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The Rest Stop

Those of us who enjoy the trip as much as the destination, soon learn to appreciate the many "Rest Stops" highway departments have placed along the way for us.

Far from being just a rest-room break, many, if not most, are planned with the comfort and enjoyment of the traveler in mind, with the beauty of the nearby countryside displayed at best advantage.

The Word Polisher

At rest stops, I often pull out my laptop and write or work on my web site.  You can see some of my work and some of my sister, Grannie Annie's work on The Word Polisher.

Communications

It hasn't been many years since I was tickled pink to find a pay phone where I could, if I was very lucky, hold an acoustic coupler tightly to the mouthpiece and pick up my email.

If I was even luckier, I might find a dial-up connection in a campground where I could actually get on line and "surf" for  the 10 or 15 minute period that was allowed before turning the connection over to the next camper in line.  And there was always a line.

Check the link below for the results of an informal "study" of RVers and other friends.

How RVers stay in touch while traveling

Good Hobbies for RVers 

Photography

Photography is especially well-suited as a hobby for the traveling RVer.   I'll be adding more of my own experiences later, but for now, here is some rest-stop reading.

Basic Guide to PhotoShop Tutorials

Good Reading for Photographers 

Along the Way 

Below are stories from my travels, and other stories contributed by friends.

Visit of the Tiny Owls

While I'm an avid bird "watcher", I'm by no means a "birder"... so when it comes to identifying birds, I'm at kindergarten level. One thing I do know, though, is that I saw a most amazing sight this morning.

I live in a conventional "sub-division" type neighborhood, at the northern edge of Dallas, Texas.  Until just recently, a section of my back yard has been overgrown with saplings, suckers, and English Ivy around a large old cottonwood tree. I called it my bird sanctuary and wouldn't let yard workers clean it out. Since I'm getting ready to sell the house, I've had to relent and have a lot of the overgrowth removed, but it is still much heavier than would be found in the average city back yard.

It was barely daylight... about 6:00 AM. I had accidentally left the lawn sprinkler on overnight, and, noticing it from the kitchen window, had gone out to turn it off, when the "zzzzzzzzz" of an attack mockingbird caught my attention.

When I looked to see what was causing the fuss, I saw a 3-inch tall shape of an owl on a small branch about five feet off the ground, and about three feet from the edge of the deck. Having never seen an owl in my backyard before, and unaware that such a small owl even exists, I thought I knew that couldn't be, but I moved closer, and sure enough, that's what it was. As I stood on the deck, I was eyeball-to-eyeball with the owl, and about five feet away.

The tiny owl could have been a cut-out from a child's picture book, it sat so still, and the shape, coloring, and marking were exactly what I've most often seen in picture book illustrations. In fact, I was so in disbelief that I thought that might be what it was.., a toy someone had placed there to surprise and amuse me.

I'd left the backdoor open, so was able to go back inside to get my field glasses without making any noise.

A close look confirmed just what I had already observed.., an exact replica of what I most often see to illustrate an owl.., large yellow eyes, short ear tufts, and the same coloring and markings I've seen on much larger birds in zoos. There was no muted color or softness of feathers that would indicate a baby bird. I could see just a tiny edge of tail feathers below the slender 3/4" branch on which he sat.

He sat absolutely still, with the only indication that he *wasn't* a picture book cutout, the occasional blink of those big yellow eyes as he seemed to stare right back at me.

A movement on a branch behind and slightly above him caught my eye... and there sat another tiny owl, but this one was quite different. It had no ears, and was almost shapeless, its feathers were softer-looking, and it was mostly medium gray with only a slight rippling of color, with no distinctive markings. Its eyes were much smaller than those of first owl, dark brown... not quite black, but so dark that no iris was visible. It was almost exactly the same size as the first, but I could see wing tips below the (also probably 3/4" thick) branch, where I couldn't see wing tips on the first owl.

Unlike the first owl, this one moved, ducked its head this way and that, and appeared to be trying to get a better look at me, just as I was trying to get a better look at it. It was an eerie feeling, as this tiny shapeless *creature* with the piercing eyes bobbed and turned to look at me.

At one point, when I moved to the other side of a large branch to try to get a better look, I thought I glimpsed another similar bird join this earless one, but when I moved back it was gone. In replaying that scene in my mind -- and, after reading in the bird books of the large wingspan of pygmy owls -- I realize it may have been the same owl stretching its large right wing to groom itself. It did duck its head in a grooming motion, and I had, at first, thought it was grooming another, same-size bird. But if that third owl existed, I never saw it again.

Both owls were about the same size as the mockingbird. I wondered if they might be mother and child, but they were about the same size, with the less colorful, and earless one, being perhaps a bit -- but not much -- larger, and they certainly appeared to be of different varieties.

Neither bird showed any fear of me even though I was moving around on the deck about 4 feet away, and neither showed any reaction to the mockingbird that continued to flap and screech at them. The mockingbird never went closer than about a foot and never actually attacked them as I've seen mockingbirds attack squirrels.

Both owls did show a reaction (a sudden movement of the head) to a coo-ing -- or was it a "who­ing" -- bird call. I hear that sound often, and had always thought it was a dove, as many are in this area.

Shortly after that, and after I had watched for perhaps 10 minutes, I came out of my awestruck haze enough to go get my camera.

When I came back the owls were gone.

