Sunday 14 January 2018. Japan House Garden with Frozen Pond

At 7:23 this morning it was 6 degrees F and clear with minimal wind.

Dressed warmly and unlocked RhododendronShadow’s brakes still were pretty frozen–for a minimal ride in the cold. The streets were salty but clear and dry, which was favorable both for safety and for the condition of the bike.

Heading south on Race Street, noticed (just hadn’t looked for a while) some lingering apples on “my” apple tree.

Then continued west on Florida and south on Lincoln to the Japan House garden, technically part of the U of I Arboretum.

The sun (already launched for a while) was rising above the frozen pond.

Checked the hellebores under the bald cypresses, the ones with the “Winter’s Ghost” marker)

and found stiff but green leaves.,

apparently reading to resume photosynthesis as soon as the temperature goes above freezing. Wondered whether the bloom (often underway by early February) would be much later this year.

Got a photo of bare cherry trees ,

The frozen pond,

and the sculptural evergreen shrubs accented with a stone architectural feature

of which I may have heard the name but don’t remember it, alas.

As I looped around the pond thought about spring and bringing friends here when the weather is more hospitable. But for completeness was glad to have been here in the cold.

And that was today’s little ride!


Sunday 3 December 2017. Another Short, Cold Ride on the KRT

It was 34 degrees F and clear, with barely a breeze at 6:52 this morning as I wheeled Rhododendron down the driveway and out toward the Kickapoo Rail to Trail and St. Joseph.

It was cold enough to worry about freezing (though not literally) fingers and toes so wasn’t sure how far I’d actually get. Would just play by ear and see. Tried to psych up about restraint with photos so as to retain warmth.

Headed east on Main Street and stopped for a view of the oak-grove by the train tracks, across from the Dart plastics factory.

Despite the early start, saw no foxes. It (they) are on a different schedule (or location) for some reason.

Also stopped for a quick view of almost-winter Weaver Park with the sun coming up.

The goldenrod had lost most of their foamy seed-carriers. The scene seemed to call for black and white.

Horse nettle fruit (related to and resembling cherry tomatoes but poisonous) was abundant.

On the ground near the sidewalk were frosted leaves.

Rode on to the head of the wonderful, beloved trail.

Behind Walmart in the wet area were lots of cattails in the process of releasing their fluffy seed-dispersers.

The wooden rail was frosty.

A little farther on, the sun flashed among the thin trees.

Still farther along, seed-head-topped grass lay flattened along the trail, as if in homage to the cyclists,

of which I was one, and thank you!

Noticed tracks (human, canine, avian) in the not completely packed gravel; no doubt there were deer tracks, too. But didn’t stop to photograph them.

Did eventually photograph the ruts being worn into the trail by bike tires.

Not sure whether these might become problematic. Maybe the occasional application of a steam (I’m sure that’s not exactly the equipment anymore, but you get the idea) roller will take care of it.

The ride, except for cold hands and feet, was extremely pleasant. The low sun was far enough to the south to not be directly in my eyes. Birds lifted, spread, wheeled, settled on the brushy vegetation along the trail. Frost spread the morning light across the subtle curves of the landscape. The monotony of the straight trail induced an inward rhythm, an awareness of subtle differences from one repetition of the scene of landscape to the next. But my hands were cold. Brr!

Turned around at 1800 E (Mt Olive Cemetery).

On the way back, on East Main Street, passed a young woman carrying roller skates over her shoulder who was walking along Main Street and stopped to ask something of a couple standing in front of their house. They must have refused because the young woman responded with angry words. I sympathized with the couple and kept riding on. But then I judged that I could handle an interaction with her and stopped the bike to wait, then turned and walked toward her. She spoke angrily at first but then was very apologetic, saying she needed cigarettes and did I have a dollar? She seemed reasonably well-groomed so apparently not far from some kind of stability. But she made me think of people close to me who struggle with perhaps similar problems. Who knows what form of suffering she carried just then? I said I did, fished out two, and handed them to her. She thanked me profusely and didn’t ask for any thing else but wished me well. And I her, and rode on. Really I was not much help. But still was glad for the small positive connection.

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.

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,

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Sunday 20 August 2017. Dog Detour to 1800E and Oaks

It was 66 degrees F at 6:30 am, the thin clouds in the eastern sky tinged pink but the sun disc fully visible as I headed east on Main Street on re-born Rhododendron.

But first I prepared my shoulders with sandbags (a little awkward but possible!) at the yoga studio.


Rode east on Main Street and passed the place where I almost always see a fox if it’s early enough on a Sunday morning, but there was no fox today.

At least the grove of oaks looked healthy, which is saying a lot this year.


Stopped at the edge of Weaver Park,


where there were nicely blooming (i.e., not attacked by whatever has gotten the ones next to my house and a lot of them at Meadowbrook) cup plants


purple coneflowers,

and tick trefoil.


Rode to High Cross Road and turned south toward Washington Street, then east to where it “t’d” into county road 1800 E.


At first went right and jogged left to check on “little Gehenna”.


It was, as usual, ready to burn.

Then turned back and rode north on 1800E, planning to go a ways, along the handsome, green-and-tasseled cornfields.


