Sunday, July 31, 2011

Travel day


Tomorrow morning, bright and early, we’re headed off for Denver.  We have a date with a motorhome.



There is no limit


There is no limit to what we can learn, my Grandson Conner and I.  Conner learned on *three* separate occasions not to run through the nettles or he’d have to pay the price later.  Me, I’m way beyond that with wearing shorts and walking through tall wet grass in search of birds in deep south Texas.  The grass is not a problem.  The chiggers are.  Little bugs you can’t see or feel climb onto your legs and make bites that turn into bumps and welts itching way beyond what a mosquito can produce.  With mosquitoes you get the occasional satisfaction of being able to smack one and sent it to an untimely end.  Chiggers?  No revenge.  Nothing to swat.  I do have evidence they were here though.


This is a lesson I won’t forget.  The day after the next time I go walking through tall wet grass in south Texas, I’ll remember this itching episode just like I now remember the last one.



Saturday, July 30, 2011

Sometimes we drive on two-lanes


No matter what vehicle we’re driving, or what speed we are going, there is always someone who wants to go faster.  When we’re driving the Jeep it is relatively easy for someone to go around, and I am always happy to let them by.  If nothing else, I’d rather they speed off to annoy someone else than ride my bumper.  In the motorhome, I don’t usually drive faster than 65mph, so we’re caught from behind more often than we are in the Jeep.  We’re a lot longer going down the highway in the motorhome, 60 feet altogether, including the tow-car.  That’s a lot more for a passing car to get by than the 15 feet of the Jeep.  So I help when I can.  I slide to the right a little when it’s clear, so they can see that it is.  I blink my running lights, but not everyone seems tuned in to that universal signal.  You can’t really blame people for being hesitant to pass.  We’re a lot to take on all at once, and besides, you never know what kind of attitude you’re encountering behind the wheel of the other vehicle.  That person may be in an unfriendly unhelpful mood.


I find myself wishing I had a sign on the back of the coach I could flash that said “Go ahead and pass.  I’ll help”.



Friday, July 29, 2011

Along the way


Saw a ring tailed cat while walking in the desert outside Palmdale.  It was fast; charging across an open space and disappearing into a creosote.  Its bushy tail was as long as its body.  I didn’t get a picture, but here is what they look like:



Thursday, July 28, 2011

Poor Judy


She got a chest cold and now she has laryngitis and can’t talk.  I can joke about how quiet it is and how much work I’m getting done, but it’s a lonely time for Judy.  She can listen, but she can’t visit.  She can’t really participate.



In the summer, we have cicadas here that sound like power saws.  Some bugs I can’t hear; they’re out of my range of hearing.  These, I can hear.



These are Giant Cicadas in the trees; about as long as my hand is wide.



Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Trip map


The updated map.,-104.72168&spn=22.074183,56.118164


Not quite the summer map we intended.  It’s pretty messy.  Probably can’t detect any sort of pattern.  It would be nice if it had lines from point to point, and there is a feature for that, but I couldn’t get it to work right.  Maybe this summer’s trip map is so zig-zagged that it’s beyond hope regardless.



Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Mystery Tree

The answer: Crape Myrtle.

Motorhome update: Same as last week. Three more weeks. Progress though. Today it made smoke. Not the kind of smoke we made two month ago. Good smoke. It runs. They’re getting it ready to roll around to the Paint shop to get started on the tow-damage repairs.

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks
Baby ducks.

Baby duck butts.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Mystery Tree

There is a really nice tree here.

It has bark like a sycamore.

Leaves almost like a lilac.


And seed pods.

Anybody know what it is?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Special birds

There are birds in South Texas that you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere else in the U.S. One of those rarities is the Groove-billed Ani.

I was lucky enough to find a tree-full today.

It’s hard to get a good picture. They’re a little shy.

And kind of goofy looking too.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Rosetta Stone


In south Texas, a good part of the conversation around us is in Spanish.  It would be nice if we understood more Spanish, so we’re considering getting the Rosetta Stone software to teach us.  We’re probably too old to learn a new language now, probably too hardwired into English, but we can give it a try.  Even if we don’t get conversational in Spanish though, at least it will give us the opportunity to not be able to think of the word we want in two different languages.



Friday, July 22, 2011

June birding


It was a good June for birds.  We traveled through New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and California.  We didn’t bird all the time, but just by being all those different places, we stumbled into a good variety.


We saw Gambel’s Quail, Cassin’s Kingbird, Crissal Thrasher, Phainopepla, Lucy’s Warbler, and Allen’s Hummingbird at Bosque del Apache in New Mexico.


Common Mergansers, Townsend’s Solitaire, Swainson’s Thrush, Western Scrub-jay, Lewis’s Woodpecker, and Cordilleran Flycatcher in Colorado.


Juniper Titmouse in Nevada.


Gila Woodpecker in Arizona.


California Quail, Prairie Falcon, Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Wrentit, and California Towhee in Vista.


Heerman’s Gull, Western Gull, and California Gull, in Oceanside.


