Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Destination: Florida


Poinsiana, Florida
A note to update.  Well, the RV made it south but it was not without some issues down here.
First, despite no engine lights, when we finally hooked up the full water west of Tallahassee we blew a water line, later in Lutz, when we were having a repairman look at it, the leak was where the feederline for the hot water heater went into the coach behind the shower. To repair it would take quite a bit of work and many people.  Large items would have to be removed.  No one here wanted to have any part of this.  The result.... we will be stopping at Red Bay, Alabama (the home of Tiffin) to get it fixed on the way home and drop it off for a while.  and.....we would therefore be camping this entire trip without having water.

Secondly, I ate that lettuce, you know, the lettuce they recalled.  I got salmonella and had a week of abdominal pain, but I fought it for days and before I started myself on antibiotics, diagnosing myself with....appendicitis, an ulcer, alcohol induced gastritis, a kidney stone, an appendicitis again, and e. coli from bad hamburger.  It went away as we left Pasco County Florida on our way to Poinsiana.

Thirdly, I have had a bit of amnesia.....walking home from the bar the other night after the Eagles loss,, my right knee started to hurt and then swelled up.  I really hadn't been drinking that much...really.  There was this white Russian someone bought me and...?  This has slowed up my birding somewhat, and led to my third sleepless night due to pain on this trip.  I guess it is always something.  I just wish I remember what I did....

Some say I was singing Grandma got run over by a Reindeer in front of a restaurant but I corrected them, that was Saturday night, NOT Sunday night.

Despite feeling like death earlier last week, we went out with a bunch of couples for Buddhist breakfast near Tampa


The temple was quite nice again and despite having something eating away on my inside, the Thai noodle soup was to die for and later, I almost did.  but....it was worth it.   A word to the wise...if they recall lettuce again....don't eat any!   .


So we got over to Central Florida.  We met up with couples from St Martin.  My stomach held and we survived a rather odd Christmas show although truth be told, our guests Paul and Nancy left before the "show" started....they could be said to have been the lucky ones.


I could describe this event in great detail but let me say you had to be there.  It was actually undescribable and not necessarily in a good way.  Have you ever had the morbid fascination of being unable to look away? I chose this picture as no one is recognizable to avoid calling out anyone who may not want to be known to have been here.  Alvin's Christmas carol and Dominic the Donkey, which I hope to never hear again.

Back to birding.....

Someone reported a smooth-billed ani up the road a few miles so I drove up to chase it.since it is a good bird, especially way up north near Orlando

 smooth-billed ani

I was recognized by a local resident Barbara Taylor who I let post my picture on Facebook.and that made me laugh for a morning.

I chased some of the hard to get local birds, all year birds for my rather mundane list which should top out near 400 for the year.  

 brown-headed nuthatch

Florida scrub-jay

Snail kite photos are always special

 Muscovy ducks  flew in

loggerhead shrike

My wife Silja liked this red-bellied woodpecker with an acorn...


Despite some cool weather, we also spied a few butterflies, nothing exciting but a few lifers no less

 barred yellow

 large orange sulphur

white Peacock

We've had the lucky fortune to reconnect with St.Martin AND Minneapolis friends down here so far.  I feel like had a social outing every day which when I think about it, we had.

It is cold outside for here, 44, and I'm sitting  here writing this with a gimpy right knee, but all is well, even if the local spa/massage office is closed today, I'll have to find something else to do....oh the problems I have to ponder. Maybe...I'll go birding....

All I can say is.....Don't drink and walk
If I could only remember what I did

Olaf

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Searching for Burleigh Grimes


Big Bird, our new Tiffin RV never made it home from California, it ended up 123 miles short, being dropped off at the Cummins dealer/ repair location in Sioux Falls on October 20th, where it sat for three weeks.  It perplexed the engineers and technicians.  They put in a new engine harness, a new ECM, and a new fuel pump actuator.  They ran it around connected to the computer and then noticed some odd things, like the speedometer freaked out twice for a second before coming back, and the DEF indicator went haywire for only a moment.  Not being Cummins issues, so they said, they told me to come and pick it up on Monday.  I talked to Freightliner about looking at it but they couldn't see it for a day so we decided to see if the other items worked.  The engine clicking was, at least,  gone, the fault codes were gone, so as we were down in Sioux Falls anyway to get Yellow Fever and Typhoid vaccines, we picked it up and drove it home.

