Thursday, November 29, 2001

Blood pressure

I'm trying to be good.

I revolted a while back, and discontinued all the blood pressure and cholesterol medication. It felt great. I felt great. But elevated blood pressure doesn't have any symptoms.... until the blowout.

I continued to monitor my blood pressure, and I just can't seem to keep it to the recommended levels just by being careful and trying to stay calm, and not taking anything that might screw it up.

This time I have gone directly to a cardiologist for help, thinking they might know more about everything involved here than the GP did. They measured me at 150 over 100 in the office for starters. A little higher than we'd like.

They did an echocardiogram on me this time, and my heart looks perfectly normal. The walls haven't thickened or stiffened at all. But after the EKGs, treadmill stress tests, and the echocardiogram, they still won't give me a clean bill of health. Now they say they want to do a nuclear stress test. Sounds charming doesn't it? Actually, when they use the term nuclear, they're not referring to the speed of the treadmill for the test, they're referring to the radioactive material they inject into my blood stream before and after the treadmill test. They can measure some important absorption rate indications that way. They say it is the only way to rule out arteriosclerosis. I'm resistant to having them pump nuclear waste into me in an attempt to improve my health.

They promised to be sensitive to my side-effect issues and started me on a different medication. The blood pressure dropped slightly, and after a week, so did everything else.

We've switched medications again. Back to normal so far... The good news is that the change back to normal function is so profound that I can tell absolutely within forty-eight hours. The bad news is that the side-effect I have chosen to focus on is only one of a multitude of side-effects caused by hypertension medication. I think it is possible to find one that doesn't cause sexual dysfunction, but I doubt it is possible to find one that is comfortable.

I'm trying to be responsible here, but what a pain-in-the-ass. It doesn't seem that they can make me better without making me feel like shit.

Wednesday, November 28, 2001


As the weather clears, both the Louisville Express and the Colorado Southern go back to work.

Tuesday, November 27, 2001


Meanwhile. The Colorado Southern chugs fearlessly through the night.

Neither rain nor snow nor lighted reindeer .....'


I'm still working on the correct balance of fading light and colored lights.



I'm much too busy to stop and play with a real steam train right now, but I have thought about it a little. Enough, in fact, to check around and see what is out there.

Matt and I went out at lunch today to follow up on a lead. There is a brand new steam train available in town right now. She is sitting inside a glass cabinet at Caboose Hobbies. Her name is Mimi.

She's beautiful.


The Louisville Express suffers a weather-related delay.

Saturday, November 24, 2001


Here is my first effort at Christmas light pictures.

I'll need to wait and catch the fading light at sunset.


But before we could put the trains up, we needed some help from the grandkids raking up the leaves.


Here we go.

The Christmas train.

Kinda looks like a "steam" train doesn't it?

Sunday, November 18, 2001


After some ups and downs in the recovery process, we're recording the final chapter on Judy's shoulder. Shoulder surgery technology seems to be advancing rapidly. Eight weeks after her surgery to reattach a partial tear, a complete tear, remove the inflamed bursa sacks, and reshape the bone over the rotator cuff, she has regained 100% of her range of motion. Last Saturday (a week ago) she and I hit the racquetball around and no damage was suffered. She has been released by the physical therapist. She needs to check in with the orthopedic surgeon one more time in three weeks. He says he'll release her then to unrestricted racquetball. There is no more pain. We're calling it a victory.

Wednesday, November 14, 2001


I though I'd wait until Bill got home before I sent more pictures. I have
this image of him sitting at a payphone feeding quarters into it while his
download goes on-and-on.

Here's Halloween at our house.

Sunday, October 28, 2001


Judy came back Tuesday night. We wanted some quiet time together, so we decided to take the motorhome out for a weekend shakedown cruise. It hasn't been out much this summer. We hope to take the usual January Texas trip, so it seemed to be a good idea to see if everything still worked.

