Too Much Sunshine?

Is there such a thing as too much sunshine? I grew up in the Midwest and I remember well the days that would turn into weeks where the sun stayed hidden behind a thick layer of cloud cover. The month before we packed up and moved west, we experienced an entire month with seeing the sun shine. Talk about depressing!

sunshine Prescott Arizona

That gloomy weather made it a lot easier to say good-bye to family and friends as we packed up our family of four plus furry dog and moved west to the unknown. We didn’t have jobs. We didn’t know a soul. All we knew was we weren’t meant to stay in the Chicago suburbs.

sunshine in Prescott ArizonaWe purged more than half our stuff. Items we couldn’t part with, like our canoe and a few family heirlooms, were stored at Al’s sister’s farmette in northern Illinois. We packed up our full size van and a small pull behind U-Haul trailer and off we headed west to Las Vegas, Nevada ….. in January, no less. Our larger pieces of furniture were moved by Mayflower.

Yeah, there were a few people who thought we’d lost our marbles moving from Chicago to Las Vegas in the dead of winter with our young children – 3 and 5 years old at the time.

When you know in your heart that it’s time for a change, time to move on, why procrastinate? Al and I share a favorite scene from the movie Paint Your Wagon ….

Elizabeth: Then simplify your life, Jacob. Sell me.
Jacob Woodling: But Elizabeth: you don’t know what you’ll get.
Elizabeth: But I know what I’ve had.

It’s a line Al and I share regularly when discussing a change, a change of any kind, “I don’t know what I’ll get, but I know what I’ve had“. Sure, there’s always that fear of the unknown, but Al and I have never allowed fear to hold us back. Although, I assure you there was a fair amount of fear with an incident or two crossing the Rockies in the middle of January with two small children and a dog in tow.

reflections

The highlight of that cross-country move happened in Colorado. The Eisenhower Tunnel located 60 miles west of Denver, Colorado on Interstate 70 is over a mile and a half long and sits at an elevation exceeding 11,000 feet. The moment we exited that tunnel, we were greeted with the most spectacular sight. Laid out before us were stunning snow-covered mountains in all directions along with the brightest blue sky I had ever seen. I’m sure my mouth dropped open in awe.

On Interstate 70 near the town of Frisco, Colorado, is a scenic pull-out. (I highly recommend this stop when traveling westbound on Interstate 70) We stopped here to stretch our legs and take in the amazing scenery. We no sooner exited the vehicle when all four three of us started complaining, “The sun, the sun! I need sunglasses!”  I don’t think I’ve ever seen such brightness in nature. I started seeing spots like I’d been hit with the flash of a camera.

Although, Mr. Aviator sunshineHusband always sported cool dude aviator shades, the kids and I rarely found the need to wear sunglasses in the mostly overcast Chicago suburbs. Ah, little did we know, but this lack of sunglasses habit was about to change 😎

Three days and 1,800 miles later, we arrived in Las Vegas, Nevada, and our introduction to life in the desert southwest began. We went from an average of 189 days of sunshine a year to over 300 days.  Oh yeah, bye-bye seasonal depression … bring on the sunshine!

But is there such a thing as too much sunshine? It’s a question I’ve recently been asking myself. Now that the forest fire is contained and the air has cleared, I’m getting back to exploring the Prescott area with my camera. Never in a million years did I ever think I’d return to the RV complaining to my husband about a boring blue sky. But that’s exactly what happen the other day.

sunshine
Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t dare swap these lovely blue skies for the grey gloomy ones in the Midwest. It’s just nice to change it up every now and then. We’ve gone over six weeks without a drop of rain and hardly a cloud in the sky. I find myself collecting sunglasses and stashing them in all the necessary locations …. a pair in the car, one or two in my purse, another pair on my desk. They seemed to have multiplied and partnered up with my old eye cheater glasses that I also have lying around every where 🤓

Prescott Arizona Willow Lake

Ah, so much sun, but patience is a virtue. I keep my eye on the sky. I’m longing to photograph one of those amazing desert sunsets, and I need a smattering of clouds to fulfill my quest. Considering it is officially “monsoon” season here in Arizona, I shouldn’t have to wait too long. I keep the camera at the ready.

Monsoon season in Arizona
Willow Lake Prescott, Arizona

And finally a storm rolls in. It didn’t exactly produce the shot I was envisioning, but I’ll take it. The storm passed through rather quickly, but it smelled wonderfully refreshing while it lasted. And now that I’ve had that quick little fix of storm clouds, bring on the sunshine. Yeah, I don’t think there’s such a thing as too much sunshine or having too many pairs of sunglasses 😎

If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you!