It was unseasonably cold and windy on the drive home so finally 22 days late, the Bird got to Milbank.  It was 4PM when I parked it so we had to hurriedly winterize it.  Unfortunately, the water pump had frozen up on the way home and it took me a while to get the stabilizers down, which were maybe stuck or cold, I didn't know..  We kept it heated overnight, did what we could, and then in the morning after having a space heater in the compartment by noon the next morning, the pump came back to life and we were able to push pink stuff into the system.  We were lucky, and it went above freezing for the first time in a week.

Two days later, we drove the Bird to Wisconsin for my sister's and dad's birthday, and...to see if the engine light went on again.  We had none of the odd Freightliner issues and we got her set up at my grandmother's in Wisconsin without issues as a ruffed grouse watched me.


It flew before I could get the camera.

I arrived down in Clear Lake, WI forty miles south, for something to do.  The plan was to search for a rather non-descript grave stone.  It took me a while to find it.  In this time of self-glorification and search for fame, here was a grave that offered nothing of that, well almost nothing.

With all of  the self-glory seeking, seeing such a mundane gravestone seems rather out of place in the 33 years since his death .  All it says is Burleigh A. Grimes, 1893-1985, and a simple Polk County Veteran's flag, is almost all there was.  Was Grimes a war hero?
   
Compare his stone to one a hundred yard away for another famous native son from Clear Lake.
.

That of one of the last politicians, I respected.  Senator Gaylord Nelson, the founder of Earth Day, a Progressive who was also a sportsman, an environmentalist, and a realist.  He was also a true representative of his state, not someone just trying to get a ahead and make a buck.  He  worked for the Wilderness Society in the 80s and gave this quote as to his belief as to the number 1 problem facing the environment in America, which seems at odds with the current views of the Democratic Party and the Environmental Groups he championed.

"the bigger the population gets, the more serious the problems become ... We have to address the population issue. The United Nations, with the U.S. supporting it, took the position in Cairo in 1994 that every country was responsible for stabilizing its own population. It can be done. But in this country, it's phony to say "I'm for the environment but not for limiting immigration."

He was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1995 by Bill Clinton.  It is hard to believe what many of these same people are saying today.  I guess that is why nothing ever gets done on immigration OR the environment.  But this is not a blog about Gaylord Nelson.

Burleigh A. Grimes was hardly a war hero.  In fact, although he enlisted in the Navy in 1918 during the Great War, Grimes led the National League in starts by a pitcher and was out of the Navy just in time for the 1919 season.  It is unsure of what if anything he did besides pitch for the Navy.  Yet he is honored as a Veteran during a war.

Written small above "Grimes" was a small baseball diamond and "Hall of Fame" etched in the granite.   So who was Burleigh Grimes and why does he rate a blog by me?
   
Burleigh Grimes was perhaps the toughest, nastiest, fiercest competitive  player that ever pitched in the major leagues.  He was just plain old mean.

He even described himself.
Why is it there are so many nice guys interested in baseball? Not me, I was a real bastard when I played.

 Grimes was the last legal spitball pitcher, being exempted for 14 years after the pitch was banned in 1920.  Since he chewed slippery elm to produce more saliva, he had two days of beard growth on his face to spare his sensitive skin.  The process left him with a rather mean look, unshaven, drool with yellowish teeth and a snarl, that seemed to be out of this world.  Grimes just didn't look fierce, he acted the part.  Spending his teen years in a logging camp,Grimes was tough.  He got into a fight with his Pirate's manager in 1918, when he took offence to be passed over for a start.   The pair ended up in a fight almost to the death in the team rail car.  The two could not be pulled apart before Grimes took a bite out of his manager's leg and both were a bloody mess.
       
Rogers Hornsby was never a favorite of Grimes.  Of the 301 home runs Hornsby hit, Grimes threw 9 of them, the most by any pitcher.  In 1927, they found themselves both on the Giants.  Grimes accused Hornsby of not giving the proper signs and the two ended up in a brawl in the dugout in the middle of the game.   The game got delayed as players need to go separate the pair. Later, Grimes would "accidentally" throw at his own player if he wasn't looking.  He was traded to Pittsburgh after that season.

