Sunday 21 January 2018. To Thawing Meadowbrook in Fog, with Lesson

Got out on the road on Shadow at about 7:30 this morning, after applying some lube to the chain. The temperature was 41 degrees F under clouds and fog but no wind to speak of.

The streets were wet but clear; small piles of snow remained along their edges from last week’s snow-fall and low temperatures. In other words, they were not interfering with passage “au vélo.”

Checked “my” apple tree and found a few fruit still attached.

Riding south on Race Street, stopped to get à view of the enveloping fog.

The wintry fog made me think of death and funerals. So far in my life I’ve never arranged a funeral and wondered whether it would be worth learning how to do it before it was necessary, like a scout project, to be prepared. But did not make a decision.

Stopped again just before entering Meadowbrook Park to see the fog through the pine planting,

a doorway of mystery.

Stopped at the rabbit-statue bridge to check the state of McCullough Creek.

Which was melting but still with some ice.

Stopped to get a view of thistle remains against the foggy winter prairie

and of the of the path receding into the fog.

Across Douglas Creek, the fog lent drama to the forms of the bare trees.

Saw a particularly full raindrop hanging from a budded twig near the path. After a bit of struggle was able to focus the iPhone camera on it,

and was reasonably pleased with the result: an inverted microcosm.

Stopped then at the Prairie Viewing Station

which previously I had carelessly referred to as the “Freyfogle Overlook ” but henceforth will use its official name. Really have to work on tightening up accuracy in the blog. The more integrity the better!

Got a view of old compass plants

old goldenrod

and Baptisia pods.

At the Windsor /Vine bridge

noticed wet, uneven ice on the path leading to the bridge. The smoothness of the ride so far had given me confidence to traverse this small patch of ice, which I don’t think would have been a problem if my way were straight ahead. Unfortunately, I had to turn slightly to the right to get over the bridge, but my momentum kept going forward, the bike slid under me, and I went down.

It was a minor, slow-speed, not entirely unexpected fall, but a nearby friendly golden retriever was concerned, and she and her owner hurried over to make sure I was ok. We were joined by two other concerned passers-by, but soon all were convinced I was fine.

Headed home across Windsor Road, enjoying the amazingly responsive traffic signal, and with renewed respect for the laws of physics.


Sunday 7 January 2018. Frozen Meadowbrook

It was 17 degrees F under cloudy skies this morning around 7:45 when I rolled Shadow down the snowy driveway and toward Meadowbrook Park. Race Street (and about half the width of the bike lanes) was mostly clear, but a south wind blew toward me, making me even more mindful that I haven’t been biking as much as I used to.

Felt plenty warm in the ensemble of long down coat, sweatpants, mohair socks and waterproof boots, fleece gloves/ felted mittens, and fleece balaclava hood. But still didn’t want to stop for too many photos, exposing those cold-prone fingers to the heat-sucking air.

Crossed Windsor Road with almost no wait. It’s funny to remember my impatience before the system was fine-tuned.

At Meadowbrook passed the “wonky Christmas tree” without stopping and proceeded to the rabbit-statue bridge, carefully coasting downhill over the frozen footprints.

As expected, there was ice over McCullough Creek,

more of a white than of the dreaded black variety. Wondered what factors account for this; a layer of snow, perhaps.

Farther along got a shot of the texture of the frozen footprints on the path.

The bike tires made a satisfying crackle as they rolled down the path and over them.

Stopped to observe a little clump of trees along Douglas (more on that later) Creek.

It inspired a haiku:

Blunt-ended branches/ Made me wonder whether they/ Would leaf out come spring.

Got a shot of the Marker Statue presiding over the snowy prairie.

Then saw something (a beautiful graphic, I must say) that made me embarrassed:

I’ve been referring to this stream as “Davis Creek” for at least the last couple years, thereby spreading false information and ignorance. Alas!

For a brief moment understood the impulse to respond as our president might: “the sign is part of a malicious plot to make me look bad!” But so far I still have some capacity to recognize my mistakes and stand apologetically corrected.

Here exemplified is a pitfall of blogging, and of instant mass-communication in general: I can say whatever I want without checking the facts, without even realizing my “facts” may be wrong. As time allows, I hereby commit to minimizing such sloppy editing.

Near the Freyfogle overlook got some shots of the winter manifestation of purple coneflower

and compass plant .

Got a view of the winter prairie from the Freyfogle overlook.

Farther along, stopped at the Windsor/ Vine bridge over McCullough Creek

and wondered how the hole in the ice had been made.

