Saturday, June 15, 2019

A River Runs Through it


All adventures have a flavor to them.  Some are spicy and some are more like vanilla.  My last adventure, reported here,  is difficult to pin down as to exactly what that flavor is.  This trip is like the spice "grains of paradise" or also called alligator pepper, you taste it and have no clue what the pungent peppery flavor mixed in with citrus is from, you just know it is good, maybe great, definitely exotic, and all you know is that you want more, but you also know, it will be difficult to find it again.  So that is as best as I can get in giving you an impression of what I did the last 10 days.
          They say what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, or at least it should and unfortunately, a lot of what happened on this trip I cannot share, and yes, we also went to Vegas.  Even with releases signed, and on this blog, my blog, I have standards.  It isn't like I or we broke any laws, violated any religious standards...well just setting foot in Vegas might violate that, nor did we even risk the ire of the police but I guess you are just going to have to read the book and I think, now, there will be one.   I've done a lot this year, and have a lot left to do.  No one will read it but that is okay, my kids need a diary of the year that is 2019.  On my newspaper column, I can say even less, I'm not even sure what i can say.  Maybe "we rafted the Grand Canyon as a river runs through it."
          In 2013, my year-long adventure culminated on Attu Island.  This year, it is hard to identify the exact pinnacle of the year that will be 2019.  Was it Africa?  Was it South America?  Was it Tristan?  Was it the big cruise I took in January?  Maybe it will be France, or Galapagos, or possibly Costa Rica?  What I just did this was not even on my bucket-list, it was on my wife’s as it was she that had planned this trip, but that was okay, it was still a great trip.  Yet even this float trip down the Grand Canyon was not her first, yet this one was better, much better, and I think for both of us, the best trip of 2019 will be this one.
            I posted on Facebook this picture, saying:

A view that would overwhelm a painter.  Stephen Greenfield replied, “Photography can't do it justice either. More than any place I've seen, the Grand Canyon requires 3D, to appreciate the immensity of the space.”
            After a few years of waiting on a list to even get the opportunity to go on this special once in a lifetime, trip, we were able to get on with this very special expedition of the Colorado River  organized by Beverly Price of Phoenix.  It would be her 11th organized trip and her probably last such adventure, she is retiring and so, unless someone takes up the mantle of organizing this, this near annual event may end.  It was a trip those other rafter also down on the river last week on other trips that ran into us will be talking about for years maybe more so than their own trip and it wasn't to see Olaf.  
              It should also be noted that 2019 is the 100th Anniversary of the formation of the Grand Canyon National Park, a park the US government has tried repeatedly to destroy by placing dams as recently as a few decades ago and as recently as last year, someone tried to convince the Navajo Nation to allow a cable car and restaurant to be built at the mouth of the Little Colorado River which would be almost as toxic as the building of the Glen Canyon Dam.  This trip was to both celebrate the 100 years of the park and Bev’s ideals of what you should wear or not wear on a rafting adventure,  and it was this that made the trip extra special.  For my efforts, I earned a cute t-shirt, made new friends, and and fell in love with a place I had only seen from the top.  We also tested sunscreen, and it was really good sunscreen.  Later, we made a pilot laugh flying in, and got cheers from passing rafts all in a sense of wonderment, and some from Australia, I think were envious, but then again those from "down under" are more open minded.
            The trip started in Vegas and it ended in Vegas.  It was a gamble of a different type.  I have never been to Las Vegas before one of just three major US cities I've never been to, New York, Jacksonville FL, and Vegas.  I can't say that any more, I'm down to 2.  We met the group and got organized.  Silja and I took in two shows of Cirque du Soleil.  One featured very skimpy clothing while they spun around, and the other, well, the other, they had even less on, what is less than "skimpy"?  This would set the tone for the trip.
            I took Leroy the penguin to see Hoover Dam, I can't show you the picture later from Arizona.

