Friday, April 11, 2014

Ronnie's 73rd Birthday Ride.

Observing the SOB mandate, "Ride your Age" instead of, "Act your Age", I decided to see if I could bicycle 73 miles on my birth date April 10th.  The Fort Bragg SOB's "Seniors on Bikes" rose to the concept and fielded riders to accompany me and cheer me on every step of the way!

My plan entailed six laps around our daily, twelve mile SOB "Basic Haul Road Ride.

Twelve miles times six laps, plus some change, should equal 73 miles.

Our average daily ride takes about an hour and fifteen minutes.  It I leave the starting point every two hours I will have a forty-five minute break between rides to rest and recoup.  Perfect!

8:00 AM.  It begins. Note:  It says "Trip"  not RIP!!

Here are photos from each lap and some stuff seen along the way.

Early morning shadow.

Valerie, Sid, Jim and the birthday boy.

Jack, Valerie, Ed-S, Bob, Gary and birthday boy.

Post 10:00 AM ride debrief at the Zappa Coffee Shop.

Valerie, Bruce, Ed-O, Elaine and yours truly.

Valerie and, yep.  Me.

Some horseyback riders out for a stroll.

Afternoon tenuous coastal fog.

Bill, Gary, Crystal, and..., me.

6:00 departure over the Pudding Creek Trestle.

6:00 PM ride turn around. Jacob, Jim, Bob, Side and Ronnie.

A toast to the birthday boy!

Ending mileage.  73 miles and change!

7:15 PM
Bob bought me a Hot Fudge Sunday and I received many birthday cards and well wishes from the SOBs.
Without their support it would not have been as easy or as much fun.
Thanks guys and gals.

I ended up with a sore butt but slept really good!

Only 27 years until my century ride!!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Ms. Scruffy

3-9-2014 1-45-32 PM.jpg
Ms. Scruffy
Funny bird.  She was part of our life for almost two years.  She went missing last Friday and we are surprised at the hole she left.
I became interested in Ravens ten or fifteen years ago.  I read several books by Bernd Heinrich, “The Mind of the Raven” and “Ravens in Winter” and got to observed a pair and their antics when I was camping east of Death Valley.  They are fun and smart birds.
I built a tall feeding platform in our back yard for Ravens and was putting out table scraps for them. They were fun to watch as they tried to beat the Seagulls to the food.
Then, about two years ago, a damaged Raven showed up.

3-9-2014 3-56-12 PM.jpg

She was interested in the feeding platform but was not quick enough, actually not able, to fly up from the fence to the platform.  So, I made her her own special feeding platform down on the fence nearer the garage.  A platform easier for her to get to and more difficult for “able” birds.  It was apparent her only mode for getting around was walking the phone lines, power lines and coax cables strung from the power poles along the alley to the various homes in our block of town.
Actually Lolli was the first to notice her being restricted to walking because she saw the Raven walking the line from Gregs house to the “light” pole.
As she became accustomed to her special feeding platform we gradually became more aware of what her actual territory was.  She apparently roosted in the pine trees in Bainbridge park, walked the wire to neighbor Greg's house and then on to the “Light” pole, a power pole mid alley that had a street light.  She liked to stand on that street light for hours and observe her “territory”; one square block of Fort Bragg.  A block bound on the east by Harrison Street, the west by McPherson, the south by Redwood Avenue and the north by Laurel Street.  That’s it!  In time we would say, “She is heading for Redwood”, or “She is heading for the Cat Lady’s house” (on Laurel), “The Fig Tree Lady’s house”, (Maria) mid alley.  
Several times I tried to follow her to see just what she did all day long but got bored and gave it up.  It seemed all she did was stand around, watch over her territory and groom herself.  Actually, that was about all she could do!