Here the two are standing next to each other in a MLB picture before the fight, Grimes is far left
       
Grimes officially only hit 101 batters,  77th on the all-time list but apparently the batters of the day were better at getting out of the way, because the pitcher was legendary for throwing at batters.  It was said that Grimes' idea of an intentional walk was throwing 4 times at the batters head.   Hall of Famer Frankie Frisch caused the ire of Grimes after spiking him on first base when the pitcher covered the bag after a bunt.  For ten years, Frisch needed to stay limber at the batters box because Grimes would throw at his head, sometimes even on four straight pitches.  Once Grimes hit Frisch while Frisch was just standing in the on deck space.  If there was a record for being hit in the on deck circle or hitting his own players, Grimes would hold the record.  The only reason this stopped was that in 1931, the two players ended up on the same team.
     
Oddly in 1964, it was Frankie Frisch that helped Grimes  get elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame.  Grimes pitched for the "Gas House" gang and won the Cardinals the World Series in 1931.  Frisch by his chairmanship of the Veteran's committee got a lot of the old Cardinals elected to the Hall if they deserved it or not.  Grimes obviously deserved it.  Ole' Stubblebeard retired from pitching in 1934 with 270 victories and then stayed with baseball and manged minor leagues and the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1937-38.
   
He became a great scout for the game and was responsible for the great Yankees farm system and then when hired by the Orioles in 1961, managed to find the talent to turn that team into a winner in 1966, and 1969-71, before he retired from baseball in 1972 at the age of 79.

     In 1974, He summed up his career:
"Baseball treated me very well"

So the news is mixed as to whether Grimes was actually such a bad guy in real life or it was all his marketing stick.  On one hand, his neighbor described him as a kindly old man.  On the other hand, he was married five times and was actually buried next to wife number 3.  There is nothing written about him causing fights in his days as a manager and scout, but then again, he was an older man during those days.  So who knows?   He did write that he treated every batter as a person standing between him and more money, so if he threw at his legs or his head, he would cost him a cut in pay.  So in the end, it is all just history, and the legend of Burleigh Grimes was that of the toughest person to stare down on the mound, a man that would just as soon throw the ball into your ear as anything. 
Now he is just a name on a grave in an obscure Northern Wisconsin town, and a man with a plaque in Cooperstown. 

I can only feel for the poor outfielders trying to pick up and throw baseballs the were all covered in drool, it reminds me of throwing a baseball to my old St Bernard "Hans."  Hans would have made a great spitballer...yuck!

Well, bad news to report, the clicking noise appeared about 50 miles out of Wisconsin, if history repeats, the engine light will come on again either on the way home or by the second leg of the trip to Florida.....sigh....not much else to replace.  

