Sunday 28 January 2018. From Meadowbrook to Mid-Town Champaign via Curtis Road

It was 34 degrees F and mostly clear at 7:30 this morning as I rode Shadow south to Meadowbrook Park, where a group of flickers chattered up in the tree-tops of the remains of the forest planting across Race Street.

The white spot just below the top and to the right of center belongs to one of them.

As I rode toward the rabbit-statue bridge, the early sun slanted along the ground,

illuminating the frost-covered grass.

Mostly liquid McCullough Creek flowed under the bridge,

last year’s riparian growth highlighted with light frost.

Across the bridge, close up to the ground were ice formations.

Tiny fingers of ice crystals grew from twigs and the smallest plant growth.

Had the sense that if I lingered just a bit longer would have been able to watch them shrink and disappear under the warming sun.

But moved on, back out to Race Street and south to Curtis Road.

Stopped to look down where Curtis Road crosses the headwaters of the Embarras River.

Turned north at First Street, stopping briefly in the research park to observe a nest in one of the little landscaping trees.

Proceeded north along First and ended up in Midtown Champaign (there apparently is one!) at the incomparable Flying Machine Avionics cafe for house-roasted coffee and an exquisite egg sandwich.


Sunday 21 January 2018. To Thawing Meadowbrook in Fog, with Lesson

Got out on the road on Shadow at about 7:30 this morning, after applying some lube to the chain. The temperature was 41 degrees F under clouds and fog but no wind to speak of.

The streets were wet but clear; small piles of snow remained along their edges from last week’s snow-fall and low temperatures. In other words, they were not interfering with passage “au vélo.”

Checked “my” apple tree and found a few fruit still attached.

Riding south on Race Street, stopped to get à view of the enveloping fog.

The wintry fog made me think of death and funerals. So far in my life I’ve never arranged a funeral and wondered whether it would be worth learning how to do it before it was necessary, like a scout project, to be prepared. But did not make a decision.

Stopped again just before entering Meadowbrook Park to see the fog through the pine planting,

a doorway of mystery.

Stopped at the rabbit-statue bridge to check the state of McCullough Creek.

Which was melting but still with some ice.

Stopped to get a view of thistle remains against the foggy winter prairie

and of the of the path receding into the fog.

Across Douglas Creek, the fog lent drama to the forms of the bare trees.

Saw a particularly full raindrop hanging from a budded twig near the path. After a bit of struggle was able to focus the iPhone camera on it,

and was reasonably pleased with the result: an inverted microcosm.

Stopped then at the Prairie Viewing Station

which previously I had carelessly referred to as the “Freyfogle Overlook ” but henceforth will use its official name. Really have to work on tightening up accuracy in the blog. The more integrity the better!

Got a view of old compass plants

old goldenrod

and Baptisia pods.

At the Windsor /Vine bridge

noticed wet, uneven ice on the path leading to the bridge. The smoothness of the ride so far had given me confidence to traverse this small patch of ice, which I don’t think would have been a problem if my way were straight ahead. Unfortunately, I had to turn slightly to the right to get over the bridge, but my momentum kept going forward, the bike slid under me, and I went down.

It was a minor, slow-speed, not entirely unexpected fall, but a nearby friendly golden retriever was concerned, and she and her owner hurried over to make sure I was ok. We were joined by two other concerned passers-by, but soon all were convinced I was fine.

Headed home across Windsor Road, enjoying the amazingly responsive traffic signal, and with renewed respect for the laws of physics.

Sunday 7 January 2018. Frozen Meadowbrook

It was 17 degrees F under cloudy skies this morning around 7:45 when I rolled Shadow down the snowy driveway and toward Meadowbrook Park. Race Street (and about half the width of the bike lanes) was mostly clear, but a south wind blew toward me, making me even more mindful that I haven’t been biking as much as I used to.

Felt plenty warm in the ensemble of long down coat, sweatpants, mohair socks and waterproof boots, fleece gloves/ felted mittens, and fleece balaclava hood. But still didn’t want to stop for too many photos, exposing those cold-prone fingers to the heat-sucking air.

Crossed Windsor Road with almost no wait. It’s funny to remember my impatience before the system was fine-tuned.

At Meadowbrook passed the “wonky Christmas tree” without stopping and proceeded to the rabbit-statue bridge, carefully coasting downhill over the frozen footprints.

