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!

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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.

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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,

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Monarda,

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mountain mint,

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

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common milkweed

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butterfly milkweed,

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Baptisia,

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and an early-blooming aster.

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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.

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Rode as far as High Cross and Ford Harris

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and turned back.

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

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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.

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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.

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And, as at Meadowbrook, troubled by Japanese beetles.

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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 7 May 2017. No Fox

It was 41 degrees F under clear skies at 7:30 this morning as I finally got Shadow on the road. Headed north and east to see whether the fox would be in its customary place across Main Street from the Dart plastic-lid factory.

It was not.

So went on to see what was happening at the edge of Weaver Park.

Blooming were golden Alexanders.

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Recognized shoots of common milkweed, wild bergamot (Monarda), I’m pretty sure,

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as well as prairie dock, compass plant, cup plant, to name a few.

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Rode only to the edge of Weaver and turned back.

Across the street on the way back were pink evening primrose in a garden generously planted in native plants

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The field next to the Dart parking lot bloomed in butterweed.

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Wondered whether there would be corn or soybeans (if anything) planted there this year.

Sunday 23 April 2017. Brownfield Woods with Woodland Phlox, and Sighting the Fox

It was 38 degrees F under clear skies at 6:05 am, the sun about to come up. Rolled Shadow out of the garage to head east and north, per the wind direction. Have learned my lesson that even a reportedly small wind velocity can make a difference when it’s blowing straight at you. Also, had been wanting to visit Brownfield Woods (to the east and north) to see the bloom of the Dutchman’s britches but never managed that. Now it was time for woodland Phlox and didn’t want to
miss that, too.

Headed out Main Street, past the little grove of burr oaks.

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Noticed a good-sized reddish, furry creature lounging under the oak trees that didn’t seem especially perturbed by my presence. It seemed to be the Sunday morning fox right around where I’d seen it on several Sundays in the past, as if waiting for my visit. Marveled at the “bushiness” of what appeared to be its tail. The only feature I wasn’t sure about was its face, which could have been a cat’s. A very large cat’s. After I took several pictures and so had been staring at it for a while, it got up and ambled back away from the street and toward a line of trees and the sound of a multi-breed chorus of barking dogs.

Rode on Main Street until it ended at University Avenue, crossed University and rode through the Beringer subdivision. Checked the ponds but saw no ducks.

Crossing the I-74 bridge was very glad to be wearing the felted mittens I’d just finished making

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Saw not one but two dead possums along the road that paved the bridge. No pics of that for the blog. Remembered the possum remains I used to observe (described in older posts) at the north side of the bridge that had taken years to decompose and be grown over. Didn’t plan to follow these the same way but made a note to look next time I come this way.

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Was happy to reach Olympian Drive and turn back.

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It was kind of disappointing to look back and notice how I’ve been taking fewer and shorter rides than I used to. But no use not enjoying where I was then! And where I am now, reflecting on it.

On the way back –tailwind!–stopped for shots of woodland Phlox.

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This seemed to be a good year for them,

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and today appeared to be the peak of the bloom.

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Oh, lovely stars of blue! Was especially glad to have caught this bloom because of having missed the Dutchman’s breeches.

Butterweed, which bursts yellow in seemingly random patches of sometimes great abundance in farm fields and near streams

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provided a striking yellow contrast.

Saw the fox (was convinced for a while that it was a cat but the ears decided the ID) again on the way back.

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Saturday 22 April 2017. Through the Marathon to See Blue-Winged Teal

It was 45 degrees F under cloudy skies with an east-northeast wind this morning at 7:45 as I walked Shadow out of the garage. My goal was to bring a pair of binoculars to the sunken pond, (the purported historical buffalo-wallow) in Weaver Park, and and see whether any ducks were stopping there for spring migration, as they had in previous years.

An obstacle to this goal was the running of the Illinois Marathon, a big community event, the route of which pretty much circled inner Champaign-Urbana and blocked my path to anywhere away from the center of town.

Actually was excited to be close to the festivity of the event and waited for a while at the corner of Green and Cedar to watch crowds of medium-serious runners,

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a couple of whom I recognized and cheered for, pass by.

After a little while of watching turned south away from the route and rode along Washington Street until the route joined Washington going east.

Rode on the sidewalk paralleling the runners until the route went south again at Kinch Street.

By this time there were enough gaps between groups of runners that I could slip across the street and proceed to Weaver Park. Here is a view from the other side.

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Made it to Weaver Park, with its unimproved “trails,”

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but nice row of windbreak (Osage orange?) trees.

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Saw that there were, alas, the pervasive Canada geese (though not many) but also some duck-looking fowl. Whipped out the binoculars and was delighted to locate 5 or 6 pairs of blue-winged teal! Even got an iPhone shot where you might be able to detect some non-mallard ducks.

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The binoculars also revealed a single striking black and white duck way across the pond that would dive completely under the water and resurface after a little while. Would call it a lesser scaup but was unable to get a photo.

After the stop at Weaver rode on to the east with the thought of crossing High Cross Road,

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which is a great place to view the sky,

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but my hands were cold (knew then that I should have worn these,

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which I’d just finished knitting (without a pattern!) and felting), so turned back.

