Ghost Town Museum

We knew going in that this place was going to be cheesy. But in the interest of seeing what our new hometown has to offer, we decided to visit anyway. I was smart enough to find a coupon online that saved us $2. 

The most interesting thing about the museum is that it’s housed in an old railroad shed from the late 1800’s. Across the parking lot, a roundhouse from the same railroad now houses dentists and doctors. 

It’s set up like an old western town, with the sort of businesses and buildings supposedly found in mining communities—a livery stable, a rooming house, a general store, a saloon, etc. All of them were filled with a totally random mix of artifacts from the 1860’s or so through the 1940’s and maybe even later. How much of it was authentic, I have no idea. Anyway, with very little commentary, here’s what there was to see. 

In a separate building we discovered a long hallway with windows into a typical home—sorta. Every room had a woman and a child except for one that had a doctor on a house call with a child. There was a bed that supposedly belonged to Chester A. Arthur, which is so ridiculous a claim that I imagine it’s actually true. Scattered through the rooms were 3D pictures that showed cowboys from one angle and skeletons from another. There were also funhouse mirrors and coin-operated pianos and peep shows.

We’ve been to dozens of places like this over the years, nearly all of them done better. But we had fun enjoying the randomness and cheesiness. Another family that was touring at the same time thought it was “so cool.” It’s all a matter of perspective, I guess. We agreed that we don’t need a second visit. 

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Mountain Bluebirds

I went birding on Saturday. I had it in the back of my mind that, if I saw 14 new birds for the year, I’d reach 100 on my 2018 list by the end of January. It didn’t happen—I saw nine—but it was still a good day.

I drove down to Lake Pueblo State Park where I’d seen the Snowy Owl a couple weeks ago. It hadn’t been reported in a couple days, but there was others stuff around. I got out of my car on the ridge above the marina and was immediately distracted by a flock of small birds in a bare tree next to the lot. Closer inspection revealed them to be mostly Mountain Bluebirds, at least 40 of them. There were Pine Siskins, House Finches, and a Townsend’s Solitaire thrown in.

They were obviously most interested in a couple juniper bushes closer to the water, so I grabbed my camera and walked slowly in that direction. The flock got used to my presence pretty quickly and I was able to get close enough for some good shots. 

That’s Pikes Peak in the background, about 35 miles north.

I quit taking photos with my camera at this point, but I’m not sure why because I saw some other cool birds. I drove west out of the state park into the state wildlife area where I saw a Loggerhead Shrike, a Red-necked Grebe, and a raft of Eared Grebes. Back in the state park, I wandered around a campground for about an hour hoping to scare up a Juniper Titmouse in the place where I saw my lifer 16 years ago, but I struck out. 

I headed back toward Colorado Springs and pulled off just north of the El Paso County line. Some southern birds have been seen regularly along a stretch of road on the extreme southern edge of the county. I drove back and forth for about an hour. I missed the Greater Roadrunner that’s been spotted there, but I did see a Ladder-backed Woodpecker and a pair of Curve-billed Thrashers. The woodpecker seemed way out of place in the cholla flats at least a mile from the nearest tree. The thrashers felt more at home, but that’s the first time I’ve seen that species since 1984 in Arizona.

Clockwise from upper left: Loggerhead Shrike at Lake Pueblo SWA; Coyote; Longhorn; and Curve-billed Thrasher all from Hanover/Meridian Road area.

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Weekend in Ohio

We made a quick trip to Columbus in mid-January. Here’s an overview.

A friend of Sally’s had sung the praises of Schmitdt’s German restaurant in German village. We drove straight there after picking up our rental Toyota Rav-4. It wasn’t 5:00 p.m. yet, but the place was busy. We had a half hour wait, part of which we spent in the fudge store across the road.

Sally ordered weinersnitchel, I ordered breaded pork. Both were Ok, but the sides are what we really liked—spatzle, potato pancakes, and the cream puff we split for dessert.

On Sunday morning, I did an hour of birding in the cemetery and small wetlands park along the Olentangy River next to our hotel. I saw some of my old friends that don’t show up in Colorado—cardinal, Carolina Chickadee, Carolina Wren, mockingbird, Red-bellied Woodpecker. It had snowed in Ohio a day or two previously. Sunday was warm and overcast, and everything was damp.

