July 31, 2013 — California


The drive to Dave Jones’ place was hot but uneventful.  I did see some firefighters putting out a
small grass fire in the median.  Dave and
I caught up on a lot of things, as I hadn’t seen him in four years.  He is one of few men I know that keeps more
potted plants than me.  Evelyn came over
and we had a grilled steak dinner.  Dave
had a nice Yamaha guitar, and we played with that for awhile. 


In the morning I hit the road early.  Traffic wasn’t bad on the 210 through Southern California. 
There was only one traffic jam, and I don’t think I ever had to come to
a complete stop.  Gas was $4.21/gal, and
the RV has a 40-gal tank.  Ouch. The
Grapevine was a challenge, as it was under construction.  The lanes changed unpredictably and trucks
were everywhere.  At one point it got
down to one lane.  I stopped at the rest
area near the end to shake off the nerves. 
And to pee.  I-5 seemed to go on
forever.  At least it was smooth, but
towing vehicles are limited to 55 mph, which limits progress somewhat.  I made it to the Ranch at something like 4,
and greeted Kristen and her boys.  I
unhitched the Lil Egg, packed what I thought I needed, and went to my brother
Mike’s house.  We had a yummy El Gallito
dinner.  We went to a car show in Brentwood that was fairly good.  In the evening I got out the charango.  Racin got his acoustic guitar and we jammed
for a long time.  It was a blast.


I processed pics and worked on this journal in the
morning.  Cindy and I went to Target so I
could get some pants for the viewing.  I
made a quick run out to the ranch to retrieve some stuff from the RV.  I met Racin’s girlfriend when he got home
from school.  Seems very nice.  Mike loaned me a shirt. We all got dressed
and went to my Dad’s viewing.  I talked to
lots of people I hadn’t seen in years.  I
guess that was the up side.  We went to dinner
at a Mexican place that Dad used to like a lot. 
I ran back to the funeral home because some relatives that had arrived
late were about to leave.  More reunions.


Mark loaned me a nice suit, so we dressed up and went to the
funeral service at the Catholic Church in Byron.  The setting was perfect, as we were directly
adjacent to an alfalfa field, with a haystack nearby.  There was a view of Mt. Diablo
and we were right down the street from our hill property.  Every family member who had one (or two)
collector cars drove it to the church. 
This was a great tribute to my Dad, whose love of hot rods trickled down
to his brothers and the next generation. 
Mathew and Mark gave moving speeches during the service.  The four of us brothers and 3 of the
grandsons were pallbearers.  After the
interment we went to the reception at the funeral home in Brentwood.  Again, I spoke to many people I had not seen
in years, sometimes decades.  We had
sandwiches for the catered meal.  The
five of us offspring had a congenial meeting near the end to discuss family
business.  We finally all left.  We had Chinese food at Mike’s house with
Marlene and Melissa, with lively conversation.


In the morning, Mike, Cindy, Matthew, Racin, Racin’s friend
Caleb and I went to a huge flea market at the drive-in theater in Concord.  It took all morning to see it.  There was a dizzying array of stuff.  I looked at a million cameras and lenses, but
bought none.  All the fishing rods and
reels were junk.  I did get a deal on a
pair of hiking poles and a guitar amp. 
Racin got a set of rotor toms (drums). 
Mike got a battery tender, and Matthew got a first aid kit.  We went to Kinder’s for lunch and then to Guitar Center.  Incredibly, I didn’t buy anything.  They have an insane number of guitars.

When we got back, Mike and I went out to the Ranch to work
on my RV generator.  After some
experimentation, we determined that the fuel pump and/or filter were not
allowing enough fuel to the carb.  Once
all the fuel in the line was used up, it died. 
That’s why it will only run for ten minutes.  Sadly, only an authorized dealer can work on
the darn thing.

We had dinner at Marlene’s, as Melissa made pasta with
Bolognese sauce.  Yum.