The way back was almost clear of runners; took the liberty of cheering and shouting encouragement to the ones at the very end. And headed home.

Saturday 11 February 2017. Weaver Park and to Cottonwood Road

It was 43 degrees F at 7:48 this morning under thinly cloudy skies as I departed on Shadow for Weaver Park.

Meadowbrook would have been satisfying even if it were the only place to go, but wanted to check out another favorite place, so headed east on Main Street, stopping for a view of the little oak grove across Main from the Dart plant.

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Was surprised by the volume of traffic already on Main Street and wondered whether that was why I didn’t see the fox I have seen there several times before, though only on Sundays. Maybe that explains it.

Stopped at the first sign of non-living but beautiful plant forms at Weaver.

There were goldenrod,

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Monarda, or was it false sunflower?

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Thought of being content with just that, but the path was so accessible I couldn’t resist following it a little longer, first to the right, where there were a lot of blackberry brambles,

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and then to the left, bordered by old oak trees.

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Saw an abundance of of brushy, dark-brown bush clover seed heads.

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And oh, the refreshment of standing under a stream of flying (common sometimes to the point of pestilence, but still) wild geese

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Then a surge of energy, provided perhaps by this refreshment, as well as thinking of the birth, late last night during the full moon, of my newest great nephew(!), carried me off farther east on Main, through the Beringer subdivision to High Cross Road over I-74 and east on Airport again to Cottonwood Road. Felt like I barely pedaled!

Crossed US Rte 150 and beheld with joy, gratitude, and anticipation the incipient Kickapoo bike trail!

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Proceeded south on Cottonwood, which still sported a bordering strip of snow.

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Then the almost effortless ride became noticeably effort-full as I pointed Shadow to the west on Washington Street.

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Aha, full circle!

So it goes. Sometimes life is easy, sometimes it’s hard, it can be either way at any time. And hard is not necessarily horrible, thought not to deny that horrible sometimes happens. It was not happening today, however. Just pleasantly challenging. I like to think we have some degree (not unlimited!) of choice about whether to view a difficulty as horrible or pleasantly challenging. It depends on our inner state, which has its own parameters.

Back in town, just east of Lierman Road stopped for a splash of color along the bike lane:

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on the ground were little bright-red haws that had clung to their branches through most of the winter until they came down last night, or not much before. They made me anticipate the coming spring and its move away from muted, neutral shades and into color.

Sunday 10 July 2016. Weaver Beauties, and the Fork in High Cross Road

It was 61 degrees F, the sky clear, this morning at 6:15 as I wheeled Rhododendron out of the garage (and then back in briefly for some lubricant on the chain) and headed toward Main Street and High Cross Road.

The sun was well-clear of the horizon so didn’t get any sunrise shots.

But the morning was beautiful, and the buzzing of waking doubts and worries about the usual things, and and now some new ones, began to yield to the sweet, cool air and the road under my wheels.

Stopped at the outer edge of Weaver Park, where an abundance of native prairie plants had been planted. And a lot of them were blooming together–a mid-July prairie bouquet.

Included were wild bergamot

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false sunflower and cup plant

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yellow coneflower,

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purple coneflower

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rosinweed

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and compass plant.

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Also saw flower stalks of the fourth Sylphium “sister,” prairie dock, but it was too far into the middle of the planting to get a good shot.

Did not venture southward to the buffalo-wallow pond but rode on through the Beringer subdivision to High Cross Road, over the I-74 bridge and over the Saline Branch through slightly moist air that varied from comfortably cool to comfortably a little cooler in the lower micro-altitudes.

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Along Brownfield Woods, not much was obviously blooming among the poison ivy, stinging nettle, and giant ragweed except Joe Pye weed,

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Which is so tall and the flowers so small that it’s hard to get a good photo of them.

Seemed like herbicide had been applied to a good stretch of the edge of Brownfield between the road and the outside of the fence. Alas.

Saw the sun catch the fuzzy leaves of a field of vigorous-looking soybean plants.

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Then noticed a visual pun,

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which made me laugh out loud. Reminded me of the bones and other materials I’ve observed imbedded in roads, how the road has modern fossils and is made of more things than we’d guess.

Went as far as Ford Harris Road

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a nice little corner where soapwort

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and a few other non-native but nice enough flowers bloomed.

Also it was a good place to see how crazy-huge and already-tasseling the corn was.

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On the way back saw an impressive three-flower-spiked great mullein plant.

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Across Airport from Brownfield Woods spotted a cluster of attractive very pale-pink flower-spikes I couldn’t immediately identify.

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Close-up, the structure of the flowers looked wildly exotic.

Later looked it up, and it turned out to be American Germander (Teucrium canadense) which now I remember finding a couple of years ago, a little farther north on High Cross and wondering why its name referred to three (or at least two) different countries.

Noticed in the home stretch back that now I felt all engaged in this ride, that the worries and doubts were folded and stowed into the appropriate compartments and for this while I gratefully occupied the present. Hooray!