A Ride in the Park

Snowy Egret Mating Dance

Anne and I bicycled in Forest Park this morning, before the heat settled in for the day. We saw egrets and herons, but this photo is not from today. It is an oldie but a goodie. Still, it is evocative of this season. Our weather has gone from the second coldest April to summer, with almost no real spring in-between, like a switch was flipped from cold to hot.

Anne has been busying herself with both teaching and quilting. Her current sewing project is a beauty. I wish I could say more, but it is all very hush-hush.

MSD is nearly done with our street. I had to go back and fill in more dirt in-between our new curb and the parking strip. We had a gully washer a little while back. It was a real frog-strangler and the dirt that they had placed got all washed away. I threw some grass seed into the mix, with the hope that it can take root before the next storm washes this soil away too.

Downy Woodpecker in a Coconut Tree

My other project is staining the back porch. My Dad stains his decks every year, but I’m nowhere near as diligent. To this end, our porch has become infested with carpenter bees. The bees are a nuisance, but at first their half-inch diameter holes didn’t seem too bad. At least until woodpeckers discovered their nests and attacked the lap siding like a machine gun. I intend to get an exterminator for the bees, but would prefer to wait until I’m done staining. In the meantime, I have to deal with them buzzing around me. I’ve been doing some Internet research about them and have learned a few things.

The bees that like to menace me while I paint are generally the males, which don’t have stingers. The females do have stingers, but are reluctant to use them. Besides the females are generally tunneling inside the wood, while the males buzz about outside. My research has elucidated a few non-pesticide deterrents.

First, the stain acts as a deterrent, the bees prefer untreated wood. Another tactic is a tennis racquet. I’ve already tried it out and scored my first kill. You swat them with the racquet and then step on them, with shoes on. Have you ever been stung by a dead bee? There not hard to hit, but I’ll have to practice my serve, because after I hit them, I frequently can’t find them.

Finally and I can’t wait to try this last one, loud music. The bees don’t like loud noises. I’ve got a boom box ready to go. I think I’ll start with NPR, in deference to the neighbors. Call it Mark’s public radio. But if that doesn’t work, I am prepared to go full head banger on them, if I have to, all the way to eleven!  

Bingwa’s Bunch

Pictured are just a few of the eight cheetah cubs that were born late last year at the Saint Louis Zoo. Today, they were unveiled to the public. Go ahead and say it, “Awww.” They are cute. This morning, I arrived at the zoo’s opening and made a beeline for the cheetah’s enclosure, where a small group of people were already waiting. After about half-an-hour, the cubs were released from their building. First, the mother (Bingwa) came out, followed shortly by one and then two of the cubs and then in a rush all eight came out. They ran around in the weeds, chasing each other and exploring until after about fifteen minutes they seemed to notice the watching crowd of humans. It was only then that I got the pictured partial group shots. Never were all eight of the cubs together, a normal litter is four cubs. I was lucky to get these shots, because soon they had gotten themselves muddy. Their Swahili names are Moja, Mbili, Tatu, Nne, Tano, Sita, Saba and Nane, which mean one through eight respectively. These eight cubs join an alumni of fifty cheetahs that have been born at the Saint Louis Zoo. 

Loop Trolley

Loop Trolley

Another day, another bicycle ride in Forest Park and another sight on which to remark. Clang, clang, clang went the trolley! After years and years of planning, preparation and anticipation I saw the Loop Trolley operating today, twice. Banners along its sides say that the trolley is currently operating only in test mode, but testing should soon lead to operating. As I said, I saw the trolley twice, about half an hour apart or in my case, once around the park. That means that this car made the roundtrip journey along its 2.2 mile track that runs from the U City loop to the History museum, as pictured above. 

Our Own Oddities

Red Tulips in Forest Park

When we moved to Saint Louis, we first encountered Our Own Oddities. This local Sunday special was featured in the comics section of the Post-Dispatch. This strip always seemed to me to be similar to the syndicated Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. It frequently featured unusually shaped fruits and vegetables, such as a potato that resembled Richard Nixon. In addition to freakish produce the strip also featured peculiar local trivia, like a woman who lived at 1919 Montgomery St. and was born at nine o’clock on August 19, 1919. The paper discontinued this feature years ago, which is unfortunate, because I have some new entries.

