Thursday 14 June 2018. Sunrise on the KRT

It was 61 degrees F and partly cloudy at a little after 5 this morning as I departed for the Kickapoo Rail to Trail bike trail and points east.

At last I made it I made it out before sunrise! At last I had a bike ride! My early hours have be taken lately with other activities, and this was my first time out for days, as well as on the KRT since any native prairie plants had started to bloom.

Oh, the early morning sky!

Saw not one but two foxes, neither of which photographed well enough to bother trying to show the dots to indicate their presence.

Stopped at the edge of Weaver Park, where there were lots of orange butterfly milkweed in bloom

as well as other other early summer flowers I didn’t take time to photograph.

At the beginning of the KRT trail, stopped to view the sunrise!

Was glad to see it after having missed it for so long.

Soon after passing Walmart rode through the little wooded stretch that still was a little dark.

Got into the soothing rhythm of pedaling straight ahead, on and on through the subtly changing landscape. Got a view of the corn with clouds above.

Central Illinois!

Rode as far as Full’s Siding then turned back.

Saw fewer prairie flowers than I expected (no spiderwort to speak of!?). But this feral hollyhock was striking.

Near High Cross Road and the beginning of the trail I turned back to see the sun well clear of the horizon but still low in the spreading clouds

Stopped to get a view of the weedy but stately mullein.

And returned home to take up the rest of the day.

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Sunday 1 April 2018. 30 Days of Biking, Day 1. Easter Morning Ride to Brownfield Woods

It was 28 degrees F (yes, below freezing) under mostly clear skies with a northerly breeze this Easter Sunday morning at 7 as I steered Shadow toward Brownfield Woods.

The sun was still low but well clear of the horizon and asserting its brightness as I headed east on Main Street.

Must say it took a little pushing against inertia to get going: my cycling groove has gotten rather shallow lately. And my mind was drawn more toward coffee and catching up on these blog posts than on the road!

But once I got going the joy of pedaling out in the morning began to kick in! Did not get drawn to many images, which was fine for conciseness and for my cold fingers.

Did not see any foxes across Main from the Dart plastic factory.

Did stop in front of Weaver Park because of all the bright yellow horse nettle (Solanum carolinense) fruits among the brown/grey thatch.

And noticed a frosty thistle rosette.

Was glad to see a bike rack and new signage at Weaver. Maybe there will be improved trails there soon!

Headed east on Main and north on High Cross.

It was good to see Brownfield Woods, even before there was much floral action, but noticed dead trees, piles of trunks, limbs, branches.

Are trees dying at a faster rate than in the past or am I just more aware of them?

Did not see any bloodroot or Dutchman’s breeches along Brownfield Woods as I have at least once before on Easter morning (though did see plenty of trash, alas).

It was like coming to the tomb on Saturday: the anticipated event had not yet happened. It’s been a long wait for spring this year. Though personally I prefer that to having it go too fast. I have faith (and years of previous experience) that the flowers will appear.

Had a very happy surprise view of a lovely bird with reddish-brown sides, white underneath, and mostly black above.

an eastern (rufous-sided?) towhee! And it kindly sat to have a distinguishable picture of it taken. Good consolation for the lack of flowers. Which no doubt also will get here eventually.

Turned back at Oaks Road.

Got a view of the morning sun reflecting on the wet, pre-planted, rich Illinois soil.

On the way back noticed the ditch along the road was quite full.

Heading south heard an animal sound, vaguely canine though maybe not quite, in a field to the east, as a raptor (hawk? owl?) sailed west to east over High Cross Road. Then a group of six deer went galloping across the road straight toward the source of the strange sound. As if it were a deer distress call, and these deer were answering.

Enjoyed the tail wind but now my fingers and especially toes were getting cold.

So a warming “song” came to mind:

“Warm blood, flow into my fingers

Warm blood, flow into my toes,

Warm blood, fill the extremities,

Keep this body warm!

It worked well enough.

At High Cross and University, hopped on to the beginning of the Kickapoo Rail to Trail and back to Main Street. Noticed some erosion on the trail and hoped it would be a reasonably easy thing to rectify and would not get worse.

Then on to home and Easter.

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

img_3645and a tall but leaning-over sawtoothed sunflower

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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!

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.