It is September!
4 months to go and I can't put my head under the water, I need to get ready for my BIG YEAR!
so I decided to review my whole preparation for this big year
I am getting this blog template figured out and now know how to get pictures up on it, and becoming more savvy but that is only a start to the process
I am well on my way in other items in getting prepared for my Big Year and below is the list of items I have to get done ahead of time for me to succeed. I write this here and now for all of you to understand the commitment and effort planning an adventure like this entails.
This is what i think is needed besides too much spare cash for the actual budget, as really there can't be a budget for this adventure, it costs what it costs, you do what has to be done, but the first thing is once admitting that is you still need to......
1. Get a plan
I have developed a plan and along the way have pre scouted most places that seemed difficult so that I got a few bugs worked out and I know where to go
Since January, I have been to, Newfoundland, Hatteras,NC, Florida, Nome, Alaska, Colorado, Texas, Montana/AB/BC and Arizona, seeing 516 species without putting much effort into that. I have my massive opening salvo, a South Texas sprint done as a dress rehersal with my daughter in January so I can recreate it
My plan is NOT foolproof as i don't know how to account for el Nino, nobody does and I have started making reservations for things already
You cant say that I will expect to get a Northern hawk owl in Eau Claire WI in January
But I bet I will get a black-whiskered vireo within 20 feet of where i got this bird in Long Key State Park in April, but one can only plan so much, although going to Nome was really helpful, as was Newfoundland
2. Get the most up to date checklist from ABA
This seems simple but the ABA lists change, both with new appearances of vagrants never before seen and how they handle exotics
will they add the Mitred Parakeet?
3. I need to get angry but not too angry.
In general my feeling in life is a bit like Rodney Dangerfield...no respect. I have been marginalized and scoffed at from my Falun Sucker Club days (is that a long story), school sports, academics, medical school residency, to business, to college, to even finding someone to marry me. But somehow I succeeded....how? Tell me I can't do something or that I have no place to do something and it makes me mad, then I just put my ears back and can literally go 24/7 towards a goal, almost any goal. I can be very competitive.
But.......I don't always like it when I get this driven and part of me hopes this doesn't happen with this, I have learned success is all right and well and good but life is about the journey and not the end. I have many examples like this, I built a large company on spite alone, but I remember my summer between college and high school. Back then I was golfing sometimes 4-5 rounds (first light until after dusk) a day to get my handicap down to make the college golf team, yes I won a trophy at a tourney at the end of that summer after all of that golf. I actually made the team as a Freshman but when I got there I didn't like the team and I got sick of golf, so I ended up hanging up my golf cleats after my first college tourney and totally stayed away from the sport for 6 years, and then afterwards golf has only been something of an occasional occurrence. I did 9 holes for my first swings in 3 years last week. It is probably not a good to do this for birding and right now I have nothing against anyone who I need to leap-frog to get the record, I'm not sure I want to do that. I have to decide if getting 720 species will make me feel complete, or if I have to find someone to motivate me negatively........life is too short to let others get you, so I need to work on keeping this in check
4. Ask wife if really okay to do this and convince my 15yo daughter to do a "Junior Big Year"
There is never a good time to do this but I will be 50 next year and well, I'm not getting any younger.
Wife approves! Now Lauren has also fully committed, finally so at least if she is hanging out with me, I wont loose a year of her life. Kids are only around for so long. Unfortunately my wife, Silja can't handle boats with severe motion sickness so she cant come along on many of the trips and she has to supervise my teenager so if said teenager comes with I wont get too lonely. I think the loneliness of the road is my biggest obstacle to completing this adventure. Kids grow up way to quickly and this adventure will make great college admission essay material.
Her big year will cost me money but well the memories...priceless?
5. Make travel as easy and painless as possible, and as cheap as possible.
I need one more flight to get Delta Gold Medallion status to avoid regular check-in, and security lines and the status also allows me upgrades to better seating. I get a free checked bag. Living where I live, Delta is the best for flight options, it also works for WestJet and Alaska, but you have to be at least Gold status.
I also have Platinum AMEX card for free lounge access and occasionally I still will have to fly United to Midland, McAllen TX or Denver, so I have a United Visa for free luggage there, and maybe I'll even have enough miles for a free flight
I have nearly 800K miles for Delta now, allowing me to book expensive Alaska Airline flights using miles and allowing me last minute flights on the cheap for the year. I can probably milk this for at least 20 flights, I hope
The line in San Antonio and Phoenix to get a rental car has taken me up to 2 hours, with Hertz gold, I think I can save 12 hours in line during a calendar year
6. Proper decked out birding-mobile