Saturday 26 August 2017. CU Across the Prairie Homer Lake and the KRT!

It was about 54 degrees F under mostly (but lightly) cloudy skies


this morning at 7:20, when I checked in at Parisol Records for the 2017 CU Across the Prairie ride. Yesterday when I registered online I’d thought maybe I’d go for the 20-something mile ride, but when the guy checking me in asked if I was doing the 40-something ride I said “Yes.” Ok. That’s one way to decide.

But before that, got myself to the yoga studio for a pre-ride practice.


So was ready to ride!

Took my cue sheet and headed out!

Spent a little time (as did other cyclists) figuring out a mistake in the itinerary early on, but after exploring the neighborhood just east of Crystal Lake Park, where there was, e.g., a well-laden apple tree,


soon was in familiar territory.

Headed out Brownfield Road,

Crossed Interstate 74, observing the first of the goldenrod bloom.


Farther along, noticed what I thought was a run-over garter snake.


There is a word in Sanskrit that describes this kind of mistake (Viparyaya), which is one of the disturbances of consciousness and can be the origin of a lot of personal suffering and interpersonal conflict. Btw.

Rode on, pondering the nature of mistakes and alternative perceptions, southward on 1800 E and east toward Homer Lake Road.

For the third time in a month passed “Gehenna,” which today was active and issuing smoke.


The road opened under the mostly cloudy sky. It was quite pleasant.


Crossed the Salt Fork.


Where a great blue heron waded.

Stopped at the prairie-planted Lincoln “shrine”

which featured Physostegia, tall Coreopsis, and rosin weed.

Met up with another cyclist who was deciding which way to go, a young woman from Canada who had just gotten a job in Champaign. We decided on a direction and chatted as we rode.

We made it to Homer Lake,


but after that there were lots of not-well-marked twists and turns on the route around and through the Homer Lake Park, and neither of us could be sure we were where the cue sheet said we should be.

Thought it might be cutting off some distance from the ride, but sensed which was the way back and wanted to proceed there. So we decided to go different ways and wished each other a good conclusion of the ride.


Eventually made it to St. Joseph and the head of the long-awaited (and just opened the day before) Kickapoo Rail to


The trail made its own beautiful crossing of the Salt Fork on what presumably was a form of a railroad bridge.


The trail was lined with prairie flowers, most notably prairie dock,

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Sunday 4 June 2017. West on Curtis Road to Kaskaskia Ditch

It was 73 perfect degrees with thin scattered clouds and just a hint of westerly breeze at 5:40 this morning as I headed Rhododendron southward toward Curtis Road.

Lovely as they were, did not stop for the yellow and pale pink cabbage roses nor the laden apple tree but did stop to check on the Amanita mushrooms. Wondered whether the increasing ground cover was inhibiting the appearance of fruiting bodies, but it seemed not.


But overall it still did not look like a healthy population.

Turned west on Windsor Road without thinking then cut south toward Curtis on a gravel (“authorized vehicles only”–should have taken a clue) road and regretted it.


It was a mile on semi-loose (could have been worse, but still) gravel that reminded me of riding on uneven ice. Had to concentrate, going slow and steady, balancing as if “flying”. Don’t want to do it again any time soon, however.

Headed west, enjoying the sky, along Curtis Road, to its intersection with Prospect Avenue and the sunken pond.

Around the pond were Penstemon,




purple indigo,


and the season’s first purple coneflowers.


Did not see many waterfowl: one mallard duck and a few Canada geese.

Continued west on Curtis, and saw a great blue heron wading in the stream that cut under the road east of Mattis. Stopped and got the iPhone camera ready before carefully going back to get a photo before it took off. Those great bue herons sure are wary!


Got a view of the decaying farm building across Curtis from the large and growing Carle Clinic on Curtis facility. It was a glimpse of the past and future of the area.


Then farther west, just over the I-57 bridge, was a large structure under construction, which at first I thought was a new high school. But it turned out to be yet another Carle facility. I guess that means jobs for our community, or even improved medical care. But sometimes it seems like Carle is Everywhere. At the same time it seems like health care is becoming a luxury.


Noticed that both the corn and soybeans were well along in their growth


Rode as far as the crossing of Kaskaskia Ditch


and then got a text from a friend inviting me to talk over morning beverage. So turned and headed back.

The ride was a satisfying 20 miles!

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

and the fuchsia-colored sweet peas


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


Saw some Amanita mushrooms under the spruce trees,


but not tons of shiny, new, succulent specimens.


Saw also a couple individuals of another species,

which looked healthy enough.

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


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


and down the path a little way


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

Framed by prairie dock leaves,


and close-up.


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


and the spiderwort


therapeutically abundant!


Stopped at the Freyfogle overlook


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


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


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,


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


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.



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


butterfly weed


and a small, less showy milkweed.


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.


They sure are wary.

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


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

Saturday 15 April 2017. Spring Along South Race Street.

It was 62 degrees F at 7:25 this morning under partly cloudy skies as I aimed Shadow into the southerly breeze toward Meadowbrook Park.

Had actually wanted to go north to see the Dutchman’s breeches at Brownfield woods but changed my mind in favor of a return tailwind.

My right calf hurt some: snapped the knee back a little too quickly when it went “out” yesterday, and it had other effects. (The answer is more practice, of course.) But not bad enough to keep me from keeping today’s part of my 30 Days of Biking pledge.

Was greeted on the way by flowers and tender foliage under the light of the spring morning.


Nearing Windsor Road, across the field from the U of I Pollinatarium, stopped to look at baby ginkgo leaves against the sky.


Then looked up and saw a great blue heron overhead!


