Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Back to San Antonio, on to Oakland for Half Moon Bay Pelagics

On Thursday night I was too tired to pack everything.  I paid my bill and got my receipt for the two nights stay in the lodge.  Then I went to sleep early.  When I set up this trip, I had looked at the closest airports to Big Bend NP.  There was not too much difference between El Paso and San Antonio.  I could use interstate all the way from Fort Stockton to San Antonio and the speed limit on I-10 is 80 mph on a long stretch.  I expected to leave quite early.  I awakened quite early at about 3:00 am, and started to pack everything for my flight from San Antonio to Oakland eat breakfast and download and process some photos for my blog.  Unfortunately, this trip taught me that I need to think outside of the box instead of using the traditional roundtrip approach.  There is only one place right now in at Chisos Basin with internet access.  It is outside of the gift shop and restaurant on the patio and apparently after hours, perhaps also for a limited period of time.  My birding, eating and sleeping schedule was not compatible with the internet access available; therefore, I was not able to double check on the time needed to drive from Chisos Basin to San Antonio International Airport.  I finally obtained internet access on my Droid Razr at about 8:30 am about 20 miles south of the entrance to Big Bend NP.  The time required to get to the airport in San Antonio was 6 hours and 30 minutes, and my flight was at 2:15 pm.  Not enough time to make my flight.  I'm not sure how I determined that Big Bend NP was 4.5 hours from San Antonio.  It is 38 mile from the entrance at Persimmon Gap to Chisos Basin.  The speed limit in Big Bend NP is 45 mph, but over the six miles on the entry road to the basin it is mostly only 25 mph.  The drive to the entrance/exit at Persimmon Gap from Chisos basin is at least one hour at the posted speed limits.  Because Google Maps has been unreliable at times for me, I decided to keep on driving and check occasionally.  I had a back-up option.  I could call Travelocity, which I had used for this trip, and change my flight for a fee.  I decided to keep on driving and within two or three hours of my flight make any changes required.  I still wasn't sure that I believed Google Maps. 

Back to birding and driving.  On the way from Panther Junction to Marathon, I saw seven Greater Roadrunners along the road and one that got killed because it was too bold in front of a car.  I saw one quail run from the side of the road into the brush but could not get an identification because it happened too fast.     

In Marathon, I stopped at the Shell station, the same station that I stopped at on my way into Big Bend, and filled my tank with gas.    Gas is also limited in Big Bend NP, only available at two or three locations and during normal business hours, which is not compatible with a birding schedule.  As I pulled away from the pump at the Shell station in Marathon, I stopped to check Google Maps for the time remaining.  I glanced up and saw some birds walking through the grass next to the Shell station and headed for TX 385.  Scaled Quail adult with 8 to 10 half grown chicks!  A bunch of cotton tops!  The adult made sure that all the chicks got across the road by stopping in the middle of the road to look around, as if to say, "Well, they all made it!  Time to go!"  The adult and chicks then scurried through the grass on the other side of the road into the underbrush and disappeared.  Another new bird for the year.  This event was a welcome relief from my driving and time situation.  So I relaxed and drove on.   I saw two more Greater Roadrunners and two Swainson's Hawks along TX 385 to Fort Stockton.

The 6 hours and 30 minutes to San Antonio Airport did get shorter as I drove I-10 at the speed limit of 80 mph.  However, I never gained enough time to make my scheduled flight.  At three hours before my flight, I stopped at a rest area and called Travelocity to change my flight.  When I set up this trip, I remembered that there was a later flight but that it arrived in Oakland at about 10:30 or 11:00 pm.  Originally, I did not want to arrive that late.  Travelocity verified this and the charge for the change was only $40.  While trying to check on my car rental in Oakland, I was cut off in the phone call.  However, most car rental services wait about 24 hours before they cancel the reservation.  I continued driving a bit more relaxed and made the flight to Oakland.  While in the San Antonio Airport, I made a motel reservation using my Droid Razr, something that I could have done in Big Bend NP with better internet access.  I got some sleep on the flight to Oakland.  I arrived at my motel and got to sleep at about 12:00 midnight and set my alarm for 4:00 am.  I needed the time to pick up some food and drink and to pack my backpack for the pelagic trip.  As luck would have it, there was a McDonald's next door and a convenience store gas station next to the McDonalds.  The boat was at Johnson Pier on Half Moon Bay, only about 45 minutes away or 26 miles, mostly by interstate.  I needed to be at the boat at 7:00 am.   I slipped into dream world.

Scaled Quail raises the total to 563. 


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