Sunday 10 September 2017. A Short, Chilly Ride on the KRT

It was 48 (no way!) degrees F at 7:00 am under clear skies as I headed out Main Street to the Kickapoo Rail to Trail bike path. Usually I’m not a fan of doing the exact same ride so soon, but I like this trail so much just want to keep doing it and observe the subtle differences from one time to the next.

In the interest of warmth, did wear a long-sleeved shirt and my cycling windbreaker but with shorts and Keen sandals. And who would think mittens would have been useful in early September? Big mistake!

So didn’t think too much of the chill I felt stopping at Weaver Park to get some nice early-light views of tall Coreopsis,

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Black-eyed Susans

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compass plant

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and rosinweed,

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not to mention that most handsome pairing of common goldenrod and New England aster with a foil of cup plant leaves

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Figured it would get warm as I rode on.

Passed the little grove of oaks where I used to see a fox every time I rode past it on a Sunday, but for the second time (last week also) did not see one. Guess it could be hiding among the soybean plants.

Crossed High Cross Road where the trail begins and recorded a view of its terminus.

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The scenery was beautiful, the Helianthus blooms as yellow as road signs,

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but I was not warming up. Debated internally whether to push on or to turn back at some point short of the original destination of St Joseph.

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My fingers were numb and my toes were cold (Keen sandals had been quite comfortable before today), but pushed on.

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Made it to Cottonwood Road

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then turned back.

But stopped for the enticing view of white masses of tall boneset among the goldenrod.

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Back in town, stopped at the Walmart near the beginning of the trail and bought a pair of socks and a pair of high-vis fleece gloves.

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It was too late to really get warm but was glad for the little bit of protection.

At the very beginning of the trail, just west of High Cross Road, saw a nice spray of goldenrod with contrasting thistle and stopped to catch a shot of it.

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Then high-tailed it on Washington Street

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toward the warmth of home!

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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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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 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 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 10 July 2016. Weaver Beauties, and the Fork in High Cross Road

It was 61 degrees F, the sky clear, this morning at 6:15 as I wheeled Rhododendron out of the garage (and then back in briefly for some lubricant on the chain) and headed toward Main Street and High Cross Road.

The sun was well-clear of the horizon so didn’t get any sunrise shots.

But the morning was beautiful, and the buzzing of waking doubts and worries about the usual things, and and now some new ones, began to yield to the sweet, cool air and the road under my wheels.

Stopped at the outer edge of Weaver Park, where an abundance of native prairie plants had been planted. And a lot of them were blooming together–a mid-July prairie bouquet.

Included were wild bergamot

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false sunflower and cup plant

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yellow coneflower,

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purple coneflower

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rosinweed

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and compass plant.

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Also saw flower stalks of the fourth Sylphium “sister,” prairie dock, but it was too far into the middle of the planting to get a good shot.

Did not venture southward to the buffalo-wallow pond but rode on through the Beringer subdivision to High Cross Road, over the I-74 bridge and over the Saline Branch through slightly moist air that varied from comfortably cool to comfortably a little cooler in the lower micro-altitudes.

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Along Brownfield Woods, not much was obviously blooming among the poison ivy, stinging nettle, and giant ragweed except Joe Pye weed,

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Which is so tall and the flowers so small that it’s hard to get a good photo of them.

Seemed like herbicide had been applied to a good stretch of the edge of Brownfield between the road and the outside of the fence. Alas.

Saw the sun catch the fuzzy leaves of a field of vigorous-looking soybean plants.

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Then noticed a visual pun,

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which made me laugh out loud. Reminded me of the bones and other materials I’ve observed imbedded in roads, how the road has modern fossils and is made of more things than we’d guess.

Went as far as Ford Harris Road

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a nice little corner where soapwort

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and a few other non-native but nice enough flowers bloomed.

Also it was a good place to see how crazy-huge and already-tasseling the corn was.

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On the way back saw an impressive three-flower-spiked great mullein plant.

