“What if I fall?” Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?

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Birds, it all started with my fascination with the hundreds of hummingbirds that passed in migration at the ranch in Baja, many stayed all year, in the snow and cold ( yes, it snows in Baja, our ranch was at an elevation of 5000′) it was fascinating to watch them, both the visitors and the residents. From that grew a love to just sit and watch these beautiful creatures and also a study of their everyday life, some are comical, some are quite serious, all have something to offer, be it a song, a dance, or as a clean up crew.

The Reddish Egret is the king of the dancers here at Estero Estuary. Watching it leap and prance, twist and twirl after a fish is remarkable, the agility is astounding and the comic relief, well, priceless:) Sometimes I can watch from the stone seawall, other times I don the reef shoes and venture out into the mud and sand flats where the Egrets are fishing. As the tide goes out schools of fish caught in the pools are easy prey.

I have a soft spot for the Egrets and Herons, they are so large some of them, perhaps easier to photograph than the tiny lbb’s, or lgb’s…little brown birds, or little grey birds;) They tend not to be too flighty, if you walk slowly and stop and just sit and watch they seem to stick about. Sometimes I bring my tripod along but mostly I just shoot handheld, could explain why my shoulder hurts here;) at over 5.5 lbs for the lens and Canon 6D it is heavy…I should use perhaps a monopod, I need to get into the practice of that. I have discovered I need to back away from the 400, it is soft, at 350, I get a sharper image with my older 100-400 L IS, one day I’ll spring for the newest lens,  a Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens…sigh…pricey or an alternative are the Sigma or Tamron 150-600MM…you can lighten your pocket-book very quickly with all these amazing lens and cameras! Anyone want to buy me a new one? Just checking:) In the mean time, I make do with what I have, I’m still learning daily things I can change!

I’ve learned I can speed up, or decelerate the autofocus, the tracking sensitivity, will probably drive myself mad doing this as every time I change it I’m not sure if it really helps or not;) Especially useful when trying to focus on the hummingbirds:) They still are my favourites. I have only seen the Anna’s here at the estuary but I’m sure Allen’s and Rufous come through in the late Fall and early Spring.

Photographing birds and walking cats does not always go together but can produce some interesting results;) They are usually on the leash but here we can let them go to run in the sand and play, supervised. Gamora stalked the Great Blue Heron a few days ago but as she got closer realized just HOW big it was and sat and just watched. They are very quick to see what is flying overhead as well. The Long Billed Curlew puts up quite the squawk at a 100 feet away and the cats just watch. I do worry about the Northern Harrier female, she took a look at them the other day as she flew over…

Most people point out the Vermilion Flycatcher as they walk by. Such a colourful bird. They always want to know what it is:) There are several pairs about here and they are constantly landing very close on signs and the seawall. There are the regular cast of House Finches and White Crowned Finches as well as a few Warblers and Phoebes catching flies by the edge of the sand. I should spend more time walking inland, I’m sure I would see some new residents, it is just there is so much to see in the water!

Every year the estuary changes, last year it was full of deeper tide pools with anemones, more storms, more turbulence, this year all the deeper pools are gone, flatter shallow ones have taken over. The residents are still here, Long Billed Curlews and Whimbrels, I can finally tell the difference, that eye stripe! The flocks of Willets and Dowitchers and Sandpipers, Plovers and Killdeers. I still have trouble with all the yellow legged guys, keeping them separate;)

So, as you can see, there are a few birds here:) The question I get asked the most..is it safe. Over and over again. I have to tell you, I feel safer here in Ensenada than in San Diego so birders…be brave…drive South a few hours and experience this amazing place, not only is there a great restaurant here at Estero Beach, beautiful rooms, and many things for SOB’s (Spouses of birders) to do:) including a museum!

Did I mention the flocks? not of sunburned tourists but these;)

There is such an amazing variety of life here. Yes, over a few seasons, mostly we are here in December and January, but have spent parts of March here as well as a few weeks over the summer. Migration is always interesting as well as breeding season.

and…did I mention tacos? Mariscos? wonderful wine country, am I sounding like I work for the Ensenada tourism board? I should:) Are there dangerous creatures…why of course, if you are a fish for example;) or a small to medium-sized plump bird…

You might be in trouble if, lets say if you are mixed up with the drug trade…then these guys are here to clean up;)

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Vulture humour;) It’s not 85 degrees here I might add. The Pacific keeps the temperatures moderate, if you want heat you can go inland to wine country…salud…or stay out at the somewhat cooler coast. Either way you are in for a treat, friendly people, bring your phrase book, it never hurts to try, amazing food and wine and birds…lots and lots of birds, so you birders try something new…if you’re still apprehensive and want information on insurance, roads, hotels etc, send me an email…astrogypsies@gmail.com and I can help you with questions you might have…Happy New Year 2018 friends, let’s make it an adventurous one! Viva Baja!

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FYI, all these bird and landscape shots were taken here at Estero Beach Hotel and RV Park-Ensenada-Baja California Norte:)

Good Bye 2017

Where did it go, it just seems like a few months ago we were here, 2016…

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Now we look upon another challenge, writing 2018 instead of 2017, less and less of a challenge as we are increasingly digital,we don’t have to ask anyone what the date is anymore, let alone the year;) Is it a time to reflect? make goals? I’m not really sure. I don’t spend a lot of time looking back, yes I have wonderful memories, maybe I’d like to keep them stashed until I have to make a withdrawal, right now, I’m still busy filling the memory bank:)

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Whadya mean the year is almost over???

We consider ourselves to be so very very lucky, healthy, except for the current stomach flu that has Mike layed up, first time either of us have been sick this year.  Able to travel and see the world from our trailer, our mobile home on wheels:) We love this lifestyle of change and new exploration. Do we long for home? That faraway mythical place you feel for, long for, sentimentalize. The German word, Sehnsucht (German pronunciation: [ˈzeːnˌzʊxt]) is a German noun translated as “longing”, “pining”, “yearning”, or “craving”, or in a wider sense a type of “intensely missing” something. That is the thing or feeling, usually when we end up somewhere we find not unlivable, but just not right, for us. Does that happen a lot? No, we pick and choose our spots as carefully as we can, we know what brings us peace, no traffic, no noise, just the sound of the wind in the trees and dark skies, those are our favourite places, all over North America. wonderful to have the choice of so many.

