Sunday 22 April 2018. Day 22, 30 Days of Biking. Riding West Under the Sunrise, and Back

It was 40-something degrees F under mostly cloudy skies at about 5:45 am as I took off on Rhododendron toward Savoy to work. Was so happy to have a little push to get me going and out of the house to witness the sunrise, which I used to do a lot but haven’t for a while recently, due to flux in my schedule. Oh, the balance between the excitement of novelty and the comfort of routine!

Turned back toward Urbana as I headed west on Windsor Road and got a photo of the pink sky.

I arrived at work a little early and then looked at the check-in clock to discover I hadn’t been scheduled for this morning. Oh, well. It was a lovely ride!

Stopped at the Starbuck’s on South Neil Street, on the side of which parking lot were planted little trees richly festooned with bagworm cocoons that swayed in the easterly breeze.

Then rode north on the road behind Starbuck’s that ended with a fence for cars but was just wide enough to let a bike pass and reach St. Mary’s Road without having to ride on Neil Street.

Noticed lots of horses near the historic barn on the south side of St Mary’s Toad just east of Fourth Street, including this one,

who gave a big smile. At least it kind of looked like a smile. Stopped before heading home at the Japan House garden, where the willows were becoming yellow-green and the cherry trees were not quite yet in bloom.

Leaving the garden, stopped for a hellebore photo.

Stopped again on Florida Avenue between the U of I President’s House and the prairie planting to catch a weeping cherry in early bloom.

How wonderful to witness the reluctant, drawn out spring au vélo in the early morning!


Saturday 31 March 2018. Slow Spring

This morning I got to see the dawn: purple, pink, orange, gold-yellow.

Saw the sun-disc at 6:47.

It was reflected in the front entrance to the yoga studio, where I attended to the first order of business, yoga practice.

This year the spring is coming very slowly, as if reluctantly. But the morning light, colorful today, is coming earlier, right on schedule.

After practice, the drama of the sunrise had faded, and the sky was filled up with grey, warm spring-weather-delaying clouds.

On the way home, noticed a pair (about 20 feet apart) of mallard ducks standing in front of someone’s house. Looking for a place to nest? Then noticed a cat in the window watching the duck(s).

Did not feel like suiting up to continue the bike ride in the rain so put Rhododendron away in the garage and walked to the local coffee shop to write.

Noticed the stump of a recently cut tree.

The sawdust was remarkably orange

Continued my observations au pied; it was so nice to see more color:


new bloodroot,

Scilla coming up among sweet gum balls.


purple crocuses,

pale lavender crocuses among ivy leaves.

I am grateful to witness how, slowly but surely, spring unfolds again.

Saturday 17 March 2018. Hellebores Abloom

It was 33 degrees F with light rain starting to fall as I headed out on Shadow for a quick visit to the Japan House garden.

The cherry trees nearest the entrance were newly mulched.

The Winter’s Ghost hellebores were beginning to bloom!

Got a closeup.

On the other side of the path were some pink ones.

Then looked up between the bald cypress trees toward the pond, the sky grey and somber.

Rode down the path a little way to get a quick view of the architectural feature and shrubbery near the entrance to Japan House

and rode back.

Sunday 4 February 2018. Light Snow at Japan House Garden

It was 32 degrees F under a cover of textured clouds at 7:45 this morning, light snow having fallen overnight.

There was not much time before the Senior 2 Iyengar Yoga teacher assessment for which I was volunteering as a student this morning, but wanted at least to get on the bike and check in with the world outside.

Noticed that a lot of sweegum fruits had fallen recently.

Tried not to think of them as perilous ball-bearings, but did avoid them as best I could.

So rode Shadow to the U of I Arboretum

and the Japan House garden.

Checked the “Winter’s Ghost ” hellebores,

the foliage of which did seem to have sustained some damage from this winter’s low temperatures. No early February blooms this year.

Got a view of the pond with willow and cherry trees.

Then turned to back toward the yoga studio, where my attention was caught by the spiky balls of sweetgum fruit,

looking like gifts of little stars hung and dangling from the otherwise bare branches.

Then headed on to the yoga institute to continue with the day, to partake of and contribute to my Iyengar yoga community.

Sunday 14 January 2018. Japan House Garden with Frozen Pond

At 7:23 this morning it was 6 degrees F and clear with minimal wind.