I left work early Friday afternoon and we got on the road by three o'clock or so. We decided to head north and maybe on Saturday we'd check in with Bill and Marge on the farm in Wheatland. As we got into Wyoming, it was getting dark when we saw the exit to Curt Gowdy State Park. We've been seeing this exit for years and years, and have no idea what Curt Gowdy State Park is like, so we headed off the twenty miles to the west.

It is off-season. There was only one other camper there, and he wasn't even in the best site. It's a mountain park. We got set right next to the lake, level, and ready for dinner in the fading light. It was then I noticed the overhead light fading faster than the outside light. Our house battery was not holding its electrons. That meant no juice to run the furnace overnight at this dry camp. It was already down into the thirties. We decided we'd rather spend the night plugged in at the KOA in Laramie. It was a wonderful warm night with the furnace blowing.

We slept in, then headed northeast back across the mountains, the back way to Wheatland on another road we've been meaning to get to for years. (It was very lonely and scenic.) We popped out right at Bill and Marge's. We spent the afternoon and evening visiting with them and wandering all over the farm. We got up the next morning well after the rooster and guinea fowl did, and spent half of Sunday visiting as well.

We drove home, dropped the motorhome off at the repair shop with a list, watched the Broncos win, and even squeezed in a short hour of racquetball for me.

What a wonderful relaxing weekend.


Sunday, October 21, 2001


Judy put her shoulder recovery on hold, and has been back in California for awhile.

Back about May, the prediction for her dad was eight to twelve weeks. Well now, five months later, he is still trucking right along. He continues to think he is within a day or two of death, but the hospice workers continue to pronounce all systems strong.

He has been living alone at his apartment. He has had trouble with his balance and has taken to falling down. He regularly calls for help in the middle of the night.

No-one lives right there with him, so it's time for a managed care facility. Of course he never thought that was a really great idea, but they got him moved into the best place they could find yesterday, Saturday.

A couple more days in California for Judy and I'll get her back in Colorado for awhile again.

Looking forward to that.

Friday, September 7, 2001


Time for a medical update. Right in the middle of all the family and friends issues in California, Judy tore the muscles in her shoulder. It takes awhile to get through all the necessary diagnosis and scheduling, so she has been in constant pain for weeks, and not able to travel. California will just have to wait.

Today we got the surgery with the same orthopedic surgeon who did her knee a couple years ago. The knee was a roaring success. This is the basic rotator cuff overuse injury. He repaired a tear in the front, and reattached a complete separation in the back. She now has a titanium screw in her shoulder to help draw the tendon back to a reattachment with the bone. He was able to do all this with the scope, so the recovery should be lots less hassle than it would have otherwise been.

For now, her arm is in a sling strapped across her chest, with instructions not to move it. She gets to start physical therapy in two weeks when the tendon has had a chance to reconnect. The surgeon predicts unrestricted use of the shoulder in six weeks.

There is a "pain pump" also resting in the sling which meters a tiny amount of anesthetic through a little tube directly into the repaired joint. It should last until Sunday, then we just pull the tube out. Meanwhile, Judy is recovering from the general anesthesia and pain medication, and is pain-free for the first time in four weeks.

It is all good. We expect to play racquetball on her birthday in December.

Monday, August 27, 2001

Close encounters

I got there early. Sunday, in the most remote part of the park, I did not have a close encounter with a bison. I fished the Lamar River for a couple hours in the afternoon. I found a nice bend in the river with an undercut bank on the other side. I never saw the bison. At dusk, I walked back to the motorhome and drove off to find a place to turn around and head back to the camp. As I drove back past the fishing spot, there was a lone bull bison standing on the bank, directly above the spot where I had been fishing.

On Monday morning, two hikers did have a close encounter with a grizzly, two miles down river from where I was fishing. The bison carcass was three weeks old, so the hikers thought it was safe to go down and take a look. The grizzly popped up out of a gully to defend his prize aggressively. It ended peacefully. The grizzly got to keep his carcass. Two hikers have the story of a lifetime about how they got to run all the way back to the car in wet shorts. Now there are fresh bear warning signs up at the trailhead. I fished the Soda Butte Creek.

