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.

img_7328

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

img_7333

Then looked up and saw a great blue heron overhead!

img_7335

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

img_7338

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.

img_7339

Rode on as far as Old Church Road.

img_7342-2

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

img_7348-1

Closer to home saw parrot tulips

img_7353

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

Posted in Nature, Outdoors, Spirituality, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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,

img_7221
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.

img_7223

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

img_7227

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.

img_7236

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

img_7239

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

img_7243

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

img_7248

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

img_7249

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.

img_7254

A little farther on got close to a deer.

img_7264
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!!

img_7272

They looked well, maybe thanks to the burn.

img_7274

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

img_7277

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

img_7279

Was glad for today’s change of plan.

Posted in Nature, Outdoors, Spirituality, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

img_6863
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.

img_6865

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

img_6866

Stopped for a round barn shot.

img_6867

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

img_6868
for a view of some lovely spring blooms.

img_6872

There were hyacinths

img_6875
and yellow tulips, most artistically composed.

Then in the neighborhood closer to home were lovely hellebores.

img_6876

On another day I will go farther.

Posted in Nature, Outdoors, Spirituality, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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!

img_6604
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.

img_6612

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.

img_6624

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!

img_6638

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,

img_6647

toward Curtis Road.

img_6649

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

img_6646

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.

img_6653

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

Posted in Nature, Outdoors, Spirituality, Travel | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

img_6280

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.

img_6281

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

img_6286

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

img_6290
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.

img_6299

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

img_6301

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

img_6314

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

img_6313
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.

img_6320

Turned back at High Cross Road.

img_6323

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.

img_6325-1

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.

img_6328

The rain stopped.

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

img_6337

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

img_6338

Posted in Nature, Outdoors, Spirituality, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

img_6219

to another grocery store. Stopped at Harvest Market,

img_6220
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.

img_6224
On the way back it started to rain a little more heavily.

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

img_6230

Did not see any waterfowl there today.

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

img_6233-1

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.

img_6235
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.

img_6239

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

img_6241
against a still-unleafed tulip poplar and the grey March sky. Let the spring arrive, as slowly as possible!

Posted in Nature, Outdoors, Spirituality, Travel | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

img_6138

Noticed buds on the nearby arching red blackberry brambles.

img_6141

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

img_6142 in which still stood trees, past-observed cutting and clearing notwithstanding.

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,

img_6144 then continued on to Prospect Avenue and the sunken pond, which lies slightly south of Curtis Road.

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.

img_6147

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.

img_6148

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

Posted in Nature, Outdoors, Spirituality, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

img_5948

Checked on the Winter’s Ghost” Hellebores

img_5951
which were full of blooms, if turned down toward the ground.

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

img_5955
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.

img_5964

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

Posted in Nature, Outdoors, Spirituality, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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,”

img_5846
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.

img_5847
They are smaller than their later-blooming relatives but still spectacular.

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

Posted in Nature, Outdoors, Spirituality, Travel | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Sunday 26 February 2017. Still Grey but with Redwinged Blackbirds

It was 24 degrees F at 7:38 this morning as I rolled Shadow out of the garage for a spin to Meadowbrook Park.

The water was up at McCullough-Davis creeks below the rabbit-statue bridge.

img_5619

Woodpeckers and nuthatches provided sound, also visual interest, once they could be located. It takes a trained eye to find little birds: they don’t like to be stared at.

And around the bend on the south side of the bridge could be heard the returned red-winged blackbirds. No doubt: the season is advancing.

img_5627

Saw deer (a few; didn’t count) on the other side of hidden Davis Creek.

img_5628
Was surprised to see that one had small but apparently smooth and well-formed antlers. Thought the antlers would have been fuzzy stubs this early in the year.

Along the creek, many of the slim trees bore (bracket?) fungus.

img_5623

Even the young trees seem to be stressed.

The prairie below the clouds was still painted in neutral shades.

img_5631

But the odds are good that soon it will be green.

Posted in Nature, Outdoors, Spirituality, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment