Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Stopping to Enjoy Our Rewards Despite Our Trails and Travails

I am three years, almost four years older than was Bilbo Baggins when he started out There And Back Again. My first 50 years on this earth were not as comfortable as were those of that little hobbit, then again my trials and travails, while nowhere as adventurous as outsmarting dragons and fighting orcs, have been as adventurous, full of hardship, and rewarded with goodness as are those of any mortal or magical being on this earth. I try to remember that last part from time to time, that out trials and travails are rewarded so I sometimes stop to smell the roses, listen to the birds, and sip the cool water of a mountain spring along the trail that I have blazed for myself. If I had not stopped for something just like that I would probably not have appreciated the pictured sunset as much as I did appreciate it. I drove along a road in southern Arizona a few nights ago marveling at the wondrous colors and tones that the sun and its setting had painted the western skies. Every now and again, when I had the chance I pulled over and took some pics of it as it progressed. As I took the one above, and several others like it, two Border Patrol Agents watched me curiously from their stance at a checkpoint. Before I was done I noticed they had shifted their glances toward the fiery gem shining through the blood red sky that I had been looking at in wide eyed wonder. Here I share that with you. While you can click on the picture to enlarge it, you probably will not have your breath stolen from within your soul as did I when first glanced up and saw this spectacle of mother nature. Mother Nature, God, the heavens and earth, or whatever force to which you want to attribute such wonders had humbled me with my reward that evening.

Then, a couple of nights later, when I thought I had seen a sunset beyond compare I was gifted with another spectacle from on high. This one a bit earlier in the evening, but close to sunset indeed. It was as if the heavens had opened before me and the glory that was there was shining on through down onto we mere mortals. I am not a religious guy, but I can be spiritual, and i certainly can be floored by wondrous events no matter how trifling they seem to others. Most people did not stop to notice, but when I saw light coming on through I was thankful I had my camera, and I was thankful I had noticed despite having been in a rush to be somewhere else at that moment. The road goes forever on...and I suppose if that is all we are concerned about - well then we miss sights like this one because let me tell you it did not last all that long before it was gone.

Click on either of the above to view a larger size - nowhere as good as the original but bigger makes it look better.

Before the sun had set that second night, it gave one final farewell performance that I think some of my readers will enjoy. This time, besides the sky, the winds and the clouds, it had another partner, Old Glory, to accompany it during its finale for the night. Long may she wave at Twilight's Last Gleaming and may we all wake to see her By The Dawn's Early Light. You know when you think about it, one of those rewards I spoke about was living free. By the way that is not free living. We should never forget that and our trials and travails should make it stay that way, that we live free. It's not easy but the rewards, heck they are well worth it - aren't they! If I do not get another chance to blog before Independence Day allow me to say now - have a safe and happy 4th.
If you are always in a hurry you are going to miss things in life that were there to enjoy; things that were well worth taking a moment, or even a lifetime, to appreciate. Think about that as we approach the celebration of the birth of our nation, and think about all that it has taken to keep that flag flying and to preserve our freedoms - even those as simple as being able to stop and watch a sunset. Then ready yourself for whatever it takes to preserve them.

All the best,
Glenn B

Kissing A Sexy Woman or Being Peed on By A Toad...

...which would you choose. Well last night let's just say I made the wiser choice and got wet. I went out toad hunting in the first real Monsoon Rains of the season for southern Arizona. It happened like this:

Sometime in the late afternoon yesterday I was sitting where I sit now in the hotel business center; I was minding my own business and was downloading some pics from my camera to my thumb drive when a hotel manager stopped by to chat. She told me about a concert this weekend (Independence day already!) here in Tucson. When she left, she left the business center door ajar. A short while later another woman, this one in a black business suit (a business suit indeed as you will soon see) came over to the center door and knocked (it requires key card entry). I went to let her in as many guests forget their key card or the cards just don't work but before I could open the door she had it open because it had been left ajar by the manager. She came in and sat at the other computer back over my right shoulder.

This lady was probably about 40 to 45. She was wearing a black business suit that was short in the skirt and had quite the set of attractive legs. Soon after she sat down, a man in business attire entered the business center and asked for her signature on a piece of paper he had on a clipboard. She signed it. I figured she was a business lady of some importance if men in business attire were tracking her down for her signature. Soon after, she started to talk to me and two things became quickly apparent - she was hitting up on me, and she was doing it big time. It was kind of flatterring at first and there was some temptation indeed - I mean those legs were killers (probably in more ways than just looks too). Well - it was awhile longer but I figured out that while she was probably in business she was not a business lady as I had first imagined. She was probably in business though, a very old business at that - not that it really mattered either way. After a bit I left for my room. Sometime later I returned to work on the computer but she was still there. She saw me and I decided to make it plain I was not interested - just in case she had thought I had been or in case I thought I had been.

