Saturday 29 July 2017. Height of the Summer Bloom

It was 61 beautiful degrees under clear skies a little after sunrise (6:15) this morning as I headed south on Race Street toward Meadowbrook Park.

I apologize here for having fallen behind in getting my notes of summer rides (that keep receding further into the past and my recollection of the details less certain!) shaped up to release on the blog. But still want to share these distinctive markers of the seasons, so here they are.

For a stretch of ten yards or so, several newly blooming cardinal flowers (a single plant would have been stunning!) graced the banks of dry McCullough and Davis creeks below the rabbit-statue bridge

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Also were contrasting purple-blue self-heal, aka “heal-all.” It must be good medicine of some kind.

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The cardinal flowers really were in their full glory.

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Farther down the path in the wet (iris, in spring) area Liatris were staring to manifest their blazing feathery stars.

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Noticed nearby a strangely curled stem, maybe a goldenrod.

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And farther on still, on the soft path to the middle of the prairie, was the splendor of the royal catchfly,

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accompanied by lots of rattlesnake master.

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There was Culver’s root, though past its peak bloom.

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Also past peak but still holding forth were purple coneflowers.

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At least three of the “Sylphium sisters” were in bloom there, S.integrifolium (rosinweed), with its simpler leaves and smaller flowers

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square-stemmed, cup-leafed S. perfoliatum (cup plant)

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And S. lacineata (compass plant), the little suns of its blooms stacked high over the prairie, as tall as the emerging big bluestem grass.

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and sometimes topped with a goldfinch

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It was the time of abundant, fresh bloom for yellow coneflower, ironweed,

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and of pink-purple Monarda.

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As I write, it’s been a while already since the prairie was in full bloom, but it’s nice to revisit that time as October draws life inward.

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Tuesday 4 July 2017. Almost to Flatville

It was 68 degrees F and mostly sunny and calm at 6:45 this morning of American Independence Day as I filled up Rhododendron’s tires (it made a helpful difference!) and headed east on Washington Street into the dappled canopy.

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Could not skip a stop at Weaver Park, even with having to traverse a stretch of trail-less grass, across which a couple of apparently well-fed ground hogs undulated toward the tree-lined street side of the park.

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The edge of the purported buffalo-wallow pond was richly decorated with newly blooming prairie plants, like Monarda,

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yellow coneflower, cup plants, an early aster,

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and, most whimsically, the candelabra of Culver’s root,

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all beautifully set in front of the water lily pads and cattails of the pond.

Then headed back on Washington to Route 130 (High Cross Road), where there is a lovely place to view the sun rising over the landscape

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and on past Cottonwood Road to the “T” at 1800N.

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A couple of cyclists behind me went right (perhaps to Homer Lake) and I turned left, to the north. The road was narrow but smooth and mostly without farm houses (that is, potential loose dogs) close to it.

The bridge over I-74 was simple and without much bordering vegetation.

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Continued north, crossing the Saline Ditch,

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and detecting some roll in the grade of the road.

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Just before heading back stopped to look down into a creek

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then turned back at the road just past Ford Harris Road.

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Came back to Ford Harris and an debated just continuing to retrace my path, but craved a little novelty. At the same time, could not remember this stretch, so took a bold gamble about its safety and plunged westward on Ford Harris Road.

Close to High Cross Road was a cemetery on the side of a little (central Illinois) hill.

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Got a distant shot of a dickcissel

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the calls (which which sounds to me something like “Uru ahim!” (“awake, my brothers!”) from the Israeli folk, song “Hava Nagila”) [Note: the dickcissel recordings I found on YouTube were not exactly like the birds I heard, but maybe you get the idea. Head out on a country road some morning and see what you think.) from conspecifics of which had been accompanying me for much of this trip.

At Perkins Road was a nice prairie planting that included non-native but handsome mullein.

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It was another satisfying 20 miles!

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.

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.

Saturday 3 June 2017. Greeting the Early Sun and Catching the Abundance of Spiderwort and Penstemon

It was 67 degrees F under mostly clear, mostly calm skies at 5:17 this morning as I wheeled Rhododendron down the driveway and toward South Race Street.

Was determined to be present to receive the gift of additional daylight and thus additional time with which to take in the outdoors. I am a morning person but this year have not quite managed to get up with the birds and not squeeze in too many little activities to make it out the door before official sunrise. Until today!

The bike felt smooth and easy, and the morning was fresh and of a perfect temperature, but today I felt very much not quite awake. As an inveterate morning person, this does not happen to me very often, but when it does I think of the night-people who have to be awake early for something unusual and am sorry for my past insufficient empathy for their situation.

Stopped not far into the ride for the irresistible pastel cabbage roses

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and the fuchsia-colored sweet peas

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Looked like there were lots of little apples on “my” tree.

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Saw some Amanita mushrooms under the spruce trees,

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but not tons of shiny, new, succulent specimens.

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Saw also a couple individuals of another species,

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which looked healthy enough.

At Meadowbrook Park, was delighted to welcome the rising sun.

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Stopped at several spots to take it in, over McCullough Creek at the rabbit-statue bridge

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and down the path a little way

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Wondered whether there still would be blue flag irises, and, oh, there were!

Framed by prairie dock leaves,

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and close-up.

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The park was empty, the morning fresh, already mint-fragrant!
the Penstemon

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and the spiderwort

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therapeutically abundant!

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Stopped at the Freyfogle overlook

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to check on the lead plant, which were in bud, but, alas, bearing a collection of robust shiny reddish-brown beetles on their foliage.

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Fervently hoped the beetles were just resting there or at least readily sated with little damage to the plant’s integrity.

Rode on through gloriously abundant white Penstemon and blue spiderwort. The landscape was deeply soul-filling. Was happy to be smack in the middle of another stage of the year that’s anticipated before it comes and missed when it’s finished.

Near the Vine Street entrance to the park got a shot of the abundant serviceberries

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Then rode west on Windsor to check the lead plant at the City of Champaign Prairie Restoration, which more than ever looked in need of stewardship,

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so overgrown with invasive exotics. But the lead plants looked well enough.

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Did not want to walk through the overgrowth to check for beetles on these.

Rode south on First Street, which felt mostly uphill! My hip muscles were starting to tire though knees and shoulders were happy enough. At 900 S, turned back.

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On the way back stopped at the roadside prairie garden, which featured spiderwort, lace-edged (not an official name, just a description) cup plant,

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butterfly weed

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and a small, less showy milkweed.

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Spied a great blue heron while crossing over a creek on First Street. Parked the bike and carefully walked back to the bridge, Just in time to see the heron take off.

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They sure are wary.

Got a shot of a dickcissel (had been hearing lots of these “mini-meadowlarks”) on a fence post.

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The way home was mostly downhill, which I gratefully enjoyed!

Sunday 7 May 2017. No Fox

It was 41 degrees F under clear skies at 7:30 this morning as I finally got Shadow on the road. Headed north and east to see whether the fox would be in its customary place across Main Street from the Dart plastic-lid factory.

It was not.

So went on to see what was happening at the edge of Weaver Park.

Blooming were golden Alexanders.

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Recognized shoots of common milkweed, wild bergamot (Monarda), I’m pretty sure,

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as well as prairie dock, compass plant, cup plant, to name a few.

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Rode only to the edge of Weaver and turned back.

Across the street on the way back were pink evening primrose in a garden generously planted in native plants

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The field next to the Dart parking lot bloomed in butterweed.

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Wondered whether there would be corn or soybeans (if anything) planted there this year.