|We took a short trail from highway 88 in Carson Spur to a viewpoint.
|Flowers have withered, the landscape turned to autumn.
We had packed during Thursday morning, I went to check on my goats, and around
noot we headed to the mountains direction Reno, Nevada. Our bus underwent an
endurance test, for it contained six de-facto adults, with bags for four days
out. Fortunately we did not plan to camp, and hence we only carried snacks and
not a full menu; we could also leave tents at home. Also, we were forced to
leave our camp chairs behind, which we normally take along when ballooning, to
have something to sit upon when always waiting; there was no space left for
|Tree in Carson Spur.
|Opening with anthem.
And since we wanted our visitors to see Sierra more up-close than through the
car window, we stopped in Carson Spur (7990 ft MSL) and took them out for
a walk above Kirkwood. Had I not come up with a shortcut through a slopey meadow
(full of very intimate little thistles), the hike could have been much shorter
and less dramatic. We just ran up some three hundred vertical feet to snow
barriers on a ridge over the highway, and walked back down a path that was also
there. After a pit stop at Kirkwood and an early dinner in Minden's Thai Orchid
we reached Reno just to fall in our respective beds, setting our alarms to five
o'clock for the balloons.
|Family scrum around the balloon.
|Jeanne and Tom came all the way from South Dakota.
In the morning we met Tom and Jeanne in front of their hotel, were issued a
card permitting our entry as a balloon crew; we also got new t-shirts —
that way we could leave our old ones to Pepe and Sarah, marking them as a part
of our team. Sadly, the race organizers had demonstrated utter incompetence this
year, regarding crew parking. For crews of some eighty balloons, they reserved
about forty parking spots. Yet every such balloon requires a minimum crew of
four people, who need to be ready and able to momentarily depart from the lot
into the wider area, to chase, deflate and pack the balloon. Solving this simple
math problem would allow said officials to realize that if a full half of people
comprising these crews are DENIED the operational possibility, approximately
half of the balloons are left without chase crews. Buffoons tasked with parking
enforcement kept shrugging and sending us to park in a public lot. Which would
be fine, IF this lot were not totally overfilled by a panicked public, who was
also not allotted sufficient parking, and so access lanes were always clogged
with cars waiting for a freed spot, or alternatively hoping to exit and leave.
Did I mention that a balloon chase crew must be able to depart QUICKLY?
The morning otherwise proceeded as expected, tried and tested. Balloons were
taking off, crews were busy and friendly, and eventually we erected some gazebos
and had a picnic with friends we had not seen for a while. Then a mid-day
shutdown ensued at our hotel, after which our kids had to do some school work
(it was a Friday), and then we went to our favorite sushi place for dinner.
Lisa wanted to stay back at the hotel, but she made us bring her a take-out.
Things went similarly on Saturday, including the hassle with parking. Sid made
a scene there, and eventually we succeeded in parking on the edge of the public
lot so that we could depart with our bus. Rhonda, who was our balloon's sponsor,
promised to have a word with the organizers, but the only thing that came out of
it was a spot for our bus for Sunday — yet exception for one crew does not
solve the overall problem.
We had a picnic again, and then agreed on a all-crew dinner at Pinocchio's in
Sparks. It was very nice to be together with old friends from several circles
of my life.
We had to get up even earlier on Sunday than on Saturday, trying to preempt
problems with parking — Jeanne was to fly Dawn Patrol again; thus our
alarms triggered already at three forty five. When we ceremoniously parked and
finished stumbling to the launch meadow, it became clear there would be no
flying. Gusts of wind raced across the field, something in which you don't like
to even inflate the balloon (hint — a balloon gets inflated lying down
on the ground, and then the pilot must target the opening in the skirt with a
flame-thrower — if the half-inflated balloon, thus a huge sail, get tossed
around by a gust of wind, what is the chance that the flame misses the hole in
the middle and touches the envelope?).
