Sunday, December 30, 2007

Christmas

What a week with the kids. We had Christmas and presents. There were remote control helicopters to fly in the house. Kids as young as Teigan (six) got the hang of hovering and directional control. The kids rode horses on the beach and visited the Lexington (a WWII aircraft carrier) in Corpus Christi Harbor. They crossed bridges and rode ferry boats. We went to Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and saw the whooping cranes and roseate spoonbills. We saw armadillos and deer, and got to pet a baby alligator. There was playing in the pool and there were several days at the beach. The water wasn’t too cold for the kids. There were sandcastles with motes to protect them from the tides, sand holes for the tide to fill in, tiny clams, crabs, starfish, seashells, shorebirds, seagulls, and boogie boards.

We got to introduce our family to friends here and share favorite places. There were many meals for eight. Altogether a joyful noise. It was quite a week.

They left this afternoon. They’ll do Sea World in San Antonio tomorrow and the Alamo the day after before heading for Carlsbad Caverns on the way home.

It was a special Christmas for us Becky, Brian, Taylor, Tony, Teigan, and Conner.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Port a

Christmas day, a drive down the National Seashore beach. Sand and waves and birds; still blustery. Today we got our good weather back; calm and clear, but still a little cool. Sixty.


Sunday, December 23, 2007

christmas

The kids are coming. The kids are coming.

Becky, Brian and the kids are on their way here for Christmas. They’ve been on the road for days.

They rented a Class C Winnebago and left the Denver area Thursday evening just ahead of the storm. They made it across Monument Divide and south of Colorado Springs that night. Cold, but south of the storm. Friday they drove over Raton Pass before the storm moved that far south and on to Amarillo; a good day’s drive. They made it to Texas, but that night the storm hit. The weather window slammed shut. The wind blew and the rig rocked all night. Morning found them watching it snow 50 mph sideways. Not a good idea to be on the road in a motorhome in the wind and snow, so they stayed put. The storm let up Saturday afternoon, so they made a quick drive south to Lubbock, all of 100 miles; out of the snow but not out of the cold; a low in the teens again.

Sunday, another drive south all day to the other side of San Antonio; to one of our favorite places; Choke Canyon State Park. They’ll get warm weather, quiet water, deer, javelina, and wild turkeys.

Tomorrow, they’ll get us and we get them.

Choke Canyon State Park

Okay. They’re not really blue jays, they’re called green jays.


From: Steve Taylor [mailto:spt@thetaylorcompany.net]
Sent: Saturday, December 22, 2007 8:51 PM
To: Bill Taylor (Bill Taylor); David Taylor (David Taylor); Tom Taylor (Tom Taylor)
Subject: Choke Canyon State Park


Birding in Texas is so fun. They even have blue jays that are green!

Choke canyon state park

Coveys of bobwhite

Neotropic cormorants

Harris’s hawks

Greater roadrunner

Golden fronted woodpeckers

Vermilion flycatchers

Scissor tailed flycatchers

Green jays

Blue gray gnatcatchers

Long billed thrasher

And olive sparrow.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Choke Canyon State Park

Birding in Texas is so fun. They even have blue jays that are green!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Medical update

Saw the cardiologist today, for the first time since the hospital (two weeks ago). He says I’m as good as he can make me and turned me loose (for four more months).

I still get chest pain during strenuous exercise; so I can walk every day, but I can’t run. I was concerned that the remaining chest pain might mean they missed something and I might need more work, but the doctor said that is not the case. He says the angiogram reveals blockages as small as 20%. There are no significant blockages remaining. When they saved the two major arteries in my heart, they lost a small one. It had some flow in it, but after they fixed the other two arteries, it just went away. They don’t know why that happens; sometimes it just does. The portion of my heart that is supposed to be fed by that small artery doesn’t like it when it runs out of fuel during exercise and that’s what causes the chest pain. The good news is that over time, collateral vessels will probably develop to make up the difference.

