Country Breakfast

Being in suburban Atlanta on business is a good excuse for me to try as many new things as I can. Last Saturday I visited Gritz Family Restaurant and ordered the Country Sampler. As you can see below, for $7.69,  it is quite impressive. Everything was delicious; the biscuits were straight from the oven!  I ate it all.

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Except for the Streak-O-Lean. My first taste was unlike anything I’ve had before.  Later research confirmed that one serving was 7 times as salty as bacon. 85% of your daily value of salt! I like my salt but there was so much I could see it on the surface.

I’ll be back.

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Yelp Stylin’

Yesterday, we traveled to Tucson, Arizona to pick up a crew member from the airport. Her flight was scheduled to arrive late in the evening, so we had to find somewhere to eat dinner. In a group where vegetarians outnumber meat eaters (I know, when does that ever happen), I knew I needed Yelp’s help to find a suitable restaurant that we would all enjoy. I ended up finding this gem: Tucson Tamale Company.

Now, I know most of us will never get to travel to Tucson and eat here, but my love of tamales and love of my meal at this restaurant compels me to tell you about the amazing food served up here everyday. Oh, to be a local and get to enjoy this place on a regular basis…

Curb Appeal

  • Not a huge building, but plenty of seating inside and a patio outside in the back; conveniently located on one of Tucson’s main roads. Our only suggestion would be to add a second restroom.

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Vegetarian & Vegan Friendly

  • They have separate menu sections for both vegetarian and vegan tamales! This restaurant is a dream come true. I had the Vegan Blue tamale with Squash, Tomato, Onion, and Green Chile in Blue Corn Masa and the Berkeley tamale with Black Beans, Fresh Corn and Spices in Red Chile Masa.

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Extreme Value & Service 

  • For less than $10, I purchased two tamales, the salsa of my choice, a full side of chips and guacamole (the freshest and most delicious guac we’ve ever tasted), and a fountain drink! On top of it, we didn’t even have to wait 10 minutes for our food to arrive, which was great since we were all starving.

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Local Pride

  • This is one of those restaurants that displays it’s local pride. All along the walls you find artwork produced by local artists that is available for purchase. There is nothing better than a restaurant with a unique vibe like this that makes an effort to break the traditional mold.

Reviewer Rating

  • The crew gives Tucson Tamale Company five stars. We walked away full and extremely satisfied. My love for tamales knew no bounds before, but this place blew away even my wildest expectations. This restaurant is a MUST if you are ever in the area.

Got Bats

For the last couple of nights the crew and I have been mist netting for bats in Arizona. To mist net, we string an extremely fine net across a waterway that we think bats will utilize for drinking while they are out foraging. Bats that don’t detect the net fly into it and get “trapped” until we come along and remove them. The same basic process is used to capture birds for research, too.

Over two nights of netting, we have caught more than 40 bats representing 10 different species! Two of the species we caught this year we have never caught in our nets before (of course, we are novices so that doesn’t really say much, but it’s still really exciting). If you are wondering what bat species we have caught look for images of the pallid bat, Townsend’s big-eared bat, and the hoary bat to get an idea.

In addition to our research, we continue to have crazy animal encounters. Two stand out in my mind.

1) We have dozens of black widow spiders that have taken up residence around our doorway and the rest of the lodge. Fortunately for them, we are biologists that will coexist peacefully with them so long as they maintain their respectful distances from the interior of our dwelling.

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2) We have mice that live in our lodge. I was okay with that until one decided to crawl into bed with me in the middle of the night (not cool). That instigated World War Mouse. I knew catching the offender would be unlikely. But, he made the fatal mistake of entering the bathroom while I was showering. The three of us were able to corner him and catch him (after dismantling an entire washing machine that he was hiding in). Naturally, we then got in the car and drove 3 miles down the road to a nice field and released him – hoping that we wouldn’t run him over in the road on our way back home. Drunk on our success we returned home victoriously – except not even 10 minutes later we saw a second mouse run across the room (probably his lady love). Where is the respect? Couldn’t they wait even a day before dashing our hopes and dreams of living in a mouse-free home?