We spent the afternoon in Springfield at the Heart of Ohio Antique Mall. We bought some old toys, and I bought a Toledo Torch—a kerosene roadside torch used in the 1930’s. It was as I was checking it out that I thought to wonder if I could take it on the airplane. Just in case, I took it to a UPS store in the morning and mailed it to myself. 

When we got back to Columbus, I drove downtown to see some new deer statues along the Scioto River. 

It was harder than you might imagine to prop up my phone to take this next photo. That’s why you’ll notice I’m only wearing one shoe. 

A second deer nearby was supposed to look like it was reclining in the grass, but I thought it just looked like it had slipped in the mud.

A third deer sat nearby on the steps of a museum. 

I used a snowball for a tripod to get this shot. 

The World’s Largest Gavel sat between two law buildings on the other side of the river. 

For lunch on Monday we went to Skyline Chili, of course, and to Krema Nut Company. We got to the airport two hours before our flight. Sally sat in an alcove at one end of the terminal while I walked around to get some exercise. When I got back, she was standing. I asked her why, and she just grinned at me. That’s when I noticed the roof was leaking right above when she had been sitting.  Our flight out of Columbus took off in the rain,  but we soon got above the clouds. 

The clouds were breaking up over Chicago as we flew north over Lake Michigan.

We landed at Midway for a layover of about an hour. That was long enough to buy a box of Nuts on Clark caramel/cheese corn mix which we polished off on the flight back to Denver.

It was weird being in Chicago and not being able to go “home.” We had to keep reminding ourselves that we didn’t live there anymore. But it sure felt like home.

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Snowy Owl

On Tuesday, when I was up by Denver looking at the Yellow-billed Loon, I wasn’t in Pueblo looking at a Snowy Owl that had been hanging out near the marina in Lake Pueblo State Park. On Sunday after church, I drove down. There were a lot of people there, drawn by the owl.

I parked on the rise overlooking the marina and asked a woman where it was being seen. She told me I could see it from there. I set up my scope and took a look. I then let her and her husband look through my scope as thanks for pointing out the bird. Apparently this was a pass for everybody in the area because they soon lined up to look through my scope, even though I’d only gotten a brief glimpse of the own myself. I was gracious and allowed this to go on for a little while until some lady kicked the tripod and knocked the owl out of the picture. I took that opportunity to grab my stuff and go.

Several other people were out on the marina dock, so I walked out there. Turns out the owl was only visible by looking through and around the railings of boats, and the view wasn’t much better than what I’d seen on the rise. Anyway, here are some shots I got by holding my phone up to my scope.

And here’s a shot of the same owl taken by someone with an actual camera.

As I was walking back toward my car, I passed the woman who had originally showed me the owl. She said, “You’re going to be very popular.” I looked where she was pointing and saw a large crowd staring at the owl through binoculars. I decided I’d seen enough.

I drove down below the dam and found a bunch of people looking for the Prairie Warbler that’s been hanging around there for about a month. Nate and I saw it in late December. Nobody had seen it since early morning. I relaxed and looked at what else there was to see. All the birders cleared out. I walked down closer to the river and soon spotted the warbler. 

Again, here are some photos of the same bird taken by people with actual cameras.

I drove to some other areas of the park, but didn’t see much. I was heading back on the road below the dam when a guy in an SUV came roaring up behind me. He came up very close to my bumper and was making gestures of frustration at the fact that I was only going five mph OVER the speed limit. We went through a passing zone. There were no cars coming in the other direction, so I pulled way to the side of my lane and slowed down a bit for him to pass. Instead, he got up even closer behind me and made some more gestures. I was passing the ticket station and saw a guy dressed in brown. I don’t know what made me think it was a park ranger, but something did. I slowed down to the exact speed limit—25 mph along that stretch. The guy in the SUV was fit to explode. He was inches from my bumper. I kept watching in my  mirror to see if he would do something more stupid than he was already doing, or even dangerous. Through the cab of his truck I suddenly spotted flashing lights. It was about 39 seconds before the jerk noticed. He pulled over. I kept going. The last I saw of him was when he was stopped along the road and the ranger was getting out of his car. This made me happy.

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