Monday, November 5, 2018

Between the rock and the hard place: the quest for mr. 800




BIG BIRD had a lot of parts changed from the end of our trip into November.  It got a new engine harness, and then, that third fuel pump attuator.  Then it got a new ECM.  All the while, I could tell that Tiffin was becoming tired of me as they stopped emailing me and calling.  Cummins was sounding beaten.  It was in the middle of this while I was sitting at my cabin looking out into the snow and hoping better ducks would arrive out in the lake when I got the alert.  Gray heron in Newfoundland.
            I had officially been sitting on 799 for my North American ABA bird list since August, a number that just seems so unsettling because, it is.  In reality, it had been longer since bird #798, a mistle thrush, I had seen in January of 2018 in New Brunswick and bird #799, a black-backed oriole named Bebe had been refound by me in Pennsylvania in February of 2017, well after it had been first seen over a month earlier. 
          Some birders were so sure that this bird was never going to added to the official list that they never went and saw it.  I only went as I had business in Scranton and Reading seemed like a place nearby (sort of), and so it ended up being a bit of a lucky break.  The state committee did a lot of work on that bird and in the end the national powers-to-be, had no choice but add it on the list, which in August, to my surprise, it was. 
            It had been so long since I successfully chased a bird, I had forgotten which one it was.   I had dipped on a rare warbler in Arizona in the spring of 2018.  So there I was, at 799. I wanted to reach 800 while I was still aged 52, it had taken me until May 2015 for me to get to 700, seeing a ruff in a swamp near Minneapolis while we visited the American Swedish Institute for a lecture.  I think getting the “toughest” hundred in 42 months was about as quick as one can, even taking into account I saw 778 species in 2016 alone.  
         Only three people had ever completed their 9th century of North American birds, the “impossible” 100, and so, I doubted that I’d ever get to that.  I had some relatively low hanging fruit, or relatively so, and if I became motivated, and took some pelagics on the east coast, and hung out in Alaska, I could easily get to 810, but after that, every bird is a good to great bird  so any more will be almost impossible.  Some of the ones the big three, like Paul Sykes (all-time number 2) have seen,  are extinct.  He has seen the extinct Bachmann’s warbler.  He has also seen some birds that will never be seen again in America.  Therefore, 800 is my last big birding mark.
            Bucket list item, #101, Get 800th bird in ABA, 300 in South Dakota and 850 in the new ABA was only 2/3 done.  I had seen my 300th South Dakota bird in May.  The new checklist this summer including the oriole and the mistle thrush had ticked me up to 851 on that list. 
            Oddly and in true Olaf fashion, just as I had booked for the difficult logistics of going to Newfoundland (it is an all-day and quite expensive affair and I had already missed the flight to get there on November 3rd), a spotted redshank, a sandpiper I have seen on Iceland but not in North America had appeared near Detroit.  It seemed everyone was there and unfortunately, I was  committed to the Rock, the local name for Newfoundland.  The redshank would have to wait.
            This is my 7th trip to Newfoundland, 8th if you count a stopover for three hours when I was 14.  I have seen seven lifers there:  common snipe, tufted duck, black gillimot, black-headed gull, yellow-legged gull, willow ptarmigan, and a fieldfare.  I had dipped or missed on two gray herons, a kelp gull, and European golden-plovers and before on the yellow-legged gull, before getting one 9 months later. That first trip didn’t feel so bad since the fieldfare showed up five hours away, and was nabbed.   I’d also found some odd birds there, once seeing a chimney swift in early November that almost seemed like another rarer swift, but, alas no.  I had also been in the middle of a strange jaeger fallout which left the poor birds beaten and recovering (or dying) in some truly odd places, like golf courses and roofs.
               So as my RV sat in a pile of parts,  I headed off to the Rock, flying United and Air Canada. I got upgraded to first-class because, I could.  Flying to the easternmost point in North American in fall/winter was always tough.   I expected delays and when it came, and for no explained reason in Toronto, it came as  no surprise.  It was all part of it--the 2:30 AM arrival, the endless delays, a rough flight that would never seem to land if it landed at all, the cold blustery walk to my car which assuming the rental agent was still around to a car that would be in the far corner of the parking lot, which either wouldn’t start or was the wrong car. I could look forward to a locked motel front door, a cold room, no breakfast, and probably a missing bird.  It was the way of things on the Rock.  It was a hard place, but one filled with nice and warm people, that somehow, survived and thrived in this place that was part of Great Britain and not Canada until 1949.  
               The man in front of me at Toronto airport had a tee-shirt that surmised it all “Fukeneh!”  It was something coined by Mike Myers.  That was the way of things.  Oddly, I stood next to my twin in line, a big oafish Scandinavian, like me.  I listened to his grunts and cut-off words to his buddy, typical male speak, which is half gestures and posture anyhow.  He even acted like me but he spoke Norwegian, was not a Swede, but was very understandable and we had the same face.  He was named Kjell and undoubtedly was going to St. John’s due to the oil or shipping infrastructure.
               The trip in fulfilled my expectations, crossing over Nova Scotia we hit a fierce wind, that on the ground in Newfoundland was clocked at 130 kph in some places, on Cape Race where the weather station was broken, a reading of 52 knots was seen in the lee of a building.  The Alamo guy stayed but I was correct, the farthest car from the rental car place was mine.  It blew and rained all the way to my car.  The lady at the hotel had already given up on me but found me a room.
               Morning came three hours later as I headed the hour and a half to Renews, arriving just after dawn at 6:50.  Like my last chase for this bird, the bay it had been seen was devoid of birds save for a lone gull, a handful of crows and a cormorant on a rock.  I looked, then moved and looked some more.  I could feel the futileness of the morning and then at 7:30, something odd happened, the bird appeared out of nowhere on a rock!  It was like I got pay back, because after two hurried pictures at a great distance, the bird spooked and flew to the other side of the bay.  I ran for the car but as I got over there, it had vanished as easily as it had appeared.


               I looked at my photos to make sure I wasn’t dreaming, it was bad but yes, it was a gray heron, as any heron here is a good bird, and nothing else it could be.  Four other birders showed up but not the heron.  It made us wait for over two hours and then again, I saw it fly out of nowhere.  I called the other birders, and everyone raced to my location, again it was gone as I looked up from my phone, but it had just hidden behind a rock. I had it, they had it, the great 800 was accomplished!  It then came closer for better photos.