She was a mess.  It was obvious her primary feathers were damaged.  They were just quills with a bit of feather towards the tip.  She had about half of her secondary feathers.  She could run and flap and maybe fly up about three feet but that was about it.  The times we happened to see her on the ground she had a whole routine of where to go to be able to hop up onto a fence, then up on a porch eve, up on a roof and then on up onto the safety of the wires.
At first, when we realized we were actually going to continue feeding her, I bought a bag of Puppy Kibble.  She ate it but soon I talked to Ronnie James (local wildlife bird expert) about Ms. Scruffy; (yes we named her Ms. Scruffy!).  Ronnie said it would be a lot better to feed her food high in protein and cheap scrambled eggs would be the way to go.  Ronnie also said if we could keep her alive through her next molt she might grow new primary and secondary feathers.
Over time we decided she was female because she would do that “nok. nok” call.  Lowering her head, spreading out her throat feathers, opening her beak  and make that sound except, no sound came out!  Strange bird!
So…., life with bird.
Early on I tried to set up a video camera close to her feeding platform to capture her eating.  Somehow, every time I tried to video her, she would not come!  Well, she would come part way but then sense something “not right” and “run away”.  I built a better video camouflage device that was radio controlled so I could turn it on from the comfort of the “mom” chair in our living room which was a perfect spot to watch the bird.  No dice.
There were times we had guests over and we would tell them all about Ms. Scruffy and try to show how we feed her but she would not “come to the table”.
It seemed the more we wanted Ms. Scruffy to “perform” the less likely it would happen.
Last June I noticed Ms. Scruffy would sit on the fence by our garage after eating.  She would kind of hunker down and just sit there staring off into space for an hour or two.  Not doing her “eternal vigilance” head moves like she usually did.  I decided she must be brooding.  It seemed reasonable to me that an adult female Raven would have a natural imperative to nest and raise young every spring even if she couldn’t build a nest or was even “pregnant?”.  I decided to build her a nest!
I borrowed a nice, nest shaped, woven basket from Lolli, made a wooden bracket support to support it on the fence near her feeding platform and lined it with dry grass.  Perfect!
The next morning we saw her on the wire by Gregs garage and knew she was coming for her morning breakfast of scrambled eggs.  I put the eggs out on the feeding platform and then settled into the “mom” chair to watch and see how she liked her new nest!.
Ms. Scruffy hopped from the wire onto our garage roof, walked along the peak to the east end and then down to the gutter just a leap away from the fence.  She got to the gutter and was about to hop down onto the fence when she spotted the “nest”.
She ran back up to the peak of the garage but then stopped, thought about it “how hungry am I?” (I’m anthropomorphizing, of course)  turned around and walked back down to the gutter.  Opps! Still there!! Run-away!!!
Back and forth, up, down. Up, down!  Seventeen times she “snuck up” on her scrambled eggs and then “ran away” before she finally hopped down onto the fence, hurriedly ran and hopped over my “nest”, got to the eggs for a frantic gobble followed by a quick get-away!  Whew!
The following morning Lolli sat in the mom chair and observed Ms. Scruffy walk up and down the garage roof TWENTY-NINE TIMES!! before she just flat gave up and ran away without breakfast!!  I went out and removed “my” nest experiment and in a few days life settled back down to normal!
Another time, after noticing how she liked to take a mouth (beak) full of scrambled eggs with her after she had cleaned the platform, she would hop up on our garage and then up and over to the gutter on Ray’s apartment and then drop the eggs in the gutter and then eat them.  I figure she was using water to help wash them down.  So, I made her her own gutter.  I took a short section of gutter, blocked off both ends, put it by her feeding platform with half an inch of water in is so she could have her own water source close by.  Bad idea.  She did not like it and it seemed her reflection in the water spooked her even more.  She sort of put up with it for a while but I finally removed the gutter watering station too.
She did not like anything “Strange”.
We went on Winter Break for the first time in six years.  Being gone for two weeks, we were worried about Ms. Scruffy.  We talked to various neighbors before we left and discovered the “Fig Tree Lady” was feeding her cat “cat food” and allowing Ms. Scruffy to partake.  We also asked Cecile if she would come over and put food on the feeding platform for Ms. Scruffy and gave her some money for eggs.  Away we went hoping for the best.
Two weeks later we arrived home and while I was unloading the Vanagon I notice Ms. Scruffy up on the power pole by Laurel Street watching me!!  Yippee!  She’s alive!!
Later in the week we happened to see Maria and she said she had put out some cat food, while we were gone, on a paper plate right where I usually park the Vanagon in the alley.  Ms. Scruffy walked up to the plate, dumped the cat food off and put the paper plate back out in the alley!!  Maria didn’t know if Ms. Scruffy was asking for more food or was insulted by the paper plate!
The house just beyond Gregs started a big renewal and addition project and that really threw Ms. Scruffy into a tizzy.  Her favorite power line from her roost in the park to the light pole in the alley was right over the construction site!!  She developed a new route from Gregs roof to our garden shed roof, then onto our roof and over to our garage roof and then down onto the fence and over to the food platform.  But she didn’t like it and every time a nail gun went off or a skill saw started up she would jump or flinch.  Very nervous and trying times.
She would not show up for several days at a time and we didn’t know if she got caught by a dog or what.  And then, there she would be again.  I talked to Ronnie James and she told me wildlife are opportunistic eaters.  They gorge when they can and then will not eat for days when the weather is bad.  They do not eat “Three Squares a Day”!  That bit of information eased our mind.
Now we are into March of our second year with Ms. Scruffy and she has finally gone missing, really gone missing..
It was a strange thing.  Thursday she showed up three times.  In the morning Lolli fed her.  When I returned home from my bike ride at noon she was waiting on the garage roof by the gutter.  I fed her.  And again at 4:30PM  she stopped by and hollered a couple of times to get my attention and I put out some more scrambled eggs.
The next morning around 6:30 we woke to quite a Raven commotion.  Lolli got up and looked out the bedroom window and said there were hundreds of Ravens flying around but no Scruffy.  All day long Ravens would fly over Scruffy’s “one block” territory and call out.  It was not a “normal” morning or day and both Lolli and I noticed “something different” in the Raven world.  Maybe it was just juvenile Ravens ganging up for springtime mating rituals.  Maybe Scruffy was really gone and already Ravens were arguing about who gets to take her territory.  Maybe Ravens actually know when one of their own gets attacked, trapped, killed.
Who knows.  
In fact, in hindsight,  there was a heck of a lot we didn’t know about a Raven that was confined to only one city block!!  Two years and we knew so little.

