In today’s top blog story, Birding at the Border has extra excitements.
But first: I am guilty of telling people that cycling across the country is not hard. I TAKE IT BACK!!!! Cycling may gentle on your body, but it is hard work. We rode one of our difficult stretches yesterday – the 76 miles between Laredo and Carrizo Springs. We started before sun up. Seven hours later, at 1:15, we were off the road. At that time the heat index was 99 degrees. We were sweating like a glass of cold beer put out in the sun.
Speaking of cold beer . . . in Laredo, instead of relaxing around the pool sipping cold beer, we did a huge grocery shop. We shipped 50 pounds of food to ourselves in Big Bend National Park. We cannot carry in all the food we’ll need there.
Now to the headline. A couple of days ago we were still in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, home of “specialty birds” such as Red-billed Pigeon, Hook-billed Kite and Muscovy Duck. We asked for local advice. “Take your breakfast and take your lunch”, we were told, “you have to be patient.” At daybreak we cycled down the hill to the tiny village of Salineno. A dirt track led to a boat ramp on the river. The Rio Grande is about 40 meters wide here. Another dirt track led to the river on the Mexican side. It seemed peaceful, even though over the past months many people had warned us about the dangers posed by illegal immigration and especially drug smuggling.
We found the pigeons right away but the others were harder. We sat on a flat rock in the shade and scanned with binoculars and spotting scope. We noticed a lot of boat traffic. We watched a flat bottomed boat chug up from the Mexican side and nudge onto shore. A young couple jumped out. The boat sped away. The man put his arm over the woman’s shoulders as they hurried up the road. They carried nothing with them.
After lunch, we cooled down with a dip. An old dented boat approached. Three men jumped out and snuck along the shore and into the woods behind. They carried walkie-talkies. It occurred to us that maybe it was not so smart to hang out all day. “I have to get changed,” I said. “We need to get out of here”, returned Ken. The dented boat hovered just offshore, the men in it standing up. As I wheeled my bike back onto the road, a car sped down the hill, bouncing over the ruts and sending gravel flying. I turned my head away and fumbled with my ball cap. A few seconds later, the car roared back up the hill and the other men tumbled back into the boat.
“The package is delivered”, said Ken,”you can change out of your wet bathing suit now.”