Later on, after I stopped by and enjoyed happy hour for a juice and a small snack (no frogs' legs available), I returned to my room and as doing so guess who I saw in the hallway. She was sort of lost from the looks of things. Something else now also became apparent - she was zonked on something. This should have been apparent earlier, I suppose I had thought she was high but never realized that she was soaring far, far, far out there beyond the clouds. As for me, this only meant that temptation was closer to home so to speak - so I went to my room, grabbed my gear, and went out. Where did I go, where else but to go for a drive in the rain and to look for some toads. I figured I would be better off catching some toads (and maybe getting pissed on in the doing) than I would be to catch some crabs or something worse Did I mention there had been legs involved? No not crab legs but there had been something to do with legs. No not frogs' legs either; yet, somehow and strangely enough, toad legs the uglier cousins of frogs' legs won out.

As it turned out, I went for a drive in the countryside south east and southwest of Tucson. I traveled the main highway south to the Madera Canyon area, and that is where I veered off onto some secondary roads. It was a bit different than previous rides out and about on this trip because the Monsoon rains had begun that same night. Earlier in the evening rains had fallen, but now it was a bit of drizzle here, none there, then more further on. There were small puddles and wet spots here and there and the desert air had an unusual dampness and fresh aroma to it. It was magnificent to me, and also apparently magnificent for my quarry as puddles meant breeding pools. In the span of just a mile or so I probably saw at least 25 live Sonora Desert Toads (aka: The Colorado River Toad - but there was no river nearby where I found them). While more rain probably would be needed to form suitable breeding puddles the toads were out nonetheless, and the ones in this area were mostly mature toads indeed. Bufo alvarius (their scientific name) is the largest toad in North America. Some of the ones I found had to easily be as large around as my hand and pretty fat at that, but remarkably they all had pretty scrawny legs - what a trade off but the better deal by far. I got some good pics and moved on.

The second area I hit was somewhat further south and was west of the Interstate. I was pretty amazed at the amount of toads I saw on the two roads I took after the one at the Madera Canyon area. In about 50 miles of driving (I drove a longer distance but actually only looked for toads in about the mentioned distance) I counted over 350 toads. Now you may not think that 350 was all that many for that far of a distance, but you need to realize that they are not everywhere along that route but rather in areas of suitable habitat such as where water pools after the summer rains. I will admit that on these last two roads the habitat was much more suitable than over near Madera Canyon and it seems the toads would agree with me on that judging by their numbers. of course it had also rained somewhat more in this area and the roads were still pretty wet in most areas when I got there, much wetter than the road near the aforementioned canyon.

So what did I see? Well mostly Sonora Desert Toads from the size of a half dollar around to ones as big as my hand around. Others that I spotted were possibly:

Western Spadefoot Toad (Scaphiopus hammondi), Southwestern Toad (Bufo woodhousei australis) [Note: this is not the Southwestern Toad with scientific name: Bufo microscaphus], Plains Spadefoot (Scaphiopus bombifrons) [I am not all to positive on my ID of one toad I saw as this species but think it was this one], Red Spotted Toad (Bufo punctatus)

I did not get good pics of all of them since the camera I was using does jot always focus so well at night on a rain slicked road in the beam of my flashlight or LED headlamp. I did get great pics of some of them though, and some of those pics appear here for your perusal. Please note, while it is obvious that I saw most of these toads on roadways it may not be so obvious that I take lots of precautions not to become a roadkill statistic or to make myself a hazard for other drivers while I am out and about looking for toads. I choose only very lightly traveled roads ( at least at the times I am there), I park my car well off on the shoulder or even beyond the shoulder of the road when I get out to take pics. I make sure to shut off the headlights on the car when I get out and place on the emergency flashers or appropriate side directional signal (I do not want other drivers who may come along to think that my car is on the road when it is actually parked on the shoulder so off go the headlights). I make sure to have a headlamp (the LED type that straps around your head) and a hand held flashlight, I want to be lit up and those lights go on before I leave the car and are shut off only after I climb back inside the car. I am alert for not only the sight of approaching cars, but also for the sound of approaching cars. i do not get out if I first see any cars approaching nearby (and by that I mean within a mile or more - better to wait and let them pass by). I do not pull over right where the toads are located in most instances because most of the time they are in low points such as washes, and I do not care to have my car washed away in a flash flood. If I walk through a low point such as a place where a wash crosses the road, I keep alert for the sound of approaching water and if I even think I hear it I run to high ground; along those lines I have been fooled a few times by the wind but better foolishly dry and alive than wet and just dead.