And here we are in a city, Ensenada, vibrant and jostling with life, that is wonderful too. It takes so many places to make an experience come to life. Here, it is on the street, food, juggling, life, lots and lots of life. Not shut away in shopping malls or everyone in their cars hurrying to one place or another, that has such an empty feeling of disconnect for us.

Here the feeling is one of a slower more deliberate pace, I like that. Food gets prepared in front of you, you watch, and wait, and it is OK to wait, we don’t need everything NOW NOW NOW…that is trap. Maybe that is what I need to take away from 2017, a feeling of slowing down…it is wondrous thing. Play with your cats, kids, dogs…smile at strangers, sit still, smell the air, close your eyes, breathe…

Be amazed…at anything and everything….at anyone…

Marvel at our universe and try to feel very very small…it truly puts everything into perspective:)

We raise a glass of cheer to you at the end of this year and share here, tidbits of our lives, what we have learned, looked at and loved. We hope 2018 will bring very much more of the same. We hope you have enjoyed our journey and continue to do so, we are thankful for so many friends, new and from the past… and the kindness of strangers:)2017-12-28 042AS

Feliz Año Nuevo amigos and here is to more adventures under the sun and moon:)

The challenge of full-time Rving-Part 2 of….?

My first thought when I asked my husband Mike what he found challenging about RVing was he might just say, “Well, you”…he has a wonderful dark sense of humour…I think;) Ha! We get along very well, never yell at each other when we are backing into hideous sardine like RV spots, or when branches nearly wipe out our AC units on the roof, or well, anytime, we’re not yellers;) He gave me some of what he considers challenges in Rving.

#1-Being led astray by your GPS, I think he was referring to one state park in particular in Missouri that we were led down what could only be called an extremely narrow and branch covered small road that DID not lead to the State Park, we were not certain we would be able to turn around let alone back all the way out! Luckily a small what I would call dirt path swung around and we manged to get going back the direction in which we came…I’m still buffing scratches out of the paint. “Yeah”, the lady at the park entrance said” it happens all the time”…”Could you not put A BETTER SIGN UP AS$%LE” was going through my mind as I checked in…so, double-check your routes and use google earth and other maps to check on where you are going, makes life easier especially after a long day driving…drivers get cranky;) Check out the many blogs as well as RV park review sites…it might save your marriage;)

#2-Rough roads with multiple dips that have you feel like you’re on a bronco ride for real, in a 9,500 lb truck pulling the 18,500 lb. trailer, once it gets going it can be scary, especially if there are no dip signs to warn you that you are about to be bounced about, the 405 through LA is like that…OMG, will never do that freeway again and parts of 52 in San Diego that were built on top of a garbage dump…crazy once that rig gets a bouncing, Hang on cowgirl!! YIKES!

…or roads so narrow your husband accuses you of trying to kill him, he doesn’t like heights or drop-offs, but hey, I’m a photographer…hahahahahahahaha! I like a view!

If you can’t guess by now, Mike does most of the driving:) yup, I navigate, mostly quite well but I do occasionally get him off on a road we should not be on..oops…we are used to really bad roads after living in Baja for 8 years but man, some states, Indiana and Illinois fix your toll roads, I have to pay for that crap and lose my fillings to boot!

Our fix for these sometimes small and at times wonderful little roads that take you to amazing places is scouting. We’ll find a place nearby and do a day trip out to see if can we get in, is the ground too soft, can we actually get over that dip…and frequently all of the above, hauling a 37′ trailer about makes you think twice sometimes about where to go but it can take you to magical places where your jaw drops and a perma smile comes over your face:) That is Playa Santispac above in Southern Baja…:)PR D

#3-Driving on windy days…don’t do it, as they say here in Baja-No vale la pena-not worth the pain… If you can’t stand against it, you shouldn’t drive in it:) and try to park parallel to it if you can, geez, and I didn’t think a trailer could move about like a boat, I was wrong:) Do they have spring lines for trailers?;)

#4-Unpalatable neighbours selling crystal meth and pit bull puppies right next door…yes, it does happen from time to time. Especially those county parks. I don’t have pictures of them;) The staff do their best to keep these places well stocked with friendly neighbours and honestly I have much admiration for the camp hosts that have to help the police chase people about in their parks…not something I am quite willing to do yet;)

So that was all the significant other could come up with, he scratched his head for quite a while. He has a wealth of experience backing hay wagons up into small barn mows and into riding arenas so I think he was in pretraining for years for this, as well as parking large horse trailers in lots with very inexperienced folk learning how to do the same:) Isn’t life an adventure:) There have been a couple of times we have wanted to go over and offer to park a couples trailer but the mood surrounding their disastrous parking attempts made it feel quite dangerous;) Ah…the challenges of RV living:)

What makes you crazy in the rving world my friends? I’d love to hear!

Saludos amigos and stay tuned, perhaps time for the positive sides of RV living:) Here is one:) The ever changing view out our back window:)

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The view out the back window:)

The challenge of full-time Rving-Part 1 of….?

It was a great question. I just joined a group on Facebook called Full Time Freedom, it looked interesting and we’ve had so many helpful hints I thought we might be able to add a few things after doing this for almost two and a half years now, hard to believe we left from here in August 2015 on our maiden trip on Myrtle 1. Seems like such a distant memory. So what can be challenging….these views, nah….but….

