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

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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.

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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,

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soon was in familiar territory.

Headed out Brownfield Road,

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

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

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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.

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

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Crossed the Salt Fork.

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Where a great blue heron waded.

Stopped at the prairie-planted Lincoln “shrine”

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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,

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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Stopped at the edge of Weaver Park,

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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

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purple coneflowers,

and tick trefoil.

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

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

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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.

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Crossed Interstate 74

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

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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.

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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.

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Rode by Trelease Woods,

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across the road from which noticed
briars

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and brambles.

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

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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.

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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,

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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.

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As I walked in, there were wingstem,

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thistle,

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wild senna,

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ironweed,

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delicate big bluestem flowers,

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the last Baptisia flowers,

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Physostegia,

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compass plant,

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Gaura,

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tick trefoil,

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cup plant

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the ever-handsome false sunflower,

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rosinweed.

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And then, cream gentian.

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And then, lots of cream gentian!

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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

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

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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.

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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

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

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Saw spiderwebs finely beaded with dewdrops.

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

False sunflowers, Monarda,

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yellow coneflowers, Liatris,

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Culver’s root.

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

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large, bursting-yellow radiating flower-discs

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stacked on its outrageously tall stalk,

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alone and in groups,

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was compellingly photogenic.

There were abundant rattlesnake master and mountain mint

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purple coneflower.

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

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close-up,

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and in combination with other flowers.

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

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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

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

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Was glad to be there for the presentation!

Sunday 2 July 2017. A Perfect Ride to Windsor Road to Homer Lake Road

This morning at 5:30 it was 65 degrees and clear, with a 2 mph breeze from the WSW, calm enough to head in pretty much any direction. So headed Rhododendron in toward Windsor Road (which I was pretty sure was free of loose dogs) with the goal of going a ways east.

Was glad to get a reasonably early start without sacrificing headstand or Pranayama, and pedaled smoothly through the perfectly comfortable (with the light cycling jacket) morning air to Windsor Road.

And there was Meadowbrook Park, which I hadn’t planned to visit, but thought, why not? and soon was taking a photo of the sun coming up over McCullough Creek at the rabbit-statue bridge.

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A mud bar separated Davis Creek from its connection with McCullough Creek.

The cup plants on the on the downstream side of the bridge stood vigorous and illuminated with the sunrise.

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A layer of mist rested on the prairie and spread out the light of the climbing sun.

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The air was scented with mint and bergamot.

Wondered if the willowy wet area harbored queen of the prairie but didn’t see any. Did spot a swamp milkweed, but didn’t stop for a photo so I wouldn’t miss the sun rising over the remaining mist.

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Might have gotten a really nice shot of the deer in the mist if I’d arrived at the site two minutes earlier.

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Oh well. Nice enough.

Did get a nice yellow coneflower-misty sunrise.

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Stopped at The Freyfogle overlook and saw fresh Culver’s root with mountain mint,

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spherical pink common milkweed blooms and already-red blackberries.

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Noticed how lovely were the lead plants,
which seemed to thrive despite a recent onslaught of insects.

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Then rode out of the park and straight east on Windsor. The air was calm, except for a “biker’s breeze”, and the grade seemed to go up for stretches (though mostly down), which promised a reasonable return ride.

Was filled with the joy of early morning out in the country in perfect weather.

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Did not expect quite this perfection and tried to let as much of it in as possible. Yes, yes, yes!

Rode past a ditch where I remembered seeing a family of raccoons.

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There were no raccoons today, but it’s always fun to peer down into a stream, a different world from the surrounding farm fields.

Above the creek banks, near the road, were abundant soapwort blooms,

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exotic weeds, but so softly pink and fresh and dewey.

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Even these plantain weeds looked like stately sculptures in this morning’s fine light.

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Farther on, saw a sign I thought was rather humorous

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The dangerous hill actually was hard to detect. Ah, my beloved central Illinois!

Then crossed a little tributary of the Salt Fork (of the Vermillion River)
where I think I always have seen wood ducks whenever I’ve been there, adults and ducklings, no less. Looked into the water, and there they were!

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There is something special about this place.

Then rode to where the road bent to the north

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A little way and then “T’d” into Homer Lake Road.

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Rode east a little way, crossed the Salt Fork, and stopped at the nicely landscaped marker of the historic site of Kelley’s Tavern, where it says Lincoln used to visit.

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The bloom seemed different from what I recall from last year. Lots more milkweed.

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Stopped for a view of the beautiful Salt Fork

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Then turned back and retraced my route. There were horses fenced on the southeast corner where Windsor Road met Homer Lake Road, and the tail of one caught the morning sun as swished and spread wide its long horse-hairs. Didn’t manage to get a photo, but the glittering image stayed with me as I returned home on this pleasant ride, pleasant to the end.

