Saturday 1 August 2015. Weaver Park and North High Cross Road. 

At 5:35 this morning it was, according to the phone weather ap, 61 degrees and clear, the just-past full moon getting close to the western horizon. But the air felt warmer than 61 and didn’t bring a jacket. Hoped I wouldn’t get cold.  

  

Today the destination was north High Cross Road, by way of Washington Street and Weaver Park. 

Thought this sign at the entrance to Weaver Park was humorous, if a bit sad. 
  

At edge of the “buffalo-wallow” pond caught the clear western sky behind a group of three of the “Sylphium sisters”: cup plant (S. perfoliatum), compass plant (S. lacineata), and rosinweed (S. integrifolium)
  

And prairie grasses were starting to bloom: the first big bluestem, I believe,

and, I’m guessing, switchgrass (Panicum virginiana–there actually is a group called “panic grasses,” must be a story behind that!). 

  

It really is time for me to get serious about distinguishing at least the common prairie grasses beyond big bluestem and Indian grass.   

Zoomed in a little to the pond, largely covered with water lily (I guess) pads and cattails. 

  

Saw these pads move, clearly, but didn’t spot the creature responsible for the movement. 

Then cut across Dodson Drive and east on Main, across University through the Beringer subdivision and North on High Cross Road. 

Passed the site on the northeast corner of the bridge where I used to follow the breakdown of a possum road kill and stopped to see whether any evidence of possum bones remained.  None did, only new garbage. Could probably have found some with a bit of effort but overruled that notion and went on. 

Out in the country on High Cross Road, the air was cooler than it was in town.  The temperature reading this morning must have come from outside of town. The change was pleasant. The ride was pleasant. It was not high exhilaration but reasonable comfort, with an awareness of how much better it was than so many other possible states or situations. 

Rode on and stopped at the edge of Brownfield woods for a shot of pale jewelweed 

  

and Joe Pye weed. 

  

Joe Pye weed (another provocative name with a story I don’t know) for some reason doesn’t tend to make me stop and photograph it, but got pulled in by this amazingly full clump. 

Continued north on pleasant High Cross Road and had to document the absurdly vigorous corn

with its absurdly tidy edges and extremely close proximity to the road.  Welcome to the  central Illinois, the icon of fertility!    

Thought the sight of morning glories on corn stalks had gotten mundane and not make me want to stop, but these were hard to resist. 
  

Then High Cross jogged where it crossed Leverett Road, and on the other side of Leverett was greeted by a male red-winged blackbird that hovered over me and made a cheep (complaint or warning, I guess) I hadn’t previously associated with red-wings. 

  

And it followed me a while. It was fun to imagine that this bird was trying to tell me something or was sent to protect me, though I think it simply didn’t like my being in its territory.  

There also were a number of dickcissels, those “mini-meadowlarks” with their distinctive call, in this area. 

Rode as far as county road 2200 N and turned around.  The red-winged blackbird near Leverett Road hovered over me when I passed through its territory again. 

On the way back saw spiderwort (a different species than the prairie one, I think) at Brownfield Woods. 
  

Also saw American bellflower, another favorite, which had completely escaped my notice on the way out. 

  

Returned via Main Street and stopped at the wildflower garden across from Weaver Park to see the royal catchfly. 
 

Was glad for the miles and the colors of summer!

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Thursday 14 August 2014. Almost to Thomasboro

Pulled Rhododendron out of the garage at 6:15 this morning, and it was plenty clear and light. The phone ap reported a temperature of 63 degrees F, but it felt warmer to me. Was glad to be comfortable in my bright chartreuse cycling shirt (maillot vert-jaune) with the pocket on the back just the right size for an iPhone.

Wanted to ride to Homer Lake while school was still out and maybe the cardinal flowers were in bloom. But was not sure whether the Washington Street crossing of Rte. 130 (the most direct route) was open, and opted to head north and try once again to ride all the way to Thomasboro.

Was in the mood to ride; knees, hips, shoulder all felt good, and did not feel the urge to pull out the camera very much. Did, however, get the familiar reference shot of sun and the courthouse tower.

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Passed Weaver Park without stopping, no strong colors enticed me away from the road.

Cut through the Beringer subdivision to High Cross Road, and stopped at the north side if the I-74 bridge to see if any possum bones (the ones whose progress I’ve been observing for a couple years now) were visible. Didn’t expect to see anything through the sweet clover, but there was a limb bone of some kind, and next to it a jaw. The process is still observable .

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The air, light, and surface of the road were perfect for riding, and I enjoyed it.

Along Brownfield Woods were pale jewelweed, Joe Pye weed, brown-eyed Susans, as well as lots and lots of giant ragweed. Found an American bellflower, which seemed to be getting toward the end of its bloom; there were not many examples.

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Next to this bellflower plant was a wingstem in bud with a curious dark insect with bright orange antennae and legs perched near its top.

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Not something you see every day. Need to look it up.

Which I later did, and it turned out to be a Mydas fly, Mydas tibialis. Was happy to be able to figure out what it was; brought back memories of my days as a biologist at the INHS.

Stopped for a shot of ironweed on the roadside.

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It’s a common species but so much nicer to look at than common ragweed!

Riding between the corn and bean fields, most of which were tidily mowed on their edges, alas, noticed also several tidy farm houses, one with a little prairie garden in front of it. Made me think of the word “prosperous” and the relationship between prosperity and order. It made me feel safe, like the dogs here might feel less threatened by cyclists. But made me think also there could be perhaps too much order, or too simple of an order, at least from the standpoint of nature. There is order in a prairie community, as of which one becomes painfully aware when it is disturbed by mowing or plowing, the imposition of a different kind of order: the story of humans in the natural world.

The even expanses of healthy crops under the mostly clear sky did make me think of the ocean, with gentle frozen waves.

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At about the ten-mile mark of the ride was starting to feel fatigue and the suggestion of complaint from my knees. But was confident of a second wind and rode on. The way seemed to be heading uphill for some time now, it would be downhill on the way back.

But decided, after following the eastward jog of 1600 E to 2500 N, or Flatville Road, which was the same latitude, as it were, of Thomasboro, it was ok to turn back. It was the closest I’ve come to it so far. I think it was the thought of crossing US 45 that kept me from wanting to keep going into town.

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Maybe another time.

On the way back was taken in by the different colored morning glories (somehow they were not so alluring on the way out) that decorated the outer corn and bean plants. They were blue

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shades of pink,

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and purple

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Not native plants by any stretch of the imagination, but I fell for them.

Noticed adult corn root worm beetles in some of the flowers.

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But they didn’t seem to have done much damage.

A little way down saw a large German shepherd in front of one of the tidy house, running, it seemed, in my direction. What to do? Fight? Flight? Freeze? With no hesitation chose flight, not looking to see whether there was a fence or human to call it off, figuring it would find me less of a threat if I ignored it a f just went on by. It didn’t come after me, and I didn’t look back. Realized I’m not used to riding all-out, whew! But caught my breath and was able to enjoy the way back.

Saw royal catchfly (!) in front of the house across from the end of Weaver Park.

20140814-105718.jpg Noticed a car pulling out of the driveway; the driver smiled and proudly pointed out the royal catchfly I was photographing. I smiled and replied, “Yes!”

Was pleased with this morning’s lovely 23 miles!