Sunday, July 31, 2005


If it's Sunday, this must be Idaho.


Know how, when you're stuck in line at the Grocery checkout, and the
National Enquirer is screaming out unbelievable headlines at you? "Her
husband was abducted by space aliens"?

Well, I believe it. I believe, hidden somewhere in those headlines is a
kernel of truth. It may be tiny, but there is a truth hidden in there.
Maybe there was an unexplained light in the sky, before her husband
disappeared for a few hours to the local bar, and returned with an alcohol
induced explanation of why he went missing, but it's in there.

I think there was a kernel of truth somewhere in the advertisement for the
RV Park we stayed at tonight in Boise. "On the River RV Park". The finest
location in Boise. Open all year. Sparkling restrooms. River quiet in the
city. Shade. Secluded pull through sites. Somewhere in those claims is a

We reserved one of those secluded pull-through sites with fifty amp service.
What we got was a back-to back site where if we parked carefully, we could
open our slide without quite touching the neighbor's slide. It's a hundred
degrees. Fifty amp service for our air conditioning? Thirty amp. Pull
through site? Kind of, but if we had left the car attached, no one else
could have gotten to their pull through site. River quiet? It's next to
the fairgrounds and the minor league baseball stadium. Shade? No.
Secluded sites? Maybe. We're not secluded from each other, but we are
secluded from the river. No sign of it from where we are.

I know. Maybe they really are open all year.

Saturday, July 30, 2005


Along the way, brother Tom's favorite, Wilson Arch.


On the move again. New Mexico, Colorado, Utah. We spent last night at the
KOA in Cortez. Those folks are so nice, we want to stop there any time
we're anywhere near it. We filled out an evaluation card.

Tonight, we're in Sandy Utah at Quail Run RV Park. Saw a dove. Still
waiting for the quail to come out. Maybe it's really Dove Run RV Park. A
visit with Uncle Johnnie. Hot pastrami sandwiches for dinner. Yum. On to
Krispy Kremes for desert. Home in time for alka-seltzer.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Las vegas

Northeastern New Mexico. Not very populated. High and dry. Warm weather,
prairie grass lush and green just going to seed. Rolling green hills
spotted with pinion, juniper and wildflowers. The Las Vegas Wildlife Refuge
is just a few miles from here. Thirty-one birds so far, including the blue

Las Vegas

Las Vegas

and rufous.

Las Vegas

Black chinned.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Grand junction

Wow. What a week. Some jobs require more work than others. This one in
Grand Junction got all my energy. Hot too, over a hundred every day. Hot
everywhere except maybe Seattle.

We did get to meet up with Matt, Kari and Alex on Friday, and a visit with
them on Saturday morning before we left. Headed south to Cortez for the
night on Saturday. I think it was brother Tom who liked the KOA in Cortez.
We stayed there for the first time, and we like it too. Nice place. Very
friendly people. Close in. If we get a job in Cortez, we'll stay there.

Moved on south and east to Las Vegas, New Mexico. We'll be here for a week
with Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Matt may have to contribute another story. We got a call Saturday after we
left. They put Alex down for a nap in the fifth wheel while they were
outside. Door closed and air conditioning on in the heat. Alex gets up
from his nap when he's done. They hear him moving around inside so they go
to check on him. The door is locked.

"Alex, did you lock the door?" "uh-huh."

"Alex, can you unlock the door?" "uh-huh."

"Alex, unlock the door." It goes on. Earlier, while they were driving,
they discovered the red latches on the emergency exit window had been
undone. They had to stop and secure the flapping window. Now, could they
get him to unlock something? Anything? Not a chance. Took fifteen minutes
to regain control, well as much control as is possible over a two-year old.

Sunday, July 17, 2005


Black Swift!

Got it! It's fun to get a bird you haven't seen before, but it's really fun
to get one you've been after for a couple years. Some just fall into your
lap. Some you have to go after. Box Canyon Falls. Nothing flying. Follow
the catwalk into the sheer rock wall slot the water comes out of. Early in
the day, but it gets dark as you get closer to the falls. The roar from the
falls gets louder. Let your eyes adjust to the light. Scan the opposite
wall with your binoculars. There. That little black smudge against the
black wet rock. Give your eyes a little longer, and there it is. A black
swift sitting on its nest. Perfectly clear. Judy spots another. She often
finds the birds first. Now that we know where they are, we can see them
with the naked eye too. Black swifts.

Back in the daylight, we watch the sky. There are swallows circling high,
above the forest on top of the cliffs, violet green swallows, but there,
flashing past, dark shapes with scimitar wings, much longer narrower wings
than a swallow. And twice the speed. White throated swifts and black
swifts as well. Steep rock canyon birds, feeding on insects in the air.
That really makes the day. We've seen them sitting quietly on the nest. We
see them flashing through the sky. This is very very good.

With the kestrel family of four we've been watching, we're up to twenty-five
birds at this park.


