Saturday 27 May 2017. Out Yankee Ridge Road via Lush Meadowbrook

It was 64 degrees F at 6:20 under cloudy skies this morning as I got Rhododendron the road bike out for a long-awaited spin!
The nice people at Neutral Cycle put the pedal crank back into is working position, replaced the cables and brake pads, and reduced the number of speeds to five (really, who needs more than that, at least in central Illinois?) by removing the rusted-out front derailleur.

Was amazed by Rhododendron’s speed and smoothness and didn’t stop until Windsor Road, where I did not wait long to cross.

Made the customary stop at the rabbit-statue bridge.

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Then sought blue flag irises, which I found, more abundant and widespread than I ever remember seeing them.

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And of course there were spiderwort

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and Penstemon.

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Pasture rose provided a pink counterpoint to the greens, white and blue.

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At the Freyfogle overlook was lead plant, with its festive-looking foliage.

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The clouds broke up enough to reveal some blue sky and cloud-shapes over the land.

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Saw dew-beaded spiderwebs.

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The flowers and foliage at Meadowbrook this morning were spectacular and particularly uplifting, at least to this observer!

Then rode along Windsor road on the “sidewalk,” (which I see more as a multi-use path) to Philo Road and east on Old Church, then south on Yankee Ridge Road.

Here is Yankee Ridge at Old Church Road, viewed from the west

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as ever, a place of quiet. I think of it as a bit of sacred silence, accompanied by its stark and subtly beautiful view.

Wanted to go on

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but time limitations prompted me to turn back at the road that is paved to the east but is wet and unpaved to the west.

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Returning home rode into a north wind (which explains the ease of the trip out) and just wanted to get back!

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The fog blew toward me and I was sure it would rain even though the phone Ap assured me it wouldn’t. There was nothing to do (as is so common in so many aspects of life!) but hunker down and press on.

After some discomfort just settled into it as if I were lost, but not in a bad way, just absorbed in the present. And made it back with some satisfaction.

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Tuesday 22 March 2016. Stretching Out with the South Wind on South Race

It was about 7:15 this spring break morning as I headed on Discovery II into the south wind on Race Street. The sky was mostly clear and the temperature was 41 degrees F.

Beautiful as the bursting spring garden flowers were (status of the progression: Aconite flowers gone, snowdrops mostly gone, crocuses past their peak, scilla about at peak, daffodils and hyacinths not quite at peak, and hellebores, the first signs of floral life way back in early February, are at peak and seeming to peak further, with foliage that will persist with vigor until fall (still can’t believe how much of my life was empty of their awareness), what I wanted to do this morning was to ride out into the country.

A cluster of planted native bloodroot, however, proved attractive enough to stop the ride fairly early on for a photo.

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Then rode south (and heard a white-throated sparrow for the first time this year!) into the wind toward Meadowbrook Park, though did not plan to stop. Focused on the movement of the ride, though have to admit that “mind-stuff” still snuck in for attention: thoughts about limits, anger, forgiveness, confusion….. It was lol funny then to recall the German-accented words of Ekhart Tolle in Practicing the Power of Now that I’d been listening to lately: “Irritation arises….”
Like when I stopped at the new traffic lights at Windsor Road. There was a bit of AM “rush ” traffic (though lighter because of spring break), so it seemed to fill some kind of need. Irritation also can dissolve.

Rode through the construction at Clark-Lindsay to the left and a lot of cutting of trees and clearing of undergrowth to the right: a corridor of change.

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Stopped where Race Street crosses McCullough Creek. Downstream from Meadowbrook, the view was so different with so much growth cleared away.

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Nothing to do from where I stand but get used to it. And observe.

The bridge was a good place to hear birds: woodpeckers and one very vocal bluejay.

A little way down, the road opened into black, early spring fields: ah, space!

Passed the University egg sales outlet during that tiny window of time when it’s open but was not properly equipped to buy.

Stopped at Old Church Road

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Then when I turned back, was able to ride the wind:

The wind’s at my back,
But in front the air is calm
As I race homeward.

Friday 10 April (Day 10, 30 Days of Biking) 2015. Obstacles and What to Do About Them

It was 43 degrees this morning at 6:15 and mostly cloudy.

