Birds at San Luis Obispo & Avila Beach, CA

I actually discovered a new bird at San Luis Obispo as we hiked near Laguna Lake in San Luis Obispo and another new bird while walking the Harford Pier in Avila Beach! So exciting to find new birds and to enjoy those I already can easily identify!

At San Luis Obispo’s Laguna Lake:

Grasshopper sparrow with a bit of yellow above eye … new bird for me!

At Avila Beach:

Pigeon Guillemot caught something after his very deep dive!
A new bird for me …pigeon guillemot and now I see it flying by!

Of course there were many other birds to observe, but I enjoyed time watching this downy woodpecker at Laguna Lake where we hiked a few miles of trails. I suspected this woodpecker to be young/juvenile as it was fascinated with a spider’s web as I watched too, but here it is just checking out the bark and where to peck in the bark.

Downy woodpecker

There is plenty to do in this area of California; hiking, bicycling, shopping, wine tasting and spending time at the beach. Once the fog rolls out there is often a windy, sunny day to enjoy!

Storage Containers to an Inn in California!

Many years ago we visited Cass Winery, enjoyed lunch and a wine tasting … all delicious! The Paso Robles area in California has doubled in number of wineries since we first visited the area about 20 years ago. Yet now we were back to see and stay in their Geneseo Inn.

While eating lunch at the winery many years ago, we had seen plans/sketches for an inn to be constructed of storage containers. Really? I knew I wanted to return when that project was complete! So, recently we stayed overnight in the Ebony & Ivory room and parked our car right below our “storage container” which allowed for easy access to move luggage into our room and keep the car out of the sun. I did look closely to see how our room had been constructed with the storage container; absolutely fantastic use of the container!

When you stay at the Geneseo Inn you are a wine club member for the day, so our wine tasting at lunch had been complimentary along with “happy hour” as we settled in our room, plus any wines we chose to buy were discounted!

The room was spacious and very comfortable with everything and more you would want here: refrigerator, bathrobes, eye masks as there is plenty of light coming in through skylights in the morning and a nice deck area. Our breakfast was included in our stay so we ate it on the back deck. Absolutely delicious breakfast!

Cass Winery/Geneseo Inn staff look forward to you staying on property with their many activity offerings: archery, eBikes to ride on property, corn hole game, hammocks to relax in, axe throwing, horseback trail ride, walking through the vineyard, sitting fireside, happy hour and food at the cafe. We found it very easy to relax and enjoy the quiet and I really hope they add a spa soon too!

It is a pricey place to stay overnight, but the next time I can it will be with plans to star gaze! They do advertise some special nights to do that too! Want to celebrate a special occasion? This is the place to visit and stay a night or two! Go and enjoy!

Scene from our back deck!

Thank You Dad … I still love hand tools!

I completed my van conversion, do small home repairs, and volunteer with Habitat for Humanity with thanks to my dad each time. He was sure to teach each of his daughters, four of us, to use a saw, hammer, and screwdriver.

One may think, what is so difficult about each of those tools? As the years have gone by, I have come to realize the variations of hammers: claw, ball peen and club hammer styles. And various saws: jigsaw, circular saw, power saw and many more beyond my hand saw lesson with dad. Even screwdrivers have more heads available beyond the flat and Phillips I had first learned and practiced.

Then the world of power tools came into my life! Wow, exciting and potentially dangerous. How quickly a board of wood can be cut, or a staple into wood, or even a screw! Electrifying all these tools has made some projects easier, but one needs to be careful. I learn more about these tools with my volunteer efforts at Habitat for Humanity, but I always thank my dad for his lessons in having me understand the tool, its use, and the ability to problem-solve in creating the project I wish to construct. Those skills help me everywhere; in memory … thanks dad!

Thoughts & Books While on the Road

One can only listen to the radio so long while driving a few hundred miles per day. I love stopping and reading the historical markers on local roads, but they are not along the interstates! Instead I am driving past huge distribution centers, camping trailer businesses, large beef lots, acres of green produce, and cities that seem to look alike across the nation.

I stop every couple of hours for a driving break, and I find myself thinking about small business owners, small farms and ranches, individuals creating products and hoping they can compete with larger industry. Where I can, I do try to support those businesses and I often meet interesting people there.

I listen to audiobooks while driving and in the evening I read what books or magazines I may have with me. Other hours I am usually listing my birds in eBird or checking my photos from the day.

Twenty-four hours in a day can go quickly when traveling since we have so much to see and do, along with the need for some down time to relax.

I love listening or reading various types of books … yet I will admit I am not a science fiction reader. Here are a few I read or listened to while on my latest trip.

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

The Book of Hope, A Survival Guide for Trying Times by Douglas Carlton Abrams and Jane Goodall

Manuscript Found in Accra by Paulo Coelho

Other thoughts are worried thoughts. Will we protect the planet, our home, for future generations to enjoy the life and beauty I have been able to enjoy? Will access to places be available to all and not only to individuals who can take time to visit and have the money to afford an entrance at places? 

Time will tell … for now though, I look forward to my next day! I hope you do the same!