This is a good place to be. We’re done with doctors having to fix things for the foreseeable future, but there is still work to be done. I get the challenge of exercising (within limits) with the expectation of improving exercise capacity. There has been a fair amount of anxiety for the six weeks or so, wondering what the outcome will be. We’re happy with this one.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

National seashore

Images from a drive down the national seashore beach for my birthday. A picnic lunch. A stunning sunset over the water at Snoopy’s for dinner.

A good day.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Port aransas

From the beach, we watch the tankers go back and forth through the channel to Corpus Christi. We thought that was the whole story until we read that they’re talking about widening and deepening the channel. If they deepen the channel, these tankers can carry more and empty a supertanker in four trips instead of five. As big as that ship looks, it’s tiny compared to the supertanker out there somewhere we don’t even see.

The tankers are low in the water when they come in and high in the water when they go out. Guess they don’t produce enough oil in Texas, they have to put oil into the pipeline by tankerload as well.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Port aransas

All up and down the Texas Coast; small fishing towns with hard working shrimp fleets. The texas coast. The third coast.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Gulf waters

Don and Sue left their motorhome here and drove back to Illinois for Christmas with their family. They’ll be back before New Years.

Dean and Betty Jo arrived in their new Newell. A significant upgrade from the nice American Eagle they were in last year. The Newell is all curved lines inside; not a square corner. It’s a forty-five footer. They made good use of the extra five feet of length with an extended front room: a rambling sofa on one side and a sweeping office desk on the other. The exterior door and the interior doors are air-operated, so they open and close with a quiet whoosh at the push of a button. It has a doorbell. It is a thing of beauty.

No. An upgrade from the Beaver coach is not in our plans.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Our pond

There is drama in our pond.

A pair of coots owns it. Other birds can be in the pond. The ruddy ducks aren’t a problem. The yellowlegs, great egret, and blue heron can work the shore. The scaup and blue winged teal can paddle about. Wilson’s snipe; fine. Doves, killdeer, and grackles coming down to drink; no big deal. But no other coots are allowed.

The problem is; more coots want to live in this pond. Any other coot touches the water though, and the resident coots turn into half-submerged attack submarines, heads straight out on extended necks at water level, clucking and scolding. At one point it escalated into a splash fight, two sets of coots, each bird locked up with another at the feet, flapping and squawking wildly, each trying to gain the advantage and submerge the other. It was like watching bull elk locked in mortal combat except it wasn’t mortal combat and they’re not bull elk. They’re ducks. It was a splash fight.

We left on a side-trip for three days. When we left, the two coots in the pond were holding off five intruding coots ganged up on the grass at the edge of the pond, probing for a weakness in the defense. None of the new coots was able to stay in the water yet, but it was a continuing assault.

Three days later, the rules have been rewritten. We come home and there are twelve birds in the pond, four of them coots. There are now two pair of coots in the pond. They don’t tolerate each other well, it takes lots of squawking, clucking, and sometimes chasing and splashing to reinforce the limits, but it is now a four coot pond.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Gulf waters

Gulf Waters is where we spend the winter. We’re in our site; our only real physical address now. Attached are pictures of the boardwalk to the beach, and the view from there. We’re used to that crystal clear Colorado sky, but we don’t mind a little humidity sea haze in the winter. Nice to rehydrate.

Never know what you’re going to get with the beach. For the past two weeks there hasn’t been a piece of seaweed on it. Today, big difference. It changes; we watch.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Our pond

This is our little pond. That’s us down there in the corner. There are RV sites all around the pond, but there is hardly anyone here now. We almost have it all to ourselves.

It will be full by Christmas.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Port aransas

Interesting side benefit to this fix-the-blood-supply-to-the-heart thing. Before the angioplasty, my blood pressure ran about 138 over 78, plus or minus a few points. Last night, my blood pressure was 106 over 68. Looks like they eliminated some back pressure. They put me back to where I was, or better. I’m wondering how much better. They told me to take it easy over the weekend, not because my heart needed rest, just to make sure the artery in my leg is healed. I’ve only made easy walks so far. Tomorrow I get to try a light jog.

