Sunday 6 August 2017. New Cardinal Flowers and Homer Lake Road, One Month Later

It was 64 degrees F under thickly cloudy skies at about 6:15 this morning as the New and Improved Rhododendron (especially the new freewheel and chain!) and I headed to Meadowbrook Park.

Saw the wondrous cardinal flowers from the rabbit-statue bridge,

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but did not go down to see them close-up.

Close to the banks, cup plants were in bloom.

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Rode over the bridge, around the corner, and down the path to look for cardinal flowers in the wet willowy area where they had been in some (not all) years past, but saw none.

But then noticed two spikes of cardinal flowers on the other side of path,

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close enough to view without walking in at all!

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Then a little farther east, on the south side of the path, was a profusion of pink, purple, and blue-violet flowers: swamp milkweed (some aphid-bearing),

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Liatris,

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and blue vervain.

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Farther down the path were tick trefoil,

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which was not as abundant as I’ve seen in past years, victims of insect herbivory, it seems, Monarda, and a spike of American bellflower.

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Later focused on the yellow flowers, Sylphium species: compass plants (S.laciniatum)

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rosinweed (S.integrifolium),

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and even the occasionally prairie dock (S. terebinthinaceum) bloom,

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in addition to the cup plants (S. perfoliatum) farther
back: four tall, robust, sandpaper-leafed, yellow-flowered Sylphium “sisters!”

Also in yellow, a little more distantly related and more delicate, were tall Coreopsis.

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Interspersed was bush clover,

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with its handsome, delicate bluish foliage.

Hidden lower among other foliage saw the first buds of this year’s cream gentians

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The list of common native flowers observed this morning still is incomplete; they are so many now! I will just mention: common milkweed with maturing pods, Baptisia with green pods, and remaining though past peak rattlesnake master, purple coneflowers, yellow coneflowers, false sunflowers, and Culver’s root.

Then headed away from Meadowbrook Park, east on Windsor Road.

Corn to the left of me, soybeans to the right, here I am, central Illinois!

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Rode next to the creek, a little tributary of the Salt Fork that paralleled Windsor Road for a while.

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As I did a month ago on this route, stopped to photograph the exotic but lovely pink soapwort blooms.

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There was the sign to warn of the dangerous hill

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but still couldn’t tell exactly where it was.

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Central Illinois, alright.

Looked down at the crossing of another little tributary where I’d often seen wood ducks before,

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but saw none this time.

Did see some nice swamp milkweed.

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Rode as far as the junction with Homer Lake Road

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and this time instead of doubling back headed left, toward east Washington Street. On the way passed a small clearing at the edge of a cornfield, seemingly devoted to burning things.

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It’s been there since the first time I remember passing it in 2011 or so. It makes me think “little Gehenna.”

Back in town, on Washington Street, I pass the Brookins baseball field (it may be called something else), northward across which is the shaded area where my friends from the Champaign County Nursing Home and I have popcorn, brownies, and coffee on nice days.

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Back home, there was a Cooper’s hawk in the dead ash tree behind our garage.

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Made me wish my phone camera had a better zoom.

If I had to compare this time with my ride of a month ago, I’d say it was slightly less magical (that time has not been displaced!) but it had its own particular, considerable delights.

Especially remembered from October!

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Sunday 11 June 2017. To Philo, Center of the Universe, and Back

It was 66 degrees F under a cloudless sky at 5:50 this morning as I rode Rhododendron south on Race Street.

It sounded so calm outside, but the phone weather ap said there was a 9 mph south wind. Have learned to respect that information so planned for a trip to Philo IL, Center of the Universe, according to its water tower.

Indeed, riding south presented me with a noticeable headwind.

Stopped, as I almost always do, at the rabbit-statue bridge over McCullough Creek.

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Noticed dying trees.

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Too common, alas.

Saw the continued bloom of spiderwort

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and Penstemon

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Used restraint to continue around the prairie without further stopping to Windsor Road. Rode east to Philo Road, south to Old Church then east again.

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Rode on Old Church Road to Yankee Ridge

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that lovely little oasis of vantage and sacred silence, then rode around the corner onto Yankee Ridge Road, past a friend’s amazing house, complete with extensive prairie landscaping.

Turned east onto section road 900 N (County Highway 18) to Philo.

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Rode to the water tower; went off the road along the train tracks to get a view of all the words.

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On the way back saw my friend who lives in the amazing prairie-landscaped house, out walking her dog. It was nice to actually stop and talk a bit this time!

Then rode downhill with the wind at my back toward Old Church Road.

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Stopped at Barnhart Practice Restoration

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Could not see spiderwort but there were lots of Penstemon.

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Saw a good number of prairie dock leaves: large, erect, serrated spade-shapes, with the sunlight and shadows showing through them.

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Saw spiderwort farther down, along the road, among waving grass flowers.

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Stopped on the way back to check for Amanita mushrooms under the spruce trees. They were prostrate and dried up.

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Felt a little more centered for having visited Philo this morning.

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!

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.

Friday 7 April 2017. Colder and Windier Than Expected

This morning, the seventh of 30 Days of Biking, at 6:50, it was 35 degrees F under clear (at last!) skies. Was psyched to get back (at least closer) to a daily bike ride!

Checked the wind speed and direction (WNW at 9 mph, a velocity that didn’t seem to dictate a direction for the ride) and decided on a trip west on Windsor Road.