He tried to fly off but I caught him for his Nevada picture and then, we later flew to Marble Canyon over the Grand Canyon to stay at Cliff Dwellers.  Silja had a three-bagger flight, three special bags to remember the flight that came close to the Vermilion Cliffs, my wife never saw them as she had her head in a bag, yea ...that bag.  Would it be an Omen?  It would turn out to be the worse thing that happened to us.
            We met the rest of the expedition at the motel in the desert, mostly couples from all over North America.   Expert river runner and paddler Dave Kashinski led this special Hatch trip as head boatman, a man who has been down the Colorado in a small boat more than anyone has or will be. Dave liked one liners calling the Colorado River “a river too thick to drink and too thin to plow.” He was also featured on the reenactment movie of the 1869 John Wesley Powell’s mapping voyage down the river. 
Our other boatman was Erik Deitemeyer, a quiet guy that plays guitar, and also leads the ski patrol in the winter in Wolf Creek Pass, CO.  He was another hand-picked expert to lead our river run of 188 miles down the bottom of the canyon.  Our swamper was Thad Avery a young man from Flagstaff not even 19, who has been running the river since being fifteen.  He was an amazing guy that had lost his father at aged 12, a famous Neurosurgeon to a freak fall on a rock, yet is one of the most well-adjusted Millennials I have met.  He was a gamer , and by half way through was as much a member of the group as anybody and fit in with the crowd.  He gave me hope for the future.  So along with them, the 32 of us left Lee's Ferry and rafted the river for 8 incredible days last week.
Ron, our photojournalist who drove down from Page and took photos of the start of the trip and from Navajo Bridge.  He gave me a t-shirt, "Raft Naked" I stashed it in the bottom of my boat bag because if one wore the t-shirt....

            Now mind you this was not a trip for everyone as you might guess, but for different reasons.  In fact, floating this part of the Colorado is not for the meek.  There are serious rapids, and just following the Park rules makes for quite a hardship for some.  Bodily functions seem to freak people out.  Dave even told stories about it.  You cannot be shy about the body on these trips.  First, urination is only in the river., men and women, if you go on the sand, it smells like a cat box soon enough.  "The solution for pollution is dilution."  A least that is what Dave said.   Special toilets are set up at the edges of camp for other bodily waste that are quite open, only this last one had any cover at all.  

Toilets with a view, and sometimes like this one directly next to or below my cot.  Showers or baths are in the cold river, and it is unbearably hot outside, peaking at 107 the last day.  Luckily we did not have any freak storms which are historically ferocious.  We slept under the stars,  with camp sites separated by rocks, a few ants or less, but at least off the ground on a cot and generally were in the sight of everyone and everything but the 13 women, 16 men, and three guides on this trip were not shy, in fact, we were the opposite of shy.  Honestly, I’m not sure how the other groups do it.   Like I said, we were testing sunscreen and well, it worked well, 8 days in hot sun on a river with nothing between me and the sun but just this sunscreen and I have a nice light tan, and no burns, nothing even red.
            The trip details, we had two rafts built out of surplus army bridging supplies, and we went 187.4 miles. The canyon was literally overwhelming both in scope and terrain.  The group really meshed and was the most together group I've ever been with on an adventure.  In some respects, we had to be, but everyone noticed this and that was the real highlight of the trip.  The couples were all cool, adjusted and calm, there was no fights, no nothing but pure enjoyment of the outdoors and we worked as a team to get the gear moved and made sure no one got left behind.  
            Sadly after it all, the food, the rapids, the hikes, the laughs, the hugs, the "duffel lines" to move gear, we dressed the final morning at dawn and waited for a helicopter to take us to Bar Ten Ranch


We then boarded three planes from the ranch to take us back to Boulder City and then home

Sights:
Certainly other people took better photos, and not having the releases myself, I am careful of what views of people to include on these but the views are stunning.  Someday I'll get the official trip pictures and I may share some of them, and again, you might have to read the book to get the full story.









