Natalie is not at all new to birding. After all, she is one of the few people I know who has Red-whiskered Bulbul in its native range. It was, believe it or not, her idea to do this trip. Aside from the local Prickly Pear Cactus, she has not seen a wild cactus before. She wanted to do just that – see a wild cactus. One place comes to mind were folks can bird and see a cactus.
Generally speaking, the opportunity to bird legendary places like Madera Canyon and Mount Lemmon is not to be missed. Some of the rarest birds in the United States are found only here. Sure, once you cross into Mexico, they become more common, but then you risk getting your head chopped off in a drug cartel dispute. We like our heads where they are now.
It is worth noting that I had some target birds for this trip. Knowing the world does NOT revolve around me, we built the trip to see “my” birds knowing that damn near every bird species west of the Mississippi River would be new for her. New birds at every turn. I remember those days!
Keep in mind, too, this was chance for us to catch up with friends and family. My birding buddy Joe, and his wife, Corrine, live in Green Valley, Arizona (south of Tucson). They have an “open door” policy for friends. Natalie’s aunt Marge, lives in Scottsdale. She birds and has been begging Natalie to come down for years.
With the Chevy Cruze loaded and ready, and with legal permission to skip our jobs for two weeks, off we went. Yes, we drove. Like a buddy of mine once said, it is hard to see birds at 35,000 feet. Driving is much more fun if you have time.
There are not a lot of breweries at 35,000 feet either. What is a bird vacation without an occasional stop for a beer at a brewery?
One thing, of course, that can make travel easy during long drives is the opportunity to listen to music. When two people have a similar taste in jams, life is so much better, I think. For example, if I wanted to listen to Godsmack, she’s good with it. She even likes it! The Beatles? How can you not like the Beatles? Never the less, I was always prepared to play my trump card when it was time to listen to Iron Maiden. After all, it worked for this kid!
Rocketing out of work at 5:01pm on June 14th, we made it as far as Greenfield, Illinois.
On the road by dawn the following day, the 900 miles that lay ahead of us for Day 2 really gave us a chance to see what so many people call a boring part of the country.
Well, that’s not true. They think it is boring.
As we moved along, it was nice to see a change in the landscape and, of course, the bird life. While Oklahoma had some eastern flair, like the Broad-winged Hawk over I-40, there were also plenty of Scissor-tailed Flycatchers. It is their State Bird, ya know. Swainson’sHawks and Western Kingbirds really started to tell us we were not near home.
Interestingly enough, the roads felt just like Detroit. Up until now, I was convinced the roads in Southeast Michigan were some of the worse the country has to offer. I stand corrected! A slight detour into Oklahoma City for dinner changed that! Holy crap! If I had my eyes closed, I would have thought for sure we were in Wayne County. We’ll call it even. Yup. Detroit AND Oklahoma City.
Sunset found us in Elk City, Oklahoma. A long day, indeed. I have driven across the country before. It seems to have grown quite a bit since the last time I did it. Plate tectonics? Yeah. That’s it. The country is stretching…..