Another thing I do, not so much as a precaution, more as a legal thing is to make sure i have the proper license to do what I am doing. A fishing license is require din Arizona to collect hunt or amphibians. I have purchased an Arizona non-resident fishing license about 2 months or more ago. I got the one that is good for 4 months; it was a real bargain compared to the one good for only a few days. I like to keep it legal because I am an ethical hunter and fisherman. In addition I am pretty sure that the cost of a fine for poaching would be much higher than the cost of a license just as the cost of sexy legs as compared to that of scrawny toad legs (and toad pee - yes a few whizzed on me when I picked them up to check them out) would not have been worth the risk involved. Besides all that, my wife is kind of used to me playing with toads and other critters and she might even let me kiss a toad if I wanted to do so (which I do not) but when it comes to other women I do not think she would be as tolerant.

All the best,
Glenn B

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Ballseye's Firearms Accessories Tournament - One More Time For A Great One Liner

Every now and then you hear something, either in real life, or maybe in a movie, that is just a great line about something in which you have an interest, or a line that is just so right that it would fit many a situation. I heard one recently, well actually I heard it a long time ago but it never quite hit me the way it did today what with the anti-gun sentiment that is out there. Hearing that line made me think I should resurrect the Ballseye's Firearms Accessories Tournament (at least for this one shot).

The line was this:

Somebody get a gun - shoot it - shoot it - does anybody have a gun!

or maybe it was this:

Somebody get a gun! Get a gun and shoot it! Does anybody have a gun?

Now while they may not be the exact quote, they are not off by more than a word or so at most. Have you ever heard those words before? Chances are you have heard them but you may not remember where or when. I'll give you a few hints, then see if you can guess without using any sort of search engine other than your own little gray cells and that is on the honor system on your part. If you guess correctly, using only your memory, and send me the correct answer in an email you may win a prize (I say may win because if more than one person guesses correctly only one will win the prize and he or she will be chosen by random drawing from among those with correct entries). Please keep it limited to one entry per person, and send it to me via my email link found under my profile (see over at right for a link to my profile). The contest will be open for a week, closing on June 29, 2009 at 2400 and the prize will be the gun case shown at this link (or something of similar make and cost if this one is unavailable at the time I try to purchase it). There will be one prize awarded in this contest - that is it. This contest is restricted to U.S. Citizens and legal resident aliens of the U.S. and you must also be to 18 years old or older to enter. You agree, by your entry into this contest, that should you be the winner you may be required to send me proof of age, and a statement that you can legally accept the prize, before I send out the prize. I reserve the right to be the sole person who makes determination as to acceptability of entries and eligibility of entrants; and I am the sole person who shall determine the winner. I reserve the right to change the rules as it suits me at any time without any prior notification to anyone (this is known as: The In Case An Asshole Trys To Screw This Contest Up Clause). If these rules do not suit you you are not eligible to enter this contest or to win the prize. By you entering the contest you consent to and agree to abide by the above rules. By the way, if not for assholes I would not even bother to have any rules, so blame them if you don't like to have to follow rules.

Oh, did you think I forgot the hints. Almost but not quite, here they are:

The line was spoken at "the pond" and "the pond" was not in the capital of Indiana.

They would have needed a bigger gun than most but any gun possibly could have been better than none.

It's a line from a movie; and while the movie is not one primarily associated with guns - a rifle made all the difference.

Farewell and adieu,

ps: in case the link above did not work here is another that you can also cut and paste:

Saturday, June 20, 2009

My Lack Of Blogging Over The past 3 Months...

...as most of my readers will be aware has been due to the fact that I am on temporary assignment to Tucson, Arizona. of course while out here I do have access to a computer as can be witnessed by the fact that I have been blogging albeit lightly so allow me to explain why it has been light even though I have access to a computer, and this is no bull!

