Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

Thank you to all who served our country.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

POD: A Visiting Lizard

Little lizards -- about 4 inches long -- are all over this place. This one came to visit us as we sat outside talking.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

POD: Funnel-Web Spider

The Web -- lays flat on the ground, about a foot in diameter:

The Hole
-- each web has a silk-lined tubular hole, where inside the Funnel-Web spider (Family Agelenidae) sits awaiting its prey:

The Spider -- Usually shy and retiring, this one came out for a peak:

Monday, May 24, 2010

POD: Easy Rider

I may now have a fear of ATVs, but not this little guy! He and his Human were spotted at Lake Havasu City back in February.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Rodney's Of Willcox

Location: Willcox, AZ

With only 2769 residents, Willcox still manages to be the home of the "The Arizona Cowboy" Rex Allen Museum (right across the street from the burial site of his horse, KoKo), the Friends of Marty Robbins Museum (an unofficial Fanseum, run as a labor of love by Marty's "Biggest Fan," whose website offers you the choice of "Home Page," "Page 3," "2010 Flyer," and "Links". But don't try to get to the Flyer; the page is blank) and a great BBQ joint in an old railroad car. Yet even with all this embarrassment of abundance, it manages to have one more surprise, nestled between the two museums on Willcox's only cross street: Rodney's.

When you walk up to Rodney's, be sure to read the menu on the board out front. You need to know what you want before you go in, because once you go in Rodney will be ready (or maybe not) to take your order from the counter in front of the stoves and fryers, and he seems to feel that there's no sense putting another copy of the menu inside when there is a perfectly good one outside.

There is no immediately obvious seating in Rodney's, but you soon find out you do have a choice -- after you grab your drink from the cooler outside the side door, you can either sit on the patio, nestled between the tan and brick buildings, or proceed to the tables that are in the brick building.

We chose the patio, where we were afraid the seats were going to collapse which was in need of some repair , and had a pleasant lunch in the shade. Of course we then had to check out the restaurant.

There is a note on the door directing the hungry mobs to go next door to order. I can just picture the folks who didn't read the note (they probably also thought they'd get a menu inside) hopelessly anticipating the arrival of their wait-person until they collapse in a dessicated pile of flesh and bones, not knowing that said wait-person is Rodney, who is too busy castigating other patrons for their expectation of a menu once they got inside.

We go in to find that no one else has taken up Rodney on the eating-inside thing. But it means we can look around, for there is a lot to see.

Two rooms, the first with mismatched chairs and tablecloths, and lots and lots of autographed photos on the wall. Very few were autographed to Rodney or showed any indication that they had eaten here, but that seemed beside the point. On the back wall was an entrance to the second room, draped from above with a large American flag.

What we found there was some restaurant equipment, and a seating area with a floral sofa, a striped sofa, and six televisions: all on, and all on different channels. We were unsure if we were invited to sit on the sofa and watch TV, or if this was entertainment for Rodney while his customers consulted the menu. We chose to discretely leave instead, and head over to the two museums. More on them later.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

POD: Mousey Beetle

Not living in one of the 7 states where Truly Nolen, a pest-control company, does business? You are missing out on one of the best advertising vehicles!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

POD: It's a Big, Big World

Baja and Newfie, two of our parakeets, found a way to watch the "Great Outdoors." Most mornings they stop at this window for a quick check of the goings on outdoors, and then go about their keet business (which usually consists of eating seed, grooming, eating seed, a quick flight through the rig, eating seed, and then maybe a nap).

Monday, May 17, 2010

Colossal Cave

Location: Outside Tucson, AZ

We have been volunteering at Kartchner Caverns for just short of 2 months now. We thought it was time to visit the "other" cave in the area, Colossal Cave. So off we go, full of hope and expectation. We knew it was not a "living cave" like Kartchner, where water still dripped in and formations still grew. And we knew that damage had occurred over the years -- but we never expected anything like what we got.

The cave has been visited by people just about as long as people have been in this area. It was first opened to tourists in 1923, but hoards also went through it when it was privately owned. No one then seemed to care much about preservation, so visitors routinely snapped off formations for souvenirs. Still, we naively thought some interesting things would remain. How bad could it be? People pay money every day to go through it, don't they?

