Sunday 17 December 2017. Almost to St. Joe on the KRT

It was 38 degrees F under cloudy skies at about 8:00 this morning as I headed toward the Kickapoo Rail to Trail intending to ride its entire length to St Joseph.

Even though the temperature was above freezing, I dressed carefully: down coat, fleece hood, and felted mittens. Cycling is an activity that adds heat to some areas of the body but distractingly subtracts it from others.

Rode out on East Main Street past the little grove of oaks across Main from the Dart plastic factory, a place where I regularly used to see a fox,

but haven’t the past several times I’ve been by.

Stopped at the Main Street edge of Weaver Park to get a glimpse of the winter version of horse nettle fruit and compass plant leaves,

Monarda seed heads,

and yellow coneflowers.

Then proceeded to where Main Street ran into University Avenue, the head of the KRT.

Headed east on that straight line and settled into the rhythm of pedaling.

In a shrubby stretch on the north side of the trail saw more cardinals than I’m used to seeing in one place, a “flock” of them, though they dispersed when I stopped to get a photograph.

Noticed a pile of old railroad ties on the south side of the trail,

evidence of the trail’s former (rails) life.

Passed Full’s Siding, with its towering, humming grain storage structures.

Felt enveloped by the landscape, close with the birds (saw juncos and woodpeckers in addition to the cardinals), the bare shrubs, the expanse of brown and black soil, the grey clouds.

Noticed nests in the bare trees and bushes, including this one topped with golden fluff

There was a strong smell, like sewage, which wasn’t exactly pleasant but which was of the outdoors and for that reason not completely unwelcome.

Light rain fell.

Rode as far as the Pioneer Seed facility just outside of St. Joseph.

The rain seemed to fall a bit more heavily now and didn’t want to have any more distance riding back in it than necessary.

On the way back saw a hidden “Christmas ” tree.

Noticed the seed head of a plant I didn’t quite recognize but that seemed like an unusual growth form, with a broad, flat stem.

Farther down saw that the once-green, erect spade-like leaves of prairie dock now were brown, bent down and curled, transformed with a different kind of beauty.

The rain had disappeared and felt like I could have reached St. Joe, but still was SO full with contentment to have been out on the KRT, “au vélo,” glad to have gotten the physical and especially the spiritual exercise.


Sunday 3 September 2017. To St. Joe with a Stop at Weaver.

It was 64 degrees F under party cloudy skies 8:15 this morning as I headed Rhododendron to the Kickapoo Rail to Trail path and St. Joseph IL.

But first there was morning yoga practice (!!!) wherein I tried to get my shoulders ready for the un-yogic downward reaching for the handlebars, including slithering into a self-assisted shoulder Savasana, lots of Ardha Parsva Hastasana, and Sirsasana using a chumball. Yes, it costs watching the dawn break from the bike, but the rest of day is just so much better if yoga is first!

Rode east on Main Street (did not see the fox) and made a quick detour to the Champaign County Nursing Home to drop a promised pair of sun-viewing glasses for a friend who lives there. Then proceeded to Weaver Park and stopped to see what was blooming there.

The season had advanced and flowers were mostly on the decline, like these cup plants, accompanied by big bluestem and


stiff goldenrod and near rosinweed foliage.


Saw blackeyed Susans


tall Coreopsis,


some remaining compass plant blooms,


and even some late purple coneflowers.


Proceeded along Main Street to University Avenue and the head of the Kickapoo-rail-to-trail towards St. Joseph, Illinois.


And what a pleasant trail it was.


Since the CU Across the Prairie ride there were fewer species in bloom, but still there were plenty of flowers along the way:

Exotic but colorful morning glories,


Jerusalem artichokes (or sawtooth sunflowers–I wasn’t sure which, glorious golden sun-bursts either way.


and sawtooth sunflowers were just coming into bloom.

Also were the beginnings of the goldenrod and more than a few prairie dock sun-flowers


which were complemented by the pink Gaura,


Rode on with minimal photography (I get conflicted between riding on and not interrupting the experience versus stopping to document it) to the town of St Joseph.


Then turned back, and this time photographed the Salt Fork crossing.


Got a shot of the lovely photograph of unionid mussels at the educational marker.

beloved inhabitants of my former life as a biologist.

On the way back stopped for (sawtooth, I’m pretty sure) sunflowers,


including a group visited by monarch butterflies (saw at least four in one small area).


Farther along looked across the paralleling highway and saw soybean fields beginning to turn yellow, with Gaura and tall(?) boneset between the highway and the bike trail.


At the Fulls Siding crossing, stopped to photograph this dear bicycle book-exchange box.


Must remember to bring something to exchange next time.

And on toward home!

My second KRT ride was just as wonderful as the first!