          
Birds:
It was no panacea but I saw 18 year birds, the best of course were the condors, but seeing Lucy's warblers were fun

California Condors #9 and #54 at Navajo Bridge, we saw a third later on, then none

Black-chinned hummingbird

Clark's Grebe

Least Bittern in Henderson NV

Lucy's warblers dominated the lower canyon

There is nothing like a Yellow-breasted chat

Common Raven


Butterflies:
Common Buckeye

Dainty Sulphur
Pipevine swallowtail (a poisonous butterfly)

Marine Blue
Orange skipperling
Queen
Reakirt's Blue

Variegated Frittilary  
Checkered skipper, cannot tell species without sending a specimen to a lab to ID
Reptiles:
Desert Spiny Lizard

Western whiptail
mammals:
Desert Bighorn sheep

I also had a mouse in my shoe, that was unphotographed

So that is it, a crazy and fulfilling trip, tiring and exhilarating.  We got some sun, some birds, and we got wet, very wet.  It was something we will always remember.  It was the seeds of paradise, a flavor and a trip for the ages that I hope, hope others get to go on at least do the regular river rafting adventure.


Monday, June 3, 2019

Buying the Farm (or in my case, the Ranch).


Comedian Joan Rivers once quipped, I told my mother-in-law that my house was her house, and she said, "Get the hell off my property."  Nothing is comparable to owning your property.  I’m also reminded of John Wayne in Chisum at both the beginning and end of the movie sitting on his horse up on a hill watching over his land, and knowing that everything he is seeing is his. 
            Unless your names are Ted Turner or John Malone (the two largest private landowners in the United States) very few people will ever own enough land to do what John Chisum was portrayed as doing in the movie bearing his last name, but it is a nice dream.  It is said that one should always dream, and I guess, dream big.
            The other day while I was driving around birding seeing migrants arrive into northeast South Dakota for the very first time in 2019, I came across an auction sign not far from Summit.  I was on a road I almost always bird every year.  I tallied my year upland plover sitting on a fence post nearby and then I saw more signs.  It was a huge tract that was at auction and not only that, it was property I knew well for just last summer I hiked on a corner of the property as well as on the adjoining tract of National Wildlife Refuge.  I was not looking for birds but looking for many threatened butterfly species as well as two rare endangered butterflies, the Dakota skipper and Poweshiek skipperling.  This latter butterfly has not been conclusively seen around these parts in over a decade, it is only believed a small population in the prairies of southern Wisconsin have kept the butterfly from being extinct.  In South Dakota, the last one identified on another parcel of the Waubay National Wildlife Refuge, nearer to my cabin.
            What I experienced in 2018 on this parcel of virgin grassland was a cornucopia of butterflies. I saw many species of skipper, fritillaries, and other varieties of the colorful insects, most of which I didn’t knew existed before I found them and looked them up.  
Regal Frittillary

My wife also found a dead Dakota skipper and I photographed another butterfly that made me suspicious for the elusive skipperling.  The photo was inconclusive for identification by experts, however, and probably it was something else but it gave me hope, hope one could still be there, just waiting to be found.
            So there I sat, on the edge of the old Meridian Highway, the name of a route envisioned in 1911 to run from Winnipeg south first to Galveston and later to Laredo.   This was the first north to south route in the middle the United and this was long before large parts were decommissioned after the Interstate system was built and US-81 was moved to I-29 in these parts of South Dakota.  It could be mind boggling to think of how much commerce drove past where I stood.  Now I could lay down in the middle of the road and it could take an hour before anyone would hit me.  It wasn’t the bygone era of travel that I wanted to save, it was the butterflies and I began to think.  Someone needs to buy this property.  If not me, then who?
Olaf had only a Forster's tern to share the view on ranch property on the old Meridian Highway
Black tern

Savannah Sparrow
              I was sure my wife would talk some sense into me but, shockingly, that was not the case.  So, I thought about it.  I talked to people who knew more about land than I did but none of them, not a one, talked me out of it.  So, on the morning of the auction, divided up into three parcels, I woke up at four in the morning to worry about how much I should bid six hours later.
I went birding to think.  I spotted a magnolia warbler and got a really nice photograph.


