Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Sunny Hilly Ride, With Pictures and the Three Great Things

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Sunshine and shadow playing tag on the road
Cloud-shoals drifting in a sea of deep blue
Wind-silvered waves on a soybean field

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After two days of rain, the weather cleared to brilliant blue skies dotted with clouds. 78º and a northeast wind made for very comfortable riding conditions, which was just as well for I planned to ride the only really hilly road in our area today. I've been putting it off all summer, but it was time to bite the bullet and do a bit of climbing.

The sky was so intensely blue and big that I feel it rather dominated my pictures today. No complaints there!

Katydids kept up a perpetual skittering song - the sound of late summer.  The sun is definitely swinging around to the south. Fall is on its way.

Along a favourite road, a view of the predominant crop. The corn is beginning to dry out, and the leaves make a pleasant rustling sound in the wind.

I never did learn the name of this plant, but the ditches are full of its brown stalks. Can you spot the ladybug?

Someone has been rubbing or eating the bark off these birch trees (I'm guessing deer are the culprits here). I like the diamond pattern around the trunks. Woodpecker work?

A beautiful treeline behind this pasture. Lucky horses to have such a view!

Clouds of these little flowers are everywhere, but I've rather ignored them this summer. I thought it was time they got a bit of the spotlight, but I can't identify them. Ideas, anyone? Blossoms about 1/4-1/2" wide.

Still some knapweed about, though whether purple or brown or spotted I still don't know. :)

This sweet-smelling climbing plant was very much in evidence today. I struck out again on identifying this one - will have to keep looking. A member of the Goosefoot family, perhaps?

Can't resist a shot of golden fields, green corn and blue skies. Especially when framed by trees.

This wooded hilltop always catches my eye. I like the sharp contrast of the soybeans with the stubble, and the darker green of the trees.

The wind was making beautiful silvery waves across this soybean field.

Here's a marsh I haven't ridden past in months. It somehow has a storybook feel, as though a frog prince might hop out of the water at any moment. But I'm saving my kisses for Mr. M.

The marshes are lined with these striking pink blossoms, which rejoice in the name of Longroot Smartweed, or, if you prefer, Water Heart's-Ease.

In fairyland (or even Scotland), this would be a castle peeking out of the trees. Here in Dairyland, it's a silo. But I still like it.

Red is just the right colour for a barn. This one seems to have a fresh coat of paint on the front, but I prefer the weathered end.

A grapevine with lofty ambitions.

As I turn on to the hilliest road, I see a sight to chill the cyclist's heart:

Nooooooooo! Loose gravel is the WORST. (Many of our country roads are paved with layers of crushed gravel. If well oiled and not too fresh, they feel just like asphalt. But when the gravel has been recently applied, it's like riding through a sandbox.)

Do I turn back? Take the main highway home and avoid the pitfalls? I set out to climb the only real hill in my area, and I really want to do it now that I'm good and warmed up.  What I DON'T want to do is descend a gravelly road at high speed. My complexion isn't the greatest, but still I'm rather attached to it and would prefer not to undergo involuntary dermabrasion.

I think of my friend Deb, who climbs (and descends) actual mountain roads every week and is preparing for an assault on a particularly devilish mountain road this month. I am a wimp by comparison. I decide to go for it, gravel and all.

At the peak of the hill (which was actually a decent climb and not too bad - thank God for granny gears)  I stop to admire the view. I take a last fond look at my unscathed legs and arms, and zip my camera into its protective case. I think of the driveways that line the right-hand side of the road, and the intersection at the foot of the hill.

I take the coward's way out and ride my brakes most of the way down.

(In self-defense, I will add that I have descended, at speed, much more serious grades than this in California, but they were solidly paved and driveway- and intersection-free. And I was younger then.)

Not too far past the foot of the hill, I ride through some wetlands and see this straight-as-an-arrow canal with cornfields on the right and wild country on the left.

Not far from home, more of the sweet-scented, unidentified, white-flowering weed covers a glade and swarms up these oak trees.

I leave the main highway and take a side road for the last few miles, past a marsh filled with cattails and edged with sunny drifts of blossom.

A beautiful day, and a good ride. (I'll look back on these pictures come January and sigh heigh-ho as I think of the snow outside. But I'll be glad I took them.)

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  1. Lovely photos. Beautiful blue skies and some great scenes. It looks like you could get up to a fair speed on that long straight hill, but I'd have my brakes on too, especially with gravel around.
    I too like to store up a big bank of photos to look back on in the colder months and remember it won't be that long till summer comes round again. It's still only August though, we've lovely Autumn to come...

  2. What a wonderful post. Your pictures are lovely as is your prose, I do enjoy reading your words.

    I remember being fearful of gravel when I was a motorcyclist after a slide one day...

  3. They are very good to look at now, not just in winter! But I do agree; there are days in winter when those late summer photos feel so good to the soul!

    Marvelous climb! I'm proud of you, especially if there was loose gravel! Here, if they have layers of fresh gravel, it sticks to your bike, your shoes, your socks... your chain!!! Argh! So if you braved that, you really are brave!

    I could take a cruise down Pikes Peak if I so desired. 26 miles of teeth-chattering downhill! But I'm paying 20 bucks for the van down. Unless I get swept again and get to ride in the director's car. :D


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