Thursday, July 31, 2008

Zero For Two

I was on the road by sunrise. My route took me to western Arkansas so I had to cut across Missouri. I snagged a few photos of water towers along the way. By lunch time, I was a bit hungry and thirsty. I happen to be in passing through the small town of Aurora, Missouri, and they happen to have a brewery called Bootleggers! I totally bumbled into it. I found the four beers samples, Dark Bock, House Special, Light Wheat, and Pale Ale, to be very plain. None of them where bad by any means, but at no point did I really think “Wow, this is great!” I did, however, have a big problem with the names. Come on! “Pale Ale”. That is the best they could come up with! “Hey, weary traveler, let us “Wow!” you with our…….Pale Ale!” I have had a few beers in my day, and the names from some of these microbreweries can be a lot of fun and often have local connections. They need to get with the program. There is a Civil War battlefield up the street, for Pete’s sake. So much potential: Artillery Ale, Ammunition Ale, Amputation Ale….ok, scratch that last one, but you see my point. The Light Wheat was very puzzling. Wheat beers are great, and lights suck. Its that simple. Why ruin a good thing? They, however, made up some points with the fact that the brewery was located in an old bank. That was neat.

The roadkill were everywhere. Very sad. So many poor turtles never stand a chance. Too many dead.

Heading south along the west side of Arkansas, I had to pass both Pea Ridge National Military Park and Fort Smith National Historic Site. As some of you know, I want to visit as many National Park sites as possible. I found it a bit frustrating to literally drive right past the front gate of Pea Ridge, but I did not have time to stop. Perhaps next time. I was on to some place different….

The Ouachita (wash-EH-taw) National Forest is a home to a bird that I made a secondary target bird for the trip. Bachman’s Sparrow can be found there simply because they can utilize the habitat that is being managed for the Red-cockaded Woodpecker. Basically, burn your woods now and then, and you get both. Unfortunately, I did not find the sparrow. I had tips from an employee who even told what tree to stand by, and I still could not find the little buggers (he had three birds three weeks earlier). I had Yellow-breasted Chats, Prairie Warblers, Pine Warblers and a Red-cockaded Woodpecker (a Federally endangered bird), but no Bachman’s Sparrow. My travel itinerary for the first part of the trip was tight. I only had about 2 hours at that site. I thought that would be enough since I basically had the exact location of a breeding bird. It was dinner time, so I thought I would have some luck with evening activity, but it was not too be. I am now 0 for 2 with this bird. I also missed it in North Carolina in ’06.

With my head sunk in defeat, I moved on the Texarkana, Texas for the night. Driving there was a treat. The western part of Arkansas is truly spectacular. I really mean that. The heat can be a bit rough, I imagine, as demonstrated by the aluminum foil placed on the windows on the various trailer homes along the way….

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