Crazy Northern Cardinal

The Cardinal I mentioned in the last post is still here. He (definitely male) has established a routine going from the awning arm by the window to the driver side mirror to the Jeep spare tire, hurling himself at his reflection in each location.

Here he is at rest for a moment on top of the mirror, preparing to assault the Jeep which is not visible in this picture just in front of him. 
And here he is headed from the mirror to the awning having just bounced off the window I am looking through.
We have seen this kind of behavior before so I looked it up using Google, the search term I used was “cardinal hitting window” In short several bird species males are very territorial and will attempt to drive off any potential competitor during mating season. They desist when mating season is over. The Northern Cardinal’s territorial demands do not stop with the end of mating season. They are known to persist in this behavior so long as the “rival” is present. Other campers who have been here a while report that this bird has exhibited this behavior with every coach that has been on or near where we are.
I attempted to break the cycle by putting a plastic bag over the mirror. It sort of worked, he changed his route, bypassing the mirror, still landing on the Jeep spare tire and the awning arm and hitting the remaining reflective surfaces. Then he figured out that (saw?) that his mirror enemy was still there below where the bag covered and attacked the bottom of the mirror. I have chosen to give up and let him beat his brains out. At least he sleeps at night, or can’t see his rival, so we have peace after dark.

Stuck! . . . well not really :)

As has happened in the past, once we get into Falcon State Park we have a hard time leaving. Our scheduled departure was Thursday the 29th. This morning, the 28th, Carol went off to take a Spanish lesson at the Rec Lodge. I hung around the coach doing some cleaning chores that I have put off for months. I cleaned the shiny, beautiful aluminum wheels and washed down the tires. I washed the windows (yes, I do windows, but only on GeeWhiz) and I did some refurbishment on our towbar. I know I did other chores too that I find “entertaining” when working on GeeWhiz that I might find mere drudgery under other circumstance. See Carol’s blog at Message in a Minute for her side of the story. I was looking at the weather in Big Bend and Marfa and Davis Mountain, all places we enjoy, and found it too cold and too wet to be pleasant.  Why not stay another week in Falcon, where the weather, while not perfect certainly is forecast to be better than those places? There is no one waiting for us next week anyhow. Las Cruces is three days, four at most from where we are so here we stay.

This Northern Cardinal will be happy we aren’t taking away his play place, the driver side mirror, and yes that is our park permit reflected in the mirror.

We have had a couple of interesting folk on the adjacent site. The most recent were Sandy and Peter who are traveling with Cody, a collie I think, and no car behind there 2000 Allegro. We were headed to Salineno and Roma Bluffs for some birding and offered to take them along. Ask any really serious Birder and they ought to know Salineno, various volunteers have been feeding birds there for 31 years. Here are just three of the birds we saw in 45 minutes or so:
Green Jay 
Audubon’s Oriole 
Altamira Oriole
I had to walk up to the office to get our mail and I saw two coyotes crossing the road. In all the years we’ve been coming here we have heard them many times, but never seen one. No picture, I didn’t have the camera (or phone) in my hand and they were in view for less than 10 seconds trotting across my field of view. However on another excursion to the office I saw:
No “Beep Beep”
Did see another one passing through our campsite, again no pictures, and stop to capture and kill a smaller bird I did not have a chance to identify. 
As usual in Falcon the focus for us is on the birds and the people.

Deep in the South of Texas

We left Dallas determined to avoid big cities for a while. Next stop, Fredericksburg TX. We go there most years to stock up on salsa at Rustlin’ Robs and other goodies at the Kuchin Laden and stops at other stores on the street to see if we can find some other way to improve their economy. On our way there this time we made an overnight stop in Luckenbach TX just outside Fredericksburg. Luckinbach is noted for music every night and chickens. We parked the motorhome in the overflow parking lot way in the back to make room for the crowds that never did show up that Tuesday night. We walked down the hill to the dance hall which was not yet open and found the singer set up in the open near the bar,

it was a fine evening with temperatures in the 70’s until the sun began to set. The chickens were everywhere and the roosters were determined to drown out the singer until the sun got low in the sky and they retreated into the trees. After an hour or so of good bluegrass and folk we drifted up to the coach to have dinner thinking we would go back for more music. We never made it back instead we listened to the State of the Union.