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Finally, in case you haven’t heard, tonight is the SUPER MOON so make sure you take a moment to appreciate it. This is the largest and fullest the moon will be all year, though last night it still looked pretty big and beautiful. I actually had to wear a hat in the field in order to block out light from the moon, because it was so overwhelmingly bright.

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The Wild West

Today the crew spent another evening collecting video data of bats from an old mine. I had a great time taking pictures during the 30 minute mountain climb that we had to endure in order to reach said mine – I can probably thank the massive energy drink I had in the car for giving me the energy to do this…

The Enemy

  • Prickly Pear

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  • Ocotillo

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  • Cholla

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The Damage 

  • Yes, Tristan, I did get yet another cut or 10…

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The Beasts

  • Whiptail sp.

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  • Ornate Tree Lizard

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View from the Top 

  • We usually have some time to relax before setting up our equipment once we reach the mine. Today, I decided to use that time to finish climbing  to the top of the mountain in order to see this astounding view of Cochise County, Arizona (this view is actually located just outside of Paradise, AZ – go figure):

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Animal Encounters: Ninja Skunk

So last night looked something like this:

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We were minding our own business, playing 500 Rummy, when suddenly I looked over and saw two creepy eyes staring at me from under a nearby bush.

Naturally, my first response (in a land full of bears, mountain lions, and coyotes) was to say, “Why Hello,” assuming it was some benign animal like a ring-tailed cat or koati. Meanwhile, the rest of the crew is up and running – hightailing it to the other side of the mine.

That’s when I realize that our visitor is a skunk . This little bundle of stink somehow managed to sneak up on 4 researchers without making a single sound. I didn’t notice him until he was 3 feet away and primed for attack.

I jumped up and ran with the others, while this skunk came over an investigated our card game, acting like he owned the place and looking for all the world like he was going to spray all of our gear.

Luckily, that didn’t happen and the smug little critter eventually went back down the mine dump. The rest of the night we were all on edge expecting another random and terrifying visit. (I just expected to see another set of eyes peeking out from behind one of the other girl’s backs.) It put us even more on edge when we heard a coyote howling nearby not too long after that.

That darn skunk almost eroded our sanity. Now, we will always be paranoid that another little beast will be lurking in the bushes, waiting to ambush us when our backs are turned.

Ambre Goes West

As some of you already know, I just left for another [short] field season of research out west! For two weeks, I will be working in Arizona and New Mexico (which sucks since we constantly travel between the two and they are in different time zones) to mist net and track bats in order to better understand their distribution in the region.

I flew out last week and actually had one of the coolest flights of my life. My flight from Dallas to Tucson was almost completely empty: only about 25 people on the entire plane. We all got to choose our own seats and have entire rows to ourselves. The flight attendant had to perform her safety demonstrations for me alone, since I was the only one sitting in the back section of the plane and I could tell she felt silly so I clapped for her when she finished. Then, during the flight, she gave me a free cookie! Finally, as we were taxiing to our gate in Tucson, there was some fireworks show going on so I got to watch that for a couple of minutes (and it was a good one – multicolored firecrackers, weird shaped ones, and HUGE ones).

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The night before last was my first night back out in the field. (One of the things about working with bats is that they are nocturnal, so you need to be, too. Typically, we all wake up around 1 PM and head out into the field around 5 or 6. We return anywhere from 1 to 5 in the morning depending on how data collection went during the night.) We hiked up a small mountain to collect infrared video of some bats inhabiting an old mine. We hung out on top of the mountain until 11 when the camera batteries finally died. Then, we had to hike back down the mountain in the dark. Let’s just say that I definitely fell a few times. Luckily, I didn’t fall into a cholla or prickly pear, or ocotillo.

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I hope to post a few more times while I am out here. Hopefully there will be some awesome pictures, ridiculous stories about field research, cool animal encounters, etc.