Picture these long legs . . .
Stalking bugs here. . .
If not for the flat tire, I would not have seen him . . .
Rain finally came to California last week. What was just a drizzle when Dave and I landed on Wednesday night in Los Angeles turned into a downpour by the time we passed through the northernmost suburbs of LA on our way to Delano.
Even on a dark, wet night the four lanes of Interstate 5 were busy: semi trucks stayed to the right, straining to haul heavy loads over the Tehachapi Mountains while nimble sedans and sport utility vehicles raced each other to the summit of Tejon Pass.
I twirled the knob on the radio dial looking . . . Thunk. Flap, flap, flap . . . Then the slow motion effort to cross all of those lanes of traffic hoping to coordinate our arrival in the far right lane with an exit. We just missed it, but got far enough off the road to avoid getting splashed.
Next, the drill: rain slicker and galoshes donned; suitcases thrown into the back seat; tire iron, jack, and spare unloaded. I rifled through my suitcase and found not one, but two flashlights. Clutching an umbrella in one hand and the light for Dave in the other, the irony didn’t escape me. Just two weeks ago I wrote about a rainy February night on another California highway, changing a flat tire. Twenty-eight years later the only thing missing was the whiskey.
We eased back out into the traffic and gingerly made our way up to the 4100 foot apex of the pass on the tiny spare, before we descended through Grapevine Canyon and into the south end of the San Joaquin Valley, breathing a sigh of relief when we finally saw the lights of Bakersfield, our stop for the night.
The next morning the air was clear, smog washed away, a break between storms. We hoped it would last long enough to travel north to Delano and then back south into the heart of LA before heading east into San Bernardino County and finally south to Chula Vista just north of the Mexican Border–almost 400 miles. But first we needed a new tire.
Dave spotted the great egret (Ardea alba) on a pile of rubble as we pulled into the parking lot of Pacific Tire just off California Highway 99. Fumbling with my camera, I missed my chance to get a shot, but the big bird hadn’t gone far, just over to the highway embankment looking for breakfast.
The crew changing the tire expressed no surprise at seeing a woman in a skirt and heels focusing a pair of binoculars on . . . what? Something just out of their line of sight, they turned their attention back to the job at hand.
By the time the egret moved too far south for me to continue to watch him, the new tire had been mounted. We were ready to go.