Monday, September 20, 2010

Shake-down trip for used Subaru wagon

Since my Ford Ranger had died completely I needed another vehicle, and was determined to get something that was more fuel efficient and also usable for birding trips. I found a 2003 Subaru Outback locally, which I got for an OK price. Turns out it immediately needed some work, timing belt and water-pump, brakes while on this trip, and some other fixes that became obvious with use. I studied the maps and my listing goals and decided to make a trip through Colorado and New Mexico primarily, but rounded it out by adding a corner of Nebraska, a corner of Wyoming, and a one day trip into Arizona.

The first puzzle was how to shrink the accumulation of gear in the truck, in nooks and crannies in the camper-shell, and an archaeological dig behind the seat of the cab. Way more than I really needed, multiple copies of stuff, five sweatshirts, three first aid kits, three cook-sets, four stoves of various sizes and designs, gloves and hats and pencils and bird checklists, on and on. What I was envisioning was a gear set that would allow camping in comfort but still be small enough to make space to sleep in the back if that proved necessary. First goal met, second not tried on this trip. I still ended up with way too much, and cursed the bulky stuff like the ice-chest, though not really big, and the water jug and bucket. It'll shrink again as I get more realistic about my needs and how involved in camping I want to be on a given trip.

Anyway, I piled it all in, and it only came to one layer behind the seat, so good enough to start the gear calibration. The sleeping space already looked unlikely.

Sunday, Sept 12, 2010

Got away after some final ditzing around with the load, the usual trying to remember all the little items that usually are part of house life that need to go on trip, like phone and log-book. Headed west to cheap gas, filled up and started logging numbers for gas mileage determination. Drove through the NW corner of OK, and onto the southern-most highways of Kansas. The start was late enough that it was mid-afternoon and hot by the time I got to Quivera. Really wasn't very focused, still in a pissy and depressed mood from dealing with an endless parade of small harassments. Still managed to get a couple of tics, Black-necked Stilt, one among a couple of thousand Avocets. The really good bird was a perfect American Golden-Plover in a borrow ditch, maybe the best and closest view I've ever had.

I had wanted to stay a night, even two at Lake Scott State Park, but there was no way to make it before deep dark, so instead I headed northwest and drove way too late until crashing in a rest area, sleeping in the front seat. So much for the resolve to not push and spend relaxed campsite time along the way.

Monday, May 13

The primary component of the parade of aggravations was the task of getting AC power in the front of the wagon, hereafter called Roo, so that the laptops, phone charger, some battery chargers, and whatnot could run as if I was in the twentieth century. I had purchased a nice inverter, checked it with a drill, it passed, then hard wired it to the battery so it wouldn't switch off with the key. Then it wouldn't work. So I tried another inverter, which blew a fuse. After dawn I tried a parts store in Goodland, but we couldn't find the fuse, and I couldn't find the owner's manual, which was surely in there someplace. Truly amazing that an object that can fill your hand can be totally lost in a volume 6 feet by 3 feet by 10 feet, mostly empty space.

To make up for that I found the Goodland Water Treatment Facility, as recommended by Pete Janzen who I'd called as early as seemed un-intrusive. It was very nice, a long wetland of small pools surrounded by natural vegetation stretching over a quarter mile down from the main settling ponds. Had waterfowl, and passerines in the edges. Farther north and east along Beaver Creek before Atwood was some nice riparian habitat which belonged to a ranch welcoming birders. Unfortunately there was no sign, so I didn't know which lane to try so I just birded along the road. Very quiet, one Nuthatch.

In Atwood there is public camping that looked a good potential overnight someday, but I headed on into Nebraska. I was hoping to add some tics by swinging through the southwest corner along the Platte before going into Wyoming. Stopped at the VC for Lake McConaughy Rec area for info and bird list, but it seemed sorta pricey, day fee and camp fee, and more for water etc. Besides that I wasn't seeing a single bird, not sparrows or Redwings or Meadowlarks, really nothing. And it stayed that way all through nearly three hundred miles after leaving Goodland. There weren't even good roadside places, bridge crossings, farm ponds, really strange. I ended driving right on into Wyoming with hardly a stop, and not one tic.


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