What twisted insanity brings me to face another Chicago winter?
The Western Horse Lubber grasshoppers first appeared on the boot heel roads a bit over two weeks ago. Eyes trained to scanning the pavement for tiny arachnids and small snakes, I became overwhelmed by targets for my vision. My truck weaved as I did my best to avoid crushing the colorful insects. Taeniopoda eques is a large grasshopper species found in the arid lower Sonoran life zone of the southwestern United States and Northern Mexico. It is one of the largest grasshopper species in North America with females reaching three inches and nine grams. The grasshoppers are mating and then dying off. Their subterranean egg pods overwinter and hatch with the next year's monsoon rains. For the thousands and thousands of Western Horsee Lubbers that have been on the area roads over the past few days and crawl about my campsite, this is the end of the line.
My own end of the line (or road) isn't as dramatic or fatal, but there are moments when it feels like it. Only four nights remain in my Wheelhouse. You'd think I'd be smart enough to avoid the brutal Chicago winter, especially since I lived away from it for about 15 years until four winters ago, but I have resigned myself to the harsh reality of all good things come to an end.
Those who have followed my blog throughout my 2017 odyssey will know that my nomadic vision and beginnings were altered when I found myself in the San Simon Valley. I didn't leave. My original plan was to experience the wonders of the Chiricahuas and the unique riparian habitats that draw species found nowhere else in the U.S. for a week. I arrived at Rusty's RV Ranch on the 15th of May intending to stay one week between the Peloncillo and Chiricahua Mountains. I will leave Thursday four months later. Here on the Arizona border in extreme southwestern New Mexico I have found a home. Some day I won't leave.
Wednesday I will winterize my RV and finish loading my truck. Thursday morning before I begin the 1700 mile, 25 hour drive back to suburbia, I will move the Wheelhouse to the storage area of Rusty's and protect it from the elements with a cover that will hopefully stand up to the strong winds of late winter. It does get below freezing here and occasional snows do fall before daytime warmth brings a thaw. My goal is to return by mid-May 2018. We will see what curveballs life has in store.
Absent during the initial invasion of the black, yellow and green Western Horse Lubber grasshoppers, as that species' numbers increased another huge grasshopper species began to be ubiquitous. Brachystola magna, the Plains Lubber, is almost as large, but not as distinctively colored. There are always new beginnings, new wonders, and change. Change is inevitable. And relentless.