Moved to Ridgway State Park south of Montrose. A fourteen bird day here,
and a new one, the williamson's sapsucker. Right at our camp.

Tomorrow, we head to Ouray for the slam-dunk-can't-miss black swift at Box
Canyon Falls. This is the slam-dunk-can't-miss bird that we tried for three
times last year and couldn't get.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Can you find the...

Can you find the cat in this picture?


Can you imagine pulling a trailer this big? It's a triple axle trailer!

Friday, July 15, 2005


Working at the Physics Center amidst a charming mix of accents and
languages. There are names around us like Chandra, Chivukula, Cugliandolo,
Dewangan, Dobrosavljevic, Fiorito, Furasaki, Jung, Kamionkowski, Kaus,
Kluzniak, Kurchan, Malzac, Murayama, Oshikawa, Plischke, I'm not making
these up, Popovic, Pottschmidt, Reichman, Reining, Ruckenstein, Shklovdkii,
Szamel, Titarchuk, Tsui, Vafek, Vainshtein, VanderKlis, Wolynes, Wyse, Yu,
and Zhang.

Each person is assigned a desk in a room with two desks. There are lots of
rooms. My roommate this year is Vlad. He told me a story about coming to
this country. He saw a film, Janice Joplin in Woodstock. He saw this movie
and declared his destiny. He had to go to America. He left Yugoslavia in
the eighties and came here. Janice Joplin was gone. Woodstock was gone.
It was the Regan era. It was a huge disappointment.

He got over it and settled in Florida. He is now a citizen and loves it
here. But he missed Woodstock.

Thursday, July 14, 2005


The Aspen Center for Physics campus.


Fished. Had to fish with the six weight. Still haven't found the
four-weight reel. We both remember getting it out of the shed and putting
it somewhere logical. Now we've checked all the logical places.

Back to work at the Physics Center. What a place! Their job here is to
present the best possible, most desirable place on the planet, for physists
to want to come and spend the summer. While they're here, the physist's job
is to take it easy, enjoy the surroundings, think about and talk about
physics, and collaborate with their colleagues.

There is traffic in the valley, and congestion. The four-lane highway has
been completed all the way from Glenwood Springs to Aspen. All except for a
quarter mile of two lane right outside the city. Four lanes flows into two
and backs up. A person can get frustrated with the commute from Basalt and
wonder if it's worth it. Then you step away from the crowd. Twenty feet.
You walk twenty feet from the grounds of the physics center and you're in
the wilderness and you remember why all these people want to be here. It's
worth it.

A walk down the path on the Meadows Trail. Hummingbirds and chickadees.
Eighty degrees. Aspen leaves blowing in the breeze. It is lush and green,
even in July. Blue sky and fluffy white clouds with impossibly clean edges.
Wildflowers. Evergreens. Castle creek rushing to meet the Roaring Fork.
This place knocks me out.

Sunday, July 10, 2005


More high desert. Left the San Luis Valley and continued north. Desert,
desert, desert. After weeks of high desert, we're suddenly alpine. Ten
thousand feet, lush wetlands, snowpack still melting. Then down from
Leadville by way of Tennessee Pass. Met interstate 70 at Minturn. Lunch at
Wilmore Lake, through Glenwood, past Carbondale, and settled in Basalt by
two. Level the rig, get the slides out, arrange the inside, hook up the
utilities, find the satellite, scrub the bugs off the front, put up the
windshield screens. Hot weather for the mountains, high eighties. Glad
we're up here. The rivers look clear. Time to fire up the flyfishing gear.
Got it all set out. Found everything except the reel for my four-weight
flyrod. Job in Aspen. We'll be here a week.

Saturday, July 9, 2005

San luis

Help! The sky is on fire!

San luis valley

Santa Fe. Three days to do the job. A support organization for
environmental non-profits in a Northern New Mexico adobe. Five mile commute
from the RV Park. Interesting job. Saturday. Time to move on.

North on Hwy 285 from Santa Fe. High desert. Past Wind Mountain. Past San
Antonio Mountain. No high passes. Crossed the state line for Colorado at
Antonito, the eastern terminus of the Cumbres and Toltec scenic railway.
San Luis Valley, past the sand dunes, to San Luis Lakes State Park out in
the middle of the valley. Saltgrass, rabbit brush, and greasewood. A
birding walk produced canada goose, ring billed gull, mourning dove, common
nighthawk, loggerhead shrike, barn swallow, and a new bird for us.... sage

Friday, July 8, 2005

Santa fe

The Santa Fe setup. And not a sunset in sight.

Tuesday, July 5, 2005


Our job in Taos, a nonprofit school, it took all week. We didn't work at
the school, a collection of residential adobe style buildings; we worked at
administrative offices in an old military barracks. Adobe military barracks
from the turn of the century, as was the 18,000 square foot building across
the way, the old convent, now unoccupied. History and artwork. Taos.

