Wednesday 9 May 2018. A Decent Ride, with Shooting Stars

At 5:40 this morning, the temperature about 58 degrees F, the skies mostly cloudy and a moderate wind from the south-southeast, I headed toward Meadowbrook Park, hoping to find shooting stars (flowers, that is).

A swim would have been nice, too, but didn’t want to miss seeing the first showy flowers (if you don’t count the golden Alexanders), the shooting stars.

Stopped on the way to check for mushrooms under the stand of spruce trees,

but there were none.

At Meadowbrook saw the sunrise over the confluence of McCullough and Douglas creeks.

Then a little down the path saw the sunrise through the young walnut leaves

A little way down saw at least two of what I’m pretty sure were eastern kingbirds . But got no photos.

Walked Rhododendron on the unpaved prairie path and saw golden Alexanders and blackberries breaking bud.

And then, in the place I’ve seen them for ten years, at least, there they were in all their glory: shooting stars!

They beg to be photographed!

Walked down the path a little way and looked to the right (north). Almost missed the pink shooting stars; they were rather low to the ground.

Saw one plant and at first and thought that was all there were. But then more seemed to materialize.

Trump or no, a world with shooting stars can’t be all bad.

Retuned to the paved path and stopped to get a view from the prairie overlook.

It’s getting green, but so far no floral display.

But already the tree swallows had returned to the nearby bird house,

a comforting recurrence.

Checked the lead plants near the overlook ,

the buds of their compound leaves were just starting to swell and reveal their structure.

Then rode on through Meadowbrook, east on Windsor and south on Philo. Saw an indigo bunting to the west side of the road, but was not fast enough for a photo.

The ride toward Old Church Road was effort-full: uphill and into the south wind!

But at Old Church turned west,

and the ride got easier.

Stopped at the Barnhart Prairie Restoration

and was glad to see the bike rack, though couldn’t imagine being far enough from you bike there to worry about locking it.

Then a dark shape swooped in front of me:

It was a turkey vulture, riding the wind.

And then headed home.


Sunday 11 June 2017. To Philo, Center of the Universe, and Back

It was 66 degrees F under a cloudless sky at 5:50 this morning as I rode Rhododendron south on Race Street.

It sounded so calm outside, but the phone weather ap said there was a 9 mph south wind. Have learned to respect that information so planned for a trip to Philo IL, Center of the Universe, according to its water tower.

Indeed, riding south presented me with a noticeable headwind.

Stopped, as I almost always do, at the rabbit-statue bridge over McCullough Creek.


Noticed dying trees.

Too common, alas.

Saw the continued bloom of spiderwort


and Penstemon


Used restraint to continue around the prairie without further stopping to Windsor Road. Rode east to Philo Road, south to Old Church then east again.


Rode on Old Church Road to Yankee Ridge

that lovely little oasis of vantage and sacred silence, then rode around the corner onto Yankee Ridge Road, past a friend’s amazing house, complete with extensive prairie landscaping.

Turned east onto section road 900 N (County Highway 18) to Philo.


Rode to the water tower; went off the road along the train tracks to get a view of all the words.


On the way back saw my friend who lives in the amazing prairie-landscaped house, out walking her dog. It was nice to actually stop and talk a bit this time!

Then rode downhill with the wind at my back toward Old Church Road.


Stopped at Barnhart Practice Restoration


Could not see spiderwort but there were lots of Penstemon.


Saw a good number of prairie dock leaves: large, erect, serrated spade-shapes, with the sunlight and shadows showing through them.


Saw spiderwort farther down, along the road, among waving grass flowers.


Stopped on the way back to check for Amanita mushrooms under the spruce trees. They were prostrate and dried up.


Felt a little more centered for having visited Philo this morning.

Sunday 29 May 2016. To the Center of the Universe, via Spiderwort-Rich Meadowbrook

It was 64 degrees F (no jacket!) at 5:53 this morning under clear skies.

This morning’s destination on Rhododendron was Philo IL, the self-proclaimed (at least it says so on the water tower) “Center of the Universe.”

But first there was Meadowbrook Park to investigate: the spiderwort/Penstemon appearance (with lush green in between) was at hand!

Am trying to reduce the verbiage of this blog, enjoyable as it is to produce. Here is an exercise in living within one’s time limits. So hard to do!

As much as possible, the story will be photos with brief captions. Wish me luck!

The mushrooms (Amanita muscaria) are back, under the spruces on Race south of Florida.


Here is today’s view of McCullough Creek from the Rabbit-statue bridge.


And then, spiderwort!