Missed my usual morning swim (note to self: always have a clear safety circle when practicing Sirsasana, especialy early in the morning, especially when doing a variation using a block) but was able to get in a bike ride. Rode east on Washington Street, as the pink magnolias were just starting their brief but glorious bloom.

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Hadn’t ridden Washington Street for a while and enjoyed the smooth surface.

Was happy to make a quick stop at Weaver Park, though it always involves crossing a non-path area. For whatever reasons, Weaver is not an especially accessible park. But got to hear frogs–not bullfrogs, for sure, but didn’t know which they were. Also there were wary ducks (too far away to identify) and just a few geese. Noticed that the prairie surrounding the pond (once a buffalo-wallow, I’m told) had recently been burned.

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Was a little dismayed to see that Washington east of High Cross Road still was closed, as it had been since last summer.

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At least it was possible to climb the ledge where the road ended and where it began again.

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Noticed that there was a layer of brick in the old road.

On the way back was smacked with quite a head-wind. Less observing was possible, just paced myself and mostly enjoyed the exertion.

Sunday 29 March 2015. All the Way to To Yankee Ridge

It was 28 degrees at 6:45 this morning, the sky mostly clear and a mostly steady (but not exactly warm) wind blowing from the south.

Wore the long down coat, the slightly awkward mounting of Davy’s Grey notwithstanding. It was the right decision.

After a short yoga practice (slowly learning to tease apart the benefits from the dangers of the bent-knee standing poses–a good thing for cycling) this morning to ride to Yankee Ridge at Old Church Road.

Noted the continued presence of the lone one-time apple on “my” tree but did not stop to photograph it.

Rode to Windsor Road and turned east.
Did not stop until I got to the prairie area inside the “small loop,” which recently had been burned.

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It smelled very strongly of smoke and looked so flat, with a few small shrubby trees punctuating the expanse of charred plants, which now also had a coat of frost.

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Rode up the Windsor/Vine bridge and got a shot of alders, full of drapey catkins and old fruits.

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Rode on Windsor to Philo Road and south, into the wind and uphill. Some resistance! Nevertheless it was lovely to be out in the sun, on the road! Once again thought of exertion and difficulty not having to be disturbing. But did not stop for a lot of pictures.

Maintained the mostly pleasant effort but noticed it was a longer ride (I know, it’s not that far) than I’ve gotten used to. Did look forward to the way back and the tailwind.

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At the corner of Philo and Old Church got a shot to the west. Noticed the Barnhart prairie restoration had recently been burned.

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Rode just to the crest of Yankee Ridge and got a view of the land below,

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but the sun was up to high go get a decent photo.

The way back was much easier and quite enjoyable for the combination of the tailwind and the road being downhill. So did stop this time to get a shot of the private orchard on Philo Road, with its still-bare and quite trimmed (unlike the one in Race Street) branches.

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Was eager to come back to Yankee Ridge and beyond!.

Saturday 14 March 2015. Winter-Spring

This morning at 7:20 am it was 43 degrees F, the sky packed with contiguous clouds in shades of grey and a fairly stiff north wind blowing.

Have been fighting a cold, and really did start to feel better during yoga practice. Included was the 5-minute Pascimottanasana prescribed by my teacher as this week’s “homework,” which started a little like “herding cats” (all those wandering thoughts!) but ended with a better relationship between the upper and lower halves of my body.

But still felt like I was not firing on all cylinders as I rode south on Race Street toward Meadowbrook Park.

Stopped to note that the lone shriveled apple still clung to “my” tree.

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Passed the grove of spruce trees under which there had been an explosion of white-spotted orange mushrooms in the fall

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and wondered what might be coming up in the spring.

Did not completely relax into the rhythm of pedaling, my cold was a barrier, but eventually did smooth out some and enjoy the increased volume of breath that one gets from moderate exercise. The tail-wind (which I didn’t notice except in retrospect as a lack of resistance) helped.

At Meadowbrook the ice of last week was gone, making the path much less troublesome to navigate.

The water at the rabbit-statue bridge was quite high, and Davis Creek flowed in with certainty.

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Heard and saw red-winged blackbirds, (with their several song variations), for the first time this year. Stopped for a shot of the wet area where they were abundant, where soon, if the past several springs were an indication, there would be blue flag irises, and, later in the season, rose mallows.