Stopped later on at this relatively new Meadowbrook sculpture

which in my view is reasonably harmonious with its prairie surroundings. I see it possibly as the shoots of prairie plants or as flames of prairie fire. Its title is, enigmatically, “Two in the Hand.”

Wondered how much ice and snow there would be this winter. Was glad to have witnessed its presence today.

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 12 November 2017. Velo Noir

It was 38 degrees F under cloudy (occasionally yielding light rain) skies at above 7:30 am as I took Shadow (also newly rejuvenated by the wonderful wizards of Neutral Cycle) out to Meadowbrook Park! At last!!

Passed the once mushroom-harboring grove of spruce trees without expectation of seeing any mushrooms, nor spotting any with a casual glance, but my eye was caught by a red balloon in a place where once Amanita muscaria mushrooms had been.


Once stopped to photograph the “false mushroom,” decided to give a closer look to the area, just to be sure there actually was nothing there.

But to my surprise, there were mushrooms!


They were not present in large numbers, but they were good-sized and robust, mostly in early stages of “fruiting.”


And here, like a reverse of The Wizard of Oz, I fade to black and white.


So, I fell for a Facebook challenge. (Thanks, Sheila!) It is a different perspective.

At Meadowbrook Park did not want to pass a little family with a stroller and dog to take my usual route so headed in a clockwise direction around the park.

Stopped to observe the already chromatically subdued landscape with the black-and-white modification of the iPhone camera.


The black and white format was good for capturing the texture of mountain mint seed heads, which I’ve always liked but found hard to photograph.


Saw seed heads of rattlesnake master.


Got an extreme closeup of a little spider crawling (still awake?!) on a sculpture.

It made apparent how limestone is made of masses of tiny shell fragments. Also it kind of looked to me like a belly button.

Saw Baptisia pods, which are always good for a little drama in the fading prairie landscape.

Curled compass plant foliage showed its prickles.

Goldenrod seed heads were like a layer of foam.

At the Marker statue searched for any remaining bottle gentians; there was only this:

a Halloween version of the flower, which didn’t look much different in color. Ah, the yearly passage to winter.

Stopped at the rabbit-statue bridge over McCullough Creek.

It looked especially dense and tangled, especially the reflections, even with fading vegetation.

On the way out of the park found a scene that actually did not look so sinister in the mandatory black and white.

Don’t know if I’ll continue this black and white approach, but this time it was fun.

Saturday 9 September 2017. The Late-Summer Prairie, Featuring a Magnificent Cream Gentian Display

It was 62 degrees F at 7:30 this morning as I smoothly made my way on Rhododendron toward Meadowbrook Park. Destination was the wet area a little east of the rabbit-statue bridge to look for late blooms.

McCullough Creek was dry under the bridge (one couldn’t help thinking of the precipitation recently deposited by Harvey and Irma) and no red petals of cardinal flowers were visible. May have been able to locate the last ones by getting into the creek bed but moved on.

Noticed it was goldenrod time.


Thistles provided complementary accent.


On top of the yellows of goldenrod was the yellow of tickseed


and of sneezeweed


Remembered abundant turtleheads from last year but today saw only a few sparsely blooming plants.


Mountain mint was especially fragrant here though the plants are common all around the park. What releases the smell?

img_3483Sneezeweed was delightfully abundant here, and set off nicely by what I’ve decided is tall boneset.


The vervain had senesced beautifully.


Got a better shot than previously of a goldenrod I haven’t been able to identify precisely.


Still haven’t figured it out. Is it actually a goldenrod?

Over the small arched bridge was still blue sage, in that rare, heavenly light-blue color.


Nearby, viewed the roll of the beautiful late summer prairie spread.


And then located, just a few at first, unlike yellow flowers they don’t jump out at you, cream gentians in front of the Marker statue.


Then found some pink-blue ones, probably hybrids (or soapwort gentians?) rather than bottle gentians.


Looked and looked and finally found the tiniest hints of bottle gentian (maybe) buds.


Walked on into the goldenrod-lined soft path,


which, in spite of the lovely masses of goldenrod, struck me with a feeling of loss: the high-perched golden faces of the compass plants had lost their extroverted rays and become somber seed-heads.


The sadness took me by surprise.

Moved on trying to admit and absorb this while hoping for consolation from the cream gentian bloom.

Indeed, there it was.

In profusion.


And many flowers were open, indicating that bees had visited them.

It was hard to stop photographing them!