               The lighthouse keep at Cape Race, Cliff Doran is the friendliest coolest guy.  Cape Race one of those nasty places where the wind blows all the time and the area is shrouded in fog and rain almost constantly.  In fact, they had not seen the sun in two weeks, but today, it was cold, 38 degrees but the sun was out, showing the lighthouse and the cape for the first time ever to me.


          Down there, everyone was abuzz with a great bird, a Vesper sparrow, found just before I got there--a backyard bird for me back home, but here, only the third recorded sighting ever, which compared to the heron, which has had 5 provincial sightings (only 6 in North America though), that makes the sparrow rarer (here), go figure.



I had chocolate silk cake and coffee with Cliff and the other birders as we warmed up and told stories and Cliff asked me about my RV and Hurricane damaged house.  It was just great.  Newfies are the greatest!   It was the highlight of the trip seeing Cliff even better than the bird!  This was my celebration even though back at the Best Western, alone, I drank my lifer beer alone and toasted myself to a long chase and quest of seeing 800 species.  That is how it should be, bird listing is a personal event and a personal milestone.  
             Bucket list #101 is done, now if I can just go home, a book event and yellow fever and typhoid shots await this intrepid traveler.

I called Cummins on the drive back, and nothing has changed.  I want a Fukeneh! with a Canadian flag t-shirt!
Olaf

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Stories from the Road Less traveled- Oklahoma


Laverne Oklahoma
Odometer 5456

Okay, time for a little local history, birds referenced in historical settings, and a classic personal birding story...

I know many of you hate everything that is Trump, was Trump, could be Trump or remotely associated with Trump or maybe America is becoming great again...I don't know.   One thing that many hate is his ownership of the Miss America Pageant.  Many say how could any feminist, or feminist friendly person support such an endeavor as a beauty pageant or for that matter any sane person? That is your right to think that.  This is not a political puff piece, just an observer in Rural America reporting on what he sees.

With that disclaimer, yesterday I drove into Laverne Oklahoma, up at the corner of the Panhandle, an area I've spent a little time.in.  Places settled back just before Oklahoma became a state, generally named after someone on the railroad or a local rancher.  The sign on the edge of Laverne says "home of Jane Jayroe!"  Main street is named "Jane Jayroe Ave,"  So I ask, who is "Who is Jane Jayroe?"
I ask Silja again and then I see the arch over the highway..


Jane Jayroe, Laverne's number one citizen, of all time, a woman who obviously came from nowhere, as Laverne is classic rural America.... became the 1967 Miss America....Who'd have thought about it.  In Laverne, I could have got more traction in talking about the Jesus being a terrible person than telling them what the LA Times wrote in 2015

"For girls, the relentless pressure to conform to societal notions of beauty abides a more pernicious evil: the push to indulge males' pervasive objectification of females' bodies."

There are more nastier  opinions about the ills of beauty pageants.  In Oklahoma, Jane Jayroe is the town hero, even the state hero still 51 years later.

Image result for jane jayroe
from Oklahoma City Univ archives

So what did she do with her fame and after her year of being "Queen"?

She became a popular TV anchor in Oklahoma and Dallas.  She served as the Oklahoma secretary of Tourism and Recreation,  She had and fought breast cancer, wrote a book on surviving it, also wrote Chicken Soup for the Mother's Soul  as well as other books on religious themes.  Served on boards of breast cancer research at the Univ of Oklahoma, Oklahoma Commision on the Status of Women, and raised a son.  She has been active in her church and other civic projects. She is trying to make everyone's life better.

http://www.janejayroe.com/

In other words, she just wasn't some stereotypical bimbo pretty faced beauty queen, she was a credit to the human race.  He life should be a credit to all, not just the citizens of laverne. You learn something new everyday.  GOOD FOR HER!

Would she have done what she did without Miss America?  Maybe?  Maybe not?

A few miles west, before I drove into Oklahoma, I drove through Canadian, Texas.  Where we we experienced an earthquake.  The RV just about got shook off the road.  "What was that?"  I  asked.  Later I saw the report of a 4.0 earthquake nearby.

We stopped to read the local history of this town which had a much different history than Laverne. Canadian has a very rough and tumble past.

