The forecast for today called for scattered showers and strong southern winds. These winds were to swing around to the west over the course of the day. This scenario would give me a nice push for a good part of my trip. As soon as I hit the road, I immediately noticed that the winds had more of a westerly component than predicted. This made the first leg of the trip more difficult than expected as I had to ride into this SW wind for about 30 miles. The wind stayed from the southwest for the next 20 miles or so. However, the wind came around to the west much sooner than I expected (and it brought lots of rain with it, see below). This meant I had to deal with a 15-20 MPH crosswind the entire afternoon. It also meant I lost the tailwind I had counted on the aid my run north.
There were three other problems that surfaced. First, the Best Western in Tampa was sold out. So was the motel I was going to use as a back-up. This sent Sonia and I into scramble mode until we could find a reasonably priced option. This is very tough to do given that it is spring break week. We eventually found something, but it will result in an 14 extra miles of riding. Second, was a full puncture of my rear tire on the road. All of the flats I have had until stage have apparently affected just the tube; The tire itself has been fine. Luckily, I have been carrying a fold up tire for just this scenario. What I underestimated was the difficulty I would encounter in putting this tire onto the rim. It was really floppy and difficult to manipulate since it had been folded up instead of formed over an inflated tube. It took a solid 30 minutes of swearing before I got the new tire onto the rim. I am so glad I stopped to by the pump when I did. The third problem was a torrential downpour that arrived literally 3 seconds after I got the bike reassembled. It soaked me for the next 30 mins and made my feet feel like a nasty swamp for the remaining ~50 miles of today's ride. I eventually made it to my port for the night, but it was a really hard 102 miles.
After such a trying day, I was very excited to discover that there was an owl refuge right across the street from where I am staying. I headed over at dusk to see what I could find. This was not like any other bird refuge that I have visited previously; It was in a very urban environment. In fact, the species of owls that I observed in the refuge were unlike any others that I have seen on my trip so far. I snapped a quick photo so that we can together discuss their identification. First you can see that they come in both light and dark morphs. In fact, there was a very wide array of plumages, and as a result coloring should probably not be used to identify these owls. However, they all possessed two, very large and very round field marks that are diagnostic. I spent much time studying these field marks and as a result did not note any others. It was a bit dark inside the refuge so I might return around lunchtime to see if I can find where the birds roost. I will be sure to keep everyone posted.
I am very excited since Sonia is coming to visit me in Tampa tomorrow! It will be nice to have a few days with her and some time to rest my legs.
Presumed undescribed owl species