Eventually moved on and noticed stiff goldenrod, which was not as abundant as in some previous years, but was able to get a decent closeup.


Near the end (beginning) of the path, abundant (yellow!) wingstem decorated the little wooden bridge over another dry stretch of McCullough Creek.


Before leaving Meadowbrook got a view of light through the young trees and undergrowth next to the pavilion.

No longer felt desolation but more a sense of the maturity of the year. Which now, reflecting in November, seems especially sweet.

Sunday 3 September 2017. To St. Joe with a Stop at Weaver.

It was 64 degrees F under party cloudy skies 8:15 this morning as I headed Rhododendron to the Kickapoo Rail to Trail path and St. Joseph IL.

But first there was morning yoga practice (!!!) wherein I tried to get my shoulders ready for the un-yogic downward reaching for the handlebars, including slithering into a self-assisted shoulder Savasana, lots of Ardha Parsva Hastasana, and Sirsasana using a chumball. Yes, it costs watching the dawn break from the bike, but the rest of day is just so much better if yoga is first!

Rode east on Main Street (did not see the fox) and made a quick detour to the Champaign County Nursing Home to drop a promised pair of sun-viewing glasses for a friend who lives there. Then proceeded to Weaver Park and stopped to see what was blooming there.

The season had advanced and flowers were mostly on the decline, like these cup plants, accompanied by big bluestem and


stiff goldenrod and near rosinweed foliage.


Saw blackeyed Susans


tall Coreopsis,


some remaining compass plant blooms,


and even some late purple coneflowers.


Proceeded along Main Street to University Avenue and the head of the Kickapoo-rail-to-trail towards St. Joseph, Illinois.


And what a pleasant trail it was.


Since the CU Across the Prairie ride there were fewer species in bloom, but still there were plenty of flowers along the way:

Exotic but colorful morning glories,


Jerusalem artichokes (or sawtooth sunflowers–I wasn’t sure which, glorious golden sun-bursts either way.


and sawtooth sunflowers were just coming into bloom.

Also were the beginnings of the goldenrod and more than a few prairie dock sun-flowers


which were complemented by the pink Gaura,


Rode on with minimal photography (I get conflicted between riding on and not interrupting the experience versus stopping to document it) to the town of St Joseph.


Then turned back, and this time photographed the Salt Fork crossing.


Got a shot of the lovely photograph of unionid mussels at the educational marker.

beloved inhabitants of my former life as a biologist.

On the way back stopped for (sawtooth, I’m pretty sure) sunflowers,


including a group visited by monarch butterflies (saw at least four in one small area).


Farther along looked across the paralleling highway and saw soybean fields beginning to turn yellow, with Gaura and tall(?) boneset between the highway and the bike trail.


At the Fulls Siding crossing, stopped to photograph this dear bicycle book-exchange box.


Must remember to bring something to exchange next time.

And on toward home!

My second KRT ride was just as wonderful as the first!

Sunday 27 August 2017. Falling and Rising in Late Summer

It was 59 degrees F at 7:15 under party cloudy skies as I finished yoga practice (wish I could do everything first thing in the morning!) and headed on Rhododendron for Meadowbrook Park. Wanted to get a close look at the cardinal flowers as their bloom was concluding.

Stopped at the rabbit-statue bridge; the bed of McCullough Creek was dry even with heavy rain one night last week.
The cardinal flowers are just barely visible here, with a little imagination.


Since the bloom would be done soon, I climbed down to the creek bed, and actually encountered the red bird-flowers on the close side of the stream.


Saw many cardinal flower plants, their red flower-spikes distributed more widely around the creek bed than I ever remember seeing them!


The contrast of goldenrod gave the red flowers even more intensity.

Noticed also sneezeweed, another lovely yellow counterpoint for the red cardinal flowers.


Was happy to see the last, top blooms above the stack of spent flowers: the process of growth and decay.


Down the path a little way were the annual Bidens, or tickseed, another species of photogenic Compositae.


Got a shot of the beautiful blue sage near the little arched bridge over Davis Creek.


This white flower with handsome dark green foliage, which I’ve decided is tall boneset, was abundant.


The thistle hosted a bumble bee as well as several small beetles.


Saw some handsome bush clover,


with its blue-green leaves and contrasting rusty flowers.

There was rosinweed with a cricket in its center,




compass plant holding forth,


prairie dock above and cream gentian down low,


and lots of invasive but gorgeous goldenrod about to burst into golden yellow,


Fall approaches.