It was a town where prior to 1900 contained no churches, it was said the only citizens are saloon keepers, railroad men, gamblers, lawbreakers, and prostitutes.  The women here are honest as they charge you by the hour.  A popular sheriff once got shot and a forged Governor's pardon led to a jail escape, and for decades it was said that it was a place where someone could get away with murder.   There were lots of murders, everyone got away with it unless the Rangers were in town and then sometimes...you still did as the saloons had secret escape tunnels.  It was a center of rum running and illegal hooch production, and there was even a fraudulent contract to build the county courthouse.

 Then there was a rather curious contract that the Santa Fe Railroad had with its workers that guaranteed prairie chicken dinner every night but a local supervisor complained that he couldn't keep men at the job because they were just "sick of the damn birds" and advised the President of the railroad that they could only stomach it twice a week at most.

Corporate sent money to purchase local beef in a move that probably saving the Lesser prairie chicken from extinction....  I bet few birders know of that history.  How a chicken was saved by some cows.

Which leads me to a Lesser Prairie Chicken story of my own....it has become a story of legend

It was back in 2012.  We had some business dealings in Purcell OK, south of the capitol.  I brought with two of my executives.  Afterwards I made arrangements to go up to Selman OK to stake out the rare chickens in a couple of blinds, not far from Laverne. My two travel companions were not birders, but guys looking for some adventure  and Woodward OK was on the way and we were starving.  They just had a tornado hit part of town and so much of the the town was closed but we saw this local joint open.

We walked in.  The place was where Hee Haw met the Cracker Barrel.  There salad bar was an old rusty Model A Ford with the hood cut away and plywood paced with bowls of greens on it.  The guy next to the one open booth was missing two fingers and looked like he had just came up from the Canadian River "noodling" catching mudcats using only fingers and hands.  A sport illegal in almost every state except Oklahoma. 

It WAS rural America.

"...bet the special is catfish!"  I whispered.

The waitress came on over, dressed a little like Daisy Duke.  "Hi ya huns!"
"Our special is....deep fried catfish, served with hush puppies, deep fried wagon wheels, and deep fried okra....how about that?  I'll be back in a sec."

"Can you get Mevacor on the side?"  One of my friends said snidely (a lipid lowering drug) but she never heard him as she went and grabbed a bill to give to the two guys on the other side of us.  On the tray with the bill were mints with Oklahoma and Oklahoma State college football insignias on them.

She then came back over...."So what do you want boys?"  She said.

Now my other travel companion is an unabashed Nebraska fan.  Lives for the red and white.  Still pines for the old days of the Big 8.  Hates Texas, as he thinks they drove Nebraska into the Big 10, and so the Sooners are still his hated rival.

He speaks up.  "I'll take the special as long as it doesn't come with any of those dang mints..."

The waitress makes a face, slams down her order book.and screams, "you can insult my honor, you can complain about my food, but when you insult my state, you have good to far, now get the hell out of my restaurant!"

the three of us paused not knowing what to say, then a state trooper sitting opposite stood up, put on his hat, and unsnapped the leather strap off of his pistol.  "You heard the woman!" He said sternly.

We started to gather our things.  The officer had that look that he was implying "Kansas is only twenty miles up the road, I suggest you head that way."  I'm not sure he actually said that or not, we were walking fast on old wooden floors, and maybe I just was thinking what he meant.

In the car my Mevacor comment friend asked where we were going to eat now, I threw him a bag of trail mix.  We left town and drove to the ranch hungry.  We were lucky we weren't taken out and beaten.

Today we drove past the best sign from that trip...it was still there welcoming us to safety as it was in 2012


Lesser Prairie chicken stories....Oklahoma Panhandle stories, and life from RVing on the road..glamping in style or as they say


Olaf

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Enchanting Olaf


Odometer 5087
Santa Rosa NM

They call New Mexico the land of enchantment.  This apparently means either a feeling of great pleasure or delight OR the state of being under a spell from magic.   I'm voting for the latter, mostly as some dark spell has befallen us.  Weather, engine parts.and now rest areas.....what Interstate rest area closes...AT 2:30?

It could be that both the dog and I scented up that sign, but I won't confirm anything

Yes, we've reached New Mexico...somehow.   Here is Brighid and Silja parked safely in Santa Rosa, New Mexico, 1053 miles from home


It was a bit unnerving driving past a Cummins shop in Albuquerque, but it has only been 500 miles.  Yesterday, they turned us lose after a final programing of the engine.  We drive to Payson, slept got up and drove to here.  We are in the wrong spot as our neighbors are quite confused.  They can't find their water hook up but are in backwards in the wrong spot, got their power cord under their unit and just sound like maybe they need assisted living and not the huge Fleetwood they are driving, luckily they are going west and we are going east.

well, we ate at the Angry Crab, I made a mess and generally a pig of myself


Silja got her lifer rosy-faced lovebird


I saw some birds in the parking lot of Cummins, got a species count of 7.