I drove out to Mark and Alex’s in Vacaville in the morning.  Alex’s Mom and Dad were visiting and we all
went to see Mark’s empty lot, which will at some point grow a house.  We went to a Rock Shop, which I kind of
wanted to see, but it was closed on Mondays. 
We happened to go right by a Camping World, so we stopped and I bought a
new plug for the towed vehicle lights. 
We went to the Travis AFB air museum, but they were closed on Monday as
well!  We still saw all the airplanes
that were outside.  After lunch at the PX
we went back to Mark’s and I showed pictures and videos from my travels.  Alex made a nice salmon dinner, and we talked
until bed time.  I slept on a mat on the
floor with a Barney blanket. 


In the morning I drove straight from Mark’s to the Ranch, and
fixed the RV wiring.  Mark and the others
showed up right after I did, and we all picked leftover tomatoes from the
field.  We went to lunch at In-n-Out
Burger.  I rode with Kristen to pick up
Kaden, then back to the Ranch.  I took
the RV to the nearest service station and gassed up.  I went back to Mike’s before anyone else was
home.  I had a hard time finding Molly in
the back yard, as she didn’t come when I called. 


I went to see Jeff Krey, a high school buddy I had not seen
since graduation.  We had a lot of
catching up to do.  I told him my daughter looks just like me, but disguises it with hair and make-up.  We had lunch at El
Gallito, as I said we should when I first mentioned I’d be in the area.  I dropped some stuff in the RV at The Ranch,
went back to Mike’s, wired up his TV & Blu Ray and installed a cycle computer on his bike. 


Marlene picked me up and drove to Concord. 
We met Mark, who took us to the trust attorney, who did not seem to be
too well organized.  From there we went
straight to the ranch corporate attorney for another meeting.  He was personable and well organized.  We learned some important things.

Marlene, Melissa and Mathew came over and we all had sopas
that Mike had saved since the Portuguese Festa a month ago.  By chance, Savannah texted me with a picture of jackpot
she had cooked, saying that I could be jealous. 
I send her a picture of the sopas, and a text: Checkmate.  Racin and I played several songs for those
present, with him on acoustic guitar and me on charango.  By then we were in fairly good practice.  I don’t know when I’ve had so much fun. 


I packed up the car and headed to the ranch early.  I hitched the car to the RV, bade a tearful
goodbye to Kristen, and pulled out.  I
must say, Highway 4 on the levy between Byron and Stockton is the worst!  The drive was fairly pleasant going up the
Sierras, as the scenery was nice and the road was peppered with classic cars on
their way to Hot August Nights in Reno.  I think it was in Nevada that I hit a dust devil.  It made the RV turn on axes that it
shouldn’t, but I didn’t wreck.  I’d hate
to think what a big one might do.  The
salt flats of Utah
were boring as usual.  I almost made it
to Salt Lake City.  I spent the night in a truck stop parking


The climb up the Rockies out of Salt Lake
was beautiful.  I think I saw a
road-killed porcupine. I saw some pronghorn in Wyoming, and stopped to photograph some rock
formations.  I stopped in Sidney, Neb.,
to visit the Cabela’s mothership store. 
I looked hard at a kayak, but only came out with a pair of shoes.  I spent the night at a nice campground in North Platte, Nebraska.


The day brought thousands of acres of corn.  Missouri
was comfortingly familiar territory, and I arrived home at about 5:30.  The dogs mauled me, at least more than Stacey
did.  I greeted the new cat.  The tomatoes had made the trip in a paper bag
in the shower, but some of them had softened to the point where the bottom of
the bag was soaked, and, hence, useless. 
The sweet corn I had brought home was a bit moldy too.  Guess it’s hard to bring fruits and
vegetables back from California.  Savannah
got home not long after I did, with Royce now driving an Avalanche.  I unloaded some of the stuff, but saved the
rest for later days.  I think I totaled about 4500 miles on the trip.

