Welcome to the Hotel California.  Actually, it was an Airbnb and much nicer than a hotel, but I was in California and I did meet an eagle, hence the song reference. Not all trips can be 4-wheeling trips unfortunately, but for me it’s all about the travel.  Getting out from behind the desk, exploring places I’ve never before been, meeting new and interesting people, and enjoying a new experience; whether I have a monster 4x4 slung under me or not.  And I always seem to find a bit of adventure where ever I go.  I recently had to attend some classes in sunny San Diego, CA. Ha! sunny? I don’t think they got the memo.  Upon arrival, the sky was overcast, a light steady rain came down and wind whipped the trees around like crazy in the frigid air.  This was late May in about as far south as you can go in California.  Did I take a wrong turn and end up in Seattle?  I didn’t think I was on the road that long.  Locating my Airbnb confirmed that I was indeed in the right place, just not at all what I was expecting.  After checking in I drove down the street to get some dinner and watched a Honda Odyssey run a stop sign, just missing me and t-boning a Porsche Panamera on the rear passenger door, spinning it 180 degrees.  HOLY F’n BLEEEEEP!!!  So I had to hang out a bit and give a witness report.  Welcome to California!  Another witness said this was the 2nd accident he’d seen that week.  I kindly told him to stay the hell away from me.   Those Panamera’s are made with aluminum body sheeting to save weight, and that Honda tore right through it.  I’ll give those Germans credit though, they built a hell of a safety cage!  The cage stopped the Honda just a couple of inches short of hitting the young boy strapped into a child seat just inside that door.  Thankfully no one got hurt, and the guy in the Porsche, after making sure he and his son were safe, ran immediately to check on the driver of the Honda and assure her that everything was going to be okay.  Wow, you don’t see that too often.  Funny thing was, the guy driving the Porsche said he really didn’t like that car and was looking at getting rid of it.  Looks like he got his wish.

I spent the next 3 very long days looking at the inside of a conference room, and 3 very short nights looking at the inside of my eyelids, so when the last class was over, I needed to look at the beach.  It was just starting to get dark when I arrived, and it was still pretty chilly.  I stood in the cool sand shivering a bit in my shorts and t-shirt, chuckling quietly to myself as I watched California girls walk the beach barefoot, wearing spandex pants and ski jackets with the hoods cinched up, and only their scrunched up little faces visible.  It was a pretty humorous sight.  The sunset however, was just beautiful!  I then headed off to my lodging to get a good night’s sleep for the first time that weekend.

After sleeping in a bit, I packed up, checked out, and headed back to the beach.  I had only planned to stay for a few minutes before hitting the road. It occurred to me that I didn’t really have to be anywhere anytime soon, and I hadn’t seen the ocean in about 10 years, so heck, I’m hanging out for as long as I want!  The air was a bit cool but very comfortable, and the beach was just beautiful.  I closed my eyes and just absorbed the sound of the crashing surf and smell of the ocean.  So relaxing.  I spent several hours walking the beach one direction, then turning around to explore the other.  There were plenty of people out, and I chatted a bit with a local family about some of the wildlife I was seeing.  They caught a Tuna Crab to show me.  It looks like a small lobster and one of the girls told me that they’re only in that area during El Nino years.  While checking out the Tuna Crab, I spotted another really cool crab with some gorgeous coloring.  He and I did a little dance as I tried to get some good shots of him.  If I went one way, he’d go the other.  If I came around the front of him, he’d turn and run away.  This little back and forth circle dance went on for several minutes.  The natives call me, “Dances with Crabs”.  Umm… yeah, that didn’t sound right at all.  Sorry, just ignore that ladies…  moving on.

For those of you who don’t know me very well, I’ll just tell you now, I’m a HUGE fan of the critters!  In my previous life as a wilderness guide, I was happy to be the guy out catching rattle snakes, scorpions, tarantulas, or whatever else I could get my hands on to show my clients. I’ve seen some pretty cool things in my time, but what happened next has got to be one of the coolest things to happen to me so far; critter-wise at least.  So while I’m standing there talking to the locals and, umm… dancing with crabs, a freak’n Osprey (aka: Sea Hawk, Fishing Eagle) splashes down in the surf not 10 feet from us! The locals didn’t even know what it was; one of them thought it was a seagul, lol.  At first it was a bit hard to identify, it came flopping out of the water dripping wet, feathers matted, and looking like a mangy Skeksis.  Once it spread its wings and shook the water off, re-fluffing its feathers, I knew immediately what it was!  I had seen these birds several times from afar in northern Arizona, but I never imagined I would be so close to such a magnificent creature.  All I had on me was my old point & shoot, so I pointed & shooted as quick as I could; which for this old camera, was maddeningly slow.  With about a second and a half of save & delay time between shutter clicks, I was screaming inside my head, “Come on, come on, come on! Oh for the love of…AARRRGH!”  This Eagle was going to take off any second and I desperately wanted some photos.  Aside from visiting a zoo, this will probably never happen to me again, and it is so much cooler to see animals in the wild than in captivity.  None of us approached this bird, we didn’t want to scare it off, and it was pretty darn close to us to begin with.  Besides, zoom lenses are awesome!  Check out the pictures, but I’m telling you, this just took my breath away, and the pictures don’t do it any justice.  I’m 6 foot tall and this bird’s wingspan was just short of my arm span; it was huge.  Thankfully for those of us standing there, this Osprey was struggling with the rather large fish it had grasped in its talons.  As I said earlier, the Osprey had landed in the surf, and I think the fish got suctioned to the sand as the surf withdrew.  Glenn (because he’s an eagle), was flapping those wings for all he was worth, but couldn’t get the fish off the ground.  Eventually, he managed to pry it free from the wet sand and drag it up to the dry.  He looked rather exhausted sitting there with his fish, chest heaving and heavily panting.  Do birds pant?  That’s what it looked like.  He rested for several minutes and munched on his fish a bit before regaining enough strength to take flight.  Wow…. still thinking about this several days later, still blows me away.

After all of that, I was getting hungry and needed to get on the road anyway, so I headed back to the car and pointed it towards Arizona.  On the way out of California, just north of the border, I came across some aliens.  I don’t know if they were here legally or not, but they seemed like nice enough folks…errr, beings?  Maybe MIB should swing by and check their immigration status.

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