A Highway Accident … And My Thoughts

Fortunately my vehicle was not involved! I was traveling west on a divided highway, Interstate 40 in Arizona. All of a sudden I saw a trailer roll, spew up sand in the median and a vehicle fall to its side. I passed the accident a short distance, pulled to the shoulder of the road and called 911.

Thankfully a highway sign with upcoming exits was in front of me. I shared that information with the dispatcher. They asked if I witnessed the accident. I did not really see the accident happen; I just knew something happened to cause a trailer to roll onto the median and that a vehicle now blocked a highway lane. After 3 transfers on the line to different people … it was hard for me to hear every word due to the highway traffic … I finally gave my name and phone number. As I finished this phone call, I watched others pull people from the sideways vehicle.

Once on the other side of the highway,  I noticed no gasoline spill, propane tanks upside down but solidly in an awkward angle, 2 people okay because they had seatbelts on, one guy directing traffic, another woman organizing, and a truck driver getting his emergency triangles out onto the road. Two ambulances and one sheriff arrived quickly, 15 minutes at most, and I could leave.

My thoughts:

  1. For all the miles I have driven in the last 2 years, I had not had an accident or seen one; however, a few days before this accident I was actually thinking about that fact. And then it happened, an accident fortunately only involving this vehicle pulling a trailer.
  2. Thankfully seatbelts were worn and allowed the 2 people in the car to be pulled to safety and unhurt.
  3. Thanks to the people who jumped onto the car which was on its side, break through and open a door to pull the people to safety.
  4. People seem to be unaware of the power of wind! Whether it is the gust of wind at the moment or the wind produced while another vehicle, especially large RVs or tractor trailer trucks, zooms by your own vehicle, it gives your vehicle a sideways push and requires a strong hold on your steering wheel.
  5. People speed while driving, in and out of empty vehicle spaces with seemingly little care, and not always enough room for them to sneak in. Thus drivers truly need to be defensive drivers to allow space for the driver of the vehicle darting about.
  6. People are probably not aware of the ruts in the road produced by heavy tractor trailers driving these roads all hours of a day, months and years before a new flat road is constructed in the place of this rutted one. When a vehicle is blown off course and catches the side of the rut it gives our vehicle an extra wiggle, again time for a strong hold on your steering wheel.
  7. Despite signs and probably even knowing the dangers of distracted driving, people are reading their phones, books, and reaching for whatever as they drive. Once I pass these drivers I try to stay ahead of them.
  8. I have seen trailers ahead of me wiggling all over the road … maybe due to ruts, wind, distraction or whatever … and I stay behind them till I have plenty of runway, flatness and no barriers to more easily drive around them and stay ahead of them.
  9. Headlights on for safety, use of blinkers when changing lanes, wearing seatbelts, stopping at rest areas to text, etc and maintaining a safe speed while driving can become good habits. 
  10. Did you know there are state laws requiring you to stop for the pedestrian to cross the road? And laws regarding our driving when by a school bus … be sure to know the rules.
  11. I have first aid training and was glad to not need to make use of it on this day; I was glad to see people help out at this accident.

Drivers, take time to think about your driving behaviors while you move a few tons of metal down the road. Keep yourself and others safe!

Good Samaritans, thank you for your aid in emergencies! Always appreciated!

RI Part 2: Piping Plovers & Osprey Activity

History buffs would love visiting this state … however, for me it was about birding and specifically water birds. I walked along Third Beach in Middletown which is next door to Sachest Point National Wildlife Refuge. 

Sand dunes are protected with fences to hold the dunes. Another couple of areas had string protecting piping plover nesting areas. Piping plovers are cute little birds but I had no expectation in actually seeing any. Fortunately though, as I was returning to my van, three piping plovers were down by the water’s edge! Another bird was hanging with them and its identification was not finalized till later that night … rare sighting, a Baird’s sandpiper.

Piping plover
Protective area for the piping plovers
Baird’s sandpiper
Many, many shells and these caught my eye as quite unusual.

After time at Third Beach, I decided to check another area along the East Harbor. While on my way, I passed a southern circuit Rail Explorers start point. It is a 3 mile out and 3 mile back tour where people pedal the rails! They even have a “Lantern ride”. All sounds like fun and I need to remember this activity since it happens elsewhere: Adironacks, Delaware, Las Vegas and NY’s Catskill Mountains. The operation began in 2015 and they are looking for more places for rail locations in the USA and world. Very interesting since rails are also being converted to bicycle paths …and for jogging, walking, etc.

As I continued my drive, an osprey nest caught my eye. I stopped north of the US Naval Undersea Warfare Center and walked along both sides of the road. The ospreys were quite busy building a nest and there were about 20 different bird species in the area. 

Osprey building its nest

Eventually, I had a wedding to attend to, so off I went to ready for it and locate a parking place in jam-packed Newport. I did find a parking spot, had my first parallel-parking experience with the van, and arrived at Kay Chapel at Hotel Viking for the wedding. (Kay Chapel was built in 1869 on land purchased from the Moravian Church and dedicated to the memory of Nathaniel Kay, Collector of King’s Customs in the early 18th century. I looked up the info since I found myself driving on Kay Street and thought there must have been significance in that name.)

