Monday, June 30, 2008

Time to lose some weight.

Wyatt Earp of Support Your Local Gunfighter has just finished a six month long weight loss competition having successfully shed 40 pounds from his 5’ 9” frame. (See his post on his results here.)Having followed some of the contest he’s been having with fellow bloggers, and after looking at the before and after photos, I can say he has done well.

Tracking his progress the last few months had me thinking about by weight. The summer I was working and living with Don as we built the Aerie, I dropped about 35 pounds and weighed in at a svelt 205 in September. I got rid of all my “fat” clothes at the time we packed up to move Terry and the cats to the Bolt Hole for two months.

Unfortunately, the winter of ’06-’07 was not kind. I usually “hibernate” during the winter with my metabolism really slowing down. However, my eating habits just keep right on. All that football to watch means lots of snacks from Thanksgiving to mid January. The summer of ’07 wasn’t much better as I only had the building of the raised plant bed and the one major construction project: retaining walls. Suddenly the fall of ’07 rolled around followed by winter ’07-’08. During this time I flirted with 240 pounds—again. Sometimes even going over for a few days or a week. Larger jeans were in order, as were one or two pair of dress/casual slacks.

Around June 1st I decided I better do something about my weight problem. Terry had been going to Curves regularly but my only exercise had been the weekly bird walks (and the finishing of the basement). I threw myself into the removal of the earth pile out front and the building of stairs on the slope of the lawn. I started to push myself away from the table after one helping and saving the rest for the next day’s lunch or dinner if there was sufficient.

With just those small changes, I’ve started to lose some weight. The trip to San Francisco and Half Moon Bay didn’t help much. Italian and seafood are weaknesses I have a difficult time passing up and there is no option of a doggy bag when you’re traveling.

I started on June first at 232 pounds and weighed 227 this morning. With five days at the Bolt Hole (where food was mostly bacon, eggs, venison and beans and activity was curtailed by murderous black flies) and another five days in California for the wedding, I think that’s pretty good. My goal is to increase my activity level and reach 210 by my September 17th birthday. That will put me in good shape for the hunting season. If I walk enough of the Adirondack woods during the season, I might be able to get under 200 pounds by Thanksgiving. I’ll just have to watch those Weight Watchers points and **SOB** cut back on the ice cream.

Confounded Rodents!

I have been forced to take up arms in defense of my property.

Before we left for California, we were getting daily afternoon visits to our small patch of lawn here at the Aerie. The visitors were not the cute, nose twitching cottontails (they come out closer to dusk to feed on the clover). No, these were whistle pigs, woodchucks, aka: Ground Hogs.

Now being in Pennsylvania, from which Punxsutawney Phil makes his annual predictions, that the Ground Hog would be considered to be more hero or iconoclastic. And when it's out there in the middle of the lawn nibbling on the grass or in some farmer's field or along the side of the road sitting up on their hindquarters like overgrown prairie dogs they may look cute. But when they start to dig it's another story.

We had at least three of the little buggers--well not so little buggers--out on the lawn at a time. Two looked to be youngsters and as near as twins as you could get. The third is a bigger animal with a ring of white just behind it's black nose. When we came home I discovered one of them had decided to try and burrow under the retaining wall I built last year on the west side under the deck. A nice big hole with a mound of dirt and some sizable rocks had been excavated.

Out came the air rifle.

Now, there is a reason people shoot the ground hog from 100-150 or more yards away with a .223 scoped rifle. I reckon that next to the eagle the dadgum critter's eyesight is the best in the animal world! I'd see one out in the lawn grazing away about 20 yards out and slide open the porch door as quietly as possible. Ease myself out the door and slide it closed. (It wouldn't do to have one or more cats go racing outside!) Tip-toe into position so as to get a clear shot and as soon as I would raise the rifle to peer through the scope...ZIP! That fat little bag of blubber would move like greased lightening and dive into the tall weeds. Sometimes it might stop just inside the weeds and sit up to take one more look over its shoulder before disappearing altogether. It didn't help that if there were mourning doves out under the bird feeders or on the wires, they would flush with a lot of twittering sounds warning the ground hog of my presence. Occasionally, early on, I could follow its progress in the tall stuff by the shaking and quaking the tops of the weeds made as it brushed past--at least I could if the wind wasn't blowing. As they cut trail in the tall weeds they no longer shook the weeds and any idea of where they were or where they were going was pure conjecture. Once in a while the little bugger would scoot across a small cleared trail on the other side of the yard and disappear again before I could get a shot off.

