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.

img_0271
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.

img_0277

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

img_0279

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.

img_0287

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

img_0289-1
Oh well. Nice enough.

Did get a nice yellow coneflower-misty sunrise.

img_0296-2

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

img_0308-1

spherical pink common milkweed blooms and already-red blackberries.

img_0311

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

img_0318

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.

img_0327
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.

img_0334-2

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,

img_0349

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

img_0348-1

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

img_0350

Farther on, saw a sign I thought was rather humorous

img_0352

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!

img_0354

There is something special about this place.

Then rode to where the road bent to the north

img_0357
A little way and then “T’d” into Homer Lake Road.

img_0360

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.

img_0362-1

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

img_0366

Stopped for a view of the beautiful Salt Fork

img_0370

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.

Advertisements

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.

img_9983

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,

img_9985

Monarda,

img_0002-1

mountain mint,

img_9993-1

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

img_9995

common milkweed

img_9984

butterfly milkweed,

img_9998

Baptisia,

img_0008-1

and an early-blooming aster.

img_0005

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.

img_0009-1

Rode as far as High Cross and Ford Harris

img_0010

and turned back.

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

img_0011

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.

img_0012-1

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.

img_0022

And, as at Meadowbrook, troubled by Japanese beetles.

img_0026

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.

img_9663

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.

img_9665

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,

img_9672

lax stewardship notwithstanding.

img_9669

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

img_9684
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

img_9693

and Penstemon

img_9695

Black-eyed Susan,

img_9687

common milkweed, in a big way(!)

img_9691

false sunflower, sporting either milkweed or box elder bugs,

img_9689

and lovely blue vervain.

img_9701

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.

img_9559

At Meadowbrook stopped at the arresting sensory garden

img_9570

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

img_9579

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

img_9582

Crossed the wooden bridge over McCullough Creek

img_9584

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

img_9598

butterfly milkweed

img_9599

rattlesnake master

img_9613

purple coneflower,

img_9602-1

Baptisia

img_9608

false sunflower,

img_9597

wild petunia.

img_9631

Saw stalks of cup plant

img_9618

and compass plant

img_9592

elongating upward.

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

img_9601

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!

img_9623

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

img_9634

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.

img_7656

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).

img_7650
And back on the road.

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

img_7657

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.

img_7659-1

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!”

img_7662-1
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.

img_7666

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

img_7668-1

as well as milkweed-specific (true) bugs

img_7669-1

and beetles

img_7671

as well as butterfly milkweed

img_7670

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.

img_7677
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),

img_7681each one like a fuzzy, flower-topped stately tower. They are not native but seem to fit nicely into the landscape.

img_7683
(Ah, the inconsistency of human prejudice about “nature!”)

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

img_7684
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.

Saturday 18 June 2016. This Year’s Queen of the Prairie

It was 62 degrees F under thinly cloudy skies this morning at 6:30.
img_7331

This morning’s mission was once again to seek and hopefully find queen-of-the-prairie (Filipendula rubra) at Meadowbrook Park.

Tried not to chastise myself for doing laundry (it’s insidious!) instead of being present to witness the sun disc breaking from the horizon as I headed south on Discovery II.

The temperature was perfectly comfortable, the light was bright but slightly softened, the air fresh, as they say.

Some linden trees had almost finished blooming; others were in full fragrant bloom. The perfume of linden did not fill the block, but close to a blooming tree the fragrance was sweet and uplifting.

Made me think of Samadhi, or spiritual absorption. Not the same as pleasure, I understand. But I think it’s hard to imagine without a reference to something pleasant.

Away from Samadhi, observed irritation arise at the stop light at Windsor and Race, again.

Entered Meadowbrook Park near the garden plots and Sensory Garden and walked Discovery II toward the Art and Billie Spomer Prairie.

The sound of McCullough Creek babbling at the the little wooden bridge provoked from me a sigh. Calm!

img_7334

Stopped for a quick look upstream

img_7336
and walked on.

