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.


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 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 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 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 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.


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 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.


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 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......


Monday, October 1, 2018

Big wood

Wilton CA, and the Western Sierras  Mile 2844

Back in 1852 as Augustus Dowd was hiking along in the western Sierras SE of Sutter's Creek where the gold rush began, he stumbled upon a bear, as he moved along either afteror being chased by the bear he stopped,  before him was a great tree, what became the first giant sequoia tree documented by the western world, the largest things ever grown in the world.  Although, as could be guessed, the "discovery tree" was cut down 2 years later and became the "big Stump", and other atrocities happened but after public outcries, a tour of the forest in 1903 by John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt, the 1000-2000 year old  trees were, in general, spared and placed in park lands.

It has been over 40 years since I last saw the great trees going up to Sequoia National park as a kid.  Those were a little larger but that should not diminish the impressive nature of the north grove of Calaveras Big Tree State Park below  Ebbets Pass near Arnold, California.

We went hiking with friends and I even took the time to give one of the old giants a great big hug.

Again, the best bird was a pileated woodpecker,a state first for me, lucky to have seen it for the trails were full of loud children.   Unfortunately, it came in too close and got behind leaves.

I spotted a California tortoiseshell butterfly perched on a large sugar pine

Which the effort left my shows covered in sticky pitch.  There is a downside of the big wood, and that is getting sticky feet.   Nothing gives off sap like the huge sugar pines of the Sierras.

We have enjoyed 4 days of sun and nice weather, luckily parked safely north of southern California and Tropical Storm Rosa  where we will go next weekend.  We are visiting with friends from Minneapolis who flew out here and local friends from St Martin Alan and Susan. I'm lounging watching sat TV, we have finally figured that out.  I'm doing some birding and in general, missing photo opportunities of the local flora and fauna, best photo was this juvenile black crowned night heron.

California was such a beacon to everyone back in the day, from Augustus Dowd to Leland Stanford, and the Donners.... everyone that is except a man named Matthew Stephenson.  This man a person who worked at the US Mint in Dahlonega Georgia and when most of the miners around left for California in 1849 believing the gold had played out in the Georgia hills addressed 200 men who remained and said "There is gold in them thar hills!"  He exclaimed this meaning in Georgia not California, which the phrase got corrupted to mean California in later years. 

California was a land of opportunity that has been largely lost over the years.  We could never afford to live here, especially in the Bay area, but like Stephenson the "gold" can be found elsewhere....

Big trees, big wood, big adventures, and big is all California and while we will never live here, we will still enjoy the Golden State for the days we have here this fall.  Big Bird is keeping us warm and dry,and we survived the pass into the state.  Tomorrow we head to Yosemite and then off to Hollister where next weekend, we go to sea with the queen of the seabirds, the great Debi Shearwater in the hope, hope of my ABA number 800, as in this game, it is hope that keeps one looking.  I hear Anna's hummers outside fighting so I need to go.



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 ...