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!

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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)

img_6447semi-hidden among the multiplying leaves of jewelweed. This stretch next to Brownfield Woods is the only place I’ve ever seen this species, which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s rare, of course.

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.

Sunday 4 October 2015. Early Fall to the East and North, with Sounds of Dogs and Guns

This morning at 6:50 it was 50 degrees F under cloudy skies. 

Really wanted to ride, even with the limited time the flowers would be out. So headed east on Main Street toward High Cross Road, with the idea of stopping as little as possible, into the north-northeast wind. Restrained myself successfuly until I got to the little grove of oaks across from the Solo Cup (Dart?) factory, which were nicely set off by goldenrod and asters. 

Remembered that last time I rode by this place on a Sunday morning there was a fox behind the trees, and sure enough, there it was again!  But too far away for a good photo.   

While I tried to get a photo of the fox could hear in the distance dogs barking, and they didn’t sound especially playful. In fact the sound seemed to be getting louder and wondered whether a pack of them might burst in my direction. Decided it was time to move on. 

Stopped also, after passing it by on many previous rides, at the giant hibiscus in front of the Quaker church.

  

There still were some giant pink blooms, even among the autumnal purple leaves.

But resisted the urge to stop at Weaver Park and rode to the end of Main through the Beringer subdivision to High Cross Road.

Did stop not far over the I-74 bridge to get a portrait of the day and the time of year: cloudy, cool, and breezy, the corn harvest underway. It was the beginning of the kind of weather that does not automatically grab you by the collar and pull you outside, the kind you have to prepare for and meet as it is. 

  

Stopped again to document the first fall colors at the beginning of the tunnel of tree leaves over the Saline Branch bridge.  

 

Rode on, passing Brownfield Woods, which was bordered by the pale, small-flowered asters I remembered here from previous years, toward Olympian Drive. 

  

Then turned west. 

  

As I stopped for a shot of the bit of roll in the half-harvested field, distinctly heard a rifle shot. Deer season already?? Hoped very much that the shooting person could see (and glad my jacket was bright magenta) that I wasn’t a deer. Reached back and turned on my blinking tail light for further evidence.  Wow.  Made me think about spending Thanksgiving with my sister in Wisconsin and she discouraging me from taking a walk in the beautiful woods around her place: deer hunters. 

Later, when I shared this story with friends, they suggested the shots could have meant pheasant season (but I’m pretty sure they were rifle and not shotgun shots) or a farmer shooting at “varmints.” Not the most welcome feature of being out in the country in the morning, but, like the sound of dogs on East Main, part of what’s there. 

Rode in the open space with just enough speed to feel a pleasant cardio-vascular exertion, with smooth, deep breathing. Aahh!  This is the point of cycling!

Came back to Willow, Oaks, and North Lincoln, down the best hill in Champaign-Urbana (next to Busey Woods) and then to Broadway, by the Anita Purvis Nature Center and the entrance to the now-empty Crystal Lake pool. Was amazed again by the patches of fresh yellow coneflowers in October. 
 

They are beautiful in July but even more welcome now in this time of general diminishment. 

Another good ride, glad to participate in the transition toward winter. 

Sunday 23 August 2015. High Cross Road, Ten Miles Out. 

It was 64 degrees F at about 6:00 am, the sky party cloudy. 

Chose this morning’s route (the choices abound!) to be able to see the royal catchfly I glimpsed yesterday while driving east on Main Street.  So rode Rhododendron east on Main until I realized I wasn’t wearing a helmet, the retrieval of which added something like three non-scenic miles :(.  

But soon forgot that trouble. Focused on the (lush!) grove of oaks across Main for the first photo stop, and was surprised by a red fox!   

  
It’s the tiny reddish rectangle with black legs touching the horizon, between the left tree trunk and its low-hanging bough. 

Stopped a little while later to catch the sunrise
  
To witness the sunrise is always to receive a blessing. 

Rode by Weaver Park and wished I had another day to explore it. Did stop to get a photo of the abundant evening primroses at its northern edge.  

 
Caught a glimpse of the royal catchfly across the street (would stop on the way back!) out of the corner of my eye. 

And then rode on across University Avenue and through the Beringer subdivision and north on High Cross Road. 

Crossed over I-74 and glanced at the place where I knew (from following the process of their de-composition for th past 3+ years) the rather scattered bones of a possum, presumably struck and killed by a motor vehicle, lay among the weeds and trash. I think I t would not have been difficult to find them with a little effort, but decided such archeology was outside the scope of today’s objectives. 

What did entice me to linger was the goldenrod. Along the road was the common, you could say, weedy goldenrod, which today was covered with a particularly full, rich, chenille-like yellow bloom.   

Then rode and rode, down at high speed to the bridge over the Saline Ditch and then up on the other side. 

Rode past Brownfield Woods and didn’t stop. 

Often the part I like best about this route is the trees and other features close to the road, but today I especially liked reaching the open part, where the road jogged on either side of Champaign County Highway 20. 

  

The clouds above reflected the curve of the road below. 

Today there was no red-winged blackbird harassing me on the north side of Co. Hwy 20, though thought  I heard one a little ways out into the corn. Neither did I hear dickcissels this morning. 

Rode all the way till High Cross ended and I turned right. 

  

At the next corner turned left and rode north a little way. It was only the need to be back for commitments that made me turn and head for home. 

Did stop at the edge of Brownfield Woods on the way back to catch a shot of the wingstem, being careful to avoid the poison ivy.

  

Wingstem is another example in the array of golden yellow composite flowers that grace the late summer landscape in central Illinois. 

Noticed on the way back that the squeak (“tweet”) in the pedal crank bearings of Rhdodenderon had partly returned. Now I appreciated the not unpleasant sound that kept me company! 

Made my planned stop at the “captive” royal catchfly

 

in their crimson glory. 

Was well-satisfied with this almost 25-mile trip!