Thursday, April 30, 2015

Morning light



The park is back to normal; except we have more mosquitos than usual; the aftermath of wet weather.


Judy and I are packing.  Well, Judy is packing.  She’s doing all the heavy lifting.  I’m working at the office in Denver (by way of the computer), and helping her check things off the packing list.


Did I describe my last visit with the neck doctor?  I was good for six weeks; stayed in the rack and did just what the doctor told me.  After that, I went back to my normal life.  Turns out that was a little too much too soon.  The x-ray last week shows I broke a screw and one of the fusions hasn’t taken yet; too much motion.  The broken screw won’t be a problem.  It will stay where it is if we can get that last fusion to take.  But now it’s official anyway:  I have a screw loose, and we have the evidence to prove it.


And I’m determined to be better.  No running.  No lifting.  No repetitive motions (no flyfishing this summer).  We want this whole *fusion* thing to finish.  Judy is doing all the heavy work for at least the next four months.  The problem isn’t getting her to do it, she of course, is being great.  It’s hard for me to let her.  She’s doing all the stuff I’m supposed to be doing.


We’re leaving on Saturday(ish) for our summer trip to Colorado and beyond.  We’ll attend Granddaughter Taylor’s college graduation from CSU in Fort Collins.  We’ll spend a couple weeks in Colorado with the kids, then move west to Oregon for a visit with Jeff and Carol in early July.  Then we’ll loop around the Pacific Northwest for the Family Reunion in late July; hoping for a close encounter with a tufted puffin along the way.  No plans after that except to work our way back to South Texas while it’s still hot and sweaty.  Last year we stayed here until August before we did a trip and really enjoyed it.  This year, we’re leaving just as the weather is getting really nice and warm.  We want to get back before it cools off here completely.


With any luck, we (Judy) will have the bus pretty much ready to go by tomorrow night.  We can put computers and toothbrushes in on Saturday morning, after coffee, and be good to go.  My trip reports might actually have something to do with trips again soon.


Life on the road…



Wednesday, April 29, 2015



Yellow like the sides of a magnolia warbler.


…or the neck of a yellow-throated warbler.



…or a yellow headed blackbird.



…or a yellow warbler.




Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Baltimore Orioles are in town




As are black-crested titmice.




Buff-breasted hummingbirds.



…and yellow crowned night heron.


Monday, April 27, 2015

A close encounter





….of the laughing gull kind.




I know.  That was kind of loud.  Hope I didn’t hurt your ears.



Sunday, April 26, 2015



In Nuevo Progreso.


Actually, I had the lonches.

Five tasty beefy saucy meals in little toasted buns.  Muy bueno.


Judy had the tacos.  Six yummy little things.


Plus a 12 string guitar serenade of La Bamba.  A nice Sunday lunch.


Saturday, April 25, 2015

The art show


….at Lone Tree Arts Center.


Austin is standing in front of his picture.


Yeaa Austin!


Friday, April 24, 2015

Move over Mimi


There’s a new game in town!



The quad copter.



It flies great!


Thursday, April 23, 2015

I should probably mention


We’re back at Sandpipers.  We only stayed up by Corpus for four days.  We mostly just birded on the weekend and still added 43 birds for the year.  It was a good stay.  We had a doctor’s appointment on Friday.  That was okay.  We did the Big Day on Sunday.  That was good.  We drove home Monday.


Good to be back home.  The lake has turned into a little bit of wet grass on the far side (from us);


…just wet enough to attract a flock of white-faced ibis.


We’ve had a little bit of rain, but nothing over half an inch at a time.  Now it’s just hot and humid.  Summer weather.  What we’ve been waiting for.  I hear some thunder rumbling out there as I write this though.  I checked the weather radar.  Cells sliding up from the south out of Mexico.  A little rain for us.  So far the heavy stuff is staying on a track to our west.



We have a mystery with the bus; a rattle coming from underneath while we drive.  Any time we take it for any service, the technicians always notice it, but no-one can locate it.  The chassis guys put it up on a lift and can’t find anything loose.  The suspension and steering is all still tight.  It’s kind of a loose-sounding rattle, metal to metal, just a little bit of slop; not very much.  It doesn’t seem to be tied to engine speed or wheel rotation.  It’s just a clunking rattle.  It resonates up from the floor.


I got a brainstorm yesterday and invited Brother Tom over for dinner (and a ride in the motorhome).  If the trained professionals can’t find it, it must be time to call in a more persistent diagnostician.  We don’t need to fix it ourselves, we need to figure out what or where the problem is so we can direct it to the right person to fix it.  While I drove, Tom prowled the interior.  We narrowed the noise down to a general location; somewhere in the neighborhood of the front axle or forward.  It’s definitely low; it’s not coming from anywhere above the floor.  It doesn’t seem to be any of the slide mechanisms.  We can’t really narrow it down to one side or the other.  It seems to be central.


We gathered as much information as we could, then brought the rig back to the park for the visual; to try to find something that matched up with our clues.  I thought I had it a couple days ago; a folding aluminum outside step that I had stored up against the steel side of the hydrohot unit in the right front bay.  I rattled it back and forth where it sat.  It sounded good; like maybe our problem.  I took the aluminum step out of the cabinet and left it on the ground, but the noise was still there when I test drove the rig.  No difference.


