Tarantula Hunt

Ever since I started researching southeastern Colorado as a place to settle down, I’d come across references to the tarantula migration. I was so excited at the possibility of seeing masses of tarantulas wandering around, that I wrote the dates of the migration on my calendar for if/when I moved to the area.

Well, I did move here (been here six months!) This year’s tarantula migration has passed its peak, and so far I haven’t seen a single one of the creatures.

I’d heard that they were often sighted near the Comanche National Grasslands, so I set off on a quest to hunt for tarantulas. My plan was to go to Vogel Canyon in the grasslands for a hike, even though it’s much further than I would have liked to travel for what was to be a rather short walk. The thought of getting back on a trail, however, as well as the possibility of seeing tarantulas made me discount the distance.

I followed directions, turned off the highway onto the well-marked dirt road for the long drive to the canyon, and stopped. My vintage car runs well, but it is — as much as I hate to admit it — very old, and dirt/gravel roads shake up the poor thing. I always imagine one of those cartoon-like scenarios where I am driving along, and the sides and roof fall off the car. There I would sit in the seat, clutching my steering wheel, with the pieces of my car all around me. I have been assured by mechanics that such a thing would never happen, but I can’t take a chance, especially since I when I am on my own.

Disappointed (this was the third time I went searching for a place to hike only to be stymied by bad roads), I headed back home, keeping a watch for tarantulas. Unfortunately, I didn’t see a single one.

As it turns out, “tarantula migration” is a misnomer. Tarantulas don’t migrate. They live in burrows, and when the nights turn cool at the end of summer, the males go in search of mates. The females stay home and hope for visitors. Or maybe they don’t hope. Maybe, like me, they are perfectly content to be alone. In fact, the hairy beasts aren’t even tarantulas. True tarantulas, apparently, are small wolf spiders that live near Taranto in Southern Italy, hence the name. What we call tarantulas are bird-eating spiders or Theraphosids.

Despite the name “tarantula migration” being doubly wrong, my intent was still the same — to see the so-called migration of the so-called tarantula.

Although I didn’t accomplish what I wanted, it wasn’t a wasted trip. It was a beautiful almost-fall day, the drive was pleasant, I saw an area I hadn’t yet visited, and I got a photo of the hills that the canyon hides behind.

Still, as adventures go, this was a rather tepid endeavor.

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Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

You Call This a Road?

I seem to have backed myself into a corner with only a nightmare that barely resembles a road as a way out.

Ever since I returned from my road trip, I’ve tried to find a room or an apartment to rent without any luck. I considered just heading out again, but it’s way too hot to drive in a car without an air conditioner, and even if I drove two days north to find cooler weather, there would still be the problem of summer vacation. Not only is it harder to find good camping sites during the summer, but it’s almost impossible to find the quiet I crave. Too many screaming and squealing children everywhere. In fact, the motels and hotels I have been staying were unpleasant for that very reason.

I’d run out of alternatives when I got an answer to my ad on Craig’s List. A woman wanted to rent a room, and offered full house privileges at a reasonable price. I went to see the room, which was pleasant, the woman was nice, the area was beautiful in a desert-y sort of way, and her friend (who was there to offer help in case I turned out to be a nefarious character) assured me that the aura of those highlands would help my creativity. Even though the place was many miles from the dance studio where I am back taking classes, I figured the distance was doable.

What wasn’t doable was the one-lane dirt road leading to her house. Imagine the worst road, the steepest hill, the most rutted and rocky dirt track you have ever driven, and times that by two.

If I hadn’t fixed up my car and was still driving what I considered a throw-away car, I might not have minded. If I were driving a modern car with great suspension, I might not have minded. But driving my 44-year-old vintage Volkswagen was terrifying. No matter how slowly I drove, very rock, every rut jolted the poor relic until I feared the ancient welds and rusty bolts would give way, and my car would simply fall apart, leaving me sitting, holding the steering wheel, in the midst of a thousand pieces, like a character in a cartoon.

After the friend left, after the woman and I visited a bit, I stood there in her living room, totally flummoxed.

If it weren’t summer with temperatures over 100, I would have packed my car and hit the road, but I am still a month away from that being a viable option. So, what to do? Find another unsatisfactory room in a noisy motel? Or deal with the road from hell?

I finally told the woman I had no place to go and asked if I could pay for a couple of weeks on a trial basis. She agreed. So far, we get along fine (well, it’s just been one night and we are both still on our best behavior), and it would be a good situation for me . . .

But oh, that road! I dread the very thought of it.

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(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)

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