I thought about butterflies and my legacy.  I thought of quotes from people who knew about the legacy of land than I did.  I even thought about Joan Rivers of all people and the quote above.
I harkened back in thought to those that formed me and my thinking.  I wondered.  What would Edward Abbey say?  In Journey Home he wrote on the appreciation of wilderness “loyalty to the earth, the earth which bore us and sustains us, the only home we shall ever know, the only paradise we ever need—if only we had the eyes to see.”  But the land I was looking at was just native prairie, it was not wilderness and Abbey was a creature of the desert. 
I thought about Ted Turner, who still owns more prairie and ranch land than anyone save the US government.  Ted no longer owns the Atlanta Braves, CNN, nor is married to Jane Fonda and is not as rich as he used to be mostly as he gave a billion dollars to the United Nations, but Ted Turner is still buying land.  He wants to own 2 million acres when he dies.  He is 40,000 acres short.  What would Ted Turner say?  He’d say, if you like the view, buy the view.  I guess I like the butterflies so I must buy the butterfly habitat, otherwise someone would destroy it.
I came home and moped and talked to my wife.  She was more willing to bid higher than I was, so I set my price, which would basically be what it took, and then the auction started in earnest.  I watched and then, nearing the end, I bid on the smaller of the two largest parcels, the one nearest the wildlife refuge tract.  I avoided the other, but as the end neared, someone would up the bid on my parcel by a thousand dollars, resetting the clock at four minutes to end.  As I had a large reserve bid, there was little danger of them ever hitting my theoretically highest bid, and at that, I would go higher.  The problem was, this bidder was costing me money and it was making me angry.  He (or she) had the highest bid on the larger parcel, and it wasn’t moving.  So finally, angry that I couldn’t just claim victory and go out and bird, I jumped his bid a thousand.  I was now the high bidder.  With thirty seconds left, he both over bid that by a thousand and jumped mine up five thousand dollars.  Which, again, just cost me some money, and then just as it was going to close, he raised it again by a thousand, resetting the clock. 
Really angry now, as this was the seventh time he’d raised my bid without ever getting near my reserve price, I looked at his higher bid on the big parcel.  I upped him three thousand, and then waited for the four minutes to run past, and he never bid again. Greed had cost him (her), I was willing to share, but no, he had to have it all.   I had won, but all I felt was nervousness.  I get no joy from purchasing anything.  My grandparents had filled me with buyer’s remorse on anything.  Had I done the correct thing?
I was now the owner of two tracts of land joined at the center by a section line.  Combined, I could walk over two miles without ever setting foot on another’s property.  To be honest, it was a bit overwhelming.  The former owner prior to it being taken over by the creditor had filed bankruptcy just before the auction.  Assuming that process didn’t cause some interference, I was now the owner of a ranch.  In relation to Ted Turner, I was just a small landowner but to me and to most people, this was no small matter.  Now I just have to wait until closing and then…figure out what I’m doing with it.  I need to learn about how much grazing is enough.  Who would be a good renter and what would I need to do to promote the colorful residents of the sections of prairie that I now am the stewards of?   I now have more questions than answers.
I don’t expect to get many paying butterfly enthusiasts out there just as don’t expect to see many birders.  This will be a quiet victory as none of the insects or the birds will tell me thanks.  No one will pat me on the back but maybe myself.  I assume this will be a ranch-sized headache but at least it isn’t a house in the hurricane-prone areas. 
I may not be the most handsome or have Ted Turner’s money, but I always say to my wife, “at least I keep it interesting.”  I could be the most interesting man in the world, or so some say.  I name all years, as they all have themes.  Most of them are good, and all have stories attached, sometimes, many stories.  2016 was the year of the big year, and 2017 was the year of the hurricane.  Last year, was the year of the butterfly, and 2019 it appears will be the year of the ranch.  What could happen and what I could find, only God could guess.  All I know is, I have some exploring to do on soon to be, my land.  I have fences to walk and I think I will own something like 22 miles of fence.  I also have lists to make and pictures to take.  It is going to be a busy summer.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