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Borders.We love our voyages across North America but the border crossings can be a challenge, getting there, and figuring out how to get back without waiting in line for most of your day…getting into Mexico, always a relief, but heading back across and dealing with the Stazi at the US border..always intimidating, even when you have nothing to hide, or maybe, that extra bottle of mezcal…sigh…the cats FYI have never been an issue except at State Parks in New York where you have to fork over a copy of their rabies certificate or leave…at least you can eat well waiting at the Tijuana border:) It can be a challenge to negotiate the various food carts and umbrellas with a large trailer, we once wiped out a stop sign at the pedestrian cross walk in TJ just before the US stalls…oops, we go Tecate now on our way back;)

Moving too fast and too often, it is a waste of money and effort, there are often sizable reductions in weekly/monthly fees compared to a few nights. So, slow down, hopefully it will all be there tomorrow, well, you might want to visit Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Monument in Utah first, who know what the nasty orange mop will do next, what’s a few million acres less to see…

Finding people who think like you, feel like you and are passionate about some of the same things. We run into them in Canada and Baja more frequently but they are out there everywhere, somewhat more adventurous, less fearful and viewing the world with an open mind. We tend to avoid all talk of politics until we know if we will be lynched or not…”All RVers are Republican” an older gentleman told me last week…no….sorry Jim, they are not, the challenge can be finding them…we often feel like teenagers at many of the SW parks in winter, yeah, we’re just not quite that old yet and golf is not on our daily to do list.

Eating well…yes, a challenge we ran into running the midwest gauntlet of discount grocery stores that were entirely filled with frozen food aisles…0_0….

We love farmers markets and taco stands, small local grocers and bakeries and free range eggs, preferably from the farm. It takes an effort in many places to find these spots but it is extremely worthwhile. We love the Latin, Lebanese and Asian markets, the prices are right and so much less packaging, and you can learn how to cook that weird-looking green you picked up at Ranch 99:)

Letting go of all that stuff…now that is a hard one as we still have a 20′ x 8′ shipping containers at my brothers, we have been paring it down each visit, deciding what we really don’t need and why did I pack that and keep it? You may always want that storage unit, who knows, just saying, you don’t have to let everything go right away, or maybe never:) but, for those hoarders out there…well…you will be limited to post card and stamp collections perhaps;)

So that’s a start, challenge wise, I’m sure I will come up with a few more as we go and I’ll add-on in part 2, but for now, I need to go eat a shrimp coktel…oh dear…it can be a challenge for Vegans as well…

Stay tuned Amigos, that will be another story to share from our house to yours, whether it be large, small, on wheels or in the water. Saludos amigos!2016-12-24 131Asign

Where has the month gone? Back to Baja

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Mrs. and Mr. Wood duck watch us from their tree

What happened to November? Leaving Tucson we spent a night along the highway in Yuma at the Rivers Edge RV resort then the jump to San Diego. Now we are halfway through December and the time has flown. Our week in San Diego stretched a bit more as we scrambled to get a few things done. So much driving, the day is spent on the freeways and us “country mice” find that exhausting. We spent the first few days at a lakeshore spot in Santee Lakes, gorgeous area under a very low oak, nearly took out the front AC unit but got stopped in time, climbed up the ladder and verified that yes, we had to move over an additional 5 feet, good thing spot #44 was very wide:) We could watch the ducks and geese through the back window, the hummingbirds found our feeder and the cats sat open-mouthed, I think Mike told them something about duck a l’orange;) The oak tree was dropping its acorns and the patter on the roof kept the cats wondering what was up there. A flock of Mallards flew up there to eat them:) The trailer was in need of a serious cleaning after that spot, duck poops galore and no rain in sight:)

We were tired, all that travelling was beginning to catch up with us and we just wanted to rest. The lake shore spots are quite popular and as the weekend approached we had to move, the spot we were in was pre-booked for the weekend, the Santee Shuffle they call it, every Friday…we found the last spot available further towards the back of the park #119. A sketchy camper with some pit bulls and what looked like a meth head made it a bit uncomfortable but they left the next day. We usually found more of that up at Lake Jennings County Park but we are in the city. Such is life. It takes all kinds, just hate barking dogs. The campgrounds do have rules but not everyone feels they have to follow them, dogs tied outside that lunge at you as you walk by and barking all day in the trailers and A-classes can be common enough. The weekends bring in the kids and motorized toys, they aren’t a friendly lot I have to admit. If you meet their eye they either look away, or pretend you don’t exist, that is really weird;) The weekend campers are not very amicable here. Cities…necesary evils for us:) At least there are ducks!

I’d hoped to get my sticky 100-400 lens in for repair but Kurt’s Camera was backed up from Thanksgiving so I opted to deal with it until we get back, I think I might go through a bad withdrawal without it;) I do enjoy this campground, its six lakes attract an amazing variety of waterfowl from pelicans to ducks and birds of prey.  It seems like a quiet spot to be in the city, but if you need to go to the coast it is a long haul there and back, but we always seem to end up here. We had a wonderful lunch with my cousin in Pacific Beach…Sushi Ota we love you, and my brother at a lovely Thai place down by his office. We made a trip out during the week to La Jolla shores to walk on the beach, the coastal fog was in and it was gloomy but a beautiful walk just the same, love to see the shore birds there and watching the surfers is always amusing….wipe out!!!;)

One afternoon another DRV rolled in, the very first one we had seen actually, back near Mount Shasta, it seems like eons ago, September 2015. Jim and his wife Patti were so nice to give us a tour back then and their words stuck with us, if you want to full-time, this is the 5th wheel to get! Couldn’t agree more, from that time on we started skimming the ads looking for something we could afford. We watched the full moon rise one night with them and Mike’s big binoculars. The weather had not been clear enough to get the telescope out, high clouds were lingering here.

My brother got down for a visit with my niece and we cleared up why the invertor was not happy with the Honda Generator and wasn’t even recognizing it as it has an open ground. I had made up a pigtail with the neutral and ground tied together to fix that, but it had not worked, as I’d wired it wrong, can’t tell I come from a family of electricians;) Problem solved! Our generator now can charge our batteries:) I think I’d best stick to plumbing:)

We made a few grocery runs for the odd and weird that are hard to find in Baja and Monday morning headed South to San Ysidro and Tijuana. It’s our go to border crossing area. We have to stick to the far right lane where the buses go and get scanned by their gigantic x-ray machine, we get out with the cats in their carrier and are behind a protective wall, then we get back in, pull forward and wait for a go, or no go from the Aduana (Customs) oddly enough this trip they did not even ask for our passports, just the vehicle and trailer registration, that is a first:)

We breathe a sigh of relief as we cross over into querido México:) We followed the Toll Road South and off to Ensenada, and finally Chapultepec where Estero Beach is located. When I’d called in November they’d informed me the RV park was closed, but when we arrived and were greeted by one of the friendly faces we know so well she said, no, we are open until the end of the year, Mike and I were doing the Snoopy-Charlie Brown Happ24a4b167abcc6963fdc0fdf96bacd441--the-peanuts-snoopy-peanutsy Dance!!!♪♫♪♪♫♪♫ Happy Happy Happy!!!! We were so excited to be back in our spot at the end! It’s hard to explain what a delightful place this is, no bad views, a beach for kittens to run on, great Margaritas and friendly wonderful staff! So here we are, all by ourselves, who could ask for a better Christmas present than to spend the month here!

