Saturday 27 May 2017. Out Yankee Ridge Road via Lush Meadowbrook

It was 64 degrees F at 6:20 under cloudy skies this morning as I got Rhododendron the road bike out for a long-awaited spin!
The nice people at Neutral Cycle put the pedal crank back into is working position, replaced the cables and brake pads, and reduced the number of speeds to five (really, who needs more than that, at least in central Illinois?) by removing the rusted-out front derailleur.

Was amazed by Rhododendron’s speed and smoothness and didn’t stop until Windsor Road, where I did not wait long to cross.

Made the customary stop at the rabbit-statue bridge.

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Then sought blue flag irises, which I found, more abundant and widespread than I ever remember seeing them.

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And of course there were spiderwort

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and Penstemon.

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Pasture rose provided a pink counterpoint to the greens, white and blue.

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At the Freyfogle overlook was lead plant, with its festive-looking foliage.

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The clouds broke up enough to reveal some blue sky and cloud-shapes over the land.

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Saw dew-beaded spiderwebs.

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The flowers and foliage at Meadowbrook this morning were spectacular and particularly uplifting, at least to this observer!

Then rode along Windsor road on the “sidewalk,” (which I see more as a multi-use path) to Philo Road and east on Old Church, then south on Yankee Ridge Road.

Here is Yankee Ridge at Old Church Road, viewed from the west

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as ever, a place of quiet. I think of it as a bit of sacred silence, accompanied by its stark and subtly beautiful view.

Wanted to go on

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but time limitations prompted me to turn back at the road that is paved to the east but is wet and unpaved to the west.

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Returning home rode into a north wind (which explains the ease of the trip out) and just wanted to get back!

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The fog blew toward me and I was sure it would rain even though the phone Ap assured me it wouldn’t. There was nothing to do (as is so common in so many aspects of life!) but hunker down and press on.

After some discomfort just settled into it as if I were lost, but not in a bad way, just absorbed in the present. And made it back with some satisfaction.

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Tuesday 6 May 2014. Two Kinds of Shooting Stars

It was about 5:30 pm (yes, there was traffic, but not too bad in the bike lane) and a lovely 81 degrees F and a partly cloudy sky when Rhododendron and I headed out for Meadowbrook Park to check for shooting stars (Dodecatheon meadia).

Was slowed down by some southerly headwind close to the rabbit-statue bridge over McCullough Creek, so stopped instead of rolling right over and got a picture of this spot on the creek at this moment of its ebb and flow.

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A little farther down the path got a photo of a willow next to Davis Creek, showing more green but still in early foliage.

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Then went directly to the “soft” path through the prairie and the shooting stars.
There were lots in bloom!

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Walked farther into the prairie, to the other place with shooting stars, and there were the pink ones!

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It was a fast trip, and late afternoon doesn’t allow for the same level of awareness that’s possible in the early morning, but it was good to catch the shooting star bloom at its fleeting height.

Sunday 4 May 2014. Out in the Country: Surprised by Things Like the Wild Asparagus

Got out at 6:45 this morning, though had intended to start earlier. It’s been challenging to get into warm-season mode, hard to shake off the slow-motion of winter. Trusting it will improve!

The temperature was 52 degrees F with little breeze and a sky that was about half clear and half filled with furrowed clouds.

There were many sweetly singing white-throated sparrows about the neighborhood this morning, but didn’t hear the “New World” Largo and was irrationally annoyed and disappointed. Had I been wrong about the similarity? More importantly, do they have to sound like that to be beautiful?

Now that 30 Days of Biking has concluded, I’ve signed up to do the National Bike Challenge, which runs from 1 May to 30 September. It’s not that I need a challenge to keep me biking, but it is kind of fun to log the miles and name each route. (This one happens to be called “Windsor Road almost to St. Joe” (and back), about 18 miles). It’s nice to think of being in a huge community of cyclists, even though cycling for me usually is a time of sweet solitude.

So aimed due east of town, but first headed south.

Stopped to check on “my” apple tree (and its companion flowers), which didn’t seem to bear tons of blossoms. This may be more of a resting year for its apple production.

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Rode to Windsor Road and then east, watching the straightforward sun come up over the green-bordered black-velvet fields, with the spreading clouds above.

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The landscape was vast and open! But it was soothing, not boring, at least on the way out!

Crossed a very channelized creek and rode next to it while it paralleled the road.

20140509-210517.jpg Stopped briefly to look but didn’t find fish. [Saw a few shore birds I assumed were killdeer, but on looking them up later they turned out to be solitary sandpipers!] There were several killdeer in the fields nearby. At the same spot on the way back saw a great blue heron, which didn’t wait for me to get out the camera.

Saw a sign warning of a dangerous hill

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but couldn’t easily tell where the hill was, exactly.

