bridge, carefully coasting downhill over the frozen footprints.

As expected, there was ice over McCullough Creek,

more of a white than of the dreaded black variety. Wondered what factors account for this; a layer of snow, perhaps.

Farther along got a shot of the texture of the frozen footprints on the path.

The bike tires made a satisfying crackle as they rolled down the path and over them.

Stopped to observe a little clump of trees along Douglas (more on that later) Creek.

It inspired a haiku:

Blunt-ended branches/ Made me wonder whether they/ Would leaf out come spring.

Got a shot of the Marker Statue presiding over the snowy prairie.

Then saw something (a beautiful graphic, I must say) that made me embarrassed:

I’ve been referring to this stream as “Davis Creek” for at least the last couple years, thereby spreading false information and ignorance. Alas!

For a brief moment understood the impulse to respond as our president might: “the sign is part of a malicious plot to make me look bad!” But so far I still have some capacity to recognize my mistakes and stand apologetically corrected.

Here exemplified is a pitfall of blogging, and of instant mass-communication in general: I can say whatever I want without checking the facts, without even realizing my “facts” may be wrong. As time allows, I hereby commit to minimizing such sloppy editing.

Near the Freyfogle overlook got some shots of the winter manifestation of purple coneflower

and compass plant .

Got a view of the winter prairie from the Freyfogle overlook.

Farther along, stopped at the Windsor/ Vine bridge over McCullough Creek

and wondered how the hole in the ice had been made.

Stopped later on at this relatively new Meadowbrook sculpture

which in my view is reasonably harmonious with its prairie surroundings. I see it possibly as the shoots of prairie plants or as flames of prairie fire. Its title is, enigmatically, “Two in the Hand.”

Wondered how much ice and snow there would be this winter. Was glad to have witnessed its presence today.

Sunday 31 December 2017. Zero Degrees F and Snow

The clouds were starting to break up at 7:50 am as I rode Shadow onto the snow-packed and newly snow-dusted streets on this last day of 2017. As mentioned in the title, it was zero degrees F, fortunately with little wind.

Yes, you could think of cycling in these conditions as foolhardy, but I was very careful to take certain precautions: warm boots, layered clothes, double-thick felted wool and fleece mittens/gloves, fleece balaclava/hood. Also, very few cars were out, and few streets crossed my route: Race Street.

Although most of the snow had fallen a couple of days ago, the low temperatures kept the streets from being as clear as they might have been otherwise.

But at least the snow was not deep. Yes, with care, it is possible to bike at zero degrees F in the snow.

Had not planned to go farther than the mushroom spruces, but the ride was surprisingly pleasant and wondered whether Meadowbrook Park was not too far of a destination.

Stopped at the spruces for a couple of photos

but then noticed how quickly my fingers got cold and reasoned that even if I made in to Meadowbrook ok, the trip back likely would be pretty darned cold.

Even on the short ride back my fingers got cold. Knowing that things like nervousness can exacerbate cold extremities, though of relaxing and delivering warm blood to the fingers and toes. “Let the fingers be warm, let the toes be warm, let the warm blood keep me warm all over” was a little chant I repeated. With some success, I think.

Was thus ready to let go of the old year and move on to the new.

Sunday 24 December 2017. Cycling through the Snow to the Art Mart on Christmas Eve.

At about 7:30 this morning it was 24 degrees F, snow lightly falling on the thin layer already accumulated. The first real snow-ride of the winter!

It’s Christmas Eve. Yet again my schedule of what to do when to accomplish my extremely well-intentioned seasonal tasks never quite gelled. So many people, once again, will not know that I am thinking fondly and gratefully of them (you may be one!). But at least I’ve figured out to claim everything that did get done as victory and that I might as well enjoy the impulsive ideas for sharing and celebration that still are available.

Thus the Vélo du Jour is a trip to the Art Mart

to get a little present for my newest great nephew. Don’t ask me why I didn’t get it on my previous trip here. Part of the delay was trying to figure how expensive of a gift to get. I’m strongly averse to putting a dollar amount on love, yet generosity often involves offering one’s monetary resources. But in the end opted for emotional impact over price: a smiling stripes-shirted bear parent-and-baby interactive bath mitt set. German-made (or at least designed) of course.

Also snagged a couple of stocking stuffers for my little family.

And had a Brussels sprouts (par -boiled) slaw along with my coffee and scone. Tell me where besides the Art Mart one can do that!

The trip here through the snow was a little more rigorous than I anticipated; cold hands, for one. I think it was partly just from worrying about traffic, which of course was light. But Florida/Kirby Avenue is a major artery of Champaign-Urbana, and what traffic might appear might not expect to deal with a bike. On the way back I’ll stick to the forbidden but out of the way sidewalks. Slow and steady, no fast stops or sudden changes of direction.

Was glad to have needed a trip to to the Art Mart to feel some Christmas Eve vibe. Must admit that this season and its activities evoke a mixture of feelings for me. I truly am loath to impose my culture on those who don’t share it with me. Among those who do, the holiday season can evoke the most painful of memories. And it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and not up to the high hopes and demands of Christmas activities.

That said, a time of year set aside to aim for connection, reconciliation, and peace (not to plumb here its historical and religious meaning) is, I believe, a good thing.

Merry Christmas to all who welcome it! Good will to all!

Sunday 17 December 2017. Almost to St. Joe on the KRT

It was 38 degrees F under cloudy skies at about 8:00 this morning as I headed toward the Kickapoo Rail to Trail intending to ride its entire length to St Joseph.

Even though the temperature was above freezing, I dressed carefully: down coat, fleece hood, and felted mittens. Cycling is an activity that adds heat to some areas of the body but distractingly subtracts it from others.

Rode out on East Main Street past the little grove of oaks across Main from the Dart plastic factory, a place where I regularly used to see a fox,

but haven’t the past several times I’ve been by.

Stopped at the Main Street edge of Weaver Park to get a glimpse of the winter version of horse nettle fruit and compass plant leaves,

Monarda seed heads,

and yellow coneflowers.

Then proceeded to where Main Street ran into University Avenue, the head of the KRT.

Headed east on that straight line and settled into the rhythm of pedaling.

In a shrubby stretch on the north side of the trail saw more cardinals than I’m used to seeing in one place, a “flock” of them, though they dispersed when I stopped to get a photograph.

Noticed a pile of old railroad ties on the south side of the trail,

evidence of the trail’s former (rails) life.

Passed Full’s Siding, with its towering, humming grain storage structures.

Felt enveloped by the landscape, close with the birds (saw juncos and woodpeckers in addition to the cardinals), the bare shrubs, the expanse of brown and black soil, the grey clouds.

Noticed nests in the bare trees and bushes, including this one topped with golden fluff

There was a strong smell, like sewage, which wasn’t exactly pleasant but which was of the outdoors and for that reason not completely unwelcome.

Light rain fell.

Rode as far as the Pioneer Seed facility just outside of St. Joseph.

The rain seemed to fall a bit more heavily now and didn’t want to have any more distance riding back in it than necessary.

On the way back saw a hidden “Christmas ” tree.

Noticed the seed head of a plant I didn’t quite recognize but that seemed like an unusual growth form, with a broad, flat stem.

Farther down saw that the once-green, erect spade-like leaves of prairie dock now were brown, bent down and curled, transformed with a different kind of beauty.

The rain had disappeared and felt like I could have reached St. Joe, but still was SO full with contentment to have been out on the KRT, “au vélo,” glad to have gotten the physical and especially the spiritual exercise.