Friday, July 10, 2015

West By North West

Well, just about anything via road travel is North when you leave Florida.  We last left you in Arkansas with Nicole on the great hunt for an Alligator Snapping Turtle.  That dream pretty much died as we crossed into Missouri for the night. 

The small town of Thayer is just across the border from Mammoth Springs, Arkansas, and we had been to both in previous (pre-Annie) travels.  So, in the morning, we opted for a little reminiscing.  We headed down toward Mammoth Springs and decided to explore the new-to-us visitor center at the FWS Fish Hatchery. 

There wasn’t much going on at the hatchery (fish wise) this particular time of the year but we heard some birds and were up for a walkabout so we exited stage rear.  We encountered a group of kids receiving a presentation by a ranger. 

Being the curious sort we hung around for a bit and listened in.  After all, he kept pulling things out of boxes.  Who wouldn’t stick around for that?! 

And then it happened.  Something we never expected.  It was a complete shock and yet, admittedly, a little bit exciting.  O.K.  It was a LOT exciting!  One minute he is cracking jokes with the kids and the next minute the man just whips out...

                            AN ALLIGATOR SNAPPING TURTLE!!!!!

                                      Seriously!  It was so cool!

Moving right along... We saw some other neat things, as well.  At a volunteer position in PA we assisted with some wood duck box monitoring / repair and such.  Yet, we never saw a Wood Duck.

                                      Here we saw our first.

                                      Both male and female.

An Eastern Kingbird sat upon a post and observed us observing.

A Killdeer stayed very close and appeared to be leading us away from a nest.

       The Starlings had claimed the Purple Martin condo for the season.

                               And were busy feeding the family.

This Eastern Phoebe toyed with us staying just a few feet ahead our whole walk.

Before long, our stretch was over and it was time to get back on the road.  Although the only fish we saw at the hatchery were in the visitor center, we did see a lot of birds and, of course...

                           The Amazing Alligator Snapping Turtle!

Tooling on down the road we headed north until we could enter Nebraska and then we made a beeline west.  The weather quickly changed and the skies were a bit questionable. 

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Before we left Florida we had watched a movie about tornado chasers that drove a cool ‘tornado-proof’ vehicle so they could get very close and even drive right into the middle of one (that last part may have just been for the movie).  Perhaps that was on our minds as Annie is not exactly tornado proof!

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We pushed on though and according to news reports managed to stay just ahead or just behind the true nastiness.  Not that we were trying to be a part of it.  We were just cruising along at our normally very slow rate of driving though when this “thing” goes whizzing by us!  You’ll never guess what it was.

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      We only caught the tail end of it photography wise.  Can you guess?

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OK  Here’s a ‘web acquired’ shot.  It was the T.I.V. that we saw in the movie!
Well, not exactly that one... we think.  But one of them.  T.I.V. stands for Tornado Intercept Vehicle.  Too cool!

Despite the impending doom look of the sky the whole time our trip through Nebraska was a smooth one.  We stopped off at the last rest area in NE for a short bit and spotted these.

                                          Western Kingbird

When they weren’t posing for our collection they were busy furiously building a nest.

    Having just seen the Eastern Kingbird in Arkansas this was a real treat.

We spent our last night of “freedom” (yes, we are headed to volunteer, again) at a rest area in Wyoming that we had overnighted at prior to full-timing.  The last time we were here we were on a month long cross country rock climbing adventure.  Although we do not climb nearly as much as we used to, we still had to hop on that rest area boulder just once for sentimental purposes.


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We also explored the trails a bit before settling in for a relaxing night.

                  Yes, we saw some things... like this neat flower.

             And many other flowers, bugs and such.

                     Mostly, we focused on being back in Wyoming.

                                         It felt really good.

          Wyoming definitely speaks to us (in quiet and soothing tones).

      There is something about the state that we can’t put our finger on.

   People ask why we like Wyoming so much and truthfully we can’t tell you.

               We just know that we like it a lot.

                            And that is all that we need to know.

With that, we have finally caught up to our present location (well, our present State anyway).  As for exact locations and happenings... for those of you that we don’t communicate with in other ways, thanks for reading and we’ll get there (sooner or later).