In the morning we packed up the little we had set up and drove 10 miles to Fredericksburg RV Park, wondering why we had never stayed there before. It is very convenient. If the weather had been just a bit warmer we would have walked to the shopping. But it was threatening rain and the salsa we were likely to buy would be heavy. We shopped and made some purchases in town and then drove out to Mendelbaum’s Winery on 290 where we tasted some very nice Israeli (!) wines and bought some as well as a couple of bottles of local wine. The Israeli wines are not from the Golan where we tasted wines just three weeks ago. It is interesting that they are labeled “Holy Land” wines. After that, back to the coach for a rest before going to dinner at Cabernet Grill.Tthis lovely place was highly recommended by Deb and Scott and deserved its recommendation. Carol asked if they had vegetarian alternatives and they had a lovely eggplant dish which really pleased her. I had a steak that was nicely seasoned and the sides were also very nice. The desert was over the top, deep fried Pecan pie and Jack Daniels choclate ice cream, if we are going to hell might as well do it in style.

Our plan was to head for Terlingua, just by the west entrance to Big Bend National Park. Checking the weather it appeared we would be better off going to Falcon State Park on Falcon Lake only a 5 or 6 hour drive mostly in the rain. So off we went using lesser roads and driving an extra 50 miles or so to stay well west of San Antonio. For those who have followed us over the years Falcon State Park ought to be familiar. We found this park in 2004 and have been back many times since. I just counted, this is our 7th time in this park. We don’t plan to do much here this time. Take a few walks and bird watch. Chat with neighbors, Maybe take a long day trip to the Lower Rio Grande Valley just because.

Someplace in all of this we booked a trip for August to Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia & Herzagovina, and Slovenia. We are starting with four days in Tiranna, Albania. We haven’t booked flights yet and we are debating whether to go to Spain or Greece either before or after the tour. The tour is August 4 to 24. We are open to suggestions.

Looking back 51 years

Here we are in Dallas for the second time. We had a delightful time with Deb and Scott at their home. Deb made dinner which we really enjoyed and the wine went very well with it, both the fine California wine with the difficult to remove wax capsule and more local Texas Tempranillo which was a bit thinner and just perfect with the meal.

So shoot me, it’s a bit blurry

The Chef and the Shakshuka

 Finding our way in Dallas is interesting because the construction project on I 635 impacts travel no matter where one is and ramps that the GPS expects to find open are closed (and vice versa). We found our way “home” easily, just not the way we expected to go.

Sunday we decided to go back in time to our senior year in college, Fall 1963, November 22 to be more precise. A day that found me in the John Hay Library getting in some last minute reading before preparing to go home for Thanksgiving. The word that John F. Kennedy had been shot passed through the reading room, whispered from person to person, each then leaving, leaving books on the table, to go out on College Green to try to understand how our world was being jolted. Classes did not resume and we all left for home early. As I drove with my usual car full west on the NY Thruway  we were stunned to hear on the radio the gunshot that killed Oswald. Almost every car on the road pulled to a stop on the shoulder to try to absorb yet another body blow.

In all the years since then we have never gone to Dealey Plaza to see the Texas Schoolbook Depository, what need? It happened and our visiting the place would not make it “unhappen.” Today we decided it was time to see the very place that our beloved president, the first president we had come to know as adults, was brought down. We waited in line for tickets and picked up our audio guides and rode the elevator to the 6th floor where we joined a throng of visitors going from site to site following the story from JFK’s time in the Senate through his election and the events of the first three years of his presidency. Then we came to the corner where Lee Harvey Oswald set up his shooting nest, it is boxed off now with clear plastic and the boxes of books are arranged as they might have been then. No one recorded their exact position before the investigating officers tore through the place looking for the assassin. Having absorbed the locale we went down to Elm Street and walked to the “grassy knoll” and past the X in the middle of Elm Street where the car was when the fatal bullet struck. Enough! It is history, history we lived through, but it is past and we must continue to go forward into the future.