I confess, I may have merely wounded one or two before they hit the weed beds. I also missed a couple of easy shots before, scratching my head in disbelief, I checked the scope and found I was hitting high and to the left a couple of inches at 12 yard. The cross hairs were off by more than enough for me to be missing completely at 20 or 25 yards. I fixed that last evening.

As of a little after 5 PM this afternoon, there is one less ground hog about the Aerie.

Sunday, June 29, 2008


After dinner, I went outside to water the new lawn and the other plants. (Mother Nature didn't seem to be cooperating.) That was at 1 PM.

At 4 PM a single very dark cloud passed over the Aerie and dumped--and I do mean "dumped"--a bucket of rain upon us. It only lasted 5 minutes but you could hear it making its way through the forest towards the Aerie. There may be more on the way but after just those 5 minutes, the sun was shining.

Dude, where's my rain?

About those severe thunderstorm warnings that were issued last evening:

Nah-nah, ya missed me!

At around 10:30 PM there was some lightening and thunder--about 2 to 3 miles away based upon the time delay between the light and the sound. (It is five seconds per mile, right?) As for actual rain: nada, zip, zilch.

Guess I'll have to water the new seed again today if I want any results.

Barack Obama = Eddie Haskell

I was reading through some of the posts on this morning and came across one about Character judgment by Salena Zito in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and it got me to thinking about who Barack Obama reminds me of. Suddenly the name Eddie Haskell popped into my head and I realized where I had seen Obama before. He’s not Steve Erkel at all. He’s Eddie Haskell.

Yes, the ne’er-do-well Eddie Haskell of Leave It to Beaver was the kid next door who was a paragon of virtue in front of Mr. and Mrs. Cleaver but once they were out of sight he was anything but virtuous. Always coming up with some shady scheme, always backing off from his stated intentions, never getting caught when things went wrong, leaving his “buddies” to take the rap—that was Eddie Haskell.

From Wikipedia:
He was known for his neat grooming—hiding his shallow and sneaky character. Typically, Eddie would greet his friends' parents with overdone, good manners and often a compliment such as, "That's a lovely dress you're wearing, Mrs. Cleaver." However, when no parents were around, Eddie was always up to no good—either conniving with his friends, or picking on Wally's younger brother Beaver. Eddie's two-faced style was also typified by his efforts to curry favor by trying to talk to adults at the level he thought they would respect, such as referring to their children as Theodore (Beaver's much-disliked given name) and Wallace, even though the parents called them Beaver and Wally.

A weaselly wise guy, Eddie could be relied upon to connive and instigate schemes with his friends—schemes for which they would be in the position of blame, if (and usually when) caught.

Sounds just like Obama to me.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Oh, my aching back!

I spent five hours today prepping the area where the big pile of dirt sat over winter; getting it ready for planting some grass seed. Having 15-20 cubic yards of soil dumped on it can really compress the ground and kill off the just emerging grass. I was going to use just a short-handled pitch fork and a rake but there were so many stones and the clay was compacted so hard that I needed my 16 pound big, black bar to break it up and lever the bigger stones out of the ground.

The area in question is about 15 feet by 15 feet and I wanted to loosen the top three or four inches. Unfortunately I found enough big flat stones just an inch or two below the surface to build yet another retaining wall as soon as I figure out where to put it. And there was one monster that was just about 3 inches down that I never did get under; so I reburied it right where it sat. Luckily its in a spot I will never want to put a tree or any other perennial plant.

Four hours into the project, I was ready to haul back two wheelbarrows of soil from my temporary storage pile on the other side of the yard and scatter that soil on top of the loosened earth. Over this I spread three bags of dehydrated cow manure and humus. I then raked to remove the smaller stones from the loosened stuff and mix the soils.

Finally, I gave the surface a light raking with a leaf rake and spread some Scotts starter fertilizer and grass seed. (I admit to using a little more of both than the 225 square feed called for--about enough for 500 sq. ft.) Then I watered the area for 15 minutes before spreading a layer of straw (about 2/3 of a bale) over the surface and watering a second time to wet the straw.

