Wednesday I went with Stacey to her office in Hannibal. We took my truck because we were doing some hauling. We loaded up with a bunch of toys for kids in Lewis County. I felt like Santa Clause. We filled the bed and the extended part of the cab. I met some of the people she works with and helped them unload a truck full of food. We went to Country Kitchen for lunch, thence to Quincy. I had a meeting on main campus that was fairly uneventful. I picked up the airline tickets for the Galapagos trip. Meanwhile, Stacey ran errands around Quincy. When we got back to Canton we unloaded it all at the Methodist church.
Thursday I woke up with a monster headache. After I got it under control I went out to Lowell’s. We were just about to go out rabbit hunting at about 10 a.m. when the guys showed up to install his new carport. As they pulled up, there was a bad squealing sound coming from their trailer. Further inspection revealed that the clamp holding one axle to its leaf spring was missing. After they got the carport up, we jacked up the trailer and pulled the offending wheel, went to Lewistown, and found the mechanic out to lunch. Lowell and I went to eat, came back and got the mechanic to look at the trailer. After things were under control we went back to Lowell’s. They had left one of their members and most of the trailer contents there. By this time the guy was pretty cold, so Lowell invited him inside. We watched TV and napped until the guys returned at 3. While they were reloading their trailer, Lowell and I went out for a brief rabbit hunt. We only saw one.
I should mention that of the three guys installing the carport, only one spoke any English at all. I got a lot of practice with my Spanish, which was good preparation for Ecuador. I chatted with the older one awhile when we were inside. Turns out they are all brothers from Puebla, Mexico. He was the eldest. It was interesting that they used nicknames the whole time: Burro, Pollo and Chivo (Donkey, Chicken and Billy Goat). I’m guessing that makes it a little more difficult for Immigration to track them down. They all seemed to be really nice guys, and hardly swore at all, except at the trailer, which was understandable.
Friday morning I stayed home and did odd jobs. I’ve been teaching my cockroaches the alphabet. I figured start out with something easy, like the letter “O”. They’re slow, so be patient.
3.87 Mb mpg movie: Roaches spell.
Friday afternoon I picked up Savannah after her early out (last day before break) from school and took her to Quincy. I had arranged for my friend Steve, a professional hypnotist, to cure her of her nail biting. While she was there I went to QU, picked up the money for the trip and stopped by my office to water plants and take care of a few things. I picked up Savannah and we went to the mall and picked up the Galapagos trip official T shirts. We got a bite at McD’s and went to see a movie. She was counting on Sweeney Todd, but it wasn’t playing, so we saw I Am Legend. It was pretty good, but not the best ever. Very impressive zombies. Every now and then Savannah’s hand would move toward her mouth, but as soon as it got there, it would suddenly go back down again. Hypnosis works!
A while back in this space I reported the results of Googling my name, revealing various Googlegangers. Saturday I tried Google Scholar, not so much for the Googlegangers, but to see which of my scientific papers has been cited by other studies, and how often. Turns out my older articles have the most citations, which should not be surprising. I was amazed at how much progress has been made on honeybees since I’ve gotten away from them. Incredibly, some Chilean scientists have confirmed in the field some speculations made in my very first paper, which I never had much confidence in. I also turned up a couple of wasp articles that might be relevant for the current work. One of them is all in Portuguese, which will be fun to read.
Saturday was nearly a total waste, as I wasn’t feeling that great. It started sleeting heavily in the evening, and by morning we had two or three inches of snow on the ground. Sunday I worked on my courses, shoveled snow and stuff. I did get a few bird pictures.
Just another cardinal, but I like the ice crystals on the tail and the gleam in the eye. Red-bellied woodpecker, male.
Sunday afternoon we all went to Stacey’s church. On the way out the door I was thinking it would be a good day to have the regulation emergency gear: insulated coveralls, boots, hat, gloves. We hadn’t gone far when Stacey and I both realized we’d left our cell phones at home. At least Savannah had hers. At one point I suggested that Stacey was going a bit fast for conditions. The wind was blowing and drifting snow across the road. To her credit, she did slow down without complaint. We went into a big curve, but the Tracker decided to go straight. We went into a long slide, and Stacey held it nice and smooth into the ditch, where about a foot of snow stopped us. Fortunately, a guy with a snow plow on his pick-up showed up and cleared the drift from in front of the car. Stacey put it in 4-wheel drive and pulled out, but I drove the rest of the way to church. It was my first time in Stacey’s current church, even though she’s worked there for about a year and a half. I even sang some of the Christmas songs. There was a good dinner afterward. One guy had brought his Labrador retriever puppy to give away. He was awful cute and very mellow, but I don’t want another dog right now. Santa Claus showed up, but his costume had a creepy translucent mask from which the beard hung. I thought maybe he was a burn victim. Must have come down a chimney that still had a fire in it. We came home on highways that were better plowed.
