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.

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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.

Sunday 29 May 2016. To the Center of the Universe, via Spiderwort-Rich Meadowbrook

It was 64 degrees F (no jacket!) at 5:53 this morning under clear skies.

This morning’s destination on Rhododendron was Philo IL, the self-proclaimed (at least it says so on the water tower) “Center of the Universe.”

But first there was Meadowbrook Park to investigate: the spiderwort/Penstemon appearance (with lush green in between) was at hand!

Am trying to reduce the verbiage of this blog, enjoyable as it is to produce. Here is an exercise in living within one’s time limits. So hard to do!

As much as possible, the story will be photos with brief captions. Wish me luck!

The mushrooms (Amanita muscaria) are back, under the spruces on Race south of Florida.

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Here is today’s view of McCullough Creek from the Rabbit-statue bridge.

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And then, spiderwort!

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Spiderwort with dew

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And playing a brilliant supporting role, the foxglove Penstemon (or beardtongue) (Penstemon digitalis).

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In previous years I’ve sometimes referred to this flower as Penstemon pallidus, or pale beardtongue, but now I think the former is correct. Many readers will not care as long as the pics are nice, but my training as a biologist disposes me to such nit-picking. Another kind of fun, for some of us.

And more spiderwort!

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A mallard drake who didn’t like me stopping to look at him

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More spiderwort, with the morning sun coming through dewdrops

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Spiderwort close up with more in the background

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And spiderwort and foxglove Penstemon together

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Thought I’d never get out of there. Took a lot of willpower for me not to still be there reveling in the gorgeous blue, white, and green. Oh yeah.

But on to Philo!

On the path between the tall fence and eastbound Windsor Road saw a little toad
(toad in the road)

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Then out Philo Road to Old Church Road and Yankee Ridge,

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that magical, so-quiet place, the early morning view from which is as beautiful as the ocean, though I’ve never yet been able to capture it in a photo. Just believe me.

Then at the bottom of the hill is a curve to Yankee Ridge Road, which rolls up and down, fairly evenly and pleasantly to distribute the hard work and the coasting.

Turned east on 900 E and rode into Philo, a modest, tidy, and, at least early on Sunday morning, sleepy little town.

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The streets were wooded and shady, in contrast with the open farmland around it.

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Wasn’t easy to get a good view of the water tower

img_6741-1but managed to get a passingly readable one. <br />
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This was not my first visit to this center of the universe, and a Google search of “Philo IL center of the universe” turns up several unexplained references. Still a mystery.

Back up and down the little hills (appreciated them more than last time I was here for having spent a lot of time in flatter places) of Yankee Ridge Road, made another attempt to capture the beauty of Yankee Ridge.

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Returned via Old Church to First Street with a stop at the Barnhart Prairie Restoration

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Featuring many handsome spade-shaped prairie dock leaves

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Was somewhat but not unpleasantly fatigued. Hips, knees, and low back were ok (hurray!), but the right shoulder was complaining. Sat up and rolled the upper arm out, then remembered (via swimming stroke improvements) a restorative Ekahasta Urdva Hastasana: reaching the arm up and rolling it out. Helped a lot. Oh, beneficent yoga!

The trip was about 23 miles. Want to keep this up!

Thursday 7 April 2016. First of the Shooting Stars and Riding Home in a Headwind

It was 45 degrees F at around 4 pm, the sky mostly cloudy.

Today wanted to see Meadowbrook Park but also to go a little farther. It’s Day 7 of the 30 Days of Biking, after all. And the latest of life’s whirling demands (and yes, it’s very much related to the “whirlings of the mind”) were crying to be spread out over the road and up through the clouds.

Rode Discovery II to the soft path through the Spomer (guess I need to get used to the name) Prairie. Dismounted and walked in, stopping first at the little wooden bridge over McCullough Creek where a little seep (or the end of some kind of drainage tile ) joined the creek.

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Then walked into the still mostly yellow-brown prairie

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And found shoots of the spring prairie’s beloved shooting stars (Dodecatheon meadia).

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It was comforting to again take in this sign of spring on the prairie, to fulfill this springtime ritual.

Saw signs of coyotes

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Was not a hundred percent sure of the tracks, but the scat was unmistakable.

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Walked Discovery II on the path to the east of McCullough Creek and saw what looked like the work of small mammals

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Then rode eastward toward Philo Road on the lovely sidewalk along ever-under-construction Windsor Road and south toward Old Church Road. The air was suspiciously quiet as I rode easily southward. But enjoyed it, and the open landscape.

The view approaching Old Church Road gave me a haiku:

Up on Yankee Ridge
The clouds spread out forever
And all is quiet.

And a photo

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Took another shot looking west

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and followed the road, past the Barnhart prairie restoration to Race Street and then north, into the waiting wind.

Into a headwind
I brace and breathe and pedal,
Uplifted by work.

Was determined to take this image (and that of the emerging shooting stars) and set it to all the big the tasks awaiting me.

