Thursday, March 30, 2006

Bosque

Darn it! We’re done here. Done with Silver City. I think we need another job here so we can come more than once a year.

Finished up this morning, drove as far as Bosque del Apache. Spent a couple hours in the preserve. Eared grebes, white faced ibis, sharp shinned, coopers, swainson’s, ring-necked pheasants without rings around their necks. They were all white winged (Afghanistan) variety. Black necked stilts, american avocets, long billed dowitchers, snipe, black phoebes everywhere, a good look at a marsh wren, chipping, savannah, and white crowned. Plus all the usual suspects. Not enough time here. We stop for the night on the way through, then wish we had a couple days to spend.

Ah well, maybe next time.

Tomorrow, Colorado Springs. Becky, Brian and the kids are there on a spring break trip. Can you believe it’s spring break already? We hope to meet up with them for a day at the zoo.


Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Lordsburg

We don’t have much experience with soft water. We had it in Lordsburg though, and it makes me wonder….. How do you know when all the soap is rinsed off, if you’re still as slippery as when you first got soapy?


Monday, March 27, 2006

Birding

Of the three birds we were after, the juniper titmouse was the best one to not get. We’re not going to get the Mexican chickadee or the yellow eyed junco anywhere else, but we got them while we were in Arizona. The juniper titmouse? We didn't get him, but he has a range of four western states. Juniper oak forest, juniper pinion forest, that’s his habitat. We're in juniper oak right now. And Utah, Utah has tons of juniper titmice. I looked it up.

We might have to go spend the night at a place called Kodachrome Basin State Park in Utah to find them next chance we get. Now who would want to go to a place called Kodachrome Basin State Park? It’s either that or Coral Pink Sand Dunes.

Well, we’ll do whatever it takes.


Sunday, March 26, 2006

Silver city

Fifty miles. Not much of a driving day, but here we are in Silver City, all settled and ready for work tomorrow.

We got a really good campsite at the RV Park. Great view, pulls right up to a cement patio, the bird feeders are out, the canyon towhees have come to visit already.

It's all good.


Saturday, March 25, 2006

Chiricahuas

A good birding day. The Chiricahua mountains. Worked our way up through Portal, South Fork of Cave Creek, Rustler Park, and Paradise. High desert to high mountains. Had three target birds, got two of them, the mexican chickadee and the yellow eyed junco. Identified fifty birds altogether, including a couple more new ones we didn't expect, the olive warbler, and blue throated hummingbird.

Great fun. We'll plan a trip back here some time for another try at the juniper titmouse.

Tomorrow… Silver City.


Friday, March 24, 2006

Santa fe skies

Santa fe

The park we stayed at is called Santa Fe Skies. It is appropriatly named, with sweeping views:





Lordsburg

This morning’s destination…. Silver City New Mexico. But how can you go through an entire day driving down the road, without changing the target a few times? We considered Las Vegas, decided to go to City of Rocks, ultimately ending up in Lordsburg.

Normally, a person wouldn’t spend the night in Lordsburg on purpose. Lordsburg is the place you stop for the night when you can’t make it all the way to the place you really meant to go.

Except for us. We’re still in New Mexico, but within perfect striking distance of the Chiricahua Mountains in Arizona, a “sky island” in the desert. It is perfectly isolated in Arizona, but within the range of several Mexican species of birds that are found nowhere else in the United States. Tomorrow’s target birds are: Mexican chickadee, juniper titmouse, and yellow eyed junco.

We covered a lot of thermometer today. We went from twenty-five degrees this morning to seventy-five degrees this afternoon. We don't have to unhook the hoses tonight. It won't go below freezing.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Santa fe

We like it here in Santa Fe. We like the altitude, the weather, and the sunsets. We like the adobe architecture. We like the way the streets wander around through town instead of being laid out on a grid, even though the terrain doesn’t require they do that. It’s interesting. We like the birds. This morning, from the coach, we saw mountain bluebird, western bluebird, curve billed thrasher, pink sided dark eyed junco, scrub jay, white crowned sparrow, house finch, common raven, canyon towhee, mockingbird, and a hummingbird.