A grebe story



I had a regularly scheduled meeting to attend in Minnesota.  I’m like the mayor of a small town except that it isn’t, it is just a campground and I’m called the president, but it might as well be one.  My job is like the mayor's and I do everything a mayor would.  It was an elected position, most-likely the only elected position I’ll ever have or for that matter, will ever stand for.  As meetings go, this one promised nothing special, unlike the one from the previous month where we had to budget added repairs to infrastructure damage caused by snow, rodents, and extreme weather.  Its scheduled date of May 10th promised to land me some spring migrants we don’t see farther west.  We arrived on Thursday the day after I had dental surgery in Watertown, South Dakota.  It was from an injury I sustained way back in my big year 2016.  It was something I received on St Paul Island and used to get an emergency seat on a full plane to get out of the island on my last visit there in October of that year. 
            In Minnesota, I had to supervise the spring repairs and building projects.  The electrician was still working on some severe damage to the wiring of the pool which required a complete rewiring and the next morning as I went out for a walk and spotted two new migrants for the year, a gray-cheeked thrush and quite a few, rose-breasted grosbeaks both in the trees and the place of the couple we went at into the southern hemisphere together.  It is always nice for people to have feeders

So, while I was walking my dog, I got an unexpected text from our ground’s supervisor, who hadn’t realized I was three blocks away.  I expected he was going to report more damage and more expenses but surprisingly, what I got was just another bird consult.  Well, it wasn’t just another one.  I get bird consultations all the time, in fact, this was the fourth one this week. “What kind of bird is this?”  Jim’s text said along with a picture of a bird. 
            I looked at the picture and never answered, I was walking down to the pool area in search of a rather odd bird to be seen on land.  I ran into Kelly; the assistant electrician and she was finishing up the wiring for our new sauna.  Her boss was ankle deep in wiring the pool shed.  She showed me the bird. There in the grass was a red-necked grebe.  Grebes have a problem on land, they cannot use their feet to get upward propulsion to take off, so it was stranded.  I wondered how this bird got there.  I looked at the alert and very scared bird.  It had some sort of neck injury and was bleeding.  Maybe it hit a tree?  I had no idea.  It was a bird that nests near my cabin and one that I expected to arrive any day on Enemy Swim Lake in South Dakota, but one I hadn’t seen yet in 2019, but even though it counted it was an odd deal.  Here I was looking at a bird that needed help.  I felt it was an omen that this bird would choose near to where I was walking my Springer spaniel to crash land.  I guess it came here for me to help it, that was all I could deduce so I had to do what I could.
            I thought about it for a moment and then began a very tiring set of texts, emails, and phone calls.  I tired federal, state, county and agencies I didn’t know who controlled them.  I wasn’t very easy to find an injured bird rehab center, or at least someone to even answer their telephone and give me some sort of direction.  It was Friday and 10 AM and it appeared everyone had gone home early for the Minnesota fishing opener.  I got answering machine after answering machine and the only humans I talked to, politely told me I was calling the wrong office.  The State office in Cambridge referred me to an office 40 miles farther away.  I called a Federal office in St. Cloud and they just said “sorry.”  One woman was only on her third day and she found some sort of a list and gave me a name.  Unfortunately, the call to this woman named only informed me that she had given up her license to rehab birds two years earlier to take care of her ailing mother.
            Luckily, the birders in Minnesota came through with lots of posts on Facebook and gave me the directions to a rehab center 35 miles away.  I got many leads from a Facebook message I posted.  They told me where to go.  The only problem was getting the bird there.  This grebe had a sharp bill, a long neck and would not take to getting into a box very easily.  My first problem was to get more protective clothes on.  I couldn’t have the bird poke me in an eye or cut my arm.
            Five minutes later, two electricians, my wife and I were trying to get the grebe safely secured without any of us losing an eye.  Two of us held boxes, and we had initially planned to throw a sheet on it.  Unfortunately, the bird had moved to the very center of the covered pool, a cover that had recently been damaged by either a running deer or a peg-leg pirate chasing a treasure.  It was hard to determine.  We were submitting a claim to the insurance company.  It is shocking how expensive pool covers are.  There was no way we could walk on that.  I was also worried the bird may fall into a hole as the bird was sitting near a good-sized hole.  One electrician used the pool skimmer encouraged the bird to get on to the edge of the pool, where I put the box on top of it and we got it in the correct way carefully and gently carried the bird to my waiting car.
            With my wife sitting beside it keeping the lid on top, we sped to Roseville and the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota.  We could hear the bird move as we went around corners, so we knew it was still alive.  It took only 35 minutes and without any further events, we checked it in and dropped off the bird to the professionals.  