The path into the prairie was nicely worn, and comfortably proceeded to walk in and search for the prized flowers. On the way saw remaining foxglove Penstemon,

img_7337
rattlesnake master,

img_7338
and mountain mint, like last week.

img_7339
Scanned the area toward the middle of the prairie where I’d seen it last year and at first saw nothing like queen-of-the-prairie except a bare-looking stalk that rose a little above the other plants, next to a blooming common milkweed. Had it finished blooming and I’d missed it?

Decided to walk in just in case, and to my delight discovered that the tall stalk was full of tight pink buds!

img_7341
Not only that but there seemed to be more shorter stalks, even more than I recall from last year.

img_7344-1
in company with the very photogenic common milkweed.

img_7343
on which were a couple of Japanese beetles. Wondered whether the milkweed toxins affected them. Not enough to keep them off, apparently.

On the way back to the bike saw some lovely later-bloom spiderwort

img_7345

Maneuvering the bike, noticed a hole pretty much flush with the ground

img_7346
No chimney; was it made by a crayfish? It was the right diameter. Some other creature?

Onward to the little bridge, spotted a black-winged (ebony jewelwing, Calopteryx maculata) damselfly resting on a leaf near the creek,

img_7347
a lovely decoration for the stream-side.

Was glad to be able to witness the bloom of queen-of-the-prairie for another season.

Saturday 11 June 2016. Embracing the Later Morning, with Sweat and Spit

It was 86 degrees F (whew!) under partly cloudy skies at 10:15 am, considerably later than my usual start of morning ride time. But this was the available slot, and I really wanted to see whether there would be queen-of-the-prairie this year, so off Discovery II and I went, south on Race Street to Meadowbrook Park.

Bypassed the pale pink and the yellow cabbage roses and didn’t plan to stop to look at the Amanita muscaria mushrooms, but spotted one as I passed, so did stop for a quick photo.

img_7135
Near Windsor Road (at which the new stoplight system was blinking red rather than “micromanaging” the light traffic. How intelligent!) were linden trees, whose honey-fragrance was intensified by the heat.

img_7139
But the flowers, it seemed, alas, had been hurried past the peak of their bloom, I think by the much warmer recent temperatures.

Across Race from the entrance to Meadowbrook noticed more clearing of the forestry plantation.

img_7140
This was a mulberry, a “weed” tree, but the grove was getting to look pretty sparse. Hoped it wasn’t wasn’t all soon to come down.

On the way to the prairie noticed a lot of people with yoga mats. Had just been wondering whether there was “Yoga in the Park” this summer. Apparently there was.

Stopped at the entrance to the prairie to hear a lot of bird song that, alas, I mostly couldn’t identify. Wondered whether some of the sweet improvisations were being offered by common American robins.

Liked the new sculpture with the soft green of vegetation around it.

img_7145-1
Proceeded across McCullough Creek on the wooden bridge into the prairie and
saw foxglove Penstemon close up

img_7148
still vigorous but with few new buds.

Rattlesnake master (really must get the story on that name) was in bud

img_7149
As was mountain mint.

img_7151

Was glad that even though the vegetation was high, the path through it was clear enough.

img_7153
Looked but saw no queen of the prairie.

There were many spent spiderwort blooms,

img_7154-1
mostly petal-less clusters of gracefully stalked buds and developing seeds.

The common milkweed flowers had green globes of buds.

img_7158
Did not linger in the heat once I judged the queen of the prairie to be absent, at least from the present view. Headed back to the little wooden bridge, and on the way noticed little foamy saliva-like (in form and volume) globs

img_7161

on several different species of plants.
Such a sight in nature makes one hope it represents spittle bugs ( more about spittle bugs, also known as “froghoppers”) and not the eponymous substance,

img_7164

though it fondly reminded me of people in my life who are contending at the moment with with too much or too little of it. Important stuff, really.

Back on the path near the Sensory Garden and the organic vegetable garden plots saw more people, mostly young, some pushing pushing baby strollers, carrying yoga mats.

Have long been curious about Yoga in the Park, about what draws people to different styles of yoga. I personally love the Iyengar yoga that I study and teach, but I think it might seem “dry” or intimidating to some. And to Iyengar practitioners, other styles might seem less methodical or rigorous. I do have a “dream” that someday we all might at least stand for a while (perhaps in Tadasana!) together in mutual respect on our common ground.

Maybe on a very warm summer morning.