Text and Photos Copyright © 2001 Mark E. Halliday



The year 2000 started poorly with the sudden death of both pet lizards.

They were good pets.







In memory of the lizards, the Skinks Memorial

Reading Room was established.

Here you see two of the first visitors to the reading room,

which offers a wide variety of

specialized travel literature for review.






My sister Karen had a librarian conference in Austin, so we planned a short trip afterwards.

I talked to some friends who mentioned High Island as a top spot for birding in the Spring.

So we drove to Houston, and then towards Galveston, stopping at the NASA center for the space tour. This is the Saturn 5 rocket on display.

Then we crossed on the Bolivar ferry to High Island, where there is a birdwatching park at High Island operated by the Audobon society.




High Island is famous among birders for what is called a "fall-out".

Each year in the spring a huge number of birds migrate to North America from the north coast of Yucatan, Mexico. The birds fly the 800 or so miles over the Gulf of Mexico all in one stretch, with no place to stop!

Normally they fly with the prevailing wind, and most make it. However, If they are unlucky enough to depart as a cold front is passing through the Gulf Coast, they will have to fight a headwind the entire way!

The exhausted ones that do make it drop from the sky at the first sight of land, which is often High Island. The birders can then watch the birds up close, since they are too tired to run away!



End of the road at High Island. The road here was washed out by a storm a few years before.











View of Cancun Point from Hyatt Regency







Playa del Cocos resort, Xcalak, Yucatan.

I first heard of Xcalak on a previous trip to Ambergris Quay, Belize. Xcalak is just on the Mexican side of the border with Belize. Scuba divers often told me of great diving to be had at the Chinchorro reefs just offshore Xcalak.

You can stay in these palapas for about $80 including dinner and breakfast. It was too windy to go diving the day we were there.




Twenty-five miles north of Chetumal is the Lagoon of Seven Colors. The laguna is fresh water.


This is the pier at Rancho Encantado.


We stayed at the Laguna hotel a few miles north, with a nice room overlooking the lake.




Traci rides a Dolphin at Puerto Aventuras





Collecting sand at Punta Allen











I flew to Salem, Oregon to visit Mom and Dad. They had just bought a new Suburu, and were driving the old Suburu to Reno. My sister Karen would take it over for the ride to Salt Lake City.

I took the opportunity to jump in and spend some time on the road with family.

This is a waterfall on the highway between Eugene and Klamath Falls, Oregon. Later that day we stopped at an Indian Casino, and made it into Reno that evening.

The next day, Karen's flight from Salt Lake was delayed. Mom and Dad and I went up to Virginia City. I had not seen the place in maybe 30 years.





Old steam train at Virginia City, Nevada.






In Reno, we saw many different casino-hotels, and had a good time at the "Lord of the Dance" show.


Here are Dad, Mom, and Karen in Reno.



Karen and I then set off in her Suburu for Salt Lake City.

We drove across Nevada on Highway 90, which makes a big point of being the" loneliest highway in America".

First, we visited the Stillwater Wildlife Refuge outside of Fallon, Nevada.

The next stop was the old mining town of Austin, Nevada.



Spencer Hot Springs

20 miles East of Austin, Nevada

The water was really hot, but we were able to get in after a while. It was a really beautiful and isolated spot in the desert.

We drove on that evening and slept in Ely, Nevada. Leaving Ely early, we drove east to Great Basin National Park



This is a view of Wheeler Peak.






Bristlecone Pine

They are some of the oldest living objects, 2-4000 years old.










Alpine Lake in Great Basin National Park









We drove to Salt Lake City, and I got in contact with my friends there.

Jay Jensen has been busy with his airplanes. He has modified his Helio Courier aircraft with a stronger engine and strengthened landing gear in Salt Lake hanger.








We had a party up at Don's place in Park City.

Don gives Bill a haircut.







From Salt Lake I flew back home to Austin.

The summer water-volleyball season was on.

Traci and Ari at the Pool.





This is Bob Schneider, a local Austin musician, playing at Antone's Club in Austin. Schneider has become famous as Sandra Bullock's boyfriend. (They were together when their jet crashed in Jackson, Wyoming at Christmas).

Shortly after I first heard his music, I answered a call for movie extra work on the film MISS CONGENIALITY. Produced by and starring Sandra Bullock, Schneider was often on the set watching Bullock work.

I spent five days in the summer heat in a coat and tie. The extras were simulating an audience at a Beauty Pageant in the climactic scene.

It was rather boring, sitting most of each 12-hour day. I did some reading, and enjoyed watching a big-movie production in the making.

I was surprised just how many times they reshot each scene. It was fun to see Candice Bergen, William Shattner, Michael Caine etc. at work.

The movie was released at Christmas time; I think I am in some of the audience scenes. The shots are very quick, however, so I won't be sure until I can view it frame-by-frame.




After 15 years, it was time to replace the old carpet in my condo.

First I painted the walls a bright white, with glossy black trim.

I considered concrete stain; I had seen pictures of stained concrete looking like a natural stone. After taking the carpet up, I found lots of discolored and spray-painted patches which would show through a stain.

So I would just paint the floor. The hardest part was scraping off the old paint and filling in the craters from removing the carpet strips! Finally, I acid-etched the concrete with muratic acid, and painted the concrete bright white.





Maybe Rob didn't like the color






Traci and Debra demonstrate wrestling technique on the freshly painted floor.




Jack breaks the rules and jumps from the

Upper Pool into the Lower Pool.







baldheaded men.





Volel and friend at Joan's Pool party.




I finally bought a new car, after 20 years!

It took me 4 months to decide. At first I thought it would be an SUV, then a Conversion Van, then maybe a minivan.

I really don't use a car for more than just around town, so I finally looked at sedans. I almost bought a Chevrolet Monte Carlo, but finally settled on the Pontiac Grand Prix. It drives very nice, and the supercharger is fun.


Election time was approaching. Ralph Nader came through Austin, and I volunteered to help at his rally. He was unusually popular in Austin, receiving about 10% of the local vote for president.

I voted in advance, and departed for three weeks in Nicaragua.









Text and Photos Copyright © 2001 Mark E. Halliday