Winter Trip Plans

We are planning to stay at one place this winter for about six weeks since we’ll be returning early to go on a birding trip in late March. We have reservations in the Rio Grande Valley at a funky little RV park called Americana The Birding Center RV Park.

I have stayed there before and while not really into all the “activities” offered, I like the fact that you can bike to the Bentsen- Rio Grand Valley World Bird Site and it’s a short drive or a day trip to eight others:

It’s easy to get up to Salenino and Falcon Lake State Park and dozens of other RGV hotspots. Sitting here in cool rainy Vermont, I’m getting itchy.

Here are some shots off the web of the park — it’s old school and very birder-friendly.

 

Park entrance

Tree-lined streets offer shade and onsite birding.

The pool is a popular gathering spot

The park, like most, has modest wifi. It is strongest here.

While we will miss hitting Arizona and California this winter, we’ll see how ‘staying put” works out. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

Posted in Americana RV Park, SW Trip 2018, Texas birding, Texas birds | 1 Comment

Goodbye, Dear Penny

Last night, assisted by Doctor Erika, we said goodbye to Penny, our wonderful traveling companion. She had hiked her last hike with me last week and after nearly 14 years of high energy living, ran out of gas. She crossed the country seven times, had a long life list of critters (alligators, armadillos, javelinas, road-runners, coots, gallinules, to name a few), and as a rescue dog, was very much “a piece of work.” Well-loved by all” is not an exaggeration.

Here is a little photo tribute to this great dog, who we will miss deeply.

Penny loved a good run….

and nap on chairs and couches

She took up a lot of space in my Luscombe but enjoyed flying.

and she was a great traveling companion.

Caminos felices, mi maravillosa amiga

Posted in Birding With Penny, Penny, personal reflection, Vizsla | 7 Comments

A Little Sparrow Love

Sparrows are often the Rodney Dangerfield’s of my birding world – they just don’t get any respect. However, fed up with the antics of fall warblers, it’s fun to see some of the sparrows sitting a bit still for identification and perhaps photos.

I came across this Lincoln’s Sparrow the other day and just wanted to share how lovely some of these little brown jobs can be:

Posted in Local Birding, Sparrows, Vermont Birding | 2 Comments

Paddling Ricker Pond

Launching our boats right from the campsite, we took a wonderful paddle on Ricker Pond, watching loons,

Observing the Great Blue Heron

And just getting some sun and exercise in a pretty setting

Even my blog-writing site is hard to top.

More color shows each day. It’s a great time to be camping in Vermont.

Posted in fall colors, Vermont Camping, Vermont State Parks | Comments Off on Paddling Ricker Pond

Checking Out The Van

Finally, we got The Goshawk ready for a local mid-week camping trip to Ricker Pond State Park. I had reserved the only on-shoreline spot we could fit into and as I write this looking out the door, I can see early sign of autumn’s colors reflected in the water while a soon-to-depart Common Loon cruises and calls. Few campers, mid-seventies temps, and a nice forecast. What’s not to like?

After a quick setup, Penny and I took a pretty walk where this Great Blue Heron posed for us.

Sally is coming tonight with the kayaks so we’ll hit the water in the morning. While we are waiting, we tried some selfies to pass the time. Penny is up and frisky after a couple of tough medical weeks so we should have a couple of good shakedown days as we get ready for longer journeys.

Posted in Airstream Interstate, Birding With Penny, Local Birding, local camping, shakedown trip, Spinter van, Vermont Birding, Vermont State Parks | 4 Comments

Tooting Our Own Horn

The horn on Sprinter vans is a joke, sounding like a clown car. Ours died last winter in California and I haven’t replaced it, to Sally’s delight since she hates horn honking and enjoys watching me hit the mute horn when a light changes and someone is texting or I get cut off by an aggressive driver.

The rig is overdue for inspection (see previous post for why) so I needed to install one that works. Cue YouTube for advice.

I bought a replacement horn, with a lower tone, and it was a pretty simple installation once I realized that it only works with the ignition on.

The new horn was an easy fix once I checked the fuse and put new connectors on the wires. Ready for inspection.

I was tempted to install a big truck multi-horn system with some real blasting power but want to keep piece in our 24-foot travelling home.

Posted in Airstream Interstate, repairs, rig maintenance, Spinter van | 1 Comment

Free at Last

Three months ago, I wrote about the poor service I was experiencing as the Interstate languished in the storage yard at Pete’s RV’s in South Burlington. I guess I knew then, when they took their sweet time to do anything, that my rig was a hostage. Early on, I wasn’t too concerned since I had no plans to travel and many other projects on my plate but in the last few months, it’s been ridiculous.