All this was done with one eye on the sky as there were thunderstorms forecast for right after noon. Of course, while the clouds darkened the sky from time to time, the rain never materialized. But they are promising them for tonight sometime between 8 PM (a half hour ago) and 1 AM. I will believe it when I hear the thunder boomers---no, make that hear the water in the gutter, we had thunder all yesterday and got about 20 drops of rain here at the Aerie, but all around us....

Anyway, with all the physical labor today, I'm about to pour me a nice cold beer and then early to bed.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Thursday Birding

Things are getting back to normal (whatever that is) around the Aerie. Terry is doing her stitching stuff (two meetings in three days), I’ve done a few chores around the place (grass, even poor, clover filled grass, can grow like crazy when it’s cool and showery) and we’ve been out birding already.

Yesterday, Gary wanted help with one of his bird blocks for the PA Bird Atlas so we had six pairs of eyes on the ground for a couple of hours to see if we could boost the number of species in the block. We started at Hills Creek State Park and drove northwest out of the park stopping briefly at Tauscher Pond before parking at the end of a gated road belonging to the town of Mansfield. They bought up 900 acres at the headwaters of Lamb’s Creek, moved Shaw Road away from the stream and opened the property for hunters, hikers and birdwatchers with very little notice. It’s accessible from the new Shaw Road at both ends of the closed off road and offers quite a variety of habitats from an old sand and gravel quarry (probably used in constructing the new Shaw Road), to open fields, mixed hardwoods, planted spruce , and mixed conifers. In addition to the old Shaw Road which we walked from end to end, there is a second road that heads across the creek and up the slope we did not explore.

The morning was overcast and threatened rain any moment. It had rained during the night and the grasses and ground were soaking wet. We lucked out, however, in that the showers held off until we were done for the day. I started counting birds from the time we got to the Hills Creek Parking lot at around 7 AM and stopped when Terry and I drove out of Hills Creek Park at 10:30 AM. During that time we recorded 40 different species of birds. Only about 30 of these were within the boundary of Gary’s block but several of those were important new species he hadn’t recorded or confirmation of breeding within the block (based upon behavior, carrying food, etc.).
Here’s the report I filed with eBird:

Location: Mansfield Watershed
Observation date: 6/26/08
Notes: We started at the Hills Creek St Pk office and drove to Tauscher Pond and then on to the old Shaw Rd as it goes through the Mansfield Watershed. The watershed has a variety of fields, mixed hardwoods, pines, spruce and fir trees.

An cool, overcast and threatening morning after some rains overnight. Birds weren't as active as they would be if it were sunny. Showers returned just as we ended the walk.
Number of species: 40

Wood Duck X
Mallard X
Great Blue Heron X
Green Heron X
Mourning Dove X
Ruby-throated Hummingbird X
Blue-headed Vireo X
Red-eyed Vireo X
Blue Jay X
American Crow X
Tree Swallow X
Black-capped Chickadee X
Red-breasted Nuthatch X
White-breasted Nuthatch X
Brown Creeper X
House Wren X
Veery X
Wood Thrush X
American Robin X
Gray Catbird X
European Starling X
Cedar Waxwing X
Yellow Warbler X
Chestnut-sided Warbler X
Magnolia Warbler X
Black-throated Green Warbler X
Black-and-white Warbler X
Ovenbird X
Common Yellowthroat X
Scarlet Tanager X
Eastern Towhee X
Chipping Sparrow X
Song Sparrow X
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored) X
Northern Cardinal X
Rose-breasted Grosbeak X
Indigo Bunting X
Red-winged Blackbird X
Common Grackle X
American Goldfinch X

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Final Day and home again

Monday morning, we checked out of our motel and bid adieu to Lucille and Doug. We wished them well in their effort to sell their home in preparation of their moving back to Missouri.

Terry and I headed south on US Route 1 again, stopping at a few of the beaches (not surprisingly empty as it was 1- early 2- wind, cold and damp) and then Pigeon Point. There was nothing new except the tide changes and the weather so we made the turn east at Pescadero and headed back up the mountains toward Skyline Ridge Road.

We stopped along the way to walk in several redwood groves and enjoy the peace and quiet the forest envelopes. We stopped for lunch at Alice’s Restaurant (more here). I felt uncomfortable at first since I didn’t have any shovels, or rakes, or implements of destruction, nor did I have any glossy 4 by 6 color photos with circles and arrows and paragraphs on the back of each one. But that was okay. Alice’s (at the intersection of Cal routes 35 and 84) is a motorcycle hang out. Everything is themed for the motorcycle crowd. And their burgers are from heaven!