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Across Airport from Brownfield Woods spotted a cluster of attractive very pale-pink flower-spikes I couldn’t immediately identify.

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Close-up, the structure of the flowers looked wildly exotic.

Later looked it up, and it turned out to be American Germander (Teucrium canadense) which now I remember finding a couple of years ago, a little farther north on High Cross and wondering why its name referred to three (or at least two) different countries.

Noticed in the home stretch back that now I felt all engaged in this ride, that the worries and doubts were folded and stowed into the appropriate compartments and for this while I gratefully occupied the present. Hooray!

Sunday 22 May 2016. Spring Farmland, Punctuated with Flowers

It was 53 (or so) degrees F this morning at 6:30, the air pretty much calm and the sky cloudless.

It was time to take Rhododendron out for some smooth distance. Nice as it was to be able to see the scenery on Discovery II, it was more work to pedal, especially uphill and into the wind. Would just have to get over the shoulder, hip, knee, and back issues the road bike might induce.

Thought, “the beauty of the morning.”

So headed without stopping out Main Street. Looked for the fox across from the Dart plastic factory but this morning did not see it. Maybe it was there right at sunrise and I was too late.

Passed Weaver Park, crossed University Avenue, cut through the Beringer subdivision and came out on High Cross Road, on and under which the traffic was pleasantly sparse.

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Felt mostly quite comfortable!

Though a lot about my late friend Nancy, whose memorial (“celebration of life!”) was yesterday. Nancy, the great mobilizer of the gifts of others, and I took many an early morning bike ride together. The scents in the air, the songs of birds, the color of certain flowers, the angle of the sun, all called forth memories of those rides. A sweet sadness.

Mostly just wanted to ride this morning without a lot of stopping, but there was that black and green land everywhere which today I found charming.

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The corn plants, for example, were so small and tender.

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Then along Brownfield Woods saw some great waterleaf (Hydrophyllum appenduculatum)

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And the last few few woodland Phlox flowers still held forth.

Then northward again, through the farm land.

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Had passed this sign many times and was curious about it but never enough to stop. Until today. So now, at last, I know what “aeronomy” means. Yes, it has to do with air, with the atmosphere, but not with agronomy, which it sounds like. (See link for a lot more information.)

Kept going and reached the lovely sway in a the road at Champaign County highway 20.

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Rode on, looked to the west and saw blue sky and black land trimmed in grass green.

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Boring? Pure? My central Illinois.

Some way north of the sway in the road passed a farm where a dog was barking. Thought I’d remembered from last year a dog at this place that didn’t chase or bite me and hoped it would be the same this time. Yes, fortunately, (perhaps because I looked straight ahead and went at full speed) there was no problem. But wished there was another way back so I wouldn’t have to chance an attack on the return trip. Tried to imagine the worst possible scenario–the dog tearing off a piece of my calf or my crashing over the bike to the ground at high speed. Thought about friends and acquaintances who’d had bike crashes–took them a while to recover!

But it was a sunny morning, not far from human presence (i.e., assistance if needed), and my iPhone was charged. Was ready for (my picture of) the worst.

Even so, approaching the dog place, could feel the physical manifestations of fear: sweating, heart racing, shortness of breath, and didn’t like them. Really? How the body responds to the wacky mind! Maybe I could just call on good old denial, because, really, given that I’d already gone past safely, the odds were good that it would be the same on the way back. Ignore it and it probably will go away. Not real courage, but nevertheless it often serves.

And, again, the barking dog did not attack. Whew! Vitals returned to normal.

Rode back pretty much without stopping, but was attracted by the profusion of showy evening primrose (Oenothera speciosa) (actually not quite native to Illinois but to parts a little farther south and west) in the wildflower garden across Main from the west edge of Weaver Park.

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As I started taking pictures of the abundant pale-pink four-petaled flowers, the beginning of the Vivaldi Gloria filled my head.

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Yes, flowers can do that. Especially with the foil of acres of agriculture. It was a great conclusion to the beginning of the day.