Sunday 20 August 2017. Dog Detour to 1800E and Oaks

It was 66 degrees F at 6:30 am, the thin clouds in the eastern sky tinged pink but the sun disc fully visible as I headed east on Main Street on re-born Rhododendron.

But first I prepared my shoulders with sandbags (a little awkward but possible!) at the yoga studio.

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Rode east on Main Street and passed the place where I almost always see a fox if it’s early enough on a Sunday morning, but there was no fox today.

At least the grove of oaks looked healthy, which is saying a lot this year.

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Stopped at the edge of Weaver Park,

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where there were nicely blooming (i.e., not attacked by whatever has gotten the ones next to my house and a lot of them at Meadowbrook) cup plants

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purple coneflowers,

and tick trefoil.

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Rode to High Cross Road and turned south toward Washington Street, then east to where it “t’d” into county road 1800 E.

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At first went right and jogged left to check on “little Gehenna”.

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It was, as usual, ready to burn.

Then turned back and rode north on 1800E, planning to go a ways, along the handsome, green-and-tasseled cornfields.

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Crossed Interstate 74

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and the Saline Branch (of the Salt Fork of the Vermilion River).

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But then saw (or heard, the recollection is becoming obscured) a dog up ahead, and opted not to continue in its direction. When in doubt, I avoid the dog. I love dogs, but this is the only way to be sure there won’t be an unpleasant encounter.

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So turned west at 1850 N (Oaks Road),

Then rode south on Cottonwood.

In a well-groomed front yard saw a lovely blooming mimosa tree.

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Rode by Trelease Woods,

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across the road from which noticed
briars

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and brambles.

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Saw morning glories along the corn, probably unwelcome, but adding a nice accent of color.

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Then returned home.

Much later….

Ah, it’s nice to revisit the summer on a cloudy October morning when I’m not biking but recovering from the currently circulating respiratory virus.

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Sunday 6 August 2017. New Cardinal Flowers and Homer Lake Road, One Month Later

It was 64 degrees F under thickly cloudy skies at about 6:15 this morning as the New and Improved Rhododendron (especially the new freewheel and chain!) and I headed to Meadowbrook Park.

Saw the wondrous cardinal flowers from the rabbit-statue bridge,

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but did not go down to see them close-up.

Close to the banks, cup plants were in bloom.

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Rode over the bridge, around the corner, and down the path to look for cardinal flowers in the wet willowy area where they had been in some (not all) years past, but saw none.

But then noticed two spikes of cardinal flowers on the other side of path,

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close enough to view without walking in at all!

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Then a little farther east, on the south side of the path, was a profusion of pink, purple, and blue-violet flowers: swamp milkweed (some aphid-bearing),

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Liatris,

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and blue vervain.

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Farther down the path were tick trefoil,

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which was not as abundant as I’ve seen in past years, victims of insect herbivory, it seems, Monarda, and a spike of American bellflower.

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Later focused on the yellow flowers, Sylphium species: compass plants (S.laciniatum)

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rosinweed (S.integrifolium),

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and even the occasionally prairie dock (S. terebinthinaceum) bloom,

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in addition to the cup plants (S. perfoliatum) farther
back: four tall, robust, sandpaper-leafed, yellow-flowered Sylphium “sisters!”

Also in yellow, a little more distantly related and more delicate, were tall Coreopsis.

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Interspersed was bush clover,

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with its handsome, delicate bluish foliage.

Hidden lower among other foliage saw the first buds of this year’s cream gentians

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The list of common native flowers observed this morning still is incomplete; they are so many now! I will just mention: common milkweed with maturing pods, Baptisia with green pods, and remaining though past peak rattlesnake master, purple coneflowers, yellow coneflowers, false sunflowers, and Culver’s root.

Then headed away from Meadowbrook Park, east on Windsor Road.

Corn to the left of me, soybeans to the right, here I am, central Illinois!

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Rode next to the creek, a little tributary of the Salt Fork that paralleled Windsor Road for a while.

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As I did a month ago on this route, stopped to photograph the exotic but lovely pink soapwort blooms.

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There was the sign to warn of the dangerous hill

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but still couldn’t tell exactly where it was.

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Central Illinois, alright.

Looked down at the crossing of another little tributary where I’d often seen wood ducks before,

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but saw none this time.

Did see some nice swamp milkweed.

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Rode as far as the junction with Homer Lake Road

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and this time instead of doubling back headed left, toward east Washington Street. On the way passed a small clearing at the edge of a cornfield, seemingly devoted to burning things.

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It’s been there since the first time I remember passing it in 2011 or so. It makes me think “little Gehenna.”

Back in town, on Washington Street, I pass the Brookins baseball field (it may be called something else), northward across which is the shaded area where my friends from the Champaign County Nursing Home and I have popcorn, brownies, and coffee on nice days.

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Back home, there was a Cooper’s hawk in the dead ash tree behind our garage.

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Made me wish my phone camera had a better zoom.

If I had to compare this time with my ride of a month ago, I’d say it was slightly less magical (that time has not been displaced!) but it had its own particular, considerable delights.

