Wednesday 3 July 2019. To Breakfast at Geschenk via the KRT

This morning at about 6:15 it was 70 degrees F and cloudy, but not, according to the phone weather app, threatening rain.

So hopped on Rhododendron and made for the KRT to St. Joseph.

Stopped on the way at the edge of Weaver Park, which sported a variety of summer prairie flowers:

cup plant,


purple coneflower and Black-eyed Susan,

common milkweed, some still in bloom,

some already making pods,

and butterfly milkweed.

There were false sunflower,

spiderwort ,

and even a few remaining Penstemon.

On the KRT right away saw lots of soapwort.

Noticed near the beginning of the trail a hole on the ground that looked like it had not been constructed by human hands (or tools).

I’m guessing it was a groundhog.

Farther along stopped to look out at the corn plants, dark with vigor, which really seem to have made up for lost time!

Saw a stately mullein in bloom against a cornfield.

Soon came to Full’s Siding, east of which the prairie plant diversity seems to increase.

There were quite a few thick patches of spiderwort

and a couple of compass plant, though they were rather stunted.

And then came the lovely bridge over the Salt Fork,

not much farther from which was St. Joe and the Geschenk coffeehouse. Breakfast was their wondeful Florentine egg and cheese wrap. And the brewed coffee was not bad!

Before heading back, looked between the coffee house and the next building to see the St. Joe vultures, still claiming the grain elevator.

On the way back, stopped for a shot of some spade-shaped prairie dock leaves.

and for a nice patch of oft-overlooked (by me anyway) black-eyed Susans.


Friday 28 June 2019. Part 1. Catching Another Solstice-Time Sunrise at Meadowbrook

It was 71 degrees F at 5:15 this morning as I rolled Rhododendron out of the garage and toward Race Street to watch the summer sun rise over Meadowbrook Park.

First stopped for a view of McCullough Creek from the rabbit-statue bridge.

There was a layer of low mist in the distance.

Then caught a glimpse of some obedient plant in the wet area to the south of the path.

with mist in the background.

Looked into the middle of the prairie from a favorite vantage at the sun rising above the mist.

Sunrise at a favorite vantage point

Saw stately Baptisia near stately budding rattlesnake master.

Saw the sun rise over the prairie, over its northeastern edge.

Noticed the intermittent scent of mountain mint.

Checked the lead plants next to the prairie observation platform.

They were just starting to bloom.

Saw the season’s first yellow coneflowers.

Felt welcomed to the majesty of the summer prairie!

Tuesday 25 June 2019. Greeting the Early Summer Sun on East Washington Street

At about 4:45 this morning noticed that the sky seemed to be clear, something I decided was best not taken for granted in this heretofore cloudy, rainy string of days and weeks. Also wanted to make full use of the limited time of extra daylight, so forgot about what had become my usual morning routine and made minimally ready to take Rhododendron out on the road.

Was rolling on Washington Street toward the sunrise, which was scheduled to appear at 5:23, at 5:03 am. Hooray!

Saw a shape on the street I thought were the remains of an unusual bird, but closer inspection revealed it to be a glove.

Then proceeded with purpose to the vantage point of Washington and High Cross Road.

Turned the iPhone to the south to view the late-planted corn on a slight hill.

Across High Cross was an old tree next to which used to be a farm house.

Wondered whether the damage was the work of the Memorial weekend tornado.

And the the sun broke the edge of the horizon! Yes! I was a witness!

Rode to Cottonwood Road and turned north. Got a view of corn with gaps from the very wet planting season.

Thought I heard goldfinches near the corner of Cottonwood and Highway 150 (there still were some bird-friendly shrubs nearby) but saw only dickcissels (their call is unmistakable) on the utility line.

Noticed evidence that a horse (I think that’s what it was) had been using the KRT,

onto which I turned left to complete my ride.

Found the Reasonably healthy sumac grove I somehow missed on my last KRT trip.

Back in town, made a stop at Weaver Park and was pleased at the variety of the bloom: abundant common milkweed

(a decent closeup thereof ),

spiderwort and a few remaining Penstemon,

and here a hapless ash tree seedling.

