Anyway, it’s getting pretty late, so we grab food and head out. I take off my old, beat-up Timex digital watch, and put on the Movado. It’s of course totally ridiculous to be wearing a $3000 watch while traipsing through the desert in shorts and a T-shirt, but dammit, it’s a beautiful watch and I’m going to wear the damn thing, dammit! (I admire it every five minutes, all day. It’s gorgeous.)
We head off down the 101, making good time. As we whiz past the fields, I glance over and remark on a large bird (probably raptor), flying by. Rob says, “Yes! It is a hawk…I’d say it’s a red-tailed hawk…and it’s being chased by a red-winged blackbird!”
I look over. Sure enough, there’s a little black bird flying after the hawk, and every so often it bounces down and thwacks at the hawk.
“Wait. That blackbird is picking on a HAWK??”
“Yeah! The hawk probably threatened its nest or something. Notice how it’s faster and more maneuverable than the hawk? Hawks are pretty clumsy near the ground…and it can be a real problem for the hawk, if they pull out enough of its primaries.” [Primaries = big wing feathers.]
“Yeah! One of my neighbors down the street, Dale something or other, has about half a billion dollars, and a cloud of women buzzing around on his estate. One of them is a hawk rehabilitator. I ran into her one day because there was a log blocking the road…I was taking it apart with a chainsaw, so she stopped and chatted while I was working. She had a hawk with her, on the front seat.”
“Of the car??”
“Yeah. I looked at it a bit, and finally said, ‘Umm, your passenger appears to be pulling the stuffing out of your upholstery…is that OK?’ She looked over and said, ‘Oh. Yeah, they do that.’
“Then he started flapping his wings, and I said, ‘Aren’t you worried he’s going to fly away?’
“She said, ‘You know, he keeps trying to fly. He’s getting very depressed about it.'”
This particular hawk, it turned out, had been picked up at Shoreline Park, with all his primaries missing. She thought he’d been swarmed by a flock of starlings. Without its primaries, a hawk can’t fly, and usually dies since it can’t hunt from the ground. He’d been brought to her for rehabilitation, basically to keep him until his feathers grew back in.
I think, “Hmm…I wonder if I could get into hawk rehabilitation? It sounds like it would be fun…”
Then I sternly remind myself that I already have two cats and three snakes, and am considering getting two or three more snakes…and like traveling…so a hawk, which has to be flown every single day, is just out of the question. But I file it away in my memory for a later date…perhaps, if/when I move to the country, and become an artist…??
Still, I make a note in my mind that I want to meet this hawk rehabilitator, if I ever get a chance.
We continue on, and take lots of photos and make lots of commentary along the route. I take photos of the route, and the roads, especially in the areas where I’ve already sketched out scenes. Rob gives me a running commentary on the plants and ecological climate zones that we pass, which is really useful–now I can say “cottonwoods” instead of “green tree-things, slightly brighter green than those darker green tree-things.”
(The darker green tree-things, incidentally, turn out to be digger pines, which–says Rob–are “a pine with HUGE pine cones and a very tasty, edible nut. Too bad the cones grow about 60 feet off the ground.” Which reminds me, Rob and I used to go out hunting for the native pinon pine nuts, which are ready sometime in October-November, and are fantastic in flavor–big, mild, tender, and almost juicy, a far cry from the dried-up little wizened nuts you find in stores. The last few years there hasn’t been much of a crop, so I ask Rob how he thinks this year’s crop will be–he says he doesn’t know, but will keep an eye open. We agree that we’ll go pinon-hunting together when the new crop ripens–I don’t know the best locations, and it’s more fun anyway to go in pairs. Rob, on the other hand, doesn’t know anyone else crazy enough to go hunting pinons with him–they are covered in incredibly sticky sap that’s almost impossible to get off, especially if you climb up to get the cones, as I usually do. I wrap up in disposable clothes and plastic, from head to toe–shower cap over hair–and it still takes an hour or three to get de-resined afterwards.)
Anyway, we keep going, and by 5pm have covered half the route. (We have a brief moment of amusement in Bradley, the lunch site for AIDS Lifecycle, when we spot an honest-to-god cowboy, on horse, driving two cows down the main street of the town, which is also U.S. 101. I took photos, I may post them if I get a chance.) We’re driving off to one of the rest stops when Rob says, “Hey, do you mind stopping for a bit? There’s a plant I want to look for, it’s right by the road, and I know where it is.”