The steps on the trail were the first horror. They were uneven, worn and frankly frightening. Often the width of the trail was so narrow that only those on the anorexic side of the BMI would feel comfortable. There was a handrail - sometimes -- but when there wasn't, you had to either risk broken bones from a fall or steady yourself on the formations -- a strict "no-no" at Kartchner Caverns (they have very nice trails with sturdy rails), but a lenient "try not to" at Colossal. We decided our intact bones were an asset, and the rocks (I hesitate to call them formations) along the trail couldn't possibly be hurt any more after decades of abuse. So we touched where we had to and didn't feel at all bad about it.

More horrors met us at each turn. There were almost no intact formations, and everything was a dull, dusty, dry grayish brown color. The photo to the left is typical of some of the better areas, along with some flowstone formations that were too big to end their "life" as a knickknack in a curio cabinet. There were no good areas. The lighting was poorly done, and consisted primarily of dim lights on the trail and a few off-trail lights illuminating nondescript rocks.

John and I will often do 3 tours a day through Kartchner Caverns, and we never get tired of it. The colors are vibrant, the formations gleam with water, and the only visible formation damage is Mother Nature's own -- and she has done very little. We explain to our visitors why touching is not allowed -- how oil from our hands can prevent water from ever again leaving its calcite and making formations in that spot. We explain how the things we leave behind, such as hair and lint, damage the cave by becoming a medium for mold and fungal growth. We tell them how to keep from harming the cave. They listen, they understand, and they help us by following the rules. They too become stewards of the cave.

POD: A Horned Lizard Comes To Visit Us

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Keep Those Ringtails and Rats OUT

The problem hopefully being solved: keep ring-tail cats (think raccoon-inquisitiveness and mischief) and desert rats OUT. Out of the rig and out of the car. We have been told that the rats like to chew ignition wires, and the ring-tails like to examine what is available, chew whatever they find, and leave a mess everywhere they go.

So we have critter-proofed the rig as much as we could - steel wool in the exhaust pipe, moth balls under the rig, festive rope lights and holiday lights around the base of the rig, and lights in our engine compartments.

The rig's lighting system is fairly easy -- leave the engine open and stick a light (on a daylight sensor) in the compartment:

The car is a little trickier, thanks to another desert annoyance -- high wind. So we started by sticking the same type of work-light in the engine compartment, with a stick to hold open the hood. But we had heard stories of strong gusts of wind crashing other camper's hoods into the windshield, so we had to keep it from opening too far. Enter the bungie cord (the faint blue line coming down from the top of the stick). So each night we put the light in the engine compartment, run a bungie cord through the hood latch, attach each end of the bungie to holes just under the latch, pull the hood open as far as we can, and insert a stick to keep it from closing.

So far, so good.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

POD: Feeding in Silhouette

An oriole steals from a hummingbird feeder

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Picture of the Day

Well. I admit I have been neglecting you, my readers. But there has not been a lot to report -- John and I passed our lead guide training, and we are now giving tours at Kartchner Caverns. We are not allowed to post any photos of the inside, so the really cool stuff we get to see every day will have to remain un-blogged.

We have learned a lot about geology, cave hydrology, cave formation, myotis velifer (the bats that live in the summer at Kartchner), basin and range block faulting, caving, calcite, carbonic acid, and the propensity of people to see fish, spear heads, bear, teeth, squid, and even rubber chickens in cave formations. And one early-teenage boy told me he saw a particular part of the female anatomy in a welt shield formation. That comment was best left alone!

Because we are sitting in one place for a while enjoying our volunteer work, my blogging activity has, obviously, decreased. So for now, I'm going to publishing my "Picture of the Day." Never fear -- if something exciting happens in the cave or elsewhere, I'll interrupt the POD to bring you all the news.

So the POD for today -- in Tombstone, John discovered that a tightly pad-locked gate is always a good idea -- keeps the hooligans off the railroad track (what could possibly go wrong?):