Saturday 23 June 2018. Catching up with the Bloom at Meadowbrook, and Catching a Little Rain Just South

It was 64 degrees F under cloudy skies at

7:00 this morning (just before which spotted this perfect exoskeleton of a nymphal cicada) as I went to the garage expecting to take Rhododendron to the KRT to St. Joseph.

But Rhododendron was not in the garage; after a very brief moment of panic remembered that my husband picked me up from my job assignment at Clark-Lindsey yesterday and I’d forgotten to load the bike in the car.

So the plan changed from the KRT to a circle of Meadowbrook and maybe a ride south on Race Street. l drove to CL and parked in the lot: unlocked my bike, and headed east along Windsor Road for a counter-clockwise circle of the park.

The spiderwort still were plenty evident, but they bore lots of brown seed heads, indicating that more of their bloom was behind rather than ahead of them.

But false sunflowers,

purple coneflowers, black-eyed Susans

yellow coneflowers,

and compass plants

were just beginning their bloom.

Farther down the path, at the viewing platform, the apparently expanding (compared to previous recent years) patch of lead plant was in mid-bloom,

as was the Baptisia.

Framed by lead plant blooms was this new inflorescence of rattlesnake master.

Decided that lead plant is much more spectacular in detail than from a distance.

Noticed that wild quinine, also in mi-bloom,

was more abundant than I remember from previous years.

Noticed a patch of pasture rose already full of green hips.

All along through the prairie, the common milkweed still was full of fragrant pink spheres of flowers, but didn’t stop to photograph them till I saw this one next to an early Monarda bloom.

Noticed that the wet place where the irises and cardinal flowers appear (in their respective times) was quite grown up with willows.

Tree swallows (there were three, all flew at my approach,and one returned) perched on a bird house.

Continued on and crossed McCullough Creek (which was quite full) at the rabbit statue bridge,

opposite my usual direction of travel.

Did not go straight out to Race Street but continued north on the path and exited near the “wonky Christmas tree,”

which looked like it had been trimmed (or had grown) since I observed it last.

Turned south on Race Street toward the open farm fields, where there was incredible corn!

Light rain began to fall before I reached Old Church so turned back

Was surprised by two deer, right next to the road.

They were completely unperturbed by my stopping to photograph them.

Then returned to the CL lot, packed the bike into the car and headed home, somewhat better synchronized with the season.

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Saturday 9 June 2018. Dodging the Rain

It was 69 degrees F and partly cloudy at 5:45 this morning as I headed for my job assignment in Savoy.

Stopped for a photo of the yellow cabbage roses on Race Street,

which made a beautiful picture, even if the plant appears beset with disease

Alas.

Headed west on Windsor Road, stopping near the Polinatarium to look east and view the sunrise,

one of the joys of being an early riser.

Near Neil Street, at the sign for the City of Champaign Prairie Restoration, stopped to catch the very first tiny blooms of the lead plant.

Arrived at work in plenty of time and, as always, enjoyed my shift.

But about half an hour before it was time to go, the sky opened up and the rain that I was convinced would wait till I got home arrived in abundance. And continued to fall past my clock-out time.

So I sat in the lobby of my workplace and watched the rain outside, checking the radar on my phone periodically.

After twenty minutes or so, decided to venture out into the now very light rain, at least to the Starbuck’s on South Neil. It seemed to be clearing up some as I rode and considered makings break for home, but then there was a clap of thunder, and so reverted to the Starbuck’s plan. About half a block away the rain fell more heavily, and I got fairly wet.

As soon as I walked in the barista said the hand dryer in the bathroom might help. I accepted the invitation, and in fact, it helped a lot!

Then I hung out and had a spinach feta egg wrap and coffee and worked on an older blog post.

Soon the rain subsided, and after a pleasant time of writing headed back homeward, passing on the way this little “waterfall,”

Rode homeward on St. Mary’s Road and stopped to see a horse near a recent puddle.

Then stopped briefly at the prairie planting on Florida and Orchard and saw one of the many handsome pairs of milkweed beetles.

and proceeded, dry-shod (and dry-clothed), toward home.

