Pete Picture of the Week

Pete - the opportunistic pelican waits at the end of the Avalon Pier for someone to bring lunch.
Pete – the opportunistic pelican, waits at the end of the Avalon Pier for someone to bring him lunch.

When you’re on an extended stay at a resort town, there’s only so much time you can shop for T-shirts, scarf down gelato at Scoops, or inhale pastrami hoagies under the umbrellas in front of Antonio’s. You need a break in the routine—we crave adventure. Tour operators know this, and that’s why they do well in high-traffic attractions like Avalon. They’re the carnival rides at the State Fair. Instead of riding grease-stained high-speed Merry-go-rounds, these carnival barkers use gimmicks like parachutes, steel cables, bungee cords, or jump from a perfect airplane to take money from your pocket. Being the big fella I am, I don’t have faith in those contraptions.

When Queen Anne and I planned our week in Avalon, we poured over the adventure packages the town offered. Given our advanced stage of dementia, superior physical fitness, and risk of cardiac arrest, we chose to look at stars through a telescope, ride a boat with a glass bottom, and take a drive in a Hummer. None of those activities involved walking, climbing, or jumping. The only exertion we made was finding a seat.

The stargazing was a bust. The hostess doesn’t offer tours until the warm summer months. That’s because you need clear skies to look at stars, and the cooler months have persistent fog. All that you would see through the telescope would be cloud bottoms.

Garibaldi - the little golden fish doesn't go after the chum. Instead he's protecting his nest from the other fish.
Garibaldi – the little golden fish, doesn’t go after the chum. Instead, he hopelessly tries to protect his nest from the other fish.

The boat was fascinating but less exciting than we had hoped. There are two versions of this tour; the original glass-bottom boats and another they call a submarine. The former is open to the sky and looks down through the hull. In the latter version of the ride, you climb into a tube, sit,  and look through windows along the side. The sub never submerges. Since it’s dark inside the sub, you can see better through the dirty windows. After everyone is loaded, the sub (ours was painted yellow, of course) motors to a small bay south of the main Avalon harbor, where the crew tosses food into the water. The food attracts so many fish that they cover the windows. It’s cool, except their advertisements hint that you might see marine mammals, sharks, or mermaids. Chances are that you’ll only see the locals. We thought it was a fun hour-long boat ride through the kelp forest.

Mike Bison - Our jeep driver, Chief, spotted Mike napping in the grass and drove to where we could take his picture.
Mike Bison – Our jeep driver, Chief, spotted Mike napping in the grass and drove to where we could take his picture.

The ridgeline jeep tour was our only chance to see other parts of the island. On these tours, they load 4 to 8 people in the back of an open Hummer and drive the dirt roads along the mountain ridges. I suppose you could walk or bike around the locked gates, but that’s exercise. It was foggy during our trip, so we didn’t enjoy any grand vistas possible from the mountain tops. There were times when we saw the city below and caught a glimpse of an empty west-coast bay through the damp mist. One of the tricks the guides routinely pull on the unsuspecting tourists is to stop at a steep fire break that crosses the ridgeline. After explaining how firefighters built the gap to slow spreading wildfires, the driver shifts the Hummer into low range and begins to drive up the steep ridge until the passengers all scream for him to stop. But, after riding with Fred in the San Juan Mountains, I’ve done worse. The highlight of our ride was the ‘puppy’ our guide—Chief— spotted napping in the tall golden grass. Chief stopped the Hummer and got him to sit up so we could take Mike’s picture.

Another thing we considered—but ruled out—was hiring a fishing charter. The captains claim that there are some nice fish to be caught off the island’s west side. In Avalon, you’ll see people carrying fishing gear, so there must be some truth to their claims. Some locals will go to the pier’s end in the mornings and fish for shad and other bait fish. Then they head for deeper water in boats and fish for big trophies. That brings us to this week’s picture that I call Pete. Pete was an opportunistic brown pelican perched on the pier railing waiting for one of the anglers to drop their catch. Why plunge into the cold ocean for lunch when someone brings it to you? He must be used to people because he let me get this close-up shot without flinching. He was content sitting there until a young girl tried to touch his feathers. That was a step too far. We watch Pete drop 20 feet to the water and skim along the blue surface. Without flapping his broad wings, he picked up speed, then circled overhead the girl and her father walking hand in hand along the boardwalk, and then he expressed his displeasure—splat.

You can see the larger version of Pete on his Web Page by clicking here. Come back next week to see another Avalon photo and read about our adventure.

Till Next Time

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