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Harmonic enlightenment, and then some

I glanced down at the open book of Hymns on my lap and pondered the fact that I’m clueless when it comes to music.  Oh, I quite enjoy listening to it, but I’m oblivious when it comes to the understanding of notes, composition, tune, rhythm, etc.

It wasn’t my intention to attend church services that morning.  I’m not normally a church goer, but I do occasionally get drawn in by architecture and every now and then the need for a little spiritual enlightenment.  It was a lovely morning, and I was out and about visiting a local historical landmark.  The Lamar, Texas, cemetery has gravestones dating back to the Civil War and all the local tourist brochures listed this as a site to visit.

So, there I was on a Sunday morning strolling through a cemetery when I realized the neighboring little Catholic Church’s’ doors were open.  My curiosity was such, that I found myself entering the Stella Maris Chapel and taking a seat in the second to the last row of pews.  I was a little music_clipart_notesearly and only the fifth person to arrive.  I glanced around taking in my surroundings and noting the Hymn numbers posted.  I turned to the appropriate page to glance at the first song to be sung.  I already knew I wouldn’t be singing out loud…..

My first real exposure to the education of music was somewhere around the seventh grade. It was a semester long, daily one-hour class exposing students to all aspects of music including singing.  This sounded like a fun class to me, especially since I could sing really well…. or so I thought.  After all, what teenager doesn’t like singing along with their favorite artist?

The first day of this new class, the teacher wanted to get to know the students and their abilities.  She had the left half of the class sing the first verse of a song and then she had the right half sing it.  She’d select different students to sing a line while the rest of us remained silent.   Recommendations were made and it was obvious these first few students that had attracted her attention were talented singers.

this little gal sings beautifully
this little gal sings beautifully

This process continued and when the teacher finally called my name, I proudly stood erect thinking she’d want me to sing by myself.  Instead, I was told to sing a little softer, which I did, but apparently not soft enough.  She stopped our group two more times to tell me to sing a little softer.  Once my volume was down to lip-synching level and not one vocal cord in my throat vibrated, I was given a big thumbs up… “That’s perfect, Ingrid.  Keep singing at that volume for the rest of class”.

gumby and poky“Seriously”, I thought?  “What did she know?”  I couldn’t wait to get home and sing my heart out into my little cassette player-recorder, proving that the music teacher didn’t know what she was talking about.  And sing I did, and in my head I sounded fantastic!

With a smile on my face and child-like exuberance, I rewound the cassette and hit play to hear my wonderful rendition of I Think I Love You.   Come on, who didn’t want to be Susan Day back then?  I even played an air piano while singing and had taken an iron to my unfashionable curly hair an hour earlier.

Alone in my room, I listened to the singer on the cassette player.  I didn’t recognize the voice, yet I knew it was mine.  I continued listening figuring it had to get better, because it couldn’t possibly get any worse.  Or could it?  My faced flushed with embarrassment at the realization I couldn’t sing…. or rather I shouldn’t sing.

Oh well, I never had any aspirations to be a musical performer, thus I focused on being the best lip singer in class.  Ever since discovering my inability to carry a tune, I rarely sing.  Even today when we’ve joined friends for karaoke, I won’t sing, but I will gladly get on stage to be a background dancer for a Robert Palmer song!

Vultures can't sing, but they do hiss
Vultures can’t sing, but they do hiss

Back to church….. After a little fire and brimstone which included why parishioners should sing out loud (egad, did the priest imply me?) services were over and I exited the church.  I immediately noticed a turkey vulture in a tree.  I first became intrigued with these unique birds a couple of years ago during a visit to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.  My fascination lead to a series of Google searches to learn about them.  Did you know, vultures lack a syrinx and are nearly silent?  Their vocalizations are limited to grunts and hisses; no harmonic singing from these birds.

We glance at each other knowing we share a common bond - we can't sing!
We glanced at each other knowing we share a common bond – we can’t sing!

As I approached the tree located between the church and the cemetery, Vivian Vulture hissed at me.  I hissed back, “Come on Viv…. we’re kindred spirits…. neither one of us can sing”.vulture

Vultures serve an important role in the circle of life.  Some may say they’re ugly.  I find them beautiful.  I shared my unusual infatuation with these birds before along with some intriguing facts.  If you’re interested in reading a few more tidbits about vultures and seeing more photos, you can read my post here.

