Thursday, December 27, 2018

Beers and Blackhawks

Portland, Maine
Dec 27th 2019

With Blizzard Eboni coming into my house and I just a hop and a pop from the Minneapolis Airport for Christmas and nothing better to do, I caught the last seat out of town for Boston....destination, a bird AND a beer.

The Great Black hawk is a bird of coastal Central America.  I have spent hours on hawk watch in Roatan trying to get one and have seen some cool birds....but alas not a great black hawk.  It wasn't that surprising when one turned up this late spring overflying South Padre Island in Texas, but it was not chasable.  It seemed lucky that someone was there to photograph it.  It was even weirder when what many think is the same bird turned up in Maine last summer and then it returned to a park in Portland and for now well over a month has waited patiently for me to get around to going to look for it.  This bird needs a map or something.

I arrived early this morning after getting lost in Kennebunkport, Jeb Bush and family were around or so I hear, I had to stay at some inn, and then figure out where I actually was.  The things a guy does to avoid tolls.

I figured finding this bird would be easy but alas no.  It was not in the park, and then birders got divided into two groups.  Those that waited in the park for the bird to eventually show up, and the rest of us who had to go dig it out in the residential section.  I have spent my share of time being a "skua" birder, one who gets results from the efforts of others so it was okay for me to go and dig the bird out.  Everyone I came in contact with was telling me stories and giving me advise.  The bird had saved one guy from buying squirrel traps, and he recommended me staking out his collection of the little devils.

There were fat squirrels everywhere, so I didn't see the point to being in his backyard all day.

The homeless guy sleeping in the park gave me some advice about the majesty of the great hawk and how the hawk made America great, again.  This caused me to think.  A probable Honduran refugee hawk had immigrated to America and was making America great again.  Hum, sort of turns something else on its head. At 9 AM,  I heard a single crow mob call, I headed that way and figured I'd nail the bird but instead I found an urbanized barred owl

It was worth a text to the group but only a few walked up the hill to see it.  I spooked off the crows and eventually like the hawk, it disappeared.

I went to find McDonald's for a break at 11:15 and then at 11:35 was back at it.

I got a state creeper record for me and then began the tireless slog in the neighborhood.  It had to be somewhere.

It was pushing twelve when I stumbled upon a hawk with two other birders, but it wasn't a black hawk, just a coopers hawk, but one that was eating a pigeon.

I circled the residential district and then got a text and was just a half a block away.   I looked down the street and another birder was giving me the arm waves from a block away and then I looked between buildings and BINGO!

Great black hawk in the tree posing

I was the second person to see it today.  Oddly I was standing in the backyard of the guy with the squirrel problem, so maybe...he was on to something.  It was there for an instant and it flew left and then right and eventually it flew out of the neighborhood and landed right in front of the others who then had it pose for them.  Fifty birders came out of nowhere as the bird just sat there and posed.

I needed the exercise anyhow, so the walking was good.

Some say the greatest Blackhawk of all time is Bobby Hull, others favor the chief Black Hawk, while I am partial to this "wrong-way" Feldman bird currently residing in Deering Oaks Park in Portland.  I'll let you decide but until them.


Lifer bird #801 

Ah that sweet taste of blueberry in my lager, got to love Portland!
Better late than never, my RV is in Alabama so could worry about other things like my life list.


Thursday, December 20, 2018

Tempting fate

New Madrid, MO

Yesterday, I tempted fate and threw caution into the wind.  You see, I made some some vows when I was in high school and then college.  This has nothing to do with a bucket list, in fact, it was sort of a "anti' bucket list."

These included mundane items like never eating Doritos again (they affected my system negatively) and never buying a Chrysler product.  In medical school I vowed never to do OB again and never work for anybody else.

One of these items I have never broken was to never spend a night with in 100 miles of a New Madrid, MO  and especially, Memphis.....never.  In fact, I would try to avoid even visiting the area.

The reason? 

IMHO it would not Climate change, a hurricane, nor a tornado  that would be the greatest natural disaster to destroy life in this country in my lifetime it would be an earthquake, and not an earthquake in California or Alaska. It would be an earthquake and around New Madrid, MO.   When the next big one occurred, it will kill thousands if not more.

Why?   On Dec 16th, 207 years ago, a series of 4-7.4 magnitude or better earthquakes (two occured on December 16th alone) rocked the area, with the last and biggest occurring on Feb 7, 1812, centered beneath where I stand in the picture above  by the comical sign.  It  eclipsed 8 on the Richter scale, more powerful than the great San Francisco earthquake and greater than anything outside of Alaska in the USA in human history.  These numbers are based on deep movement and due to the nature of the soil, the surface has magnitudes higher which would put three of the events over 8, even higher.

What did it cause?  It formed a large waterfall here.

Which took the river many months to fully erode the uplift of the river bottom causing the falls.  The process formed a tidal wave that went up the river to St. Louis.  It formed a lake, and famously made the river flow backwards for a while as the water needed to reequilibrate.  It rang church bells in Boston, cracked buildings in Ohio and killed many of the few settlers in Missouri at that time.  Then after the fourth quake, the ground went silent.....or did it....

You may say that was over 200 years was an isolated event but on October 31, 1895 just a little ways from New Madrid, the fault moved again, the Charleston Missouri Earthquake of 1895 was a 6.7 tremblor.  The largest since.  It is now building pressures, pressures that will again release.