Crossed Interstate 74


and the Saline Branch (of the Salt Fork of the Vermilion River).


But then saw (or heard, the recollection is becoming obscured) a dog up ahead, and opted not to continue in its direction. When in doubt, I avoid the dog. I love dogs, but this is the only way to be sure there won’t be an unpleasant encounter.

So turned west at 1850 N (Oaks Road),

Then rode south on Cottonwood.

In a well-groomed front yard saw a lovely blooming mimosa tree.


Rode by Trelease Woods,


across the road from which noticed


and brambles.


Saw morning glories along the corn, probably unwelcome, but adding a nice accent of color.


Then returned home.

Much later….

Ah, it’s nice to revisit the summer on a cloudy October morning when I’m not biking but recovering from the currently circulating respiratory virus.


Saturday 19 August 2017. First Cream Gentians, Last Royal Catchfly

It was about 64 degrees F, the sky spread with a diaphanous but ragged sheet of cloud this morning at 6:03 as I guided the newly re-born Rhododendron (which has been riding “like butter,” thank you, Neutral Cycle!) toward Meadowbrook Park.

August has been dry and wondered whether any royal catchfly or cardinal flowers would remain. So my quest was to see what they looked like at this stage of summer.

At Meadowbrook walked Rhododendron toward the Art and Billie Spomer Prairie. To the east, the wooded area looked parched and damaged,


reminding me of some recent events in my life and in the world at large. Is this the direction of everything? Is entropy winning already?

But walked on, over the little wooden bridge spanning a dry bed of McCullough Creek.


As I walked in, there were wingstem,




wild senna,




delicate big bluestem flowers,


the last Baptisia flowers,




compass plant,




tick trefoil,


cup plant


the ever-handsome false sunflower,




And then, cream gentian.


And then, lots of cream gentian!


Just under the “vegetation line” they were in recent abundance, the clusters of pointed white flowers, pristine and vigorous. Wondered whether the recent lack of rain was especially favorable for them.

Wondered whether there were any royal catchfly left; did not see any from the path. But walked in a little where I knew they’d been and looked carefully and there they were, the last of the bright red stars.


Saw a lovely cluster of wild quinine flowers lit by the rising sun


The prairie was resplendent with the early sun slanting through the mist on this floral array! Thoughts of damage were banished.

Close to the end of the soft path, encountered a deer (maybe more than one; it’s getting hard to remember), a frequent, but because of their size always noteworthy, occurrence at Meadowbrook Park.


At the end of the soft path where it joined the paved path near the little arch bridge over Davis Creek were blooming wild sage, in their striking shade of light blue.


On the way to the rabbit-statue bridge saw cardinal flowers, advanced in their bloom, at the recently discovered easy-access location.


Stopped on the rabbit-statue bridge and saw still several spikes of red!


Did not go in; was glad at least I’d been close to the red flowers a little earlier.


They were marvelous, even at a distance.

Then home.

Saturday 15 July 2017. Meadowbrook Summer Prairie Crowned by Royal Catchfly

This morning at 6:07 it was 59 degrees F under party cloudy skies, the air calm.

Just returned from several days in the Colorado mountains (yes, they were awesome!) and was eager to see what what the summer prairie bloom at Meadowbrook Park was doing.

Rode Rhododendron the road bike southward to Windsor Road and barely stopped before pushing the button and crossing. They seemed to have worked the bugs out of the system, hooray!

Then entered Meadowbrook at the Race Street entrance, passed by the Sensory Garden, and walked the bike toward the Art and Billie Spomer Prairie.

On the way, at the edge of the wooded area next to the pavilion were American bellflowers.


McCullough Creek under the little wooden bridge was low and pooled. Was there some kind of dam upstream? The water level seemed to have gone down quickly.

Out in the prairie, looked for queen-of-the-prairie where I’d seen it a couple years ago but couldn’t see any this morning. Did not walk out into the dew-drenched vegetation to look more carefully.

But saw the early sunlight coming through the thin layer of mist that still lay over the prairie


and through the condensation on the flowers and leaves of the prairie plants.


Saw spiderwebs finely beaded with dewdrops.


There was a gorgeous variety of prairie flowers blooming in synchrony, like a massive bouquet:

False sunflowers, Monarda,


yellow coneflowers, Liatris,


Culver’s root.


Compass plant, with its erect, finger-like leaves,


large, bursting-yellow radiating flower-discs


stacked on its outrageously tall stalk,


alone and in groups,


was compellingly photogenic.

There were abundant rattlesnake master and mountain mint


purple coneflower.


Best of all, the royal catchfly were newly in bloom! They were stunning in bunches,




and in combination with other flowers.


On the way out got pretty close to a buck who seemed to have planned to walk right to where I was.


Was not afraid he would charge me or something, but did have respect for his size, strength, and independence as “wild” creature. So I calmly stood where I was and tried to look at him in a way that conveyed: “No worries, dude, I’m not a threat,” and he veered off to the left.

Got a nice view of the sky over the prairie


and headed back, stopping first for a view of McCullough Creek from the rabbit-statue bridge.


Was glad to be there for the presentation!