At Meadowbrook rode to the rabbit-statue bridge for the dear customary view of McCullough Creek


Took the shortcut back to Race Street, past a fence from the top of which burst a swarm of male goldfinches, some of which lighted on a nearby tree! Here, if you look carefully, is at least one of them.


Rode on as far as Old Church Road.


On the way back stopped for a look at the “wonky Christmas tree.”


Closer to home saw parrot tulips


Spring was lush and beyond “sprung,” but still so young. As always it was a privilege and a joy to witness.

Wednesday 8 June 2016. Home from Crystal Lake Park via the Boneyard Riverwalk

At 6 this morning it was 53 degrees F, the sky clear.
Rode to Crystal lake pool and saw a goose family. Apparently their recruitment still is strong, despite last year’s talk of goose management.


Before getting to the pool stopped to look at the bridge over the Saline Branch

beneath which the fairly high water rushed.

Then on the way back through the park liked how the morning sun came through the oaks.


At Broadway south of University Avenue caught a nice view of the Boneyard Creek in public works project I’ve tended not to like much looking from Race Street.


This was a much better place from which to see it, and it was fun to wind downhill along the creek and look into the water,

though some parts were almost a little scary.

Saw fish in the water,

mallard ducks, and when I came to the last curve before going up to Race Street saw a great blue heron fly away.

You might be able to see the wings of the heron in the upper right quadrant of the picture.

Glad I took the detour.


Sunday 30 May 2016. Ten Miles Out West Windsor Road

This morning at 6:10 it was 63 degrees F under mostly cloudy but clearing skies.

Didn’t have much of a plan, because, frankly, I’m getting behind in my blog posts!

But it was a a holiday and the weather was beautiful so what else was there to do but head out on Rhododendron?

Tried to resolve not to stop for a lot of pics, but this time of year it’s not so easy….

Stopped for a shot of the bifurcated ash tree on the edge of Blair Park.

Will it survive? Odds are, not. Alas. Oh, ravaging emerald ash-borer! Change keeps happening.

Made my way generally to the south and wondered how the prairie planting on Florida was coming along, which was wonderfully.

First, false sunflower, Heliopsis helianthoides

Then, prairie cinquefoil (Drymocallis arguta).

Of course there was white and pink-tinged foxglove Penstemon.

Was pleasantly surprised to see blue flag iris

img_6779, which looked like it had been blooming for a while.

Was a little surprised not to see spiderwort everywhere, but a little way west, there they were. Profuse and blue and gorgeous!


Rode on. Stopped at the City of Champaign Prairie Restoration to see how the lead plants were coming along

which was just fine, and also there were foxglove Penstemon around the sign. Saw more gorgeous, abundant spiderwort farther down but didn’t stop for it.

Managed to ride on almost all the way to Rising Road, to the where the sewage treatment plant (which was pretty “fragrant” today)emptied into Phinney Branch, where I got a photo

img_6805 with that peculiar red sculpture in the background.

Then kept on until Phinney Branch turned south and under Windsor Road. To the south of the bridge, a great blue heron waded in a riffle.

It didn’t seem concerned by stopping to observe it. Lucky for me.

Not far along crossed another bridge, this one over Kaskaskia Ditch (no herons) from which could be seen county road 600 E, or Barker Road,

img_6816 where Windsor Road (or county road 1300 N)
jogged north, and it was inviting to keep going. But noticed 10 miles recorded on the Strava phone ap and felt that was good, and turned back.

From Windsor back into town took Fox Drive

where below a bridge there were yellow flag iris in bloom.

Took St. Mary’s road back to Urbana and got a pic of a couple of surviving round barns.

The roof shingles looked pretty worn. Hoped they eventually would be replaced.

Then enjoyed speeding down to Lincoln Avenue and on home.

Thursday 18 May 2016. First Meadowbrook Spiderwort, Under Glaring Sun

It was 48 degrees F this morning at 5:50, with some good-sized clouds in the western sky but none to the east. So right away the sun came up brashly and made it hard to look at the landscape the way so many previous cloudy mornings had allowed.

Still, made a point to get a view of the lupine “family”

img_6343-1, the population of stately flower spikes.

And also had to greet the beginning of the bloom of the yellow cabbage roses.


Rode on. At Race near Windsor were clouds to the west.


At Meadowbrook Park stopped for the customary shot of McCullough Creek below the rabbit-statue bridge, this morning.

Could hear from this place a woodpecker, I think, making an unusually rapid but not especially loud hammering.

Farther on the path, the sun was too bright to make me want to take a photo, but looked to see whether the blue flag irises were blooming. Used the zoom of the “dedicated” camera to check for blooms and thought I saw one. Unconvinced that it was what it seemed to be, screwed up the resolve to enter the wet, willowy barrier and get close enough to see for sure.

Was very surprised to see no blooms or even buds among the blades of iris leaves. Do they bloom later than I thought? Might they not even bloom this year?

Rode to the Freyfogel observation deck where there was a tree swallow, firmly settled, at the same corner where I’d seen it before.

Walked around the structure to the opposite side and looked out at the prairie and the sky, and spied, under the strong sunlight, a spiderwort flower, my first sighting of the species at Meadowbrook this year.


Also saw some nice compass plant leaves.


Checked the place where I’ve been seeing lead plant over the past few years, now that I know what the first shoots look like, and there, wit a lot of sun on them, they were.


Had some time and wanted to add a few miles, though was not brimming with energy.

Decided to get close to Yankee Ridge

and turn west instead of east.

Which I did, and coasted a while down that lovely slope until I came to the Barnhart Prairie Restoration.

Saw golden Alexanders there but no spiderwort. Did like the rather abundant clusters of erect prairie dock leaves and was going to photograph one, but my phone’s battery had run out of power.

It was a little relief not to worry about taking any more pictures the rest of the pleasant way home.