We have a few repairs to do as well. We had the trailer cleaned and waxed, a yearly ritual here, it was in dire need, I still have some sap from the Ontario pines to scape off. We need to get some touch up paint for a nasty mesquite branch in Tucson and for a few other scrapes and small scratches. On the DRV forum a man suggested removing a door, the water door for us, that is the right colour and take it to an Auto repair/painting facility and have them match the paint, great idea! Our water pump is dying so a new one is ordered and we await that and paperwork, lots of paperwork to complete the ranch sale:)

Groot and Gamora are truly in heaven. Twice a day they get to go out, on the leash at first then down to the beach for a run along the tide line and to look for crabs under the rocks, a favorite game of Groot’s. Every morning they beg to go out, sheesh…spoiled kids are they! But when you see them running and leaping, jumping and frolicking it brings joy to your heart, even Beezil the 17-year-old has a small trot about:) We’ve had to watch the air quality, first few days were howling Santa Ana winds with smoke from fires North of Ensenada and the dirt being blown down the the roads to the East made for truly horrible air quality.

Hard to believe a week has passed, all Mike has wanted to do is eat:) Tacos, coctels de pulpo y camaron, more tacos, ceviche, tostados, fresh fish from El Garo, fresh bread from Hogaza Hogaza, free range chicken from El Roble…I’m just convincing him to start cooking again:) There will be many food photos to follow, he is eating too quickly for me to take shots;)

I’ve had a chance to wander the estuary a bit, between walking the cats and running about it is on my list for this week. I did get a chance to catch the Reddish Egret in his own happy dance, or the Monty Python Silly Walk as interpreted by the Reddish Egret;) A friend from the ranch days, Jere stopped by over the weekend as well for a visit and a lovely Sunday brunch at the hotel, she is an adventurous wonderful woman, famous for having driven her Prius to our ranch on the 6 km 4×4 only road…we stood in awe and admiration at her determination, and still do!

and the sunrises…..

and the sunsets!!!!!2017-12-10 011AS

Last night took my, and another couples breath away. Two camper trailers hauling utility trailers pulled in to this view last night…Mother Nature was throwing her best at us:)

So here we will be, rough life right? yeah…I know, currently it is snowing and will be -18° celcius at Otty Lake in Ontario. I think I may have to open another window, getting too warm in here;)2017-12-09 066_stitchAaS

Love you my Canadian friends, you should come down and visit;) SOON!

But that will be another story…Stay tuned and saludos amigos!

Tucson-How do you know it’s autumn in Tucson, license plate colours begin to change;)

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How does the saying go” how do you know it’s autumn in Tucson, license plate colours begin to change” as the droves from the North and East arrive. I’m not a fan of RV parks, you already may know that, the sardine feeling of being packed in with dozens, sometimes hundreds of other trailers can be smothering. Desert Trails in SW Tucson is a bit different, it is crowded, and close at times but how could you not love an RV park that used to be water theme park from the 70’s it looks like and has food trucks every Sunday, Jozarelli’s amazing pizza and Wednesday, Guerro Loco’s Bubba-Que🙂 and it’s backs up onto Tucson Mountains State Park and Saguaro National Park trails. Plus, good laundry facilities:) We’re not quite old enough to be here, but it is a good stopping spot to get some shopping done ( Total Wine, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven ) Down the road on the 86 was El Carniceria El Herradero…real tacos, caso fresca, arrachera and a wonderful friendly staff, nice to be speaking Spanish again, especially after a sad conversation with a woman in the laundry room at the RV park, saying she liked the National Parks, except for the foreigners…so because I am another somewhat white female she felt at ease to voice her racism…I always am astounded when someone says something like, Mike saved me, came in and started speaking Spanish to me;) There are just too many old white people in these places for us ever to feel that we fit in….

We also had to find a mobile RV service to look at the furnace that quit working. We called several mobile RV services, only one got back. Ray’s…would reccomend him to anyone. Knowledgable, quick and friendly. The board in the furnace was shot, he replaced it and half an hour later everything was up and running with a smile:) Why would we need our furnace in Tucson my Canadian friends might want to know, those chilly 40° nights are really cold…don’t hate us;)

Then there is the magnificent Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum. We’d always missed the Raptor Free Flight Program, being too early or too late in the year for it, it runs November to March and we always were arriving at the wrong time:)…not this year! What an amazing sight to see these birds free flying, a Great Horned Owl, Chihuahua Ravens and my favourite new bird, the Crested Caracara. There is also a Ferruginous Hawk, but on windy days, and it was windy, it seems she just takes off for a while to explore…so they did not let her fly.

Did I mention the Hummingbird aviary:) yup, best stop of all, in the shade and surrounded by hummingbirds. Met a couple of delightful photographers, Larry and Tom and we wandered about together before I had to feed Mike, not to the Mountain Lion though;) Cruz was superb, those paws! One big kitty, but he seemed uneasy, pacing and panting. With the heat the bobcats were sleeping as well as the foxes and we decided to call it a day for a lunch break.

