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.

Sunday 3 December 2017. Another Short, Cold Ride on the KRT

It was 34 degrees F and clear, with barely a breeze at 6:52 this morning as I wheeled Rhododendron down the driveway and out toward the Kickapoo Rail to Trail and St. Joseph.

It was cold enough to worry about freezing (though not literally) fingers and toes so wasn’t sure how far I’d actually get. Would just play by ear and see. Tried to psych up about restraint with photos so as to retain warmth.

Headed east on Main Street and stopped for a view of the oak-grove by the train tracks, across from the Dart plastics factory.

Despite the early start, saw no foxes. It (they) are on a different schedule (or location) for some reason.

Also stopped for a quick view of almost-winter Weaver Park with the sun coming up.

The goldenrod had lost most of their foamy seed-carriers. The scene seemed to call for black and white.

Horse nettle fruit (related to and resembling cherry tomatoes but poisonous) was abundant.

On the ground near the sidewalk were frosted leaves.

Rode on to the head of the wonderful, beloved trail.

Behind Walmart in the wet area were lots of cattails in the process of releasing their fluffy seed-dispersers.

The wooden rail was frosty.

A little farther on, the sun flashed among the thin trees.

Still farther along, seed-head-topped grass lay flattened along the trail, as if in homage to the cyclists,

of which I was one, and thank you!

Noticed tracks (human, canine, avian) in the not completely packed gravel; no doubt there were deer tracks, too. But didn’t stop to photograph them.

Did eventually photograph the ruts being worn into the trail by bike tires.

Not sure whether these might become problematic. Maybe the occasional application of a steam (I’m sure that’s not exactly the equipment anymore, but you get the idea) roller will take care of it.

The ride, except for cold hands and feet, was extremely pleasant. The low sun was far enough to the south to not be directly in my eyes. Birds lifted, spread, wheeled, settled on the brushy vegetation along the trail. Frost spread the morning light across the subtle curves of the landscape. The monotony of the straight trail induced an inward rhythm, an awareness of subtle differences from one repetition of the scene of landscape to the next. But my hands were cold. Brr!

Turned around at 1800 E (Mt Olive Cemetery).

On the way back, on East Main Street, passed a young woman carrying roller skates over her shoulder who was walking along Main Street and stopped to ask something of a couple standing in front of their house. They must have refused because the young woman responded with angry words. I sympathized with the couple and kept riding on. But then I judged that I could handle an interaction with her and stopped the bike to wait, then turned and walked toward her. She spoke angrily at first but then was very apologetic, saying she needed cigarettes and did I have a dollar? She seemed reasonably well-groomed so apparently not far from some kind of stability. But she made me think of people close to me who struggle with perhaps similar problems. Who knows what form of suffering she carried just then? I said I did, fished out two, and handed them to her. She thanked me profusely and didn’t ask for any thing else but wished me well. And I her, and rode on. Really I was not much help. But still was glad for the small positive connection.

Sunday 10 December 2017. Ice on the Creek

It was 23 degrees F and partly cloudy

at about 7 this morning as I rolled Shadow down the driveway and headed south to Meadowbrook Park.

On the way, stopped at the spruce grove to see whether anything was left of the Amanitamuscaria mushrooms.

Surprisingly, there was one in pretty good shape, considering the weather

and also one farther along in the process of degradation.

But as far as I could tell, that was all.

Got a seasonal shot of the south end of the grove.

Rode on into the south wind, which was surprisingly icy on my face.

At Meadowbrook stopped to view the “wonky Christmas tree.”

Then rode to the rabbit-statue bridge over McCullough Creek, where there was ice (not solid) on the water.

It was good to observe this indication of winter, of this distinctive, even if austere, time.

Stopped also for oddly twisted trees.

The absence of surrounding leaves and distracting flowers lets their forms stand out.

But it was the clouds that beguiled me this morning.

They were full of dimples and ripples.

And over the prairie, they opened to gaps of blue sky.

On the way back, near the Vine Street bridge, stopped at an old (seven or eight years, at least) beaver sculpture.

which was surrounded by new growth.

Wondered when the next generation of Meadowbrook beavers would arrive.

Riding homeward, worked hard to send warmth to my fingers. It seemed to be at least somewhat successful.

Sunday 26 November 2017. South to the End of Race Street

It was 29 degrees F st 7:45 this morning as I wheeled Rhododendron out into the street and southward just to get out and ride!

Stopped at the cute book exchange shelter I’ve glanced at and passed by many times.

Especially liked the “roof” of overlapping aluminum-can shingles. Thought about donating a book to its inventory.

Farther along noticed how much fall had advanced in less than a week.

Have not been riding very far lately and just wanted to head out into the country, so simply rode south on Race Street.

Saw frost on the bordering grass along the fall-plowed field. Felt deprived lately of that manifestation of water and savored the fine frosting of minute crystal that would be gone in a matter of minutes.

Amazingly, there was pretty much no wind. Noticed how effortless riding the rejuvenated Rhododendron was. Not bad conditions for a late-fall ride.

Saw a curious piece of equipment perched on a post near the road.

Quite pre-digital. Thought it rather handsome, actually, if not exactly functional.

Close to the end of Race Street, looked up over the resting field at the blue sky, with its evidence of air travel.

Stopped to mark the journey ‘s extent,

and turned back.

Am so excited to be almost caught up on my posts!!

Saturday 25 November 2017. Pandamonium. And Mushrooms.

It was 45 degrees F under clear skies at 8:30 this morning as I set out after yoga practice to the legendary Pandamonium Doughnuts. It was a nice 5 mile bike ride to neighboring Champaign and I was curious about their acclaimed product.

Rode west on Windsor Road and stopped at the City of Champaign Prairie Restoration Project.

where dry lead plants framed the signage.

The west wind blew toward me and the net grade was uphill. But overall the ride was pleasant. Was glad I made this choice rather than stay closer to home.

Had a “salted caramel ” doughnut which was covered with a thick layer of gooey frosting. Spectacular! But, in my opinion, not so fine as Lucky Pierre’s vanilla cardamom glazed. Whatever they were fried in was not ghee. Still, it’s good (luxurious!) to have the choice.

Who knew Champaign-Urbana would become a source of fine doughnuts?

On the very easy (net downhill, and with a tailwind!) way home, stopped to check for mushrooms at the usual spot.

There were some, even a pretty good-sized and fairly developed one

but it seemed like they had been disturbed, many dug up an laying on their sides.

Not sure what that was about. I’m pretty sure that more will be back next year. Will watch and see.

Tuesday 21 November 2017. A Brief but Restorative Fall Vélo to Mushrooms and Meadowbrook

It was 38 degrees F at about 6:40 this morning under a bright sky spread with some thin clouds.

At last got out of the house an on Shadow to touch the fall of 2017, which has been going really darned fast!

Stopped to see the Amanita muscaria mushrooms, growing slowly (or arrested in their growth) in the relative cold since last week.

The floor of the spruce grove was not covered with mushrooms, but there was a nice view looking out from it toward the outside.

Continued southward on Race Street and noticed a maple tree to which some yellow leaves still clung.

At Meadowbrook Park was unpleasantly surprised to see the path closed.

But saw no action of the type described on the barricade and disobediently proceeded along the path.

Stopped at the rabbit-statue bridge over McCullough Creek

Where there still was, somehow, a lot of green foliage, and turned back toward home.