(Actually, I seem to have lost all the pictures I took this day. Downloading them to the computer in the airport, I must have skipped a step somewhere and they were not saved. Of course, I erased the memory card in the camera—idiot!)

After lunch we took a ride down to the Pulgas Water Temple off Canada Road where the waters from Hetch Hetchy end their journey and pour into the Crystal Reservoir.

Then it was East on Route 84 to Redwood City and Bayfront Park which is surrounded by the San Francisco Wildlife Refuge (and adjacent to the sewerage treatment plant). It’s smack dab abutting some of those colorful salt flats I had pictures of earlier. But you can’t see the colors from down on the ground. What you can see are hordes of California ground squirrels. They are all over the freakin’ place. And they are known to carry the plague. Sweet! And jack rabbits! Now I know why they were named after a male mule. They ware HUGE! I thought it was a small deer coming down the trail. Terry swore it was a Great Dane with mutated ears the size of baseball bats.

We got some good birds at the Park (Willets, Forster’s Tern) and even better ones at the sewerage treatment plant (nesting Killdeer and Black-necked Stilts). When a stilt stands up from the nest you just wonder when its legs are going to stop uncoiling.

Someone was flying a remote control plane from the top of the hill and a Turkey Vulture and Red-tailed Hawk were trying to prove they could soar as well as the red plane.

When 4:30 rolled around we decided to pack it in and head for the airport. Our flight wasn’t until 11:50 PM but we had had enough. We returned our rental car, checked our bags and moved through security without a hitch. We ate at one of the airport eateries and took a seat to wait for our flight. It was only 7:30 PM.

Eventually our flight was called and we took off for Newark at midnight, San Francisco time. Nearly five hours later we were in Newark and I collected my bag from the carousel. Terry’s bag was nowhere to be seen. We waited and waited. Finally the carousel stopped spinning and no more bags came out. While she went to report the missing bag (one that contained four bottles of wine when we checked it in), I looked for a floor manager to see if there were any bags still left down below.

I found one, who came by to collect the one bag still on the carousel. He radioed down stairs. They were going to send up two empty trays, if no more bags came up before them, I should go see how Terry was making out. The empty trays came out but no bag. Off to baggage service.

Terry was finishing her report and being told that when the bag was found it would be sent to Syracuse (the nearest airport serviced by Continental) and we would be called to go pick it up. If it was still in SF, that might take two days. Since I didn’t relish the idea of having to go to Syracuse (2 hour drive) to pick up the bag, I was not a happy camper.

As we were leaving (and I was swearing off air travel) the floor manager came up to us and said they had found Terry’s bag. It was on the tarmac. At Newark. Apparently it had fallen off the baggage cart between the plane and the terminal. They would be sending it up ASAP. As we waited and a little Alphonse and Gaston routine (think “who’s on first”) was played out via radio with a baggage handler downstairs saying it was going to be sent up chute 6 while we were waiting at chute 7. Finally the right bag came up the right chute and the wine bottles were 1- present and 2- intact. We were on our way.
By now it was late enough for us to stop at The Mall At Short Hills to give Jessica her two bottles of wine (flying standby she could not take them aboard in her carryon luggage). We also stopped to get some real bagels in a shop in Parsippany before turn west. Aside from nearly falling asleep at the wheel on I-80, the ride home was pretty uneventful.

The cats were mostly happy to see us when we bailed them out of the vets care (aka Kitty Day Care). At least Chester and Shadow were happy. Julie was still pissed about being dropped off and cursed us all the way home.

Thus ended our California adventure. We’ve still got friends living down San Diego way whom we haven’t seen in a long time, but I’m not sure I want to fly back there anytime soon and driving with the trailer in tow…maybe. But my sights are set upon the northwest up to Alaska as our next major trip. San Diego is a little bit outside that path.

ps: As Terry was unpacking, she brought out the souvenir spoons Rick brought from Alaska and elsewhere that she had in her carry on bag. One of the "spoons" was in fact a four inch letter opener. She could have been given the royal treatment by TSA out in San Francisco.

The Day After

Sunday. A day of rest…riiigght!