Band-tailed Pigeon, Anna’s Hummingbird, Acorn Woodpecker, White-headed Woodpecker, Oak Titmouse (the first time ever we’ve gotten Juniper Titmouse and Oak Titmouse in the same year), Pygmy Nuthatch, Dark-eyed Junco, Lawrence’s Goldfinch, and Purple Finch in the San Gabriel Mountains.



In total:


Canada Goose


Common Merganser

Ruddy Duck

California Quail

Gambel's Quail

Western Grebe

Double-crested Cormorant

American White Pelican

Brown Pelican

Great Blue Heron

Great Egret

Snowy Egret

Cattle Egret

Green Heron

White-faced Ibis

Turkey Vulture

Northern Harrier

Cooper's Hawk

Swainson's Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

American Kestrel

Prairie Falcon

American Coot


Franklin's Gull

Heermann's Gull

Western Gull

California Gull

Least Tern

Gull-billed Tern

Caspian Tern

Forster's Tern

Rock Pigeon

Band-tailed Pigeon

Eurasian Collared-Dove

White-winged Dove

Mourning Dove

Inca Dove

Greater Roadrunner

Great Horned Owl

Lesser Nighthawk

Common Nighthawk

Black-chinned Hummingbird

Anna's Hummingbird

Broad-tailed Hummingbird

Allen's Hummingbird

Acorn Woodpecker

Gila Woodpecker

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Nuttall's Woodpecker

White-headed Woodpecker

Northern Flicker

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Western Wood-Pewee

Willow Flycatcher

Dusky Flycatcher

Black Phoebe

Say's Phoebe

Vermilion Flycatcher

Brown-crested Flycatcher

Cassin's Kingbird

Western Kingbird

Gray Vireo

Warbling Vireo

Steller's Jay

Blue Jay

Western Scrub-Jay

Black-billed Magpie

American Crow

Common Raven

Northern Rough-winged Swallow

Tree Swallow

Violet-green Swallow

Barn Swallow

Cliff Swallow

Black-capped Chickadee

Mountain Chickadee

Oak Titmouse

Juniper Titmouse



White-breasted Nuthatch

Pygmy Nuthatch

Cactus Wren

Rock Wren

House Wren


Western Bluebird

Mountain Bluebird

American Robin

Northern Mockingbird

European Starling


Lucy's Warbler

Yellow Warbler

Common Yellowthroat

Spotted Towhee

California Towhee

Abert's Towhee

Vesper Sparrow

Lark Sparrow

Black-throated Sparrow

Sage Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrow

Dark-eyed Junco

Black-headed Grosbeak

Lazuli Bunting

Red-winged Blackbird

Western Meadowlark

Yellow-headed Blackbird

Brewer's Blackbird

Common Grackle

Great-tailed Grackle

Brown-headed Cowbird

Hooded Oriole

Bullock's Oriole

Purple Finch

Cassin's Finch

House Finch

Lesser Goldfinch

Lawrence's Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

House Sparrow


The White-headed Woodpecker and Lawrence’s Goldfinch were Life Birds for us.



Thursday, July 21, 2011

Sandpipers Resort


Edinburg, Texas.  It was a long way to go, but it’s a good place to be.


When we left Junction this morning, I put gas in the car while Judy went inside to buy a bag of ice for the ice chest.  The clerk asked her “Small or Large?”.  Judy answered “Small”.  It’s not a very big ice chest.  The clerk charged her $1.99 and Judy went outside to grab the bag.  There were only 10 pound bags.  Is a 10 pound bag Large or Small?  Judy carried one back inside to ask.  The answer:  “They’re all one size”.  There were certainly more questions we could have asked, but we chose to drive on instead.


On our drive across North Central Texas we passed thousands of windmills.  They used to be a novelty.  Now there are so many they’re kind of annoying.  When I look at them though, I see all that oil and coal fired smoke that’s not in the air.  The annoyance fades.  I’ve heard the argument that it takes more energy to construct and install a windmill than the windmill produces over its lifetime.  I looked it up on Snopes to find that argument was disproved way early on, but it persists in the minds of windmill opponents.  I think I’ll believe Snopes instead of Fox News on that one.  Windmills are apparently a serious source of electricity now.


The Jeep turned 100,000 miles today.


Our first day back to the house; we ran straight into a mystery:



Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Continuing south, we stopped for the night in Junction, Texas. Got caught in a rainstorm. We’re told it’s the first rain here since November. Since it coincides with our arrival, we’re taking full credit for the much-needed moisture. The Motel Manager told me it’s so dry here the fish in the South Llano River have ticks!

Got an evening walk at South Llano River State Park. Lots of birds. Mostly White-winged Doves, but there were Inca Doves, hummingbirds, kingbirds, chickadees, titmice, Bewick’s Wrens, Black-throated Sparrows, buntings and goldfinches too.

We’re not moving back to Texas for the winter yet. We’re just going to lurk here until the coach in Colorado is ready for us to move back into it. …and there is that wedding in September in Colorado we want to be at too.

Tomorrow, Edinburg! That’s about as far as there is to go.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011



We drove through Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, one time-zone, and triple digits.


