Monday, January 11, 2010

A Tale of Two Spouses

Hi all -- Dianne here. Roger mentioned before about the dogs' little case of "Montezuma's Revenge." For that reason, as he said, we spent a couple days taking turns with the dogs and "doing our own thing."


Trust me, Roger's part will be a more entertaining read!!

For MY day off, I spent some quality time hiking at the bird park and hanging out with the die-hards who had flown in from states like New Jersey and New Mexico to catch a glimpse of the rare Tiger Heron. At one point there were over 50 birders there, just watching and waiting with their scopes and equipment. Most had been there almost all day. At least some had arrived around 8:00 a.m. and were still there when I left after my final visit at 6:00 p.m.!! I felt a little guilty being able to just come and go on foot for free, but I also didn't feel quite as bad as they did when the heron did not appear. The biggest thing that flew over us at the levee that day was the ever-present border patrol helicopter, making its rounds above the nearby Rio Grande River.

(I walked over to the levee three times that day: morning, mid-day, and again around 5:00 to wait for "roosting time.") It was interesting for me, even without the heron, to just eavesdrop on the experts and learn about other birds who DID make an appearance at the levee, including a Green Kingfisher, Vermillion Flycatcher,

White-Tailed Kite, Merlin, Red-Shouldered Hawk, the list goes on and on....

The weather turned cold here, just like the rest of the country, but that morning it was bright and sunny, and I was more than comfortable hiking around the state park even without a coat most of the day. It's amazing the difference the strong sunshine down here makes!

I managed to get closer shots of the beautiful Green Jays.

Another bird common here at the state park but rare elsewhere is the Altamira

Oriole. Some birds I saw but did not get a photo of, include a Ladder-Backed Woodpecker, a Golden-Fronted Woodpecker, a flock of Inca Doves, and an Indigo Bunting wearing its winter plumage. I got a closer shot of a Chachalaca, too, but it still doesn't represent just how BIG these birds are! They are about the size of a slim chicken,

with longer legs.

I did not photograph the numerous flocks of Great-Tailed Grackles, even though I really enjoy these birds. I especially like their whistle, and the fact that they seem to have followed us at every RV stop since Coffeyville, Kansas, where I first saw them. Ironically, the same scenario occurred last year when we first encountered grackles in South Carolina. That time they were
Boat-Tailed Grackles, and they followed us to Georgia and on to every stop we made throughout the state of Florida, all winter long.

Here's a shot of a Great


I had a great morning. The javelinas at the park are too busy eating the bird seed under the feeders to care whether people are nearby. This shot of a javelina is not a zoom-in; it was just me, the javelina,

and the birds for quite some time at one of the stations.

Knowing my birding exploits have a "limited audience," I'll now turn the blog over to Roger to give an account of HIS day:

Roger here.... Well, Dianne had a restful and enjoyable morning at the state park. I had decided to spend my half of the day getting some exercise, so I borrowed one of the campground bicycles to retrace the route from my previous bike trip. This time I took the camera, hoping to get some shots of the wildlife refuge and the canal that parallels the path. I intended to ride further this time - all the way to the terminus six miles away. It was not to be.

It was beginning to cloud up and there was a 30% chance of rain, so I stuffed one of those water-proof rain jackets that fold into nothing into the pocket of my sweatshirt. I rationalized that if there was a 30% chance of rain, there was a 70% chance of no rain. The odds were in my favor. The temperature was around 50 degrees, perfect for a long bike ride. Off I went. Not much to see for the first couple of miles as the path paralleled a road and crossed an empty field, ripe for further development in this busy area.

Soon I crossed one of the local roads, where the bike path separated from the local traffic. Going up and over a footbridge, I was enjoying the view of a canal on one side and the cactus-filled wildlife refuge on the other.

No evidence of civilization. I took a couple of pictures of the cactus, but decided to wait and get better shots of the canal on the return trip. Didn't happen.

It began to get a little more cloudy, but I forged on. Anyone who knows me can tell you that I get pretty single-minded when I set a goal and CANNOT enjoy myself until the goal is accomplished. That mind-set has helped me accomplish a lot during my career, but not this day.