Lucille held a brunch for everyone from the bride’s side of the family, New Jerseyites, Carolinians, Kansans, Iowans, Pennsylvanians, and Oregonians were all in attendance at her house in Half Moon Bay. The one that’s up for sale. Shoes off. Be neat. No spills or messes please! Otherwise have fun!

And we did. Visiting and talking and talking and visiting. Catching up with old acquaintances and relatives we don’t see often enough.

Lucille and Doug did yeoman duty as hostess and host. Doug’s sisters and brother -in-law (we hadn’t seen the former in ages and had never met the latter) were old and welcome friends found anew. The Carolina Crowd hadn’t been seen by me in five years and that’s far too long. (We watched all the TV reports about Katrina in Lorraine’s kitchen.)

After several hours, it was time to go our separate ways again. Jess would stay at Lucille’s as she and Grandma would be catching a Sunday night flight back to Newark. (Lucille put many a mile on her family car shuttling people to and from the airport!)

Terry and I took Rick and Sandy out to dinner at Ketch Joanne Restaurant on the wharf in Half Moon Bay. Once again, excellent seafood but they were out of bread pudding! :-(

A quick tour of downtown Half Moon Bay (‘cause everything was pretty well closed for the day) and ice cream at Baskin Robbins ended the day.

Rick and Sandy would be heading back to Eugene in the morning. Terry and I would do a little more birding before catching our Monday night flight back to Newark.

The Reception

As everyone knows, once the important business is taken care of, it is time to par-tay!

The bus took us off to Coyote Point and Poplar Creek Golf Course for the reception dinner and dance. Being Joe (the groom) is Italian and this is California, everything was wine themed. Even the party favors for the guests:
100_0032-Wedding favors
One bottle of red and one of white. Perfect for any occasion.

Introducing Mr. and Mrs…..

And their first dance:
IMG_0014-First Dance Laura & Joe
Poor Joe was a nervous wreck!

But after a moment…
IMG_0016-The eyes tell the story
..we weren’t even there. The eyes say it all.

Then the father of the bride gets to dance with his daughter:
IMG_0019-Doug & Laura dance

Next thing you know all hell breaks loose!

IMG_0025-Grandma & Brian dance
Grandma and grandson Brian dance.

IMG_0028-Grandma & Rick dance
Grandma and grandson Rick cut a rug.

IMG_0030-Conga line time
The Carolinians conga!

IMG_0031-Conga some more
With Lucille and Doug.

100_0044-Lorraine and Joe K.
Lorrain and Joe K. from Sumter, South Carolina.

100_0046-Jim and Pat B.
Jim and Pat B. from Columbia, South Carolina.

The four Carolinians left SC by car on May 28 and should be getting home after making the grand tour sometime next week. Four weeks in one minivan together…it’s a good thing they were really close before this trip! (Lorraine and Jim are brother and sister. Both guys flew in Nam: Joe in fighter jets, Jim in helicopters.)

100_0045-Pat and Joe M.
Pat and Joe M. from Linden, New Jersey.

100_0043-Sandy and Rick
Rick F. and Sandy K. came down from Eugene, Oregon.

IMG_0035-Joe, Laura & Jess
Jessica presents Laura and Joe with her gift: a hand knitted lap shawl of mohair.

Since a lot of us on the bride’s side are of Polish extraction:
100_0059-Polka time!
It’s Polka Time! Lucille and Jim on the left, Terry and her Mom on the right, and Sandy and Rick in the middle. (Sandy had to remind Rick this was NOT a demolition derby and he should not be bashing into people. He listened…a little.)

Grandma must have been told one heck of a joke!
100_0068-Mom has a few laughs

Rick wins!
100_0069-Rick wins
No, it’s not the bouquet. He got to keep the center piece at his table.

It’s time to twist again, like we did…thirty-five years ago?
100_0070-Twist time
Graduates of American bandstand show how it’s done.

It’s either the Macarena or…
100_0080-Macarena time!

And once again, the party was still going strong when it was time for the bus to carry us back to our motels and for the Clubhouse to get cleaned up for tomorrow.
100_0081-Bus ride back to the motels
For some reason, these two were really, really tired. It might have been due to their driving down from Eugene starting at 11 PM on Thursday night and playing all day Friday at Six Flags. Maybe.

The Wedding

Because there were so many family members from out of the area and unfamiliar with the streets of San Francisco, Lucille arranged for a bus to take us all from the motels at which we were staying to the wedding, then on a short tour of San Francisco and on to the reception dinner.