Spiderwort with dew


And playing a brilliant supporting role, the foxglove Penstemon (or beardtongue) (Penstemon digitalis).


In previous years I’ve sometimes referred to this flower as Penstemon pallidus, or pale beardtongue, but now I think the former is correct. Many readers will not care as long as the pics are nice, but my training as a biologist disposes me to such nit-picking. Another kind of fun, for some of us.

And more spiderwort!

A mallard drake who didn’t like me stopping to look at him


More spiderwort, with the morning sun coming through dewdrops

Spiderwort close up with more in the background


And spiderwort and foxglove Penstemon together

Thought I’d never get out of there. Took a lot of willpower for me not to still be there reveling in the gorgeous blue, white, and green. Oh yeah.

But on to Philo!

On the path between the tall fence and eastbound Windsor Road saw a little toad
(toad in the road)

img_6725 which I picked up and moved to the grass by the fence.

Then out Philo Road to Old Church Road and Yankee Ridge,

that magical, so-quiet place, the early morning view from which is as beautiful as the ocean, though I’ve never yet been able to capture it in a photo. Just believe me.

Then at the bottom of the hill is a curve to Yankee Ridge Road, which rolls up and down, fairly evenly and pleasantly to distribute the hard work and the coasting.

Turned east on 900 E and rode into Philo, a modest, tidy, and, at least early on Sunday morning, sleepy little town.


The streets were wooded and shady, in contrast with the open farmland around it.


Wasn’t easy to get a good view of the water tower

img_6741-1but managed to get a passingly readable one. <br />
This was not my first visit to this center of the universe, and a Google search of “Philo IL center of the universe” turns up several unexplained references. Still a mystery.

Back up and down the little hills (appreciated them more than last time I was here for having spent a lot of time in flatter places) of Yankee Ridge Road, made another attempt to capture the beauty of Yankee Ridge.


Returned via Old Church to First Street with a stop at the Barnhart Prairie Restoration

Featuring many handsome spade-shaped prairie dock leaves

img_6747 and much foxglove Penstemon.


Was somewhat but not unpleasantly fatigued. Hips, knees, and low back were ok (hurray!), but the right shoulder was complaining. Sat up and rolled the upper arm out, then remembered (via swimming stroke improvements) a restorative Ekahasta Urdva Hastasana: reaching the arm up and rolling it out. Helped a lot. Oh, beneficent yoga!

The trip was about 23 miles. Want to keep this up!

Thursday 18 May 2016. First Meadowbrook Spiderwort, Under Glaring Sun

It was 48 degrees F this morning at 5:50, with some good-sized clouds in the western sky but none to the east. So right away the sun came up brashly and made it hard to look at the landscape the way so many previous cloudy mornings had allowed.

Still, made a point to get a view of the lupine “family”

img_6343-1, the population of stately flower spikes.

And also had to greet the beginning of the bloom of the yellow cabbage roses.


Rode on. At Race near Windsor were clouds to the west.


At Meadowbrook Park stopped for the customary shot of McCullough Creek below the rabbit-statue bridge, this morning.

Could hear from this place a woodpecker, I think, making an unusually rapid but not especially loud hammering.

Farther on the path, the sun was too bright to make me want to take a photo, but looked to see whether the blue flag irises were blooming. Used the zoom of the “dedicated” camera to check for blooms and thought I saw one. Unconvinced that it was what it seemed to be, screwed up the resolve to enter the wet, willowy barrier and get close enough to see for sure.

Was very surprised to see no blooms or even buds among the blades of iris leaves. Do they bloom later than I thought? Might they not even bloom this year?

Rode to the Freyfogel observation deck where there was a tree swallow, firmly settled, at the same corner where I’d seen it before.

Walked around the structure to the opposite side and looked out at the prairie and the sky, and spied, under the strong sunlight, a spiderwort flower, my first sighting of the species at Meadowbrook this year.


Also saw some nice compass plant leaves.


Checked the place where I’ve been seeing lead plant over the past few years, now that I know what the first shoots look like, and there, wit a lot of sun on them, they were.


Had some time and wanted to add a few miles, though was not brimming with energy.

Decided to get close to Yankee Ridge

and turn west instead of east.

Which I did, and coasted a while down that lovely slope until I came to the Barnhart Prairie Restoration.

Saw golden Alexanders there but no spiderwort. Did like the rather abundant clusters of erect prairie dock leaves and was going to photograph one, but my phone’s battery had run out of power.

It was a little relief not to worry about taking any more pictures the rest of the pleasant way home.