Sunday 28 January 2018. From Meadowbrook to Mid-Town Champaign via Curtis Road

It was 34 degrees F and mostly clear at 7:30 this morning as I rode Shadow south to Meadowbrook Park, where a group of flickers chattered up in the tree-tops of the remains of the forest planting across Race Street.

The white spot just below the top and to the right of center belongs to one of them.

As I rode toward the rabbit-statue bridge, the early sun slanted along the ground,

illuminating the frost-covered grass.

Mostly liquid McCullough Creek flowed under the bridge,

last year’s riparian growth highlighted with light frost.

Across the bridge, close up to the ground were ice formations.

Tiny fingers of ice crystals grew from twigs and the smallest plant growth.

Had the sense that if I lingered just a bit longer would have been able to watch them shrink and disappear under the warming sun.

But moved on, back out to Race Street and south to Curtis Road.

Stopped to look down where Curtis Road crosses the headwaters of the Embarras River.

Turned north at First Street, stopping briefly in the research park to observe a nest in one of the little landscaping trees.

Proceeded north along First and ended up in Midtown Champaign (there apparently is one!) at the incomparable Flying Machine Avionics cafe for house-roasted coffee and an exquisite egg sandwich.


Sunday 21 May 2017. Spiderwort and Penstemon at Meadowbrook and the Curtis and Prospect Sunken Pond

It was 54 degrees F at about 6:15 am under cloudy skies, which seemed certain to produce rain, though the weather ap said no, as I rolled Shadow out of the garage. Wanted to see the spiderwort at Meadowbrook and whether the Penstemon (beardtongue) were yet in bloom.

Contemplated this portion of time that I devote to biking and how it might be used for other things that need attention in my life. At the beginning of a ride sometimes recently, I’ve been feeling impatient and uncomfortable, especially if it’s rainy and cold, and I think ahead to sitting in the coffee shop writing or knitting. But decided the physical exercise alone is worth pushing through zones of reduced joy and so resolved to protect this ritual.

Rode on Race Street near the grove of spruces that shelter the Amanita mushrooms (when they appear) and planned to check for fruiting bodies (mushrooms), but stopped because there was a fox nearby. The fox ran off before I could aim my iPhone camera at it, but then it appeared again and I recorded a glimpse.


Had yet another pleasant passage across Windsor Road and headed to the rabbit-statue bridge across McCullough Creek, but first stopped for the view of shadows under these precisely shaped haw trees.


Davis and McCullough creeks were full and fast-moving.


Over the bridge and around the corner, right away were spiderwort, so many more in bloom since last week.


And the first Penstemon were showing, with lots of little buds for coming days.


Was surprised and delighted to see the blue flag irises!


It seemed to be a good year for them; in addition to the main large patch, iris flowers could be see in at least three directions a little way from it.
As a bonus, the area had been “managed” to allow a decent view without having to walk in water through willow shoots and other vegetation. Was really glad for that bit of close view and glad to have been able to content myself with a shot at this distance, though it was tempting to get closer to the “mother” patch.

Filled me with that joy I do this for, it even summoned the not eternally profound but entirely appropriate lyrics from the band Chicago’s “Saturday in the Park”, “Listen children, all is not lost, oh no!” Which I really can stand to hear lately.

Soon the clouds were starting to break up and make sky-sculptures.


And the spiderwort! Something about spiderwort makes one (me, at least) want to take endless photographs of their simple, graceful blueness against the tender green of May foliage.

I indulged a small portion of that urge.



It was the same, perhaps on a smaller scale, with the Penstemon.


Rode around and back through the small loop and back to Race and on to Curtis Road where the clouds were large and shapely and the sky felt huge!


Rode to the sunken pond on Curtis and Prospect, which featured more spiderwort but also purple Baptisia


On the way back were weedy but handsome Erygeron


and attenuated but peaceful looking


The many gorgeous flowers, decent mileage, and lovely sky made for a very enjoyable trip!

Saturday 25 March 2017. Burned Prairie and Curtis Road

It was 60 degrees F and cloudy this morning at 7:50 as I topped off Rhododendron’s tires and headed out for, in accordance with the wind direction, parts south and east.

The ride was smooth and swift and was not strongly drawn to stop and photograph until, close to Windsor Road, it started to rain.


Didn’t have to wait at all for the light to change at Race and Windsor. Maybe they’ve worked out the timing, or maybe I just got lucky.

Meadowbrook was beginning to show green from a distance.


