Our interstate highway system is no place for birding. This is mid-April, a season birding for optimism. We are driving southeast. Not so, birds. Crows, yes, blackbirds, grackles, and one dead grouse. Then, turkey vultures, singles and doubles that quickly accumulate to mid-double figures. Out of nowhere glide seven large black birds. Bigger than songbirds. Not crows. Black Vultures, I decide, over-thinking them into ravens.
We see few farm animals, mostly crops. Mammals are represented heavily by roadkill, much of it opossum .
Discounting the highways for birding has little to do with driving speed. There is enough road construction to provide ample viewing time, just no birds.
Merging in Indiana, during rush hour, a fellow in a white Kia gives me the finger as I try to slip into place. My standard response to that all-American gesture is to blow the offender a kiss. I do. He waves, using five fingers.
Our first motel choice is a typical birder motel: frayed. Jude is a good sport about it. The door key does not work. A new key opens the door to a room where the lamps don't work. There are ragged bath towels. Try again. All becomes well. There is even a free hot breakfast if you like waffles and can get to them without sticking to the syrup on the floor. I wash my shoe bottoms. I'll do that for $39.95. I promise to upgrade accommodations.
Freeways blow by small towns, towns located too far inland for a curiosity visit, although travel shouldn't be that way, especially during construction season; we have time to kill, perhaps weeks of it. The cites through which the highways do run make us feel at home. There are very few buildings -- architecture, if you can call it that -- and signage that isn't instantly familiar. We've been here, except we haven't.
Birds remain scare, by the way. And there is no question that our major highways are in serious need of repair.
Our second night is spent at the guest accommodation for the University of Cumberland in southeastern Kentucky. Seated in the in-house restaurant we ask for a glass of wine. Turns out the school is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Church, where wine is a sacrament (or is it?), not a menu item. Plus, this is a dry county. Coincidence? The menu does offer sweet ice tea, for some reason a speciality that's hard to find in Minnesota.
At the Cumberland lodge we do hear Song Sparrows and robins.
In two more days we'll be on Sanibel Island, where there are many birds. Lillian and Don Stokes, famous for their bird ID books, live there. According to Florida email birding reports they are on the job every day, patrolling beaches. They've found both Worm-eating and Swainson's warblers. I might run into the Stokes. We might introduce ourselves. I hope they have not read my blog review of their latest book because I thought it was poorly done and said so. In that situation one or more of us should be embarrassed. I'm betting the review would be news to them.