Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Nov 5 (Day 309) - 15,000-mile mark crossed, big bad winds ahead

Although my ride today from Tubac, AZ to Patagonia was a short 36 miles, it was enough to push me over the 15,000-mile mark for the year! I am incredibly proud of this accomplishment. Many people don't drive this distance in 10 months, and I think that this number, perhaps even more that the number of species observed, demonstrates my dedication to the project and the amount of effort this year has taken. No matter how the final stretch of the year shakes out, I can point to the 15,000 miles I biked this year with incredible pride. I imagine that I am good for at least another 2,000 miles before the year is out. November will be a very riding-heavy month to reach the Lower Rio Grande Valley, but after that December should be a bit more relaxed. I say that now though. Watch, all sorts of rare birds are going to (hopefully!) show up all over South Texas and keep me busy until the very last minute!

A surprisingly hard 36-miles today

Heavy winds from the northeast were forecast for today, and, unfortunately,  the weather folks were spot on. The wind was banging from the NE as soon as I hit the road at 8am this morning. The wind built from 15 to 20 MPH with gusts upwards of 25. This made the slow climb to Patagonia a real headache, and by the time I reached Patagonia, I had had my fill for the day. The winds remained at a steady 20-25 MPH all afternoon. This crushed any birding plans I had for the afternoon. I instead relaxed and spent time hanging out with my hosts for the night, Alex and Jill Johnson.

Tomorrow I am going to leave at 5am to to ride up to the San Rafael Grasslands to begin the search for Baird's sparrow. Everyone has told me that it is imperative that I be there right at sunrise as the birds often sit on the wire fences to warm up as the sun first hits the valley. They apparently utilize the fences for only the first few hours of the day before disappearing into the long grass for the remainder of the day. The birds can be flushed by walking the grasses, but they have a frustrating tendency to dive right back into the grass before a decent view is afforded. I am hoping to get one perched in the open and avoid walking the grasses. The only potentially confounding factor tomorrow could be the wind. It is again going be blowing from the northeast with some strength. It will certainly be calmest in the early morning, but I am hopping that it is calm enough that the birds aren't bothered. 

Actually, the wind looks as though it is going to be a big problem for the next few weeks. I thought that the prevailing winds in the Southwest (AZ, NM, TX) at this time of year would be from the west. I figured that the eastbound transit of his region would be easier than the outbound, westbound, leg in May. This does not look like it is going to be the case. It now looks as though I will have to account for the wind during each day of journey to South Texas. Here is the wind outlook for SE AZ for the next few days.

What this means is that I will not be able to make the miles that I had hoped during these days. I can see that there is a general SE flow across Texas at the moment (Ugh). This means I will essentially be riding into the wind the entire way to South Texas. I am not happy about this. I am happy that I did not linger longer in California. I am SO glad I got across Western Arizona with tailwinds. I think it was very wise to start the journey to South Texas with time in hand. Even if the winds blow strongly and the crossing takes longer than anticipated (expected 12-14 days, but maybe it takes 18-20), I will still have plenty of time to bird South Texas. Should the wind issue miraculously disappear, then the worst thing that happens is that I have loads of time in South Texas. Right wind is the single biggest variable in the rest of my year. It is frustrating since I have ZERO control over it, and it has the potential to make my life a living hell on the days when it does blow hard from the east. Its never easy.....


  1. Hopefully the SE winds are just a short-term problem. -Dave

  2. 15000 miles by bike is mind-boggling. Congratulations!

  3. Here's a suggestion for any of your followers who haven't chipped in yet for your fundraising efforts. How about a small donation for every mile Dorian has ridden? A penny a mile would be $150. A penny for every 5 miles would be only $30. Seems like a small price to pay for all he's done, and all the great vicarious fun we are all having!