I could spend an entire day here wandering about! The heat was keeping us inside for great parts of the day, Groot was not happy but had his late afternoon walks. Gamora is now content to sit still and watch the birds. She is still very wary outside, maybe as she was a street urchin she is more cautious, or just her young age. So, we sit at the picnic bench, and watch the doves and try to avoid the cacti, she’s learning, already had a cholla jump out at her;) and attack, pulled it off with the pliers:(

Caught a beautiful earth shine and sunrise the day before we left on the paths behind the RV park, hadn’t realized how cooped up we had been, from cold to heat, the dry was new and we both felt like we were fighting a bug so taking it easy was just what the Doctor ordered for a few days. We cleaned the rest of the pine sap off of the truck roof, the trailer is next, perhaps when we hit a cooler California:)

but that, is another story…so I’ll leave you with butterflies in November, how glorious is that? Saludos amigos and stay tuned! California here we come:)

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Painted Lady

Bosque del Apache and West

Cranes, Sandhill Cranes…that is what the festival week at Bosque del Apache is all about:)…and not just cranes, Snow Geese and dozens of varieties of ducks call this spot home for the winter as well as wandering clans (rafters they are called in groups, I have googled it) of Wild Turkeys:)

 

We were lucky enough to meet up with Erv and Sandra who have studied the Cranes and followed them on their migration all over the United States. They were kind enough to let us sit in on their very informative talk, so much to learn about these beautiful birds! But I have to admit, I have a soft spot for the Snow Geese, just to listen to them is like music to my ears. The family interaction and squabbles. Ma and Pa keeping the kids in line;)

 

We drove around the North Loop of the reserve taking it all in. We’ll be back next year and camped somewhat closer! So many workshops for photography…green with envy I was so hope to be able to do the whole week next year!

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The New Mexico blues, mountains and sky and Fall colours near the Rio Grande

It was about an hour drive back to Elephant Butte Reservoir. One more night of calling quails and doves before we headed West to Kartchner Caverns, a favourite stop of ours.

 

It was a bit longer hop than our usual three hours, a bit over 270 miles but mostly all Interstate, not my favourite but that was the way to go. We did get to drive through Hatch, New Mexico and that looked like a spot to come back to, all those chilis, or is that Chillies?

 

The Kartchner Caverns are living caves, water is still dripping from the ceilings and formations are still being made, albeit it slowly;) There is no photography allowed in the caverns so I can’t show you what it looks like, you’ll have to go for yourselves! It has been extremely dry here for the last month, noticeably different from our last visit which was in March. It is so wonderful to back in the South West, not only for the warmer temperatures but the life, the birds, the songs as you go outside!

 

Even with the dry, there is life everywhere, we had a small hitchhiker we had to take care of down in the pass through by Mike’s telescopes…sorry Mr. Mouse:(

Groot and Gamora had to learn about prickly things and thorns again…always an adventure. Gamora is getting better on the leash, still quite frightened by cars, not a bad thing, and people, but she will eventually get used to all the commotion in the outside world:)

We had a nice site with a view of Apache Peak out the back window. I was glad I’d made the reservation as the park filled up while we were there. Sites 11 and 12 actually have sewer connections that they don’t advertise.

 

We did the Big Room tour the day before we left, other than having to dodge a very flatulent older man in front of us and some old ass in the group that kept hollering out biblical exclamations…really? “God’s work” and “that’s what Noah did”…put a lid on it…I don’t shout out my religious convictions…wait..hah! I don’t have any;) we had a great guide, lots of information. I had no idea lint was a cave problem…

Next stop Tucson, but that, and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum are another story. Stay tuned amigos and Happy Turkey Day to all of you celebrating, we’ll be forgoing the marshmallow topped sweet potatoes and Jello salad here at the RV park and just relaxing!

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I’ll take my Turkey walking this Thursday Nov 23d 😉

Roswell, New Mexico and West

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The sign says it all doesn’t it. How can you not like a town that embraces its aliens so wonderfully! We bypassed the sardine like RV parks close to town and headed out towards Bottomless Lakes State Park, 8 miles South of the 380. Here a series of cenotes, lakes, were formed when the limestone was worn away from an ancient reef that now are the high banks of the Pecos River. We were lucky, we arrived really early, noon, check in time is supposed to be 4 pm…really late! And there was only two spots available. We watched as others arrived much later and left as it was full. The campground is right on Lea Lake, the largest of the cenotes. It had an abandoned feel this late in the year, most of it was closed up but it sure beat being side by side in the city, hate that!

Mike was raring to go as soon as we hooked up, Roswell…the place of alien dreams! We stopped for lunch at Big D’s Downtown Dive, looked like a favourite with locals, delicious green chile burger before wandering about and hitting the grocery stores.

The museum was a wealth of information. Several people told us there were alien tours, think we might do one of those next trip back through. Would love to see the actual landing site 70 miles to the North.

We were glad we stayed out-of-town at Bottomless Lakes State Park. We took a look at some of the other sink holes/lakes/cenotes, really beautiful in the late day light. This is New Mexico’s oldest state park, it takes it name from nine small deep lakes that formed along the Pecos River Valley escarpment. The caves formed within the limestone, and as the Pecos River eroded the escarpment, the caves eventually collapsed, leaving behind several deep, almost circular lakes known as cenotes, very similar to Carlsbad Caverns further South of here.

They range in size and depth, some have very steep sides, others, like Lea Lake at the campground have a sandy beach and are open to swimming, not a soul in sight at the beach. There is also a small nature trail through the marshes to the West, they were quite dry, but are filled by the spring in Lea Lake. A few ducks, but mostly quiet until almost dark you could hear the cranes coming in to roost. I was ready to go out at dawn to try some photography but the level of gunfire around us made me think twice, hunting season must be open, the last cenote, to the South is privately owned, a hunting camp of some sorts, I decided I’d rather not be bagged as a duck looking for birds in the predawn light:)

I talked Mike into driving me up to Bitter Lake Wildlife Refuge the next afternoon, we had to diesel up anyway for our trip West so it was a good excuse to go have a look. Wildlife “refuge” is a bit of a misnomer, no refuge here from Sept.1st to Feb.15th for the birds, it is open to hunting:( Many of the ponds were full of geese, and in several areas hundreds of cranes were arriving to roost for the night. It was beautiful to see hundreds of cranes and geese in flight, the miracle of migration!

