Changes Abound

Have you noticed the traffic on the road lately? What’s everyone’s hurry? Don’t they know it’s dangerous out there?

I’m not talking about the four (or more) wheeled traffic. The traffic I’m noticing is visible only when there are two wheels or two legs. The roads are literally crawling (pun intended :-))with insects.

Each little crawler has its own style of movement. The fuzzy woolly worm seems to undulate over the road in a constant rhythm. Then you have roly polys who scuttle along. The road is most dangerous for them since they are exactly the same color as the blacktop. (I used to feel bad if I ran over one, but I’ve gotten over that since one of their family members ate on my biggest tomato.) Spiders are quick movers that seem to always be running at a diagonal. I suppose getting eight legs moving in the same directions is difficult. Beetles always seem to have a direct route planned out as they hustle down the road.

Lately the grasshoppers have made an appearance. As the weather turns slightly cooler they come out of the fields and on to the road. I think they like to play chicken with me. Just how close can I get before they leap. Sometimes they miss judge and hit the spokes of my wheel. Plink is the sound they create. I’m sure they are dazed after that encounter. Some have built up their leg muscles so they can leap over the front wheel. A few decide this game is no fun so they jump in the other direction. They drive me crazy as I pedal down the road trying to avoid a collision with them. However, some are not so lucky as the road is littered with grasshopper carcasses.

The increased traffic on the road is not the only change I’ve noticed since the shifting of the seasons has started. There are a few late blooming plants that have erupted in the fields.

This is a river of flowers flowing through the field.

This is a river of flowers flowing through the field.

Massive flocks of birds are gathering on the lines. They must be discussing the route to their winter nesting grounds. Last night I was able to catch theses photos of the birds as we drove up an off-ramp. There were so many more that I couldn’t catch with my phone. Of course everyone was screeching just a bit louder than the one next to him.

What's that you say? I can't hear you? Where are we going?

What’s that you say? I can’t hear you? Where are we going?

Don't they look proper sitting on the line?

Don’t they look proper sitting on the line?

This is also the time of year you must be cautious of where you walk. Webs appear overnight and catch you unaware. The strands that are disconnected float freely in the breeze looking for someone or something to drape themselves over.

This spider is outside the kitchen area. Fortunately it chose to build the web in a non-traffic area of the yard. Did you know this spider is afraid of water?

This spider is outside the kitchen area. Fortunately it chose to build the web in a non-traffic area of the yard. Did you know this spider is afraid of water?

Slowly the earth shifts and everyone living on this planet must make adjustments too. I just don’t know if I’m ready for the change, yet. Are you?

Nick of Time

I needed to get going, the day was only going to get hotter. So with the sun shining brightly, I stepped outside and the humidity hit me like a wet wall. I had second thoughts about riding my bike, but I pedaled on.

Speed is never my goal as I ride and today was not a day to pick up the pace. As long as I was moving there was a breeze to counteract the heat and humidity.

My eyes scanned left and right to notice the new blossoms of the wildflowers. The cows in the pastures stopped their munching to gaze at me with quizzical eyes.

Almost half way through the ride, I noticed it’s not quite as hot. When I began the journey back I discovered why it had cooled slightly. The sky in the west was no longer bright blue, now it was a deep steel blue. It looked like rain was headed my way and I was six miles from home. I tried to pick up the pace. Pedaling was a priority now, coasting was a luxury I could not afford as the sky darkened.

Two miles from home, I turned south. That sky was lighter, however, my relief was short lived. Deep blue flooded the sky as far as the eye could see. The end of this ride had a couple of inclines, so now my legs burned from the constant pedaling.

Every breath wracked my chest as I huffed and puffed my way to the crest of the final hill. Was that thunder or trucks rumbling? Lightning flashed above my head as if responding to my mental question. I pedaled faster to reach the summit because it is all down hill from that point.

Scenery of that final mile blurred as I continued to pedal. Raindrops gave my shirt a polka-dot pattern. I flew down my street and up the driveway. The garage was open. My husband  raced the rain to finish mowing the yard.

I made it into the garage in the nick of time. The wind shook the trees. Thunder rumbled, as I safely watched the rain pour down from under cover of the patio. That was a close one!

One of the downspouts was plugged up, so we had a curtain of rain.

One of the downspouts was plugged up, so we had a curtain of rain.