Dressed warmly and unlocked RhododendronShadow’s brakes still were pretty frozen–for a minimal ride in the cold. The streets were salty but clear and dry, which was favorable both for safety and for the condition of the bike.

Heading south on Race Street, noticed (just hadn’t looked for a while) some lingering apples on “my” apple tree.

Then continued west on Florida and south on Lincoln to the Japan House garden, technically part of the U of I Arboretum.

The sun (already launched for a while) was rising above the frozen pond.

Checked the hellebores under the bald cypresses, the ones with the “Winter’s Ghost” marker)

and found stiff but green leaves.,

apparently reading to resume photosynthesis as soon as the temperature goes above freezing. Wondered whether the bloom (often underway by early February) would be much later this year.

Got a photo of bare cherry trees ,

The frozen pond,

and the sculptural evergreen shrubs accented with a stone architectural feature

of which I may have heard the name but don’t remember it, alas.

As I looped around the pond thought about spring and bringing friends here when the weather is more hospitable. But for completeness was glad to have been here in the cold.

And that was today’s little ride!

Sunday 18 June 2017. Dark Clouds but No Rain

It was 71 degrees F and cloudy with a 12-mph WSW wind at 6:25 pm as I took Rhododendron out toward south First Street.

Rode south on Race Street, reasonably comfortable though feeling the somberness of the clouds.

Did not stop before Windsor Road except to examine the bike for the source of a light banging sound, but could not make it happen when I got off and spun each wheel independently. It was annoying but didn’t seem to impair the bike’s performance so just rode on.

Stopped at the linden tree on the corner of Race and Windsor.


Was not sure whether it had not yet fully bloomed or whether it was mostly done blooming, but it didn’t exude the perfume I remember from past years.

Headed into the westerly breeze on Windsor, noticing dark clouds ahead.


Observed how the diminished light and color pressed on my mood. The expression “like a wet blanket” came to mind.
There was some current pain in it (everyone has his or her list!), a little fear that the clouds would deliver discomfort-inducing rain or even electrical danger, but also some broody comfort, a little space to allow that pain before going back to face the slings and arrows that caused it.

Nevertheless decided to limit the ride (oh waste of extra daylight and free time!) to checking the lead plant at the City of Champaign “Prairie Restoration.”

The lead plants were starting to bloom,


lax stewardship notwithstanding.


And didn’t notice any plague of beetles, either. There is hope for that place, I think.

Thought again that I was missing a chance to get in good ride, but really felt averse to being far from home in a storm, and was not sure that the banging, knocking sound was not the sign of some kind of trouble with the bike.

Then riding north on First Street happened to look look at my right Keen sandal, which had a plastic knob at the end of loop of the elastic lacing, and saw that it was banging on the bike frame. Mystery solved!

So on the way back stopped at Japan House garden

Where amazing, durable hellebores contributed to the design of the hosta planting.

Also stopped at the prairie planting on Florida and Orchard, where the summer bloom was beginning to build.

There were post-peak spiderwort


and Penstemon


Black-eyed Susan,


common milkweed, in a big way(!)


false sunflower, sporting either milkweed or box elder bugs,


and lovely blue vervain.


Made it home without getting wet, satisfied enough with the ride.

Friday 7 April 2017. Colder and Windier Than Expected

This morning, the seventh of 30 Days of Biking, at 6:50, it was 35 degrees F under clear (at last!) skies. Was psyched to get back (at least closer) to a daily bike ride!

Checked the wind speed and direction (WNW at 9 mph, a velocity that didn’t seem to dictate a direction for the ride) and decided on a trip west on Windsor Road.

Felt that suspicious ease as I rode south on Race Street, which would mean resistance on the way home. Did not feel overdressed in the down coat!

Rode out Windsor–into the wind–and decided at Fourth Street that it was enough. What kind of lightweight was I?
But my face was cold from the wind and just didn’t care to prolong the experience.

There was plenty to see on the way back.

In the pond to the west were a number of ducks, apparently not all mallards.

So wished I had a better zoom to identify them.

Got a shot of the “State Farm Center” (I still think of it as the Assembly Hall) from the southeast.


Then downhill on St Mary’s Road, riding the west wind! Yippee!


Stopped for a round barn shot.


At the end of St. Mary’s Road at Lincoln Avenue stopped at the U of I horticulture Idea Garden

for a view of some lovely spring blooms.


There were hyacinths

and yellow tulips, most artistically composed.

Then in the neighborhood closer to home were lovely hellebores.


On another day I will go farther.