A failed attempt at a cross-country martin house transect

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Scully
Posts: 2008
Joined: Mon Jan 26, 2004 5:35 pm
Location: Texas/San Antonio

:???:

Last summer I was able to complete an item long on my bucket list; a 2,000 mile bicycle ride from my own front door here in San Antonio to New York State....

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2,010 miles in thirty-three days, as it turned out not nearly so hard as I thought it would be. Here's the approximate route...

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What I did was bring a hand-held GPS, and just recorded the location everywhere I saw a martin house, sometimes I took a photo too. Of course I thought I would see literally hundreds of housing sets ups, travelling on back roads as I was.

Actually the total about 1,500 miles along was surprisingly modest, about eighty or so. At that point someone walked off with my GPS unit when I carelessly left it sitting out in a state park in Ohio :???:

*SIGH* my chance at martineering immortality lost....

I do hope to do this again two years from now and this time will be sure not to lose anything.

Working from memory, easily the MOST martin housing I saw was in Southeast Missouri in the Wappapello/Puxico area where almost every residence had a martin house. North of the Indianapolis area the amount of housing dereased dramatically, such that it became rare by Ohio.

I recall being surprised to find some outside of Marysville OH, because it had been awhile.

Martin colonies picked up again along the shore of Lake Erie.

I'll dig up the pics I have and post them for general interest.

Sure would have been neat to be able to plot the locations on a map though :???:

Mike Scully
...if the gentlemen of Virginia shall send us a dozen of their sons, we would take great care in their education, instruct them in all we know, and make men of them. Canasatego 1744
Matt F.
Posts: 3895
Joined: Mon Feb 28, 2005 9:48 am
Location: Houston, TX

What an amazing feat Mike!
Glad you made it safe and sound!
Scully
Posts: 2008
Joined: Mon Jan 26, 2004 5:35 pm
Location: Texas/San Antonio

Thanks Matt,

Only amazing maybe in that I was 57 and trying this for the first time.

This is how its done; you get on the bike in the morning and just ride. No rush, no straining, if you get tired or out of breath you are doing it wrong.

Its important to have low enough gears on the bike so that you can just spin the pedals easily even up hills. My target speed was only 10mph, but 10mph over eight hours adds up to 80 miles. My average day was 64 miles, my longest (with a tailwind) 96 miles in Ohio.

Really, and I'm not making this up, it wasn't that hard at all.

Anyways, the pics I have here on my camera start in mid Arkansas, pretty sure I have Texas pics on my laptop at home. I will say though that neglected martin housing looks pretty much the same everywhere :???:

Mike
...if the gentlemen of Virginia shall send us a dozen of their sons, we would take great care in their education, instruct them in all we know, and make men of them. Canasatego 1744
pmartinlover2
Posts: 521
Joined: Mon Mar 24, 2014 6:37 pm
Location: IL/Hillsboro
Martin Colony History: 2011 Home site--1 SY pair--2 fledged
2016 Satellite Site---4 pair--19 eggs laid--17 hatched--16 fledged
2017 Satellite Site--8 pair--37 eggs laid--34 hatched--34 fledged
2018 11 pair--fledged 60
2019 20 pair-fledged 94
2020 23pair-fledged 108

Absolutely awesome, Mike!!! Congratulations!!!
___
Jody
Matt@atx
Posts: 728
Joined: Tue Apr 08, 2008 7:13 am
Location: Buda, TX, south of Austin

That's a pretty impressive journey Mr. Scully. What a distance! I am glad you have returned back in one piece! I was kinda wondering where you were having not seen at least one post from you thus far.

Thanks for the sharing pics and congratulations on a completion of something like you did. :grin:
2008~(1st yr) 4 pairs, 11 to 12 fledged
2009~(2nd yr) 9 pairs, 41 fledged
2010~(3rd year) 11 pairs. 50 fledged
2011~(4th year) 20 pairs, 23 out of 23 gourds Martin occupied, 3 fledged, the rest died in the drought. (1 new Blue Bird, 3 BB fledged.)
2012~ 26 pairs, approx. 100-110 fledged
ILPadrino
Posts: 21
Joined: Mon May 18, 2015 11:13 am
Location: Downington PA

Congratulations! Sounds like a cool trip. Too bad about the GPS, it would have been cool to map out the Martin house's.

