I don’t know how this keeps happening, but I last updated my Blog way too long ago. One of the reasons I decided to keep a Blog was to train myself to write something every day. So far the training has not been effective. Part of my problem is time management. Writers say you should write at the same time every day. With our lifestyle and interests I am having trouble finding a time each day that I could reasonably call safe. I suspect I may have to start getting up early, ugh!
We are currently in the best of situations computer and internet connectivity wise. We have excellent high speed connections to the internet through either of our computers. Our current good connectivity is temporary, but we are working to make it permanent through the purchase of a two way satellite communication antenna so we can connect anywhere we have a view of the southern sky. We have dedicated a good bit of time over the last several weeks doing the necessary research to get us to that reality. We will absorb the cost of the antenna easily enough and the monthly service charge for the connection will mirror what we currently pay for the much slower and one computer only capable air card that uses a cell phone provider’s infrastructure.
We are hoping that before we leave San Diego we are “connected”, but we may have to make a pit stop in Yuma and/or the Dallas area in order to make it happen. I am sure there will be more to follow on this subject as it develops.
So, what have we been up to since my last post?
We got underway from Fort Huachuca as scheduled on January 29. We had two goals in mind. First, we wanted to make sure we still knew how to prepare for an underway after such a long in-port period, so we were not too concerned about driving any great distance. Second, we wanted to do some birding in Madera Canyon that was not all that far from where we were at Fort Huachuca, but a bit of a hassle to get to from there in the early morning when we needed to be there to see the local specialties. That said we got underway about as early as was possible given all the good-byes we had to say at Apache Flats. We then went to on base service station and topped off our propane. I was sort of surprised to learn how much we had left. I doubt we could have made it the entire three months without electric heat to augment the propane fired furnace, but we certainly could have been a good bit more comfortable had we known how much fuel we really had left. Lessons learned for next winter.
Anyway, we drove all of 92 miles from Fort Huachuca to a RV resort just south of Green Valley, Arizona. We would spend the next three nights there. As I mentioned we wanted to bird Madera Canyon, but as we were getting ready to leave the fort we learned that there was a rare bird in the canyon that made our trip there that much more important. We were now on the lookout for the Crescent-chested Warbler. Getting to the bird was relatively easy. By that I mean there was a road that terminated at a trail head. The trailhead had a sign and we had the GPS coordinates to get us up the trail to the exact location that the bird had been seen for the last several days. What more could a birder ask for? Well, the drive was easy enough. The trail was an absolute terror. It was not as bad as the trail up Scheelite Canyon, but it was plenty tough.
I was keeping a close watch on the GPS to make sure we did not go too far. The GPS turned out to be just an insurance policy as we had run into one of our Virginia and Arizona birding friends, Erika and her husband, in the parking lot and they were there for the same bird we were. They started the hike up the canyon a good bit before us. As we approached the coordinates we saw a group of men off the trail in what should have been the area where the bird had been seen over the past several days. It is odd to see experienced birders off the trail, especially as far off the trail as these guys were. Soon enough we learned that one of the men, a very young man compared to all the others, had fallen while trying to get a better look at the bird and rolled nearly a hundred feet down the slope. He had done a good bit of damage to his head, nose and a knee. The other three or four men around him were trying to assess his injuries and figure out what to do next. As it turned out, this fellow was in the canyon on his own and did not know any of the guys who were trying to help him.
Connie hurried to the scene and took a look at the fellow and quickly assessed that his nose was likely broken and the scalp wound would likely need sutures and that his knee was much less damaged than an old fashioned skinned knee while roller skating. Of more importance was the fact that he was conscious and had never lost consciousness. He was able to track her finger and his pupils appeared normal. So, Connie determined that he was probably more stunned than anything else. We helped him to his feet and were relieved to learn that he could walk on his own and in fact was more embarrassed than hurt. When two of the other men opted to walk with him down the trail and make sure he got to a hospital, Connie felt relieved of any further responsibility for him. Therefore we could continue on our search for the bird.
Now, let me back up a few hundred yards. Before we came upon this sad scene, we were stopped along the trail talking to an older couple who were struggling to get to where the bird should be when we saw Erica and her husband on their way down the trail. Erica said she had seen the bird and that he was being quite cooperative.
Within just a few minutes of watching the walking-wounded bird watcher start his journey down the trial with his new friends we were standing among several other hopeful birders watching this wonderful little bird flit from tree to tree. For reasons I cannot explain, I left my long lens in the car and the 18 photos I took with my short lens are just not fit for publication. So, if you were hopeful to see this beautiful little bird, you need to hunt him down on your own, because my photos don’t count. However, Connie and I got really good looks at the bird, which was a life sighting for each of us.
