Motoring Across America

With James "Alex" Alexander

with James "Alex" Alexander


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Blog 300: Fire, Turtles, and Village Intrigue

Like an aplomado falcon rocketing toward a meadowlark lunch, time does fly fast. It is hard to fathom that this is my 300th travel blog…onward!

Tour Update
We have worked into a rhythm doing our wildlife open tram tours. Unless days are miserable, we come close to filling the 62 seats with passengers. On one of our tours we had a reporter from the Brownsville Herald along—sharp guy, excellent writer, and a wonderful judge of character. This link goes to his write up:

Here are a few pics I have taken from our tours:

View from Redhead Ridge

Handsome Nilgai

Black Vulture

Harris's Hawk II


Old Coyote Warrior

Undercover Thief Hits the Refuge!
Along with several other volunteers, we hang at "The Village" (not to be associated or compared in any way to the notorious and infamous "Villages" of Florida fame), where we relax and congregate after our hectic work schedules. Most are like family, and a strong level of trust is embedded in the fabric of our tribe. You can then imagine the shock and outrage that occurred when our women folk's "upper-body, strategic elastic underwear" started to disappear. False alarm—the culprit had just let things hang.

Support Center

Winter Texan Appreciation Day
Jan and I drew the short straw (actually we volunteered) to man the Refuge booth at the annual Winter Texan Appreciation Day in Harlingen. "Winter Texan" is the Texas term for "Snow Bird." It doesn't take much time in Texas to learn that anywhere else on the planet an indigo snake is called an indigo snake. Down here it is a "Texas indigo snake" and tortoises are "Texas tortoises," and so on. They seem to have this big thing about branding.

As "boothers" it was our duty to spread the gospel of the refuge, talking about all the cool nature stuff we have to offer. It really went well—in two short hours we had conversations with 214 people! Here is a shot of Jan before the action commenced.

Jan at Winter Texan Expo

The refuge uses controlled burns as a tool to (1) add nutrients to the soil, (2 ) slow down the takeover of invasive grasses, and, most importantly (3) greatly minimize out-of-control wild fires. Here are a few pics taken from the tram during a recent controlled burn.

Fire Danger High

Fire Dude

The Fire Man

Longtime readers know that I occasionally "paint" photos with software in an attempt to make them a tad more artsy. I mention this because the last fire photo above "The Fire Man" is untouched except for a slight crop. The painterly appearance is just a result of the heat, smoke, and wind.

Turtle Rescue
The crazy cold weather we have been having is crazy hard on the sea turtles. Some (too many) become stunned from the frigid waters and end up floating with the current, becoming more lethargic with each passing wave.

I joined Captain Katrina and our friend Nikki, the versatile intern, aboard the good ship Thornscrub Princess, a flats boat powered by a 115 Evinrude outboard on a quest to rescue some of these beautiful creatures before death overtook their weary souls. Wearing long underwear, heavy socks, blue jeans, hiking boots, four shirts, one vest, three coats, a ski band, a wool beanie, two face masks, and a life preserver, I sat up front as we gently launched into a 33-degree temperature, with 20-mph winds, and three-foot seas to the Laguna Madre. I was tasked as the starboard lookout, looking for anything floating in the sea shaped like the round wooden shields of the 13th-century barbarian hordes.

After about 30 minutes, I felt like a half-slab of beef left in the locker freezer over the weekend. I have never been this cold, and the rest of the crew admitted the same. Yet, when a turtle was spotted, Captain K. got us close, I netted the turtle, and then Nikki helped me deposit our catch gently into the boat. We operated as smoothly as the Jamaican bobsled team—position, net, release, repeat. Oh, I wish you could have seen this poetic performance…it would have brought tears to your eyes and elicited "bravos" from your lips.

Finally, we headed back, alerting our people (Dick and Jan) of our expected return, and they met us with the rescue van when we pulled out of the water. We quickly relocated the really cold turtles into the van and Dick drove Nikki, Jan, me, and our four guests to Turtle Inc., on South Padre Island, the turtle rescue folks. Here they checked-in the new patients and started them on their path the recovery. Wonderful experience.

Alex and Turtle in Van

Barny Checking In

Four Saved Green Turtles

Turtles Awaiting Admittance

More Pics
Here are a few more shots taken at the Refuge.


Female Great-Tailed Grackle

Yellow-Rumped Warbler (Male Myrtle)


Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks from the Old Truck Reserve.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

See you next time with Blog 301.