Sunday 2 July 2017. A Perfect Ride to Windsor Road to Homer Lake Road

This morning at 5:30 it was 65 degrees and clear, with a 2 mph breeze from the WSW, calm enough to head in pretty much any direction. So headed Rhododendron in toward Windsor Road (which I was pretty sure was free of loose dogs) with the goal of going a ways east.

Was glad to get a reasonably early start without sacrificing headstand or Pranayama, and pedaled smoothly through the perfectly comfortable (with the light cycling jacket) morning air to Windsor Road.

And there was Meadowbrook Park, which I hadn’t planned to visit, but thought, why not? and soon was taking a photo of the sun coming up over McCullough Creek at the rabbit-statue bridge.

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A mud bar separated Davis Creek from its connection with McCullough Creek.

The cup plants on the on the downstream side of the bridge stood vigorous and illuminated with the sunrise.

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A layer of mist rested on the prairie and spread out the light of the climbing sun.

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The air was scented with mint and bergamot.

Wondered if the willowy wet area harbored queen of the prairie but didn’t see any. Did spot a swamp milkweed, but didn’t stop for a photo so I wouldn’t miss the sun rising over the remaining mist.

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Might have gotten a really nice shot of the deer in the mist if I’d arrived at the site two minutes earlier.

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Oh well. Nice enough.

Did get a nice yellow coneflower-misty sunrise.

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Stopped at The Freyfogle overlook and saw fresh Culver’s root with mountain mint,

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spherical pink common milkweed blooms and already-red blackberries.

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Noticed how lovely were the lead plants,
which seemed to thrive despite a recent onslaught of insects.

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Then rode out of the park and straight east on Windsor. The air was calm, except for a “biker’s breeze”, and the grade seemed to go up for stretches (though mostly down), which promised a reasonable return ride.

Was filled with the joy of early morning out in the country in perfect weather.

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Did not expect quite this perfection and tried to let as much of it in as possible. Yes, yes, yes!

Rode past a ditch where I remembered seeing a family of raccoons.

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There were no raccoons today, but it’s always fun to peer down into a stream, a different world from the surrounding farm fields.

Above the creek banks, near the road, were abundant soapwort blooms,

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exotic weeds, but so softly pink and fresh and dewey.

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Even these plantain weeds looked like stately sculptures in this morning’s fine light.

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Farther on, saw a sign I thought was rather humorous

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The dangerous hill actually was hard to detect. Ah, my beloved central Illinois!

Then crossed a little tributary of the Salt Fork (of the Vermillion River)
where I think I always have seen wood ducks whenever I’ve been there, adults and ducklings, no less. Looked into the water, and there they were!

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There is something special about this place.

Then rode to where the road bent to the north

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A little way and then “T’d” into Homer Lake Road.

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Rode east a little way, crossed the Salt Fork, and stopped at the nicely landscaped marker of the historic site of Kelley’s Tavern, where it says Lincoln used to visit.

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The bloom seemed different from what I recall from last year. Lots more milkweed.

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Stopped for a view of the beautiful Salt Fork

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Then turned back and retraced my route. There were horses fenced on the southeast corner where Windsor Road met Homer Lake Road, and the tail of one caught the morning sun as swished and spread wide its long horse-hairs. Didn’t manage to get a photo, but the glittering image stayed with me as I returned home on this pleasant ride, pleasant to the end.

Sunday 25 June 2017. North on High Cross to Ford Harris, with a Glimpse of Weaver’s Early Summer Bloom

At 6:12 this morning it was 56 degrees under clear skies as I pointed Rhododendron to the east and north to check out High Cross Road.

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Did not expect a Meadowbrook-like flower display, but on the way, Weaver Park was just starting to offer a bouquet of prairie flowers:

False sunflower,

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Monarda,

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mountain mint,

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at least three of the Sylphium sisters (cup plant, rosin weed, and prairie dock; cup plant is shown here) and budding yellow coneflowers

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common milkweed

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butterfly milkweed,

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Baptisia,

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and an early-blooming aster.

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And this on a pretty casual inspection.

Then rode on Main Street, across University through the Beringer subdivision and north on High Cross Road.

The corn and soybean crops were well underway.

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Rode as far as High Cross and Ford Harris

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and turned back.

Noticed bone-like pieces (turned out to be wood) imbedded in the road.