When we got back to the parking lot there was no sign of our fall victim, so we have to assume he got to medical care without any further injury.
We left the valley on the first day of February and drove another short day of 99 miles to get to Casa Grande, Arizona. We had a few goals while in Casa Grande. The first as far as Connie was concerned was to go to the outlet mall and try to find some Liz Claiborne Jeans. I wanted to get in touch with my cousin Dan who lives north of Phoenix making it about a fifty mile trip from Casa Grande, and we were hopeful that Pat and Marty from New Hampshire would be in the area for the Super Bowl to take in all the action prior to the big game. These two are great Patriot fans and Pat at least really wanted to get to Arizona in hopes of being part of what she hoped would be history in the making.
We stayed at a classic commercial desert campground. This property was absolutely huge. I was able to go on an out- and- back run of greater than five miles without leaving the confines of the campground. There was so much space between rigs that we all had to worry about the wind, but none of us had to worry about what would happen to our rig if another rig caught fire. They were too far away. The campground is situated in the Y formed by the intersection of Interstates 8 and 10. Highway noise was a factor, but not an overwhelming factor as the traffic really died down at night. In fact we heard more from the trains than from the cars and trucks.
Well, Marty balked at the trip to the Super Bowl for reasons that made sense to him, although he was a bit tardy in communicating his reasons to his loving wife. The Patriots lost, so, Pat did not miss any history being made. We were all out the opportunity to see one another again. That was too bad, but given the cost of near coast to coast travel these days, it was certainly understandable. We may have another chance this summer.
My desire to connect with my cousin Dan was much more successful. Dan grew up in Sheridan, Wyoming, the eldest son of the second oldest of my father’s siblings. He graduated from Colorado State University Veterinary School several years ago and eventually settled in the Phoenix area where he had a very successful career as a large animal vet. Now fully retired, he spends most days trying to figure out the game of golf.
Although we had seen Dan in Sheridan this past summer at the big family reunion my two aunts hosted, we were not able to spend any quality time with him and we had not met his wife. So, I was excited at the prospect of getting together on his turf and finally getting to reconnect after some 40 years or so. Dan suggested that we should come up to Peoria and meet him at his house and then go to a nearby golf course where he is a member and get back together over a round of golf.
That made good sense to me since I was having golf withdrawals and Dan convinced Connie that her game was good enough. The only bad part of the plan was the simple fact that we spent most of our on course time in completely different bad places at the same time.
We did stop at the turn for lunch and had a great time catching up. When we got back on the course we were under a sunny sky for the first time all day. By the time we go to the tenth green we were in a horrible thunderstorm that included pea sized hail, thunder and lightning. We made a bee line to the clubhouse and waited out the storm in the golf cart garage before loading up the clubs in the car and going back to Dan’s house.
Karen volunteers at a local hospital and was therefore unable to join us at the golf course. She was home when got back and after we dried off a bit we all went to dinner together. It was a great day, weather no withstanding and it was really fun getting to know Karen and reconnecting with Dan.
Of course, Connie was still logged on to Arizona Birds and was therefore able to see what rare sightings were in the greater Phoenix area. Sure enough there was a really rare sighting of a Northern Jacana at a golf course in Casa Grande. So, we set aside a day to track this fellow down. Sure enough, he was right where he was supposed to be. In at least one of the postings on Arizona Birds the statement had been made that the golfers were telling the birders where the bird was. We approached the ponds where the bird had been hanging out off course. Sure enough there was a foursome in the area of the pond and they spotted the bird about the same time we did and one said to the others, “Is that the bird everyone has been talking about?” It was indeed.
We stayed around trying to get some good photos. Soon enough another pair shows up and I immediately went into lens envy. Both of these other guys had digital SLR cameras. One guy was shooting through a wide angle lens. I was shooting through a 200 mm lens and the other guy was shooting through a 400 mm lens with a 1.5X doubler attached making his photos at 600 mm lens length. I did not ask to nor did he offer to show me any of the images he was able to capture. Below is one of the better images I was able to produce.
