Expected & Unexpected Adventures

We interrupt the regularly scheduled blog posts with an important message …. we just bought a house in Colorado!  Yep, that’s right, this Florida girl will now be following her heart and spending some more time out west.  ❤

To say that it has been a wild adventure is a massive understatement.  I’ve learned so much along the way and at times, have wanted to pull my hair out and scream, but it will all eventually sort itself out and be just fine (or so I keep telling myself – LOL).

It started out almost 2 months ago, when Tom, his son Tyler, and his good friend Todd, along with the help of another good friend Dana, loaded up a 26-foot Penske (OK, maybe there were 2 Penskes involved) and prepared for the long drive out to Colorado.  Yep, 2 Penske 26-foot trucks, a tow behind with one vehicle, and another being driven out there by itself.  Yep we traveled light, as evidenced by the fact that Tom’s van and other things were still remaining in Hollywood.
IMG_4276-2As they pulled out to start their journey, I had no idea of what would lie ahead, but I knew that it would be an adventure of a lifetime.  :-OIMG_4281-3See, though many thought that Tom had the hard job, with the drive and all, but I had the task of flying out with my mom and step-dad … oh, and an outdoor cat we inherited years before whom had never been put in any situation close to this one.  The only thing is that the veteranian gave me tranquilizers for him … but what would keep me sane, I wondered.IMG_4341-3Alas though, we all made it out there and the reward were things like this view out of our backyard in Fruita.IMG_4361-3Fruita, CO is a small town, outside of Grand Junction, CO, which in itself is a small town.  Fruita has an avid cyclist community, so it’s easy to see why Tom was rooting for settling down there.  It wasn’t long before Tom set out on his inaugural ride, with mountain biking being the most popular, but also lots of safe roads for road cycling as well.
IMG_4367-3Of course, for me, I just couldn’t wait to get myself up on the Monument, though to my surprise, it POURED when we visited for our first trip up.  It was fascinating to see the usually dry and arid landscape, all washed up in a heavy downpour, with the resulting “mud falls”.IMG_4404-3This home is set on an acre of land and irrigation waters, so that meant a lot of yard for Tom to mow.  It wasn’t long before he found himself a new toy … the riding lawn mower.IMG_4441-3After which he wasted no time catching a quick snooze in his hammock (a Father’s Day gift from Kelli and Mitchell) set up under the shade of the pergola.IMG_4413-3For the first few weeks, I struggled immensely with the lack of office furniture out here, so after an eternity of complaining, Tom improvised one for me.  LOL   Actually, it did the trick!IMG_4417-2More trips to the Colorado National Monument followed every so often, to break up the monotony of the endless unpacking.  I mean, with views like this, how could you get sick of it … or not feel rejuvenated.IMG_4434-3IMG_4433-2IMG_4405-3Our first visitor to Fruita was our son-in-law, Mitchell, who was nearby in Denver for a work seminar on the business of making spirits and distilleries.  Tough, huh?IMG_4475-3They were able to get some mountain biking in on some of the amazing trails nearby.  I on the other hand, got a break from unpacking, though shhhh … don’t tell Tom.  😉IMG_4461-3YIKES!  If I didn’t know better, I would swear that gremlins would come in at night and regenerate boxes and boxes to unpack!  I’m not sure we’ll ever get through all of them.IMG_4454-2My mom and her husband just love being outdoors in the sunshine and adore the views of the mountains and Monument in the distance.  Not sure how my step-dad will enjoy it when the winter rolls in though.  I guess we’ll find out soon enough.IMG_4446-3I celebrated my birthday since I last blogged … and it was a bittersweet one.  My daughter brightened my day though with these fabulous flowers.IMG_4600-3After about a month or so, it was time to head back to Florida.  First though, we had some unfinished business with some mountain goats on Mt. Evans.  See, 2 years ago when I visited the road was closed due to road repairs and I couldn’t see the mountain goats I had yearned after for so long.  This time, I conquered that item off my Bucket List.  More on that to come.IMG_4623-2Once home, we were taking care of business, as they say, when all of a sudden we learned of an unexpected, and uninvited visitor.  Her name was Irma and she was packing quite the fury.  Of course, I’m referring to Hurricane Irma, a Cat 5 hurricane that had it’s sights on south Florida … and the entire state of Florida.  Before long, I boarded a flight on out of there and Tom loaded up yet another Penske (16 footer this time) and began to head out as well.IMG_4808Tom’s journey back to Colorado was supposed to be a “solo” affair, but it seemed like 6.3 million other Floridians were on an evacuation plan of their own.  If anyone knows Florida well, you know that there are generally only 3 ways out … I-95, the Florida Turnpike, or I-75.  Everyone was in “frenzy” mode too and supplies and gas was getting short in supply.  Then, the unthinkable happened … I got a call at 2:30 am in the morning, that the Penske had broken down in the middle of BFE.  The differential had froze, pieces  flew out, and by the time Tom got the truck pulled over and stopped, the drive train was hanging on and dragging on the ground!  Thankfully no one was struck by the flying shards of metal … and that Tom was safe as well.  Tom had to sit on the side of a highway, in the middle of the night, and wait almost 8 hours until he was on the road again.  What an ordeal!