We asked where we should go to see some birds. We were told there weren't
any good places around. We saw a ring necked pheasant in the field behind
the barbeque restaurant. We looked on the internet and found Baca Park,
just a few blocks down from where we worked, with a reference to the hard to
find, endangered willow flycatcher. Walked right to it, number 377. Willow

Canyon towhees.

Time to move on. Sixty miles south. Santa Fe.


The previous sunset, the incredible melting sun, brought to you compliments
of some wildfires in Arizona. The sun must have set directly over them and
got so hot you could actually see it beginning to melt.

You'll no doubt be relieved to hear that this sunset sequence is the last
one from Taos. I tried to stop, I couldn't. I had to take sunset pictures
every single night. We are not set up with such a view in Santa Fe to be
subjected to such sunsets, so you're all off the hook for a while.

In the meantime, one more sequence to remember Taos by:

(I have the full size originals if anyone needs a wallpaper)


The morning view.

Monday, July 4, 2005

Saturday, July 2, 2005


I have to resurrect a story from a previous trip. A couple years ago, Judy
and I went to a conference in Phoenix and stayed at a resort called Pointe
South Mountain Resort. It is a very nice resort. We mentioned it to Matt
before we left. It turns out he and Kari had been there just a couple weeks
before. He told us it had a water park.

It had a water park. It had a water slide. The water slide impressed me.
It impressed me enough to write this report in June 2003.

I just have a half-day of class today, so Judy was kind
enough this morning to be today's racquetball victim. After that, I went to
my class session. I got out of my session at 2pm, so we lathered up with
sunscreen and spent the afternoon in the water park. The water park is
great. Grass, lounge chairs, chair-side service, streams, bridges,
fountains, waterfalls, water jets, palm trees, cabanas, waves, bubbles, and
slides. There is a lazy river. It winds its way through the water park at
a leisurely pace while you float along on a tube. Judy and I selected a
double tube and circled the endless loop together for an hour. What a nice
thing to do. We laid in the sun, drifted down the river, bobbed about on
tubes in the wave pool, and went down the water slide. The water slide.
This is a serious water slide. A speed slide. This water slide is eight
stories high. Eight stories!

Going down the speed slide is easy, really. You just climb
to the top of the tower and sit down on the ledge at the top. Looking down
to the bottom, you can see the bottom of the slide, but nothing in between.
You just let go, slip over the edge, and trust that the middle part of the
slide truly is there, and it's not all just a terrible. Awful. Sick.

You keep your legs extended straight out and crossed at the
ankles. Fold your arms across your chest. Then hold that position as you
fall out of the sky, accelerating to about 40 mph, your body keeping touch
with the slide every now and then on the way down.

Now you might think that sliding down the slide is about
starting and sliding, and you would be right. But there is more. There is
re-entry. Somehow all that falling energy has to be converted back to earth
molecules as we know them. This is accomplished amid a great roar and
spectacular spray on the run-out at the end. The run-out starts with about
an inch of standing water, and gets progressively deeper until it is several
inches deep. This is the reason for keeping your legs crossed at the
ankles. It is very important to keep your legs crossed at the ankles. We
don't want to lose any parts along the way. But there is something else
that is important to do that they don't tell you about at the top, though.
When you hit the standing water at the end, focus. Shift your mind from,
"Oh Shit! I'm going to die. I can't breathe. Who'll take care of the
children?" to "Keep your feet down. Hit the water with your feet."
Something has to absorb the energy of this progressive impact. I know from
personal experience that if your feet don't absorb it, the next body part in
line will. I can also tell you that all the little fat particles in your
butt vibrating at supersonic speed can leave you a little sore the next day.

After going down the slide once, I wasn't sure I actually
remembered all of it, so I felt I needed to do it a few more times, to be
sure I had absorbed the entire experience. I'm now certain that I've
absorbed enough. I never did feel I completely mastered the part about
keeping your feet down at the end, though.

Why do I dredge this up? Because of a later conversation with Matt. When
he read this report he couldn't believe it. He had just been to this
resort, and the water slide was nothing like I described. It was more like
a kid's toy. He couldn't believe that his dad was embellishing the story
like this. "Keep you legs crossed at the ankles"? "Fold you arms across
your chest"? "I can't breathe"? It just got worse and worse. His dad was
such a liar!

Well, then he looked at the pictures. Know what? There is another resort
in Phoenix that is named something like Pointe South Mountain Resort, but
not exactly. He had stayed at a different resort. One with a water slide
and a kiddie pool. His dad was not such a liar after all.

Friday, July 1, 2005



More racquetball. Played a younger guy this time. We played a game. Then
another. And another. And another. He just wouldn't let up.

His strategy was to overwhelm. Play fast. Hit it so hard the other guy
can't get to it, can't hit it back. To counter, I applied patience. Do
whatever it takes to keep the ball in play. Wait for offensive
opportunities. Let him make the mistakes.

He was strong. He hit it really really hard. Much harder than I can hit
it. He just couldn't hit it hard enough to win.

I love this game.