Saturday 2 June 2018. Notes on This Beautifully Cool Morning’s Commute

It was 55 degrees F (!) and mostly clear at 5:33 this morning.

Decided I had time to stop at Meadowbrook Park on the way to my job assignment in Savoy.

Without stopping at the rabbit-statue bridge, crossed over McCullough Creek, turned the corner, and got a look at the sunrise.

Then took the “Texas exit” (across grass) back to Race Street.

Saw a deer rather close to the road

apparently not perturbed by my staring at it for a photo.

A little farther down Race Street smelled strong skunk odor.

Then the landscape opened out,

which is always a thrill (and this photo does it no justice!), especially around sunrise!

Rode west on Curtis Road to Prospect. Had a little time to see the sunken pond there, with Coreopsis

an early yellow coneflower,

and plenty of Penstemon.

After work, on the way back, stopped at the prairie planting on Florida and Orchard, above which appeared an indigo bunting!

(the bluish blip a little below and to the right of center).

In the “prairie-let” were the requisite-for- early-June spiderwort and Penstemon,

the Penstemon, again, in full (probably brief) bloom. The false sunflowers were beginning to bloom;

more than one bearing a nicely contrasting box elder ( I think) bug.

More riding would be better, but every moment outside on the bike is good

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Friday 1 June 2018. To Work with a Stop at Meadowbrook, and Back

It was 67 degrees F and partly cloudy at 5:43 this morning as I rolled Rhododendron down the driveway on the way to my job assignment in Savoy.

Thought about how fast the mid-to-late spring garden flowers (like peonies, irises, and poppies) had come and gone. Now the summer flowers were beginning.

Wanted to stop on the way at Meadowbrook Park to check on the the spiderwort and Penstemon before the hot weather finished them off, and also wanted to get back to my poor neglected blog, even if time constraints prevented long, leisurely rides or descriptions thereof.

After reaching Windsor Road turned east to view the nearest corner of the prairie.

Indeed, there were spiderwort

and Penstemon.

These latter looked like most of their buds had opened in unison.

Rode west on Windsor Road and stopped at the City of Champaign Prairie Restoration to check the progress of the lead plants. Their incipient inflorescences were well into development.

Then had another enjoyable 3-hour day at my job and made my way (stopping on the way back at FM Avionics for fine coffee, fine granola, and a fine lavender-glazed donut) and then back home.

Wednesday 23 May 2018. Early Spiderwort and Earliest Penstemon at Meadowbrook

This morning at 5:20 it was 58 degrees F under mostly clear skies as I rolled Rhododendron down the driveway, destination: Meadowbrook Park. Wore my feather-light cycling jacket, that, with a bit of positive attitude based on the conviction that it would soon get warmer, kept me comfortable enough.

Was delighted to be rolling south on Race Street before sunrise, in the quiet, calm, pristine morning, all the more because the opportunity to do so has become rarer that in the past. Marveled at how pleasant it was to be riding in comfortable temperatures with good light.

Stopped a little way down Race Street at the stand of spruce trees to check for mushrooms, but there was no sign of them. This utter (visual at least, they certainly are there in some form, underground) absence is part of their mystique, part of the wonder of when, suddenly and abundantly, they do appear.

Crossed Windsor Road at my now-favorite, very responsive, traffic signal.

Rode straight to the rabbit-statue bridge, over which I coasted at high speed and had to (chose to, anyway) apply the brakes at the turn.

On the other side of the bridge saw a low blanket of fog resting over the landscape.

Then turned back to get a view of Douglas and McCullough creeks, with the sun coming up behind them.

Then back over the bridge and down the path where there were more good views of the sun rising over the misty prairie.

Looked in the wet area a little way down the path for blue flag iris, in early bud last week. There they were, well into their bloom,

a few close to the path, and the large patch farther away.

Noticed that the area had been “managed” to allow reasonably easy passage from the path. Still, the ground was wet and was glad I’d worn closed shoes and Smart Wool socks.

Thought as I proceeded along that there still were no spiderwort to speak of, but just then, there they were.

And to the left of this one was a Penstemon in bud.

