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.


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.


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,


lax stewardship notwithstanding.


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

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


and Penstemon


Black-eyed Susan,


common milkweed, in a big way(!)


false sunflower, sporting either milkweed or box elder bugs,


and lovely blue vervain.


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


Saturday 20 May 2017. Meadowbrook Before the Rain

It was 54 degrees F and cloudy at 7:00 this morning, with the wind from the east.

Missed the sunrise, but it was not spectacular because of the low cloud cover.

I’ve been slowed down by various things lately and really was ready to ride. Not only do I miss observing the word from the bike but I’ve come to take the physical activity for granted and don’t like having less of it. Even so, a long ride was not in the cards.

Thought, paradoxically, as I aimed Shadow south on Race Street that time demands can turn even a bike ride (or yoga practice, fo that matter) into something I “have to” rather than “want to” do. Usually, if I take some effort to re-arrange my thoughts and re-focus, it’s at least partly possible to restore the the joy to the once completely joyful activity. Makes me wonder whether I can bring that attitude to other things that have to be done and infuse them with more joy.

It was good to see some of my favorite neighborhood perennials in bloom:

Cabbage roses,


A very fancy Clematis,


and Asian poppies

which seem to exude the very spirit of my late friend Nancy, who loved them so much.

Rode south on familiar Race Street and crossed Windsor Road with little waiting at the traffic lights. I think the city traffic authority must have adjusted it. It no longer seems to disturb my enjoyment of the morning ride. At least not lately.

Rode right to the rabbit-statue bridge over McCullough Creek

the banks of which are becoming quite lush, then crossed over and rode just far enough to spot a blooming spiderwort.


Considered taking the rest of the loop, but heeded the raindrops and distant thunder and headed back.


Not long after, there was electrical activity and lots of rain.

Sunday 30 April 2017. Big Wet Finish for 30 Days of Biking

It was 55 degrees F with steady rain falling


as I donned rain gear and went forth for a ride.

Getting the phone out to get a photo was not easy: it got wet pretty fast. But did manage a few, including a white and a pink dogwood (it’s been a great year for them!) in the same shot.


Florida Avenue was wet and green.


At the Japan House Garden, rain pooled under the now-leafy-green cherry trees


The hellebores still looked great in their present manifestation and now surrounded by hostas.


The pond on the far side of the garden looked quite full.


Enjoyed being out connecting with the weather but wished I’d put on the shoe-covers a friend had given me. They were still wet from yesterday and did not keep my shoes bone dry then but would have kept out most of the buckets of water with which my shoes were now filled. Now I know.

Noticed that the word “exhilarated,” which often occurs to me on bike rides, was not what I would have used to describe my state of mind just now. The discomfort of wetness was a bit distracting and looked forward to being out of the wet clothes.

Still, was glad to have fulfilled my 30 Days of Biking pledge with all the other joyful cyclists!

Saturday 25 March 2017. Burned Prairie and Curtis Road

It was 60 degrees F and cloudy this morning at 7:50 as I topped off Rhododendron’s tires and headed out for, in accordance with the wind direction, parts south and east.

The ride was smooth and swift and was not strongly drawn to stop and photograph until, close to Windsor Road, it started to rain.


Didn’t have to wait at all for the light to change at Race and Windsor. Maybe they’ve worked out the timing, or maybe I just got lucky.

Meadowbrook was beginning to show green from a distance.


Got the customary shot of McCullough/ Davis creeks from the Rabbit Statue bridge.


Over the bridge, around the corner and on a little way noticed that a section of last year’s growth had been burned away,

leaving the ground charred and almost bare and affording a view far into the middle of the prairie. Was glad to see this bit of prairie management. Hoped it would reduce what seemed to be disease in some of the prairie plants.

Saw a beaten path from the toward Davis Creek and followed into the water.


In the creek was an abundance of filamentous green algae. Near the stream, rocks and logs were covered with soft green moss.


Back along the path, most of the prairie still was pale gold.