We floated the Madison on Tuesday and Thursday with Rick the guide, and got close to a whole bunch of fish. Actually, Bill got closer to more fish, and bigger fish than I did.

On Wednesday, Bill and I wade fished the Madison by ourselves. The river, and the fish that were presumably there, pretty much kicked our ass.

Friday, we loaded up and took the scenic loop over the Divide, around to the lake, along the river, through Hayden Valley, over Dunraven Pass, down through Tower, the Roosevelt Lodge, past Slough Creek, through the Lamar Valley, and finally to Pebble Creek Campground. Back to the remote top-right corner of the Park.

I took Bill back to show him where I caught all the Yellowstone cut-throat trout on Sunday and Monday. I could show him where they were, but I couldn't show him any fish. We went to the Lamar River. It was dead quiet. We worked and worked and worked the water. Nothing happened. We went to different water. We went to Soda Butte Creek. It too was dead quiet. Just like there were no fish there at all. We started at the Butte. We walked and fished our way down-stream. Nothing happened until down by the Bison. Then the fish started rising. But we still couldn't catch them. They were clearly eating now, but we couldn't see anything on the water. All we knew was that they didn't want to eat what we were offering. Finally, by putting my reading glasses on and putting my face right down next to the water, I could see the tiny bugs. There was a hatch on. It was a hatch of very very tiny little brown indistinct bugs. And they were the only thing our trout wanted.

By now the trout were lined up right on the bubble-line, one each ten feet or so, each rising for a gulp, and dropping back down, then rising again. We went through our fly boxes and found the two tiniest, cruddiest little brown bugs we could to tie on and offer. It worked. We caught lots of fish the last hour or so. We fished until it was too dark to see the flies.

I didn't get to my run until late that night. Just as the moon set, I went out for a run in the starlight. At the turn-around, far-point of my run, I stood alone in the dark and listened to the wolves howling all around me. It made me shiver. The wolves are clearly back. And they belong.

Bill and I both left on Saturday morning. Bill went back across the top of the park through Mammoth Hot Springs, then north-west up into Montana. I went out the Bear Tooth Highway, the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway, by the Big Horn River, through Thermopolis, the Wind River Canyon, and past Hell's-Half-Acre. Ten minutes after I left camp at 7:30 in the morning, I got a full, unobstructed view of a bull moose. He crossed the road and worked his way up the hill to my right. I just pulled up and stopped to watch. I got to be a moose-jam of one.

Thirteen more hours and I was home.

Judy was glad to see me. The puppy pretty much wiggled herself inside out. The Broncos won. The cat pretended he didn't care I was back, but I'm sure he did.

What I did this summer.


Thursday, August 16, 2001


I had a difficult bicycle ride yesterday.

It was an off-day for racquetball. My ankle is a little sore, so I can't run any distance right now. So I decided to take a bicycle ride for my exercise.

I headed out to ride around Harper lake, up on Davidson Mesa, in the northwest part of town. (Yes, all the way to another part of Louisville). But on the way I decided to go down the street that has the house with the yard train in the back yard. I haven't been by there in a couple years and thought I should see how he's doing. He's doing very well! The layout is complete now. It includes mountains and tunnels and trestles and towns. It covers the entire back yard. It required lots of observation and admiration.

After about twenty minutes I managed to pull myself away and continue on to the bike path around Harper Lake. But just as I got to the other side, I encountered the sailboat regatta! Nine boats in all. Each one about two feet long. A radio-control regatta.

After the additional observation and admiration, I got back on track for the bicycle ride, but from here it was all downhill back to the house.

Sometimes it's just really hard to get in a good exercise.


Tuesday, August 14, 2001


We rearranged the front kitchen and installed a "cat hammock" in the window.

It seems to be working just fine.

