This time the weather is perfect. I stay in a campsite about 5 miles from the reserve. It has flat ground, tables and little noise. It is however extremely cold. Thank God my heater is working in the camper otherwise I would have been found Scott-like. The mornings are tough as without gloves it its impossible to operate, yet with gloves, it is impossible to make coffee due to clumsiness.
I take photos of birds.
I stay for 3 wonderful days. Tomorrow, I negotiate the Mexican border. I hope they let me in!
I have set off for epic birdwatching trip and am now near the New Mexico/ Mexico border. The plan is spend time here, then drive down through Mexico to San Blas in Nayarit, subsequently drive back across Mexico to shoot out into Texas. I then birdwatch in Corpus Christi before heading off to Charlotte NC to scrounge off Ben. Then drive back to San Francisco.
Seems like a good idea but whether the truck and I have the resilience remains to be seen.
I set off but after a few blocks I realize that I cannot make this trip and turn back home. I have forgotten my passport.
I surge down to Southern California to pick up remnants of Route 66.
I love driving down U.S. back roads. The space is incredible, nothing but desert, scrub an d huge blue skies for hours.
Anyway, you get the idea and after 5 days of semi roughing it I check in to a Motel in Socorro. I need a shower and an internet connection.
So I am now clean and ready for the next stage which is obsessive birdwatching.
I got my booster shot today. Very easy! You get the shot in a pharmacy. You book an appointment online and just wander in.
Very different from the huge gymnasium where I had my first jabs in Okinawa.
I checked in and waited for 5 minutes. A very small Russian lady, who is probably a lot older than me, leads me to a sort of storage room and jabs me.
Everyone is very sweet and helpful and it is all free. I wonder if the vaccination process may start U.S. crazies wondering if having a health service might be a good thing.
James and Diane spent the New Year holidays in the truck and camper, snuffling around the coastal forest somewhere near Mendocino. They found kilos of mushrooms. What you see above is only a small sample. James is an expert mushroomer. Beef and mushroom pie tonight!
It is very Scottish weather-wise. It is cold, wet, windy, grey to dark. James is an excellent companion as he revels in bad weather as does Diane, which is more surprising as she’s a Californian girl.
We intend to have a slap up oysters and fish lunch in one of the many restaurants that line Tomales Bay. No good; all closed.
No worries; we head for Point Reyes. Diane has brought some dry bread and cheese and we envisage a less than sumptuous, convict themed, Xmas lunch.
Everything is closed except for the Inverness Store. The lady makes us fantastic sandwiches, Avocado and shrimp for James, Club for Diane and I get a Reuben. Forget your turkey and stuff these sandwiches were the best!
Point Reyes is deserted apart from us and nature things. Bull Elephant Seals have started to show up on the beaches.
You can walk right up to them if you so wish. They do not seem to be concerned by our proximity.
Filled with fresh air, we drive back to San Francisco. An elaborate Xmas dinner is planned but none of us can face cooking. A slice of cheese, a glass of red wine and early to bed! Probably my most abstemious Xmas ever.
I have written before about snugness and cosiness, I crave both. I can’t get it in Okinawa, they just don’t sell it.
West Highland winters are long, wet, cold and dark. For thousands of years my ancestors hunched around peat fires, wrapped in wool plaids as the rain pounded on the turf roof and the westerly gales howled around the walls of whatever cabin they had been able to erect. No point going outside as there is nothing to do anyway. The fields are waterlogged and the beasts that have survived the autumn slaughter are snuggling around the peat fire too.
A need to return to this semi hibernation is strong in me. So thanks ancient Gods for the cold, wet, windy weather that has enveloped San Francisco.
I lie on my sofa in front of the wonderful gas fire for days. I read excellent novels and plan routes around Mexico. It is so cosy, so snug, I am so happy.
I occasionally go for a breath of fresh air.
I used to work with Brad at SLAC. He rightly chucked in the Science Communication stuff for a real job. He now makes vodka, gin and absinthe.
