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.

Poet’s Walk Park, Red Hook, NY

There are numerous parks, preserves, refuges and places to walk in New York State. And when we are having sunny and warm days in the Hudson River Valley, it was almost difficult to decide which one to visit! We decided to walk and bird-watch at Poet’s Walk Park. This park was created in 1850 on two neighboring estates where it is said famous writers, such as Washington Irving, walked and were inspired to write. I liked the designed landscape of “outdoor rooms”, areas of the land separated by stands of trees and stone walls. I loved this structure: “Overlook Pavilion”. 

My friend at Overlook Pavilion

My friend and I walked the park and I spent time photographing birds. The numerous bluebird boxes around the property reinforced the fact I would see many bluebirds:

Eastern bluebird
Bluebird in flight

Plus there were other birds: Eastern Phoebe, blue jay, tree swallow and white-breasted nuthatch:

Eastern phoebe
Blue jay
Tree swallow
White-breasted nuthatch

This was a great place for us to stretch our legs, look out over the Hudson River and enjoy a sunny day! If we had planned ahead, it would been a great place for a picnic. So if you are in the area, consider that idea at this park and enjoy!

Time to Walk Over a NY River!

I asked my Binghamton, NY friend to suggest an area for us to visit for a few days. She would have a change of scenery and we could both visit some place new to us. She read about the “Walkway Over the Hudson” so we decided to visit the Hudson River Valley which is miles north of New York City.

The “Walkway Over the Hudson” is a pedestrian, steel, 1.28 mile cantilevered bridge, 212 feet above the Hudson River. Visitors … walkers, bicyclists, joggers … can access it from Poughkeepsie, NY on the east or Highland, NY on the west side of the river. It is the longest, elevated pedestrian bridge in the world and the connector for what is an 18 mile rail trail connecting both sides of the river. We walked the bridge from both ends on 2 beautiful sunny days. Many people were also enjoying their time on the bridge, looking out on the landscape and the nearby Mid-Hudson Bridge for cars, etc.

Along the bridge are interpretative signs explaining the local area’s rail history as this once was a major rail corridor. The bridge was abandoned after a 1974 fire, but fortunately with many partnerships involving public, governmental and private entities provided funding for the bridge renovation it opened as a State Historic Park in October 2009. All across our country abandoned rail corridors are more often used for trails … interested in knowing more? Check out https://www.railstotrails.org

A couple of things I noticed: not a piece of litter was seen anywhere on the bridge, people, for the most part, walked the side lanes while bicyclists rode the middle lanes, bells are required on bicycles, a mental health telephone is on the bridge … maybe the result of a young person who jumped to his death in April 2021 … and there were many people enjoying the outdoor space each day we were there. Apparently 600,000 people will walk the bridge within the year! We had two beautiful sunny days and after the last couple of weeks of cold and rain I was a happy person, plus I was with my best NY friend! 

Walkway Over the Hudson River

Decompressing Is Important When Traveling

I have been two weeks on the road. Van life, outdoor time, driving long hours, and whatever else can add up … and I know what is best for me … take a day to decompress! And so I did … at a hotel!

The down time to relax and sleep in without a hat on my head or socks on my feet, let someone else cook my breakfast, exercise while watching television, not listen to the news on the radio or an audiobook, view and edit my many photos, write my blog posts in a warm setting, do laundry at a local laundromat, and take a shower in a warm surrounding; all luxurious happenings! Often travelers fail to admit the 24/7 level of activity can catch up with them, plus we still have the extra burden of Covid-19 variants, so taking a break is wonderful for me.

Seal was in CA and with best idea for relaxing!

I was looking at my trip report for eBird: in 2 weeks, I had submitted 15 checklists of places I observed birds, listing 54 species of birds, and submitted 34 photos for the 5 states I recorded any bird activity. My upcoming weeks will be a different tone for the majority of time is with friends and family; however, I am looking forward to what birds I will see in a couple of weeks in Rhode Island!

For now, time to stretch and take a walk! 

I can do that stretch too! Ah….relaxation … needed a slower pace!