Our next stop, after lunch in the cafe, was Dallas Contemporary where the exhibit is “Unplayed Notes Museum” Loris Greaud is the installation artist. This is one each person must see for them self. He has filled the entire huge gallery, five large rooms, with the work. I will leave it at that. Here is one shot of one of the galleries:

We finished our touring at the Dallas Museum of Art where I found a curbside parking space and we walked the park which covers the I 35 highway for several blocks in front of the gallery. We could not bring ourselves to go indoors and leave the 70 degree sunshine and thousands of people to look at more art. We walked the park and we sat in the sun before heading to do a little shopping for clothes for Carol and then back to the coach for dinner and quiet time.

A Little Bit of this and . . .

I guess you don’t need the rest of the cliche`.

We landed back from our the trip to Israel with extended jet lag as expected and sort of idled around Livingston for several days not making much headway on much of anything. We kept going back over the trip and reliving it day to day in our minds and sometimes talking about it over the dinner table. Mostly we read, newspapers, mail and books. We listened to and watched the news with growing dismay at the direction the world is taking with regard to immigrants and environmental issues.

Finally on Saturday we broke through our lethargy and the rotten chilly wet weather to drive into Houston. We thought to go to the Menil Collection, but we arrived at 10 AM and it doesn’t open until 11. A quick check of Google showed us that the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, had a special exhibit of Monet and the Seine and was open at 10. Whew, that was totally fortuitous. The Monet exhibit is breath taking and it is wonderful to be able to see so many multiples of the same scenes on wall after wall. Unlike the Cathedral, the Water Lilies, and Haystacks these were mostly more modest in size and it was possible to get back and take them in together. We were interested to note that at least two of the grander pieces were on loan from Shelburne Museum, just down the road from my sister in Vermont.

We walked on through the surrealist and contemporary sections and finally admitted that over two hours was it. The legs were tired and the mind was overloaded with fine art, it was time for lunch. We had been looking forward to Kenny & Ziggy’s Deli for a couple of years and off we went to wait in line for New York Deli in Houston. It lived up to the reviews and memory. Excellent Deli food – open face brisket sandwich for me Potato Latke (1) and spinach knish (1) for Carol. We ate too much and were unable to think about another gallery so we found our way to Central Market where we spent too much time and too much money restocking the motorhome pantry. Then we settled in for the long drive back to Livingston and continued with the over long Romance novel we had been listening to since sometime last Fall. We did not finish it in the hour and 20 minutes drive.

The weather continued chilly and wet so we read and talked until it was time to  move on to Dallas. Just before that I noticed a ticking noise from the vicinity of the refrigerator and a quick look showed that the normally placid display was flashing between what appeared to be the interior temperature and an unreadable failure code. I switched the system from “Auto” which chooses electric when available to propane to “LP” and the clicking and flashing stopped. the temperature which had risen some slowly returned to normal levels. A call to the local mobile RV repair produced the promise of a 3 week wait!. I tracked down a mobile RV provider in Dallas who agreed to meet us at Sandy lake RV on Friday morning. The short story is a control box has failed in an “interesting” way and we are waiting for delivery of a new one on Monday. Interesting being a mode the tech, Robert from Blue Moon RV, had not seen. The refrigerator continues to work just fine on propane.


I started a post on the plane to Israel. At the rate I’m going I will finish this on the plane back to the USA.  Our flight over was  uneventful and we arrived to be greeted by Laura Nelson-Levy,  our guide for the duration.  We immediately boarded our van,  helpfully labeled “Hawaii Tours” with Shlomo in the drivers seat.  First stop Tel Aviv, Dan Intercontinental.  It is a lovely hotel with great views of the Mediterranean and some quirky problems,  they canceled our room keys while we were at breakfast preparing to depart and then got huffy about getting one room open.  The grandkids were excited and full of energy.  The first morning we set out for a day of touring in the van and on foot in Tel Aviv.
Our First Stop was the Palmach Museum. This is new since we last came to tour and was a
wonderful introduction to the history of Israel’s founding. We continued to talk about it for the next two days. We returned to the hotel and set out by cab to a restaurant for dinner, Gina in the old train station Tachana.  Up early the next morning and up the coast to Cesarea then inland ending in Safed (spelling variants include Tzfat and Tsefat) at hotel Rimonim.