I won’t make you read all the details but it was just unresponsive service: concentrating on prepping sold rigs, delaying getting the rig in and then blaming suppliers for long delays, never initiating status calls or emails, just forgetting to do things and letting the rig just sit there. I was quite patient (too patient) having not a lot of other options.

My insurance adjuster for Progressive has been wonderful, but frustrated. He knows that he recommended Pete’s over a couple of smaller local RV centers. He was happy to call me Wednesday with the “it’s ready to go” news.

Nice to be home – loose wires and missing fasteners and all.

So, after five and a half months, I picked up the rig Thursday and brought it home. The awning is still missing but that’s another story.

Penny found her resting spot right away and is ready to go, whether we are or not.

Time to move on and do some local travel before heading out in January. This year’s winter trip is nearly set. Up ahead, look for more positive reports, bird photos, and less whining.

Posted in accident, Airstream Interstate, repairs, Spinter van | 1 Comment

First Paddle

Nearly mid-June and I just launched the Hornbeck canoe this morning for the first time. Too many other activities, chores, excuses but it was a great beginning. I went early to our local Wrightsville Reservoir and being a weekday and early, only one sculler was on the water.

Dozens of bird calls kept me occupied as I headed north on the quiet water with a few beavers objecting to my presence with loud slaps. Then, up ahead, I saw the white head of an Osprey or Bald Eagle in a craggy tree and carefully approaching it, saw that it was my first bald eagle of the year.

I sat at a distance and watched him for some time and then carefully paddled away leaving him undisturbed.

The inlet of the reservoir is the North Branch of the Winooski River and for a short period, it gets scenic and is a great paddle.

I came upon a Common Merganser with her chicks resting on a sandbar and she slipped into the stream and led them away as I tried to steady the boat and take some photos.

The eagle was still there on the return trip and I saw/heard over thirty species, got a nice workout, and finished up before 8 o’clock. Good to be on the water again.

Posted in Canoeing, Hornbeck boats, Local Birding, Vermont Birding, Washington County, Wildlife Watching | Comments Off on First Paddle

Revisiting Chickering Bog

After weeks of rainy days, I took advantage of a sunny break to revisit the Nature Conservancy’s Chickering Bog which I had first explored in late 2015. The trip over there is scenic and birdy and these guys watched me while I listened to a Least Flycatcher along the way.

My first Vermont Killdeer greeted me at the parking area.

The trail in was loaded with mosquitos and bird song — warblers, vireos, ovenbirds, and others — and a pair of camera-shy White-throated Sparrows.

A real treat was a Winter Wren who packed a lot of song into a tiny body. The photo quality is poor due to low light and an elusive songster.

Lots of other items to see — here are a few:

Mourning Cloak on the road

Bunchberry?

I came home to this guy, who with his spouse, visits the feeder daily. What a joy to watch the grosbeaks, purple finches, and hummingbirds for a needed dose of crimson.

Posted in nature, Vermont Birding | Comments Off on Revisiting Chickering Bog

Service Please!

While the weather in Vermont has been cool and rainy and not conducive to camping, we are becoming impatient with the delays and lack of progress in getting repairs estimated and begun. Pete’s RV in South Burlington has not distinguished themselves so far, setting an inspection date and then waffling for three weeks or so. It is a tough time of year to get work done since there is a lot of dealer prep and prior service commitments after a long winter. But …..

There are two problems. The first is the serious damage to the awning caused by a “dust devil” in New Mexico that I first mentioned here.

The awning remains strapped in place with canoe straps after being manually retracted with the help of three wonderful campsite neighbors – in mid-March.

The good news is that the insurance appraiser looked it over a month ago, sent me a check and someday, we hope to just replace most of the unit. Progressive Insurance has been excellent.

The second incident, completely my fault, occurred in Texas as we went for one last look at the Whooping Cranes – which had departed for parts north. I turned down a narrow road which had a “Men Working” sign at the turn but it wasn’t obvious, until after a quarter mile, that the road was closed off due to paving — and there was no turnaround. Rather than backing all the way to the main road, I tried to turn around on the road, misjudged and got the back wheels down off the pavement. The rig was hung up big time and after call to AAA and a wait, a big tow truck (which luckily happened to be in the general area) showed up.

We were lucky to have a monster tow truck with an experienced driver available.

The driver winched the rig, ever so slowly, getting it turned and out — but we knew there was damage. I could drive it back to the state park and over time to Vermont without the propane or the black water system available.

There’s a leak in the black water tank and other damage that needs to be identified. Come on guys, let’s get with it.

Meanwhile, I’m  birding locally and waiting, and still wondering what possessed me to try that U-turn on a narrow road. My co-pilot Sally’s  intuition said, Don’t do it!”  I wish mine had.

Posted in Airstream Interstate, awning, insurance, repairs, SW trip 2017 | 1 Comment