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armadillo

In my 20 years of living in Flagstaff, I don't remember a springtime that wasn't able to gain the upper hand on winter before the end of May. And yes, I think we all are a bit concerned when that change in the season suddenly happens because we know northern Arizona needs all the snow it can get, this year and every year thereafter.

But when I recall my recreational life in Missouri (before I moved to Flagstaff), by April we Show-Me state road bike riders were baying our discontent at the dark, snow-purging clouds consistently hanging out overhead.

In our defense, we were truly tired of wearing those winter cycling pants, the constant slipping and sliding while riding on ice-covered roads with frozen nose holes, and donning battery-heated socks that seldom worked unless they were so hot one feared they might combust into a bonfire of rotating cycling shoes filled with our feet.

A group of us solved our winter doldrums by venturing south every year in April to ride a section of the Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi. We rode from Tupelo to Natchez and back in little over a week, staying in pleasant, small-town motels and feasting on the local cuisine. It was great fun, nicely warm and always hospitable.

The one negative we encountered on our annual trip south was the large number of deceased armadillos we saw while riding -- so many, one of us began referring to our bicycle adventure as the Dead Armadillo Tour. Not funny, for sure, but sadly appropriate.

The armadillo supposedly doesn't like cold weather and therefore lives only in warmer climates, but my friend on a recent car trip to Indiana counted 39 of them sprawled along I-44 outside St. Louis and a former cycling companion living there e-mailed me a newspaper story about the "dillo" invasion of that city. If the armadillo has migrated as far north as Missouri, how long before we see them trying to cross I-40 into Flagstaff?

And to finish, the following is an unusual story about Flagstaff. In April of 2014 Krystle Henderson, a television reporter for Channel 12 News in Phoenix, described how Maggie Aherne and her husband of 33 years, Ivor, had traveled to Flagstaff from Bristol, England over the years because they loved spending time in our town.

They both liked rooming at the Hotel Monte Vista, from which they could easily walk to the Amtrak station to sit on a preferred bench while enjoying their highly favored activity of watching the passing trains.

In 2012 the English couple visited Flagstaff two weeks before Ivor died. In 2014 when Maggie next visited us she brought along a small commemorative plaque that read, "Ivor and Maggie -- Visitors from Britain -- Were happy here," which she installed over their favored bench outside our train station.

The sentimental plaque remained in that place for only a few months before being inexplicably removed. My idealist sense of Flagstaff compels me to believe the plaque will quickly be reinstalled because it's such a sincere display and heartfelt confirmation of the city we all treasure.

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