Saturday, August 11, 2001


Have I mentioned the potato bin?

In theory, you plant the potatoes in the bottom of the bin, fill it with straw and compost and leaves and stuff as the potatoes grow, and you end up with a bin full of potatoes when all is done.

The product literature described the delight of "opening the bin and watching all the potatoes tumble out."

Last year, I used the potato bin. Some of the plants died, but some survived. When I opened the bin, nothing tumbled out. It was a giant solid heavy block. I had to pick it apart to see what was inside. It made great compost. It made great earthworms. It did not make potatoes.

When I called the manufacturer of the potato bin for advice, they asked me what I did and what I got. After I told them, they said, "That's a lot better than we did in our test garden. We don't sell this as a potato bin anymore. Now we sell it as a strawberry garden."

Well, they may concede defeat easily, but I think I can do better. This year I planted a row of potatoes. One end of the row is enclosed in the potato bin, the remainder is out in the open. The potatoes are doing great. Much more growth than last year.

In the attached picture, you can't really see the potato bin. That's zucchini (and a dog) in the foreground (and yellow sunflowers in the middle). I'm standing directly behind the potato bin. I've never had armpit-high potato plants before. You can't even see the rest of the row of potatoes outside the bin. They're hidden behind the zucchini between the bin and the corn.

So there you have it. The best potato plants ever. And a bin full of potatoes to boot, just waiting for me to open the bin and delight as the potatoes fall out at my feet.

Just wait till the quitters at the potato bin factory hear about this.


Thursday, August 9, 2001



Let me try to attach the corn pictures again.

Vegetable gardens

The corn is growing well. The first block planted is now a lot taller than I am. It is a lot taller than I can reach. We are not growing it for ourselves, however. We are having a banner raccoon year, and they are having a record best time in the corn. There aren't even ears of corn yet, and they come marauding every night and tear down stalks and rip it up.

There doesn't seem to be any legal way to protect the corn from the raccoons without trapping and relocating them. That is an expensive and temporary solution.

The good news is that they don't seem to fancy any of the other vegetables growing. They get the corn, we get everything else.


Sunday, August 5, 2001


We had a fine hooky day on Wednesday. We're having our great ninety-degree, blue sky summer weather. Took the day off, loaded the van, and drove to Lake Union, outside of Longmont. We spent the morning paddling the circumference of the lake. Away from the swim beach, we got to glide along the bushes and reeds and listen to the birds. Even got to listen to the fish. They splash when they jump, of course. But the carp also swirl and gulp back in the reeds, while the coots cluck and groan and complain. When it started getting pretty sweaty, we returned to the shore and had a picnic lunch in the shade.

We drove home, swapped our stuff from the van to the motorhome, and drove up into the high country. At Lilly Lake, just outside of Rocky Mountain National Park, we rigged up for flyfishing, launched the float tubes, and were in the water by 4:30 and fished until dark. It rained on us a little, and was about fifty degrees by the time we came in, so it was pretty nice to have a warm house and hot soup waiting for us. Caught lots of little trout, and one big one each.

We were a little late getting home to bed, but it was a great surprise day off.


Sunday, June 17, 2001


We're back.

A week in Florida. A good conference. A nice resort. A couple days in a b&b on the east coast just above Titusville. Lots of herons and egrets and ibis and spoonbills. A glossy ibis, and a Florida scrub jay. No shuttle launch: it got postponed. A day at seaworld. A swim with the dolphins. Lots of critters observed in the wild: alligators, dolphins, manatees, osprey. Found the bathing suit optional beach. Was within one mile of a tornado that touched down outside the Kennedy Space Center during an afternoon thunderstorm. Cashed in some miles and flew first class. Wonderfully uneventful flights both ways. Picked up Annie from the dogsitter this morning. Becky still has the cat.

Glad to be home: they yard and house need lots of attention.

Thursday, May 31, 2001

Six days

without racquetball ended well. We were home by three o'clock and playing racquetball by four.