We got to watch the wooing ritual of the curve billed thrasher. The female ran all around acting interested and unattainable, while the male crouched on the ground in a full-body puff, flexing his wings and tail while he flicked the dirt and twigs with his bill. Who could resist that?

Poor Annie got sick and had to go to the vet. Bladder infection. She has been on antibiotics since Tuesday and feels a lot better now. Back to her charming happy self.

The job here was a pleasure. Had the exit conference today. Tomorrow is a travel day. We get to drive from the north of New Mexico to the south of New Mexico. Next stop, Silver City.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Racquetball

Remember how I was always telling you how good I was at racquetball? Well, nevermind. Now I suck at racquetball.

Up till now, my game hadn’t changed at all. I hadn’t been on a court in months, but hadn’t missed a day in my head. I recently went on a court, expecting to play that game that was still in my head.

It didn’t happen.

My body wasn’t ready for it. It hurt my elbow to follow through on the backhand stroke. I think I hyperextended it. I had no wind. Apparently two mile slow jogs on the beach at sea level aren’t much preparation for the bursts required for racquetball at five thousand feet. I thought at least I’d be able to hit the ball with some pace, but noooo. No timing. Popups. Line drives into the dirt. Wasn’t much there.

It got better after I found someone to play, but it never got good. I guess I can’t preserve the game by just thinking about it.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Santa fe

A misty morning; nice for a bird walk. Saw some snow geese, redheads, canvasbacks, scaups, a hooded merganser, mourning doves, collared doves, kestrels, shrikes, harriers, robins, an American pipit, a spotted towhee, tons of white crowned sparrows, tons of juncos (Oregon and pink sided). I love the dark-eyed juncos; don’t see nearly enough of them, plus all the other usual suspects like house sparrow, starlings, rock doves, ravens, etc.

The fog lifted to scattered clouds for a cool easy drive to Santa Fe. Know how some freeways are trucker’s freeways and some aren’t? Some freeways are mostly just cars driving along, but some freeways, like Interstate 80 and Interstate 40 are clogged with trucks. There are likely to be at least as many trucks as cars. Guess those routes get them where they need to go over the terrain of least resistance.

Anyway, we drove highway 60 across New Mexico and discovered it is a railroad highway. Know how you’ll drive along and see a train or two all day? Highway 60 parallels east/west railroad tracks, side-by-side tracks, and you can generally see two or three trains at any time. These trains, out in the open country, travel sixty-five miles per hour, exactly the same speed we were traveling. We could drive for twenty minutes right next to the same train. Trains loaded with trucks.

Arrived in Santa Fe at the same time as the snow flurries. Perfect timing. Checked in to the RV Park, Santa Fe Skies, a quick trip to a clinic for some minor repairs, drive by Monday’s client’s office to locate it, a stop for some Mexican food (not hard to find Mexican food in Santa Fe), and a drive past the rec center with the racquetball court to make sure they really were closed late on a Sunday night. They were.

Home safe and sound and warm inside the house. Let it snow.

(We hear they're gearing up for the blizzard of '06 in Denver).


Clinic

Funny thing, that trip to the clinic. I’ve had this background burning pain in my bladder the last couple days that worked its way to the foreground. Bladder infection? Something going on, thought I’d better get it checked. Totally asymptomatic, except for that burning, not while I pee, but before and after. Feels like I have to pee, even when I’ve just finished.

The clinic doctor couldn’t figure it out. No bladder infection. Might be some kind of urinary tract infection, but didn’t present properly for that. Blood in the urine. Might have something to do with my enlarged prostate. She told me to take antibiotics if I got a fever and to go back to my doctor to get my prostate checked again.

Aha! Took a while to connect, but, there it is. Blood in the urine. Uneasy bladder. Been there. It has been fifteen years, but been there. Kidney stone. That’s what this feels like! Blood in the urine. Vague pain. Here it comes.

Nothing serious. Serious pain, but not like having some debilitating disease. Most likely resolution, I’ll suddenly be overcome with pain, Judy will rush me to the hospital, they will give me morphine and squeeze as much fluid through me as fast as they can until the stone passes. Last time, they didn’t even have to check me in. They flushed it through, then sent me home to sleep off the rest of the morphine. Shouldn’t take more than a couple days from whenever it starts, really starts. Maybe in an hour, or a day, or a month…..