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It was a place where cardinal flowers had bloomed in late summers past but not for the previous three or four years.
Would this be the year when they reappeared?

When the path turned north was greeted by head-wind. It was hard going. Felt colder today and more wintry than last week when there still was snow and ice around. So that’s what wind chill is about. Would not say I felt content, exactly: the discomfort limited my ability to connect with my surroundings. Still, there was satisfaction in being there, observing what was, discomfort notwithstanding. Hoped I could call up this state when I found myself in other kinds of difficulty.

Did not see a single deer. They must have been keeping out of the wind somewhere.

Farther on in the the dormant prairie, among the faded remains of last year’s growth of prairie plants, were a few standing Baptisia stalks, pods waving and clacking in the wind.

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Winter does not always yield readily.

Tuesday 29 April 2014. Windy Ride to Yankee Ridge w/ a Shooting Star Stop

Set out on Rhododendron for parts southeast at 1:30 pm today. The temperature was 61 degrees F and the sky a mixture of clear and cloudy, depending what part of it you saw. It was windy, briskly from the south-southwest, which meant the trip out involved providing energy (work) to counteract the air in motion. It made me think of a line in a Talking Heads song, “Air can hurt you, too.”

Stopped to photograph “my” awakening apple tree and the spring flowers that surrounded it.

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Sped (slowed a little by the headwind) along the western edge of Meadowbrook Park, right over McCullough Creek without stopping, alas, but heading directly for the middle of the prairie to see whether any shooting star flowers had opened. Was very happy to see the water on the trail, evidence of the recent, much-needed rain.

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Took a while to locate the little shooting star plants among last year’s prostrate yellow-grey grass, but did find them at last, and at least two had open flowers already!

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It was difficult to get a good focus on the flowers, for some reason. Remembered this difficulty from last year.

Checked farther down the path to another place where I’d seen a few plants last year, and there were quite a number of patches of them in bud.

Then headed out toward Philo Road and on to Yankee Ridge.

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It was work to proceed southward!

Had wanted to go farther, but between the wind and the shortness of time, turned back just after going over quiet Yankee Ridge on Old Church Road.

Really enjoyed the help from the tail wind on the way back!

Sunday 27 April 2014. A Bit of Struggle to First Street

Heard the first avian announcement, the rousing robin solo (How do they decide which robin gets to do it? Is it the same bird for several days in a row or do they take turns? No, in nature they’re more likely to fight over it, I think. Or maybe the early bird is just stuck with it….) at 4:15, no kidding, this morning!

Later, getting ready to go out, heard a white-throated sparrow, though not in the “largo” version, alas.

Made it out by 5:50, when it was cloudy and 54 degrees F, with that strange easterly wind blowing.

Determined, after several days during 30 Days of Biking of short trips to put in a few miles. So headed out for south First Street, even though I still felt a bit under the weather.

Noticed that “my” apple tree was coming back to life, which, together with the quiet of the street in the rest of its spring array, was energizing.

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Short trips in the middle of the day can be nice enough, but there’s nothing like devoting the quiet time of the morning to observing the world around one as it is. Even fighting a cold.

Stopped at the prairie planting on Florida Avenue to see what was emerging.

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Passed by Japan House and noted that the fabulous cherry blossoms were a few days away from their future glory.
Headed west on Windsor and stopped to check out the Izzak Walton pond at First Street. Saw only a single goose and mallard duck, but spotted a bunch of aligned goose feathers on the ground. Couldn’t imagine how that happened, except maybe that the rest If the goose escaped a predator. (?)

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First Street was windy, though mostly with a cross-wind, which didn’t impede progress too much.

Passing the U of I Swine Research facility noted a particularly assertive olfactory presence.

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Wanted to ride far enough out First Street to pass all the new housing developments. Not sure I did, but turned back where there were some Angus cattle in the front yard.

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On the way back was glad First Street was mostly downhill, because the wind was angling a bit northeasterly. For 54 degrees (and I having cycled through the winter, for crying out loud!), I was rather cold, and not sure whether the joy of being on the road was outweighing the discomfort. It was curious example (though not extreme, as these things go) of pain and pleasure duking it out. Thought of how much more pleasant it would be later in the season. But that was getting away from the precious present moment.

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Which now is distinctly a pleasure to recall.