So grab a cup of tea (or coffee) and a sustaining snack, and prepare to take a months' worth of rides in a single sitting....
Sunday Ride to the River
After last year's accident, I limited myself for the rest of the 2014 season to a kind of cycling comfort zone, riding only certain roads within a few miles of where we live. This year, I was determined to get out of that zone and back to all the places I'd been in 2013. The Wisconsin River has always been one of my favourite ride destinations, and I couldn't wait to see it again.
The day was lovely, sunny and hot, with plenty of wildflowers to be seen along the way.
The first thistles of the year:
Hoary Vetch (which I've been misidentifying for years as Cow Vetch):
Heliopsis helianthoides, or False Sunflower:
And rows of corn stretching to a green-and-blue-and-white horizon:
We stopped at a little riverside park for a break and a snack. Iris rested against a huge old aspen while Tallulah and I prowled around and took photos.
A Quick Monday Ride
Not all my rides are blue-skied. This one was gloomy and grey, remarkable mainly for the heaviness of the sky, a fortuitous shot of rabbit's foot clover (which made a wonderful header photo), and clouds of a small lavender thistle which bloomed profusely this year.
Almost-the-Fourth Evening Ride
The week before Independence Day, I got a new jersey which made me feel very patriotic:
Barn gate decked in honour of the day:
Amish farm at sunset:
Long Sunday Ride
This out-and-back ride took me east, to a large lake in the next county. The weather was typical of early July: hot, humid, and windy.
Daylilies were in full bloom in many a ditch. These luscious orange flowers are not native to Wisconsin; instead they're classified as introduced/escaped/potentially invasive. But they're still lovely to look at:
I found a small new-to-me flower which I haven't been able to identify. Can anyone help?
Waves of crown vetch surged through a wire fence:
Red barn awash in a sea of corn:
I passed several stalks of the charmingly-named Butter and Eggs, a member of the snapdragon family:
On one stretch of road, feathery grasses bent before the wind, their long bristles catching and diffusing the light:
Viewed from above, they were beautifully prismatic and almost magical-looking:
A one-room schoolhouse (complete with original privy) stood at a country crossroads:
My turnaround point, a large windswept lake:
A handsome barn glimpsed on the way home:
Westering sun over hazy wheatfields:
A hot ride, and the longest of my year so far (just over 46 miles - not much in comparison with past years, but I'm not complaining).
Welcome Home Sunday Ride
Due to a vacation and other scheduling conflicts, it would be two long weeks before I could ride again. It felt awfully good to get back on the bike, and this ride was particularly rich in wildflower photo ops.
St. John's Wort has bloomed profusely this summer. I think it likes all the rain we've been getting:
I was excited to spot some White Wild Indigo on the roadside. This flower is new to me this year, and until this ride I'd only seen it in the prairie restoration project. It looks rather like a lupine, but with sparser blossom:
Heal-all from above. It looks like it's sporting a tiny bow in the center:
Another flower that is unusually flourishing this summer is Evening Primrose:
Wild Bergamot, looking tropical yet a bit unkempt (like an old lady in bathrobe and fuzzy slippers, with spiky, unbrushed hair):
Wild Bergamot with Bee:
Also rampant on the roadsides this year is a tiny umbellifer that I think is a type of hemlock:
The umbels are very small - less than 2" across - and I'm having trouble finding a good match in the wildflower databases. All I can say for sure is that it's a member of the Carrot family.
Curled blue stamens of Wild Chicory:
A lush patch of catnip:
Photo of a rare Cycling Turtle (Chelonia rota, var. atkinsoniensis):
("Hey!" says the Turtle. "I thought my name was Tallulah!")
We passed a patch of what I thought was Purple Loosestrife, but on closer inspection it turned out to be a flower I'd never seen before - Fireweed, or rosebay willowherb. Rather exciting to see it live and up close, after reading about it on the blogs of friends:
Dragonfly on Leafy Spurge:
This year's wildflower hunt has become so absorbing, I tend to spend much of my riding time looking down and sideways, scanning the roadsides for blossoms. Sometimes I have to remind myself to look up at the sky - and on this ride it was well worth a look:
Another good ride.
Have you had enough, or shall we squeeze in one more ride? (Blogger cups hand to ear, hoping to catch the faint, far-off cry of readers calling "Go on! Go on!")
Okay, just one more. (Which will bring us nicely up to date.)
Short Ride, Many Photos
On Tuesday morning I went out for a quick 15-miler.
Summer has peaked and is ready to begin the gentle downhill slide towards autumn. Trees look heavy and no longer fresh; the tired sweet scent of drying grass comes across the fields and down the warm wind. Swallows are gathering on the telephone wires, and blackbirds swirl and flutter above the cornfields and over the road:
Great banks of soapwort shine palely from a shaded verge:
Spiderwort, pale violet, spreads its petals wide to embrace the day:
A new flower catches my eye: pale-pink blossoms in a delicate spray standing up from a leafy base. Research at home identifies this plant as Desmodium glutinosum, or Pointed-Leaved Tick-Trefoil:
Everywhere I go I see flowery faces turned towards the sun:
Shadow of a cyclist:
An exhilirating morning ride.
Update: The 2015 Wildflower List has surpassed my wildest expectations: 103 varieties identified so far, and it's not even August yet. When autumn comes and the last blossom has faded, I'll publish a complete list.
How's your summer going? Does it seem to be speeding by too quickly?
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