I had to have only been about a half-mile from my goal and about as far away from the campground as I could get when it began to sprinkle. I stopped pedaling to put on the green water-proof jacket and to move the camera and cell phone from my jeans pockets, where they might get wet, to the pockets of the sweatshirt that would be under the water-proof jacket. I also searched for a plastic doggie bag to further protect them. I usually have a couple for dog-walking emergencies, but not today.

You know what happened next - the heavens opened. Not only was there a deluge of rain, but the winds whipped up and the temperature began dropping. (At one time I was a high school swim coach, wet all the time. I still didn't think a little rain and wind would bother me much. Wrong.) As I reluctantly turned around, I realized that I would be biking directly into the wind. I still wasn't too concerned; it would make it a better work-out.

After a short time, I realized that my water-proof jacket WAS NOT WATER-PROOF. It provided no more protection than a light wind breaker. I found the flapping of the hood in the howling winds, splattering drops of water everywhere, to be very irritating. My glasses were covered with raindrops. I could NOT see. The dry dirt on the bike path had transformed into mud, which stuck to the tires until it flew off in chunks onto my clothes and into my face.

I began to worry about the water soaking through to the camera and cell phone. In fact, I was more concerned about that than any discomfort that I was experiencing. Moisture was attacking the electronics on two fronts - a rain-soaked sweatshirt from the outside, and SWEAT from the inside.

When I crossed the footbridge and reached the open field my spirits rose, because I only had a couple miles to go. (I am so stupid). The last two miles were across the open field. There was no protection from the winds that were now bending the palm trees. The wind blew so hard - directly in my face - that I had to get off the bike and walk it the rest of the way in, time consuming. I tried to get back on several times, to no avail. The wind was just too strong.

Dianne enjoyed taking my picture as I climbed back in the motor-home. She enjoyed it a little TOO much.

The temperature had dropped to 40 degrees. Every bit of my clothing, including socks and undies, was soaked. Fortunately, the inside of the sweatshirt pockets were dry. The cell phone and camera did not get wet.

The story does not end here. Since I was already soaked, I thought it would be fun to watch the wind and rain from the campground hot tub. At one time when we lived in Indiana we owned a hot tub. We kept it running all winter. It was sooo relaxing to sit in the tub, staying perfectly warm, and watch the snow flakes fall. So I put on a swim suit and a dry pair of sweats, and ventured over to the pool area.

I knew this might be another mistake when I had to remove a lawn chair and table from the hot tub before I got in. I was forced to anchor my sweats and towel underneath one of the overturned tables to keep them from blowing to Mexico. I must admit that the hot tub felt great, but every time there was a gust of wind, an entire row of plastic recliners (all in a line) edged three feet closer to the pool and the hot tub. It was almost like they were alive, the column of an army moving forward in sync, like the advancing brooms in Disney's Fantasia.

I was a little concerned when I read the sign at the pool that warned to not enter the hot tub in severe weather (lightning, tornadoes). But there was no lightning and, being from Indiana, I knew this was not a tornado, so I stayed. Until.... a large frond blew off one of the bending palm trees forcing me to duck.

It was time to end my day of freedom.

On my next day when I am by myself I will be driving the dry, warm car to Dick's Sporting Goods to buy a new water-proof jacket.


Margie said...

Diane - I'm not a "birder", but I have enjoyed your photos of the colorful birds.

Roger - Sorry, but I was laughing so hard that I almost woke my Roger from his daily nap. Wish Diane could have taken a video of both of your adventures that day.

James said...

What type of dog crate do you use for your whippets? I am trying to figure out what crate works best & takes the least room when not in use.

Travelwithwhippets said...

Hi James --

The one we use is a soft-sided one that zips together and collapses down so that it fits under the sofa when we're not using it. Our dogs are not chewers and actually like going into it; they just lay down and sleep when we're gone. I forget where we bought it, but the manufacturer's tag on the crate says "Canine Hamper" Day Tripper by Midwest Homes for Pets, Model 1736DT. We bought it about 3 years ago and it has held up well. Both our whippets have plenty of room inside to curl up and sleep.

I'm not sure it would work as well if your dog is a digger or chewer; might be able to eat their way through the mesh.

Hope this helps!

-- Dianne