Red-winged blackbirds perched on old compass plant stalks and on the tops of bird houses.

and announced their presence.

Noticed how much easier it was to ride with the temperature at 60 than it was when it was in the thirties!

Rode on to Windsor and turned east into its bordering sidewalk and then to Philo Road and eastward on Curtis Road.

There was a southeastern breeze that required some extra exertion, but knew it would mean ease on the way back.

Rode downhill pretty much all the way to High Cross, not much encumbered by the cross wind.


Turned back at High Cross Road.


The way back was indeed uphill, which made me think that a route for the future (especially with a west wind) would go out Curtis and back another way, at least between High Cross and Philo Road.

And then, at Philo Road the path went downhill again. Hooray!

Saw a nice roadside tree just before Race street.


Back near Meadowbrook noticed in the tree plantation across the street that a lot of the trees looked poorly, which may have been why there has been so much cutting. Maybe it was not that someone wanted the area cleared.


The rain stopped.

And back in the neighborhood there were golden daffodils among copious blue Scilla and early manifestation of Virginia bluebells.


Oh, welcome, this leading edge of extravagant, profligate springtime!


Thursday 23 March 2017. Errands Across Campus on Thursday of Spring Break

It was about 45 degrees F and cloudy at about 3:30 pm as I hopped on Shadow and headed west for Champaign.

Part of my little family had gone south with the car for a spring break father-and-son bonding trip and another part was sick with the current version of the “bad cold” that’s been going around. So like a good mom I got on my bike and headed in the direction of my son’s apartment to bring him a “basket of goodies” to help him feel better.

Traffic was spring-break light but still running on Green Street. Am starting to get used to the pedestrian cross walks where cars in all directions stop and pedestrians cross diagonally. But it’s been a process.

Stopped at the campus bike shop to get a light combination lock for Rhododendron, but should have known that their selection would be totally high-security. Ended up spending $40 for a locking chain. No one forced me, but kind of wished I’d used more fiscal restraint. Well, now I have a good lock.

Filled my backpack (after paying) with bottles of flavored fluids (heavy!) requested by my cold-afflicted son, and delivered them to his apartment. After giving his dog a walk decided a pot of chili was something he could manage to get together and headed back out through light rain


to another grocery store. Stopped at Harvest Market,

an upscale place, where, oddly, could not locate a bike rack. So just used my new lock to bind Shadow to a post near the entrance.

After navigating through one distraction after another (but was glad to have been offered asparagus, which I did buy, at the entrance) through the store and forgetting an important item on the list, checked out, rode back (downhill!) to deliver the goods.

With love. Got the asparagus ready to pop in the microwave but let my son take on the chili. And was off.

On the way back it started to rain a little more heavily.

Stopped for a view of the Boneyard Creek at Scott Park.


Did not see any waterfowl there today.

Headed on back toward campus on the Boneyard Greenway, which runs behind the buildings on Green Street.


Not sure bikes are supposed to be on that passage but didn’t see any signs forbidding them.

Stopped at Cocomero on Wright Street, the frozen yogurt place, something I’d been meaning to do, because I’d been wanting to have some of those chewy black “bubbles” they put in drinks (to be sucked up through large-diameter straws). Yum! And spring break meant no traffic or crowds. Had my tapioca “bubbles” in a delicious mango smoothie, suggested by the proud proprietor of the store. As a counterpoint to the “bubbles” it was fruity and smooth, indeed, and not too sweet!

Sat at the counter in the window with a great view of the sparsely-peopled edge of campus, especially the unfortunately brown Alma Mater statue and of Altgeld Hall.

It was a moment to savor, this little slice of spring break.

Then headed home, past the handsome (thanks partly to its current renovation) Natural History Building, with the handsome spreading burr oak in front of it.


Almost home, stopped for a shot of golden yellow Forsythia, that early and brief herald of springtime,

against a still-unleafed tulip poplar and the grey March sky. Let the spring arrive, as slowly as possible!