It is amazing how much we miss her and how often we look out the window when we hear a “caw, caw, caw”.


Note: Videos on YouTube.  
Ms. Scruffy doing the female "nok nok, nok behavior".
Walking the power lines, here and here the tall platform in the early days.
Eating off the "private" platform.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

January 4th, 2014

34 degrees.  7:10 in the morning.
Looking south down Franklin Street.

A few minutes later looking north on Mainstreet.

Amazing weather continues but, are we going to get any rain?

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Winter Break 2013

Our first chance to have a "Winter Break" Vanagon Vacation together in over six years!  Lolli was busy taking care of her mom and that put winter vacations on the back burner for a while but now, once again, we are heading for the Vast Wilderness.  The "plan" is to go to Death Valley and if the weather doesn't cooperate we will head on down to Joshua Tree or even Anza Borrego.  Whatever it takes.  We'll see.

December 16th, a Monday and we are out of Fort Bragg by 10:20 and in no time are stopping for a pee break at a park looking out over Clearlake.  Perfect weather!

We are happy.  You can see the Vanagon has a load of firewood in the overhead rack.

Evening coming on in the Central Valley as we hammer down Interstate 5.

We have our secret camping spot near Firebaugh Road and check to see if it is still accessible.

It is!

Morning and the setting moon.  Our secret spot is far enough from the Interstate that we have a peaceful, quite night.

Breakfast at a Subway and then back at it.

 Hours and hours driving south on Interstate 5 to the Arvin turn-off just south of Bakersfield.  I prefer to take the Arvin exit so I can avoid the stop and go through Bakersfield.

Arvin is a bit different but..,

It has an Internet cafe!!

And it has a Dollar Tree which is perfect for those last minute items.

Leaving Arvin we drove past vast Orange Groves and did a quick check to see if they were any good.

Oh Man!  This is how real Oranges are supposed to taste!!

And then to the serious business of driving towards, up, and over the Tehachapi Mountains!

Down the other side to the town of Mojave and a few miles beyond to see if Sarah's dog bowl was still there.  Yep!  We drove right to it!  This is where we buried our good old traveling dog and left her dish as a marker.

Amazingly, Lolli found dog ball twenty feet away and we put it in the dog dish!

Onward to Barstow and a final, really final, shopping visit to Von"s'
Out of Barstow on Interstate 15 hammering north with all the gamblers and tour buses heading towards Las Vegas but, when we reached the town of Baker it was time to start our disappearing act!
First a stop at the Mad Greek for "take out dinner" and then north towards Tecoupa.  We knew that about twenty miles north of Baker there is a dry lake bed and it would be perfect for our second night.

Pushing the exposure but yep,  Dry Lake Bed and rising moon.

Morning and we can see where we really are!
Pack up and on to Tecoupa to take showers and enjoy the hot springs.  Perfect!

Then into Shoshone for gas.  Not so perfect!  I also check the wi-fi at the Shoshone Museum.  It turns out to be "dial up" and useless.  I step out of the Museum to call my brother and there is no cell signal!  We are now leaving minimal civilization and heading to one of our favorite camping spots in the Vast Wilderness near the Ibex Dunes.

First we need to do the required washboard wilderness driving.

And, the crossing of the Amargosa River.