The wedding was held at the groom’s church on Diamond Street in San Francisco itself. When we got there, it was clear that not only finding the place would have been a problem, but parking many vehicles would have been quite a chore. The bus was the only way to go!

100_0003-Brian Escorts Lucille and Grandma
Brian escorts his Mom and Grandma down the aisle to their seats.

100_0015-They can still back out!
The bride and groom stand ready to make THE commitment.

100_0020-The exchange of vows
Vows and promises are exchanged before God and everyone!

Yep, they said, “I do!”

100_0024-The Newlyweds Laura and Joe Crudo
The newlyweds march back up the aisle together. Just look at that smile!

Then, while the photographers did their thing with the wedding party, the bus was off. Through the twisty, turny, hill streets of San Francisco and up to Twin Peaks for a view of the city.
100_0030-View from Twin Peaks to North-northeast
100_0029-View from Twin Peaks to North
100_0031-View from Twin Peaks to east-southeast
And it was a heck of a view. A little lot windy, but one heck of a view!

Rehearsal Dinner

The rehearsal dinner (hosted by the groom’s parents--good Italian people who understand the meaning of "Family") was held at Kuleto’s Trattoria in Burlingame. It was a time for family and friends from all over the world to get together and socialize over a good meal and an open bar. And we did.

We on the bride’s side all got to meet the groom and the groom’s family all got to meet the bride. Relatives who hadn’t seen one another in years got to renew acquaintances and catch up on the past. Some who had been little kids the last time they were seen had grown to adulthood and some of us who were middle aged when last we met lied and said we were still middle aged only now with more time on our hands since retirement.

While we were all together, we also celebrated the bride’s Grandmother’s birthday. That would be Terry’s Mom. Cecelia will be 85 years old in two weeks and looks and acts at least 10 years—maybe 20 years—younger.

IMG_0022-Lorraine K., Lucille C.
The mother of the bride, Lucille, and one of her Carolina cousins, Lorraine.

IMG_0025-Pat M., Laura C., Joe C., Nancy R.
The Bride (Laura) and Groom (Joe) with two from NJ (Pat M. and Nancy R.).

Grandma K. gets surprised. “But it’s not my birthday yet! Next month! Next month!”

100_0014 - Happy B-Day Mom
Terry and Lucille try to explain to their Mom why the cake is for her and just how surprised she looked.

We all had a good time getting reacquainted and all too soon the good folks at Kuleto’s were shooing us out the door as it was time for them to close up.

Along the Skyline

On Thursday evening we made contact with relatives from South Carolina and son Rick and his girlfriend from Eugene, Oregon. (Did I mention how disperse people attending this wedding were? Hawaii, Italy, Illinois, Oregon, South Carolina, New Jersey, Kansas, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Virginia…They came from all over the map.) We were all to go our own way the next morning with some heading to Monterey’s Aquarium, some to Fisherman’s Wharf in SF and Jessica to Cupertino to visit Apple Headquarters.

She works at the Apple Store at the Mall in Short Hills, NJ and just HAD to visit the Mother Ship. Besides one of her online friends—book club, I believe—works at 1 Infinite Loop. She got an official name/ID tag, a tour around headquarters, and a free lunch in the cafeteria. She did not get to see Steve Jobs. :-(

Terry and I were to drop Jessica off and then meander back north on Skyline Road (Cal Route 35) doing some bird watching at various points along the way.

All along the ridge there are Open Space Preserves like this one:

IMG_0001 Skyline Ridge Open Area Preserve

Among the warnings on the sign are one for rattle snakes and one for mountain lions. Beware of both, it says.

This particular stop had a small manmade lake that was home to several coots and apparently a pair of ospreys. (The latter were quite put out by our presence on the trail around the lake.)
IMG_0004-Horseshoe Lake

We didn’t see any snakes or lions. :-(

While the ridge road dips back and forth into redwood forest (including one area where there are several walking paths including one to the Methuselah Tree , it also has several points along the way where you can stop to get a view of either the Pacific Ocean or San Francisco Bay.

IMG_0017-North End of San Fran Bay
A view of San Francisco Bay from one roadside vista point along the Skyline Ridge Road.

Soon enough it was time to return to our motel room and prepare for the Rehearsal Dinner over in South San Francisco.