It was the opening of the grand procession of the prairie bloom, and what a privilege it was to be there to witness it!

Rode on past lots of spiderwort, some receding golden Alexanders, and plenty though less dramatic blackberry blooms

on the way toward the prairie viewing station. Stopped for a moment to listen to the song sparrows and to the red-winged blackbirds, which today seemed to say, “talk with me!”

Just about every patch of spiderwort beckoned to have its picture taken, but I resisted many of them.

Was going to look over the prairie from the viewing station but saw what looked like an occupied sleeping bag and opted to pass today. Didn’t really sense danger about it, but you never know, and anyway didn’t want to disturb the person. Did stay close enough to get a photo of the lead plant,

which seem to be spreading.

Watched one of the many red-winged blackbirds

a little while before moving on.

Had thought about riding on at least to Yankee Ridge, but still wanted to time to swim and was very satisfied with what this short ride had revealed. So headed back homeward along Windsor Road. At almost the farthest corner of the park saw Penstemon starting to bloom!

And now to follow their progress.

Sunday 18 June 2017. Dark Clouds but No Rain

It was 71 degrees F and cloudy with a 12-mph WSW wind at 6:25 pm as I took Rhododendron out toward south First Street.

Rode south on Race Street, reasonably comfortable though feeling the somberness of the clouds.

Did not stop before Windsor Road except to examine the bike for the source of a light banging sound, but could not make it happen when I got off and spun each wheel independently. It was annoying but didn’t seem to impair the bike’s performance so just rode on.

Stopped at the linden tree on the corner of Race and Windsor.

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Was not sure whether it had not yet fully bloomed or whether it was mostly done blooming, but it didn’t exude the perfume I remember from past years.

Headed into the westerly breeze on Windsor, noticing dark clouds ahead.

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Observed how the diminished light and color pressed on my mood. The expression “like a wet blanket” came to mind.
There was some current pain in it (everyone has his or her list!), a little fear that the clouds would deliver discomfort-inducing rain or even electrical danger, but also some broody comfort, a little space to allow that pain before going back to face the slings and arrows that caused it.

Nevertheless decided to limit the ride (oh waste of extra daylight and free time!) to checking the lead plant at the City of Champaign “Prairie Restoration.”

The lead plants were starting to bloom,

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lax stewardship notwithstanding.

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And didn’t notice any plague of beetles, either. There is hope for that place, I think.

Thought again that I was missing a chance to get in good ride, but really felt averse to being far from home in a storm, and was not sure that the banging, knocking sound was not the sign of some kind of trouble with the bike.

Then riding north on First Street happened to look look at my right Keen sandal, which had a plastic knob at the end of loop of the elastic lacing, and saw that it was banging on the bike frame. Mystery solved!

So on the way back stopped at Japan House garden

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Where amazing, durable hellebores contributed to the design of the hosta planting.

Also stopped at the prairie planting on Florida and Orchard, where the summer bloom was beginning to build.

There were post-peak spiderwort

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and Penstemon

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Black-eyed Susan,

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common milkweed, in a big way(!)

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false sunflower, sporting either milkweed or box elder bugs,

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and lovely blue vervain.

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Made it home without getting wet, satisfied enough with the ride.

Sunday 11 June 2017. To Philo, Center of the Universe, and Back

It was 66 degrees F under a cloudless sky at 5:50 this morning as I rode Rhododendron south on Race Street.

It sounded so calm outside, but the phone weather ap said there was a 9 mph south wind. Have learned to respect that information so planned for a trip to Philo IL, Center of the Universe, according to its water tower.

Indeed, riding south presented me with a noticeable headwind.

Stopped, as I almost always do, at the rabbit-statue bridge over McCullough Creek.

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Noticed dying trees.

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Too common, alas.

Saw the continued bloom of spiderwort

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and Penstemon

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Used restraint to continue around the prairie without further stopping to Windsor Road. Rode east to Philo Road, south to Old Church then east again.

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Rode on Old Church Road to Yankee Ridge

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that lovely little oasis of vantage and sacred silence, then rode around the corner onto Yankee Ridge Road, past a friend’s amazing house, complete with extensive prairie landscaping.