After the wedding, I strolled a few of the busy streets in Newport with all its one way streets, shops and cafes. I cannot imagine this place in the summer season … grid-lock? 

Kay Chapel, associated with Hotel Viking, in Newport, RI

Discovering Rhode Island: Part 1 of 3

I had never spent time in the state of Rhode Island. So here I was under sunny skies, discovering plenty of water … ponds, lakes and coastline with freshwater or salt water breezes, dependent on where I was …  and many bridges connecting its major islands as I explored from East Greenwich to Newport to Tiverton. 

Native Americans did live around the Narragansett Bay Area before the English arrived in the early 17th century. Rhode Island is the smallest state in the US, not an island, and one of the original 13 colonies so I saw many old cemeteries and historical markers. Also, plenty of vineyards, greenhouses, nurseries, marinas, rock walls, naval installations and where there are cities and towns … plenty of people and thus traffic jammed into an area … so it was nice to remain on the outskirts of them!

My first stop was at Beavertail State Park, Jamestown, Rhode Island on Conanicut Island … one of Rhode Island’s islands. I walked a section of the coastline and hedge rows within the park to look for birds. But when I first arrived I could not miss the lighthouse with its historical information and the area’s history. Did you know the base of the original lighthouse had an octagonal base? This lighthouse was then built further inland than the original one.

Current lighthouse is not on the edge of the island as it once was.
Lighthouse keeper’s quarters
Original lighthouse base was octagonal and wooden.
Rocky coastline

After noticing a tick on my ankle while visiting Long Island, NY, I was wondering if ticks were a concern here too. The first sign I saw was a coyote warning and then a sign regarding ticks … okay, got that answer!

No coyotes or ticks seen by the end of my visit, but I did observe 11 different bird species and one new bird, an Eastern towhee … only because it was calling to me!

Eastern towhee
Eastern towhee … love the colors!

Celebrate Your Life!

Another day, another year, another birthday! Time to celebrate!

Not only another year … another decade, time to celebrate!

Wow time flies, yet I think I am making the most of what life offers me!

Time to celebrate; happy birthday to me.

When it is your birthday this year, happy birthday to you too!

Celebrate and live your life! 

Historic Sites To Visit in NYS

I was born in NYS and will always consider myself a New Yorker despite now living in southwest USA. Whenever I hear Alicia Keyes song titled “Empire State of Mind”, it simply fills my heart! Yea…yea…New York!

I love traveling and visiting new places and even in NYS there are many places to wander through where I had not yet visited. So my friend and I continued our sightseeing along the Hudson River Valley with its numerous outdoor parks, small towns to shop in, old taverns and inns to enjoy a beer and/or food, and local roads away from the NYS Thruway and other major roads paralleling the Hudson River. Despite only having a few days to explore the area, we did stop by many historic sites. Since Covid-19 cases were again rising in NYS during our visit, we remained outdoors at these locations and someday may visit when indoor tours are available.

Wilderstein Mansion: A cousin of Franklin D. Roosevelt once lived in this Victorian mansion. The 19th century Queen-Anne-style country house is now a museum and the grounds were open to visitors.

Wilderstein Mansion, Rhinecliff, NY

Franklin D. Roosevelt Home & Library: I am sure one could spend hours reading the documents at this presidential library, but we had a quick visit to see the grounds and home. I noticed a sculpture outside the library. Winston S. Churchill’s granddaughter created this sculpture: Breakfree, which is a large concrete piece of the Berlin Wall and people freeing themselves over the barbed wire.

Franklin D. Roosevelt home, Hyde Park, NY
“Breakfree”

Eleanor Roosevelt’s Val-Kill Cottage is the first Historic Site devoted to a First Lady. What a beautiful location! I would love to spend an overnight or two here! (I doubt that us even possible.) I love reading quotes and often include a quote at the end of my e-mails. A recent  Eleanor Roosevelt quote I used: “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

Val-Kill Cottage, Hyde Park, NY

Esopus Meadows Lighthouse called, “Maid of the Meadows” was constructed in 1839. We stopped at Esopus Lighthouse Park to see the lighthouse which is the last wooden framed and clapboard exterior lighthouse on the Hudson River and walk a hiking trail along the river’s edge.

The lighthouse was important in warning mariners of submerged mudflats and to guide river traffic to the east to avoid shallow areas. Apparently the tide once was low enough on the river that cows could graze on the green grass, thus the meadow reference in its name, but now the meadow is underwater. (Are we seeing a result of an ocean rising?)

Along the way I discover an informational sign about how one can participate in a chronolog. So I placed my iPhone in the stand, snapped a photo and sent it in so researchers have a chronology of what’s happening to the shoreline at this park. I watched, with my photo included, the time lapse at their website to see how the shoreline has changed thus allowing others to determine how to handle the erosion that may be happening. Very cool and important work!

Esopus Lighthouse on Hudson River, NY
My submitted photo to the chronolog.