Felt that suspicious ease as I rode south on Race Street, which would mean resistance on the way home. Did not feel overdressed in the down coat!

Rode out Windsor–into the wind–and decided at Fourth Street that it was enough. What kind of lightweight was I?
But my face was cold from the wind and just didn’t care to prolong the experience.

There was plenty to see on the way back.

In the pond to the west were a number of ducks, apparently not all mallards.

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So wished I had a better zoom to identify them.

Got a shot of the “State Farm Center” (I still think of it as the Assembly Hall) from the southeast.

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Then downhill on St Mary’s Road, riding the west wind! Yippee!

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Stopped for a round barn shot.

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At the end of St. Mary’s Road at Lincoln Avenue stopped at the U of I horticulture Idea Garden

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for a view of some lovely spring blooms.

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There were hyacinths

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and yellow tulips, most artistically composed.

Then in the neighborhood closer to home were lovely hellebores.

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On another day I will go farther.

Sunday 2 April 2017. Cherry Blossoms Plus a Nice Ride

It was 43 degrees F under mostly cloudy skies at 6:45 this morning as I headed out on Rhododendron on this second day of 30 Days of Biking

Noticed yesterday that the cherry blossoms at Japan House seemed to be in bloom, so made that today’s destination. After that planned to continue the ride to the south and west to reach my 30 Days of Biking goal for this year (my fifth, if that’s possible!) of at least 10 miles a day.

Indeed, the cherries were in bloom!

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It was unquestionably the proverbial religious experience, especially standing under the canopy they made, looking up into the pale, tender petals.

In addition to the cherries, the bloom of the hellebores in the garden had, if you can imagine, developed since my last viewing.

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And not only did it seem to be the optimal day for the cherry bloom, the exact time of day seemed perfect as well: the early morning sun managed to slip through the clouds enough to softly illuminate the cherry petals.

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It was beautiful upon beautiful, and I knew it wouldn’t stay this way for very long. But it was the kind of moment that “fills eternity.” So glad to have caught it!

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Then rode south on Lincoln and straight across Windsor Road where Lincoln turned into into a gravel path and past an Illinois Natural History Survey facility, next door to the U of I Bee Lab,

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toward Curtis Road.

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Looking to the west over the unplanted plowed field, the sky showed some interesting features.

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Rode to First Street, along the side of which there was a road-killed possum and, alas, the smooth, pink, motionless baby possums she’d been carrying scattered around her. No pictures here.

Then west on St. Mary’s and south a little for coffee and egg bites at Starbuck’s on south Neil.

On the way home stopped on St. Mary’s Road by the vet school for a horse portrait.

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Coasted at speed down the big hill to Lincoln Avenue and into the day.

Sunday 17 July 2016. Lots of Big Corn and a Peek at Bondville

This morning at 6:10, after succumbing to the urge to do a little modified Surya Namaskar in the wet grass of my back yard (echoes of Yoga in the Park), rolled Rhododendron out of the garage and headed south toward Windsor Road and then westward.

The sun was up (have had few views of the disc at the horizon this summer, as compared to years past, alas), but the sky was darker than I’d expected, so turned around to look east.

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Saw a bright smear of sun through filtering clouds: hoped they would not thicken and complicate the ride.

Stopped at the City of Champaign Prairie Resroration Project, which today again seemed to cry out for stewardship, though a variety of July prairie flowers were represented, if not abundant (yellow coneflower, wild bergamot, false sunflower). There was a good population of compass plant with open yellow flowers near Neil Street.

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They look so good close-up.

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Also, note the little frame of side-oats gramma grass.

The leadplant were all out of bloom but still not unattractive.

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At first was tempted to not go far so I could sit and catch up on blog-writing. But once I cleared Duncan Road just wanted ride out into the corn.

Then did a lot of straight riding, and felt better and better the farther out I went. The route looked pretty dog-free, which was nice.

Turned north at Staley Road

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which bordered a great length of expensive-looking residential real estate. Wondered what people out here did for a living.

Crossed a creek bordered by manicured lawns.

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On Staley Road just south of Bradley was an old farm house with nice gingerbread trim that didn’t look long for this world.

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Or maybe someone was just getting down to some renovation.

Rode a little bit farther north on Staley then decided to go west on Bradley.

Got a view of the corn from Staley south toward Bradley, where the land dipped a little.

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Rode out to Barker Road (500E)

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and turned south, which took me through downtown Bondville,

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the first time I’d been there on bike.
It had a cute little (apparently functional!) post office.

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Wondered whether people in the couple of cars that passed though when I had my iPhone out that I was looking for Pokemon.

Turned east at 1500N (eventually to become Kirby Avenue), which took me deep into the monster tassel/eared corn,

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the air there permeated with that corn-water smell. Thought once again about that edge between solitude and loneliness, but just briefly.

Stopped at another creek crossing, where a monster-great mullein grew.

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Disturbed a great blue heron on the other side of the bridge, which flew upstream (or north, anyway) and landed where the full-zoom of the iPhone could just barely detect it.

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Then rode straight toward home on not-especially-picturesque Kirby, and my right shoulder (but not either hip or knee, thank you very much!) began to nag that it didn’t like the position I was asking it to maintain. But it was a good 20-Mike ride. And soon there was coffee and writing!