Joe
CenTex Mike
Posts: 1
Joined: Tue Mar 24, 2015 10:20 am
Location: TX/Buckholts

Wow, very inspiring.
John Evans
Posts: 308
Joined: Mon Mar 17, 2014 3:56 pm
Location: Cocoa Beach Florida

Incredible journey Mike. If you do it again up through Ohio travel up through the many Amish communities in Ohio. I haven't driven by an amish farm that didn't have many martin gourds or houses. Some with wires between poles and gourds hanging. I'll try and get a picture later and post one.
PMCA Member
John Barrow
Posts: 944
Joined: Tue Nov 11, 2003 4:12 pm
Location: Corpus Christi / Sandia , Texas

I have enjoyed your report Mike, as well as the other posts you have made today. We have missed your insight and the wonderful input gathered by you and your students through the years.
Glad you are back safely. Glad you had a great experience. Scratch that one off of the bucket list.
~~TEAMED WITH A MARTIN GODDESS~~

Member/Mentor-PMCA. I do regular nestchecks and participate in PROJECT MARTINWATCH!! Coordinated 3 geolocator studies-2009, 2010 & 2013. State and Fed licensed bander (retired Jan., 2020)
DebA
Posts: 1941
Joined: Tue May 04, 2010 7:43 am
Location: Pratt County/Kansas
Martin Colony History: Start 2009 with one pair. Upgraded from S&K houses to two Trendsetter 12's with gourds beneath in 2013. I have experienced job, pet, and parental losses since '13. The Purple Martins lift my spirits and remind me how life continues forward by flying their little selves from Brazil back to my yard. As one forum person once told me, chin up DebA, look at the martins. Danger all around but yet they soar in the sky without a care in the world.

Mike,
I have missed your posts too! Matter of fact I even thought about you a few weeks ago wondering how things were etc... Did you have company? For it not being that hard clearly you must be in shape and riding prior to this trip. Or did you go from the martin lounge chair to the bike to New York? LOL.

Deb
PMCA MEMBER
Pratt County, Kansas
2016 34 PAIR
2015 27 PAIR
2014 23 PAIR
2013 13 PAIR
2012 6 PAIR
2011 4 PAIR
2010 2 PAIR
2009 1 PAIR
M.Stephens
Posts: 1130
Joined: Tue Apr 07, 2009 3:14 pm
Location: Texas/Texarkana

Wow! Scully if you came up hwy 59 through Texarkana you passed right by my place.
Malcolm
2015 (110 nesting pair)
2014 (92 nesting pair)
2013 (75 nesting pair)
2012 (35 nesting pair)
2011 (20 pair)
____________
PMCA Member
Steve Kroenke
Posts: 4342
Joined: Fri Nov 28, 2003 6:49 pm
Location: Louisiana/Logansport

Hey Mike,

Thanks for sharing your biking adventure with us! I know we all enjoyed reading about it!

I used to ride my mountain bike a lot and the most I did in one day was about 60 miles. Now that was in Florida and not too many mountains in Florida!

Riding a bike is a good way to observe wildlife and take things slowly, particularly when looking for martin colonies.

Thanks again for sharing your adventure with us!

Steve
PMCA Member
300+ pairs of martins each season
tlragsdale
Posts: 218
Joined: Wed Jul 24, 2013 12:22 pm
Location: Wisconsin/New Richmond

Congrats, Mike, on a wonderful journey. Have any close-calls with vehicles? My better-half wants to ride cross-country (you know, the old "dip your rear wheel in the Pacific, then dip the front in the Atlantic at the end of the adventure"). We enjoy biking, but I am borderline paranoid of vehicular kamikazes.

Congratulations, again, on what must have been a great time.
Terry & Michelle
New Richmond, WI

2005 - 2014 Hard luck stories
2015 - 2 pair, 12 eggs/12 fledglings
2016 - 6 pair, 35 eggs/35 fledged
2017 - 18 pair, 88 eggs / 85 fledged.
2018 - 23 pair, 119 eggs/115 fledged.
2019 - 31 pair, 137 eggs/133 fledged
Scully
Posts: 2008
Joined: Mon Jan 26, 2004 5:35 pm
Location: Texas/San Antonio

Have any close-calls with vehicles? My better-half wants to ride cross-country (you know, the old "dip your rear wheel in the Pacific, then dip the front in the Atlantic at the end of the adventure"). We enjoy biking, but I am borderline paranoid of vehicular kamikazes.
On this thread over the next week or so I'll post pics relevant to purple martins and relate it to the journey.

But this seems a question of immediate import so I'll address it now. I worked up to this trip by commuting to my school on my bike, said bike loaded with fifty pounds in the luggage to simulate a touring weight.

What must be understood is that on a bike everything is relative to the gearing. I was running a road bike with mountain bike (ie. low) gears. Human legs work best with low effort/high spin rate pedaling (look at the guys on the Tour de France for example), most novices on the other hand tend towards high effort/low spin rate riding, this is a mistake.

You want gears low enough where you can spin the pedals at a high rate at rolling speeds as low as 5 mph. If you look at that photo (taken on the Delaware Water Gap just ten miles from my destination on the last day) you may note just how low a gear I am in after climbing to that point.