2.5 days later, Tom made it back and all was good again.  🙂IMG_4863-3So that’s what my life has been like lately … and why the blog is so late … and why it wasn’t about burrowing owls, as indicated earlier.  Rest assured, burrowing owls (lots of them) will be coming to the blog … and lots more too, so stay tuned.  As I said, it’s been a crazy ride and quite the adventure.  But then again … isn’t that what makes life so interesting?  LOLIMG_4857-2Next Up:  Let’s try again for some Burrowing Owls

© 2017  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

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2015 … A Transitional Year in Review

As we begin the 2016 new year, I always take the time to reflect back on the past year.  It was a year of great change for me (as I knew it would be), great opportunities, and awesome experiences.  Here are just a few of the highlights.

Early in the year, when the hot weather cools down a bit, I always take the time to visit “my park” – Everglades National Park.  The Everglades are a place where you visit with great anticipation as to what you’ll find, as the environment changes always depending on the water levels. During the first 5 months of the year, it can be a mecca for bird watchers and photographers, as well as offer landscape gems such as this wonderful, and unexpected, fog bow.

DSC_0391We usually also spend a few weekends up in the Gainesville area early in the year, since we have a home up there.  To my surprise this year, in addition to the influx of migratory sandhill cranes which visit, there was also a whooping crane, specifically No. 9-13.  He stayed for several months before he migrated successfully back to the north in WI.  DSC_9825Of course, it was also quite a thrill to share the hiking path with bison at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park in Alachua County.  As we were on the lookout for the alligators, can you imagine Tom’s surprise when it emerged from the grasses and brush adjacent to where he was standing?  LOLDSC_4785-2

So far the year had been progressing along routinely, but that was about to change.  On March 4th, I took retirement from my medical sales position (aka my “day job”).  Though it was to happen on its own in 2015, this came about in an unexpected way … I felt like I won the lottery!  LOL  Before long, I learned that Fridays were no longer the best day of the week and I learned to love Mondays!  It’s all about perspective.  🙂
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Always an exciting day is the arrival of the swallowtail kites in Florida.  Numerous trips “upstate” followed for more bird photography.DSC_5426

As Kelli and Mitchell progressed with their educational pursuits, they met us out in Bozeman, MT for some snowboarding fun.

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Combining that trip for Tom & I, we arrived early and toured Yellowstone NP in what can only be described as an anomaly winter for them, as much of the snow had already begun to melt.  On that trip, I learned the cruelty of nature, as we watched a bison who had fallen through the ice of the frozen pond, and being unable to free itself, eventually died there, and the circle of life displayed itself right before our eyes.  I stood there, numb and crying, as there was nothing that I could do to help.DSC_6735

We also encountered many specimens of wildlife, including these wonderful and beautiful bighorn sheep.DSC_5928

Grand Teton NP was also visited during this trip and the wildlife and landscape opportunities were undeniable.  Who would have thought that we would have a red fox posing so nicely for us as we happily snapped away images.  DSC_7292

There’s nothing like experiencing first light on a mountain and the Tetons are no exception.  A better day couldn’t have been possible.DSC_0822

OK, perhaps it was the mother in me, but these bighorn sheep ewes teaching the young ones how to navigate the rocky cliff ledges had me on pins & needles.  It was fascinating beyond belief to witness their skills … I mean, I’m less sure footed on solid ground!  LOLDSC_1653

There were several “firsts” for me in 2015.  I was fortunate enough to photograph both the long-eared owl and the short-eared owl as well.  As many of you know, other than my beloved bears, owls rank very high on my favorites list, so I was thrilled.DSC_7170DSC_0727

Once back in Florida, I spent many days photographing the courtship, mating, nesting, and raising of the young of many of our birds that make spring in Florida so unbelievably amazing.DSC_8390DSC_2391DSC_3577

How about a wild American Flamingo?  Yep, it was an amazing experience, one that my tripod still bears the scars of, as I got so excited when I witnessed the flamingo take flight.DSC_2209

In April, Tom competed in the Florida Firefighter Games.  Held at Alafia River State Park, some of the states finest mountain bikers raced through the POURING down rain for medals, both individually and as teams.  DSC_3054

Of course, no season would be complete without my mornings and/or evenings revolving around the burrowing owls.  Once again I had the pleasure of photographing them as they literally grew up before my lens.  Often, I would simply delight in their antics, forgetting to click away.DSC_8841DSC_1341DSC_4436DSC_2476

A real special treat was this bird’s eye view shooting position of this young osprey while dad had just dropped off a nice fresh catch and mom proceeded to feed it.  Someone get this guy a napkin.  🙂DSC_9194