Got the customary shot of McCullough/ Davis creeks from the Rabbit Statue bridge.


Over the bridge, around the corner and on a little way noticed that a section of last year’s growth had been burned away,

leaving the ground charred and almost bare and affording a view far into the middle of the prairie. Was glad to see this bit of prairie management. Hoped it would reduce what seemed to be disease in some of the prairie plants.

Saw a beaten path from the toward Davis Creek and followed into the water.


In the creek was an abundance of filamentous green algae. Near the stream, rocks and logs were covered with soft green moss.


Back along the path, most of the prairie still was pale gold.


Red-winged blackbirds perched on old compass plant stalks and on the tops of bird houses.

and announced their presence.

Noticed how much easier it was to ride with the temperature at 60 than it was when it was in the thirties!

Rode on to Windsor and turned east into its bordering sidewalk and then to Philo Road and eastward on Curtis Road.

There was a southeastern breeze that required some extra exertion, but knew it would mean ease on the way back.

Rode downhill pretty much all the way to High Cross, not much encumbered by the cross wind.


Turned back at High Cross Road.


The way back was indeed uphill, which made me think that a route for the future (especially with a west wind) would go out Curtis and back another way, at least between High Cross and Philo Road.

And then, at Philo Road the path went downhill again. Hooray!

Saw a nice roadside tree just before Race street.


Back near Meadowbrook noticed in the tree plantation across the street that a lot of the trees looked poorly, which may have been why there has been so much cutting. Maybe it was not that someone wanted the area cleared.


The rain stopped.

And back in the neighborhood there were golden daffodils among copious blue Scilla and early manifestation of Virginia bluebells.


Oh, welcome, this leading edge of extravagant, profligate springtime!


Sunday 19 March 2017. The Sunken Pond to the West

It was 31 degrees F under clear skies at 8:38 this morning as I rolled Rhododendron, its rear tire restored (i.e., in inner tube replaced), out of the garage to head a little way south and west, at last!

Unfortunately my shoulder was not especially pleased by the riding position on Rhododendron, the road bike. But was able to use what I’ve learned in yoga about rolling the inner upper arms out, pressing the bottom of the shoulder-blades into the back, bringing the sternum forward, and releasing the trapezius toward the waist to lessen the strain. The difficult part is maintaining the actions. No end of practice.

Destination this morning was the sunken pond on Curtis and Prospect. Wondered if there would be ducks there as I’d seen in the past.

Stopped first at the rabbit-statue bridge in Meadowbrook Park for the customary photo of the confluence of McCullough and Davis creeks.


Noticed buds on the nearby arching red blackberry brambles.


Also heard hammering woodpeckers and red-winged blackbirds posted in high places calling with the first three notes of the theme of the original Star Trek TV series.

Did not go any farther into the park but made the “Texas-exit” back to Race Street and took a view of the forestry plantation

img_6142 in which still stood trees, past-observed cutting and clearing notwithstanding.

Rode out of town and as always, the first opening of the land to farm fields was exhilarating.

Rode west on Curtis and stopped on the bridge over the Embarass River to look down at animal tracks,

img_6144 then continued on to Prospect Avenue and the sunken pond, which lies slightly south of Curtis Road.

The sunken pond, without its trim of prairie flowers, looked smaller than I remembered it.

It was occupied by the pervasive Canada geese, not a lot of them, but they were spread out around the pond and seemed to have serious designs on the place.


The only other waterfowl evident was a mallard drake.

It’s hard to imagine a time when the population of Canada geese was in decline. I think it’s nice to have them around, but they do seem to view a pond similarly to how European explorers once viewed the Americas: “empty space,” and tend to take over to the exclusion of other inhabitants.


Rode into an east wind on the way back, and felt achy thigh muscles, but the joints seemed ok. Good tired!

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.


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.


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


stiff goldenrod (another humorous official name),


delicate (my description) Gaura


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


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


delicate dangling flower parts of big bluestem grass


and cream gentians


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)


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


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


forming sloughs


and ponds.


Rode as far as Curtis and Cottonwood roads


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.


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,

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

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

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

Sunday 5 June 2016. To Old Church and Rising Road via the Sunken Pond

It was 63 degrees F at 5:53 this morning as I rolled Rhododendron out of the garage for parts southwest.

First stopped for a yellow (and sure looks life pink in the middle) cabbage rose pic.

The stalks and pods of the nearby bloomed-out lupines have been removed.