We had a straight run on the 380 the next day headed West. We had no idea we were going up in elevation to over 6600 feet. The High plains turned into Cypress and Juniper shrubland and then to Piñon Pines. The 380 turned into a Baja road, no shoulders at all for about 35 miles after the spit at the US 70. Not too hairy but narrow and up we went along the Salado Creek. The trees were in full Fall colour along the creek bed. We passed the State Park where Smokey the bear originated, you learn something new every day, past the small historic towns, Lincoln and Capitan before slowly starting our descent after Valley of Fires State Park. Here you cross over the Malpais lava flow. 5,000 years ago, Little Black Peak erupted covering 125 square miles of the Tularosa Basin, over 44 miles with molten rock up to 160 feet thick. The lava flow is considered to be one of the youngest flows in the U.S. Most definitely a place we will be coming back to explore! From a small pullout on the road we got out and stretched our feet amazed at the immensity of the lava flow!

From the high plains here we started to descend towards the Rio Grande. We picked up the US 25 South and headed towards Elephant Butte and Truth or Consequences. Yes, a town named after a game show, as if Roswell wasn’t odd enough;)

We checked into Elephant Butte State Park and I knew immediately I’d gotten it wrong, it felt more like a sardine city RV resort than a state park. We awoke at 7am to “Estas son las mañanitas” and later in the day were serenaded, well, I don’t quite think I can call it singing by a woman and man doing bad covers of late 50’s early 60’s songs you might here at a bad Vegas piano bar, but it was karaoke…very very bad karaoke…lordy lordy lordy help me now 0_0. I’d tried to make reservations at a campground to the North, more secluded on a bluff overlooking the Elephant Butte Reservoir but here we were…the view was not bad, quite lovely, it just had a rather sad feel to it. The Walmart was a bit frightening…I have nothing against anyone, really, but there is a subset that shops at Walmart that is quite scary, here it is the old oxygen packing electric shopping cart driving wrinkled from too much sun tanning population that would run over you in the aisle, then give you a dirty look for not leaping out of their way…whew…it was an obstacle course, the only smile came from the Christmas sweater rack we walked by, yes, I guess they do buy them, or they wouldn’t be here;) at least we had a good OMG smile;)

Better than this:11-16-Tolorencia

What a strange country we are crossing. There is good and bad in every corner and everyone has an opinion, which they tend to voice, without you asking;) Elephant Butte seems to cater to the water sports crowd, sorry, we always have a giggle when we hear water sports. Judging from the number of boat and RV storage businesses this looks like a winter retreat for those from the North and cold climates. It seemed quiet, perhaps the crowds have not arrived, but the beaches were too barren for me. Sand and garbage.

Better the view within the state park, the bunnies and quail were the best amusement to be had. Groot and Gamora watched fascinated from the back window at all the edible action out there;) we were treated to magnificent skies and warm temperatures as well. Hard to complain after the below freezing weather we’ve been running from.

We’ll explore Bosque del Apache in our next leg of the journey, but that, is another adventure.

Stay tuned and saludos amigos!

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Where did those bunnies go?

I bearly made it through the week, and other bad bear puns;)

Groot had quite the surprise yesterday morning, a new visitor to the trailer, not the usual Golden Lab, Lucas, that Regan and Sheila have but…a black one…wait a minute, Groot was pretty sure this was not one of those evil dog things but something completely different so he let us know…meow….!!!

Groot and bear

That is NOT a dog!

Come and take a look! He was jumping from window to window. Mike said “Bear”…I said, “yeah, right”, I’m not getting up before sunrise…”NO REALLY! BEAR!!!” that did get me up! Holy guacamole….a bear indeed.

 

He was feasting on the sunflower seeds in the “squirrel” but not bear proof bird feeder. I sent the feeder manufacturer a shot as well, they had a chuckle and hoped my feeder survived, it did! We watched him for 15 minutes as he picked the seeds out of the feeder, finally shaking them out before licking them up off of the ground. He eventually wandered off to the other cottages along the lake, I’m sure he has his routine:)

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I think I will sit and eat

Another day at Otty Lake, life is an adventure isn’t it! So wonderful to be able to experience nature this close and marvel at the wonder of it.

So until next week amigos. We’re off to do some fishing from the canoe, perfect day. I’ll see if I can contain myself bearly 🙂  I’ll need to get my bearings, oops, after we bearicade the door, or yes, these puns are unbearable;)

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Wonderful day

 

The High Plains-Nebraska to Oklahoma to Texas and New Mexico

Sonder (v.)

Origin: Unknown

The realisation that each passer-by is living a life as complex as your own.

They do seem to go on forever, these midwest plains.

The endless fields of dead and drying corn, waiting to be harvested and the sorghum fields, almost as if someone has forgotten them. As we followed the railways South on small state roads, the 80 South to the 281 and then the 30 we passed grain storage areas, some old, some new, all seemed to need paint or just something to say there was some pride here.

I always try to see the beauty around me but with the gloom I struggled to find it. The cold temperatures and gray skies didn’t help. Looking for a glimmer of light here and there dancing off the fields took my mind off the endless grain silos. Like concrete and sheet metal monsters beside the roads they seemed ominous and one after the other after the other. A statement to what the life here revolves around, farming. At a small gas station where we stopped to refill our diesel there was more Spanish being spoken in the convenience store than English. Sonder, whether it is a word or not, it’s meaning and concept seems wonderful.

Could I live here? No, without a seconds hesitation. There is an air of depression to many of the small towns we passed through. The gas stations boarded up, the old cafes long closed, the signs were falling down and everything seemed to need a coat of paint, not every town, there were some that had an air of pride to them but so many did not. I have an admiration for those that do live here.

Maybe it was just that Fall feeling but it goes deeper than that I think. After the town of Grand Island we found a small state park, sadly right beside the Interstate 80 with all its traffic noise but a spacious area along the Platte River. A place to walk in the sunshine as it finally peeked out from behind the dismal grey clouds. A wonderful but still very cold feeling. There was electric in the park but the water and bathroom/showers were closed for the season,  Mormon Island State Recreation Area.

The Platte River runs behind this park, an old slow-moving river that eventually runs into the Missouri, that eventually runs into the Mississippi…winding it’s way across the country. The banks show scars of floods and erosion.

