Merciful grey canopy of clouds
Warm pines baking in a slow oven
Sandhill cranes out for Sunday breakfast
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To the usual Three Great Things about today's ride, I will append a Fourth:
Friendly Middle-Aged Men in Lycra
(this one's for you, Anne).
Springing out of bed with a joyful shout (which sounds so much better than "stumbling out of bed with a groan" - let us call it artistic license) shortly after 6 this morning, I was on the road before 8. From the mercifully shady canopy of cloud...
...small raindrops were falling (which may be glimpsed on my helmet):
Just another 5 inches' worth - spread out over a reasonable period of time - and we'd be right on target for the year. (If only!)
As it is, the drought is doing strange things to some of the trees. Look at the leaves on this aspen:
(Sad to say it almost looks pretty.)
Across the road from the stressed aspen is a small pink wildflower I don't recognise. (Must really start to look these up BEFORE I write the post.)
Mulleins are surviving and blooming quite nicely. I always think they'd look right at home in the desert.
I pass a marsh ringed with the vivid deep rose of (what I think is) loosestrife:
Birds are out in force this morning. I happily lose count of all the blackbirds, hawks, sandhill cranes, and swallows I see.
The swallows were especially active over this stream (although it was all I could do to catch a few in this photo):
Yes, that was my favourite willowy stream above. And just a few hundred yards down, my favourite bend in the road (with the beloved trees standing in a sea of stunted corn):
A few twists and turns later, I pass a familiar sheep farm...
...and find one of the flock on my side of the fence.
It tries (without success) to wiggle back under the wire. Then, being a sheep, it runs away and stands in the middle of the road, bleating piteously.
I walk my bike up the farm driveway, calling "Hello, hello" - but no one responds. The house windows are open, as are the doors to some of the outbuildings, but the owners must be gone. Wheeling my bike back to the road, I saddle up and ride off, hoping that when they return they'll gather their lost sheep safely back into the fold.
At the next house down (which belongs to our egg supplier), a piggy enjoys a Sunday lie-in.
Some miles on, this beefy-looking dude has a pasture all to himself.
|"Yeah, so my ear is pierced - twice.|
You got a problem with that?
Next to his pasture, a garage bears a colourful plaque:
Farmers all around have been making hay while the sun shone. The fruit of their labours can be seen in many a field. (How's that for a mixed metaphor?)
I pass a little one-room schoolhouse (last seen in this post).
Hawks and blackbirds and windmills in the hazy air:
A simply enormous field, dotted with hay bales, plays host to a flock of sandhill cranes out for Sunday breakfast (they're the small darker brown figures in the middle of the shot).
My course today takes me through a small town with a very large feed-mill:
Back in the country, I pass clump after clump of vivid wild chicory. (I believe this is the third week in a row I've mentioned this flower. Can you tell I'm very fond of it?)
What a marvellous contrast with the buff field behind.
I find yet another barn quilt to add to my photo collection:
For those who have never seen a barn quilt, it's a large wooden plaque painted with a quilt design. This one is the fifth I've seen on various trips about the county.
Life and death in juxtaposition: a cemetery surrounded by fields of corn.
And more swallows on a wire. (The one on the right gives a secret wing signal to his friend who is coming in for a landing.)
I like this group of pines standing at the peak of a hill:
I pass another preserved schoolhouse, now serving as a town hall. The building is dated "1881".
Just down the hill, waves of Queen Anne's Lace wash up against a cornfield. As I take their photo, I realize that the corn is covered with red-winged blackbirds...
...which rise in an impressive cloud, only to resettle a few rows over.
Miles later, I pass a field with a small enclosure of goats at the far side. As I pull out my camera to snap their photo (in honour of my friend Marigold), I think I hear voices behind me.
I do hear voices. Cyclists! Four of them! (I almost NEVER see other cyclists.) As they pass, they call out, "Good morning! Join us! You're welcome to keep up if you like!" "If I can," I reply. I warn them that I have zero paceline experience but they don't seem to mind. One drops back to chat, while I snap a photo of the other three. "Hey guys, slow down!" he calls. "She wants to get a picture of your a**!" (Seeing my embarrassment, he then turns to me and says kindly, "Don't worry - that's how we always talk to each other. Nobody minds it.")
They're all somewhere about my age, or a little younger. I ask where they're from, and find that they're on the last leg of a four-day ride from Door County to Madison - something they do every summer. They ask how far I'm riding today. Over the next three miles we compare notes on the weather and Wisconsin roads. I end up going a bit out of my way, but don't mind. I'd forgotten how pleasant it can be to ride in a casual group.
My turn is coming up, so I drop back for one last shot to mark this momentous occasion...
... and continue on my way, much refreshed by the distraction. (Also by the fact that the cloud cover has stayed with me for most of the ride. It's amazing how much nicer a ride can be with a bit of protection from the sun.)
I pass a picturesque barn...
...ride through some lovely woods full of green shade and birdsong...
...am passed again, by a large piece of farm machinery this time...
...and admire this thoughtful sign in someone's front yard. (By "bikers" do they mean cyclists or motorcyclists, I wonder. Either way, it's a nice gesture.)
|"Watch 4 Bikers & Deer"|
I pass my favourite marshy turn, with its mirror-like black water...
...and snap a reflected photo of myself leaning over the bridge.
Only 5 miles to go - and I feel great. (So great that I manage to work in a couple of intervals on the way.) I'm home before I know it, filled with the euphoria that hard exercise can sometimes bring.
An excellent ride. Though two miles longer than I planned, it was pleasantly cloudy, with the added diversion of a bit of company on the road.
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