Turned east onto section road 900 N (County Highway 18) to Philo.

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Rode to the water tower; went off the road along the train tracks to get a view of all the words.

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On the way back saw my friend who lives in the amazing prairie-landscaped house, out walking her dog. It was nice to actually stop and talk a bit this time!

Then rode downhill with the wind at my back toward Old Church Road.

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Stopped at Barnhart Practice Restoration

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Could not see spiderwort but there were lots of Penstemon.

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Saw a good number of prairie dock leaves: large, erect, serrated spade-shapes, with the sunlight and shadows showing through them.

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Saw spiderwort farther down, along the road, among waving grass flowers.

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Stopped on the way back to check for Amanita mushrooms under the spruce trees. They were prostrate and dried up.

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Felt a little more centered for having visited Philo this morning.

Saturday 10 June 2017. Worn Flowers at Meadowbrook

It was 66 degrees and mostly sunny at 6:09, on this morning of my father’s 90th birthday, as I wheeled Rhododendron down the driveway and headed south on Race Street.

Stopped for a cabbage rose shot

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And checked the Amanita mushrooms, which seemed to be very much on the decline.

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Rode directly to Meadowbrook Park and stopped at the rabbit-statue bridge over McCullough Creek for the customary shot.

Farther down, in the willowy wet iris territory, Penstemon held forth, but with more brown than white flowers.

Near The Freyfogle overlook went to check the lead plant, which had been munched and damaged by (not unnatractive) beetles.

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But the beetles seemed to have eaten their fill and mostly gone, though who knows what was going on with their actual eating-machines, the larvae? This year, at least, it seemed there would be flowers.

Rode to the end of the path at Windsor Road and west on the sidewalk along the park.

There was a lot of green; the spiderwort were past the peak of their bloom. Yet there were some remaining fresh blue daily flowers,

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every bit as lovely as the first ones.

Along with the wizened spiderwort were soon to bloom rosinweed

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and green blackberry fruit.

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The early prairie flowers are finishing as summer, with its own anticipated bloom, draws near!

Sunday 4 June 2017. West on Curtis Road to Kaskaskia Ditch

It was 73 perfect degrees with thin scattered clouds and just a hint of westerly breeze at 5:40 this morning as I headed Rhododendron southward toward Curtis Road.

Lovely as they were, did not stop for the yellow and pale pink cabbage roses nor the laden apple tree but did stop to check on the Amanita mushrooms. Wondered whether the increasing ground cover was inhibiting the appearance of fruiting bodies, but it seemed not.

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But overall it still did not look like a healthy population.

Turned west on Windsor Road without thinking then cut south toward Curtis on a gravel (“authorized vehicles only”–should have taken a clue) road and regretted it.

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It was a mile on semi-loose (could have been worse, but still) gravel that reminded me of riding on uneven ice. Had to concentrate, going slow and steady, balancing as if “flying”. Don’t want to do it again any time soon, however.

Headed west, enjoying the sky, along Curtis Road, to its intersection with Prospect Avenue and the sunken pond.

Around the pond were Penstemon,

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spiderwort,

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purple indigo,

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and the season’s first purple coneflowers.

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Did not see many waterfowl: one mallard duck and a few Canada geese.

Continued west on Curtis, and saw a great blue heron wading in the stream that cut under the road east of Mattis. Stopped and got the iPhone camera ready before carefully going back to get a photo before it took off. Those great bue herons sure are wary!

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Got a view of the decaying farm building across Curtis from the large and growing Carle Clinic on Curtis facility. It was a glimpse of the past and future of the area.

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Then farther west, just over the I-57 bridge, was a large structure under construction, which at first I thought was a new high school. But it turned out to be yet another Carle facility. I guess that means jobs for our community, or even improved medical care. But sometimes it seems like Carle is Everywhere. At the same time it seems like health care is becoming a luxury.

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Noticed that both the corn and soybeans were well along in their growth

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Rode as far as the crossing of Kaskaskia Ditch

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and then got a text from a friend inviting me to talk over morning beverage. So turned and headed back.

The ride was a satisfying 20 miles!