I say, “Sure, why not, we’ve got time,” and we pull over. I’m familiar with these botanizing runs–he and I used to go into the desert looking for interesting plants all the time. (Which turned into snake-collecting runs eventually, but that’s another story.) Rob goes off with the camera to take photos; I take my drop spindle out, stand by the car, and start spinning. It’s so nice to be able to stand around, and stretch my legs a bit.
Eventually, I notice that there are tiny explosive sounds coming from the hill above, like gunfire; obviously, there must be a shooting range up there somewhere.
And then a bunch of military personnel carriers (humvees, jeeps, et al) drive by with guys in camo. I figure they’re going up to the military reserve, and it’s probably related to the firing noises–maybe they’re training on a shooting range or something.
By now Rob’s been gone for quite awhile, and I’m getting a bit impatient–I figure he’s gotten distracted with something and is haring off after some weird plant or animal (this being one of the reasons he’s my ex: easy to distract, very unreliable). But, I’m enjoying the afternoon, it’s beautiful scenery, and I’m getting some glorious white angora-silk-merino blend spun up, so I’m not too worried. (Besides, it was awfully nice of him to come along on this trip with me, not to mention the gorgeous new watch which I keep stopping to admire.)
Around then a state police car comes by, sees the truck sitting by the side of the road, and pulls up behind us. I think, “Oh, how nice, they’ve come by to make sure we’re OK,” and wait for the trooper to come up and talk to me.
He doesn’t, and I wonder vaguely why he isn’t. Well, maybe he’s just filling out reports or something…if I wanted to know, I’d have to interrupt my spinning, walk over, and talk to him, which I’d rather not do (I’m enjoying the solitude and peace of the afternoon), so I keep on spinning, humming to myself.
At this point, Rob turns up, hails the guy, says, “It’s all right!” and he takes off. Naturally this makes me a bit curious, so I ask him what happened.
He said, “Well, they picked me up on surveillance, and sent military and state police after me.”
I said, “No!!”
He said, “Yeah. There I was, taking photos of this plant, and I see guys coming up to me with guns.”
“What did they want?”
“Well, they said, ‘What are you doing here?? You can’t take pictures, this is a military installation!’
“I said, ‘I’m a botanist! I’m taking pictures of PLANTS!’
“They said, ‘How do we know you’re a botanist??’
“Ask Father Leuwenhoek! He knows me, he’ll tell you I’ve been here before.” [Father L. is the guy who runs the church, nearby.]
“Okay, but we’ll need to see your photos.”
[They take the camera and start paging back through the photos, including mine.]
“Why do you have photos of all these roads and bridges?
“I’m traveling with a friend of mine! She’s working on a book about the AIDS Ride!”
“Yeah, right. Hmm…I guess they do come through here every year.”
“Well, OK, I guess we can let you go, but don’t take ANY more photos, and call us the next time you want to come over. Oh–and we’re going to have to wait a minute; we need to check the terrorist watch list before we can let you go.”
*chuckle* Only Rob.
(See, *I* can go take photos, or drive around, and not get arrested. But practically every time Rob goes anywhere, he gets into trouble of one sort or another. It’s just that some of us have the sense not to go taking photos in a military installation while they’re doing training exercises…)
On the way out from the installation, we saw lots of Jeeps and Humvees driving by–some with pretty fearsome equipment, like missile launchers. I guess they must have been doing some pretty serious military exercises.
The rest of the day went largely without incident; I got the photos I needed, and we covered nearly all the route. I didn’t get photos of the campsite, but as I plan to wrap up the chapter just as the riders come into camp, I won’t need it until I start Chapter 4. Now all I need to do is transcribe the tape, and print thumbnails of the photos, so I can start writing.
(I just got a used transcriber off eBay, so I can finally slow down the tapes enough to start transcription. I can’t wait to try it–I think it’ll be MUCH easier with this machine.)
Oh, and Rob and I have agreed that, sometime in June, we’ll take a day or two and scout the entire route–and he promises to try *not* to get arrested, this time.