We stayed two nights, time to get the front alignment done on the truck, something Discount Tire in Sioux City couldn’t do. The garage was on the outskirts of Big Island, dealing in tractor tires and big rigs mostly but the gentlemen were helpful and friendly as well as the other clients. Not much in the way of reading materials;) but better conversation with an older trucker than glossy pages. Filled us in on the area and farming he’d done, rigs he’d driven from milk trucks to his own. I thought he was in his late seventies. When he left the man behind the counter, a chatty fellow said, no, 89. The company he worked for gave him the easy routes and looked after him. He was going to retire but his grandchild died in an accident and then his daughter went off the deep end and had to be institutionalized, it was a sad tale. He kept driving the man behind the counter said so he didn’t have to sit and think about it…Sonder:)

From Grand Island we were on the Interstate a few miles to Kearny, then another small state road going South towards Kansas, the 183. We’d hoped to chase some warmth but a massive cold front kept pushing itself further South and the warmer temperatures and sunshine never materialized. We stopped at a small RV park in the town of Kinsley-in the middle of America, literally. Friendly people and a nice little pull through with grass behind and a nature path for Groot and Gamora to frolic in, as well as a friendly older cat, Groot was not impressed at all, I forget how few cats he has encountered in his life, this was a very friendly one at least:)

Kinsley has a museum, we stopped, and a sod house, it was closed, lots of stores were closed. Saturdays in a small town:) The sign was great. We found some diesel on the far edge of town before we headed out the next day to..Dodge, visions of gunslingers and banditos squaring off with the law…bad TV Westerns and dusty streets.

…for the life of me I can’t remember why, oh, that’s right, we had to refill the propane tank, nowhere in Kinsley to do that. Driving along the 50 through Spearville they had a “scenic stop” and information board there, pointing at the massive wind generators, mmm…not my version of scenic but I’m sure they are proud of it, and onto Dodge City where the “scenic outlook” looks out over a massive feedlot…no ground chicken in this town…lots of beef, and man, that feedlot WAS not scenic at all…we got the hell out of Dodge, always wanted to truthfully say that, it is my go to saying to skedaddle when we don’t like a place…ditto.

We had a few glimpses of sunshine the next day and headed South and West again, through small towns along the 54 to the 56 into Oklahoma. The countryside had started to change, from corn to more sorghum and small hills started to appear.

Although out of our way slightly, our goal was Black Mesa State Park and Nature Reserve and nearby Kenton where the Okie-Tex Star Party is held yearly in a truly black zone sky.

This was a beautiful stop, the morning after we arrived everyone pulled up and left us with the park to ourselves:) My kind of place. Lots of grassy areas to walk the cats and so much wildlife. Deer wandered a few feet away from the trailer early in the morning and we could hear birds again! The sun had appeared in the late afternoon and the lawns were covered in Painted Lady butterflies and Clouded Sulphers. What a delight!

Sadly in the evenings the fog descended, no night viewing the skies:( Bummer. It didn’t clear until later in the day. We took a drive towards the very small town of Kenton, and then back to the highest point in Oklahoma 4973 feet above sea level and to the dinosaur tracks:) That is what I wanted to see! In the dry bed of Carrizo Creek. A series of tracks reveal where a dinosaur slipped and caught itself before continuing on. The tracks are not marked from the road as they are on private land that allows people to view them during the day. There is a map at the park that shows the road.

The klutzy dinosaur was a theropod. Theropods are a group that includ such recognizable meat-eating wonders as T. rex and Deinonychus…0_0…the big boys!

A short nature path leads up onto the bluff overlooking the park. By late in the day the sun had started to shine only to disappear into the fog as the sun set again! Can’t catch a star gazing break! The early morning rush hour for the deer traffic kept the cats thoroughly amused looking at them through the windows as they wandered from campsite to campsite, along the river and up onto a small bluff where we watched from the windows…awesomness! But that weather!

Once again we headed South this time straight through the Westernmost part of Texas on the 385 to the 60 and finally into New Mexico…the SW…Oasis State Park is located South of Clovis, just North of Portales. It is an odd little park with a small fishing lake and views of the high plains. Not really much else up here. The park is undergoing renovations, no dump station but the outbuildings and pull through looked brand new.

An interesting stop, quails scurried everywhere followed by rabbits, Finches and Pine Siskins filled the bushes. The cats were not good helpers here for a photographer;) I was excited to see dozens of scaled quails, but they were very shy and flew off as soon as I approached. The Ladder Backed Woodpecker was quite co-operative as he flew from agave seed stalk to agave seed stock. Pecking at them furiously as the seeds flew out in all directions. The Finches were busy cleaning up after him:) The cats ran from window to window watching the rabbits. A pair of Coopers Hawks had a favourite spot in a dead tree, surveying their domain from the upper branches. Behind the park several nature paths wandered through sand dunes. We startled a Great Blue Heron as it hunted lizards, it left it’s tracks in the sand.

Our next jump was a short one…Roswell, New Mexico, it’s been on our list for a long time so we were excited to go. But that is another story. We want to believe;) 👽

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The truth is out there;)

Saludos amigos and stay tuned for more of New Mexico:)

Running from the weather

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Sunrise at Bay Shore County Park, Oconto, Wisconsin

 

Next stop-Sparta-Wisconsin. Winter weather warning coming in so time to skedaddle, that is a word:) Most of all the RV parks are closed now, October 15th seems to be the magic day they shut their gates and maybe, head South as well? I’ve scoured RV Park reviews and have come up with a few gems from time to time. Just South of Sparta there was a park that claimed to be open until Oct 31, no one answered my several phone calls and but we decided to take a chance and go look, if not it would be three more hours to a State Park in Minnesota.

This was mostly back country roads, small towns with a few zigs and zags, my favourite roads, past pawn shops and corn fields, this is corn country, as far as the eye can see sometimes. Still not harvested, waiting for the moisture content to be just right before the big combines crawl the fields and denude them.