Just after turning back noticed a few shoots of asparagus!

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Did pick one of the three that were evident.

The way back proved to be somewhat less comfortable than the ride out: it seemed to be uphill all the way to Philo Road! Guess I haven’t gone out very far lately and was feeling the extra distance. Need to work on taking care of that!

Back closer to home, at the golf course pond on Windsor, where I frequently see interesting birds, there was a great blue heron. Wondered if it was the same one spotted a ways back.

Looking forward to more longer trips.

Sunday 23 March 2014. Waiting Patiently

At 6:45 this morning it was 27 degrees F, with plenty of daylight, though only a half hour earlier it was dark, the sky full of thick (“rolling” came to mind ) clouds. There was a pretty consistent noticeable wind from the north, which made the trip to Meadowbrook Park easier. Still, it was more wintry than spring-like, and was glad to have knitted new thumbs for my glove-mittens. Also, it was nice to have filled Rhododendron’s tires (with a new Joe Blow Presta/Schrader compatible pump!)–really is easier to ride when they’re properly inflated!

Was interested in riding more and stopping less this morning, which the cold and grey reinforced.

Did stop, though, to document that the oak trees along Race Street near Windsor Road had fewer still-clinging leaves than they did last year at this time.

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There definitely was little of spring’s invitation to shed the comfort of winter’s “swaddling” wraps this morning. Not that I minded, really. Was a little proud of my acclimation to this year’s genuine winter.

The birds (red-winged blackbirds, woodpeckers, and song sparrows, that I could tell) at Meadowbrook, however, didn’t seem fazed by the temperature and were about their spring activities in earnest. Could hear them well from the rabbit statue bridge over McCullough Creek, especially the woodpeckers, several different individuals. The creek at the bridge was full of water.

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Just downstream was a “stick-jam” that probably contributed to the high water level.

Got a wintry shot of trees along Davis Creek.

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Farther down the path, looked for evidence of lichens, but saw them only on sticks on the ground! Strongly suspect the work of hungry deer.

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Have never really observed the seasonal (or other) patterns of lichen growth, but it’s obviously not limited by the same factors as the flowering plants of the prairie.

The curve in the path by the Marker statue made a moody scene with the rolling clouds and the border of bare tree branches.

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Today really noticed how the grass was flattened down in the middle of the prairie; made me think of the word “prostrate,” and also how bad it feels in those episodes when it seems like our children need vastly more than we have to give.

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Rode homeward into the same stiff wind that eased the trip out. But it was good work, the kind that is a weapon against despair and that teaches patience. No need to fret; spring will come.

Sunday 16 March 2014. March Wind

As soon as I woke up this morning could hear the wind; “howling” was the word that came to mind.

At 6 the sky still was quite dark, but by 6:45 it was plenty light, mostly cloudy but with a rosy glow just above the eastern horizon. The temperature was 30 degrees F.

Destination was my favorite, Meadowbrook Park, but felt this morning like going by a different route and headed south on Vine Street.

Stopped at Blair Park to photograph the ash tree with the “bifurcated” trunk,

20140316-082431.jpg which, so far, is still there. It looks like work has been done (cabling) to maintain it. Maybe it will escape the ravages of the emerald ash borer, and maybe not. Alas, life gives no guarantees.

Judging from the paths of the flying late-fallen oak leaves, the wind was coming from the east, or the northeast. A wind from the east always throws me off; our weather generally comes from the west and moves to the east, with some influence from the north or the south, so isn’t that backward? What happens to make an east wind, some kind of back-up? Of course, tornadoes come from air in rotation…. That season is coming; hopefully there won’t be too much to say about it! Well, today’s wind still made a lot of sound in the distance but wasn’t interfering so much with my progress at this point.

It was lovely to see Meadowbrook pop in front of my eyes at the end of Vine Street. Decided to take the big loop in the reverse of my usual direction. Funny how going the other way on a familiar path can make it such a different experience.

First stop was the large cottonwood near the Windsor/Vine bridge, to observe lichens. Lots of orange today.

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Took a photo of McCullough Creek above the bridge. The water was quite clear; the surface ruffled some by the wind.

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Stopped for a shot of Baptisia pods rattling in the wind.

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They are especially eye- (and ear-) catching amidst the flattened prairie grass. The grass in the middle of the prairie was especially flat: had it been that

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trampled by deer or was it the way the snow had piled on it?

The red-winged blackbirds were active and vocal all along Davis Creek and out into the nearby prairie.

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Surprised a small group of mallard ducks under the rabbit statue bridge as I approached. Alas, they quickly swam upstream and did not pose for me.

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McCullough/Davis creeks were full of water.