Food for thought

An interesting sign on seen all along Route 1:
100_0033-Tsunami Warning Sign

Since much of Route 1 is just barely 25 to 50 feet above sea level, I can see the need for the warning. But—and it’s a big one—there are few roads east to higher ground (that is more than 100 feet above sea level) and to get to them requires traveling Route 1. And you better hope and pray you can get ONRoute 1.

In and around Half Moon Bay you are NEVER going to do so in a hurry if you need to make a left turn onto the highway. There are not enough traffic lights to produce breaks in the stream of vehicles along the highway and when you need to produce TWO synchronized breaks (one in each lane) so you can make the left turn onto Route 1…well, you better have a lunch and some beverage in the car with you because you could be waiting a very long time.

And the locals have fought to prevent the installation of stop lights...and won! They must have a great deal of free time on their hands

On the ground in SF

Upon landing at San Francisco’s airport, we took possession of our rental car and headed further west over the hill to Half Moon Bay. There, we checked into our motel room before stopping to see the Terry’s sister and her husband and find out what the plans were for the next few days. We learned she would be shuttling people from the airport at all hours and that we were pretty much on our own until the rehearsal dinner on Friday evening.

That sounded fine to us. We borrowed a bird book (Sibley’s Guide to Birds of Western North America) and headed south on US 1 along the coast. Terry and I had been here before but for Jessica, this was a new experience. Every few miles along the coast, there are state beaches where the brave and fool hardy can swim or surf. (Brave and fool hardy because there are no life guards, the undertow in some areas can be treacherous, and it is much, much colder than on the Atlantic. The currents here come down from Alaska while those on the Atlantic are coming up from the Caribbean.) The areas are well maintained, being cleaned every day and having the water tested quite frequently. Most have a parking lot (for which there is a fee) and on a hot and bright sunny day like this one was, they are well used.

We had learned that there were no elephant seals at Ano Nuevo. They were still all out at sea somewhere feeding. Some would return in July to molt but most would not be back until late November when the breeding season begins. As a result, we proposed to stop at the Pigeon Point Light Station to see if any seals were on the rocks there and to see what birds might be around.
100_0029-Pigeon Pt LtHouse

100_0052-Pigeon Pt. LtHouse

This light house is one of the tallest on either coast. It has been in private hands as they attempt to restore it to its former glory, but has recently been taken over by the state as a historic sight. There is a hostel in the old light keepers’ quarters adjacent to the facility where travelers can find an inexpensive place to stay as they make their way along the coast. (Another similar hostel/lighthouse can be found way up the coast nearer the Golden Gate.)

While the lighthouse may be in need of some repair, the gardens and grounds about it are superb. Vast numbers of flowers and succulent plants are well tended and a joy to explore. The rocks off the coast are attachments for several types of seaweeds and kelps.

100_0025-Succulants at Pigeon Pt LtHouse

100_0026-Bee on flower

100_0041-More flowers at Pigeon Pt.

100_0036-Prisoner's Rock Pigeon Pt.
Called “Prisoner’s Rock,” this formation is accessible during low tide by a land bridge but quickly becomes isolated when the tide flows back trapping the unwary fisherman.

100_0050-Rocks at Pigeon Pt

Base for kelp and resting place for seals during the fall, winter and spring (not so much in summer!).

100_0047-Rocks at Pigeon Pt.

During the fall and spring, whales frequently can be seen from Pigeon Point as they migrate south and north. During the summer, the whales are near Alaska, during the winter, they are in the warm waters off Mexico and/or in the Gulf of Mexico giving birth to new calves. This makes Pigeon Point THE place to gather for whale watching from shore.

After an afternoon of visiting the lighthouse, we returned to Half Moon Bay and enjoyed dinner at Barbara’s Fish Trap near the wharf/marina. Excellent seafood!

Westward Ho!

We left Newark International Airport on Thursday, June 19th heading for San Francisco. Terry and I had tickets but daughter Jessica was flying standby. She was lucky enough to get a seat on the same plane as ours so we wouldn’t have to wait for her on the other end of our flight.

One of the most impressive sights along at takeoff is the abundance of transportation/shipping facilities in the immediate vicinity of the airport. Not only is there the air transport available but there are train, ship and truck terminals all within a short distance of the airport.

100_0003-Leaving Newark, NJ

Heading down the runway, you can see Port Elizabeth’s dock facilities. And once airborne the Bay Way refinery and storage facilities flanking the New Jersey Turnpike are clearly visible.

