Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado 2008. Lesser Prairie-Chickens, Santa Fe, Denver

The Idea for a Trip

We had been wanting to do an RV trip for some time, but hadn't settled on a place to go. SE Arizona for birding? Northern California and Oregon the back way? Western Canada? The latest issue of Wild Bird magazine had an article about the annual Lesser Prairie-chicken Festival in a place called Milnesand, New Mexico, and referenced Grant Beauprez, with New Mexico Game and Fish, as being a key player in the festival.

The Lesser Prairie-chicken has a very limited range, unlike the much more common Greater Prairie-chicken, which we saw west of Versailles, Missouri.

"Let's Go," said Sharon. But she had a conflict - a class to teach on Saturday, that very weekend.

Then we thought, "What Ho, Cried Daniel," if we left the day AFTER her class, we could get there in four or five days, and we assumed that the birds would still be displaying on their lek. So I started emailing, got in touch with Grant, who for a fee would take us out the Saturday after the festival weekend. We were ON.

Sister Shirley, by Coincidence, Brings Up Old Postponed Plans

In 2001, sister Shirley with husband Jerry, brother George with wife Loretta, and Sharon and I had planned to fly and meet up in Santa Fe, spend a week touring the area. We made reservations in a wonderful southwestern hotel called the El Rey Inn. That was to be about a week after what we now call 9/11. And although brother George and Loretta backed out first, none of us wanted to fly, so we were able to cancel and get all our El Rey Inn room reservation money back. At the time, the girl said, "May I ask why you're canceling?" To which I thought, "Nervous Trepidation," as my old Japanese friend Yoshio Sunami-San liked to say, but to which I said we didn't want to travel so soon after the events of that fateful day, which by coincidence fell on sister Shirley's and Sharon mother Gretchen's birthday, September 11th.

By TOTAL coincidence, about four days after Sharon and I decided to go to Milnesand for the prairie-chickens, Shirley, without any knowledge of our plan, sent an email to brother George and us and asked if anyone else was ready to try Santa Fe again. Santa Fe is only about a day's drive from the prairie-chicken location.

And When You're Only a Day from Denver ...

Whenever we're in the neighborhood, i.e. within a day's drive or so, of daughter Shandra, husband Jeff and our four grandkids, we like to stop by, park our trailer in their driveway near Denver, and have some great family time.

And If We Go Via SE Arizona ...

I had been checking the Rare Bird Alerts for SE Arizona, and learned of a Mexican bird which seemed to be reliably staying around a B&B in Madera Canyon, near Tucson and Green Valley. Also, I was already aware of a place where a certain owl we'd never seen was being spotted nightly, to begin its nocturnal feeding.

And If We Return via Gunnison, Colorado ...

We were also aware that in 1980, the powers that be split off the Gunnison Sage Grouse, as a separate species from the Greater Sage Grouse, based on DNA analysis of the birds. We could take a slight detour on the way home from Denver and pick up another life bird, the good Lord willin' and the creek don't rise.

The Plan

I set us up for a three-week trip, if it's ok to call 23 days three weeks.

First to SE Arizona for two nights,
then to the prairie-chicken experience,
then to Santa Fe, to meet Jerry and Shirley (Sister-in-law Loretta had had surgery on a rotator cuff that was healing much more slowly than hoped, and they couldn't make it),
next up to Denver (another one-day's drive) to visit daughter Shandra and family,,
then home via Gunnison, Colorado and the Gunnison Sage Grouse..

We would leave Sunday morning, April 13th and arrive back home May 5th or 6th, depending on circumstances.

"It's Not Reality. It's Actuality." Trip Summary.

Below is a list of the web pages for you to either step through one at a time, or select one you may be particularly interested in.

0.Itinerary Map
1. Sunday April 13 to Thursday April 17. Travel to Arizona, SE Arizona Birding, to Las Cruces, NM. Elf Owl
2. Friday April 18 to Saturday April 19. Travel to Milnesand, Lesser Prairie-chickens, Travel to Santa Fe
3. Sunday April 20 to Monday April 21. Covered Wagon Sculpture, Turquoise Trail, Albuquerque Museum Art,
4. Tuesday April 22 to Wednesday April 23. Santa Fe Museums, Gallery Art, Loretto Chapel, Taos Pueblo, Colorado River Gorge
5. Thursday April 24 to Friday April 25. Last Two Days in Santa Fe. More Museums, Bandelier National Monument.
6. Saturday April 26 to Monday April 28. Travel to Denver, Masquerade Ball
7. Tuesday April 29 to Thursday May 1. Last Three Days in Denver. Snow. School.
8. Friday May 2 to Monday May 5. Denver to San Jose. Strep Throat. Knee Crash. Home.
9. Trip Results. Gas Mileage, RV Parks, Costs, Cost Comparisons vs theoretical Car/Motels/Restaurants

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