July 28-30, 2013 — Ruby

7/28/13 End of BugGuide gathering

Most people left the BugGuide meetings on this day, and we said our goodbyes.  I mostly hung out in the classroom or around
the station, though we did chase down a nice Black Witch Moth.  I took a nap in the afternoon and when things cooled down worked on
the generator. 
It would run for 10 minutes then shut off.  When I opened the access panel and saw the
mouse nest, I had an idea of what was going wrong.  I couldn’t get all the mouse nest out because
of a curved piece of sheet metal that cannot be removed without wholesale
disassembly of the generator.  Maybe I
can blow it out with an air compressor when I get a chance.  I spent a fitful night of sleep, wondering if
the slide out would come in with the small amount of battery power I had
left.  It did. 

 7/29 Bugging out

I went up to the field station in the morning and watched
the hummingbird tagging.  It was quite a
sight.  I talked awhile with Val, the
only other straggler from the BugGuide meetings.  I saw the Cooper’s hawk land next to the
stream and jump in briefly.  I was taking
photos the whole time, of course.

Finally, I packed up the RV, hitched up the Lil Egg and hit
the road.  Once in Green Valley,
I stopped at the McDonald’s for the free wi-fi, and caught up on things.  While I was there, my brother Mike called and
told me my father had passed away.  After
dealing with the grief, I had to figure out how to alter my trip.  I decided I was so close to Ruby, I should at
least go there and see what bugs were out. 
I met Sundog at his new place in Arivaca and got the short tour.  We drove out to Ruby and met the new
caretaker, who was nice enough.  We
walked around “The Dune” of mine tailings. 
Incredibly, there were quite a few of the little wasps (Tachysphex) that I wanted to work
on.  Many, if not most of them were even
carrying prey, tiny grasshopper nymphs. 
Given this development, I thought I could get some significant research
done, even if I only had a couple of days. 
Sundog and I stopped on the way back to Arivaca to mark some milkweed plants.  I was distracted by a mushroom and walked
through some Mala Mujer.  My ankle was on
fire.  But only for a few minutes.  I took the RV to the Universal Ranch RV Park,
which, though having a much improved web site, is physically less impressive
than it once was.  Apparently, a large
dust devil destroyed the laundry room a few years ago. There was no one there
to check me in, so I was able to choose from the many open sites.  I picked one with a tree and without a Pogonomyrmex ant mound.  It felt good to hook up to water and
electricity, even to dump the black and grey waters.  I took a shower and loaded the car for the
next day’s research.  Sundog came by with
some fresh jackrabbit and we had a feast of burritos.

7/30 to Ruby

Rather than drive the whole RV and car-in-tow out to Ruby, I
commuted. The road is rough and rutted. 
I knew I could do it if needed, but it wasn’t worth doing for just a day
or two.  I loaded the Lil Egg with everything
I thought I might need. Sadly, I did not see a mountain lion on the way.  When I arrived, the male wasp activity was in
full swing.  I caught a bunch of males
and video recorded some activity.  I
weighed all the males and their thoraxes, some of which were around 1 mg, the
limit or resolution of my balance.  These
are the tiniest wasps I’ve ever worked on. 
The females began provisioning at 9 a.m., and I began to catch them as
well.  I soon figured out that, rather
than netting them, I could usually sneak up and slip an epitube over the top of
them and their prey.  Or I could wait for
the female to go down the burrow, put the tube over the top, and catch her on
the way out, adding the prey afterward. 
I had 10 female-prey pairs fairly quickly, but it took an hour to
process them all.  By this time I knew I
would be able to get a decent sample size, so I shot for 30 females.  I was done before 4 p.m.  I even took video of provisioning females.  Mission
accomplished.  While I was there, I
achieved another major goal: photographing the Two-tailed Swallowtail (Papilio multicaudata).  I’ve seen these on every trip to the
southwest, but they’d never land.  This
one lit in the dried out edge of the lake, where it was probably picking up
salts from the sand (AKA puddling).  It
was very cooperative, allowing me to get frame-filling shots.

When I got back to Arivaca I paid the campground manager and went out to Sundog’s place to
do some more photography.  He gave me a
tour of the grounds and found me a regal horned lizard (Phrynosoma solare) to photograph. 
We had jackrabbit pasta for dinner, which was delicious.  After an evening of chit-chat, and speaking
on deep matters, I went back to the campground and pinned out all my prey
specimens before bed.