Saw false sunflower,

black-eyed Susan and fleabane,

another milkweed species,

(butterfly milkweed), and buds of Monarda,

a few examples of which (farther from the edge) already had opened.

Returned home to resume the morning schedule, slightly behind but infused with the delight of the late June sunrise!

Sunday 16 June 2019. KRT to St. Joe, with Toads on the Road

It was 64 degrees F under mostly cloudy (but with occasional gaps of blue) skies at 6:40 this morning. The streets were still moist and shiny, but last night’s heavy rain was apparently finished. Steered Rhododendron toward Main Street and the Kickapoo Rail to Trail.

Stopped on the way for a look at Weaver Park, where common milkweed, Penstemon,

false sunflower,

spiderwort were in bloom.

Along the trail, could see that the unusually wet spring had seriously slowed down the planting schedule of local farms.

In the middle of one of the road crossings of the trail was a toad,

who very patiently sat for a close-up portrait.

Passed along Mount Olive Cemetery.

Heard many dickcissels (which don’t sit still if you come too close). Here is one way up on a utility line.

Stopped farther down to see piles of railroad ties, piled up and covered with

vines, receding evidence of what the trail used to be.

Farther east on the trail looked to the north at Dave’s Firearms, (which, along with the corn, reminds me I’m in the rural Midwest).

Got a view of Full’s Siding

and swerving rows of little soybean plants.

Along the trail were occasional patches of spiderwort.

Then crossed over the Salt Fork, which was high.

Reached St. Joseph, the original end of the trail,

in front of the Wheelhouse Restaurant, and continued a little farther along; wondered whether they had added this extension fairly recently.

On the way back stopped to see the St. Joe PO.

Saw a lot of the same and some different sights on the way back, like this bird I want to call a flycatcher, though I’m not sure the photo can tell.

Saw some nice black-eyed Susans

and full-blooming elderberry.

Saw another toad on the way back.

Caught a view of spiderwort around a prairie dock leaf.

Saw a sumac thicket which seemed to have

a fair amount of dead branches.

Continued back, happy with this update of the environs of the KRT.

Friday 14 June 2019. Chilly Meadowbrook Sunrise with Sleeping Spiderwort

It was 52 degrees F and clear at 5:15 this morning, downright cold for mid-June. So wore a sweater under a light jacket; thought about gloves but didn’t feel like digging for them. And headed for a quick ride on Rhododendron around Meadowbrook Park, eager to check the progress of the prairie bloom.

Took Vine Street and noticed another place where the tornado of a few weeks ago had been.

A little farther on saw a possum, taking its time crossing Vine Street, though it did pick up the pace and seek shelter when I stopped and trained my iPhone camera on it at close range.

Entered Meadowbrook at Vine but didn’t photograph much.

Did catch the understated sunrise!

Saw the first budding Baptista flower spikes.

with a bit of the waning Penstemon.

But the profuse spiderwort flowers were not open.

Wondered whether they were inhibited by the cold.

Was happy to see bush clover

and lead plant,

its flower-spike buds continuing to expand and color.

Was comforted to know how little time it takes to receive these small wonders of the season.

Friday 31 May 2019. A Burst of Blue Bloom

It was 62 degrees F and not entirely cloudy at 5:20 (hooray for the summer sunrise!) this morning as I defied the 80 percent chance of rain (did wear a rain jacket and garden boots just in case) to venture to Meadowbrook Park on Rhododendron.

On the way rode on Vine Street to see evidence of an F-1 tornado that had slipped, as it were, under the radar (no warnings were issued) and pulled trees over and ripped off pieces of roofs.

Was slightly disappointed to have been in Chicago (getting ready to “Bike the Drive”) when it happened.

Had stopped by yesterday afternoon and seen fading (they are day bloomers) spiderwort and some new beardtongue but hoped to see more bloom in the morning.

Approached Meadowbrook Park from Vine Street and followed McCullough Creek (already mostly hidden by vegetation) the Peg Richardson Hickman Wildflower Walk, where there were not only the glorious spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis) and beardtongue (Penstemon diditalis)I am certain of the genera but not 100 percent on the species) but already Coreopsis for a nice contrasting accent. and false sunflower!