First of all I am out here on a long term work assignment. I get up at about 0445 to 0500 each morning to get ready for work since I have been working 0600 to 1400. I am not an early bird, my wife and kids could tell you that,; i n fact I hate getting up early but I have had to do it. I usually get back to the hotel by about 1500 (3PM). By that time I am often hot, sweaty, tired, and grouchy. If I had my own computer, at my own desk, with my own bottle of Knappogue Castle Irish Whiskey - well then I would probably be happy to unwind by blogging. The thing is I either have to go to my office for a computer where they frown on employees blogging, or I have to use one of the two computers in the hotel business center (where I am right now as i type this). These computers suck and are sloth like to say the least about them. As it often winds up, when I do head over to the business center, both computers are often already in use and I either have to wait my turn or come back later. happy hour begins at 1730 (5:30 PM) each night and runs for 2 hours. You can bet that once they start serving free (as in no charge at all) booze you will not likely find me at the computer. granted it is not top shelf booze, except maybe for the Jim Beam but they do serve such things as Gordon's gin and vodka, Sauza tequila, and several other liquors in addition to Bud and Bud light on tap and three types of wine (red, white and blush). Oh the agony of not being able to blog while sipping that Irish whiskey or drinking a bottle of Ommegang but I tell you it is possible to overcome my grief at happy hour.

Of course there are even some other things that keep me away from happy hour, and also away from the business center, the computers and blogging. As I have blogged about a few times by now - I love to hike in the area in and around Tucson. My best estimate is that I have been on at least 25 hikes since arriving here in the last week of March and maybe as many as 35. Most have been short ones, a couple of miles, but I have gotten as far as nine miles on one hike and 8 on a couple of others. Yesterday after work, for instance, I hiked just over 6 miles. I did that one at Madera Canyon on the Super Trail. Now one of the reasons I love hiking out here is that there are lizards everywhere that I have hiked. I am a confirmed herp nut and seeing these little critters is my cup of tea. Yesterday I counted 36 lizards on the trail - 33 of them on my way up the trail. It got a lot cooler and cloudier on my way down and they beat feet for a crevice among the rocks to weather out the storm that seemed to be approaching. Lucky for me it only rained on me a little before I got back to my car but the temps dropped about 10 to 15 degrees in the last 1/2 hour of my hike down the mountain. and that was a nice bit of cooling off at that for a weary old hiker like me.

There are other reasons that I love to hike besides the chance to see a lot of herps. I love the outdoors, love to walk in the mountains, love the scenery, love to hear the birds singing, love to see the wildlife (I walked up within 25 feet of a mule deer yesterday out in the middle of nowhere off the trail - not the one pictured - that is one that Brendan spotted while he was out here - also at Madera Canyon) love the fresh air, and sort of like the exercise especially since I have lost about 16 to 18 pounds since I have gotten here. All those things are reasons good enough to just forget about blogging for awhile. Now if you don't believe me, well then just take a gander at the pics that accompany this blog. The sunset was yesterday - taken on the road on my way out of Madera Canyon. No, not the best pic of a sunset, but seeing it in person was awesome. It is not often that the sun peeks through a split in the clouds like that just at sunset. Then there were the cows. maybe you live in the country and see lots of cows or steers, but I live just outside of NYC where I see animals like pigeons, squirrels, and of course animals of another less noble sort on a daily basis (you figure what that means because I am not about to get myself riled up thinking about them). So I get a kick out of seeing cows strolling along the roadside as I am driving by - note I said on the roadside and not on the middle of the road. Yep that stuff makes it more than worthwhile to go on these hikes. Take a look and you will see what I mean.

If you don't think those things are worth missing out on blogging, well then you live in the virtual world of the Internet a bit too much for my liking - but to each his own. As for me, I figure I'll get out there whenever I can to enjoy it all, and if I find the time later on, well then I'll blog about it. The thing that makes it best of all though is lacking in my life right now, and that would be my son who is herping, hiking, hunting and fishing partner. He was here for a week and we had fun even though i was fighting off the swine flu as best I could while taking him around south eastern Arizona for a few adventures.

All the best,
Glenn B

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Alone In Tucson Again...

...but while Brendan was here we had a few good times together despite the fact that I was under the weather.

The high point of his trip may have been when he looked down while in Pima Canyon. He looked down, exclaimed something to the effect of "Oh golly shit", prodded around with the end of my walking stick in the then dry sand of the wash, and came up with a Cold Steel brand machete still in its case. Granted it was pretty rusted being that he found it in the middle of the wash in an area that had water in it (not water in that exact spot but water only feet away from it and upstream at that, so the sand there was probably damp a lot) on each of my previous visits, but it was a pretty neat find. Of course he could not take it home with him on the plane since he only had a carry-on bag but I figure I'll find someplace for it in my checked luggage when I return home. Once home I think we will have to see if we can restore it some by getting the rust off of it. Strange thing is that even though badly rusted, even pitted in some places, it still held a very sharp edge and my guess would be that it would still have been effective used for its intended purpose despite the time, the ling time, it probably spent in the wash.

