~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Birch leaves glowing yellow against a grey sky
Sandhill cranes singing a mournful autumn song
Rainy Sunday solitude of a country road
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
In addition to the Three Great Things about today's ride, I would like to offer, in question-and-answer form, the Three Things I Learned Today.
Q: When rain is forecast, should I cook or cycle first?
A: I should just get on the bike. That way I MIGHT beat the rain. But when I choose to make enchilada sauce before riding, in an effort to save time later, the rain beats me.
Q: How water-repellent is my water-repellent wind jacket?
A: Moderately water-repellent. For about 20 minutes.
Q: What effect does a heavy drizzle have on my desire to take pictures?
A: A dampening effect.
Temps are in the upper 50s and skies are grey as I set out on today's ride. The drizzle starts about 2 blocks away from home. (The Briefly Hazardous part comes at the very end of the ride and the post. Those of you who are breathless with suspense may skip down to the final two paragraphs.)
Just outside town, I see these berries leaning out of the dead grasses, about a foot above the ground. I ought to know what plant they came from, but I can't call it to mind.
Masses of these dried flowers are nodding in the breeze (hence the blurry focus). Another plant I can't place. I'm beginning to think I need a guide to "Dried Wildflowers of Wisconsin".
I indulge myself by exploring a little side road I usually pass by (a dead-end road, but I've always wondered what was down there). It runs between marshes and opens out into wide farm fields. Two sandhill cranes rise up from the marsh and circle around and around, crying mournful cries.
I find some lovely milkweed pods just opening up...
...and a deserted little shed, all sad and empty.
Now the rain begins in earnest, and I lose all desire to take pictures for several miles, until I come to these tall, narrow oak trees, gently glowing a faded red.
More rain, more miles. My rear wheel is spraying so much water up my backside that I have to remove the camera from my rear pocket. How can I keep it handy and dry? I find to my surprise that a snug sports bra can accommodate a small digital camera and its case, in addition to the usual cargo.
Finally, a break in the clouds. I spy coloured leaves on the verge. Some delicately-tinted...
...others almost garishly bright. This is a Very Small Oak - just three leaves growing out of the grass. But it's holding its own in the autumn colour competition.
More shades of autumn. I can see this is going to be another tree-centric post. (I don't know if tree-centric is a real word, or, if so, what it means. But it sounds rather impressive. I shall be like Humpty Dumpty and use it regardless.)
A break in the clouds and some very fuzzy cattails.
I think these are larches (I should have brought my new Trees of Wisconsin guidebook). They're turning a lovely yellow-green.
Detail of a bridge railing.
Most of the maples have burnt themselves out, but here and there a few are still flaming brightly.
This wagon has been sitting on this corner for weeks now. Today I stop to see what the large dark contents are. Turns out they're tractor tires.
Possibly for this? It's standing in the field behind the wagon.
A bit further up the road, and the sun comes out to my left, illuminating the stubble fields to my right and lighting up the bronzy oaks.
Sometimes I think the autumn trees look even more beautiful against a grey sky than against a blue.
A multi-coloured horizon.
Just around the corner, pale marsh grass in the foreground with autumn-tinted trees in the rear.
As always, I have to snap a photo of glowing birch leaves.
The rain comes back. I try (unsuccessfully) to catch a shot of the water spraying off my front wheel. Can't see the drops, but it's still a fun shot I think.
I stop to shoot this red oak against the green firs. The sun pops out behind me and the leaves suddenly come to life.
Time to head home and finish making enchiladas. Just before I get back to town I have a narrow escape from two bull terriers who suddenly appear out of nowhere and begin to chase me. One of them jumps repeatedly at the bike and hits my front wheel. They are very fierce, and seem determined to take me down. "Please, God, don't let me wipe out on this wet road with these dogs here." I have dreadful visions of being worried, caught in the death-grip of their fiendishly strong jaws with nothing more than a bicycle pump for self-defense. Everything seems to happen in slow motion, but it probably only lasts ten seconds or so before the adrenaline kicks in and I finally manage to out-sprint them. They follow me for several hundred yards then finally give up. When I look back, they're sitting on the side of the road, glaring balefully at me.
When I arrive home a few minutes later and tell Mr. M the harrowing tale, he is outraged and immediately calls the sheriff to file a complaint. The dogs should be restrained, he says. Fine by me, I say. (What would happen if a child walked by, or a mother with a baby in a stroller? I shudder to think.) The sheriff, young and friendly, comes to the house to take a report, and talks to us in the kitchen while I'm putting the enchiladas together. (Chicken enchiladas - a 9"x13" panful.) As I pour the extra sauce over the top and smother it with fresh cilantro before adding a final layer of grated Monterey Jack, he says "Well, I'd better get going or I'll end up inviting myself to dinner. Those look great." We have a pretty nice bunch of sheriffs in our county.
A good ride, though wet, with an exciting finish and a smashing dinner to follow.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~