Thursday 17 September 2015. Through Goldenrod to Yankee Ridge

It was 57 degrees F this morning at 6:22 as I headed south on Rhododendron.  Dreamed of a long ride but was ready to settle for a shorter one. It’s goldenrod season, and knew it would greet me no matter the length of the ride. 

First did stop at “my” apple tree, near which the fall bloom of the cabbage roses was beginning.  

 
and of the white iris was continuing.  

 
There were lots of apples both hanging from the tree 

 
and on the ground.   

 
Then a little way down stopped to check on the Amanita muscaria mushrooms, which were fewer and less “fresh” than at last visit.    

Maybe they were at last finishing their “bloom.”

Liked the view of the underside of this one. 

  

Wondered though whether this was just the end of their time for this go or whether  this end was was being hastened by some human agency. 

Looked like some that had not fully matured had been pulled out. 

 

Rode to Meadowbrook Park but then turned east on Windsor Road and only rode along the  northern edge. 

Was glad to see Gaura among the goldenrod. 

 
Pasture thistle (Ciserium discolor) made a nice occasional purple-pink accent against the goldenrod yellow.   

Above the goldenrod, against the sunrise southern sky, rose the already decomposing remnants of rosinweed 
  

Along the path into the park was a border of yellow. 

  

Could not resist catching the message chalked on the path, even though it seemed to discourage leisurely observation.  

Then kept going east on Windsor Road to Philo and then south. The road was lined for a long stretch with goldenrod. 
 

Loved the golden border, not minding that it’s weedy and invasive. 

 Overhead noticed a great blue heron flying, which appears below  

as a dot in the sunrise clouds between the lowest and the second-lowest utility line. They seem to be so much more common than you’d imagine in central Illinois. Just have to know where to look. 

Liked the spray of goldenrod growing in this drain or whatever it was in the middle of the rip-rap. 
  

Rode farther south on Philo Road to Old Church Road and because of limited time was going to turn back, but was so close to the summit of Yankee Ridge, and the morning sun was coming up over it, so just turned left and rode on through the familiar remarkable quiet and was rewarded with another lovely view.   

And then headed back, gladdened by this starkly beautiful spot and all the intervening September goldenrod yellow.  

Thursday 20 August 2015. Some Good Miles to the South on a Clear MorningĀ 

It was 55 degrees F, the sky clear, at 5:55 this morning. Was so glad to get out on Rhododendron, its front wheel and crank bearings repacked and well-lubed. 

Today’s destination was for parts south, by way of Race Street. Wanted to take advantage of the daily-shrinking window between the first morning light and the activities of the post-summer break day and go for a little, but long-as-possible, ride. 

Really tried to refrain from stopping for pictures (though I did check, without finding anything, the mushroom site). Noticed the stealthy silence of Rhododendron’s pedal crank and was surprised to feel like I missed the bird-like sound of its squeaking, a sound that used to distract and annoy me. Go figure. 

Soon approached the corner of Race and Windsor, but, alas, south Race Street was closed. Windsor itself was under construction, hardly inviting to bike traffic, so doubled back to McHenry and south again on Vine. Crossed the constricted Windsor Road and alas, did not stop at Meadowbrook Park. Did notice that a sculpture (iconic of Meadowbrook, I thought) that I liked had been replaced by one of a rather cartoon-y representation of a person walking a dog. Haven’t decided whether I like it. 
Fortunately the long sidewalk along Windsor was accessible, and it was a lovely ride into the sunrise over Philo Road.  

 Was happy to see a clear path to the right and southward. 
Did stop on Philo road for a shot of these dressed-up corn stalks.  

 This is ag-research country!

Rode to the end of Philo and had to decide between a left (eastern, Yankee Ridge Road) or right (western, back to Race or on to First Street) and chose the left. 

Had not planned to view the sunrise from the magical crest of Yankee Ridge, but there it was!   

 Ah, mid-August dawn in central Illinois!

So went south on Yankee Ridge Road, which has a pleasing bit of vertical roll but today also a dusting of distractingly loose gravel.  

 
Tried to remember my ice-riding skills: not to try to grip the road but balance (like flying!) over it. Actually the road was mostly pretty firm. 

Turned around at Champaign County highway 18, I believe, and headed back to Old Church Road. Decided to avoid the whole Windsor Road project and come back via First Street. 

Stopped at the Barnhart Prairie Restoration and was pleased to see the blooming compass plants and big bluestem grass  

 
as well as fairly abundant prairie dock. 

  
Was pleased also to see a path through the little prairie, which I did make time to traverse a short way.  But got my feet quite wet and then back on the bike felt cold in the extremities, to go with my already running nose. Who would think there could be issues of cold in mid-August?

Turned north on First Street, where traffic was already starting to build. Decided it wasn’t so bad to ride in its company; kept me from stopping too much. 

Enjoyed the new, slightly swaying extensions of Gerty Drive and Fourth Street as I made my way back home. 

In spite of the traffic and cold loved this satisfying, healing almost 20-mile mid-August morning ride!

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!.