100_0004-NJ Raritan Bay refineries

As we headed west (flying right over the Aerie) you could see Lake Michigan and some great city on the western shores. (It didn’t seem big enough to be Chicago and was further north in any case. Might have been Milwaukee.)

Then came the checkerboard pattern of farm fields in South Dakota/Nebraska and a brief glimpse of snow on the front range of the Rockies. After that things were drier and squares were replaced by circular fields irrigated by long sprinklers rotating about a central water source. The Rockies (probably the Big Horn Range of western Montana) were still heavily covered in snow.

100_0009-Snowy peaks

Things got even more arid and the evidence of oil well drilling could be seen in the hills and valleys below.

As we made to land at the San Francisco Airport, we approached from the south. Colorful salt flats and/or chemical ponds could be seen.
100-0014-Colorful flats on San Fran Bay

100_0019-Colorful flats on San Fran Bay

Having parallel runways, there are two planes landing side by side and just a minute or so apart. It’s a busy, busy place!

We deplaned, claimed our luggage and headed for the tram to take us to the rental car facility—a ride that took us past all the other terminals to the end of the line a mile or so from where we got off the plane.

Hertz had rented all of the cars it had available and was only looking to help those who had reservations. We were in that group and so Terry filled out the paperwork and we got our car and headed off to Half Moon Bay on the ocean and the motel room that awaited us.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Back in PA

We had a great time visiting with family before during and after the wedding of my God daughter in San Francisco but it's good to be home.

After an all night flight from San Fran to Newark (midnight Monday to 8 AM Tuesday with the time changes) followed by a four-and-a-half drive to PA we were pooped! I came thiiisss close to losing it on I-80 when I gave up and let Terry have the wheel. (She says I zonked out within seconds of reclining the seat and was out for about 15-20 minutes before awaking again. Just can't get enough quality sleep on an airplane. Especially when it was too warm in the plane.)

We rescued the cats from the vet/spa, unpacked, ate dinner and then crashed until 8 AM this morning.

Terry went off to do Terry things with EGA and I cut the grass which had grown quite well in our absence.

I just got through uploading the pictures I wish to share and will write a few posts about them when we get back from birding tomorrow morning.

Oh we did some birding out west too. From Half Moon Bay south to Pigeon Point Light House on US Route 1 then up over the mountains to the east on Cal Route 92, up Route 35 on the Skyline Road for one day. And on another we took a ride down to the terminus of the Hetch Hetchy Aqueduct and then east to the San Francisco Bay near Redwood City to the wildlife refuge there.

In three days or so here is what we saw:

Location: Half Moon Bay and environs
Observation date: 6/19/08
Notes: We traveled from Half Moon Bay to Pigeon Point Light House on US Rte 1. Took CA Rte. 92 east up into the hills and redwood forest. (A pair of ospreys were seen at Horseshoe Lake off Rte 35: Skyline Road.) Made a stop at the end of the Hetch Hetchy Aqueduct at Pulgas Water Temple. Then went east on Rte 84 to San Francisco Bay and the wildlife refuge near the sewage treatment facility in Redwood City. This was all done between a wedding, the rehearsal dinner, and visiting with relatives from around the country.
Number of species: 36

Canada Goose X
Mallard X
California Quail X
Brown Pelican X
Brandt's Cormorant X
Pelagic Cormorant X
Snowy Egret X
Turkey Vulture X
Osprey 2 A pair flew over at Horseshoe Lake at the Skyline Ridge Open Area Preserve on Rt 35. One carried food. Both were unhappy with our being on the trail around the lake.
Red-tailed Hawk X
American Coot X Several at Horseshoe Lake at the Skyline Ridge Open Area Preserve on Rt 35.
Killdeer X
Black-necked Stilt X
Willet X
Western Gull X
Forster's Tern X
Pigeon Guillemot X
Rock Pigeon X
Black Phoebe X
Steller's Jay X
Western Scrub-Jay X
American Crow X
Common Raven X
Tree Swallow X
Barn Swallow X
Chestnut-backed Chickadee X
Brown Creeper X
Swainson's Thrush X
American Robin X
European Starling X
Wilson's Warbler X
Song Sparrow X
Dark-eyed Junco X
Red-winged Blackbird X
House Finch X
House Sparrow X

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Too cute

Alright, I can't resist something this cute:

more cat pictures