A little analysis of our Texas trip. We actually spent less than I had budgeted, which was nice. That doesn't mean I'll stop trying to keep down the cost on the next leg. If I don't keep a lid on costs, I may be sitting on the sidelines during the last half of the year because the piggy bank is empty. The sixteen days cost about $800 for the two of us. That doesn't include meals which we each handled on our own probably at about $15/day out of pocket. It's mainly gas and overnights. The gas was kept low because we used a Prius and the overnights were low because friends helped out by putting us up for six of those nights. We also camped for two nights at a state park for $10 per night. It surprised me how expensive some of the commercial campgrounds are even without hookups. The wear and tear on the car is not figured in, although in this particular case that's probably irrelevant following the accident in Norfolk. So we did it for about $40/day per person including food which had to be consumed no matter where we were.
The evening meals although not lavish by any means gave us a chance to sample a bit of the local flavor, both food and people. We didn't ever ask somebody for the "best restaurant in town," but managed to find an interesting place most nights. A lot of the food in Texas is of the Tex/Mex variety which I enjoy. But after a few nights of the same type of meal, there's a hunger for variety which is a little hard to come by. Every once in a while we got a surprise like the sushi restaurant we fell into.
With Arizona coming up we'll probably not change the basic strategy except perhaps trying to camp a bit more (photo). Camping is a big advantage, not only in cost, but in putting us out with the birds first thing in the morning. The disadvantage is that you have to pack up and move the tent. But John showed how it can be done even with a wet tent. And it didn't seem to take a lot of time.
And how did we come out with the birds? Very well, thank you! The only bird we really missed was the Bare-throated Tiger-Heron and it seems to me that during our time in the Valley the bird was never reliably seen. Then there's the Amazon Kingfisher that appeared in Laredo a couple of days after we left. But that's the way birding is. It would have been nice, but... This was just not the super vagrant year. And birds like the Red-billed Pigeon and Muscovy Duck which hadn't been reported for over a month are more easily seen later in the year. We're returning to Texas in May for the breeders and a trip to West Texas so we've got an excellent chance for those birds and any others that may appear. And after all, in addition to the commonly seen South Texas endemics, we did see Hook-billed Kite, Northern Jacana, Tropical Parula, Clay-colored Thrush, and White-collared Seedeater plus good wintering birds like Mountain Plover, Sprague's Pipit, and LeConte's Sparrow that will save looking for them in the midwest during the breeding season. So I give us a high grade.