I rode in the park this morning and while riding I encountered two noteworthy scenes. The first was a man on the bike path. This man was holding a log in his hands. This log had been cut to fireplace length and was about 8″ in diameter. He was holding it out in front of himself, with both palms pressed against the two flat ends. But what made this individual even more unique was that he was dragging a car tire behind him, laid flat on the path, by a rope around his waist. His homemade exercise regimen certainly set him apart from all us others.

The other scene of note was encountered while rolling past the Grand Basin. A dozen new moms were working out, each with their new baby in its stroller facing them. I guess that watching mom gyrate in front of them, must have been soothing or at least entertaining for the infants. It would have made a good pic.

Not to be outdone, Anne witnessed her own oddity, while walking home from school. We are not alone here, while suffering under the ministrations of the sewer district. There are many other streets that are also undergoing the same uncrossing of the waters that we are. While Anne was walking by one such site, she observed a driver attempting to exit their driveway. MSD had trenched out the road in front of the house, such that when the car exited the driveway, it first dropped into the dugout section of the road. Thump! Then it attempted to climb back out again and ran into an even steeper wall along the road’s centerline. Whump! Some back and fill ensued, eventually leading to the car’s escape, but not completely, because it had lost a bumper in all of that bumping and grinding.

Earth Day

Great Blue Heron’s Call-to-Arms

Today, is Earth Day, not quite a national holiday, but a holiday near and dear to us both. Yesterday, we celebrated it properly by attending its festival in Forest Park. We arrived carbon neutral on our bicycles, not bookkeeping our own CO2 exhalations, which were minimal. Anyway, it was the easiest way to travel.

The Saint Louis festival is a conglomeration of booths. Some are nonprofit and some are for profit. It really is a mish-mash. You can be discussing regional bike politics at one booth and then fending off aluminum siding salesmen at the next.

The fun of Earth Day is shopping among these often disparate environmental, political and economic approaches to saving the planet. A class of pitches are from our utilities. Our lovely sewer district was pitching its greenness, with its program to uncross the streams. We were already too aware of this initiative. The electric company was asking us to subsidize their shift from fossil fuels to renewable sources, which is mandated by law. Under the current administration a little consumer push could be in order. I need to research this some more.

Cars are another big category at the fair. In past years, multiple manufactures would ply their higher MPG wares, in an effort to show their greenery. This year only Subaru dared. Separate were the electric vehicles. Headlined by Tesla with its new model 3 and whose sole salesman was overwhelmed by the crowd. 

Man holding dog leash: It’s time to go.
Boy petting skunk fir: I don’t like skunks.
Man holding dog leash and plastic bag: Well, I don’t like holding sh!t.
Booth person: Get use to it, man.

Corporate America aside, it is the more informal organizations that I dearly love. These civic organization’s booths are populated by volunteers. They are generally more closely aligned to saving the environment and they were way more fun to speak with. We had a great time and stayed longer than expected. 

Lime Bike

Lime Bikes in Forest Park

I discovered half-a-dozen Lime Bike bicycles today, in Forest Park. There were sitting on the path between Pagoda Circle and the Visitors Center, under the blossoming Bradford pears. I had heard that this kiosk-less ride sharing service was coming to town, but it was still a surprise to see them just sitting there. A lock immobilizes the rear wheel, which with their app and a credit card can be unlocked. The first ride is free. There is also a lojack system that tracks the bikes. Almost a hundred of these bikes were distributed around town.

I hadn’t been expecting the bicycles, when I stopped to checkout the blooming trees. The above photo is just the latest example of this shot, which I have taken again and again. I thought that I had missed these flowers, while we were in California, because normally them bloom at the beginning of April. They are late this year, but then so is spring this year too,