Felt the brunt of the wind on the way home, though it was intermittent, if gusty. It was the kind of wind that could suddenly knock a cyclist off her bike, so tried to brace for it. Felt protected and warm by the appropriate clothing, and with no particular aches or pains, nor any noticeable fatigue. It was good to be out this morning, when I felt like a match for the March wind.

Sunday 23 February 2014. Ice Again

It was 21 degrees F this morning at 6, under cloudy skies. As is the way in central Illinois, yesterday’s intimations of spring were today obliterated. Once again the front walk was full of stuff to remove: frozen slush dusted with a little powdered sugar-like fresh snow. It’s not like we haven’t been keeping up with it! Oh, well; guess it’s just this winter’s featured task.

Got Rhododendron out of the garage (read an article in Active Trans that said tire width didn’t make that much difference in winter cycling) but stopped for a photo

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It was interesting to see evidence of the ups and downs of the temperature and precipitation.

20140223-082532.jpg. Was amazed and impressed by the cyclist I saw coming down the same street I decided was too treacherous to ride on. They didn’t even seem to realize it was dangerously slippery. Guess I felt a little envious of that calm courage. Reminded myself though that even this was like being jealous of the Olympic snow-boarders or figure skaters and their impossible (for me) flips and spins.

Ah, but even in “defeat” of the aim to ride, it was good once again to be out to meet the morning and its unique weather!

Saturday 22 February 2014. Undeniable Intimations of Spring

At 6:40 this morning, it was 28 degrees F under a mostly sunny sky, the sun, against a pale, restrained palate, already fully visible and too bright to look at directly.

It was back to below freezing after a bit of warmth; actually, a whole lot of weather happened since last week, most dramatically the brief but copious rain that washed away much of the long-accumulated snow. Flowing water in the streets and all over!

Remembered sitting in the passenger seat while my almost-16 year old son practiced driving yesterday; felt like we were driving through Minnesota: the blue sky reflected in all the “lakes” in the farm fields.

I’ve loved this snowy winter but must admit the water moving the snow along was exciting, as was the thought of getting back on Rhododendron to Meadowbrook Park!

Gave the chain some lube before heading out, but it took a while for it to stop skipping from stiffness.

Stopped at “my” apple tree, which apart from a very few very small, shriveled ones, was now bare of fruit.

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The half-moon was visible, a little more than half way to the western horizon.

Though much of the rain and melt water had drained in town, some still sat in large puddles.

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Got a shot of the melting snow mounds around the Race Street parking lot at Meadowbrook.

20140223-084226.jpg Passed the “wonky Christmas tree” and did get one photo for my own records but not for today’s post.

Did stop briefly to sit on the grass before the rabbit statue bridge where the frost on the dry, flattened grass suggested the word, “magical.”

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There was a fair amount of ice on the path on both sides of the rabbit statue bridge over McCullough Creek. The creek was satisfyingly high, though well in its banks. Davis Creek ran plainly and vigorously. It was good to see the water, knowing it had been dry there before and likely would be again: a point in the ever-moving rhythm.

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A bevy of runners came over the bridge; wondered if I’d stumbled into a race and asked, but they said they were just training. Was amazed at how little the ice impeded their progress.

Rolled over the bridge and onward over the flat ice on the other side, accompanied by a loud, satisfying crack as the thin layer on the path broke under the wheels. Stayed steady and went on!

Noticed a variety of bird sounds, including woodpeckers (winter birds!) and red-winged blackbirds, staking territorial claims from various tree tops and also from the top of the Freyfogel lookout. More a sign of spring, it would seem.

Saw a fair number of deer, scattered across the inside of the big loop path.

Got a "selfie" of my shadow looking at the prairie near the Marker statue to the west.

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Stopped for a close-up of the remains of some compass plant seed heads, worn by the weather to little bowls, the bottom of each surrounded by a ring of short prickles.

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Saw coyote scat on the edge of the path and another dark mass near it that proved to be a frozen shrew (no pics). Wondered why a creature that needs to eat as much as it does was out in this cold winter. Was it fooled by the rain?

Wanted to walk by McCullough Creek downstream from the Windsor/Vine bridge, but shortness of time allowed only for a short stop at the “beaver-chewed alders” site.

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The path near the Hickman Wildflower Walk was quite icy, and just as I started to wonder whether I’d make it across the stretch without falling, Rhododendron went down! But fortunately only my pride was hurt. If there had to be a fall, this was a good one.

Noticed I wasn’t wide awake for parts of the trip; paradoxically, the more one goes out to look, the sharper one’s awareness is, and, alas, lately the trips are infrequent. Still, any moment of any awe (there was plenty!) is its own very satisfying universe, as it were. Always, always, between the stretches of sleep and numbness, there are small and large wonders, ready for the beholding.

Noticed also no discomfort of cold this trip! Must be really acclimating to the cold winter at last! Or maybe it’s the anticipation of spring.