Color of Summer

After the All Write conference, I knew I needed to get back to my friend Trek. She was a new friend that entered my life last August (you can read about her here). We’ve gotten together many times in the past months. She even went along to California. She loved rolling along the level bike paths of Irvine. We both wish those paths could be in our neighborhood.

Once life calmed down, Trek and I hit the road again. As I pedaled along I thought about all the color spring had brought along my route (read about that here). Inwardly I sighed remembering all the bright spots that lined the road. I was settling in for a journey of shades of green, but what was that ahead of me? An orange trumpet vine announcing that spring is not the only season with color. Summer has its own vibrant colors. All you need to do is look carefully. The more I looked, the more colors I noticed. It amazes me when fragile little plants push their way through blacktop.

The next day I returned with my camera. The ride took a bit longer as I pedaled, stopped, snapped. Just as I was getting back on the seat I would see another plant or a better view of a previous plant. Pedal, stop, snap. Here are a few colors for your viewing pleasure along my biking route. Enjoy!

Trumpet vine announces summer is here!

Trumpet vine announces summer is here!

Close up of the trumpet vine. The flower is really orange not pinkish.

Close up of the trumpet vine. The flower is really orange not pinkish.

These purple-bluish flowers line the road.

These purple-bluish flowers line the road.

This is Common St. John's-Wort.

This is Common St. John’s-Wort.

This is butterfly weed. I think it is too pretty to be called a weed.

This is butterfly weed. I think it is too pretty to be called a weed.

Prairie roses seem to grow along every kind of fence or even in ditches.

Prairie roses seem to grow along every kind of fence or even in ditches.

I see Brown-eyed Susan plants as I scan the fields.

I see Brown-eyed Susan plants as I scan the fields.

Milkweed is a favorite place for Monarch butterflies to lay their eggs. I guess the leaves are tasty to the caterpillars.

Milkweed is a favorite place for Monarch butterflies to lay their eggs. I guess the leaves are tasty to the caterpillars.

This fuzz ball is a Sensitive Briar. It will fold up its leaves when touched. It is related to the Mimosa tree.

This fuzz ball is a Sensitive Briar. It will fold up its leaves when touched. It is related to the Mimosa tree.

This little plant has quite the thorns. I guess you are  supposed to look, not touch.

This little plant has quite the thorns. I guess you are supposed to look, not touch.

Although there is no flower, one would be wise to recognize this plant, poison ivy. Unfortunately I am seeing a lot of this as I pedal along.

Although there is no flower, one would be wise to recognize this plant, poison ivy. Unfortunately I am seeing a lot of this as I pedal along.

These plants are the tip of the color wheel I pedal past each day. There are so many more and each time I seem to notice another one that wasn’t there yesterday. Isn’t nature interesting?

Fun Times (part 1)

I have started this post at least fifteen different ways and every one of them have been deleted. I just don’t know how to start. My husband and I have traveled to southern California to visit our family. What a week we had!

It all began with meeting Kim (Learning Tour Writing Stop). What a day we had exploring the Sherman Gardens! So many interesting plants! I felt like I was taking pictures nonstop. At every turn there was something unusual to see.

Our day ended when Kim and I met up with my husband, son, and daughter-in-law at an Irish pub for corned beef tacos. Just saying those words doesn’t sound right, but actually they were quite tasty.

Next we went into active mode. One day there was a hike in the canyon. The next day we rode bikes on a bike path in Irvine. This city has created wonderful biking/walking paths. However, the ride was cut short when my son had a flat tire and we had no spare with us. My husband and I returned to this trail later in the week to ride to the end.

We have been trying all sorts of new food experiences. One night we went to a Peruvian restaurant. I have no idea what we ate but it was good. Another day we went to a new place called Pieology. You go down the line and tell them what you want on your pizza and they build it right in front of you. Yum! Don’t forget the corned beef tacos.

We have been to a birthday party, had a pedicure with my daughter-in-law, took my granddaughter shopping while babysitting, attended the granddaughter’s horse show, and met a friend (plus her family) for dinner.

All this was done in a week. I’m worn out reliving it, but you will have to return next week to find out what we did during the second part of this vacation.

I will leave you with a few photos from this past week.

Isn't this orchid interesting?

Isn’t this orchid interesting?

Did you know that koi love fruit? They really love bananas.

Did you know that koi love fruit? They really love bananas.

Outside the Irish pub, time to say good-bye. :-(

Outside the Irish pub, time to say good-bye. 😦

On our hike, I was going to take a picture of the flower, but look who zoomed into the photo.

