D as in Drive. Today consisted of the most driving anyone should ever have to do ever in their lives. I left Virginia Tech at precisely 4:55 AM and I just arrived at my campsite in northern Florida at around 6. I stopped in Daytona Beach to scan for gulls, but other than that I drove nonstop. I am sitting at a rather creepy picnic table in the tent section where mine is the sole tent among a sea of RV’s. All of my limbs are pretty shaky and I can’t tell if it’s from driving for hours or if I’m actually nervous about camping alone. The KOA owners introduced themselves to me and told me where they live (which is on the premises) in case I need anything, and I’ve got my pepper spray and knife stashed in my tent, so I feel mostly a-okay about being on my own. This is the first time I’ve gotten to use my Big Agnes Fly Creek UL tent and I have it stuffed full of blankets and my sleeping bag and lantern, making it quite a cozy abode in the balmy Florida weather. It looks like I’m in for a tiny bit of rain tonight, but I’ve got my tarp under me and my rain fly over top so I should be good to go. Daytona Beach was a mess of wind and spray and made me a bit nervous about running into some nasty weather, but we’ll see if it holds off. I didn’t see a whole lot there, considering I drove on the beach for a measly 20 minutes in order to have time to set my tent up before it got entirely dark, but I did see my first Piping Plover of the trip (unbanded), some Willets, tons of Sanderlings, and lots of Ring-Billed Gulls. I’m going to keep this short to conserve my computer battery because the rec room is closed and I don’t have an electrical hookup, so this charge is all I’ve got. Wifi from a tent, though, how cool is that? Here is my home for the evening:
The drive was actually fairly painless, it just took forever. I saw my first Loggerhead Shrike for the trip right as I crossed the Florida border, and some White Ibises flew over near Apopka. I finished all ten episodes of the podcast Serial, the first CD of the audiobook “Alex and Me” by Irene Pepperberg about the African Grey (she comes off as pretentious and obnoxious so I don’t know how much more of that I’ll be listening to) and listened to Blank Space by Taylor Swift every single time it was on a nearby radio station, so basically all day. I forgot to bring a can opener, so all of my delectable chili and soup will have to wait until I can motivate myself to go to a gas station or grocery store. Speaking of gas stations, all of the ones in Georgia and Florida were absolutely swarming with Boat-Tailed Grackles. Neat. On to more important news. So I spent all day yesterday meandering around Blacksburg with Elena and revisiting all of our old haunts. I know I told you I would be posting food porn in the near future, but unfortunately it is different food porn than I promised. I forgot that Turner Place is closed on weekends and Greeks, home of the world’s best falafel wrap, is also closed Sundays and Mondays. After throwing myself off of Torg Bridge in sadness, I settled for Himalayan Curry and shrimp dip from The Cellar. Always classic dishes, they reminded me of being back at school and sharing wonderful times with wonderful people. Elena and I walked around Heritage Park in the morning, which was almost entirely devoid of bird life other than a few Field Sparrows, and then met up with the NRV Birding Club for a noontime waterfowl/lark hunt. We managed to get some good looks at a few Horned Lark flocks and saw some Buffleheads and PB Grebes on the New RIver. It was so wonderful to see all of them and reminded me how grateful I am to have attended Virginia Tech and to meet the excellent birders of Southwest Virginia.
I am seriously loving this tent and am excited about the idea of camping for the next two weeks. It’s been far too long since I’ve slept outside, and although I can hear the highway about 100 yards away, it brings back fond memories from this summer in Montana and other past camping experiences. Tomorrow will consist of an Ani hunt at Lake Apopka and then over to Orlando Wetlands to see what I can find. There have been a ton of great birds reported recently at the Lake Apopka Restoration Area, so I’m very excited to spend some quality time with them. There is a very real possibility that I will be going to sleep in the next five minutes (8:00 PM) so I’m going to cut this short and find a Starbucks or something tomorrow to update you on Lake Apopka and charge my computer.