Judy and I met up in Reno. She had an uneventful drive up to San Jose where she met up with Mike and Katie and Jack, and Jacob and Yousun. A quick visit and a bassinette later she was on the road to Reno.

My drive west in the motorhome was uneventful as well, until I was almost through Utah. I had a little wind trouble crossing the salt flats. The wind was driving straight south while I was driving straight west. I needed just a little shift in the angle of impact, but the road didn't twitch for fifty miles. Neither did the wind.

I ended up driving on the shoulder between fifteen and twenty miles an hour, sometimes in whiteout conditions from the salt flat being blown across the road, while the awning mechanism tried to shudder and bend and flap itself off.

All the awning mechanism was intact, and locked tightly into place, but the top part which is held in by the spring mechanism in the roller wanted to unroll. After struggling along in the wind for an hour or so, all the mechanism was still there, but the fabric holding it all together was thoroughly shredded. Later that evening, parked for the night in Wendover Nevada, I figured out that a couple strips of duct tape wrapped around the top of the arms would secure the awning closed for the rest of the trip. In fact, if I had thought of it then, I probably could have taped the mechanism shut right during the windstorm and saved the awning fabric. In fact, I might tape it up before the next trip as a preemptive strike.

The weather was no problem the rest of the trip.

In Reno, Judy and I did finally meet up after almost a month apart. Within twenty minutes our reunion turned into a trip to the all-night emergency veterinary clinic to get the foxtail removed that Annie had snuffed up her nose. It was not visible, but the uncontrollable sneezing fit, the blood running from the nostril, and the contorted face were enough to convince us she needed attention. We had to leave her overnight while they put her all the way out to retrieve the deadly burr. The recovery was complete the next morning when we picked her up.

Five days, two thousand miles, all on interstate 80. Overnights in Laramie, Wendover, Reno, Wendover, and Rawlins. Gorgeous drive this time of year. Everybody home for a week. Off this weekend for a motorhome camp trip to Bonnie reservoir out on the Kansas border. Then off the Saturday after that to a conference in Orlando for a week. There is a shuttle launch while we're there, so we'll stay an extra day. Then another extra day for a swim with the dolphins, then home.

Well, that's the news from Louisville.

Thursday, May 24, 2001


It's time for Judy to come home. She has been in California for weeks, assisting and advocating.

Some things have gone well. She got Margie all set up with Hospice care. She has been there for lots of doctor's appointments, conversations, and decisions.

Margie has uterine cancer and it is terminal. Hospice should be able to keep her relatively comfortable at home. Judy's Dad has a more aggressive cancer somewhere in the ear/nose/throat system. He can stay at home too, but his situation is worse. It will not be comfortable.

Judy is attending the funeral of our childhood friend Cathy in Long Beach on Saturday, then she is setting out on a completely different tack for awhile. She will drive north to say "hi" to Mike and Katie, play with Jack briefly, and pick up the bassinette. Then she'll head east on Interstate 80.

Meanwhile, I'll load up the motorhome and head west on I-80. We hope to meet up somewhere around Reno, hook the car up to the motorhome, and tow home. We might take a couple extra days to decompress on the way back.

We know another trip to California will be in order soon for Judy, but it will be great to get her back to our life in Colorado for awhile.


Sunday, May 20, 2001


I was working in the yard today, getting sunburned on a beautiful 72 degree blue-sky day, when the wind whipped up from the north. It blew so hard I had to go inside to take cover. Ten minutes later, the temperature had dropped 30 degrees, to 42.

Now it is in the thirties, and snowing.

Springtime in the Rockies.

Saturday, May 5, 2001

Road signs

We saw the smartest road sign in Nebraska. We could use it in our town.

There is this difficult intersection in Louisville at Rex and Roosevelt. If you pull up, glance both ways, and pull out: you'll pull out in front of someone. There doesn't seem to be any visibility impairment. But there is something about the grade of one street versus the other, or the parked cars on both sides of the street, or the speed the traffic approaches. It is just difficult. There are close-calls everyday.