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Saw a dead possum, presumably hit by a car, with its immature babies scattered around it. Alas. Almost showed a photo but decided against it. Photographs of violence have their importance, but they always feel disrespectful to the victims.

Stopped on the pleasant ride southward (it seems there is a bit more downward slope in that direction) to get a picture of chicory (exotic weeds) because their discs of pale violet-blue radiating petals seemed exceptionally lovely just then.

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On Main Street on the way back stopped at the place with the native plant garden, across from Weaver Park, where lead plants were blooming.

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And, as at Meadowbrook, troubled by Japanese beetles.

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Shortly afterward I was troubled by the next-door dog, who must have thought I was about to trespass on its territory. I used the high-pitched “Good doggie!” approach, its owner called it back when he saw what was happening, and no damage was done.

Except that I got out of there so fast I didn’t get my phone securely into my pocket. After crossing the street I heard a sound that reminded me of crushing an empty bottled-water bottle and unwisely rode on without investigating it. Only when I stoped for another photo did I realize that the phone was not there.

Alarmed at being without my life-support (sad, I know) phone, I retraced my path and desperately hoped it was near the site of the sound I’d ignored.

Fortunately it was! I retrieved it, and the day proceeded without any more such near-disasters.

Sunday 18 June 2017. Dark Clouds but No Rain

It was 71 degrees F and cloudy with a 12-mph WSW wind at 6:25 pm as I took Rhododendron out toward south First Street.

Rode south on Race Street, reasonably comfortable though feeling the somberness of the clouds.

Did not stop before Windsor Road except to examine the bike for the source of a light banging sound, but could not make it happen when I got off and spun each wheel independently. It was annoying but didn’t seem to impair the bike’s performance so just rode on.

Stopped at the linden tree on the corner of Race and Windsor.

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Was not sure whether it had not yet fully bloomed or whether it was mostly done blooming, but it didn’t exude the perfume I remember from past years.

Headed into the westerly breeze on Windsor, noticing dark clouds ahead.

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Observed how the diminished light and color pressed on my mood. The expression “like a wet blanket” came to mind.
There was some current pain in it (everyone has his or her list!), a little fear that the clouds would deliver discomfort-inducing rain or even electrical danger, but also some broody comfort, a little space to allow that pain before going back to face the slings and arrows that caused it.

Nevertheless decided to limit the ride (oh waste of extra daylight and free time!) to checking the lead plant at the City of Champaign “Prairie Restoration.”

The lead plants were starting to bloom,

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lax stewardship notwithstanding.

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And didn’t notice any plague of beetles, either. There is hope for that place, I think.

Thought again that I was missing a chance to get in good ride, but really felt averse to being far from home in a storm, and was not sure that the banging, knocking sound was not the sign of some kind of trouble with the bike.

Then riding north on First Street happened to look look at my right Keen sandal, which had a plastic knob at the end of loop of the elastic lacing, and saw that it was banging on the bike frame. Mystery solved!

So on the way back stopped at Japan House garden

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Where amazing, durable hellebores contributed to the design of the hosta planting.

Also stopped at the prairie planting on Florida and Orchard, where the summer bloom was beginning to build.

There were post-peak spiderwort

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and Penstemon

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Black-eyed Susan,

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common milkweed, in a big way(!)

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false sunflower, sporting either milkweed or box elder bugs,

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and lovely blue vervain.

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Made it home without getting wet, satisfied enough with the ride.

Saturday 17 June 2017. Lots of New Flowers at Meadowbrook but No Visible Queen of the Prairie

It was 72 degrees under progressively more cloudy skies at 6:05 this morning as I pointed Rhododendron down the driveway, toward the street and Meadowbrook Park.

First, looked at wild roses in my own back yard, which were attracting lots of pollinators.

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At Meadowbrook stopped at the arresting sensory garden

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where there were poppies, common milkweed, purple coneflowers, Delphinium, (a shameless mixture of natives and exotics, i.e., a garden) and more.

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As I walked toward the Art and Billie Spomer Prairie, noticed that already black-eyed Susans were starting to bloom.

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Crossed the wooden bridge over McCullough Creek

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and walked out, i.e., off the path, into the dew-covered prairie, looking where I’d see them before (but not last year, I don’t believe) for queen of the prairie flowers. Did not, however, see any.