On our hike, I was going to take a picture of the flower, but look who zoomed into the photo.

Everyone is rolling along, if we only knew a flat was in our future.

Everyone is rolling along, if we only knew a flat was in our future.

There were three hanging out, but two were shy. I guess they were chatting about the strangers rolling by.

There were three hanging out, but two were shy. I guess they were chatting about the strangers rolling by.

Evolution of Spring

I hesitate to revisit the topic of spring since every time I think spring is here to stay the temperatures plunge. Spring seems to be playing hide and seek this year. Just when it seems safe to bring out the capri pants, I find myself reaching for the turtleneck sweater to ward off the chill. However, we have had a few warm days where I’ve been able to pedal down the road. As I pedal, my mind wanders as I take note of the landscape.

I’ve been thinking about the book Twelve Kinds of Ice by Ellen Obed. I love how seamlessly she wove the story relating it to the various types of ice. I wondered if there was something I could write like that. That’s when I woke up to the changing scenery. So here is my version of Eighteen Kinds of Blooms.

The world of nature sleeps during the winter, gathering its energy to make a statement when spring returns. Slowly the ground thaws to allow the crocus and grape hyacinth to peek through the khaki colored grass. They are the first bits of color to whet the appetite for the color that is about to come.

As they fade away the tulip tree (not sure what this tree is, click here) begins the parade for all flowering trees. Too often this tree is bitten by cold temperatures and never gets to show-off for all who pass by. While eyes are looking up, they look down too. Hyacinths are spears of fragrant color. Daffodils bob in the wind.  Then the forsythia breaks out in a mass of sunshine on a branch, mounds of yellow dot the land.

Bradford pear trees burst into bloom, but their flower fades quickly as the leaves are anxious to appear. Now when I look down, tulips appear to replace the daffodils. The phlox is warming up as it overflows the beds spreading the carpet of purple. That same orchid color becomes

crabtree

aredbud tree cloud of color in the woods as redbud trees pop up in surprising places. Fruit trees, flowering crab trees,
and sand cherry trees compete for attention in the air. Back to the ground, minuscule wildflowers dot the yards with dainty blooms. All too often there is that pushy weed, the dandelion, trying to take over the entire yard.

yard

Slowly the dogwood tree begins to open up.

maple

When viewed from a distance, the blossoms appear to be suspended snowflakes among the slowly leafing trees. The new leaves timidly begin the opening process,

every shade of green can be seen. Although when you look closely not all new leaves are green. There are shades of red and rust too.

Lilacs have begun to bloom. Every day as I ride a few more buds have opened up to allow me to inhale their fragrance as I pedal past. Peonies and irises sprout. They won’t be blooming yet, but they hold the promise of color to come. Soon the bedding plants will appear in yards and trees will be  fully leafed out. Even though spring has been slow to evolve, it is always a joy to watch the procession of color appear.

Update on our new neighbors: two have hatched as of Sunday.

Update on our new neighbors: two have hatched as of Sunday.

What’s Wrong?

Read more slice of life stories at Two Writing Teacher’s blog.

Push the left pedal down, the right swings up, repeat, down then up. The motion doesn’t change but something is not right.

The weather had prevented me from riding for a few days, but my stamina should not have deteriorated that quickly. This ride is turning into a chore, not a pleasure as I slip the gear to an easier level. I can’t believe how hard it is. I think this must be “an off” day for me. Finally I make it back to the car. I tell my husband I don’t know what’s wrong with me today. “I noticed you were moving slower today. Everyone has an off day, maybe today was yours,” my husband says to me.

The next time I ride I am not on the trail but on the roads around our house. I feel that familiar resistance to my pedaling. What is wrong with me? Why is this so hard? I continue to shift my gears hoping to make it easier to pedal, but it is still pushing back at me. I begin to wonder if something has broken or gotten out of adjustment? Should I bring this bike back to the shop and have them look at it?

“I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” I complained to my husband when I returned home. “It is so hard to pedal.” He takes off on the bike to check it out.

“I think I found the problem,” he announced a short time later. “Your tire pressure was about half of the recommended amount. I filled your tires, so try it now.”

Oh yes! This is much better! It isn’t me! What a relief to know why it was so hard to pedal. Now I know, the tire pressure will be the first thing to check when the pedaling isn’t quite right.

Spotting Wildlife

Read more slice of life stories at Two Writing Teacher’s blog.