(Later)

I went out early the next morning to start looking at daylight, but haven't seen the owls, and the mockingbirds are quiet... they aren't even singing, come to think of it. It's cloudy out, which might be the reason mockingbirds aren't singing. I didn't leave the lawn sprinkler on overnight... which -­since the branches were wet -- might have been a factor in the visit of the owls.

I've looked through my bird books -- and on the Internet -- for "Pygmy owls" and "Elf" owls, and find nothing that describes them... either the ears are wrong or the eye color is wrong. Not only that, but no location chart suggests that either owl could be found in the Dallas, Texas area.

When I tell the story, many people suggest that I must have dreamed it… and I would, in fact, believe that myself… except for one thing… recognizing that the memory would become fuzzy with time, I sat down and recorded the whole thing within minutes of the visit.

Still… I remember and sometimes wonder… It’s only the re-reading of this story that convinces me that it all really happened.

Mockingbird Mother-Love

I was at home, getting my house ready to sell so I can go full time, when a very lost, very hungry, and very exhausted, baby Mockingbird appeared in my garage.

The doors were open because new garage doors were being installed.
The installer said he had heard the cheeping and looked up to see this tiny thing perched on one of the rails that had to be removed.

After trying a while to get the baby bird to fly away, so he could get to the rail, the installer picked her up, and carried her outside, hoping the mother would find her.

She did not resist when he picked her up, but within a few minutes, she flew back inside the garage and sat on a shelf, cheeping madly at the installer. He told me later that she would follow him wherever he went in the garage, or out to his truck… and he finally realized she was begging him to feed her.

Obviously, she could fly a little, but not well enough to take care of herself, and she did not know how to feed herself. She stomped her tiny feet and flapped her wings until the installer gave her some water and tiny pieces of french fries from his lunch.

This was a bit time consuming, since he had to roll up the french fry into a little ball and toss it into the baby’s mouth, so he soon went back to work, leaving the little bird still hungry.

When, on hearing the cheeping, I went out, she came to me, looked at, me intently, and urgently begged me to feed her.

On thinking back, this was more than just a little spooky.

How did this tiny little baby bird know to come to a human and ask to be fed? But she obviously did know. She would go back and forth between us, looking intently into our faces and cheeping at us.

It wasn’t until later when I took her into the house and fed her several small slivers of fat – as nearly like a worm as I could manage -- that she finally calmed down.

After the installer left, I fed the baby a few times, then, when night came, I closed the garage doors against varmints. My bird expert sister said the mother would come looking for the baby “if she’s alive”… but since so much time had gone by, that seemed likely.

The next morning, the little bird was feeling much better. She would come up to me to be fed, but was not so frantic as the day before, and was wandering around the garage, seeming to be quite comfortable. I opened the garage door, so she could leave if she wanted to

About noon, I went out to find that she had gone outside, and was sitting in a small bush beside the house, chirping away… but it wasn’t the frantic cheeping of the previous day…she was not asking for food… she was, I felt sure, calling her mother.

I didn’t think she was strong enough to fly up to a tree branch, but suddenly she did, and managed to make it to a very fragile lower branch. Then, just like in a Disney move, a squirrel came down to investigate.

The squirrel didn’t chatter or swish his tail, but just looked at her, close enough to touch her, or, perhaps, to whisper encouragement in her ear.. That was more than a bit unusual, as squirrels and adult Mockingbirds are usually mortal enemies.

I saw a movement higher up in the tree, and thinking it might be the mother, I went back inside the house and watched from a window.

The little branch the baby was on was not strong enough to hold an adult bird’s weight, so I wondered what would happen next.

Sure enough, right before my wondering eyes, the mother bird swooped down and brushed the baby with her wing as she flew past.

The baby took off and tried to follow, but couldn’t get its wings going, so it fell down into a bush. After a moment, it recovered and climbed back up then fluttered up to the highest point it could manage, and sat there cheeping.

From my viewpoint at a window inside the house, I could see perfectly what happened next.

After a few moments of watching and waiting--for me and the baby bird--the mother bird came back and made another swooping pass.

This time, the baby managed to get its wings working, and off they flew… with the mother bird in the lead and the baby a few inches from her tail.

I felt so privileged to have witnessed this miracle of Nature!

Lenehan Architectural Glass

Glass Art Panel in KilnIf you are in San Francisco, you might want to see this project by my niece, Dorothy Lenehan.

She is creating a 5000 square foot glass mural to be displayed on  the outside walls of a 26-floor condo in the South of Market area of San Francisco.

If you can find a place to park your RV nearby, she might even give you a tour.

See the building and the art in work, here

 

 

Watercolor for Beginners

John Johnston, of Watercolour For Beginners, gave me the idea for this section when he talked about his own rest area experience in England.

 

Read his story here: Watercolours for Beginners

 

PageZ Website

Here is another website to enjoy when you have a few minutes.

PageZ Games and Puzzles

The games and puzzles are fun and funny... and don't require instructions other than what appear as you play the games... just the thing to fill idle moments when everything else is packed away.

 

Tranquility Place 

Tranquility Place illustrates what one RVing family did with their little bit of heaven "home base".

 

 

See it here: Tranquility Place

 

 

 
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Roadside rest stop.  Sign on tree reads "Relax".

Rest Stop

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Charlie's Corner