The seed for our return trip to bird Southern Ecuador was planted before our 2008 Northern Ecuador trip had ended. Discussions with Richard Garrigues (Gone Birding, Costa Rica) over the next several months resulted in an itinerary setup once again with Tropical Birding. Southern Ecuador isn’t as well developed for accommodations, even for a relatively small group. Some recently developed lodgings at the Jocotoco Foundation Preserves would not be able to fit us in. Even so, the cost of staying at a Jocotoco site, were it possible, was pretty high. Other arrangements would need to be determined.
Another twist: During the early stages of planning we had not even remotely considered that Tom would retire from Lawrence University in June 2009 and that we would sell our home to take up full-time RVing.
Most of the well-seasoned 2008 tour participants would be with us again in 2010. In addition to us, Richard Garrrigues, Carol’s sister Marge Hill, Melissa Bruder, Claire Romanak, and Steve and Rita Reischel would be returning. Melissa’s sister-in-law, Risé Foster-Bruder from Colorado Springs, CO, would be a new addition. That still left room for two more.
During a chance encounter with Naomi and Jim Honeth from Maine at the Sabal Palm Audubon Center while we were in Texas in March 2009, we mentioned our trip. Their curiosity was piqued. We emailed an itinerary along with the link to our 2008 journal. It didn’t take them long to decide. With some trepidation (hey, they had only known us for a little over an hour!) they sent in their deposit. Very adventurous folks to say the least!
By July we were “homeless” and on the move, headed for the Bentsen Palm Village RV Resort near Mission, Texas where we would spend the winter. As luck would have it we were able to secure a site from November 1 2009 through the end of March 2010. That took care of our “where will we leave the RV while we’re in Ecuador” problem. We would fly out of Houston and for the first time, would not be concerned with WI wintery-like weather causing a flight delay.
During the two months leading up to our departure Tom assembled the individual checklists the group would be using (imagine our shock at a $118 printing bill!). We kept in contact with trip participants and their flight plans, and started thinking about our own packing.
Since we had sold our house and most of our furnishings, we needed to plan carefully about what we brought with us with an eye to Ecuador. Carol had gathered all our tropical birding clothes and pre-packed them into a carry-on bag we stored in the RV (thank goodness for space-saver vacuum bags!). At some point we discovered that we had somehow managed to leave our Ecuador bird guide and plates behind at Marge’s house in WI. We discovered the blunder just before Marge flew down for a visit in December. She was able to bring the critically needed books.
Sometime in early January Carol figured out it would actually be cheaper for us to take a connecting flight from McAllen, TX to Houston. It would be less expensive than staying two nights in Houston (coming and going), save us a six hour drive (each way), and avoid paying parking fees at the Houston airport.
Packing in the more confined space of an RV was a bit more daunting. We lacked the "spreading out" space we had in Appleton. However, at 4:15 AM on February 4 following months of planning, our stalwart RV neighbor Harvey Pagel drove us to the McAllen International Airport where we would begin a long day of travel to reach Guayaquil, Ecuador.