So we're at a stop sign waiting to pull out onto a four-lane divided highway in a small town in Nebraska. There was a small sign directly under the stop sign on the side street. It said "Look Again".

Wednesday, May 2, 2001


Another sure sign of spring....

Our high temperature today is forty degrees lower than the high yesterday... It's snowing.


Sunday, April 29, 2001


Things were getting a little calm here, so Judy livened up the action by dropping something really heavy from the back of her van into the yard cart. The yard cart livened up the action by flipping up and smacking her in the head with its handle.

She seemed ok for awhile, but about 8:30 she started getting unusually goofy. We spent a few hours at the "urgent care clinic". Do you have any idea how busy an "urgent care clinic" can be on a Friday night? We got there at 9:30 and the doctor saw her at 11:30. They wanted to watch her for a few hours. About 1:30 we headed to the Boulder Community Hospital emergency room for the CAT scan. Do you have any idea how busy a hospital emergency room can be on a Friday night/Saturday morning?

Judy survived the closed-head injury. They pronounced it to be a concussion with no signs of physical injury inside. We survived the sleep deprivation. We were out of there by 4am. Drove home, had a quick dinner, and got to bed by 5am.

Judy decided to not play her racquetball game on Saturday morning. Judy is gradually returning to her normal charming self, and so am I.

Sunday, March 25, 2001


We're back.

Two states, one night in a motel, seven hundred fifty miles, four bald eagles, one flock of white-tailed ptarmigan, one humongous flock of snow geese, and fifty thousand sandhill cranes.

IT WAS WONDERFUL! One of the greatest remaining wildlife spectacles, four hundred thousand sandhill cranes stop over in Kearney to refuel. They spend a few weeks on the ground cleaning up the spilled corn from the fields and sleep at night standing on submerged sandbars in the Platte river. They put on about a pound of body weight each before heading north as far as Canada and Alaska for the summer.

We saw flocks and flocks of cranes feasting in fields as we drove around Saturday afternoon. We positioned ourselves out on the hike/bike bridge at Fort Kearney Recreation Area for the evening arrival. As it got closer to sunset, the sky filled with flocks congregating from all directions for their final staging at the river's edge. Just as it started getting too dark to see clearly, they all did their final swirl in the air for the night to pack together in the water as closely as they could. Our best estimate is that we really saw fifty thousand Sandhill Cranes in the final two hours of the day.

Sandhills talk a lot. They make a sound I'd call a loud "chirrup" noise. Sometimes when they're all doing it at once, some of them degenerate into something close to a Canada Goose "honk". It's a great variety of noise.

So as we're standing on the bridge, watching them arrive from all directions, including right over our heads, we get to hear them from all directions as well; including from the forty thousand already in the river shouting encouragement to the ones remaining in the air. It was a sensory delight.

Friday, March 23, 2001


OK. The brothers currently on trips are not the only brothers who can take trips this time of year.

This evening, Judy and I are off on our own trip. We're going to take the weekend off and drive to Nebraska. We're told there is a Sandhill Crane migration that passes through Kearney, Nebraska this time of year and is worth seeing.

Wednesday, February 14, 2001

Man vs machine

Today I got to go do the heart dyno-tune machine. The one where the cardiologist runs you up to about sixteen thousand rpm to see if anything explodes.

I'm happy to report that the machine survived unscathed. Nothing blew up. No parts flew off.

Monday, January 15, 2001

Part IV

For some reason, this seems to be our practice trip for long rambling retirement trips. We just move with the weather and our own inclinations. Once a week or so, we do a chores day and do laundry, shopping, and whatever other errands or projects need doing. The rest of the time we just ramble. We make plans; and they change daily.

I've been thinking about work again lately. I think it's time to head back that direction soon. I'd better treat it well. That work is what will make the extended trips of the future possible.