Certainly, it was the first red-necked grebe they’d have this year.  It had lost a lot of blood and it was severely hurt but at least I had got it there, its prognosis by remaining where we found it was zero.  It was all I could do; I had done a good deed.  Maybe it was just doing what another living creature should do?  I block traffic to get turtles of the road and removed toads stuck in our window box.  I don’t expect a reward for doing what one should do, but they say good deeds never go unpublished.  I hoped my punishment would not be too severe.  In the end I could only be a driver and could only say a little prayer for the poor grebe.  I hope it was enough.
            A year bird with a bit of a story, a red-necked grebe I won’t soon forget.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Loose ends, RVs, and Golf on Sirius

I may have just returned from Africa, Trisdan da Cunha, Argentina, and all that, but I still had our lives to put back together.  I had pets to retrieve and also importantly, an RV to get.  Big Bird needed to come back home.

We got an almost unreal and probably unmeasurable pile of snow last week and then on Saturday, I-29 opened and at 8 AM we took off south.
My RV ended up at Tiffin Headquarters in Red Bay Alabama in December as one of the side effects of my 1 month repair of my new 33aa, RED (Rear Engine Diesel) which was cured after 106 hours of mechanic work, two flown in engineers and involving replacing the entire engine electrical harness and all other electronics.  The side effect was that it froze up due to our early October winter after they gave it back to me on the 120 mile drive home.  As I told Tiffin, "IF I break a water line, you are fixing it."  They agreed and I broke the line right under the shower..  When I plugged in the water in Tallahassee, a fountain was formed inside and outside of my rig.

I had a repair guy in Tampa look at it and as it would take two guys and three days to fix it, they would not touch it, resulting in us dry camping for a month in Florida and then in December, we dropped it off at Tiffin, I-22 was just 20 miles from Red Bay which was the route home and as such, it wasn't too far out of our way, so the week before Christmas, we dropped it off and then a second odyssey began, not from Tiffin, they were great and they pulled out the shower, the toilet and they fixed it, but us retrieving the rig became the issue.  How hard could finding a window to drive it home be?

We went to Curacao over new Years and then when we came back, we had a blizzard and then as Tiffin was replacing my ladder (I jackknifed in Florida and bent it, and figured easiest to replace it now).  They shattered my back fiberglass.  So I got a new panel but.....as I was off to bird in Jamaica etc, I couldn't go get it.

Then returning, I saw a hole in the blizzards, so my buddy Barry and I drive down straight to Red Bay and then his wife called us (she works for NOAA) and despite the government being closed due to budget impass, she was still working and reported yet, another blizzard and ice storm incoming.  I thought fast.  My rig would be done in 4 hours after we arrived but I'd have to drive through Iowa on ice, so I told them my plight, I left for Texas in five days and then after 48 hours, I would leave for South America, all from Minneapolis.  I did the math, I'd never make it home and if I got stuck in St. Louis or KC, I'd have a rig to deal with and still could not make it back and Tiffin told me they'd store it for the winter.  We emptied out anything edible, I threw in my snake boots, and we drove 1100 miles home in a hurry, hitting the ice in Waterloo Iowa, it was pretty bad, but we made it before it really got bad.

Now we had a another window and it was April, who would guess the winter that never ends would never end?  My wife went and the plan was to get behind a really nasty tornado forming storm on Sunday and cruise into Red Bay, get rig and get out before the following Pacific storm came through on Wednesday.

We made great time on Saturday listening to golf on the radio, The Masters kept us oddly on the edge of our seats, who'd guess the next day, would be a historic conclusion.  My wife even wanted to listen.  Hearing Tiger hole the final put was cool.  As we did 700 miles on Saturday, we had some time on Sunday to see stuff despite the cool and rainy day.

First, I revisited Cahokia, the site in East St Louis, containing the largest documented man-made earthen pyramid in North America (I think Pilot Mound in Manitoba is bigger, but the experts don't agree as I do that it is man-made.

