Friday, January 18, 2013

Deja Vu: It's "Finish the Sentence Friday" again! Happy, Happy!

My pride and joy captured.  Five feet in length
and an attitude that wouldn't quit!

I'm bouncing for joy!

It's my favorite time of the week.  Finish the Sentence Friday has returned for an encore!

(Kind of like the slasher movies of the 80's.)

This week, the SM's   (Sentence Masters) Janine of Janine’s Confessions of a Mommyaholic and Kate of Can I Get Another Glass of Whine have set us up with another winner sentence to finish!


This week, it's: 

  "“The last time I went on vacation, I…”

So now, the task must be undertaken.  Pure excitement at every turn follows.  Fail not to see the drama, the intensity, the humor, the ...... , well, since you can't hear my voice the hype doesn't matter.  Anyway, here goes the answer.

"The last time I went on vacation, I captured four Western Diamondback rattlesnakes and four Green Mojave rattlesnakes, and nearly fell asleep at the wheel driving them back."

Do you want more?  If so continue.  If not, simply go down to the comments area and cut and paste the words, "Gee, I can't believe you did that.  Whatta trip!  You're the bravest person I know!"  and be done with it.  However, if you want more, and believe yourself to be a true glutton of punishment, here it is.
Spider Rock in the Canyon de Chelly
(looking down from canyon rim)

In 2001 (I know it was a long time ago, but I don't get vacations often, damn it!), I was going to be part of a group from a local reptile zoo to go to Arizona and hunt the Green Mojave Rattlesnake.  No, we weren't going to kill them!  We were going to bring them back for venom extractions.  

Okay, short answer to your question ... the Green Mojave is mostly a neurotoxic venom rattler, more so than any other rattlesnake in the U.S., as most of them are hemotoxic.  Since the venom was needed for research against Alzheimer's disease, and since that was a primary purpose of the reptile zoo, it only made sense we go find some.

Long story short ... director of zoo gets bitten by cobra prior to trip and all drop out except me.  

So, I jump in my RAV4 (at the time) and head to Arizona by myself.  I'd met a guy on the web from a herp society in the state, and was to meet him in Sierra Vista.  

I made it as far as Shamrock, Texas by the end of the first day, was warned against eating Texas burritos at a Truck Stop, did so anyway, and slept on a full stomach.   I arose early the next morning, showered, and hit the road.

An hour later, the burrito warnings held true.  Let me just say that there are not enough stalls in the very few rest stops along I-40 in Texas.  Sitting tall in the saddle now has new meaning.

I hit Arizona by early afternoon, and headed North to see some of the sights.  I stopped at the Hopi Indian Reservation and bought my wife some jade and silver jewelry, hit a couple of roadside tents and bought some Indian blankets, and then arrived at the Canyon de Chelly, where I marveled at the canyon and Spider Rock formations.  
Monument Valley from a distance.

Wore out, I drove 80 miles to a hotel, found it full, and had to drive another 50 miles to find another.  It was a lousy concrete building type with tile floors, but it worked for the evening.

Next day I got up, and visited Monument Valley.  This is where all the great rock formations you see in Westerns and on multiple commercials are found.  I drove my RAV4 around the 18 mile dirt road through the park, stopping every five minutes to take pictures, and finally left a couple of hours later ... only to find my RAV4 wasn't running right.  

Because of this, and the lateness of the afternoon, I bypassed the Grand Canyon.  Stupid, stupid, stupid! But, you have to understand, by this time I was about "rocked" out.  Last thing I wanted to see at that time were more rocks.  Yep, I still regret missing it.

Anyway, I hit Flagstaff, found an open auto parts store, and bought and installed a clean air filter not filled with dust and dirt from Monument Valley.  

To give you and idea as to how big this place is,
this is a boulder at the bottom of one next to my car.
I hit Phoenix about nine p.m., got lost getting off the Interstate, and ended up in an area of hopping cars, red and blue head scarves, and no English speaking residents.  I finally found my way back on the interstate and ended up in Tuscon, getting a hotel room, and sitting in the back of the hotel with two Hispanics who were kind enough to share a beer with me and seem interested in why the hell I was wanting to capture rattlesnakes.

I get to Sierra Vista the next day, get settled in a hotel room, and call my acquaintance.  After meeting him, I asked him to take me to an authentic restaurant for a great meal and I'd pay for it.  Wasn't a bad pizza, I must say, but wasn't really what I'd had in mind.

Driving around Bisbee, we spied two large rattlers on the side of the road.  I found one of them dead, but the other quite alive.  Adrenaline was flowing as I desperately tried to keep it out of the scrub brush on the outside of the road.  Suddenly, brakes were squealing behind me!

"What are you doing!"

My friend was about 100 yards up the road listening to music in my air conditioned RAV4 with his back to me.  That made it fairly difficult for him to answer for me.

"I said what are you doing!"

Again, a curiosity seeker that didn't know I was fighting with death about three feet away.  I'm desperately struggling to use my hook and grab stick to untangle the snake as it's tail finds some brush and starts to wrap around it.

"Turn around immediately and answer me or I'll shoot!"

Myself and Patrick moving some of the smaller
specimens to different travel containers.
Damn, the snake was now really getting in the brush deep.  I couldn't even see it's head, which is not a good thing, to say the least.  So, I take two steps backwards, raise my tools high so they can be seen easily, turn slowly and say, "I'm hunting illegal aliens.  What the hell do you think I'm doing with a snake hook, anyway?"

It turned out to be Border Patrol agents.  After checking my license, they wished me good luck and told me not to worry about limits.  "Take all you want" were their final words before getting back into their van and taking off in a cloud of desert dust.

"Can you say, "Entrapment" boys and girls?"

We finally caught five of them that night.  When stopped at a Border Patrol security point, I offered to open the container to show the officers, but they decided against it.  

Now I know how to smuggle dope if I ever decide to!

The next day, I traveled to Tombstone, watched a couple of wild west shows (including the Gunfight at the OK Corral), bought a cowboy hat, got completely sunburned to a crisp, and had a great time.  That night, we found another three, which maxed out my limits.
Gunfight at the OK Corral in Tombstone.

To go into detail about the Mapquest 40 hour trip home would be boring.  Let me just say that hotels will not let you stay in them when you have rattlesnakes, and sleeping in a RAV4 during a heatwave is impossible.  I made it from Sierra Vista to just East of Nashville, Tennessee, before I started to lose my depth perception and found cars getting closer to my front bumper real fast.  

I pulled over, slept for 20 minutes, awoke in a pool of sweat, and drove the 4 remaining hours the rest of the way home.  I had driven the 40 hour straight trip in 42 hours, by myself, stopping only to eat, visit the rest stop, and to have a quick nap.  

Smaller specimens between 24" to 32" in length.
That night, I brought the snakes into the house, where my wife dreamed that one bit her on the toe and she died before getting to the hospital.

See, aren't you sorry you asked?   

Next week, remember, "cut and paste, cut and paste!"

Happy, Happy!