Is It a Bird?

While weeding in our backyard I am often distracted by whatever living thing is moving around in the area. Often it’s a bird and I have wished my camera was available. On this day I decided to bring my camera out back where I needed to work.

I saw caterpillars and other crawling bugs among the weeds. In the air, plenty of yellow moths and colorful butterflies, but I was most interested in a larger flyer … a hummingbird moth! The couple of them flying around our desert willow tree, while I worked, enticed me to pick up my camera. An easy choice … time for a break and my camera was nearby! Perfect!

Here are a few photos of this hummingbird moth.

It looks like a bird, but it is a moth; technically named a white-lined sphinx (Hyles lineata)! And now you know!

Women Can Stand To Pee!

Here’s an update on the world of (PUD) “personal urination devices” or (STP) “stand to pee” devices for women. You probably do not recall my March 15, 2021 “Pee & Poop” blog post when I did test a few products. Click on my post’s title link above to refresh your memory, if you wish. 

Recently I realized I was still squatting behind cacti, shrubbery or a car door more often than using any of the pee devices, until I discovered and tried the “pStyle”! This plastic device works for me much better than the softer flexible devices. Who would have thought!?! I was comfortable squatting, but it did require pulling my shorts/pants down. The “pStyle” device can be used while fully clothed. Simply unzip a front zipper or move clothing to position the device as needed and it is time to pee!

Directions for the device will state you can use the rounded back edge and wipe away drips, thus no toilet paper needed. When done, shake any drips from the device, wipe it with wet ones or soap and water and/or toss in your bag to wash later. Know it is dishwasher safe if you are inclined to clean it in that manner. This device does not fold up small like other devices which could be a concern for you, but since I like the ease in using this one that is a minor factor. Just store it someplace and you are set. You can buy a carry-bag for your pStyle, sold separately, or make your own.

When you are out on the hiking trail being sure to hydrate, no worries! Driving down the road and wondering where is the next restroom, no worries! The “pStyle” device will be a game changer for you to stand up and pee on your timeline!

Never Say Never …

Often we hear the phrase “never say never” in relationship to motivating oneself to do whatever; stay in the game, not give up since anything is possible. Yet as I walked midday through a wetland area, I heard frogs croaking, calling or whatever you wish to name their territorial and/or mating sounds and thought I will never see one of these frogs! Hear them, yes, see them, no.

Truth be told I was walking the area to bird watch, but we know how that goes somedays. Few birds were around. No doubt they were smarter than me, hidden in the cool shade of tree leaves! No problem, I love being outdoors in nature, so I walk on hoping for some new observation … will it be lizards mating, dragonflies relaxing on a grass blade, or coyotes passing through the area?

When I least expect it, I see a green something or other sitting in muck. I crept closer to have a better look. It’s a frog! I crept closer to photograph the frog even though it was not sharing its best side! 

Okay, never say never … anything is possible … even a sun-bathing frog in the middle the day, and then it jumped into the water! Wow!

I hear you and see you! Thanks!

What a Trip!

As I look back on my 15 month wait to visit my mom and friend in New York State, the craziness of the Covid-19 virus, and the lack of uniformity in all of us being a community of mask-wearers and vaccinated, my decision to drive across the USA was a good one! The USA is many, many miles in geographic size and one with fascinating people along the way! We don’t all agree on everything, but in public places where rules dictated certain behaviors, the rules were followed with little to no angst. We all had been itching for some freedom in our travel and those of us on the ground seemed to be tolerant of one another and the rules. In talking with people, they mentioned driving and camping was their choice rather than flying and as a result campsites were packed. I was glad I made my reservations once I decided to travel.

The last two days, 44 & 45, of this trip I traveled just shy of 1,000 miles, from north of Fort Collins, Colorado to east of Santa Fe, New Mexico to Tucson, Arizona, to arrive home making my 45 days of total road mileage about 7893 miles. I was 70 miles away from the campsite on my last day when the yellow wrench on my car’s dashboard came on indicating 15% and the need in time to get the car serviced for oil, etc. Perfect timing as I was on my way home…. just another 410 miles to go! When I saw a train go by and especially Amtrak, I thought how in Europe I often traveled by train, yet in this country it never entered my mind. I am hoping with latest emphasis on bicycling and options to hop on Amtrak, I can put together a new sort of adventure of bicycling and train rides some day.