Saturday, March 18, 2006

Portales

Leaving Las Vegas. Las Vegas is located on a giant shelf next to the Rocky Mountains. It’s not in the mountains, but it is still at 6,500 feet. We decided to drop off the shelf and head out into the plains. We dropped 2,000 feet when we left Villa Grove, Colorado for Las Vegas, New Mexico. We dropped another 2,000 feet by driving a little farther east. We’re at Oasis State Park right at the eastern border of New Mexico, just north of Portales, at 4,500 feet. Cool and foggy. Birded the little pond. Got to watch a harrier hunt the prairie. A quiet mild weekend.


Friday, March 17, 2006

Mysteries

Lessons learned. I’ve talked before about all the warning bells and buzzers we have in this coach. We discovered a new one. The first time we heard it we were blowing down the freeway in the Texas hill country. Down a hill, across the bridge at the bottom, bounce, “dong, dong, dong). Warning bell, then it stopped. Later, another bump, another “dong, dong, dong”. High speed, slow speed, bounce the coach and you get the warning bell. Has to be suspension, right? Air suspension, maybe a leak in a bag, a brief low air alarm, then resolved? Never any indication on any of the gauges, just the warning bell, then nothing.

Phone calls for service. Tech support. Then the solution. Over the phone. Nothing to do with suspension. A jack slipped. We have two leveling systems: air leveling and hydraulic jacks. We’ve used the hydraulic jacks maybe two times, to stabilize the rig in really high winds. The alarm that tells you if you’re trying to drive off with the jacks down is tied to the hydraulic fluid reservoir for the jacks. The fluid in the reservoir goes down when the jacks are extended, then it comes back up when the jacks are retracted. He said next time we hear the warning “dong, dong, dong”, push the jack retract button and that should take care of it. We weren’t traveling right then, so we didn’t actually have the opportunity to test the theory until later, but it was attractive for its simplicity. He sounded like he knew what he was talking about.

And now that we’ve driven again? He nailed it. The jacks are up. The warning bell is gone. All mysteries should have such simple solutions.


Thursday, March 16, 2006

Villa grove

The view from the campground.

Las Vegas, New Mexico

Done! Fieldwork finished, report drafted, exit conference done. What a great job, this land trust. What a pleasure. I’ll finish off the workpapers tomorrow and send it all back to the office. Then I’ll have time to do some more work on the job I did the week before in Carbondale, but didn’t get done.

Beautiful as the San Luis Valley is, Judy and I left it to find some place warmer to spend the weekend. Tonight, we’re in Las Vegas, New Mexico, twenty degrees warmer than last night.

Next job starts Monday in Santa Fe.


Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Villa grove

This. Is a very big valley.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Villa grove

Not a bad gig.

The view from the office window. They make me sit right in front of that window to work (sort of).

Villa grove

Well, it took a few days to sort out, but there is clearly a winner of the battle in the sky. The blue sky won, the snowclouds have been vanquished. From that, you might expect the snowclouds were the losers, but not so. The temperature lost. The clouds left, and so did the temperature. The thermometer dropped to none last night. Beautiful during the day though. It got all the way up above freezing today.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Beach

The beach is sometimes just a long straight junction between the sea and the sand. Sometimes, on the same beach, it is much more. At low tide, humps, bumps, and shelves are revealed. Sometimes ponds form in these humps and bumps, then as the sea retreats, the ponds leak their contents after. Rivulets form, patterns evolve in the sand.