I have tried a different method of loading images into the Blog. Click anywhere in the box below or on the word PHOTO and you should be taken to my on-line photo album. Once there you will see thumbnail photos. In this case, just one. By clicking on the photo it will enlarge. You can further enlarge the image by clicking the magnifying glass in upper right corner of the boarder. You will also note that in the thumbnail view there is a tab that says “Show Map”. By clicking on that tab you will get a map of the area where the photo was taken. You can play around in the map area to help get a better idea of where I was when I took the picture. You can also change the map to a satellite image of the same area giving you an interesting look at the environment from where the photo came. I would appreciate feedback as to how you like this method of posting images.
We spent the rest of the day going from one location to another where good birds have been seen of late. We saw no other rare birds, but we did meet a great guy at one location. We were at a lake that was lined by homes. There were a few vacant lots in the neighborhood giving us access to the lakeshore. As we were walking from one lot to another a guy who was working to clear weeds from the lot approached us and asked if we were bird watchers. I was a little worried we were about to get a negative piece of mind from this guy. Instead he surprised us by asking if we could help him identify some of the birds he had taken photos of over the time he has lived there. So, off we go to his home, which was absolutely beautiful, where he introduced us to his fiancé and broke out his laptop to show us the pictures.
We identified his photos, pointed out to him that he could do a better job of bird identification if he had a bit better of a bird guide than the one he was using, and we exchanged e-mail addresses. What a nice experience that was.
We then drove around county and farm roads until we were exhausted, but found no more great birds. All in all it was a fun day.
We left Casa Grande on February 5, and drove 181 miles to Yuma, Arizona. Our reason for going to Yuma was to visit a former employee of Trident Refit Facility Kings Bay, GA, whom remains a very good friend of ours. Pearl now works for a local Native American Tribe as the Safety Director. She is now in the same city as her daughter and grandson whom she has completely and unashamedly spoiled rotten. We had a good visit with Pearl and her daughter over a two day period. We got to look around Yuma a bit including a visit to the Marine Corps Air Station.
While in Yuma we stayed in an area that could be called RV mile. There must have been half a dozen RV parks lining both sides of the street. We had taken the first campsite that was available (I was trying to make reservations while watching the Super Bowl) and ended up with a “poolside” spot with no water or sewer and only 15 amp electric. We paid a bundle for that not so wonderful spot. On the positive, we got to watch much more senior citizens than ourselves performing water aerobics and there was a rather highly contested shuffle board tournament going on out our front windows.
Since we mostly only slept there, it turned out to be okay, but I would have trouble recommending that park to anyone. Of course Yuma is a big destination location for snow birds, so I should not complain about our site. We were only there two nights and let me tell you; in the snow bird destinations you are lucky to find campgrounds that accept short termers like we were.
Yuma was fun and it was great to see Pearl and learn that she is doing so well, but I don’t think we will be spending any real time there anytime soon.
From Yuma we drove another grueling 72 miles to a great RV resort just west of El Centro, California. Yay! We are finally in California. The RV Park offered a lot. Large sites, high speed internet (not available from our site), a great community center with a lot of events planned and I suspect executed for the winter and free daily air shows by the Navy’s precision flying team, the Blue Angels. While taking the garbage out the morning we left, Connie was greeted by a personal four jet flyover. What a thrill. The good news is that they only fly during the day.
We had hoped to get together with a great birder and our good friend Bob while in the El Centro area. However, Bob was leading bird trips for the San Diego Bird Festival that was going on at the time. So, we were on our own for birding. We spent a good bit of time driving from one burnt field to another and arguing about where we were and where we were trying to go and seeing absolutely nothing of interest. It was fun trying, though and we were out of the range of the Blue Angels while we were birding.
From El Centro it was a straight shot across the mountains and into San Diego. We were now in familiar territory and we were looking forward with growing intensity to the wonders of San Diego and all our friends whom have either settled there or have been settled there for many many years.
We chose to stay at the Admiral Baker RV Park for a variety of reasons. Some of the better reasons would include: location, price, peacefulness and did I mention location? We are but 3 miles from Mission Valley. Less than a mile from Interstates 8 and 15, but without the freeway noises as we are quite literally in a basin along the shore of the San Diego River. We do hear a good number of ambulance sirens, but you know you have to take the bad with the good. We are only fifteen minutes from the Naval Station and the largest Commissary in the system. We are about 10 miles from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, less than that from our old neighborhood in La Mesa and not far at all from the beaches that make San Diego one of the greatest places to be.
Did I mention there are two Navy golf courses on the property?
Needless to say, we are happy to be here. We got here on February 8 and we leave on March 24.
Since I have exceeded my daily allotment of words and time, I will write more about our adventures in San Diego in future posts. So, stay tuned.