Proceeded along to the rabbit statue bridge over McCullough Creek for a glimpse of the sweet rays of the sunrise playing among the leaves and the water of the creek.

Not far from the bridge, spiderwort

Started to beg for photography.

But stopped along the path at the wet, willow-covered iris location to get some closeups.

It was good to be wearing those boots!

Noticed a tall grass in bloom that released clouds of pollen as I bumped their stems on the way in.

They looked invasive, sullying the clean lines of the iris patch,

though close up, the irises still were stunning.

The spiderwort were aggressively irresistible: their color, their simple lines, their abundance.

But the whimsical spikes of trumpet-like beardtongue flowers were right behind in their draw to be photographed.

And never, it seemed, too far from some supporting spiderwort.

Near the Freyfogle overlook saw small shoots of prairie dock leaves.

And more spiderwort, which seemed to get more dense as I went along the path, including some with dew-beaded leaves.

Caught a nice panno sky shot.

A week ago the prairie was still very much all green; felt fortunate to have been there within days of the beginning of its display of color.

Saturday 25-27 May 2019. VeoRide to the Illinois Terminal, Bike the Drive, and VeoRide Home

It was 72 (?!?) degrees F under thin, high clouds that the sun intermittently showed through this morning at 5:20 as I headed to catch the Amtrak to Chicago.

Recently, Champaign-Urbana has joined the bike-sharing movement, and I was able to find (actually saw it there for a couple of days already) a VeoRide (dockless bike share) bike right across the street from my house to take me to the Illinois Terminal.

Was glad to be able to support the bike share movement, even though I have two of my own perfectly good bikes. This way didn’t have to risk leaving one of them out in the rain while I was gone. Not that the bike getting wet would have been a huge problem….

Anyway, pulled up the app on my phone, scanned the code on the bike, it magically unlocked, and was ready to go. I think the “hardest” part of the process was originally downloading the app and entering the necessary information.

Decided this time to bring along my bike helmet, which is kind of a bulky extra thing to have to carry. But it was easy to fit it into the slightly larger than usual bag I brought and not at all heavy. So, safety points for me!

Loaded the larger bag on the convenient front carrier on the bike, slung the backpack on my back, and was off.

Rode west on Springfield Avenue and don’t think I saw another vehicle until I got to First Street.

There my attention was caught by a profusion of peonies.

Their profusion was, I believe, a benefit of the recent plentiful rains.

Got to the station in plenty of time!

Peacefully rode the Amtrak train to Chicago and picked up a Divvy bike outside of Union Station

which I rode over the river

and thought the streets

to a Divvy dock close to the house where I grew up, where my parents still live.

Some of my siblings and their families came over later on, and we, semi-spontaneously, celebrated my mom’s 85th birthday. Always good to be together.

Early next morning, joined three of my dear childhood friends to participate in “Bike the Drive,” an annual Chicago event where Lake Shore Drive is closed to motor traffic and cyclists ride from Millennium Park south to the Museum of Science and Industry (5500 South) and/ or North to Hollywood Avenue (5700 North).

In past years we’ve gone the whole distance, but today the weather was uncertain, and none of us relished the idea of being wet during or after the ride.

So we entered the the Drive at 31st St., took the southern route, turned around and went as far north as North Avenue.

We were proud of showing up and glad to be together for some of the kind of activities we shared so long ago.

Afterward that same day was a great baby shower for my niece, and next day returned on Amtrak, which was on time except for the totally predictable (at least it has been every time I’ve take this train in the past couple years) pause for letting a long freight train pass. Wonder why that’s not calculated into the schedule. But it was a very small problem as these things go.

Back in downtown Champaign picked up a VeoRide bike across the street from the Illinois Terminal. Would have preferred a non-electric boosted bike, but the closest one had a rather soft tire. Also was curious about the “e-bikes,” so took the more expensive ride.

The “e-boost” turned out not to be much help for about half the ride–the electric motor was not engaged much of the time. Also the front brake cable seemed to be broken and made a repeated loud noise as the wheel revolved. Submitted a report about the condition of the bike when I finished using it.

But got home safely and was glad for the trip.