Sunday 27 August 2017. Falling and Rising in Late Summer

It was 59 degrees F at 7:15 under party cloudy skies as I finished yoga practice (wish I could do everything first thing in the morning!) and headed on Rhododendron for Meadowbrook Park. Wanted to get a close look at the cardinal flowers as their bloom was concluding.

Stopped at the rabbit-statue bridge; the bed of McCullough Creek was dry even with heavy rain one night last week.
The cardinal flowers are just barely visible here, with a little imagination.


Since the bloom would be done soon, I climbed down to the creek bed, and actually encountered the red bird-flowers on the close side of the stream.


Saw many cardinal flower plants, their red flower-spikes distributed more widely around the creek bed than I ever remember seeing them!


The contrast of goldenrod gave the red flowers even more intensity.

Noticed also sneezeweed, another lovely yellow counterpoint for the red cardinal flowers.


Was happy to see the last, top blooms above the stack of spent flowers: the process of growth and decay.


Down the path a little way were the annual Bidens, or tickseed, another species of photogenic Compositae.


Got a shot of the beautiful blue sage near the little arched bridge over Davis Creek.


This white flower with handsome dark green foliage, which I’ve decided is tall boneset, was abundant.


The thistle hosted a bumble bee as well as several small beetles.


Saw some handsome bush clover,


with its blue-green leaves and contrasting rusty flowers.

There was rosinweed with a cricket in its center,




compass plant holding forth,


prairie dock above and cream gentian down low,


and lots of invasive but gorgeous goldenrod about to burst into golden yellow,


Fall approaches.

Saturday 26 August 2017. CU Across the Prairie Homer Lake and the KRT!

It was about 54 degrees F under mostly (but lightly) cloudy skies


this morning at 7:20, when I checked in at Parisol Records for the 2017 CU Across the Prairie ride. Yesterday when I registered online I’d thought maybe I’d go for the 20-something mile ride, but when the guy checking me in asked if I was doing the 40-something ride I said “Yes.” Ok. That’s one way to decide.

But before that, got myself to the yoga studio for a pre-ride practice.


So was ready to ride!

Took my cue sheet and headed out!

Spent a little time (as did other cyclists) figuring out a mistake in the itinerary early on, but after exploring the neighborhood just east of Crystal Lake Park, where there was, e.g., a well-laden apple tree,


soon was in familiar territory.

Headed out Brownfield Road,

Crossed Interstate 74, observing the first of the goldenrod bloom.


Farther along, noticed what I thought was a run-over garter snake.


There is a word in Sanskrit that describes this kind of mistake (Viparyaya), which is one of the disturbances of consciousness and can be the origin of a lot of personal suffering and interpersonal conflict. Btw.

Rode on, pondering the nature of mistakes and alternative perceptions, southward on 1800 E and east toward Homer Lake Road.

For the third time in a month passed “Gehenna,” which today was active and issuing smoke.


The road opened under the mostly cloudy sky. It was quite pleasant.


Crossed the Salt Fork.


Where a great blue heron waded.

Stopped at the prairie-planted Lincoln “shrine”

which featured Physostegia, tall Coreopsis, and rosin weed.

Met up with another cyclist who was deciding which way to go, a young woman from Canada who had just gotten a job in Champaign. We decided on a direction and chatted as we rode.

We made it to Homer Lake,


but after that there were lots of not-well-marked twists and turns on the route around and through the Homer Lake Park, and neither of us could be sure we were where the cue sheet said we should be.

Thought it might be cutting off some distance from the ride, but sensed which was the way back and wanted to proceed there. So we decided to go different ways and wished each other a good conclusion of the ride.


Eventually made it to St. Joseph and the head of the long-awaited (and just opened the day before) Kickapoo Rail to


The trail made its own beautiful crossing of the Salt Fork on what presumably was a form of a railroad bridge.


The trail was lined with prairie flowers, most notably prairie dock,

<a href=" Continue reading “Saturday 26 August 2017. CU Across the Prairie Homer Lake and the KRT!”

Sunday 6 August 2017. New Cardinal Flowers and Homer Lake Road, One Month Later

It was 64 degrees F under thickly cloudy skies at about 6:15 this morning as the New and Improved Rhododendron (especially the new freewheel and chain!) and I headed to Meadowbrook Park.

Saw the wondrous cardinal flowers from the rabbit-statue bridge,


but did not go down to see them close-up.

Close to the banks, cup plants were in bloom.


Rode over the bridge, around the corner, and down the path to look for cardinal flowers in the wet willowy area where they had been in some (not all) years past, but saw none.

But then noticed two spikes of cardinal flowers on the other side of path,


close enough to view without walking in at all!


Then a little farther east, on the south side of the path, was a profusion of pink, purple, and blue-violet flowers: swamp milkweed (some aphid-bearing),




and blue vervain.