Of course we also found some other things on the Pima Canyon Trail and those included a lot of lizards and some good views. In the lizard department we were hoping to get to see a Gila Monster repeating my luck of a previous hike there. While we did not duplicate that bit of good fortune we did see something that neither of us had seen in the area before and we saw it quite possibly because of good trail manners we had just exercised. You see, we were hiking back down out of the canyon. At the same time as us, there was a group of three other guys hiking down who were behind us a bit. They were walking at a pace just above ours and after a while of hearing them chatting behind us it was time for us to move to the side and let them pass and they politely thanked us. Well after a short while we decided to take a break to drink some water and to give me a rest. I was pooped, shame on me for hiking while having the flu, but it was Brendan's last full day here and I was going to make sure he did something fun. As it turned out, the three guys we had let pass us only minutes before were up ahead all bent over looking at something on the ground. Brendan asked if i wanted to stop where we stood, a place I had actually had in mind to stop at, but when I saw those three so intensely peering at something I said 'let's move on a bit'. The three guys soon straightened up and continued their hike and we soon got to the spot where they had been peering at something. I sat down, as did Brendan, and almost no sooner than we sat he blurted out something like 'check it out'. There was a Collared Lizard, a male in full breeding colors, that had just run up the trail directly at us. It stopped only a few feet away, watched us a moment or two as I took some pics of it over Brendan's shoulder (all blurry at that), ran off the trail a few feet, stopped at a rock with an obvious hollow under it, peered into the hole and then disappeared into it. We decided to try to catch it. Brendan lifted the rock and before I could even think about making a grab the little guy ran back onto the trail. The thing is another collared lizard, apparently a female, also took off from under the same rock.
These lizards are normally very wary of their surroundings and any potential threats like hawks, roadrunners, coyotes and herpers (they would have been us). This guy was very bold indeed staying pretty close, and the reason he was staying close was obvious - he was horny! Typical guy I suppose, a pretty female nearby makes us all brazen. Brendan got a shot or two of the female (the one on the rocks at left), and he and I both got some shots of the male (the one in the pic above next to the backpack). While she ran under some bushes and was harder to photograph, he stayed out in the open for over 5 minutes, moving back and forth along the trail. He even posed next to my backpack. When you look at the pic of him, click on it to enlarge it then look at the yellow spots. While the pic may not do them justice you can get some sense of just how luminescent were those spots in the daylight (and it was light overcast). That was a great find made by my son's sharp eyes and in part at least based upon our good fortune due to us having had good trail manners earlier. If we hadn't had perfect timing we would never have seen it, and that perfect timing was due to our having moved aside on the trail. Coincidence? Maybe you think so but as for me I'll just take it as a rare instance of a good deed being rewarded for us instead of the typical "No good deed goes unpunished" sort of a thing.
It was a fine last day for his trip to Tucson, better than most that preceded it if not the best of all. As for me, I am here till the end of June, maybe even until the end of July since they asked me to extend. Sometimes it seems as if I just cannot get enough of this place.
All the best,
Glenn B

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Flu Sucks...

...really it does. It sucks the energy right out of you; and having it while you are away from home, while your son is visiting you - so you can keep up your tradition of the annual road trip - really sucks even more. I know because for the past few days I have felt like crap big time, and today I was diagnosed as most likely having Swine Flu (egad - did I not call it H1N1). I'll stick to calling it Swine Flu and just tell you it is not fun. No high fever, I am lucky in that regard, but I have all of the other symptoms and probably had a low grade fever the past three days (I felt downright chilly when it was 95 degrees outside in the shade and I was in the sun).

My biggest fear is that my son comes down with this due to his visit to see me. He just got over an upper respiratory infection and does not need another bout of anything. If he appears ill before his scheduled departure, I guess I'll be extending his stay with me - no reason to get on a plane and share this with more people all over the country or the world. The doc said he should start to show rapid onset of symptoms before Saturday if he caught it.

Did she say rapid? I coughed a rasping painful cough on late Monday afternoon and with an hour or two at the most had aches and pains throughout my body, felt chilled, had a sore throat, and felt just plain miserable. So far I guess only a mild case, I hope it stays tame.

All the best,
Glenn B