 I was last here in 2001, I still wear the t-shirt I bought, and the place still impresses.

We would have climbed Monk's mound except for the lightning risk and as such we could only look and admire.  My research has my own ideas of these pyramids, but I won't elaborate here.  I've visted similar mounds all over the world.
The only thing new here this time was the new warning on the sign
NO SLEDDING ON THE PYRAMID!

It was even cold and nasty walking the dog

So we headed south, drove through a depressing Cairo Illinois and then heard an even more depressing tale in Wickliffe, Kentucky.  These mounds in Kentucky were excavated in the 1930s and some of the most astounding clay pots were unearthed intact.  Then during Christmas break in 1988, the museum built and maintained by Murray State were broken into and the artifacts taken.  The case has never been solved except, one pot was found for sale on Ebay and retrieved.  These were some of the best pottery ever found and now are in someone's basement.

Reproductions of the priceless stolen artifacts

Other museums have been robbed over the years and rarely are the artifacts recovered.  We were quite sad, but then Tiger won and well, by the time we got to Jackson, TN, we were looking at new mounds, mounds of food at Waffle House.  You got to love Waffle House.

An hour or so later, we were again in history, at Shiloh, the site of a rather gruesome and somewhat controversial Civil Wart battle that some say opportunity of the South was lost, but whether it was or wasn't the war was brutal and the South would have still lost, but in 1862, Shiloh was the most carnage on US soil by any battle up to that time.  By 1865, it would not even be in the top 5.

Confederate memorial (Daughters of Confederacy)

Shiloh Church, namesake of the battle, where Beauregard dithered to advance on the Union troops at the end of April 6th before being defeated on April 7th by a reinforced Grant


Union memorial (Iowa)

We also went to the Tennessee River south of Pittsburg Landing where there are more mounds.  We walked around these, from this Mound builder city from 1500 years ago or so.

Standing on this mound overlooking the river, I was visited by a prothonatory warbler, a year bird, taken with my wide-angle lens, it was like five feet away

It was 45 degrees in Corinth, Mississippi when we bedded down that night in a non-pet friendly "pet-friendly" motel, ate Popeyes, and waited for morning and hoped the weather would clear.  On Monday, it was a beautiful day.  We drove to Red Bay, they found my rig, and despite my worries that the battery would be dead, or something, it was not only running well, and ready for me, it was even clean.  By 0930, my car was on the trailer, and we were off northwest, driving by other full-timers in typically larger rigs waiting on some service issue.  I was glad we weren't them.

The camping area for those waiting to get repairs done at the factory in Red Bay

We drove hard to get to Minneapolis during the nice day.  There were some delays trying to get Popeye's chicken in Dyersburg TN,  but by evening we had already gotten north of LaGrange MO, and found a really nice state park, to camp at where I got the Red-breasted mergansers (first picture) for a really good bird for the area, and had the park largely to ourselves.  They hadn't even got the pay station out of its winter case yet.  We'll see if they ever find my check for the camping fee.

Yesterday, we made it back and parked Big Bird at a campsite north of Minneapolis where she'll sit for a while awaiting spring camping, while today in a driving rain we headed back to South Dakota to watch the snow melt, ending a four month odyssey of our poor rig, although truth be told, it was largely caused by our other travel needs and the winter from hell.  We've owned the rig 8.5 months.  It has been driven 9600 miles and spent 1 month in Cummins, and four months at Tiffin, but with its new electrical heart, she has been driving well, and we still love the RV life.  Mind you, we've driven 3200 miles in our personal car getting it or trying to get it at various times, and I've used my sat phone to call Tiffin or Cummins from five countries but heck, cool birds along the way, interesting history, seeing terrible icy roads, and well, recently listening to great golf, was worth it, well almost.
This morning I even got my Minnesota lifer woodcock, and it was 
nice to be driving my "Bird"

 Olaf


A River Runs Through it

All adventures have a flavor to them.  Some are spicy and some are more like vanilla.  My last adventure, reported here,  is difficult t...