Then checked out the Amanita muscaria mushrooms

which were reasonably numerous but nowhere near as dense as they are in the fall.

It looked like they’d been there a while. Also noticed some that were just beginning to emerge from the ground. They have an amazing life force!

Rode along Race Street with my emotions organizing themselves for the day. Noticed something like a pit of sadness ahead but just coasted over it without looking down. Riding was enough to keep things flowing and even for the time being.

Made a quick stop at the edge of Meadowbrook Park to see McCullough Creek at the rabbit-statue bridge.

Coasted down and “flew” over the bridge, rounded the corner, and got a nice foxglove Penstemon shot first.

Then returned for the former picture.

Retraced my path to the official exit rather than going over the longish wet grass directly back to Race Street.

Then west on Curtis, where a light headwind was blowing.

On Curtis Road were many dickcissels singing (many more than were visible) and gorgeous bright yellow goldfinches. They didn’t like having their pictures taken, but managed to document them.

This was the boldest dicksissel I’ve seen.

I think he (or she) will go on to have a lot of chicks, as they’re not using energy to flee from a non-threat. Just a guess.

Stopped at the sunken pond at Curtis and Prospect.

So invisible from the road!

Could hear the sound of frogs–bullfrogs and another species. Just by way of announcement; no sustained singing.

The vegetation around the pond was mowed fairly close to the edge, but there were some lovely flowers: spiderwort,

Penstemon, new purple coneflowers,

and purple indigo.


Was amazed not to see geese and to see a number of ducks that didn’t look like mallards, though couldn’t take the ID any further than that.


Back on the road, enjoyed the bike lane at that wide open part of Curtis, as always.

Turned south at Mattis then west on Old Church. Was surprised at how many houses their were this far out in the country,
but there was no shortage of corn, either,

which was almost blue with vigor.

At Rising Road

turned north toward Windsor. A little way along Rising was a farm house fairly close to the road: dog risk? Just talked to myself about the slightness of that possibility (good old denial) and made it safely along. Whew.

But then saw a form ahead in the road, a dog? Coyote? Something unexpected.

Approaching closer recognized it was a person, which was a bit startling; I never see people this far out on the road (though as I mentioned, there were plenty of houses not far away). He appeared reasonably well and unremarkable; nevertheless was glad that the turn east on Windsor Road came before I passed him.

On the way back enjoyed the bike path on Prospect Avenue with its cultivated, shady green borders.

Then rode homeward via the whole length of St. Mary’s Road, as clouds gathered.


Saturday 21 May 2016. East Curtis Road Under Clouds

It was 54 degrees F at 6:30 this morning under an overcast sky.

After some internal debate decided to take Discovery II to East Curtis Road, where I haven’t been for a while. Chose the hybrid bike to be able to see better. And it was a little nicer on the low back.

Stopped for lupines

and for new peach-yellow cabbage roses.

And then rode and rode south on Race Street, past Meadowbrook Park.

Noticed again to the west side of Race how much growth had been cleared from the Forestry Plantation across Race from Meadowbrook.

It used to seem quite vast, but now the horizon, a cell phone tower, and stacks of logs were visible in and behind it.

Then just rode and rode south on Race Street, right past Meadowbrook Park to Curtis Road, where, if I recaled correctly (and I may not have), a house that used to be at Washington and Vine had been moved,

and placed at the top of the “hill,” to the right, among the clump of trees.

The road extended pleasantly eastward; it was nice change from the parallel extension on Windsor Road, which borders Meadowbrook Park for a lovely stretch but also the ever-expanding Clark-Lindsey Village, the construction on Windsor, and houses across the road.


Crossed High Cross Road and proceeded eastward, noticing the curious distribution of the lovely butterweed.

Each field, even when contiguous, seems to have its own distribution (from very sparse to almost solid) or lack of this conspicuous flower. My guess is the difference lies in herbicide regimes. Just my guess.

Riding Discovery II was pleasant enough, especially the view of the landscape, but it was more work than Rhododendron would have been, especially on uphill grades. Trade-offs.

Enjoyed the jog south shortly after High Cross and rode only to Cottonwood Road, when it was time to return.


Tried to capture the lovely bit of roll in the land to the south of Curtis as I approached Race

but it wasn’t easy. Trust me, it was very nice, somewhat less subtle than it appears.

It started to sprinkle but never became a problem. Was just in keeping with the greyness of the morning. It was not an exciting but more a serene ride. Another kind of joy.