Tel Aviv was no surprise to me.  It is a large modern seaside city with an interesting history that starts in 1909. We did see some of the old Bauhouse architecture which is preserved. Safed was more of a surprise because most of us had never had a chance to wander and explore on our own beyond the artists quarter. We stayed over Shabbat so we had a quiet day to recover from jet lag and the days of intense touring.  The grandkids were amazing.  They were attentive, mostly, and well behaved, mostly.  We were asking a lot of them and meal times were “interesting” as we were making that part up as we went along and had to accommodate vegetarians and meat eaters as well as kosher,  easier in Israel but not simple. We toured where some would expect, up into the Golan, where saw fortifications and vinyards. We stopped at Golan Winery for a tour and tasting.  Yarden is still the best although we did not get to taste it, we just bought and drank some.

We drove back to Tel Aviv airport for our flight to Eilat.  We stopped along the way at Zippori National Park which is known for its mosaic floors, over 40 of them!  This had opened since our last tour.  It is certainly an interesting and wonderful place with early history and Roman roads. Unfortunately our flight to Eilat was at sunset so by the time we got over the Negev it was dark. We enjoyed a walk to a restaurant near our hotel, it is hard to believe there is only one restaurant serving kosher dairy in Eilat. Our touring day included a walk to the Red Canyon and a drive to a viewpoint on Mt Yoash. It ended with a visit to the Underwater Observatory and Aquarium, not real exciting.  Getting into bathing suits and the hotel pools was exciting.

. . . I am sitting in the coach in Livingston realizing I never did quite finish blogging about the trip. We are still working on images. Mine are mostly family pictures as we have so many Israel pictures from prior trips it didn’t seem interesting to take yet another picture of the Wall or other famous places. Here we are in Eilat at the Camel Ranch:

and here are some of us “going down the toilet bowl” at Beit Guvrin
 Azriel followed by Yechiel
 Carol exiting the toilet bowl
 eight of us
 Alexander in the crypt?
and Carol too!
From Eilat we drove up the Arava past Lot’s Wife’s salt pillar and stopping to climb the Snakes Path to Masada, about half of us. I must admit I made heavy going of the climb taking almost an hour and Yechiel stayed at my side so I wouldn’t be alone at the tail end. I did it first in 1974 and I expect that I will not make that climb again. The cable car is a fine way to get to the top and I have nothing left to prove.
In Jerusalem we had our rooms on the 3rd floor of the King David Hotel with the adults facing the Old City and the kids facing the new city. We reveled in the luxury when we had a chance at breakfast and on Shabbat. Otherwise we were on the move. The new place we visited was the Ayalon Institute near Rehovot where there is the remains of a hidden munitions factory that made bullets for Haganah. 2 1/2 million before Independence and as many more as the Arabs attacked following the Declaration of Independence. I never even remember reading about this project which was hidden not more than 200 feet from a British rail line set into the top of a hill with a bakery and the kibbutz laundry on top of it. Only the people who worked in the factory knew it was there. The rest of the kibbutz members were kept in the dark and referred to as “giraffes”. 
We concluded with a visit to the Israel Museum where we stopped at the Shrine of the Book and then had time to proceed with a brief tour of the archaeology section where Laura covered 2000 years in 45 minutes without totally losing the youngest of our group. We had this time because the big event of the day, the Zip Line in the Etzion Bloc had to be cancelled due to foul weather. For our last stop we went next door to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee Israel Office. I had kept this as a “surprise” stop. We entered and turned to look at the plaque by the front door that starts with the founding of the organization and concludes with the list of the officers when the building was dedicated. On the list is “Emanuel Goldberg – Secretary” my father. 
we set an objective for this trip to teach our grandchildren and their parents the importance of Israel to our family, to the Jewish world and ultimately to the world. Only time will tell how well the lesson has been learned, but initial indications are all positive. No grandchild of ours will doubt our devotion to Eretz Yisroel and to the Jewish people.