Buy as much Farallon Gin, Vodka or Absinthe as you can afford. It is an investment.
Before the Scottish weather arrived, we were blessed with sun and warmth. The Panhandle Park, just across the road, was full of activity.
So, I intend to make a Homeric birdwatching trip to the middle of Mexico, then back across Mexico to pop out somewhere in Texas. Next, I will negotiate the Southern states to pop out in North Carolina to visit Ben. Finally, drive across country back to San Francisco.
My only worry about this trip is truck suspension. Poor little Tacoma is carrying a lot of weight. I have already fitted airbags to boost the suspension but I do not trust them. They sometimes blow or leak. I used to have a Range Rover that had air bags for suspension – useless. https://thequietripple.com/2012/08/24/v8/
The idea of an air bag singular, or airbags plural, blowing on some lonesome trail in a gulch somewhere in the mountains of Guadalajara is disquieting.
I decide to install an extra leaf in the rear springs. This will take the weight off the air bags and generally stiffen the rear suspension.
I go to A-1 Springs in Oakland. You should go there too.
I drop off the truck at 08:00 and ask Ruben, the owner, where I can get breakfast. He says he doesn’t know anywhere close by and when I show him a diner not too far away on Google Maps, he says ominously,”You don’t want to go there.”
I protest that it will be OK. It can only be a 20 minute walk and I have lots of time. ” No man, you can’t walk down there, I’ll give you a ride.”
He does and I have the best breakfast.
I am the only non African American anywhere to be seen but everyone is very sweet to me; probably because I am an old timer.
I have time to kill and so I go to the Oakland Zoo. I love zoos and the one in Oakland is excellent. Go there! It is on the side of a mountain and has incredible views over the huge animal enclosures across the bay to San Franciso.
Around lunchtime I get a call from Ruben; the truck is done!
Great day! Truck rock solid, best breakfast, lots of animals and driving over the Bay Bridge always thrills me.
Those of us who survive the warm up, set off at a gentle pace and look at the ducks. The weather has been perfect with clear skies and ideal walking temperatures. First time I have been walking for a year or so when sweat stains have not besmirched my T-shirt as soon as I set off. Very pleasant.
The guys are all retired, all gracious, have had full lives and have many excellent stories. The best company.
Some might say that it is a pity that immediately after the walk, we go to a diner for a huge breakfast.
This tends to undo the benefits of the previous hour but the pleasure is intense.
Anyway, thanks guys for letting me join!
The great event of the week is the arrival of my 2022 parking ticket. This allows me to park the truck in front of the house. Difficult to explain how much looking for a parking spot misery and pain this little rectangle of yellow plastic cures.
The title is in the French language and refers to pig behavior. They roll around, wallow, in muck.
In France, I seem to remember that the expression refered to staying up too late, drinking far too much, smoking too much, sleeping on the floor in strange places, clothes unwashed.
Most people’s perversions take place late at night. They slip out at dusk, looking over their shoulder to take part in, to me, inconceivable debauchery.
My perversion takes place early in the morning. At 06:30 I am found, unwashed, hurrying up the Panhandle Park towards that immortal den of depravity, the Kezar Pub. There I join other twisted folk. We grunt recognition of our mutual difficulty and settle in to watch international Rugby matches.
Smiling waitresses swoop around with armfuls of Full Irish Breakfasts and pints of Guinness.
Buoyed by being in the company of other weirdos, we guzzle beer very early in the morning. We chew our way through 3 eggs, bacon, sausages, black pudding, beans, hash browns, toast. We have no shame. We roll around squealing, oinking and having the best time.
England win – boo. Ireland win – congratulations! Slight regret as it seems right that the All Blacks always win. When they lose, I feel this is a bad omen.
The games are finally over and we sneak out, looking left and right, to check there is nobody we know outside.
I find my way home. I make it down Haight stinking of stale beer. Actually, most people seem to stink of stale beer, or worse.
I get home at 12:30 and decide that a little nap would be a good idea. I wake at 17:30.