He sat by the side of the path, hidden by the shadows. Observing all the action passing by, they never noticed him sitting there. I pedaled past. I spotted him. I stopped. I couldn’t believe what I saw. I reached into my bike bag to grab my camera, but he was camera shy and he waddled into the brush. It was a groundhog.

I’ve been riding the same trail every day for the past several weeks and each day is an adventure. I never know what wildlife will cross my path. There are the typical sightings of squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, turtles, and birds. Some dart across the blacktop, quick to disappear into the vegetation. Others seem to taunt the humans on the path. They look at you with the look in their eye that says “I was here first.”

Yesterday I had six female turkeys amble across the path. They stepped slowly and carefully placing each foot with purpose. Necks wobbled back and forth as they turned their heads with eyes alert for possible danger. I’m sure they were talking to each other as they made their way across the path. Unfortunately they were too far into the brush for me to get a picture.

Maybe someday I will be able to capture a photo of some wildlife, until then my words will have to paint the picture.

Quick update: Today was the day of the snake. A huge, thick black snake lounged on the left side of the trail. Fortunately I was on the right side. A few miles down the road was a small red striped fellow. He was simply minding his own business when I came up and startled him. He thought the best plan was to turn around and slither back from whence he had come. Unfortunately that was directly in front of me. I swerved and prayed that I did not crush him. He must have survived as there was no carcass on the trail as I returned. However, there was still one more encounter with another small snake. It was uneventful, we were able to stay out of one another’s way. The air was cool, but the sun was warm. I think they all needed a touch of warmth to help them make it through the day.

Good Idea?

“You want to ride the trail tonight?” my friend Tina says on Monday morning.

“I suppose we could,” I respond slowly, desperately searching my brain for any possible excuse. Unable to present a valid excuse we make tentative plans for meeting up on the bike trail later.

When I tell my husband of the plans, he is delighted. He rides regularly. Me, not so much. In fact I haven’t ridden for about two years (really, it’s been that long?)

As I am preparing our dinner, he is out in the garage attaching the bike carrier to the car, airing up tires, and gathering helmets and such. My back tire won’t air up. It appears that the valve stem is bent. We can’t locate the spare tubes, so I will have to ride his road bike (he has two bikes). Not a big deal (I think) because his bike is similar to mine. That is not the case I later realize.

Finally, we are off and ready to meet up with Tina. Some adjustments must be made to the seat height before setting off. My husband’s bike has cages on the pedals, I do not like them. They are difficult for me to get my feet into them. His seat is not comfortable. This does not bode well for a fun time for me. I am a little wobbly at first, but I push and pull on the gear levers trying to find a good gear. My husband and Tina ride ahead of me as I try to get comfortable with the bike.

Pedal, pedal, pedal. Sweat begins to drip down my face as the temperature rises. The trail is stifling hot. My butt hurts and I want this misery to end. Pedal, pedal, pedal. We continue on and on. Finally, we stop for a moment.

“How much farther to the end? I ask.

“Probably about another mile,” is the response. My heart drops. I can’t go another mile. Tina and I turn around to begin the journey back. My husband will ride on and catch up with us.

Pedal, pedal, pedal, ring! Tina’s phone rings, “Where are you?” her husband, Matt asks. “Are you getting wet? It’s pouring here.”

Uh-oh! This is not the news I want to hear, because the top of the convertible is down! There were no clouds in the sky or prediction of rain when we left an hour before.

We are not getting rained on at this moment. Five minutes later, there are a few sprinkles hitting us. They feel good on my sizzling hot skin. Ring! It’s Matt again, he’s coming to pick us up. Yes, this is great news to me! My husband has caught up with us and when we told him of the rain he shot off like a rocket.

Matt is my savior! He appears not on a white horse, but in a white truck to pick us up. We head to Tina’s house to collect towels to dry out the car. My husband has made it to the car by the time we arrive with the towels. Fortunately, there wasn’t  anything in the car to get wet (other than the seats and floor mats. We wipe down the insides of the car with the towels.

1/4 inch of water in my door handle

Once we are home, the top of the car is suspended in air to allow not only the top to dry, but also the insides. The next day the car sits in the sun to dry out the interior.

So, was this a good idea? I’ll let you be the judge.

The sky on our return to home. Can you see the isolated rain?

PS: We rode again on Friday evening and Sunday morning. I have my bike back and that makes all the difference in the world! Slowly I am beginning the journey of biking again. I know there will be biking stories in the future.