Wednesday 21 June 2017. Sunrise on the Solstice at Meadowbrook

It was 64 degrees F at 5:15 this morning of the first day of summer and the longest day of the year!

Was thrilled (and amazed) to have gotten myself going early enough to be heading to Meadowbrook Park on Rhododendron ahead of the phone weather ap’s promised 5:23 sunrise.

Did as little as possible (alas, no Pranayama!) to get out to witness the Solstice sunrise at Meadowbrook.

Sped to the park and caught the sun at the rabbit-statue bridge.

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Over the bridge and around the corner looked to the north out into the prairie and saw a thin layer of mist on the ground, which enhanced the atmosphere of the sunrise.

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Tried not to tarry on the path but noted spiderwort, the occasional lingering Penstemon bloom, black-eyed Susans, false sunflowers, lots of purple coneflowers in early bloom, and emerging Baptisia, with its stately white spikes of blooms that play tag-team with the Penstemon’s white flower spikes.

Got another view of the sunrise over the little bridge across Davis Creek

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and a sunrise view of a handsome Baptisia spike.

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But the flowers in which I was most interested on this solstice ride were the lead plant at the Freyfogle overlook.

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Which, against the slings and arrows of insect attack,

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were well into their micro-gaudy deep blue-violet and orange bloom.

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On the bird house to the north of the overlook were perched unmoving tree swallows, and in front of them (not pictured, alas, you have to trust me), a bright yellow and back goldfinch,

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that amazing stimulator of human endorphins. (At least for some humans. If you’re reading this you probably are one–try focusing on a goldfinch for a moment next time you get a chance and see what happens.)

Felt like I stood firmly and with joyful awareness on the summit of the year. Hooray! Let the summer begin!

Saturday 3 June 2017. Greeting the Early Sun and Catching the Abundance of Spiderwort and Penstemon

It was 67 degrees F under mostly clear, mostly calm skies at 5:17 this morning as I wheeled Rhododendron down the driveway and toward South Race Street.

Was determined to be present to receive the gift of additional daylight and thus additional time with which to take in the outdoors. I am a morning person but this year have not quite managed to get up with the birds and not squeeze in too many little activities to make it out the door before official sunrise. Until today!

The bike felt smooth and easy, and the morning was fresh and of a perfect temperature, but today I felt very much not quite awake. As an inveterate morning person, this does not happen to me very often, but when it does I think of the night-people who have to be awake early for something unusual and am sorry for my past insufficient empathy for their situation.

Stopped not far into the ride for the irresistible pastel cabbage roses

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and the fuchsia-colored sweet peas

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Looked like there were lots of little apples on “my” tree.

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Saw some Amanita mushrooms under the spruce trees,

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but not tons of shiny, new, succulent specimens.

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Saw also a couple individuals of another species,

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which looked healthy enough.

At Meadowbrook Park, was delighted to welcome the rising sun.

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Stopped at several spots to take it in, over McCullough Creek at the rabbit-statue bridge

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and down the path a little way

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Wondered whether there still would be blue flag irises, and, oh, there were!

Framed by prairie dock leaves,

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and close-up.

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The park was empty, the morning fresh, already mint-fragrant!
the Penstemon

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and the spiderwort

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therapeutically abundant!

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Stopped at the Freyfogle overlook

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to check on the lead plant, which were in bud, but, alas, bearing a collection of robust shiny reddish-brown beetles on their foliage.

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Fervently hoped the beetles were just resting there or at least readily sated with little damage to the plant’s integrity.

Rode on through gloriously abundant white Penstemon and blue spiderwort. The landscape was deeply soul-filling. Was happy to be smack in the middle of another stage of the year that’s anticipated before it comes and missed when it’s finished.

Near the Vine Street entrance to the park got a shot of the abundant serviceberries

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Then rode west on Windsor to check the lead plant at the City of Champaign Prairie Restoration, which more than ever looked in need of stewardship,

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so overgrown with invasive exotics. But the lead plants looked well enough.

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Did not want to walk through the overgrowth to check for beetles on these.

Rode south on First Street, which felt mostly uphill! My hip muscles were starting to tire though knees and shoulders were happy enough. At 900 S, turned back.

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On the way back stopped at the roadside prairie garden, which featured spiderwort, lace-edged (not an official name, just a description) cup plant,

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butterfly weed

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and a small, less showy milkweed.

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Spied a great blue heron while crossing over a creek on First Street. Parked the bike and carefully walked back to the bridge, Just in time to see the heron take off.

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They sure are wary.

Got a shot of a dickcissel (had been hearing lots of these “mini-meadowlarks”) on a fence post.

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The way home was mostly downhill, which I gratefully enjoyed!