As expected, there was ice over McCullough Creek,

more of a white than of the dreaded black variety. Wondered what factors account for this; a layer of snow, perhaps.

Farther along got a shot of the texture of the frozen footprints on the path.

The bike tires made a satisfying crackle as they rolled down the path and over them.

Stopped to observe a little clump of trees along Douglas (more on that later) Creek.

It inspired a haiku:

Blunt-ended branches/ Made me wonder whether they/ Would leaf out come spring.

Got a shot of the Marker Statue presiding over the snowy prairie.

Then saw something (a beautiful graphic, I must say) that made me embarrassed:

I’ve been referring to this stream as “Davis Creek” for at least the last couple years, thereby spreading false information and ignorance. Alas!

For a brief moment understood the impulse to respond as our president might: “the sign is part of a malicious plot to make me look bad!” But so far I still have some capacity to recognize my mistakes and stand apologetically corrected.

Here exemplified is a pitfall of blogging, and of instant mass-communication in general: I can say whatever I want without checking the facts, without even realizing my “facts” may be wrong. As time allows, I hereby commit to minimizing such sloppy editing.

Near the Freyfogle overlook got some shots of the winter manifestation of purple coneflower

and compass plant .

Got a view of the winter prairie from the Freyfogle overlook.

Farther along, stopped at the Windsor/ Vine bridge over McCullough Creek

and wondered how the hole in the ice had been made.

Stopped later on at this relatively new Meadowbrook sculpture

which in my view is reasonably harmonious with its prairie surroundings. I see it possibly as the shoots of prairie plants or as flames of prairie fire. Its title is, enigmatically, “Two in the Hand.”

Wondered how much ice and snow there would be this winter. Was glad to have witnessed its presence today.

Sunday 10 December 2017. Ice on the Creek

It was 23 degrees F and partly cloudy

at about 7 this morning as I rolled Shadow down the driveway and headed south to Meadowbrook Park.

On the way, stopped at the spruce grove to see whether anything was left of the Amanitamuscaria mushrooms.

Surprisingly, there was one in pretty good shape, considering the weather

and also one farther along in the process of degradation.

But as far as I could tell, that was all.

Got a seasonal shot of the south end of the grove.

Rode on into the south wind, which was surprisingly icy on my face.

At Meadowbrook stopped to view the “wonky Christmas tree.”

Then rode to the rabbit-statue bridge over McCullough Creek, where there was ice (not solid) on the water.

It was good to observe this indication of winter, of this distinctive, even if austere, time.

Stopped also for oddly twisted trees.

The absence of surrounding leaves and distracting flowers lets their forms stand out.

But it was the clouds that beguiled me this morning.

They were full of dimples and ripples.

And over the prairie, they opened to gaps of blue sky.

On the way back, near the Vine Street bridge, stopped at an old (seven or eight years, at least) beaver sculpture.

which was surrounded by new growth.

Wondered when the next generation of Meadowbrook beavers would arrive.

Riding homeward, worked hard to send warmth to my fingers. It seemed to be at least somewhat successful.

Tuesday 21 November 2017. A Brief but Restorative Fall Vélo to Mushrooms and Meadowbrook

It was 38 degrees F at about 6:40 this morning under a bright sky spread with some thin clouds.

At last got out of the house an on Shadow to touch the fall of 2017, which has been going really darned fast!

Stopped to see the Amanita muscaria mushrooms, growing slowly (or arrested in their growth) in the relative cold since last week.

The floor of the spruce grove was not covered with mushrooms, but there was a nice view looking out from it toward the outside.

Continued southward on Race Street and noticed a maple tree to which some yellow leaves still clung.

At Meadowbrook Park was unpleasantly surprised to see the path closed.

But saw no action of the type described on the barricade and disobediently proceeded along the path.

Stopped at the rabbit-statue bridge over McCullough Creek

Where there still was, somehow, a lot of green foliage, and turned back toward home.

Sunday 12 November 2017. Velo Noir

It was 38 degrees F under cloudy (occasionally yielding light rain) skies at above 7:30 am as I took Shadow (also newly rejuvenated by the wonderful wizards of Neutral Cycle) out to Meadowbrook Park! At last!!

Passed the once mushroom-harboring grove of spruce trees without expectation of seeing any mushrooms, nor spotting any with a casual glance, but my eye was caught by a red balloon in a place where once Amanita muscaria mushrooms had been.