Anna's hummingbird

Verdin

Kestrel

It was an experience.  Dave, a friend of mine who is a long-time Rver, told me I should ponder the question of my engine issue on Tiffin's website.  So I did.  Problem is they have two sites

#1.  Tiffin Motorhomes Happy/Positive news group

https://www.facebook.com/groups/224361041449486/

believe it or not

#2 The Tiffin Motorhome owners group 

this has 10,000 members and so I posted here, asked if anyone had the same problem.  I got 14 likes, two comments.  One was a woman in a similar position in Orlando with a different problem, and the other wanted restaurant recommendations for Avondale Arizona. I gave him the address for the Angry Crab.  Dave's RV brand is an Alpha.  He said his sight is very useful.....Tiffin's, not so, appears to be hijacked  by corporate marketing.   A Happy/Positive site?  Really?

I don't know.  Cummins thinks I have a significant electrical set up issue.  When they put the diagnostic tool to read the engine faults my dash board lights up with every warning signal or at least some of them and even when I turn off ignition and take the keys out, they don't go away until I disconnect the chassis battery.  Two Cummins guys say that is impossible (it is "read Only") but yet, enchanting Olaf has a magic RV, the Enchanted Bird.  How could I have Tiffin look at this?

Well, we are alive and moving on.  The Cimarron Territory tomorrow, one of my favorite bits of History.  Places like Beaver, OK and its cow chip throwing championship.  Black Mesa and its birding.  Oklahoma Panhandle University and their top Rodeo team...it is all good, and then I'm going Liberal...Kansas that is.

I hope for no more engine lights but well...I fear it is just a matter of time. It was nice to get out of Phoenix before tonight's football game.

Olaf 



Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Broke down, and Busted


Odometer Mile 4484
Trip Mile 4254

Well here we are, parked at the Cummins Service Center parking lot in Avondale-Phoenix AZ with our second fuel pump issue in tn the last two weeks.  We have now camped over at our second Cummins location in the last 900 miles, and instead of getting mad, and I am starting to get mad...  let me give you the top ten list of why this is a good thing!  It really is!?...?

10.  We can watch the entire playoff game with the Dodgers-Brewers today and we don't have to pay for the camping fees or worry about a tree in the way

9.  I could not decide which way we should go today, up 17 to Flagstaff, a brutal climb in the snow today (had 4 inches this morning), OR drive up 87 to Payson, only rain, and still a good climb, or go out 60 to Globe, on a suicidal decent and climb out of the Salt River Canyon...now I don't have to decide. 

8.  I am getting to know all the Cummins locations.  I can rate the camping. This one needs better garbage pickup, the one in Sacramento needs picnic tables.  I am beginning to think I may never pass by a Cummins shop I don't need.  I did get past LA and San Diego,  so that is good.

We got to meet some nice Cummins service specialists:
Gerry in Phoenix
Josette in Mesa
Miguel in Sacramento

Can I make it to Albuquerque without blowing a third fuel pump actuator?  Where is Cummins in Kansas?
we need to map out trips from Cummnis dealer to dealer apparently

7. Josette gave us some quality pointers in what to buy the next time we buy an RV
like maybe a side radiator.....and she tells us we got 95,500 miles left on our warranty and 58 months to do it...in fact, I beginning to think that maybe at least buying this Tiffin was a mistake. Silja as starting to look at 5th wheels more closely, and I'm wondering if that Ford Diesel F250 can come in yellow..........

6.  We saved 112,000 in not buying a Newmar RV, good ...right?

5.  If this was a used rig, we might have had to pay for all of this.  It is going to get expensive if I had to pay for these.  At least the warning lights waited for us to cross the Sonoran desert before they came back on.

4.  I get to bird the ole' Thrasher Spot in Buckeye now, and rack up a couple of year birds as I've only tallied Brown, Bendire's, Long-billed and curve-billed thrasher's this year.  I could also get a couple of sparrows, maybe I've even get to show Silja Lovebirds at the park, 8 miles east of here....how cool is that!??  Can you put a price on that?

3.  We get to eat at my favorite birding restaurant,  The Angry Crab in Goodyear AZ tonight.  You know, angry crab fits a little what I'm feeling.