The year prior to this I rode my bike around 20 miles per day round trip to work; two hours of gentle riding, five days a week. In the months before the trip I also put in two 100-mile days. What must be understood is that those 100 miles were not "Oh-geeze-I-have-to-ride-100-miles" days, if that were the case I'd have never finished. Instead what they were was long days pedaling easily along at no particular rate of speed.

That was the philosophy I brung on the whole trip, and it worked.

As far as safety and cars, I did indeed ride some busy roads, with no shoulder for significant stretches.

This is the mindset I applied to that....

IF I GET RUN OVER IT IS ALWAYS MY FAULT.

I don't care WHAT the law says, I was operating a slow-moving vehicle on or immediately adjacent to roadways carrying traffic travelling at normal motor vehicle speeds. I would lose any collision, big time, regardless of who was legally at fault.

I had two mirrors on the handlebars and used them constantly. Rolling along at only 10 mph or so made this task much easier. If there was any doubt at all I got off of the road surface and onto the roadside grass, stopping if necessary. One seventeen mile stretch along an overcrowded, narrow two lane highway between Anna and Vienna IL took me nearly four hours to traverse due to all the speeding tractor-trailers.

Later on the trip, I left Greenville OH around noontime after the passage of a strong weather front and, pushed by a steady 20mph tailwind, made 96 miles by dark. I was hoping to reach Delaware OH for a 100+ mile day just to say I had done it but when darkness fell I could no longer accurately judge the position of cars coming up from behind so I stopped for the night, just four miles short of 100, but I judged it too dangerous to proceed.

Mike
Last edited by Scully on Wed Jun 10, 2015 9:36 am, edited 1 time in total.
...if the gentlemen of Virginia shall send us a dozen of their sons, we would take great care in their education, instruct them in all we know, and make men of them. Canasatego 1744
Scully
Posts: 2008
Joined: Mon Jan 26, 2004 5:35 pm
Location: Texas/San Antonio

If you do it again up through Ohio travel up through the many Amish communities in Ohio. I haven't driven by an amish farm that didn't have many martin gourds or houses. Some with wires between poles and gourds hanging. I'll try and get a picture later and post one.
Somewhere in Ohio...... :lol:

I can state with authority that an Amish buggy cruises at around 15mph, top end cruising speed for me on this trip. On a bicycle you can pass a buggy easily rolling downhill, but on the uphills that horse hardly loses momentum at all and I got smoked...

This was the Amish equivalent of a "work truck", and as we were both heading north into a headwind I "drafted" it for a good thirty minutes, pulling alongside to talk when traffic permitted (this photo snapped while riding)....

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Eventually, when they came to a turnoff, we stopped to talk. They were very curious about me and my journey, and I learned from them that a horse was good for about 40 miles in a day pulling a buggy.

I am not big on up and taking photos of people, but this was so unique I asked if I could take theirs and, while conforming to their beliefs, they consented. One of the more remarkable photos I've taken :cool:

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I will say that on this trip I got the impression I hit it off well with the "Plain Folk" I encountered, I think the fact that I was going muscle-powered, combined with the beard and the big ol' straw hat had alot to do with it :grin: Friendly waves and smiles were the norm.

In the Alleghany Country of far Western New York State, I even got heckled by a buggy-load of Amish teenagers who were rolling "pedal to the metal" (observe that horse is entirely off of the ground) :grin:

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Mike
...if the gentlemen of Virginia shall send us a dozen of their sons, we would take great care in their education, instruct them in all we know, and make men of them. Canasatego 1744
Matt@atx
Posts: 728
Joined: Tue Apr 08, 2008 7:13 am
Location: Buda, TX, south of Austin

Very interesting about the Amish. It looks like they prefer not to face the camera which is pretty smart nowadays.. hahaha.
So the Amish are really good at keeping Martins are they?
2008~(1st yr) 4 pairs, 11 to 12 fledged
2009~(2nd yr) 9 pairs, 41 fledged
2010~(3rd year) 11 pairs. 50 fledged
2011~(4th year) 20 pairs, 23 out of 23 gourds Martin occupied, 3 fledged, the rest died in the drought. (1 new Blue Bird, 3 BB fledged.)
2012~ 26 pairs, approx. 100-110 fledged
Matt@atx
Posts: 728
Joined: Tue Apr 08, 2008 7:13 am
Location: Buda, TX, south of Austin

Something I just noticed from your photo on the bridge after you mentioned it in your last post... Were you pumpin that bike around through that terrain on regular old foot sandels?
2008~(1st yr) 4 pairs, 11 to 12 fledged
2009~(2nd yr) 9 pairs, 41 fledged
2010~(3rd year) 11 pairs. 50 fledged
2011~(4th year) 20 pairs, 23 out of 23 gourds Martin occupied, 3 fledged, the rest died in the drought. (1 new Blue Bird, 3 BB fledged.)
2012~ 26 pairs, approx. 100-110 fledged
Scully
Posts: 2008
Joined: Mon Jan 26, 2004 5:35 pm
Location: Texas/San Antonio

Something I just noticed from your photo on the bridge after you mentioned it in your last post... Were you pumpin that bike around through that terrain on regular old foot sandels?
Indeed I was, on account of broken and crooked toes made any shoes painful over the sort of hours I was putting in on the bike. $12 slip-on sandals on broad BMX platform pedals. My wardrobe as a whole was geared towards sun and heat. I wore just a single layer of loose nylon; lightweight, loose fitting pants from REI and plain ol' nylon fishing shirts, oversized and left hanging loose over the pants to preserve modesty.