Snow still covered the ground, even though it was a warm day (45 F), so we did have a white Christmas.
Christmas morning brought a special surprise for Savannah. Her boyfriend had told her he was going to Florida over the holidays. He didn’t really. Stacey and I were in on the gag. So I let him in early in the morning. He woke her up and she said, “When did you get back?” He said, “I never left.” She said, “I HATE you!” This exchange was followed by much more recrimination on her part about how we were all liars, etc. We opened presents then. Stacey got a siren for her car (to go with the blue light she got a year ago), some kitchen implements, candle holders, and more. I got many books (you can never have too many field guides), a bonsai and an herb garden, a tripod attachment, some clothes and hunting and fishing stuff. Savannah got clothes, a soccer bag, books, and more stuff than I can remember. The last thing we let her open was a Playstation 2. Meanwhile, I went downstairs and brought up the last two things for her to open: Guitar Hero III and an extra guitar. Stacey made waffles for breakfast and we played guitar hero for awhile afterward. Dustin and Savannah went to Hannibal to see his Dad. When they got back we had Christmas dinner. Stacey made a nice prime rib roast, which she does every year. This year it seemed to be especially delicious. I ate to bulging. Kane got the leftover rib bones.
Wednesday morning I did some last-minute packing, cleaned my camera lenses and got the car ready. I’ll be driving down to St. Louis tonight, spending the night in a hotel, then flying out tomorrow. This will be the last message you get from me for awhile. Here’s our itinerary, as provided by our tour service:
Dec 27 – Arrive Quito Ecuador
Upon arrival at the Quito, Ecuador international airport you are met by
our local representative and transferred to your hotel.
Dec 28 – Quito to Baltra
Transfer to the airport and fly to Galápagos by plane, arriving at the
airport at Baltra Island. A small ferry will cross the Itabaca Channel,
which separates it from Santa Cruz Island. This afternoon once on Santa
Cruz, we visit the Charles Darwin Research Center. After checking in to
your Galapagos hotel the evening is yours to explore the charming port
town of Puerto Ayora.
Dec 29 – Floreana
After an early wake up followed by breakfast on board the yacht Galapagos
Shark en route to Floreana Island we land on this fascinating southern
island in the Galapagos chain. Once there we will visit different beaches
for snorkeling and wildlife viewing as well as a hike for visiting caves
of historical significance with possible sightings of Galapagos land
tortoises in their natural environments. This afternoon, on our way back
to Santa Cruz, we will stop for a visit at the off shore island of Corona
del Diablo for sightings of several bird species and one more snorkel
opportunity before heading back to Santa Cruz.
Dec 30 – Coastal Santa Cruz
Today we visit various coastal environments along Santa Cruz by yacht.
There will be several opportunities to swim and snorkel with the island’s
famous marine inhabitants such as marine iguanas, sea lions, Galapagos
sharks, and more at sites such as Play de los Perros, la Loberia, and
Canal de Tiburones. In addition, we will have opportunities to see
several bird species such as frigates, blue footed boobies, and even pink
Dec 31 – Tortuga Bay and Highlands
This morning we head to beautiful Tortuga Bay beach with it’s 2 km of
white sand. As the name implies, this is a favorite nesting site among
Galapagos sea turtles. In addition you can find sea lions, marine iguanas,
pelicans, flamingos and lava gulls. In the afternoon we travel by bus to
the highlands of Santa Cruz. The scenery gradually changes as we wind our
way through all seven vegetation zones found in Galapagos. From June to
January, we can find giant tortoises on a private farm in the highlands.
We will also stop at “the tunnels”, the largest lava tubes found in
Galapagos before making our way back to Puerto Ayora.
Jan 1 – Baltra to Quito
As we make our way back to Baltra for your return flights we visit Los
Gemelos, Spanish for “The Twins”, a pair of large pit craters where we
find the bright red male vermilion flycatcher. Upon arrival back to Quito
we are met and transferred to your Quito hotel.
Jan 2 – Mindo
Today we visit the cloud forest habitats of Mindo. We drive two-hours
northwest of Quito to visit the butterfly and orchid conservatory and a
beautiful waterfall of crystal water. Lunch will be in an area hosteria.
This tour is directed to those who have a special interest in nature,
especially bird life for it’s world renown variety of bird species. In the
protected forest Mindo-Nambillo, visitors will have the opportunity to see
flora and fauna of various species, a very different environment from our
previous travels in the Galapagos.
Jan 3 – Quito
Your last full day in Ecuador is yours to explore this historical and
cosmopolitan city independently. Head to “Old Town” colonial Quito and
visit it’s many impressive plazas, churches, and museums, or walk to the
“Virgin of Quito” looking over the city with panoramic views of the city
and surrounding hillside communities.
Jan 4 – Return
Actually, a late flight, then a red-eye out of Atlanta, so we get into St. Louis early on the 5th.