May 23

Tuesday afternoon I drove 3 hours to Peoria.  It was a bit of deja vu, as half the trip was the same as I had done Saturday to go get the kayak.  I couldn’t believe the number of dead deer by the roadside.  I heard Illinois doesn’t have the funds to pick them up.  I gave a talk on The Galapagos to the Peoria Camera Club.  It went over really well.  After it was over, they asked me to judge the National Insect Photo Salon, which is a contest I usually enter.  They gave me a great dinner at Cheddars beforehand.  After, it was a long drive home in the dark.  I got home after midnight, pretty beat.

Wednesday morning I packed for our trip to AZ.  I had a dozen things to do, and couldn’t quite get them all in by the last minute.  Savannah and I took off and picked up Stacey in Hannibal, got a bite to eat, and headed west.  It was fairly uneventful until Kansas, which had a constant high wind, gusting to 30 or 40 mph, which makes it hard to keep a little car on the road.  We spent the night in Wichita at a fairly nice motel.

Thursday we got the continental breakfast and hit the road.  It was still windy as the devil.  Western Kansas is pretty flat and desolate.  We let Savannah drive the leg between somewhere and Liberal.  It was only her second time driving the stick shift.  We crossed the Oklahoma panhandle in no time, and the northwest corner of Texas nearly as quickly.  We spent the night in Gallup, NM.  It was getting cold already.  We found a motel on the old strip.  It probably dated from the 1950s, and the original route 66.  It was seriously in need of renovation, but it was cheap and the wi-fi worked. 

Snow-covered mesas.

When we got up Friday morning it was really cold.  We were at fairly high altitude.  As we drove, the rain turned to snow.  When we got to the middle of Arizona, it was a full-on snowstorm.  Fortunately, it didn’t stick to the road.  It was still not a very fun drive up and down the mountains.  It was a good thing we stopped at the Indian trading post and bought ponchos and Indian blankets (made in India).  We kept seeing elk crossing signs.  Savannah was hopeful of seeing one, especially after she spied a herd of pronghorn in one place.  I said if I saw an elk I’d probably have to change my underwear.  They can be very elusive.  We came upon one field with some large hoofed mammals.  Savannah said, “Ha, suck on that!”   I said, “Yeah, those are horses.”  We finally made it to Deon’s house at 2 or so. 

Saturday Stacey made French toast for breakfast.  We visited various specialty stores in the morning.  I think we were in what must be the biggest Joanne fabrics in the country.  We ate lunch at In-and-Out Burger, which we don’t have in the Midwest.  But when we got back to the house I had to sleep it off.

This mockingbird constantly harasses Deon’s cat.  The cat is largely unfazed.

Sunday Stacey and I went to the Desert Botanical Garden.  Everything was in bloom, and there was a lot of wildlife. 

Stacey looks cool in her summer hat.

This spiny lizard was a big dude. 

Whiptails were constantly criss-crossing the place.

A hummingbird in the herb garden let me get close, as did a dove nesting in the crotch of a giant saguaro.

And now for some token mammals.  The big ground squirrel was a beggar. 

Carpenter bees here are huge.  Milkweed bugs are about the same.
Cactus wren not too sure about me.  Pyrrhuloxia digging seeds out of a sunflower head.
Queen butterfly.  A large gopher snake crossed our path.  In the foreground there is a small squirrel which narrowly escaped death.

Paper wasp crawling about on a cactus.  Tarantula hawk nectaring. 

A final landscape.  One of the McDowell Mountains.

On the way back to Deon’s we stopped at a Cabela’s, had lunch, and shopped a bit.  We stopped at a Michael’s and a grocery store too.

Monday we went to the Science Museum.  One of their special exhibits was Grossology, based on the popular children’s book.  It was fun.  You could walk into a giant nose.  And who gets enough of making farting noises?  They also had an animal section, including bloodsucking invertebrates, slimy animals, and dung beetles.

After the kids had their naps we wandered the back yard looking for bugs.  I took along the macro lens.
We think this sweat bee stung Hayden.    A few of these tiny spiders were among the flowers.
This desert digger wasp, Centris pallida, has lovely green eyes and contrasty abdominal stripes.

Stacey made a nice pot roast and mashed potatoes, and one of Deon’s friends came over for dinner.

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