These have caused sand blows for hundreds of miles.   What are sand blows?

liquefaction occurs during ground shaking and builds up pressure below the clay.  Eventually this pressure is released through fissures, sometimes a long time after the earthquake and sand volcanoes occur.  Ones in Missouri have been estimated to reach tens of meters high and have deposited sand up to 2-3 meters thick.

Oddly, I have sand blows on my property in South Dakota presumably from the 1812 earthquake at New Madrid or the one estimated in 1460 or ones earlier, and this was nearly 700 miles away.  Beach heather, a rare wildflower has colonized some of these sand blowouts in Minnesota.  So something thrives from these events.

So when this fault goes again....what will happen?  I surely won't be standing in the Bass Pro Pyramid in downtown Memphis.  Sitting on a silt island, that monstrosity will be the doom of all in it.  It will be the most terrible thing to ever befall the country, and yet....people laugh it off.  Earthquake construction in Memphis or Jonesboro, Arkansas?  Not a chance.....history repeats itself, and I said, I won't be there I hope to see it because, I made a vow not to.

Why did we even go here this time?

I dropped our RV off at the factory in Red Bay, Alabama to get fixed

The direct line home was to New Madrid and I felt like living on the edge.  Above is the line up of motor homes waiting in the RV park next to the factory getting something fixed.  Not the place I dreamed about hanging around near Christmas.  We drove home from there, I'll pick up the rig later.  So being here, I wanted to see the sights.....having given the area such a wide berth, I have missed many counties which I now can say I've been in.

So what else happened in and around New Madrid?

A large key battle of the Civil War occurred here.  "The Battle of Island Number 10"  Which in the spring of 1862, probably doomed the Confederacy.   An error to not relieve the besieged forces on the citadel across the river in the "Kentucky Bend" of the river nor protect the troops at New Madrid allowed Grant's assault on Shiloh and Vicksburg.  How this critical location was lost is almost comical.  Generals Johnston and Polk never understood the importance of the place and it was very important and immediately General Beauregard realized building up the defenses of this loop of the river was priority one, but he fell ill, no one else was in charge.  The fort and the area never got fully ready for the assault that was to come and those left were too timid to do what was necessary.

It is my opinion that if the Confederacy would have held this location at all costs, we would be living in a split nation.  The long bloody road to Vicksburg would have been delayed and after the debacles of the Union army in Virginia in 1862 and 1863 would have caused a loss of appetite for the war and the Union would have sued for peace.  The northern border of Tennessee would have been extended westward and quite possibly moved north and I would be standing in a different country in New Madrid in 2018......oh what could have been....I guess it was good the Confederates had such bad leadership outside of Virginia.   Maybe WWI would have played out different and well, WWII would have never happened either, who knows, but for the unfortunate timing of a sick general.

There are some things I would have missed from the south....The South gave us Elvis, Coca-Cola and...Waffle House.  .The greatest loss for me would be the Waffle House.

I love Waffle House....I believe Waffle House IS America.....My favorite movie with a Waffle House is Tin Cup.  There is an urban legend that since Waffle Houses are always open, they do not have locks on their doors.  The one above in Columbia, MO has a lock.  I was in one in North Carolina that didn't.

I could say I missed Jax beer too, but I never got to taste it.  I became legal to drink in 1984 the time when Pearl brewing stopped making it.  Jax brewery in New Orleans closed in 1974.

oh well...I still got Waffle House
For birders

I got my lifer Missouri Mockingbird, LOL.

They had cool mansions.....

New Madrid was founded as a seat of Spanish power so the Spanish Military road ended there

It was traded to France in the late 18th Century and sold to us as part of Louisiana

The craziest thing that happened here was the feud, which took place across the river., Which here is south.

The earthquake (or the previous one) created a huge meander in the river which when surveyed left an isolated loop across the river from New Madrid which was part of Kentucky, called "the Bend" Tennessee even claimed it for 40 years but gave up.

Life on the Bend wasn’t always so dull. For sixty years, a violent feud – sparked by an argument over a horse, or maybe a cow – raged between the Darnell and Watson families. Mark Twain wrote about the feud in Life on the Mississippi, saying “in no part of the South has the vendetta flourished more briskly, or held out longer between warring families, than in this particular region…Every year or so, somebody was shot, on one side or the other, and as fast as one generation was laid out, their sons took up the feud and kept it a-going.”

The feud ended in the late 1800s when the last of the Darnells, an elderly father and his two sons, decided to flee the Bend by steamboat. The Watsons were told of the escape plans (word travels fast when there’s only 300 people) and showed up just as the Darnells were about to leave. They opened fire from the riverbank, killing the younger Darnells and snuffing out the family line.  Being in a county not connected with the rest of the county and forty miles away, there was no law.

Talk about holding a grudge.....forgiveness....forgetting?  Not a chance.

The other good thing about this visit is...I survived!  I went to New Madrid, tempted fate and I live on.....I may have to go through again to go get the rig.  Can I play New Madrid Roulette a second time?

At least I didn't get anyone local mad at me....those crazy southern feuds



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. 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


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, 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!

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  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.

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 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 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.

" 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 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 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


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



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

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 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.


Golden dreams and memories

  Today brings me to the north suburbs of Chicago.  Although not for a bird even though a lifer bird had been flying tantalizingly close to ...