At 5:30 this morning the air was cool and clear. A light north wind had broken the humid grip of mid-summer on our part of Illinois. It was a fine time for a bike ride.
I’d planned the morning ride coming off a rest day that involved mowing the lawn, an hour’s exercise that also led to a garage cleanup. But no official workouts. No runs, rides or swims. Just a Monday to recuperate a bit.
That was a good idea after a Friday morning repeat workout of 16 X 400, a Saturday morning bike ride of 50 miles, Saturday afternoon track workout of 6 X 800 in extremely humid conditions, and a Sunday morning run of 8 miles in 85 degree weather with 90% humidity. Guys my age need a recovery day.
I pedaled east at the start of the morning ride, but decided against a route that takes me through downtown Aurora. Who needs stoplights at that time of day anyway? Turning south and west again, I rode past a large swath of wetlands that has been there my whole life. In fact I’m a little embarrassed to say that for all the birding I’ve done in the area, never have I walked those wetlands to see what might be found.
As I pedaled next to a bed of cattails I saw a sign that read, “Federally Protected Wetlands.” That made me both happy and sad. Glad that someone had seen fit to protect them. Sad and mad at myself for never really checking them out. Will do that soon, because as I came near a roadside section of open water the song of a marsh wren with its sewing-machine-like rhythm reached my ears. I love that bird. A true sign of quality habitat.
Then I crossed back over the curving line of Orchard Road that leads back to my house and turned south and west again.
The forest preserves in our county have a penchant for mowing fields in June and July. Some mowing is done to control clover, but the fields I passed were cut through in some places leaving rows and patches of tall grass between. It looked all ragged and torn.
Earlier this summer a field rife with breeding birds near my home was mowed flat. Birders protested, but the county wants to get rid of the clover. They own the mowers and the land. It may take a few years to reach a common consensus.
But nature adapts, and this morning I heard meadowlarks and kingbirds, yellowthroat and sedge wrens out in the open country. I learned that summer is not over. That’s the entire reason I went for the ride. We live and long for these days all winter long. This morning’s ride provided plenty of reason to return to those fields with camera in hand. Capture some of this glory.
I was tooling along at 15-17 miles an hour most of the way. Then I threw in some harder riding after ten miles when my legs were warmed up. At the park known as Johnson’s Mound I turned to ride a loop up and over the prairie kame on which the woods has grown tall and thick.
There were both summer and scarlet tanagers singing high up in the tree canopy. That first species is the only bird I know named for the season we all seem to love. It is strawberry red from head to toe. Those birds sing a song like a robin too lazy to hit the high or low notes. It is still lovely to hear.
Turning home from the country I felt a tailwind and torqued the bike up to 30 mph on a stretch of road that has a Strava segment. At home I learned that I’d missed a PR on the segment called Bunker Blitz 2.0, a stretch that I’ve covered in 2:15. Today I rode 2:22. But my PR was set with a massive tailwind at my back. Today was the superior ride. Sometimes numbers lie.
Back at home from the ride I met Sue on her return from a hard run after an indoor bike session. Sweat streamed from her body and she was like, “Woahhh, that was hard.”
I hadn’t worked nearly as hard. But I’d learned and seen some nice things along the way. Sometimes that’s just as good.