Once stopped to photograph the “false mushroom,” decided to give a closer look to the area, just to be sure there actually was nothing there.

But to my surprise, there were mushrooms!


They were not present in large numbers, but they were good-sized and robust, mostly in early stages of “fruiting.”


And here, like a reverse of The Wizard of Oz, I fade to black and white.


So, I fell for a Facebook challenge. (Thanks, Sheila!) It is a different perspective.

At Meadowbrook Park did not want to pass a little family with a stroller and dog to take my usual route so headed in a clockwise direction around the park.

Stopped to observe the already chromatically subdued landscape with the black-and-white modification of the iPhone camera.


The black and white format was good for capturing the texture of mountain mint seed heads, which I’ve always liked but found hard to photograph.


Saw seed heads of rattlesnake master.


Got an extreme closeup of a little spider crawling (still awake?!) on a sculpture.

It made apparent how limestone is made of masses of tiny shell fragments. Also it kind of looked to me like a belly button.

Saw Baptisia pods, which are always good for a little drama in the fading prairie landscape.

Curled compass plant foliage showed its prickles.

Goldenrod seed heads were like a layer of foam.

At the Marker statue searched for any remaining bottle gentians; there was only this:

a Halloween version of the flower, which didn’t look much different in color. Ah, the yearly passage to winter.

Stopped at the rabbit-statue bridge over McCullough Creek.

It looked especially dense and tangled, especially the reflections, even with fading vegetation.

On the way out of the park found a scene that actually did not look so sinister in the mandatory black and white.

Don’t know if I’ll continue this black and white approach, but this time it was fun.

Saturday 14 October 2017. Patience Rewarded with the Last Bottle Gentians

It was about 64 degrees F at about 7 am under clouds that were breaking up, occasionally letting the sun through.

My schedule lately has prevented me from biking much, alas, but today there was nothing to stop me from riding to Meadowbrook Park to catch the last of the bottle gentian bloom, if, in fact, there were any flowers left.

So headed off on Rhododendron, riding south on Race Street.

Stopped at the place where Amanita muscaria mushrooms had been abundant for the last three years, at least. But did not see a single one.


And one of the spruce trees looked quite bad. It seems like yet another result of stress from recent droughts. This blog is documenting a little piece of a larger phenomenon. Alas.

At Meadowbrook, there was about to be a walk/run to raise money for breast cancer research and support; pink signs were posted about the trail.


But did not run into any crowds.

Saw water again (at last, rain) in McCullough Creek below the rabbit-statue bridge.


Then rode along the path toward the Marker statue and the bottle gentian site. Looked on the way among the willows where I saw some bottle gentians last year, but today there was no sign of them.

The prairie was still green underneath, and above the tree leaves had not turned color, but overall it was somber. Many goldenrod plants were snowy with seeds and their vehicles .

Saw a deer out where the Liatris had earlier bloomed.

Then at the Marker statue looked for the gentians. At first, there seemed to be nothing but dry grass and flowers gone to seed. And I felt sad; could they really have left no trace after two weeks?

I lingered and kept looking, even though it seemed unlikely that more looking would produce any gentians.

Then spotted a single worn bloom, and was grateful for that.

Keep looking, and in a while found a cluster of blooms, worn but still beautiful, as old gentian flowers are.

Then, for the sake of revisiting a spot where I’d seen gentians before, I checked it, and amazingly found one plant, then another.

Then went back to the first place I saw them and as if by magic, there were more, and fresher flowers.

It was comforting and uplifting to see them all. The end was coming but had not yet arrived.

Then walked Rhododendron onto the soft path (where bikes and dogs are prohibited but where I recently saw both a guy riding a wide-tired bike and a guy walking a handsome chocolate Labrador retriever. At low volume it might not actually be a problem. I walk my bike; maybe that doesn’t count, I don’t know.

Along the soft path were wintry manifestations of flowers: rosin weed,

compass plant

the curled leaves of which were like illuminated manuscript decorations,

stiff goldenrod, I think,

with clouds above, and Baptisia

with black pods but still plenty of green foliage.

Even found an outlying remaining cream gentian bloom.

Note the cropped stem.

Got a closeup of a dry, prickly compass plant stem.

Then crossed the little wooden bridge over McCullough Creek and headed back,

feeling a sense of impending conclusion but still nourished by the short- and the longer-lasting forms of the landscape.