I am grateful for the opportunity to visit with everyone I did, to see new birds for my life list, to enjoy conversations with fellow travelers and to see our beautiful country. Do we need to improve in various areas in this country, yes! Could we all consider working to solve problems with actual solutions rather than complaining and doing nothing, yes! I believe we can be more productive for our businesses to grow, our environment to be healthy, our educational systems to nurture our young people, our medical care to be top-notch and available to all, and to work to build bridges rather than tear each other down … oh and by the way, there are some bridges needing repair!

Thank you to all who helped me through this adventure. I am grateful for your support and love. When will I be back on the road? Good question. Till then, be your best healthy self and kind to others. Namaste … meaning I support the spirit within you!

My final morning on the road. I lay in my bed in my car thinking about the past 44 days and my ride home to start in an hour. What a trip!

Flexibility When on the Road

During the pandemic many of us took advantage of zoom presentations on all kinds of topics. I heard wildlife photographers talk about the number of photos they take and needing time to actually look at the thousands of photos! It’s hard for me to imagine I would ever be looking at photos months later, but now I understand the challenge. During this trip I have had to find time to look through my, not thousands per day, many photos, identify birds new to me, enter checklists into eBird, write a blog post covering a day or two, and still find time to eat, shower, relax and sleep!  And I also wondered what happened at Wimbledon, the Tour de France, the Olympics and the rest of the world? I felt so disconnected from the world, but thanks to my partner, family and friends news of any importance did get to me. Thankfully too many programs are being recorded for me to watch when I return home.

So the morning of day 41 of this travel adventure, I decided to stay put and work on my blog so when I get home I have only a final trip post to write. It is also easier to get a wifi connection when everyone else is out and about, but they will be back streaming all kinds of things soon as they sit in their air-conditioned travel trailer or motorhome! Tenting does not allow one to get away from the heat and since the pandemic limits comfortably staying at a library or restaurant it has been a challenge compared to how it would have been if everything was open. When will we be out of this pandemic!?!

When I checked in at the campground at 1:00pm, I learned I could enter Rocky Mountain National Park with no reservation if I arrive after 3pm. So off I went! (Others had to reserve a 2 hour time block for arrival and the reservation had to be on a written paper if they wanted to arrive anytime between 6am and 3pm. Park rules are now regulating the number of people entering per 2 hour time blocks.) On my way to the park I stopped at Coyote Ridge Natural Area. The Fort Collins, Colorado area has many such areas as they try to get the land back to its natural state and enhance its value for wildlife. These photos are just a couple of many.

I have visited Rocky Mountain National Park a few times. Wow has the town of Estes Park grown in size! The beautiful historic Stanley Hotel is still a beautiful site as I can only imagine it really was when in 1909 it was first opened to city folk visiting the wilderness, and it is still quite impressive! Of course, now most people know Stephen King had spent a night here in the 1970’s and was inspired to write “The Shining”. Fortunately as history records, the hotel is restored and people can now book rooms, meals and spa treatments.

Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, CO

Here’s a photo of what was ahead of me:

Rocky Mountain National Park ahead!

I drove into the park and was limited on the amount of time I would spend since I wanted to be back to the campground before dark, plus the road through Thompson Canyon is with quite a few curves. But I found a couple of places to relax, read about the Woodpecker Army, the CCC group that helped build the roads and places in this park, and have my dinner. Although it was an hour’s drive to get here it was nice to be at a higher elevation with more coolness than the Fort Collins campground.

You Can Fly in South Dakota!

I wanted to stay in Minnesota; I did not have the time I wanted to explore the area … plus, there are 10,000 lakes, no, actually 11,842 officially recognized by MN Department of Natural Resources … more if they count even the smaller bodies of water covering 2.5 acres. As I drove through Minnesota my neck craned to see if there were any birds … swans, great blue herons, ducks were obvious … was the red-headed woodpecker around? I will not know. Then the landscape changed as I went across about 40 miles of North Dakota corner and entered South Dakota. From that point to my destination was another 260 miles. What a mind-numbing drive today was! Fields of grain for miles and miles, an area with windmills, and very few towns of substantial size to break-up the monotony of today’s 450 mile drive. My concern was the speed we were all traveling. The speed limit was 80 mph which means many were traveling faster than that and when you see huge trucks barreling up right behind you it gets a bit crazy.