2.  We can devote more energy to making sure our closing in St.Martin actually goes right today.  They don;t want to pay us now, well at a least to a US bank.  It turns our Josette is the name of both a service specialist AND the buyer's wife of our villa in St. Martin, what are the odds?
What are the odds of something 16 months in escrow closing on the same day I'm stranded in a diesel repair camping lot.  Then again what are the odds a hurricane would come through four days before closing on September 6, 2017?

1.  I get more quality time with the wife to enjoy our RV experience.  Nothing says togetherness like being stranded together.  We will start by going shopping for groceries....that wasn't on the agenda today...and now...we got the whole day, and maybe tomorrow, and maybe...juts maybe Thursday.  They pave the parking lot on Friday so we are going to have to go by then.

Broke down and busted, that is the RV life, at least our RV life apparently ...and maybe the Cummins and Tiffin way, too.  I'm beginning to wonder....one is a fluke...two...?
I'm not sure I will put up for a third.  Bob Tiffin is going to get a call.

All this and only 4000 miles on a new rig.   Oh the fun we are going to have in the future!!!!
How the heck do OTR trucks get stuff delivered?

Good thing I don't write a newspaper column or a blog to share what RV and engine brands possibly NOT to buy oh..wait....I do.

Olaf

for those of you on my blog a few birds that seeing pictures of makes me happy.  I need to get happy

Black-legged kittiwake out with Debi Shearwater CA bird #299

picturesque Great horned owl

Heermann's gull in San Diego

Long eared owl

whimbrel in San Diego







Thursday, October 4, 2018

The Pinnacle of our California trip

In the last 48 hours, we have gone from the highest pinnacle to the lowest canyons.  We have gone from the dreaded Priest Grade (luckily we didn't follow Google Maps on the "Old" Priest grade, it told us to go), to the parking lot of the Cummins Pacific center in West Sacramento.  I was yelled at for photographing a bird where I wasn't supposed to have a camera, things broke, and then...it snowed....but we had some great views.

So let's get started

We left Wilton on Tuesday and two miles down the  road, I drew engine warning lights.  Afraid to head into the Sierras, we made for the nearest  diesel repair spot which backtracked us to West Sacramento.  3886 miles on Big Bird and we had blown a Fuel Pump Accentuator or something like that...a three inch red part that had stuck open.  It was a tense moment with the Bird helpless or seemingly so.


It could have been two days or four hours.  Luckily for us, they had the part and Miguel was awesome and four hours later after a tour of the Yolo Bypass birding area a few miles away, we were back on the road.  Of course I had the chip in my camera backwards.  The map function said 120 miles to Groveland, so we headed off.

Groveland used to be known as Garrote, after hanging some troublesome Mexican banditos back in the gold rush.  In my opinion, it is famous for being on the upper end of the nastiest startch of road on earth--the Old Priest grade, set at 18-20%, and possible the steepest in the golden state, it is famous for unsuspecting people following it from map functions, like our friends.  They weren't driving Big Bird, we took the "new" road (as opposed to an old stage coach road), it was bad enough.

Yosemite

I have never been here before.


I tried to do my Ansel Adams imitations


We hiked and found another grove of Sequoia, the Merced Grove, one of three groves they have in the park


and then....we found snow


It was wet walking out, after having found a large flock of Townsend warblers the thunder snow was no fun.

We also found a park full of people.  I have never seen so many tents


but we had some nice looks at a one of a kind park



and then there was this crazy sign, not the sign itself well that too but the chain and lock to the post

 

Okay, rain snow and more snow so we headed west to Hollister, CA

the engine held but I broke a mirror and it looks like we also broke an awning....sheez, more warranty work upcoming but that is why we are having sea trials of the yacht.

We went to Pinnacles to see condors and we were not disappointed 


A first for my wife, Silja. I was last here during my big year with my son, Allwin....then we both got a first....


A tarantula....I guess it is mating season for the large buggers...this one was just walking up the trail....lifer beer for a tarantula?.....not sure, will have to think about that.


I presented my case to the local arbitrators and they said...no...well it was a split decision as it always seems to be with these guys.
what do I expect asking a group of acorn woodpeckers?

The Pinnacles rule

well we are still alive and still moving on......

Olaf

Destination: Florida

Poinsiana, Florida A note to update.  Well, the RV made it south but it was not without some issues down here. First, despite no engine...