There is a downside to all this. We had to cancel my annual haircut with Cynthia. Now we’ll have to decide whether to reschedule or just wait until next winter.

December is a great time to be here on Mustang Island. Turn off the air-conditioner in the morning, pull on some shorts, and step outside at seventy degrees. Coffee on the patio. A drive to goose island state park. Ferryboat. Pelicans. Dolphins. Shrimp for lunch at the boiling pot; they cover the table with butcher paper then pour your lunch out onto it. The Cowboys came back to win. Our Broncos won. We’re fifty degrees warmer than Denver. A good Sunday.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Along the way

Know how when you’re flyfishing, sometimes you work a fish in and when you release him, he’s worn out, so he’ll just hang out in the water next to your foot until he gets everything back in order? Sometimes it takes twenty minutes. Well, working in the coach on a Friday, warm weather, door open, a junco flew in. He fluttered about, then knocked himself silly on the windshield trying to get out. But we bird like we fish; catch-and-release. We held him for awhile, then set him outside in the shade till his bells stopped ringing. He hung out with us for about twenty minutes and finally flew away.

Pink sided junco.

Friday, December 7, 2007

My heart

I’m delighted to report that I’m alive and well. We weren’t entirely sure it was going to work out that way these last few days.

The exercise chest pain we had been discussing these last few weeks was not the result of California smog. It was not indigestion. It really was an early warning of heart trouble. There had been a gradual drop off in exercise performance, but the chest pain defined it. Restricted blood flow to the arteries in the heart. The chest hurt when the heart couldn’t get enough blood to do its work. As the arterial restriction increased, the exercise capacity decreased. We went to the doctor.

We couldn’t have been better cared for. The GP doctor in Port Aransas called the cardiologist directly to get us right in. The cardiologist gave me the treadmill test himself (not to see how far I could go this time, but to document when the discomfort started). The cardiologist got us a room in the hospital that night and on the calendar for the “cath lab” the very next day. The cath lab found an artery that was 99% blocked, closely followed by two more blocks at 85% each, and another artery that was 70% blocked. We had made it to help in time, but just barely. They opened up the blocked arteries and put in a couple stents to make sure they stayed open. One day later I’m home and good to go. Good as new…. or at least better than before… writing this!

What an amazing process! They puncture an artery in my leg, feed instruments all the way up into my heart (angiogram), identify the blockages, open them up with a small balloon (angioplasty), insert little wire mesh cages (the stents) into the affected areas, expand another balloon inside each of the stents until they match the diameter and configuration of the arteries, pull everything back out, and send me home within twenty-four hours of starting the procedure. I never got a general anesthetic; it was all local. I never even got a pain pill. I never needed it.

In the hospital, they kept good track of me. Before and after the procedure, I had a heart monitor on my chest at all times. All the wires attached to my chest terminated in a sending unit in a pocket of my gown. The nurse’s station was monitoring the signal from every heart monitor on the floor. The morning of the heart catheterization, Judy got next to me in bed for an extended hug. Within just a few minutes, the door burst open and the floor nurse said “I have to see his heart monitor.” He checked everything out, then pushed a button to turn the heart monitor back on. When Judy laid up against me, she unknowingly pushed the button to turn the heart monitor off. All they could tell at the nurses station was that I had suddenly flatlined.