So when we had the bus parked, I raised it up as high as it would go on the suspension so we could look underneath it.  There really isn’t much up front of the front axle except suspension and steering (which we’ve already eliminated) and the generator cabinet.  The generator slides out the front of the coach on a motorized drawer.  We looked underneath for a loose bracket or support.  Nothing.  We slid the cabinet out and tried to shake the whole thing from the front, but couldn’t get a rattle.  We looked at a broken fitting that is supposed to be attached to the fiberglass front panel, but I already knew about this.  It has been broken for a couple years.  We’re not looking for a metal to fiberglass sound, we’re looking for metal to metal.  Wait a minute.  We’ve had this rattle for a couple years.  This fitting is loose, so it might be rattling against the fiberglass.  What if we push it the other direction?  It rattles against metal.  That’s it!  Metal to metal.  Just under the floor.  Just to left of center of the coach.  Not visible to the technicians trying to find it from underneath.  The sound could resonate back through the frame.  It fits.  It totally fits!  We figured it out.


It was time to go back to the house, fire up the grill, and put dinner on.  After that we went back to the bus and duct taped that loose bracket to death.  No more rattles will emanate from that tape cocoon.  We could have taken the coach out for another test drive, but why bother.  This is the perfect explanation.  Why take a chance on screwing up a perfect explanation.  Besides, by now it was hot sweaty summer weather out there.  We can take our victory lap another day.



Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Only two more days


…until the Douglas County Schools Art Exhibition.


Austin has a piece on exhibit for the second year in a row.  Yeaa Austin!


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A Least Tern


…doing death-defying headlong crashes into inch-deep water.





Just another day at the office.


Monday, April 20, 2015



…is not without its share of adventure.


The day before the Big Day, Judy and I got called over to Charlie’s Pasture to see a rare Hermit Warbler,




…a bird we’d only seen once before ever.  It was a race against time to get to the bird before the incoming wall of weather hit.  With great luck, and the help of others, we got him just before the first lightning strike.  We high-tailed it for the car and took a blast of lightning right over our heads before we could get there.  Unhurt, we drove in a deluge we could barely see through, mostly rain some hail, never breaking 15mph, to get back to the bus.  When we got there we couldn’t get the five feet from the car to the coach for the rain coming down and the lake rising up.  (We’re okay, we’re parked on asphalt.)  We waited in the car for the thunderstorm to pass.


Later we find out that the slower to leave weren’t so lucky.  The lone person left got struck by lightning.  She survived, but spent the night in the hospital.  That was almost a “life” bird for her.



Wandering through the night, about 2am on the Big Day, Jon and I spooked a pack of javelina that bolted across the trail right in front of us.  Crashing through the underbrush, snorting and snarling; that got the juices flowing.  A short time later, on our bicycles, working our way back to the car in the dark, Jon, in the lead, almost got run over by a couple white-tailed deer blasting past.  Never know what a person will stir up out there in the night.


There always has to be a disclaimer attached to my Big Day report.  Jon spent weeks putting this together.  He did the best job ever scouting and staking out birds so we would know just where to go, and which way to look, to get as many birds as quickly as possible.  He spots and identifies birds so fast, I’m rarely the first to find one.  Me, I’m just the fortunate collateral damage.  My count by myself might have been half this number.  I get the benefit of his hard work for the small price of accompanying him.


Here is the list of our success with birds this Big Day:




Sunday, April 19, 2015



We don’t *totally* suck.


We had 35 birds by dawn.  We had 100 way before noon.  We had 125 by the time we got to the coast.  Things were going well.  Then things slowed down.  We got all the saltwater birds we were after, but it wasn’t a giant migrant day.  We needed to go north and get more birds, but the Sunday afternoon ferry line off the island was too long.  We couldn’t get to where we needed to be before it got too dark.  We made it to 196 birds and didn’t get any higher. 


A lot of things went right.  In-between all those storms we’ve had and are going to have, the weather was great.  But to break our own record of 207, *everything* has to go right.


We didn’t make our goal of 200-plus species, but we did well.  17 hours of birding.  250 miles of driving.  196 species.  28 new year-birds for me.


A good day.


Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Big Day


It’s that time again.


The weather has been very stormy.  We had a monster thunderstorm last night and another again this afternoon.  It’s supposed to be blowing on Monday.  The best weather window appears to be Sunday so that’s it.  That’s the day.  We have 24 hours to identify as many species of birds as we can.  I’ll get some rest this evening, get back up at 11pm, and head out with Jon to start at midnight.  We’ll be listening for rails in the dark.


I probably won’t have much to say Sunday evening; we have until midnight to finish.


We’re hoping for more than 200 species.  I’ll report back.



Friday, April 17, 2015

A follow-up with the spinal surgeon today


We got a new x-ray of my neck.  We can see the hardware.


It’s a long-term recovery so we’re not all the way there yet.  We’re talking maybe a year-and-a-half.  We’re doing well so far.  It feels pretty good if I don’t do anything.  If I work my arms and shoulders too much, that makes my neck and shoulders hurt so I back-off.  Each time I see the doctor though, I can report that I feel better than last time.



Thursday, April 16, 2015

Life on the beach


A good night’s work.  Our park is almost completely back to grass.


It’s not that the park owners didn’t want to get the water out, it’s just that all they had were two 2 inch pumps.  They were doing the best they could with what they had.  With all this flooding there weren’t any other pumps available in the Valley.  Tommy brought his oilfield equipment down from Oklahoma just to help out a difficult situation.


Whatever, time for a short trip.  We loaded up the bus and headed north to Mustang Island outside Corpus.


Love these South Texas rest stops along the way.



Love the brick work.



Chatterjack shrimp at Snoopy’s Pier for dinner.




Our beach parking/camping spot on Mustang Island.


We’re going to stay here a few days.