Farther down the path were tick trefoil,


which was not as abundant as I’ve seen in past years, victims of insect herbivory, it seems, Monarda, and a spike of American bellflower.


Later focused on the yellow flowers, Sylphium species: compass plants (S.laciniatum)


rosinweed (S.integrifolium),


and even the occasionally prairie dock (S. terebinthinaceum) bloom,


in addition to the cup plants (S. perfoliatum) farther
back: four tall, robust, sandpaper-leafed, yellow-flowered Sylphium “sisters!”

Also in yellow, a little more distantly related and more delicate, were tall Coreopsis.


Interspersed was bush clover,

with its handsome, delicate bluish foliage.

Hidden lower among other foliage saw the first buds of this year’s cream gentians


The list of common native flowers observed this morning still is incomplete; they are so many now! I will just mention: common milkweed with maturing pods, Baptisia with green pods, and remaining though past peak rattlesnake master, purple coneflowers, yellow coneflowers, false sunflowers, and Culver’s root.

Then headed away from Meadowbrook Park, east on Windsor Road.

Corn to the left of me, soybeans to the right, here I am, central Illinois!


Rode next to the creek, a little tributary of the Salt Fork that paralleled Windsor Road for a while.


As I did a month ago on this route, stopped to photograph the exotic but lovely pink soapwort blooms.


There was the sign to warn of the dangerous hill


but still couldn’t tell exactly where it was.


Central Illinois, alright.

Looked down at the crossing of another little tributary where I’d often seen wood ducks before,

but saw none this time.

Did see some nice swamp milkweed.


Rode as far as the junction with Homer Lake Road


and this time instead of doubling back headed left, toward east Washington Street. On the way passed a small clearing at the edge of a cornfield, seemingly devoted to burning things.


It’s been there since the first time I remember passing it in 2011 or so. It makes me think “little Gehenna.”

Back in town, on Washington Street, I pass the Brookins baseball field (it may be called something else), northward across which is the shaded area where my friends from the Champaign County Nursing Home and I have popcorn, brownies, and coffee on nice days.


Back home, there was a Cooper’s hawk in the dead ash tree behind our garage.


Made me wish my phone camera had a better zoom.

If I had to compare this time with my ride of a month ago, I’d say it was slightly less magical (that time has not been displaced!) but it had its own particular, considerable delights.

Especially remembered from October!

Sunday 25 June 2017. North on High Cross to Ford Harris, with a Glimpse of Weaver’s Early Summer Bloom

At 6:12 this morning it was 56 degrees under clear skies as I pointed Rhododendron to the east and north to check out High Cross Road.


Did not expect a Meadowbrook-like flower display, but on the way, Weaver Park was just starting to offer a bouquet of prairie flowers:

False sunflower,




mountain mint,


at least three of the Sylphium sisters (cup plant, rosin weed, and prairie dock; cup plant is shown here) and budding yellow coneflowers


common milkweed


butterfly milkweed,




and an early-blooming aster.


And this on a pretty casual inspection.

Then rode on Main Street, across University through the Beringer subdivision and north on High Cross Road.

The corn and soybean crops were well underway.


Rode as far as High Cross and Ford Harris


and turned back.

Noticed bone-like pieces (turned out to be wood) imbedded in the road.


Saw a dead possum, presumably hit by a car, with its immature babies scattered around it. Alas. Almost showed a photo but decided against it. Photographs of violence have their importance, but they always feel disrespectful to the victims.

Stopped on the pleasant ride southward (it seems there is a bit more downward slope in that direction) to get a picture of chicory (exotic weeds) because their discs of pale violet-blue radiating petals seemed exceptionally lovely just then.


On Main Street on the way back stopped at the place with the native plant garden, across from Weaver Park, where lead plants were blooming.


And, as at Meadowbrook, troubled by Japanese beetles.


Shortly afterward I was troubled by the next-door dog, who must have thought I was about to trespass on its territory. I used the high-pitched “Good doggie!” approach, its owner called it back when he saw what was happening, and no damage was done.

Except that I got out of there so fast I didn’t get my phone securely into my pocket. After crossing the street I heard a sound that reminded me of crushing an empty bottled-water bottle and unwisely rode on without investigating it. Only when I stoped for another photo did I realize that the phone was not there.

Alarmed at being without my life-support (sad, I know) phone, I retraced my path and desperately hoped it was near the site of the sound I’d ignored.

Fortunately it was! I retrieved it, and the day proceeded without any more such near-disasters.

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.


Noticed dying trees.

Too common, alas.

Saw the continued bloom of spiderwort


and Penstemon


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.


Rode on Old Church Road to Yankee Ridge

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.


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


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.


Stopped at Barnhart Practice Restoration


Could not see spiderwort but there were lots of Penstemon.


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


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


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


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