We went back to the marsh boardwalk again before we left South Padre. We were happy to see the clapper rail, but I really want to see an American Bittern. A Least Bittern would be cool, but there is not as much chance of finding that. We talked to some people at the boardwalk that had seen an American Bittern there earlier in the day, so we've watched and watched. Zero. Maybe we'll stumble into a good marsh up around Corpus Christi.

Our birding has shifted a little. Rather than just looking at all the birds we see until we see something new, we're more likely to research what birds there are in an area, pick out which ones we want to see, then go looking for specific birds. Just a little shift in focus. We still look at all the birds we see as well.

We're back at the beach. Got an oceanside site at Malaquite. It's on the Gulf of Mexico: waves and sand and everything. Won't do much birding here. We'll mostly just hang out on the beach. Maybe we can get a kite out tomorrow. Haven't flown a kite yet. I got Judy a couple cool kites for Christmas. One of them has a forty-five foot tail. Besides, most of the birds here are those crummy shorebirds that all look alike in the winter anyway.

Had a pretty good dinner. Judy roasted a turkey. That, along with mashed potatoes, dressing, cranberry sauce, and peach nectar came together nicely.

And still, we call it camping.

Took a walk after dinner. Got to watch a giant orange moon rise up out of the ocean. Spectacular.

On these January trips we hang out with all the old people in RV parks. Snowbirds and Winter Texans. We pick up lots of advice along the way about what to do as we get older and how to age gracefully. Yesterday's words of wisdom from Frank, the campground host, were: "You're only as young as the women you keep." I think that was a reference to the young woman with me. Works for me.

Took Annie for a two mile run along the beach. This was my chance to run barefoot in the sand along, and sometimes in, the water. Annie is a riot. She runs ten times farther than I do in the same amount of time, and with considerably more enthusiasm. I think I look better when we're through though. My ears aren't nearly as wet.

Now Annie's getting a bath and blow dry while I'm writing this. Ooh. Maybe I could finagle a turn next.

I've noticed something that will apply to longer trips in the future. I haven't done the usual exercises for several weeks and my lower back is beginning to talk to me. I run every day, but that doesn't do much for the back. I think I need to get back to the back machine and the ab machine. I'll need to figure out something portable for future trips.

We were standing on the beach watching some shorebirds, sorting out Willets, Sanderlings, Ruddy Turnstones, and Red Knots; when a falcon popped over the dunes and crashed into the middle of them. He didn't get any of them and flew away empty taloned, but it made the birds disappear in both directions as far as we could see for twenty minutes.

I think I may be dealing with a sleep disorder. We slept some twelve hour nights at the start of the trip just to catch up. Then we slept some more because it felt good. Then we slept some more because we could. I thought I would have been saturated by now. Instead, I find that if we go to bed late, or get up early, and I don't get my twelve hours I only get ten, I feel cheated.

We have coyotes here that are way way too unafraid. It's spooky to be driving down the beach and see a coyote in the middle of the day, and he doesn't run and hide when you see him. Instead, he comes right up to see if you have something good to eat. We're being pretty careful with the pets, but it wouldn't take much of a lapse to lose one. Right now it's nighttime, and Rags is rattling on the screen door trying to get out to play in the dark. Not a good idea.

We didn't do much today: a chores day. Did some laundry. Bought some food. Washed some windows. Watched some football. Walked on the beach.

Now we're planning our return to civilization. We'll leave the beach first thing tomorrow morning and take several days to get home.

Friday, January 12, 2001

Part C

Well, we did it. We pried ourselves loose from Goose Island State Park. We headed south.

We got fogged out of every attempt to go out on the birding boat. Maybe next trip. I should mention that fog is a real treat for us. We don't get much fog in the dry climate of Colorado. It reminds us of our youth.

Judy found a really neat shirt with a roseate spoonbill, and a great egret on it she wanted in a shop in Rockport, but they were out of her size. So "Dovie" was kind enough to paint one up for her at home Saturday and Sunday, so we could pick it up Monday on our way out of town.