We got four new tires and three new tire pressure sensors yesterday.  They weren’t done until after 5 o’clock, so we just stayed with Becky and Brian for the night and headed out this morning.  Three states later, we’re settled in at the Best Western.  I wouldn’t say it’s the best place we’ve ever stayed.  On our way out we’ll probably suggest they change their name to just Western.


We’re in Texas, but there is still a long way to go to get to Edinburg.  We’ll probably get there on Thursday.

Two roads diverged..

And I took both!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

We're out of here

We love Jim and Ellie. They couldn’t be more hospitable. Their house couldn’t be more wonderful. But we’re out of here. Three more weeks before we can have the coach done? We want to go home. We have two homes. One of them is disabled. We can’t go to our coach home? We’re going to our Valley home in Texas.

We packed up the Jeep and drove to Denver this morning. We dropped more stuff off at Matt’s house to lighten the load for our drive south. Judy made Swedish meatballs, mashed potatoes and gravy for dinner. Tomorrow morning we’ll drive to the Jeep shop in Longmont for four new tires (The Jeep shop in Longmont doesn’t know this part of the plan yet. We hope they’ll be on board when we call them first thing in the morning.) A quick visit with Becky and Brian, and off we go. South.

In the meantime, a nice place to walk today in Ken Caryl Valley just behind the hogback from Denver.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Motorhome update


The engine is done.  Reinstallation has begun.


There is a catch though.  Way back at the start of this, there was some tow-damage.  A few things got squashed and bounced.  A piece of fiberglass in the front got torn.  No big deal.  Nothing that can’t be fixed.  But one more thing has come to light that we haven’t been anticipating.  There is a delay between when the paint work is done and when the plastic rock-chip barrier that goes on top of everything can be reapplied.  Can’t put it there until the paint has had a chance to cure.  So once the engine work is done, the coach goes to the body shop.  Once the body work is done, the paint has to dry for two weeks before the plastic bra can be put back on the front.  We’ve been counting down to an approximate date when we will get our house back.  That date, whatever it is, just got extended two weeks.



Friday, July 15, 2011


Mature junipers add their own character to the look of a forest.

Dirty Henry.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

In the last two days


It hasn’t rained at all.  No afternoon thunderstorms.


Summer mountain weather.  Highs of 80 degrees each day, but at this altitude, the mid-day heat doesn’t last very long.  It cools right down at night for open door and open window sleeping.


In an earlier email I complained about how hard it was to get a good picture of the house.  Here it is in a panorama shot, starting from the attached guest house and finishing with Annie, Henry, and Judy playing in the creek.



Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Along the way

Momma Merganser with her brood on the South Platte River at Chatfield State Park.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

More turkeys


This time, a pair of turkeys trying to coax their little ones across the creek to melt into the brush with them.  They’re there, walking around in the open, then with just a few quiet steps they’re gone.


Several more turkey chicks dashing up the bank.



Monday, July 11, 2011

Motorhome update


Week six of the engine adventure.  Week two of our kind hosts’ hospitality in Carbondale.  They seem to be holding up just fine so far.  The new engine is almost completely assembled, but there was a problem with one of the piston/sleeve assemblies, so the repair shop had to get another one from Caterpillar.  By the end of tomorrow, they hope to have the replacement piston in hand, the engine assembled, and the reinstallation begun.



On a sad note, our friend Lloyd died.  Cousin Jennifer’s husband; always smiling, laughing, happy guy.  About my age, died unexpectedly.


We love you Lloyd.  We’ll miss you.



Sunday, July 10, 2011

Wild Turkeys

Through the windshield.

A walk on the Rio Grande Trail.

Yellow Warbler.

Northern Rough-winged Swallow.

Lewis’s Woodpecker.

Saturday, July 9, 2011


The sound of morning.

A quiet day today. Took a drive up behind El Jebel. Saw some birds. Came back to Carbondale. Bought some tires. Mountain thunderstorm showers. A rainbow out the window.

Meatloaf for dinner.

Friday, July 8, 2011


The horticulturally inclined might walk around here and recognize all the individual plants.

I recognize pinion pine, juniper, lilacs, ………aspen, sage.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


Remember our visit with Chad in San Diego? Here are some pictures:

He used to go on family vacations with us as a kid. Now he’s on his way to Afghanistan again. While he’s away, his unit is going to be changing over from Prowlers

To Super Hornets.

He’ll have to train on the new equipment when he gets back. In the meantime, here he is training, body armor on, in the Florida heat for the upcoming mission.

His specialty is Electronic Warfare. He says he can’t make anything, but he can jam anything anybody else can make. He should be doing that from a relatively safe place, but we still want him to keep his head down.

Stay safe, Chad.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Motorhome update

The engine is still on the bench. We ended up with a new short-block. The heads were sent out to be rebuilt, and they’re done. Other miscellaneous parts have been accumulated to reassemble the engine, but some of them took awhile to show up next to our motor. Now they’re all there and being stuck where they belong.

We’re told the coach might be ready next week.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Can you spot the deer?

He’s everywhere.

The cycles of life are all around us.