I started with a full tank of gas, filled up again before leaving MN and decided to get gas when in Sioux Falls, SD area … but drove right past the area! Yes, I need gas since I burned through plenty at 80mph! Definitely need it to get to my destination since stranded out on this highway would be no picnic. Decision, decision. Do I turn back ten miles or go forward and hope some small town ahead has a gas station? The yellow warning light had not lit yet, indicating gas needed soon, so I drove on. Twelve miles ahead I found a station and paid more per gallon; my own fault and did I say today was a mind-numbing drive? I meant it!

I arrived at my campsite at North Sioux City, South Dakota. To get here was an eight hour drive. The weather: no smoke, no rain … who could ask for more? It was a sunny 90 degrees. A strong wind was blowing so I put my stove on the tailgate of my car to boil up water for dinner with the car blocking some of the wind. My site is next to a teepee. I wonder if anyone is staying in it tonight. I would love to see the inside. Years ago when I worked at a Girl Scout camp in upstate NY we actually built a teepee. Quite the challenge! My dinner tonight was rice noodles, salmon and green peas. I am a fan of simple meals on the road. These campgrounds are truly interesting with our world of technology. I just received a text from campground staff letting me know I can order a pizza from them and they will deliver. They didn’t say ice cream was an option, so forget it!

Add whatever spice or salt and pepper. Enjoy!

Travel Days #5 & 6 … On The Road Again!

Day 5: Granite City, Illinois: 5:30am, I rolled out of my tent and said good morning to my wet tent fly; it was quite the thunder and lightning storm last night! As I was counting how far away the storm was I felt comfortable. But when it was overhead I reviewed in my mind: is my tent in a good position on the ground, did I still feel the overhead tree branches were okay in this wind, should I have trenched around my tent to handle the downpour? Fortunately, my tent was okay and I slept comfortably and dry the entire night and with a shake of the tent fly and some drying time it was good to go for the next night in a tent.

Today was a long day, driving to Connellsville, Pennsylvania … located in the southwestern part of the state. I actually drove through five states this day: started in Illinois, then Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, and finally Pennsylvania. I wanted to stay at this PA campground since it was by a river and bicycle path. I finally arrived at 7:00pm in pouring rain which had been the case the last couple of hours while driving backroads. No birding or bicycling was to happen, bummer!

After much thought, I made the decision to book a local motel room. The rain here was falling better than any shower I had personally taken and there was no need for me to be sopping wet to then sleep on my bed platform in my car. I arrived at the motel and tried to get tickets to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater house, built 1936-1939 supposedly over a waterfall. Unfortunately everyone else was looking for a rainy day activity so no available tour for me the next day. Another time I wish to check out his house construction!

Day 6: Off to visit my sister and her husband who live in the northeastern part of Pennsylvania. For the first couple of hours I was again on the smaller roads before finally driving on any interstate. If I stopped at every place of interest I would never get to visit my mom and friend. But I did see signs for where if I veered 15 miles away was the Flight 93 National Memorial, Wall of Names, built to honor the crew and passengers, 40 victims, of that flight. Those heroic people stopped the terrorists from achieving their goal and stands as a reminder of how horrific the entire day, September 11, 2001, was and will never be forgotten by me. Historical signs were about the Great Johnstown Flood of May 31, 1889 were more than 2,000 people died because of a dam failure. (It was also the time of Clara Barton’s first domestic relief effort and the start of American Red Cross.) I was always aware of that flood but I just discovered two other floods having an impact on Johnstown. March 17, 1936 the town had a devastating flood caused by heavy runoff from melting snow and 3 days of rain. A couple dozen people died with many building buildings destroyed. The third Johnstown flood was July 19, 1977. Again, heavy rainfall causing flash flooding.

Along the highway I saw some message on the back windows of two cars. These people were letting everyone know they are on a road trip and if others wished to donate to their adventure, then you could send them money via Venmo or PayPal. Wow, that really is taking a fundraiser on the road. I will wonder if anyone actually sends them money!

I have arrived at their alpaca farm. No rain! Life is good! (My preoccupation with rain is in the fact that where I do live we have not had any substantial rain in 2 years. Thank goodness I packed a raincoat!)

Covered bridge. Good time to relax during my drive.

Eastward Ho! … as a Bird May Fly!

