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 10 September 2017. A Short, Chilly Ride on the KRT

It was 48 (no way!) degrees F at 7:00 am under clear skies as I headed out Main Street to the Kickapoo Rail to Trail bike path. Usually I’m not a fan of doing the exact same ride so soon, but I like this trail so much just want to keep doing it and observe the subtle differences from one time to the next.

In the interest of warmth, did wear a long-sleeved shirt and my cycling windbreaker but with shorts and Keen sandals. And who would think mittens would have been useful in early September? Big mistake!

So didn’t think too much of the chill I felt stopping at Weaver Park to get some nice early-light views of tall Coreopsis,


Black-eyed Susans


compass plant


and rosinweed,


not to mention that most handsome pairing of common goldenrod and New England aster with a foil of cup plant leaves

img_3645and a tall but leaning-over sawtoothed sunflower


Figured it would get warm as I rode on.

Passed the little grove of oaks where I used to see a fox every time I rode past it on a Sunday, but for the second time (last week also) did not see one. Guess it could be hiding among the soybean plants.

Crossed High Cross Road where the trail begins and recorded a view of its terminus.



The scenery was beautiful, the Helianthus blooms as yellow as road signs,


but I was not warming up. Debated internally whether to push on or to turn back at some point short of the original destination of St Joseph.


My fingers were numb and my toes were cold (Keen sandals had been quite comfortable before today), but pushed on.


Made it to Cottonwood Road


then turned back.

But stopped for the enticing view of white masses of tall boneset among the goldenrod.


Back in town, stopped at the Walmart near the beginning of the trail and bought a pair of socks and a pair of high-vis fleece gloves.


It was too late to really get warm but was glad for the little bit of protection.

At the very beginning of the trail, just west of High Cross Road, saw a nice spray of goldenrod with contrasting thistle and stopped to catch a shot of it.


Then high-tailed it on Washington Street

toward the warmth of home!

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 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.


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.


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.


The edge of the purported buffalo-wallow pond was richly decorated with newly blooming prairie plants, like Monarda,


yellow coneflower, cup plants, an early aster,


and, most whimsically, the candelabra of Culver’s root,


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


and on past Cottonwood Road to the “T” at 1800N.


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.


Continued north, crossing the Saline Ditch,


and detecting some roll in the grade of the road.


Just before heading back stopped to look down into a creek


then turned back at the road just past Ford Harris Road.


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.


Got a distant shot of a dickcissel


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.


It was another satisfying 20 miles!

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 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.


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


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


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


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


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