Nylon has the great advantages of blocking sunlight even when wet, and being thin and light enough not to hold water. Rinsed in a sink at the end of the day (or three :grin:) it could be wrung out and be dry enough to wear in the morning. You can feel cooling breezes right through it.

The hat was just a cheap Chinese straw purchased at a convenience store, worn over a lightweight bandanna. The whole ensemble worked perfectly; I never even began to get sunburned during the whole trip and was able to tolerate riding over the blistering asphalt of Texas and Arkansas in June. The pants were tucked into inexpensive cotton socks, said socks proving sufficient sun protection for my feet.

I will say that I was able to get away with dressing like this because again my target speed was only 10mph. A common mistake people make is that they get all in spandex for a road trip like this and pump down the road eyes front like they were in a road-race. The faster you go the fewer wardrobe options you have, the less scenery you are able to take in, and the harder it becomes to bail completely off the asphalt onto the roadside dirt if traffic is passing dangerously close from behind.

Not wearing my helmet was a personal decision driven by intense sunlight (my helmet rode attached to a saddlebag almost the whole way) but again, the severity of crashes tend to increase geometrically with velocity, and I was just ambling along.

Mike

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...if the gentlemen of Virginia shall send us a dozen of their sons, we would take great care in their education, instruct them in all we know, and make men of them. Canasatego 1744
Connie
Posts: 443
Joined: Wed Feb 23, 2011 4:05 pm
Location: WALKER, LOUISIANA
Martin Colony History: Had my site up to 22 gourds of which most (+/-3) stayed occupied.
Downsized to 17 gourds due to back surgeries. Had 14 families in 2017 but did not do nest checks due to health. Feeling better in 2018 and hoping for a good year.

Scully,
I was thrilled to read your story about your bucket list item! Hope I'm not being too nosy but I have a few questions. :)
Where did you sleep? Did you camp out? Every night? Did you ever stop at a hotel just for the luxury of a soft bed and A/C?
Were you ever scared? Were you harassed at anytime by anyone? Police? Average Joes?
Did you carry a weapon?
Were you chased by dogs or other animals?
Did you have family at home worried sick about you? Did you carry a cell phone?
I am just fascinated by the fact you did this. I would love to see more pictures and hear interesting stories about your trip. What a wonderful experience it must have been. I can not even began to know how exciting this must have been for you. I can barely travel by auto or plane and hate how much of the United States I will never see, much less the world. Please share more of your adventure!
Thanks so much for what you have shared already. So very very interesting to me!! :grin:
If you don't won't to post it on this site I would be glad to give you my email or friend you on Facebook.
Thanks again.
Connie
Scully
Posts: 2008
Joined: Mon Jan 26, 2004 5:35 pm
Location: Texas/San Antonio

With the permission of the PMCA I'll continue this topic for awhile, working in martins where I can.

I did want to get across important points about bicycles that folks commonly do not know, here's a pretty good pic of the bike at the start of Day 3, Caldwell TX, about 170 miles from home.

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First off the saddle. It is a mistake to think soft=comfortable for the long haul. That is a leather Brook's saddle, from England, $150 and worth every penny. They start out hard as a rock but break in to "you", just as important they do not soak up sweat and water.

The gears again; note how small those chain rings are (44,33,22 teeth). Low pedaling resistance is the primary goal, never mind speed, distance takes care of itself.

And then those platform pedals. Like most folks over 50 my knees have seen better days. Knee pain, sometimes quite severe, was a given.

But what I learned early on while working up to this ride was that knee pain does not have to be permanent, or even long-lasting. Every time I suffered knee pain I found that merely changing the position of my foot on the pedal and thus the load on my knee brought fast relief. Literally the pain would go away almost as fast as it appeared.

I'll say again, low gearing and low-effort/fast spin pedaling made that possible. And any kind of binding or pedal cage that locks your feet into one position may be fine for the young and swift, but otherwise should be avoided like the plague.

Note also the mirrors, can't have enough.

Mike
...if the gentlemen of Virginia shall send us a dozen of their sons, we would take great care in their education, instruct them in all we know, and make men of them. Canasatego 1744
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