I may not have felt any spiritual enlightenment from the church sermon, but I did experience a clarity that morning with my encounter with Vivian.  I was reminded that we are all created with a distinct purpose and rare beauty; created with special talents or gifts; created with uniqueness that should be embraced.  How boring would it be if we were all able to sing like Adele?  Or worse, what if we all sang like Cameron Diaz in “My Best Friends Wedding”?  Oh yikes, I do 😉

Each of us is a unique strand in the intricate web of life and here to make a contribution – Deepak Chopra

vulture

 

All about Luck

Luck! Do you believe in luck or are you a believer in people making their own luck?  I was thinking about luck this past week with all the hubbub surrounding the Power Ball lottery.  Since I’m a firm believer in both, I joined the ranks of lottery purchasers with the high hopes of being one of the lucky ones.  After all, you can’t win, unless you play…. right!whooping cranes

When I came home from the grocery store and told Al I bought a lottery ticket(s), he was surprised considering we can count on one hand the number of times we’ve bought lottery tickets.  Just like millions of other American’s, I was lured in by the hype and insane amount of money. I justified my purchase by considering it a donation.  Lottery money is usually used for good causes.  In Colorado, the money supports parks and recreation.  Here in Texas, the money goes toward education and veterans.  Realizing my chances of winning anything were slim and none, I sought solace in knowing my ten dollars worth of lottery tickets went to a good cause.

Ibis
Ibis

But the fact that I didn’t win any lotto money doesn’t mean my week wasn’t full of good luck.  Ah, to the contrary!  A blogging friend recently commented to me, that a person has better luck at winning the lottery than seeing a whooping crane in the wild.  (It was after this comment, that I bought the lottery tickets…. hoping I was one lucky gal LOL)

how lucky - 2 whooping cranes and a roseate spoonbill in fight
how lucky – 2 whooping cranes and a roseate spoonbill flying by

The majority of whooping crane photos featured on this blog are photographs of WILD whooping cranes.  They aren’t banded and their lineage dates back to the 1940’s to the last remaining fifteen whooping cranes in the world.  Whooping cranes were close to extinction and still remain high on the endangered species list.

whooper_map_EThis group of whoopers that winter in the Rockport, Texas, area are referred to as the Wood Buffalo National Park wild whooping cranes.  Their migration takes them from the far northern reaches of Alberta, Canada, south 2,500 miles to the Texas Gulf Coast.  Looks like these Canadian cranes have joined the ranks of RVer’s who escape the harsh northern winters by heading south and becoming winter Texans.

So, do I consider myself luckier than a lottery winner?  Maybe I should….. but just think of all the good I could’ve done for the cranes had I won the lotto…. even second place would’ve been quite acceptable  😉

Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron – If a heron sees his shadow……

Just like the lottery, bird photography requires a certain amount of luck;  being in the right place, at the right time, with the camera at the ready.  However, I have to take the effort to make that luck happen.  In this case, I have to make my own luck and get lucky in the process  (hubby’s ears perked up with the last part of that sentence).Bird photography 

Getting lucky might mean hanging around a place watching the clouds roll by for an hour or more in the mere hopes of catching a glimpse of a rare or endangered bird, let alone a photograph.  This is where patience and perseverance pays off, and a little luck is always welcome.photograpy

Driving around scoping out great locations in hopes of capturing a unique sunset or sunrise photograph can also be challenging, but is there such a thing as a bad sunrise or sunset?  I think not.  Some are just Birdingmore spectacular than others and I consider myself lucky to be able to capture those truly amazing ones.

The other morning, I was dressed and out the door by 6:50 a.m. with my travel mug filled with hot, black coffee and my camera battery full.  I had high hopes for a beautiful sunrise and I was going to capture it so I could share it with all of you.

I drove to a couple of my favorite little spots along the coast.  I tried some new spots as well.  Then I waited, and waited some more.  The thick cloud cover wasn’t producing the results I had hoped for.

A beautiful sunrise, just not the photo op moment I had hoped for.
A beautiful sunrise, just not the photo-op I was looking for.

With the photography a bust, it was time for me to run a few errands.  First stop was the post office.  I arrived at 8:40 a.m. thinking they’d be open by 8:30.  Wrong – they didn’t open till 9:00.  Ah, what’s a gal to do for twenty minutes with a camera and empty media card sitting in the passenger seat?

Interesting grove of oak trees. Dozens of Great Blue Herons spent the night on top of them.
Interesting grove of oak trees. Dozens of Great Blue Herons spent the night on top.