Especially remembered from October!

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 6 November 2016. Falling Back au Velo

Rolled Rhododendron out of the garage at 8:20 this morning, on the late side even with the time change (the happy return of the hour we lost last spring!), even with the extra daylight it provided. What can I say except that other first-thing-in the-morning activities, like Pranayama and a bit of Asana (handstand, forearm balance, headstand) practice, as well as giving Sparky a good Sunday morning walk, protruded into velo time.

It was 48 degrees F, the sky clear as I headed south on Race Street, intending to do at least 20 miles toward White Heath along Old Church Road, but still feeling the effects of the population of cold viruses that I was hosting since Thursday evening. So just played it by ear.

Have been one another haiku kick–it’s such a handy method for focusing thoughts and winnowing words.

At least checked mushrooms
Amanitas were still there,
Moldy or healthy.

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Majestic trees stood
Throwing their westward shadows,
Lifting golden leaves.

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Cold at first, not sure
Of a long trip; then warmed up,
And the road beckoned.

Turned west on Windsor.
Rode to the prairie near Neil.
It was mostly brown.

Heard water running:
From a pond over a dam,
Built there by beavers?

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Rode west on Windsor,
South at Prospect to Curtis
And the sunken pond.

Near the sunken pond
Which was quite brown and quiet,
Saw large bird footprints.

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At the pond’s far end
Gathered a large group of ducks!
They weren’t all mallards.

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Prospect Avenue
Became a shaded bike path
That reached to Old Church.

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In the autumn soil,
Something was strangely growing:
Thousands of corn shoots!

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Back north on Race Street,
Runners looped Meadowbrook Park
A beautiful course.

Did not reach my goal
Of 20 miles for this ride,
But 13 was good!

Sunday 23 October 2016. High Cross Road, Mid-Autumn

It was 8:30 am, late by Vélo du Jour standards, but it was a beautiful fall morning au velo, and I headed in the direction of north High Cross Road to see the colors, wearing a wide smile.

Found myself flying along east Main Street with ease, stopping first at the grove of oaks across from the Dart plant. Though of the fox I used to see there Sunday mornings but didn’t expect to see it: who knows what might have happened to it since then, and it was later in the morning than when I used to look.

By then it caught my eye, closer than it was last time. Had no great hope of getting a photo but went for the iPhone just in case.

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It’s the tiny dog-like head and neck at the base (left side) of the large burr oak tree.

It always makes me think (though I know it’s ridiculous) that it was waiting for me to show up.

Then it ran off into the field to the west across the train tracks.

Got a fall-color photo of the planted parkway maples

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and rode up Main with, seemingly, effortless effort, through the Berringer subdivision, and over I-74. Stopped to peek at the possum-bone site (where I’d been observing what happened to a road kill over the past four years or so)

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which was so full of trash, like it was a designated dumping station, alas. Saw a couple of bones there, but I think more probably recent chicken than old possum.

Trees near the Saline Branch were just starting to turn color.

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Passed the edge of Brownfield Woods where there were a few late asters,

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surrounded by stinging nettle and poison ivy. Hoped I hadn’t already stepped in it.

Rode on northward noticed a delightful tiny hint of a hill sloping away, a lovely slight departure from total flatness, near Ford Harris Road.

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Oh, the subtlety of the central Illinois landscape!

Turned east on Ford Harris and stopped at the Yearsly (so it was labeled) Cemetery.

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Seemed like a nice location to contemplate mortality. Did not spend enough time to look exhaustively but did find a few thought-provoking markers.

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Getting back on the road noticed recently emerged asparagus plants. Didn’t know they showed up so fresh in the fall. Global warming, perhaps.

Planned to ride east to Cottonwood Road and south to Oaks or Airport and back to High Cross, but just after the turn saw a large brown dog in front of the upcoming farm house. The dog didn’t look especially aggressive, but I wasn’t up for the possibility of any form of problematic interaction. So without hesitation turned around to head back.

On the way back had a chance to photograph spilled corn kernels on the road

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that were not interesting enough to make me stop on the way out. But I do like to catch the harvest, the yearly “results” of this sprawling land of central Illinois, in the middle of its process, when I can.

Passed, as I have many times without comment, the sign for the U of I Aeronomy (the study of the upper atmosphere, as I again googled to find out) station.

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On the way back faced a bit of a head wind–no wonder it was so easy on the way out. Not bad, though. Was grateful for the lack of rain and for the mild temperature.

Close in to town was a cornfield all ready to harvest. Reminded me of a crowd of starving men.

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Wonder how much longer crops will grow this close to downtown Urbana. Change keeps happening. Autumn is our yearly reminder of that.

Sunday 11 September 2016. A Little Stop at Meadowbrook, Another Little Ride Out East Curtis Road

This morning at 6:30 (the official time for sunrise) it was 54 degrees F, with clear skies and hardly a breeze.

Decided last night (did not want to waste energy fretting about it in the morning) to check the inner, unpaved path at Meadowbrook Park for bottle gentians and to ride a ways east on that pleasant stretch of Curtis Road.

