Sunday 22 April 2018. Day 22, 30 Days of Biking. Riding West Under the Sunrise, and Back

It was 40-something degrees F under mostly cloudy skies at about 5:45 am as I took off on Rhododendron toward Savoy to work. Was so happy to have a little push to get me going and out of the house to witness the sunrise, which I used to do a lot but haven’t for a while recently, due to flux in my schedule. Oh, the balance between the excitement of novelty and the comfort of routine!

Turned back toward Urbana as I headed west on Windsor Road and got a photo of the pink sky.

I arrived at work a little early and then looked at the check-in clock to discover I hadn’t been scheduled for this morning. Oh, well. It was a lovely ride!

Stopped at the Starbuck’s on South Neil Street, on the side of which parking lot were planted little trees richly festooned with bagworm cocoons that swayed in the easterly breeze.

Then rode north on the road behind Starbuck’s that ended with a fence for cars but was just wide enough to let a bike pass and reach St. Mary’s Road without having to ride on Neil Street.

Noticed lots of horses near the historic barn on the south side of St Mary’s Toad just east of Fourth Street, including this one,

who gave a big smile. At least it kind of looked like a smile. Stopped before heading home at the Japan House garden, where the willows were becoming yellow-green and the cherry trees were not quite yet in bloom.

Leaving the garden, stopped for a hellebore photo.

Stopped again on Florida Avenue between the U of I President’s House and the prairie planting to catch a weeping cherry in early bloom.

How wonderful to witness the reluctant, drawn out spring au vélo in the early morning!

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Sunday 8 April 2018. 30 Days of Biking Day 8. Trelease Woods, Weaver Park, and the KRT

It was a degree F warmer (23 as opposed to 22 this morning) than yesterday, under mostly clear skies and again with some wind from the north as I rode east on Washington Street toward Cottonwood Road.

Am so glad that 30 Days of Biking is getting me motivated to ride more (for various reasons my mileage had been dwindling), especially since the weather has not been a great invitation itself.

Stopped at Weaver Park, crossing the non-trail

to get to the alleged buffalo-wallow pond.

At the pond were the mandatory red-winged blackbirds and, alas, Canada geese, though only a few. They didn’t seem quite awake.

But also, a quick look revealed a mallard duck, a coot,

(more, I noticed, farther out) and a grebe,

which looked like it had just found something to eat, or perhaps some nesting material.

Saw no teals, as I have in previous years, and it was too cold for amphibian song, but was not disappointed.

Came back to Washington Street and kept going in the direction of the still-low but bright sun until Cottonwood Road and turned north, where the wind greeted me and introduced a bit of rigor to the ride.

Crossed the Kickapoo Rail to Trail (KRT) bike trail (which runs from Urbana to St. Joseph, paralleling the highway) US 150, I-74

and the Saline Branch,

going as far as Trelease Woods,

where several deer galloped within the fence. Did not see them jump to get in; maybe there was easier access on the other side. Then turned back, rode to the beloved KRT trail and headed west. Saw to the south a pond I hadn’t been aware of until friend asked if I’d seen it. Did not see waterfowl there but made a mental note to return and check again, Might have loved to ride all the way to St. Joe, but suspected my extremities would get cold and reduce the enjoyment of the ride, which is one reason I’ll welcome warmer weather when it gets here!And apparently made it the rest of the way home.

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 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!

Friday 29 July 2016. Japan House Cardinal Flowers

At 6:45 this morning it was 66 degrees F, with clear skies.

Was short on time, but needed to connect with the morning.

So rode on Discovery II to the pond at Japan House because I’d seen cardinal flowers there at this time last year.

On the way noticed mushrooms, not unusual ones, but many around the base of a large hackberry tree right next to the street. Actually passed it up and turned back to take a closer look. This apparently looked odd to a passing driver, who stopped to ask if I was ok. “Just looking at some mushrooms” I replied, thanking him for his concern.

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Made a beeline for the pond at Japan House and searched for red flowers, which were not hard to find

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Saw a damselfly resting on a Cardinal flower bloom.

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Walked around the pond and saw Liatris

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as well as more cardinal flowers

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and pickerelweed.

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Spent a little time trying to capture being under a nearby spreading sycamore tree

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then headed back to walk Sparky

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our old Bichon Frise, and head over for day five of the awesome weeklong summer yoga intensive.

Sunday 19 June 2016. Farther West on Old Church

This morning at 5:35 (missed the 5:23 sunrise, alas) it was 68 degrees and mostly clear as I brought out Rhododendron (after almost leaving on Discovery II, out of daily habit) and headed south and ultimately west. Planned to go part of the way to Allerton Park, per directions I found online. Set out to go at least 10 miles out, for a 20-mile ride.

The air was perfect: not too cool or warm and no breeze to speak of. The occasional linden gave its perfume, and best of all, I was awake. Alive, alert, awake, enthusiastic, you might say. And my recently increased attention to my yoga practice since having one less paid job meant the only thing like pain was occasional discomfort in my “bad” right shoulder and neck. For which the internalized voice of my mentor–“Get the dorsal spine in!”–was helpful.