Found a racquetball court in Fulton just before we left. We played for an hour just before we picked up the shirt. There is not much racquetball going on in Fulton. The girl at the club said there are four people who use the court. It clearly has not had any maintenance in years. There are two giant screw eyes sticking out of the side walls so they can string a net to play walley-ball. A hole has been kicked in the bottom of the back wall (and then stuffed with paper towels) and there is loose plaster all around it. The ball comes off the front wall so dead, that I hit it a couple of times, then hit it to Judy and said "Oops. I broke the ball. Let me get a new one." But then checked the ball and found it was still intact. Even with a new ball, every hit came off the front wall like a freshly broken ball. All in all, a bizarre racquetball experience, but it sure felt good to hit for awhile.

Spent a little time on the gulf. Got to watch a flock of thirty black skimmers feed for as long as we wanted to stay in the area. Their lower mandible is longer than the upper. They fly just above the water with their lower bill cutting right through the water as they fly. They fly around and around out in the waves and in as close as the water receding from shore after each wave. You can see their heads snap everytime they snag something. Looks like an advil life to me. But then, come to think of it, that's what I have already.

Judy is having a rough day today. We crossed on the ferry boat at Port Aransas, watching the pelicans and dolphins. Then, at our favorite Port Aransas lunch place, she had to eat so much shrimp and fish and chips, that her stomach is still upset. Of course she had to eat it all to prove that she really needed it all, because she refused to just share some of mine with me.

Then we had to drive over a hundred and fifty miles today, and she got overtired and cranky. Things are a little better now that we're stopped for the night. But she doesn't want anything for dinner but Alka-Seltzer, and she doesn't find the noises coming from her stomach nearly as entertaining as I do. Nothing another ten or twelve hours of sleep won't fix.

So we're in a County Park just outside Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, on the twenty-sixth parallel. Can't go much farther south in this country. We're at the same latitude as Miami. We'll get up and bird this park tomorrow morning, go take a look at Laguna Atascosa after that, and probably finish the day in an RV park at the southern tip of South Padre Island. There is a lighthouse state park there we need to take a look at.

Got a good look at an Aplomado Falcon. Very rare. Very beautiful.

Still at the park outside of Laguna Atascosa. Just at dusk last night, a great pack of howling coyotes within fifty feet of us. Later, Judy and Annie finished Annie's last walk for the evening abruptly. Out in the dark walking by themselves, the bushes started rustling, growling, and snorting right next to them. Annie decided she'd rather be in Judy's arms. She leaped there all by herself. Judy decided Annie didn't really have to pee anymore that night. My guess is they had a close encounter with javelina in the dark.

Parked on South Padre Island. Our goal was the county RV park here. But it turns out they only have a little over a thousand RV sites, and you can't get in without a reservation. It's not what we're used to. It's a lot like making a reservation to camp in the middle of a city. Unhooked and explored with the minivan, and found a dry-camping community out on the flats on the Laguna Madre side of the island. There are twenty or thirty motorhomes parked on the sand next to the dunes. We'll park about five hundred yards out on the flats at the waters edge. The middle part of the sand looks pretty soft, but there are some nice hard packed tracks across it. I checked the weather radio, and high tide will be at 6pm. I'm sure we're parked above any recent high tide levels... Nice marsh birding boardwalk at the Convention Center. Saw a clapper rail and a marsh wren.

OK. I was right. We were above the high tide mark by almost ten feet of essentially level sand. Pretty smooth huh?

It tends to be another five degrees or so warmer on this end of the island, and this far south. We'll have highs and lows in the seventies and sixties. But there is just something about this whole southern section of Texas that we don't enjoy as much as a little bit back to the north; up around Corpus Christi. Or maybe it's that there is something about the northern end of the island we enjoy that is lacking down here. Anyway, we'll go back up to the beach to Malaquite campground on North Padre Island to finish up our trip.