Home Again

Stilt Sandpiper

Yesterday, we drove home. We got a late start leaving Ann Arbor, but still made good time and with the time change working in our favor, got home at six. A bit of rain greeted us as we crossed the Mississippi. Its only real effect was to pump up the humidity though. Welcome back to Sweat Louis! The lawn didn’t look as bad as I had feared, so no rush there. As Joanie reported, the city had removed our last Silver maple on the parking strip. I’m sure the squirrels who inhabited it thought, “What about the foreclosure moratorium?” The stump still remains and I can see that the squirrels had hollowed the heartwood down to the ground. The city should be back eventually to grind the stump away, like it did the first two.

Last night, was a dark and stormy night. Thunder and lighting were out all night long and have extended their display into today. Moments after the first rain began, I could hear the sirens wind up their wails at the nearby fire station. This occurs every time it rains. Nobody drives carefully on the highway until it’s too late. Is it just me? But the first few fat raindrops sounded like squirrel scratching when they hit the back porch. Anyway, I kept being awakened with each new round of storms.  We were rewarded in the morning with flash flood warning boxes blanketing the city. Our sump pump even got into the act.

Joanie takes in our mail while we are gone and there were a few surprises. My absentee ballot for last week’s election had eventually arrived. I had to go to the election commission to cast my ballot, because it had not shown. Surprisingly, a second ballot arrived for Anne. When I asked her, what about the other 9,998? She said that she had had China handle all of those. Our bill for the Toyota never arrived, so I’ll have to go online and try to fix that, along with straightening out many of our other bills. Most of them are already online and normally, I have no problem paying them remotely, but unfortunately I really need the laptop to do that. The bank’s iPhone app doesn’t really distinguish between the multiple accounts that we have with the same payee and I’m not about to put a ton of money down, thinking I’m paying off a credit card, when what I’m really doing is paying thirty years of rent on the safety deposit box. I’ve already done that.

My final must accomplish chore for today is to restock the larder. To that end, I placed and received grocery orders through both Instacart and Shipt. I used Shipt to backfill some of the items that Instacart couldn’t fulfill. Now our once empty icebox is reasonably filled again. There is still laundry, cooking and cleaning and it might even clear off enough for a walk. Oh and don’t forget the blog either.

Ann Arbor Interlude

Fly Fishing the Huron

For a rest day, a lot happened on Friday. Apparently too much to blog about then. We did a small hike in the next door Dolph Nature Area, read trolling for ticks. Cruised the old family homestead on Lincolnshire. Drove out Huron River Drive first to Delhi. Snuck in for lunch with Bluebirds, but got scoped by the park police. Not a problem. Snapped the pictured fly fisherman before beating feet. Cruised Dexter in our AWD PPE. Then headed back to the ranch for siesta.

Dinner at Chez Harry’s for his 93rd birthday. The menu included Jane’s signature enchiladas, Harry’s delightful salad and Anne’s angel food cake topped with strawberries and cabin blueberries. Jay hosted a zoom meeting and the boys offered their well wishes. There were presents, but Anne stole the show with the presentation of her memory, remembrance, clan Farqhuarson quilt. One half tartan and one half family photo gallery. Harry loved it! It was a big hit.

Harry Admires the Quilt

Serendipity intruded when the first friends that we made, after we first moved to Saint Louis from Ann Arbor commented on the blog last week that they now live in Ann Arbor. They live quite close to where we are staying and we arranged to meet for breakfast at nearby Zimmerman’s Roadhouse. We had a delightful conversation over coffee and pastries, catching up on old times.

In Ann Arbor, Anne read Carsick by John Waters, director of the movies Pink Flamingos and Hairspray. It was on the bookshelf at our Air B&B. In it was a gift receipt indicating that the book was to our hostess from Jane. The book recounts tale of hitchhiking across America. The story is divided into three parts, “the best that could happen”, “the worst that could happen” and “the real thing.” Anne liked the first part, found the second part disturbing (that’s Waters), but it was an episode from the third part that piqued my interest. Waters was hitching through Saint Louis and while crossing the Mississippi River was marveling at the Arch, his favorite public sculpture. He knew that he had caught a good ride, when the couple giving him the lift, told him that they had had sex in the Arch. More particularly in one of the tram cars that carry people to the top and back. These tram cars normally seat five, but on off hours it is easy to believe that a couple could get there own private car. The rub is that it only takes four minutes to get to the top. The return run is even faster, three minutes. No time for foreplay!