How about a little exploring?  What was supposed to be twenty minutes of aimlessly driving around to kill some time, turned into over an hour of discovering one unique sight after another.   When I came upon an enchanting grove of wind-swept oak trees topped with dozens upon dozens of Great Blue Herons, I swiftly pulled the truck off the road.  Wow!  This was so worth the post office not being open.

Birding trifecta!
Birding trifecta!

As I ventured further down the road, a shot of pink caught my eye.  I quickly found a place to pull over and park.  I donned my favorite camo shirt and green hat and slowly walked through the weeds.  Talk about winning a birding trifecta …. boo-yah!   I hung around with this diverse group of locals until they wandered out of sight.Birding

It was well past 10:00 a.m. when I finally headed back over to the post office. Talk about an interesting morning.  What started out as an unlucky morning with a poor photographic sunrise and the post office being closed, turned into a lucky morning of birding.  If I had sat in the post office parking lot waiting for it to open instead of aimlessly exploring, I never would have stumbled upon these wonderful sightings.  Was it luck or did I make my own luck?  Hmm, when’s that next Power Ball drawing 🙂

“Luck, that’s when preparation and opportunity meet” – Pierre Trudeau

You can read about my trip to the Aransas Wildlife Refuge here and here.

Cranes are said to be a sign of good luck!
Cranes are said to be a sign of good luck! Does that mean I should buy another lottery ticket?

sunset

Tony Northrup’s DSLR Book: How to Create Stunning Digital Photography
Russell Outdoors Men’s Explorer Long Sleeve Shirt, Mossy Oak Infinity, XXX-Large

Antenna E.D.

Hubby and I have talked about making a written check list.  You know, the kind of list pilots use.  After almost a year of full-time RVing, we still haven’t made that list; a take off list so to speak, a list to review before hitting the road.

Knowing Al and I, we’d probably forget to use the list anyway.  And speaking of forgetting; check out the photo of us visiting the dump station at the Fruita visitor center.  The visitor center is located just west of Grand Junction, Colorado, in the town of Fruita and is a great place to stop, relax, and pick up all kinds of info on the beautiful state of Colorado.

erectile disfunctionLooks like someone forgot to lower the TV antenna.  The helicopter is part of a lovely Vietnam War Memorial and the rugged terrain of the Colorado National Monument can be seen in the distance.  We always enjoy our time hanging around the quaint little town of Fruita….  gateway to the Colorado National Monument and nearby world renowned biking trails.

While staying in my brother and sister-in-laws driveway, we would make a weekly visit to the Fruita visitor center to clean our tanks.  We wanted to make sure our tanks didn’t come close to filling.  Hmm, where’s that check list?  We obviously made it to the center without a problem with the antenna in the erect position, but on the return drive we weren’t so lucky.  Our TV antenna met some tree branches and after a quick altercation, the tree won.erectile dysfunction

No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t erect the antenna.  It was official, our antenna was suffering from erectile dysfunction.  This was a problem a blue pill couldn’t fix.  The antenna was also beat up pretty bad and the mother board was even exposed.

Al and I were surprised the antenna worked at all, but it did ok by bringing in a couple of channels which allowed us a little TV viewing until we could have a new antenna delivered.  We even received some reception during a heavy rainstorm which amazed us considering how damaged and exposed the antenna was.

After some research, we chose this Jack RV TV antenna that doesn’t require raising and lowering.  No more need to remember to crank the antenna down.  Yay!

JACK Digital HDTV Over-The-Air Antenna w/Built in Signal Finder – White

Although it was relatively easy to install the new antenna, it did take us most of the morning to complete the task.RV antenna repair

First the old RV antenna needed to be removed and since we have a rubber roof on the 5th wheel, it was crucial we take our time and not cause any damage to the roof.  Al used a blow dryer to heat up the old caulk and with a PLASTIC putty knife he gently lifted it to remove.  A metal putty knife could easily rip the rubber roof membrane.RV antennas

RV rubber roofsOnce the old antenna was removed, we set about installing the new one.  Once Al had everything hooked up and fastened with screws, I set about with the caulking. I used a special RV roof sealant that has a rubber consistency once dried.caulking RV roof

Geocel 56801 White Advanced RV EPDM Roof Sealant

We’ve been enjoying our new antenna for about a week now and are very pleased.  We seem to get better reception and the colors appear to be more vibrant…… better yet, we don’t need to remember to lower the antenna before hitting the road.replacing RV antenna

A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty – Winston Churchill