Now that I had more time to do the things that I had always wanted to do, I traveled to the Alligator Farm in St. Augustine, FL.  For 4 days I learned how to best expose for the outdoor subjects, tell a story with my images, use my flash (no more auto mode for the rare times that I actually use it), and even a bit more on processing images too.  A bonus was that we were able to shoot at the rookery a full hour before even the Photo Pass kicks in.DSC_9707DSC_9839DSC_3464

Two trips up to St. Augustine also followed for capturing the courtship, mating, tending to the nest, and taking care of the young, as performed by the least terns.  Sometimes the taking care of was accomplished by teamwork in elimination of the enemy intruder.DSC_2723DSC_3242

Well, as you can probably guess, 2015 experiences were too many to lump into just one post.  Picking up in June, Part 2 will follow in the next post.  STAY TUNED.  🙂

© 2015 TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Cycling … It’s What’s On Tap For Today’s Post

The 2015 World Police & Fire Games were recently held in Fairfax, Virginia.  Tom and some of his fellow firefighter colleagues, as well as police and law enforcement officers, from around the world showed up in full force to compete in the “Olympic-like” Games…. dubbed “The Games of Heroes”.  Tom competed in both road cycling and mountain biking events.  Let’s see the competition in images and stories…. this way ….

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One of the Road Cycling events, and the first that Tom competed in, was the Criterium race.  Crit races are generally a mile or so circuit lap, repeated for a specified amount of minutes, then a designated number of additional laps.  In The Games, the competitors are divided in age groups, to keep the competition fair.  Funny because often the strongest riders are not necessarily the youngest.  When the start was whistled, off they went on their first lap.  I think that there was about 20 in Tom’s group at the start.

20150628-DSC_3557To help cheer Tom on, my cousin Violet and her daughter Nicole, who live nearby showed up and kept me company during those tense moments.  It was great to see them.

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Before long, the group dropped over half of the riders, leaving just 8 lead riders.  The racers had timing chips, so that kept the # of laps straight, as several of the riders were “lapped” before the end of the race.

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It was easy to spot Tom because thankfully he had on his sun sleeves, which help keep him safe from the sun.  Today, they were also the identification key for me as they zipped by with each lap.

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About 1/2 way through the race, the 8 riders thinned out to only 6 in the lead group.  Tom kept his position in that group.

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On the bell (final) lap, the 6 riders sprinted to the finish line.

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Tom finished in 3rd Place … not bad for a guy that, though he rides his bike almost daily, hadn’t raced on the road in a very long time, especially in a crit race.  See, in a crit race, it’s more of a strategic race and it’s not necessarily the strongest rider, but rather the “smartest” rider that wins.

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After the victory laps for the 3 medalists, it’s time for the Medal Ceremony.  Congrats guys!

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The next day, it was on to the Mountain Bike Cross Country race and there were many more medals on the line.

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The start of the race featured a bit of a road climb to “thin the pack” into the singletrack of the course.  Tom went into the course in 2nd position.

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While Tom was racing in his age group, one of our friends Johnny Sobkowski (Sunrise FD), was racing in his younger age group and went on to take 3rd Place.

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Another friend, Scott Sherry (Palm Beach FD) was also competing in his age group.

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Tom arrived to finish his 1st lap, navigating in preparation of running through the ribboned route through the scoring area.

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As he entered his 2nd lap, he was situated in 1st place…. Go Tom!

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Todd Neal (Broward County Fire & Rescue) finished up his 1st lap as well.

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Finally, after 1 hr, 18 mins Tom emerged to finish his race.

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Such determination shown in the fierce look of a competitor, as Tom crosses the finish line in 1st place!  WooHoo!

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John Cole (Ret. Charleston FD) was also racing and part of our traveling group.  This was just the 2nd race ever for him.

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Gil, who was from Washington state, works for the National Park Service and finished his age group in 1st place as well.

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On the podium stood Malcolm Bow (Peel Regional Police Dept from Ontario) in 3rd Place, Tom (my person hero and sherpa & Ret. Dania Beach FD) claimed 1st Place, and Randy Winwood (Nanpa FD from Idaho) picked up 2nd Place.  I was quite proud of Tom.  It was a mere 14 years ago when he last competed in “The Games” and took 1st Place honors as well … guess the guy still has it!  LOL

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After the races, it was time for some beers and lunch at a local brew pub.  Good times with good friends, for sure.

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In celebration of the games also, we had a wonderful dinner with my cousin Violet and her husband, Bob.  Such wonderful memories!

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At this time, I had to say goodbye to Maria Scherer (Dale City FD), who graciously hosted John, Todd, Tom & I during our stay at The Games.  She was so supportive of the guys and a great new friend for us as well.  🙂

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© 2015 Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

Note:  This blog post also takes a moment to honor the memory of Carlos Silva, Brazil PD and also in thought for the 2 other cycling competitors injured during the road race cycling event.