First, however, had to try again to lure my friend’s cat, for whom I was caring in her absence and whom I had not seen for two days, back to his home.

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To my great relief, he was sitting at the top of the front steps when I arrived and I let him in, and so was able to continue my ride with a light heart.

Approached Meadowbrook Park at the Vine Street entrance and was surprised that the parking lot was rather well-occupied for this time of day.

As soon as I turned into the park was greeted by the beginning of a vast goldenrod bloom.

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And not far down the path were puffy purple-pink spheres of pasture thistle flowers,

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stiff goldenrod (another humorous official name),

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delicate (my description) Gaura

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and false sunflowers, the blooms of which were photogenic when they appeared in late spring and that still are at the end of summer.

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Made it to the Freyfogel overlook and there found white wild indigo pods,

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delicate dangling flower parts of big bluestem grass

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and cream gentians

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Time advanced, and so thought better of exploring the soft path to the middle of the prairie in favor of a bit of mileage. So turned back, stopping for a handsome goldenrod display (with thistle accents)

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close to the turn (to the east) onto the sidewalk next to Windsor Road. Then rode south on Philo Road and east again on pleasant, open, and I do think mostly downhill to the east, Curtis Road.

Much of the bordering abundant corn was very mature, crispy and golden against the blue sky

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Friday’s rains still filled a number of low places along the road, even gushing from the fields,

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forming sloughs

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and ponds.

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Rode as far as Curtis and Cottonwood roads

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and retuned west on Curtis, which did feel uphill this time. But had a nice view of the yellowing soybean leaves under the blue sky.

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Rode all the way on Curtis to Race and then north toward home. Along the outside of the Yankee Ridge subdivision saw some lovely wingstem,

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a very slow-moving bee resting on one of the blooms.

Closer to home, stopped at the U of I gateway and fountain

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which, this morning, was a perfect spot to do a little writing on the blog.

Tuesday 2 August 2016. Lingering with the Tall Coreopsis and Wandering Eastward on Curtis Road

Though I glimpsed the pink sky from inside the house early this morning, a list of things (like headstand, which I never used to leave the house without doing and am returning to that practice) kept me from bringing out Rhododendron, the road bike, until 7:45. It was 73 degrees F and humid at that time, with thinly spread clouds that allowed plenty of light through but kept the sun from blazing too brutally.

The plan for this morning was to ride by the north edge of Meadowbrook Park, the part that I’ve tried (with mixed results) to hurry past toward the end of many a ride, and then eastward on Curtis Road.

After a grumpy passage through the “micromanaging” stoplight system on Windsor and Race streets rode (downhill!) east on the sidewalk along Windsor Road and stopped for lots of photos.

I’ve seen better compositions of August prairie flowers at this edge of the park, but there still was beauty aplenty, if one looked.

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White wild indigo lifted their plump green and darkening pods.

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Blooming purple coneflowers still were abundant, and dense, in places.

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The star of today’s display, it seemed, was the tall Coreopsis.

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many individuals quite worthy of their name.

Here they make a nice background for a thistle

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It certainly was good to be out among the summer-worn bloom: vigorous, colorful, diverse, abundant. But the word “fresh” was not the first to come to mind. Reminded me a little of the awesome week-long yoga intensive I did last week, many (but not all!) of the participants of which were at least as old as I am and/or bearing various manifestations of life’s progression, even as we drank in the sunlight of BKS Iyengar’s teaching through the channel of dear Lois.

Also thought about the current installment of difficulty and pain that happens to be passing through a lot of people in my life (including, I suppose, myself) these days. It’s real and not to be dismissed, especially that of others. But still it has gaps, where, e.g., the summer prairie’s healing glow can shine through. I’m not entirely sure (and others insist to me) that allowing this joy isn’t a form of painting a smiley face over the pain. It just seems like a good alternative to despair.

Saw rosinweed flowers in interesting positions.

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Was not expecting to spend the morning with wet feet, but barely stepped into the mowed edge of the prairie and my Keen sandals and feet were thoroughly soaked. Amazing how much liquid water can be produced by condensation. Oh well. The dew is a fact of August morning prairie life.

Did not intend to turn into the big loop of the “Art and Billie Spomer” prairie,
but there it was,

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featuring compass plants

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whose stacks of large yellow flowers practically throw themselves at your phone camera, white wild indigo pods, and rattlesnake master that look like pompon girls.

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and the always photogenic false sunflowers

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Only went as far as the Freyfogel observation deck then turned back and headed out Windsor to Philo (passing lots of sweet little goldfinches atop the high chain-link fence) and then east on Curtis Road.

Also saw but didn’t try to photograph lots of dickcissels and at least two (or was it the same one twice?) red-tailed hawks gliding over the corn.

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The ride was easy, which made me worry a bit about the return trip, but mostly just enjoyed being out between the corn and beans.

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Went as far as 1250N and 1975E and turned back.

Stopped at creek (must be a tributary of the Salt Fork) where I’d seen wood ducks before, though it was a little ways north. No ducks today but there were quite a few ebony jewelwing damselflies.

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Was glad to get a few good miles in.

And the way back was easy, too.