Sunday, July 22, 2012

A Mostly Cloudy Ride

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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... 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.

37.7 miles

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  1. Friendly MAMILS eh! I've not been out on my bike here in ages. I sacrificed Saturday morning (my usual bike slot) to paint our gate and railings as hubby was around to help with the kids and it wasn't raining (for a few hours anyway!).
    Love the hay bales, none ready here yet...

    1. The hay is VERY early this year ... no surprise, with the heat. And yes, very friendly MAMILs. A nice bunch of guys with no nonsense about them. :)

  2. See? Goats are good luck! If you hadn't stopped to take their photo you might not have had company. :) You take such nice photos. Cracked me up what the cyclist said to you. A goat would think nothing of it and just haul off and T-bone the guy. Surprise is always the best tactic.

    1. Actually I took that one from the saddle - but I agree that goats are good luck. It was a funny comment - just embarrassing because I'd never met them in my life. :)

  3. Double piercings and friendly Lycra clad cursors...haha, what a wonderful/memorable ride!

  4. We have lots of quilt blocks around this area, East Tennessee. I also collect pictures of them and need to make a trip into the next county to add to my collection. Would you like me to send you some of my pics? I would be happy to.

    1. Yes please, Grammy, that would be wonderful. You can find my e-mail address on my profile page. Thanks for commenting! :)

  5. Lovely pics from your ride and nice to have a bit of company too.
    37.7 miles well done........
    Interesting the barn quilt, I've never heard of them before.

    Claire :}

    1. Thank you, Claire, and how nice to meet you. (I just read your profile and I think we are kindred spirits.)
      Re barn quilts: I don't know if that's their official name but it's what I call them.

  6. Your rides are so fantastic! Hope that sheep found his way back home pretty quick. Every time I see haybales in a field, I think shredded what (when we drive in the States and I say it, my kids just roll their eyes). Uh-oh! All those crows. Looks like they need a bunch of scarecrows out there. Send some of those mulleins here -- I'd like to see something blooming right about now. How fun that you ran into some other cyclists. Did you know that there are routes you can travel to view barn quilts around the States? Hope you have a great week. Tammy

    1. I always think Shredded Wheat too! (Grew up on the stuff - and NOT Spoon Size - the real pillow-y deal that you had to smash up in your cereal bowl.) I didn't know that about the barn quilt tours, but it doesn't surprise me.

  7. I was at a cycle race yesterday - it took three and a half hours from start to finish with one lap taking half an hour at top speed! I couldn't do it but admire your tenacity.

    1. That sounds like a criterium, T-a? I do admire the guys who can go for hours straight like that without a break. Doesn't work for me! :)

  8. Love that the bird was saying 'right a bit' to his mate!

    Great cycle again, love to see pics of your countryside and flora.

    Naughty's funny how we often find the same ewe in the same predicament day after surprise we are likened to sheep..there is a lot to be said for it!

    1. All we like sheep have gone astray.... I was thinking the same thing. :)

  9. What a marvelous ride with multiple opportunities to get off the bike and stretch a bit while capturing photos! Although I've always admired your ability to snap from the saddle, too. I can't do that. I'd be a pancake!

    I think they should do a Ride the Barn Quilties. Can you imagine riding from one barn to the next just to view the quilts?!?

    1. The longer my rides get, the more I snap from the saddle - and the fuzzier the photos. :)

      If you organize the barn quilt cycling tour, I'll be sure to sign up!

  10. What a lovely ride. That bull is huge! Julie

  11. What a gorgeous bike ride you went on. I enjoyed all the different photos, especially the red-winged blackbirds rising in a cloud and those gorgeous blue chicory flowers (one of my favourites too ... I still have to find a yarn that colour!) How fun that you had cyclist friends for part of your ride. They sounded so friendly too (indeed, nice backsides! haha!)
    Gorgeous golden hay bales!
    Have a wonderful day! Sandra

  12. Such beautiful countryside. I know I keep saying that, but it is so true. Thanks for sharing such lovely photos with us.
    The bike ride sounds like a lot of fun.
    That bull would have scared me to death!

    1. He was safely fenced in - and it was too hot for anything more strenuous than lazing around the pasture. :)

  13. That was an awesome ride!! I aaaallllmmmooosstt feel as if I've joined you this time!! :) Such lovely photos....


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