Thursday, May 17, 2012

Day Trippers

So, Brian says to me, how about we take a little day trip to Blythe? This resonates differently for a person from Phoenix, who spent 25 formative years in cars going back and forth between Phoenix and Southern California, than it does for a person from Michigan who is temporarily residing in the Southwest and innocently looks at the Google map. To the former (i.e., me) Blythe signifies:

1. The state line
2. The middle of nowhere
3. We're almost halfway to Disneyland
4. Should we stop for gas now, or wait until Indio?

Or, coming the other direction:

1. The state line
2. The middle of nowhere
3. We're more than halfway home
4. Should we stop for gas now, or wait until Quartzsite?

But for the latter (i.e., him) Blythe does not have lifelong significance. It's just another place two and a half hours down the road from Phoenix, and so when Brian found out a friend of his from high school is working there (I know. We'll get to that), he suggested we hop in the car and pay said friend a visit. My first thought was a highly sarcastic "Yeah sure, let's spend my day off in Blythe!"  But, as all my tongue-in-cheek snarkiness should be leading you to believe, we of course had a fabulous time in Blythe, at least until the part where we got devoured by evil bloodsucking creatures.

Brian's friend is working a "bird job." I am delighted to report that there is a whole subculture out there of people working "bird jobs," on various grants in various wetlands and wildlife refuges. There are few things I like more than discovering random subcultures I hadn't previously known existed, and here you have four conservation biology degree holders living in a lovely rented house in Blythe's "Hidden Beaches" gated community (yes, you read that right) who go to work at sunrise every morning and plot the birds they see/hear on a certain 300 meter x 300 meter or so plot of land. This lasts for a few months at which time they might move on to another bird job, or go get their PhD in great-tailed grackles, or whatever. Anyway, since they start work at 5 a.m. and all, they are done by 1 p.m., which is when we timed our arrival.

R-L: Brandon, Brian, the beer drinkers
We all had a lovely lunch and chat, then headed to a swimming hole on the Arizona side of the Colorado River a bit south of town. I tell you, I have never felt so much like I was in a country song.  We just pulled the SUV up in the dirt by the side of the road, walked down the sand, and had a refreshing dip, surrounded by trees and marshy grasses and sun and sky. Across the swimming hole from where we entered we could see a channel of the mighty Colorado, and the only other people in sight were two men drinking beer in cans from a cooler under a shade tarp they set up next to their parked pick-up, across the pond. They were in fact playing country music, so I had the appropriate soundtrack and everything. Brian's friend identified the birds that came by, and I listened to frogs and paddled around and soaked up some sun.

After a hard afternoon of swimming and chatting, we headed to an area in the wildlife preserve with a walking path where we got to see a hummingbird nest and two cute hummingbird beaks poking out of said nest. Unfortunately, the minute we got to this walking path, we became mosquito dinner, and the biting was fast and furious, so we had to cut short our nature ramble. I counted about ten bites on each limb, plus on my face and back, way more than fifty in all, perhaps one for each of my prior stops in Blythe throughout my life. Brutal!

To reward ourselves for coming to Blythe, the big plan was to eat dinner at the town's fabulous BBQ restaurant, the Rebel BBQ. The bird crew was dismayed to learn that I had never heard of it, and I explained that I knew Blythe only as the land of national fast food chains. Au contraire! This local BBQ place was full of meaty goodness, scrumptious sides, and a vegetarian portobello mushroom option to boot. We ate a lot and it was a fine ending to our day in Blythe. We said goodbye to the bird crew and headed back down the highway with a new perspective on a town I've previously only hustled through.

Oh, I would also like to point out that there is a Starbucks in Blythe now, too.  Life is good.

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