Could see the northwestern corner of Meadowbrook Park as I turned west on Windsor Road.

First stop, not counting turning back to see the rising sun (and activating Strava),

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or pausing to marvel at the speed with which the new Carle Sports Medicine facility is going up near First Street, was the City of Champaign Prairie Restoration Project

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which looked sorely in need of stewardship. But the strange and wonderful lead plants were there in early bloom

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with a jumping spider for graphic interest.

Then rode to Prospect and south, with a stop at the sunken pond at Curtis Road.

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where the bloom was much different than last time: saw no obvious spiderwort or Penstemon, but did see lots of purple coneflowers, Black-eyed Susans, false sunflowers, and the first purple prairie clover and Monarda. There were some attractive Coreopsis I wasn’t sure were native.

Heard a solo bullfrog, and when I walked closer to the water, about a dozen frogs leapt into the water.

Did not see any ducks on the pond. Around a bend in the shore discovered why: a family of geese.

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The geese move in and there goes the neighborhood.

But on closer examination of the photo realized that the two smaller waterfowl didn’t really look like young geese but actually may have been non-mallard ducks. How quick one can be to judge.

Then went west on Curtis, south on Mattis, and west again on Old Church Road.

There were houses and corn and soybeans with just a little up and down roll of the road.

Was amazed by the “tidiness” of the corn planting, how very bare the ground is under and near the stalks.

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Then reached county road 500E and turned back.

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Got a nice view of the already fairly high, almost solstice sun.

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The relative uniformity of the landscape helped me focus on the breath, just like I had in Pranayama practice earlier this morning. Noticed in detail the “shape” of each breath and how something interesting in the landscape drew attention away from the breath. Have to say, that “boring” corn/bean stretch was really enjoyable with the breath for company.

Rode Old Church to Prospect and north, on the lovely path behind a residential area.

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Thought I might have seen a fox, but it turned out to be a large ginger cat.

Stopped at a produce stand (an interesting place) to buy a pepper plant for my husband for Fathers Day and carried it home, sticking out from my backpack .

On the way back, peeked at an awesome garden I saw yesterday on the way home from the official Garden Walk.

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Wow.

Sunday 5 June 2016. To Old Church and Rising Road via the Sunken Pond

It was 63 degrees F at 5:53 this morning as I rolled Rhododendron out of the garage for parts southwest.

First stopped for a yellow (and sure looks life pink in the middle) cabbage rose pic.

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The stalks and pods of the nearby bloomed-out lupines have been removed.

Then checked out the Amanita muscaria mushrooms

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which were reasonably numerous but nowhere near as dense as they are in the fall.

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It looked like they’d been there a while. Also noticed some that were just beginning to emerge from the ground. They have an amazing life force!

Rode along Race Street with my emotions organizing themselves for the day. Noticed something like a pit of sadness ahead but just coasted over it without looking down. Riding was enough to keep things flowing and even for the time being.

Made a quick stop at the edge of Meadowbrook Park to see McCullough Creek at the rabbit-statue bridge.

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Coasted down and “flew” over the bridge, rounded the corner, and got a nice foxglove Penstemon shot first.

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Then returned for the former picture.

Retraced my path to the official exit rather than going over the longish wet grass directly back to Race Street.

Then west on Curtis, where a light headwind was blowing.

On Curtis Road were many dickcissels singing (many more than were visible) and gorgeous bright yellow goldfinches. They didn’t like having their pictures taken, but managed to document them.

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This was the boldest dicksissel I’ve seen.

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I think he (or she) will go on to have a lot of chicks, as they’re not using energy to flee from a non-threat. Just a guess.

Stopped at the sunken pond at Curtis and Prospect.

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So invisible from the road!

Could hear the sound of frogs–bullfrogs and another species. Just by way of announcement; no sustained singing.

The vegetation around the pond was mowed fairly close to the edge, but there were some lovely flowers: spiderwort,

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Penstemon, new purple coneflowers,

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and purple indigo.

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Was amazed not to see geese and to see a number of ducks that didn’t look like mallards, though couldn’t take the ID any further than that.

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Back on the road, enjoyed the bike lane at that wide open part of Curtis, as always.

Turned south at Mattis then west on Old Church. Was surprised at how many houses their were this far out in the country,
but there was no shortage of corn, either,

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which was almost blue with vigor.

At Rising Road

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turned north toward Windsor. A little way along Rising was a farm house fairly close to the road: dog risk? Just talked to myself about the slightness of that possibility (good old denial) and made it safely along. Whew.

But then saw a form ahead in the road, a dog? Coyote? Something unexpected.

Approaching closer recognized it was a person, which was a bit startling; I never see people this far out on the road (though as I mentioned, there were plenty of houses not far away). He appeared reasonably well and unremarkable; nevertheless was glad that the turn east on Windsor Road came before I passed him.

On the way back enjoyed the bike path on Prospect Avenue with its cultivated, shady green borders.

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Then rode homeward via the whole length of St. Mary’s Road, as clouds gathered.

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