My bags are packed, I am ready to go! Traveling east by vehicle, my Honda Element is again on the road! I chose this method of transportation to visit family and friends on the east coast of the USA and to camp along the way.

You may ask why would I choose to travel with so little luxury and drive long distances? After watching television news about unruly behavior from people while flying in an airplane and unvaccinated people in an airport remaining potential carriers of the coronavirus, I decided to make my own circles around such and aim to arrive at my destinations with less stress. (Yes, there may be rain, tornado, bugs, etc, but such is life.)

Just think of the pioneers who traveled westward not knowing where they were going each day and where they would end up. I am in better shape than all of that! Campgrounds are chosen, plenty of rest stops available, easy access to food and drink and some landscapes new to me, especially as I look for birds in an area!

What I am doing to see family and friends, after 15 months of remaining in a personal/home bubble, is travel to them! What else, got vaccinated! With compassion and love for our fellow human beings, I have done my part and look forward to seeing everyone down the road! Stay healthy and happy America! An American kestrel is in the air!

Meditative Moments… Do You Have Yours?

I walk along this path, hearing my own breath, listening to the sounds in nature, smelling the air with all its various scents, feeling my leg muscles carry my body up and down this path. My mind is in balance, not thinking too hard about anything and not letting it wander too far. When being fully present in the here and now, I am good.

It’s not always like this. Sometimes I am concentrating on something that is taking my mind elsewhere. Memories, anxiety, and nothing to do with the present moment fill my mind; I know then I am in need of a meditative moment or two. It doesn’t require hours. I take minutes to center myself, wherever I may be, and when walking a path I can enjoy many more meditative minutes.

My meditative moments allow me to focus on the now. Being fully present and grateful for the time I can spend. I need this time each day and love it more, when possible, outdoors walking a path.

I hope everyone can enjoy their present moment; live life in the now. Or take time to balance yourself again; in whatever way you find it is best for yourself. Namaste.

Who’s Chirping This Morning?

Here’s how it is in the desert. As we ready for sleep, windows are opened wide to allow the cool night air into our house. When we awake in the morning, we’ll be closing the windows before the heat of day flows in. It’s our usual routine as the summer season approaches; then air-conditioning will be on and we will not hear the birds at night or in the morning so easily.

BirdNET is a great app to help me identify birds via their calls or songs. I am a visual learner finding difficulty with audio learning so the app has helped me identify the night owl or the morning finch that may be calling. I may not see bird, but I hear its call and this app is another tool for me to use to identify a bird. But who’s chirping this morning?

Suddenly I realize the 3 piercing chirps that startled me awake this morning are sounds from a smoke alarm! There is nothing enjoyable about those chirps and I guess that’s the point! How can the chirps be from the same detector that chirped a month ago? How can it be after replacing batteries in all six detectors, a month ago, that we have any alarm chirping, let alone the same one again!

I don’t know if you have spent time really looking at smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your home, but I recently discovered new things. I don’t mind learning new things but do mind the chirping so it was the motivating factor to get this issue resolved. 

In the old days, I put up smoke detectors that were battery-powered. A separate carbon monoxide detector would be installed that was also battery-powered. Nowadays I discover alarms can be just a smoke detector or smoke and carbon monoxide detector in one unit. Plus detectors can be hard-wired with battery back-up. Gone are the days I can rid myself of the chirp and job responsibility within hours!

Locating an electrician or handyman was our first challenge. Friends, neighbors, anyone know someone who wants to stand on a ladder, stretch and screw around a ceiling item, and work with electricity? Thankfully no cathedral-height ceilings here … potential worker is glad to hear our ceilings are normal height; his service is scheduled! Buying the correct replacement for each type of detector was my next challenge. I almost goofed, but fortunately I checked with our builder’s customer service person to know each of our detectors are hard-wired; an important detail when selecting replacements. Do you know how many choices there are in the world of alarms? Thanks to ACE Hardware employees I have 2 smoke/carbon monoxide detectors and 4 smoke detectors all with hard-wired adapter. I hope they are easiest for our handyman to snap these replacements in and will not need to go shopping for anything else!

The birds are chirping and my smoke/carbon monoxide alarms are not; life is good! But don’t forget to replace the back-up batteries once a year as recommended. Thanks to our local firemen they come to our home, we provide the batteries and they climb the ladder to put a new battery in each alarm. Love their service! Stay safe everyone!