It is a straight flat beach, with smaller worlds of wonder created and dissolved every day.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Villa grove

Our plan worked well; a successful travel day. Cold, snowy, and icy in Golden. It took us a long time to leave. I spent some time on the roof trying to get enough snow and ice off the slide awnings that they would roll up at least part way before just bunching up the remaining fabric at the top of the slide room as it finished retracting. Dry roads from Denver to Pueblo, with the temperature rising thirty degrees. We pulled over at a rest stop, put the slides back out and let the rest of the snow and ice melt off the slide awnings before we continued on. The roads were still dry and the weather was warm, so we headed west for Canon City. It was snowing lightly there, but the roads were only wet, so we continued west into the mountains to Salida. Seven thousand feet, and temperature right at freezing, but partly clear, with only swirls of snow and only twenty-five miles to go to get to Villa Grove, so we turned south over Poncha Pass at nine thousand feet, which had only scattered patches of snowpack, into a windstorm on the other side. The wind blew great clouds of snow across the road causing sporadic whiteout conditions, which gradually subsided to dancing swirls of snow devils. We don’t recall ever seeing snow devils before. We thought those mini cyclones were only a hot weather summertime affair, but here they were, at twenty degrees, sucking up the snow into little vortexes (vortices?).

Until the big one. Rising in the distance, we saw it from miles away, waiting for us, hungry for a motorhome. The snornado.

We approached it cautiously. We didn’t want to mess with it. It was a hundred feet high. It could swallow us without a burp. We watched as it wandered off the road, and was fully a quarter mile away when we took our opportunity to pass it uneventfully.

Now we’re in a deserted campground in the middle of nowhere, (also known as Villa Grove, Colorado), flocks of dark eyed juncos on the ground, at the north end of a hundred mile long valley, temperature in the teens, surrounded by snowy peaks, the snowclouds and blue sky locked in battle. So far, we’re going to have to call it a draw. We’ll let you know how it turns out.

Cochise stronghold

And the view when we were in the Dragoon Mountains, at Cochise Stronghold in Arizona.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Villa grove

Today, we got ready. Tomorrow, we leave for Villa Grove in the San Luis Valley. We work with a land trust there. Problem is, winter is happening in the high country. It’s March. Spring is almost here, but winter hasn’t left yet. We’ll drive south as far as Pueblo. From there it’s another 120 miles mostly west to get to the client. Judy can monitor upcoming road conditions on her computer while we’re driving. We’ll stop whenever conditions dictate. I can start work on the job, even if we’re not all the way there.

That’s today’s plan, anyway.

Carbondale

We’re back to our house (the motorhome) at Dakota Ridge in Golden. It is so good to be home.

But since we drove back and forth across the Continental Divide, you know what that means…

One more picture.

You know what it is. You can barely see it, but it’s there.

Dillon Lake in the mist.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Carbondale

We left Carbondale. We drove the Jeep there and stayed in a hotel so we wouldn’t have to drive back and forth across the divide in the motorhome in bad weather. So, of course, the weather was just fine the whole time we were there. It was fine right up until it was time to leave. The weather we drove back to Denver in was the reason we didn’t take the motorhome there. Snow, teens, fog, whiteout, snowpack, slush, splashback. A driving adventure. It all cleared up right at Denver. Dry roads. No problem.

Chairs

But the new ones…. They are soo comfortable. The bottom seat cushion adjusts forward and back. Everything else adjusts too. Seat up, down, tilt, forward, back. Seat back tilt. Power headrest, who needs a power headrest? Lumbar support and heat.

They didn’t give us an operator’s manual. I’m still looking for the slot to put quarters in so I can lie down and get the magic fingers massage.

Chairs

The old chairs were nice enough. Big. Comfortable. They just didn’t fit us right.

Thursday, March 9, 2006

Carbondale

The view of Sopris changes from day to day, moment to moment.

A day at the park

And Teigan got her chance too. Determined on the way up. Not quite sure about “Life at the top” once she got there.

Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Monday, March 6, 2006

Birds

The many moods of the acorn woodpecker.

A day at the park

Involved a climbing rock as well.

Sunday, March 5, 2006

Camera

Testing the telephoto.

A day at the park

Teigan, Conner, and friend.

Carbondale

We left the bus behind and drove the Jeep to Carbondale. We didn’t mean to go to the high country quite this early, but duty calls. Of course, to get here, we drove the Jeep through some of the nicest weather we’ve ever encountered. Sixty degrees, calm, blue sky, and perfectly clear roads.

Now I know what you’re saying to yourselves right now. You’re saying “Another trip to Carbondale. He’s going to send another picture of that mountain. I know he’s going to send another Sopris picture.”

Okay. I won’t keep you in suspense. Here it is, at the start of the trip this time.