It was a long day Thursday. We were up at five for the blood draw, vitals signs, and such. A few hours later they took me into the lab for the procedure which took a couple hours, then held me in recovery for three hours, then sent me back to my room with instruction not to move my right leg or anything attached to it, and not to lift my head for six hours. They had just punched a hole in the femoral artery in my right leg through which to thread the instruments up to my heart, and they wanted to give the artery time to close back over before we did anything that might accidentally open it back up. It’s an artery, not a vein, so we really really don’t want that thing pumping uncontrolled. So I’m lying on my back in bed. I can’t move anything on my right side. If I forget and bend my left elbow, it crimps off the IV line and the alarm goes off on the machine next to the left side of my head, so I can’t move my left arm much either. Halfway into the six hour don’t-move-a-thing assignment, it had been ten hours since the last time I peed. We asked the nurse if it was okay for me to get up for a minute. She handed me a bottle. Right. I’m going to lie on my back, head on my pillow, not clench any muscles, and pee into a bottle. Sixty years of training to hold the bladder while in that position, no matter what, no matter how many times you dream about walking into the restroom and peeing; and I’m going to convince all my involuntary muscles to forget about that, it’s okay to go just this one time. It was a long three more hours to the end of my bed rest sentence.

Early on in this process, as I lay in a room between visits and tests, Judy and I together at all times, I was struck with the realization that had I been born at any other time in all of human history, we would be saying goodbye right now instead of choosing treatment options. I was fading fast. I could feel I only had a short time left. Without the option of going inside the heart and fixing it, there was nothing else to be done. My time had come.

It’s a good time to be alive.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Medical follow-up

We’re all settled in where we intend to be for months. Now it’s time to do the cardiac follow-up. Saw the GP in the nearby town of Port Aransas (five miles away) today. Now we have a family doctor in town. He agrees, we’re probably talking artery blockage, so he has set us up with a cardiologist in Corpus Christi (only twenty miles away) tomorrow. This is not an emergency. I’m not having a heart attack. But it probably is time to get some work done.

We don’t know the extent of the work to be done yet. They’ll probably do an angiogram; slide a tube up through a vein in my leg and take a look at my heart from the inside. When they do that, everything else they might need to do just naturally follows while they’re already there. Decisions will be made on the fly. Judy already knows all my concerns and preferences.

I’m glad to get this taken care of now. My daily exercise has been slowed to a snail’s pace. This should get me back on the road again.

We’ll find out more tomorrow. I’ll report back.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Port aransas

Blue sky, but cold and windy today. Temperature in the fifties. Brr. Let’s get back to that beach weather. It’s too early for January weather.

The forecast looks promising.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Gulf waters

Kerrville to Port Aransas. Downhill; and south. We’ve not only moved to the eastern section of the Texas map, now we’ve moved to the southern page of the eastern section. Texas takes up four pages of the map atlas. We’re kind of in South Texas. We’re pretty far south; much farther south than San Diego, but when people refer to South Texas they generally mean The Valley. The Valley is that part of South Texas following the Rio Grande along the Mexico border. It’s not really a valley at all, it’s a hundred mile wide coastal plane with no noticeable changes in elevation. Corpus Christi is on that same coastal plain but farther north. Padre Island is a barrier island that runs for a hundred miles from The Valley all the way up to Corpus Christi. We’re on the next barrier island to the north of Padre Island, Mustang Island. We’re five miles south of the town of Port Aransas which is on the northern tip of Mustang Island. Gulf Waters RV Resort.

Eighty degrees, calm, and misty when we got here. Tonight, it’s all the way down to seventy degrees so far, and foggy. We’re on the beach. We won’t be moving once a week for a while.

Motorhomes

Okay. It has already been done. A double-decker in fact.

Bluebird

You’ve seen those distinctive Bluebird Wanderlodge motorhome busses? Flat front. Lots of window awnings. Sometimes they even have names on the front.

We spotted an entire flock of them at Buckhorn.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Missed opportunity

Look at this! Soo close. If only they’d connect the motorhome and the trailer with an enclosed passengerway like on a train.

The whole giant motorhome, matching trailer, swirly paintjob thing; that’s been done before. They could have raised the bar. They could have set the standard. They could have had a giant seventy-five foot articulated RV.

Soo close.

You know you've arrived when...

Your windshield needs four wipers.