On our way home now. Headed back to the Lou. Looking forward to sleeping in our own bed again tonight. It’s been a great trip.

Mental Cruise Control

Open Road

We got an early start on our down state journey, crossed the bridge and entered troll land. It was foggy when we began, with the island stolen by Canada, but we broke free from it when we got on the highway. Anne took the first shift, getting us to West Branch and I drove the rest of the way. Traffic was light. We stopped for gas at Birch Run. For some reason the RAV4 is getting less range than normal when I fill up in Michigan. I don’t know if it is the formulation or what? Satellite radio supplied the mind floss for the journey and served as our mental cruise control.

We arrived in Ann Arbor and found our Air B&B. It is a basement studio apartment that is billed as an urban treehouse, which seems like an oxymoron, but is actually quite apt. We inadvertently tried to enter the neighbor’s house first, but it was locked and we were fortunate no one was at home as we tried to break-in. We’ll stay here two nights. We have a backyard pizza party tonight and Harry’s birthday party tomorrow. There is also our friends from Saint Louis who now live in town. I also hope to visit my family’s former house.


Sandhill Crane

I’ve seen Sandhill Cranes at Seney, but only for a moment and never long enough to get a photo, until now. We usually see them along the road to Seney and this trip was no different. In addition to the crane, we also saw loons and Trumpeter swans, completing the trifecta of Seney waterfowl. We can see the swans in Saint Louis come winter, but not as closely as we saw at Seney. We also saw a Great Blue heron, kingfisher and a small and black mystery duck. All-in-all it was a successful birding safari.

That was Seney, but the most spectacular bird sighting occurred the next day. Looking out the sleeping porch window I saw a fully mature Bald eagle skimming over the water, just off the beach. A moment later a gaggle of gulls came chasing after it. It was much too brief an event to photograph, but it was a vivid sight. A few years ago, I had witnessed a more successful eagle-gull encounter, at least for the eagle. I was on the beach when I saw the Bald eagle swoop down upon the unsuspecting gull that was floating on the water. The eagle thumped the gull on its head, circled around and thumped it again. On its third pass, the eagle snatched the now throughly stunned gull and flew off with it. I suspect that the eagle yesterday was trying to do the same thing.

Today is our last full day at the cabin. Tomorrow, we start heading home. We are taking a much longer time returning than with our rocket trip north. We might come back up here, after Jane’s visit. We’ll see.

Going to Seney

Sun Halo

Our time up north here is too fast drawing to a close. While for most of our vacation we’ve kept to ourselves, only socializing with our next-door northern neighbors. Hanging out at the cabin or walking the beach has been like a balm, but lately we’ve become restless. We needed a field trip. Something more exciting than picking up groceries at Meijer’s or going to the Brimley post office for stamps. To this end, we launched ourselves on a mini one-day, hour-plus road trip to Seney National Wildlife Preserve.

A front had come through. Bringing with it cold and blustery weather. Weather perfect for venturing into a swamp. The day before, we had spied the pictured sun halo. A halo around the sun is a fairly common phenomenon. It is typically caused when there are very high, very thin clouds. These clouds, being so high in the sky, are made from ice crystals. Since high clouds typically proceed unsettled weather, it is said a halo around the sun means rain is on the way.

I was once tasked with calculating the infrared signature of one of these crystals, using radar cross-section calculating tools. Hey, it’s all part of the same spectrum! My boss had promised this work to a local professor who was more into weather than stealth. Like so many other things at work, I never heard back on this job. Anyway it gave me an insight into why a sun halo always have a 22 degree radius. It’s the diffraction angle of these hexagonal ice prisms.

We launched early for Seney, at least early for us. We had the satellite radio tuned to the Sixties station. “Phlash” Phelps, our favorite DJ was on-air. As part of his show, he always features a mystery town of the day and asks listeners to guess where it is. This day’s town was in honor of the actor Wilford Brimley, who has just passed. Hints included that it is on the shore of Lake Superior and is near the Soo Locks. The fact that we were driving through Brimley as this was on the radio made it more exciting and easier to guess.

We did eventually make it to Seney and saw and photographed lots of wildlife, but I think that this is enough for now. This way I can milk this field trip for at least one more post. Besides an extra day will give me enough time for a more accurate bird count. Think of this drawn out tabulating of results as training for the election in November. Today just happens to be Election Day both here in Michigan and in Missouri.