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An Epic Pandemic Birding Road Trip

Before the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic swept world and changed daily life for nearly every human on Earth, I had trips planned to Puerto Rico, Australia, and to see my 50th state—Nevada. I’m not wallowing in self-pity here. I experienced very little personal hardship from this virus—ridiculously little compared to a doctor or nurse in the Covid wards and certainly much much less than a parent with young children (my kids are adults). 2020 was actually going to be a light travel year for me, even before the virus. Nevertheless, I do like to roam and losing all of my trips because international science meetings were cancelled and I didn’t want to fly during the pandemic was depressing. My Nevada trip was set to be a quick, 4-day June trip with my wife Wendy, flying in and out of Salt Lake City, Utah so we could visit the Northeast corner of Nevada.

The route that I took during the great Pandemic Road Trip of 2020. A few of the key bird areas that I visited are highlighted.

As we cancelled our flight for that trip, I decided that I still going to see Nevada in 2020. In March, when I first started to plan my road trip to Nevada, everything was on locked down and staying in motels or going to restaurants seemed dicey. So, I started planning a trip with me camping every night and bringing all my food with me. I decided I’d make the trip driving about 8 hours every day. In June, that would give me about 8 hours for birding and other out-of-car activities each day—half of each day driving and half out of the car. I calculated it would take about 12, eight-hour drives to get to the places I wanted to visit. My targets for the trip, initially, were visiting Nevada as my 50th state and going after three life birds: Cassia Crossbill in Idaho near the Nevada border, Flammulated Owl at the exact same spot as Cassia Crossbill, and Himalayan Snowcock in the Ruby Mountains of Nevada.

Wendy couldn’t go with me on my long road trip. She had way too many commitments at Auburn University to take that much time off. So, this would be solo trip. June 6 was Wendy’s birthday so the trip would have to be a few days after June 6 because we were planning to do something together for her birthday weekend. That put my target departure around June 10. It was still snowing in NE Nevada in late May, so mid-June was the earliest I could plan the trip anyway. The nice thing about driving with a fairly open schedule is that I didn’t have to set an inflexibly date for my departure. I could watch the weather and be flexible about when to head out. I was nearly set on Tuesday, June 9 as the travel date approached but then bad weather developed around that time and Weds June 10 started to look like a much better date. I ended up departing on June 10.

So began my great 2020 Pandemic road trip.

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