Big Farms, small farms, Amish farms. We passed a pair of farmers throwing wheat sheaves up onto their horse-drawn cart, a country of contrasts no doubt. I often wonder how the younger generations of these Amish farmers view these older methods and how they come to terms with the back-breaking work when their neighbour next door is harvesting with his John Deere or Case tractor. I guess that is faith. I don’t have that. I celebrate my spirituality in mother nature’s arms, her back yard, watching what she brings each day to us. The highlights, and the horrors:)

We eventually ended up on I 90 for the last leg of the trip and headed South towards Leon and the Leon Valley Campground. The gates were open! Thankfully, and a cell number on the door to call, but no water it said, wells and pumps were turned off, crap! I spoke to a lovely woman on the phone, Joann who said she would be right over to show us to a space and that if we wanted water it was still turned on at the office, we found the spigot and turned it on, inside the unlocked office as it had been partially winterized, you know you are in the country when doors are open and no one is home…and filled our tank before she arrived, wonderful! Water has been a problem the last two stops as the state and county parks already have it turned off:)

We decided to limit our stay to one night so we could make Myre Island State Park before an incoming cold front, and forecast winter storm was going to hit the following evening. Our tires are not the best, we’ve been trying to replace them so finally called ahead to Sioux City and found 6 of what Mike wanted and made an appointment, damn duallys, lots of tire there! The temperatures were already dropping. We are total cold weather wimps!

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Morning light on the hills leaving Leon, Wisconsin

We left fairly early the next morning, back onto the I 90 past more corn fields, the combines were out today, perhaps to beat the incoming snow storm. It was a short, two and a half hour hop to Myre-Big Island State Park. The wind was picking up by the time we arrived and the temperatures were dropping. We have two other campers with us here, not what one would call busy, but a beautiful site with lots of walking paths, if we don’t get blown away. We’ll be cooling our heels, literally, for a few days here until a break in the weather:)

We awoke to some wet snow and howling winds, I braved it for 20 minutes before I ran back inside! No shoes for this…brrrr…but it has its own beauty. As it melted a bit later in the afternoon the snow became drops of water on the leaves. I explored the paths behind the campground that lead near the lake, deer jumped and ran as I made my way down a small path and spooked a Bald Eagle from a tree where it had been fishing, gorgeous!

This park is pretty much empty, save few a few hardy souls here. There are extensive walking and hiking trails to explore, if it warms up! This forest is so different to the maples and ashes of Otty Lake. Huge imposing oaks dominate the landscape, like the scary Halloween trees, they have wonderful craggy branches. The colours are so different as well. Gone are the bright reds and yellows, here there is sombre browns, dark oranges and burgundy reds.

When the weather forecast said “snow ending at…” we headed West on a cloudy, drizzling day to Sioux Falls, the I 90, more miles of dairy and beef farms, fields of corn and the smell of freshly spread manure. You know you are in farm country when the billboards are toting seed corn to farmers, the newest and best variety, big business at work out here. Why Sioux Falls and what are we doing out here in the cold you might ask? Yesterday the high was 36°, with a 40 MPH wind, the windchill left us feeling like 20° F. Ever wonder why you see so many South Dakota license plates on trailers and Rv’s?  Well, it is a domicile state that is friendly to full timers living on the road. No state income tax, low sales tax if you want to buy an RV, 4% I think, reasonable vehicle licensing, they say the insurance is less but ours actually went up when we changed our address to here, especially for the truck, time to shop around for someone else:)  Jury duty can be excused by simply telling them you are a full-timer. I wonder how much extra revenue it puts into the DMV’s coffers? We have a mailbox here at a well-known full timers mail service, Dakota Post, who were most helpful in arranging the plates for the truck and trailer ($1200 in California just for the truck, $160 here in SD) now it is time I turn in my California drivers licence and swap it for a SD one…It is with some sadness I do so:( That is why we are here, and not in Baja by now;)

Somewhere down the road we’d lost the outside cover for the dometic fridge that protects it from the elements. The plastic gets worn and tired and the little nubs broke off, probably when an 18 wheeler blew past us. Looking around online for parts, ordered one from AdventureRV.net, never again, they neglected to tell me it was back ordered so expected it here in Sioux Falls, after several emails, oh, we’re sorry, we think it is backordered, well, it is, or it’s not. Sucks. Will make do with the plastic bag and duct tape for now:( The joys of living on the road, you can’t always find what you want. A trip to a local RV parts store yielded one, but not the right size.

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Waiting for a good home:)

The midwest has not been kind that way. Spent quite awhile going to butcher shops, then giving up and calling looking for ground turkey or chicken, they look at you like you are some kind of freak. OK, I get it, this is beef country but really? We make our own cat food, won’t buy the junk offered in cans or bags. In our small hometown of Perth, population 6,000, we have better food offerings than a town of 400,000. Astounding…yes indeed. Finally found some frozen ground chicken so we’ll pick that up today, stockpile for the cats, especially the 17-year-old, he’s finicky and we’d like to keep him alive and happy for as many more years as we can:) Going South from here, Sioux Falls, maybe things will change, I doubt it, but we’ll keep our eyes peeled for a butcher shop where everything is not in frozen bags…why does America live out of frozen bags of food?

We’ll be happy to leave the city tomorrow, finally heading South. It was 21°F this morning, WAY too cold. The sound of freeway traffic from the I 29 is loud. The RV park we are at, Tower Campground was much nicer than I’d expected but yes, right in the city, right on the interstate so yes, noisy, but the spots are neat and clean. Lot’s of permanents here, winterizing their rigs with insulation and full skirts around their trailers. Large propane tanks being delivered, cold…too cold for us. Another State Park! Nebraska here we come, and it looks like a warm front is moving in! Yippee!

Stay tuned, I may be able to take my winter coat off soon! I’m now a registered licensed South Dakotan-Time to get the hell out of Dodge, I mean Sioux Falls and go South! Feels odd, but as full timers I guess this is what we do! After running around dealing with bureaucracy and all that fun stuff, it’s time for a glass a wine and a few peanut butter cups, trick or treaters, you are out of luck, these babies are mine, all mine;)

Stay tuned my friends, saludos amigos and Happy Halloween and Feliz día de muertos!2017-10-10 221AS