Finally, our camping spot looking out over the Ibex Dunes.

Interesting clouds form in the evening.

Followed by a wild sunset!!

Followed by a Lolli dinner in the Vanagon!

Morning sunrise. Our camp setup; table, chairs, solar panel and Shady Boy awning.

Also the portable shitter.  We're gettin' old ya know.  Not as easy to squat as it usta be.

I wander off a ways to see how we look.  Perfect!!

Out with the Petanque bouls for a game of what I call "Kandahar" Petanque.  Amongst the rocks, sand and sagebrush!!

Yeah, Yeah!
Truth be told, all together, during this trip, we played ten games and tied!!  5-5

Unbelievable but..., a mosquito!!  Neither of us ever actually got bit but we could hear them buzzing near our ears when we were trying to sleep.  We slept with the slider door open to the wonderful night air.  Turned out to be 40 degrees at night and 70 during the day.  Day after day after day!!!

Yeah, Yeah!!

Each day we would do a two hour walk-about.  This time heading over to the Ibex Dunes.  The Dunes are in a protected Wilderness area and there are no motorcycles, dune buggies, horses or even bicycles allowed.  Just foot prints.  Our own.

And the foot prints of a... beetle?

Back to camp for the evening and the chrismess present my brudder sent me; solar powered chrismess lights which I have in a small box.  There are no trees or significant bushes to hang them on!!

After four days and seeing two people it is time to move on.  We stop by Saratoga Springs and then rattle out to the highway and up to Tecoupa Hot Springs to freshen up.

Then a quick trip over to Pahrump, Nevada to buy some groceries and gas.  Then a hasty retreat to the Vast Wilderness again.  This time up over Salsbury Pass and down to McGirk's cabin by Rhoades Spring.

By night fall we are set up and the chrismess lights are strung up again.

We discover someone has laid out a seven hole putting range and left a putter, a six iron and a dozen golf balls!  We play a round but we both agree our game is Petanque!

Petanque, reading, and hiking around.  That be us!!

Here's a few photos from inside McGirk's Cabin.

The refrigerator is to store stuff you don't want pack rats hauling away!

The inside of the front door!  This cabin has been here since the early 1900's.

We prefer camping in our Vanagon.

Out for another walk-about.  This is a hand dug well I first happened upon in 2005.  It is still there, of course!

I took a photo of our camp spot by McGirk's using full zoom.

And this one with no zoom.  The Vanagon is about one and a half miles away!

Desert wanderers!

We did see cacti.

Some kind of flower blooming in the dead of winter!!

More Petanque.

Yeah, Yeah!!

Christmas Eve.  Evening fire in the fire pit up by the cabin.

It is amazing how the desert seems to hold its breath just before first light.

Christmas Day!  Awesome weather.

It is time to do my ride from McGirk's turn-off to Badwater, the lowest point in the United States!

And, away I go!  It is eight miles of down, averaging 25 mph before I come to the rise up to Jubilee Pass.  That slows me down!

But once that is taken care of it is down, down, down into Death Valley.

Lolli drives the "Sag Wagon" ahead in five mile increments and reads a book or writes postcards waiting for me to show up and take a break.

This is at the end of the 6th, five mile segment!

It is always a treat to see Lolli and the Sag Wagon!

Finally, Badwater and, Holy Smokes!! Gobs and gobs of people!!  They are even standing in line for the restrooms!!

It is such a shock after seeing only three people, momentarily, over the course of eight days!

We have decided we have had enough.  Hard to believe I actually said that but..., we have decided to get home before New Years.  Lolli has things to do to get ready for her upcoming class and I can do nutting at home as well as I can in the desert!  So, onward.

We spent our one and only night in an "official" campground at Panamint Springs Resort.

Then on to Lone Pine on Hwy 395.

Found an internet cafe and caught up with my brudder.  Lone Pine is where a lot of westerns were filmed and a poster of Tonto and the Lone Ranger was on the wall.

Also, there is a most excellent Hardware Store in Lone Pine.  The clerk said "If there is any breathing room it is time to restock"!!  Sweet!

Onward into the hills by Mono Lake and, dare I say it..., snow!!

We took HWY 50 over the Sierra and meet the crowd heading for Tahoe and Reno.  Friday evening ya know!!

Another awesome sunset and soon we found a stealth camp off the highway just a couple of miles beyond Strawberry Lodge.

In the morning we returned to the Lodge for Breakfast and by 4:00 in the afternoon we were home in Fort Bragg.

A most excellent trip!  Our next event?  Spring Break in late April!