It was pretty much worth the soaking shorts and shoes, though, because I did get decent views of other prairie flowers: common milkweed

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butterfly milkweed

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rattlesnake master

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purple coneflower,

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Baptisia

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false sunflower,

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wild petunia.

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Saw stalks of cup plant

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and compass plant

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elongating upward.

Spiderwort, though past its peak, continued to produce nearly perfect violet-blue triangular flowers.

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Got back on the paved path and rode past the wet area, the place of irises, where my eye was caught by an unusual (two, actually) bird. They turned out to be, unmistakably, two rose-breasted grosbeaks!

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Farther on by the Freyfogle overlook,
lead plant continued its bloom.

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Was sad not to see queen of the prairie, but its absence reminded me not to take it for granted and to appreciate the unique floral symphony that the prairie offers each year.

Sunday 26 June 2016. Homer Lake Road, with Dog

This morning at 5:55 it was 74 humid degrees, the sky mostly cloudy but with gaps in the clouds.

After a lot of anxious indecision (why exactly?) decided to take Rhododendron eastward in the direction of Homer Lake.

This meant a quick stop at the “buffalo-wallow” pond at Weaver Park, where Culver root already were blooming, along with wild bergamot and yellow coneflower.

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Heard a number of bullfrogs, who seemed to take turns vocalizing rather than sing in a chorus. Actually saw one jump up and “fly” across the lily pads and disappear back into the water. Also saw what I think were tadpoles leaping up out of the water (and falling directly back in).

Saw ducks too far away to ID, and then a swimming mammal: a groundhog, I decided (two thirds of the way down, just to the right of center).

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And back on the road.

Noticed what a nice place the area near Washington and High Cross is to see the eastern sky.

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Stopped after the place where Washington jogs into Homer Lake Road for a shot of the steel drum where they have been burning things since I first started riding out this way six years ago.

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Along Homer Lake Road, the corn was taller than I in lots of places. “Corn to the left of me, soybeans to the right, here I am, in central Illinois!”

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I know they make the economy go, but the spirit loves flowers. At least on the edges.

Rode on, periodically remembering to observe the breath. It wasn’t the Pranayama experience of last week but still nice for some stretches.

Passed a fenced yard in which there was a dog; trusted the fence and rode on. No problem. But in another yard not long after saw a rather large brown dog, unfenced (I think at least once in the past I have turned back after seeing this dog). Felt lucky and rode on, when the dog began to bark and come after me. There was no time to dread and work up fearful anticipation: here it was, the thing I dreaded happening.

So, carefully avoiding eye contact with the dog, just put the pedal to the metal, as it were, and rode ahead.

Oddly, felt almost calm; decided the dog didn’t really want to attack me. So envisioned him(her) just wanting to say “hi” the way my family’s 12 year old Bichon does with every person and dog we pass on his walks.

And soon the dog went back. Big whew.
But resolved not to pass this way on the return trip.

Reached the bridge over the Salt Fork of the Vermillion River and paused to look into the high water.

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Rode a little way down, to the historical marker of the site of Kelley’s Tavern, a place that Lincoln was said to have frequented. It has a lovely little planting of native prairie plants, which today featured a bloom of common milkweed, with bees

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as well as milkweed-specific (true) bugs

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and beetles

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as well as butterfly milkweed

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Then turned back and veered off on a road that became Windsor Road, which, after an early turn, is straight as an arrow and seems to include uphill all the way to Meadowbrook Park. But it was better than risking another ride with the dog, who might no be so friend this time.

Had a treat crossing the little creek a little way west of the Salt Fork: a fairly large group of wood ducklings and adult female ducks.

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If it hadn’t been for the dog I might have missed them. Wondered whether there is some special habit in the immediate area: have seen wood ducks in that creek once or twice before and never anywhere else on these bike rides.

Saw a nice collection here and there along the road of great mulleins (Verbascum thapsus),

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(Ah, the inconsistency of human prejudice about “nature!”)

Heard many dicksissels to the right and left and above me on utility lines.

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Seemed, like last year, to be a good year for them.

Was glad to reach Meadowbrook Park but also was ready to be home and didn’t stop.