Sunday 16 October 2016. Rainy Mushrooms and Gentians

It was 64 degrees at about 7:45 this morning under cloudy skies and the beginnings of light rain as, equipped with raincoat and waterproof backpack, I rolled Rhododendron out of the garage toward Meadowbrook Park via Race Street.

Approaching the double line of spruce trees along Race, thought there would not be much to see of the Amanita muscaria mushroom population, but also wondered whether it might be having a second manifestation.

Found that there still were some reasonably healthy fruiting bodies (mushrooms) at early stage


And later stage,


some newly emerged


and even some not quite emerged yet, barely breaking the surface of the soil.


But many more were “withered untimely”.


The scene was interesting but not wondrous or magical. (I apologize to readers who may have wanted to see the fairy-inviting scenes described a couple weeks ago.) But this absence of magic is one reason why the magic is so magical when it is, or so I believe.

At the Race-Windsor crossing practiced being open to change


and observed an irate driver sounding their car horn, but couldn’t make out what the offense was. Of course I attributed it to the micromanaging stoplights. Tried to think of how people felt when the very first stoplights were installed. Something similar?

Thunder rumbled (which set off a song association so I sang) and so decided just to make a beeline to the “upland cardinal flower site”.

Rolled fast downand around on the path (which was strewn with fallen walnut leaves and gave me a little fright to navigate, like ice) to the rabbit-statue bridge.


Over the bridge, around the corner, and down a short way, there they were among the willow shoots: bottle gentians!


There even were a few late tickseed blooms for contrast


How glorious they were, those clusters of little blue Hallelujahs!

Even the faded blooms didn’t much detract from the beauty of the bouquet.

Was happy with the find and wanted to get back before it might storm.

But first a couple of prairie dock leaves, one brown and curled and the other still green, caught my eye.


Got a view of the rainy path


then enjoyed the light rain on the way home with this song playing in my head.

Sunday 8 May 2016. A Dangerous Ride in the Rain

This morning at about 7 (not exactly the crack of dawn!) it was 52 degrees F and raining, though not heavily enough to keep the robins, cardinals, and my dear white-throated sparrows from singing, at least not at first.

Got suited up (mostly) for the rain and headed east on Rhododendron to check out a couple of carefully trimmed lilac bushes in front of an apartment complex that I’d marveled at from the car the day before yesterday. Beyond that wasn’t sure; it would be a respectable ride in itself, considering the rain.

Which in a short while started to fall rather heavily.

Noticed how much heat could be extracted by this water where it contacted skin, especially where it was being soaked up by my absorbent cotton yoga pants. Brrrr! Decided that the lilac bushes would definitely be enough for today’s ride.

The ride still was pleasant enough, with so much glorious moist green all around, until a navy blue 2007 Dodge Caravan (look-alike of my own family vehicle) going west slowly began to turn south in front of me. Rather than stop to allow the vehicle to complete its rude, heedless turn (what I will do next time, for sure) I continued into its path, asserting my right of way, assuming the driver must have seen me and would stop to let me by. But no. And my wet brakes were not responsive enough to stop me now, so I yelled, “Hey!” as I veered right as best I could and wondered if this would be my first major bike accident.

Fortunately the driver, 40-ish, thick-set with close cropped light brown hair, did stop, and smiled and waved with a jolly, drawled, “Sorry about that!” as he continued on his way. It could have been a lot worse.

But felt quite shaken by it. And stupid. Was tempted just to turn back, but stayed with the sensation and slowly, carefully rode on.

Made it to the lilac bushes, which were starting to show a little green between the masses of tight-packed flowers

but still quite spectacular.

The rain had let up some, so kept riding eastward toward High Cross Road.

Noticed how nice of a view of the landscape and sky there is at the corner of Washington and High Cross.

But then was dismayed to see this sign in front of a field of butterweed.

Rode soggily on, almost to Cottonwood Road, until the rain fell hard again and decided it was ok to turn back.

Got a last view eastward

and headed back to get dry.