Fort stockton

Drove from Fort Stockton to Kerrville. Wind and rain. Short day. We’re getting east now. We crossed over to the eastern half of the Texas map. Back in the central time zone. Got some humidity too.

Buckhorn RV Resort. It’s definitely a big-rig park.

Grandkid update

Austin.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Fort stockton

Now we’re getting somewhere. Now we’re in Texas. East of I-25. Haven’t been there lately. We’ve been as far west as San Diego this trip. We’re way east of that now. Even after driving this far east though, we’re still in the west. We’re in West Texas.

I love driving this bus down the highway. West Texas speed limit; 80 mph. The truck speed limit is 70. Mostly we just hang with the trucks. We stop for the day before the driving gets old. As a side benefit to that, if you don’t drive more than about 300 miles a day, you only have to stop for fuel every other day. One tank in Benson Arizona; the next tank in Fort Stockton. Two more days before the next tank.

We didn’t see the roadrunner at the park in Las Cruces. We’ve stopped at the KOA in Fort Stockton however, and will eat at the Roadrunner CafĂ©. Chicken fried steak. A tradition.

Scaled quail, pyrrhuloxia, white-tailed deer and javelina.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Las Cruces

We’ve been looking for Montezuma Quail. We’ve been seeing Gamble’s Quail. We’ve moved on. We’ve been out west for a long time. We’re doing a major relocation.

Arizona to New Mexico. Patagonia to Las Cruces. East side of the Continental Divide again, but still out west. And at the rest stop at lunch… a flock of scaled quail.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Patagonia

Standing by the river in Parker Arizona last week, watching the ducks on the water, there was another guy standing next to me, watching the ducks on the water. We talked. “Nice weather.” “Where you from.” “Nice ducks.” We were there doing the same thing; admiring the ducks. But as the conversation progressed, differences developed. He started talking about the ducks that dove and what they ate; versus the ducks that just fed from the surface. I explained the differences between divers and dabblers and named a few for illustration. He described the difference between the two in terms of flavor. He much prefers those ducks that fly straight up when you spook them (dabblers) to those ducks that have to run across the water to take off (divers). The divers have a much stronger flavor because of what they eat. We came to admire exactly the same thing, but from completely different directions.

Here in Patagonia, we’re scouring the hillsides for Montezuma Quail. Montezuma Quail are plentiful, but they are very difficult to see. They hide in the tall grass and absolutely refuse to move until you almost step on them. You have to cover a lot of ground to spook a quail.

Our neighbors in the airstream trailer are here for exactly the same reason. They are having more luck than we are. They got 20 today. They have an unfair advantage, though. They have dogs that run though the tall grass flushing the birds for them. And they have guns. They brought two quail over tonight to show us what they look like. They even offered to clean a couple of them for us for dinner. We decided to go out for Mexican food instead.

Patagonia is a small town, but it has five restaurants. You’re probably wondering how we could choose among them for dinner tonight. It was easy. We went to the one that was open on Wednesday.

We’re still looking for the Montezuma Quail. We’re not going to put them on our life list until we spot some that are still breathing.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Patagonia

We moved on. We left the western desert behind and drove southeast from Parker Arizona to Patagonia Arizona. We’re still in Arizona, but now we’re in rolling grassland at an altitude of 4,000 feet with mesquite trees and oaks, and streamside sycamores in the canyons. Southeastern Arizona, one of the top birding locations in the country. We get to catch up some work and see some birds we don’t usually get to see.

We’ve been looking for Montezuma Quail at the oak edges and Arizona Woodpeckers in the canyons. So far we’ve got Gamble’s Quail and Acorn Woodpeckers. Not new birds but always fun to find. We’re always on the lookout for new birds. We got four last May. We got up before dawn and went to the grouse dancing grounds. But then we didn’t get another new one until June, and didn’t get another until September. Today, finally, new bird! Gray Hawk. Got a good look at him standing on a branch right over the road. Gray bird with a black and white banded tail. Gray Hawk.

Monday, November 26, 2007