Even the Glow Show which takes place before Dawn Patrol take-off, had been
reduced to mere flame flicking from stood-up burners (normally there would be
upright balloons in the field, illuminated from within). When I talked with Tom
(the pilot, not our teenager), how bad it was with the wind, he said that he had
yet worse news for me. They had planned to fly with Pepe and Sarah in the basket
|Some call staying with lunatics, a vacation...
For a while we loitered in the field, but then we had to admit that this was the
end of this year's race — and go catch some sleep at the hotel.
By nine we got back together to breakfast, and then we packed again. Perhaps it
was as good, for Reno started filling with smoke from Susanville wildfire
— when the wind turned, one could smell burned stuff on the air.
Lisa with her asthma would not enjoy such a day.
To get ourselves out, we stopped at Kirkwood Lake and walked a loop around it.
By this time, we all felt jet-lagged from our disturbed sleep pattern, not just
Pepe and Sarah, and even such small walk exhausted us. Still the whole trip
proved Pepe and Sarah compatible with our family. They stayed unfazed
even when we started singing in the car (they joined us instead), or at other
peculiarities of our family. I attribute this to the fact that Pepe has been for
years working with theoretical physicists, and considers staying with lunatics,
During the following weekdays I had to get back to less lofty affairs. I had a
business meeting, a visit to a dentists with Regina's younger son (she remained
unable to drive), extending oversight over my own children and their school,
and naturally my goats. In this week, a big re-building of their pens began,
about which I shall write later (for like every construction, this, too, went
over schedule). Still, on Tuesday I took Pepe and Sarah to a small town named
San Juan Bautista, to visit a Spanish mission there of the same name. I had
written about missions many times; I think that it's one of the things
a California visitor should see. In addition, this one sits right atop San
Andreas Fault, and a historic exhibit is enhanced by a geology lesson.
The mission dates to the time of first Spanish attempts to settle California
from the south up. Only fifty years after founding the missions, gold got
discovered, and the ensuing rush to the West after a promise of quick riches.
|San Juan Bautista Mission.
|Mission church - made of wood, breathing warmth, colors.
The mission and museum around it offer a beautiful review of history, from
native artifacts, over Franciscan "padres", Spanish and Mexican
rancheros, to an Italian hotel owner and English families that survived
tragedy of Donner Party. All this I partially know from our previous visits
— but some of them I spent overseeing kids on their school trip, and thus
also in the company of a vomiting girl and an autistic boy — and thus I
had much less time to pay consistent attention to the exhibits and their
It was pleasant to spend time in such a place whilst in company of adults
who did not whine — despite our having discovered that our bag with
food "forgot itself" back at home.
Going through the town museum was a bit erratic, for from stables, a sound of
an anvil lured us to the smithy. And there, by the furnace, two smiths stood,
who entered a friendly conversation with us. Pepe and Sarah each eventually
received an artistically wrought hook, while I got nothing — after all,
I ain't as interesting, being a local. We walked through Zanetti's house
and hotel — which sports (besides secret gambling den) an interesting bar
— from which, according to records, horses had to be regularly ejected,
so that other guest would fit — local hot-blooded wranglers allegedly
could, from a horse-back, drink at the bar, but also play billiard.
|Friendly smiths at the museum.
|This bustling stage-coach stop had a luxury of public bathroom.
Tired of history, we drove on from San Juan to Moss Landing, to let the girls
finally see Pacific Ocean. Still we first reinforced ourselves by a lunch at a
local Thai restaurant, and only then went to check out otters, sea lions,
pelicans and the rest of critters in the lagoon and along the beach. An otter
showed itself as usual near a bridge across the lagoon channel — I wonder
if its on the town payroll, for it seems to me that it's always there. Which is
great, as one can take tourists there and show them this marvel of nature with
about the same certainty as with the Monterey Aquarium.
The town obviously DOES NOT have weather on its payroll, because they still
have not managed to control it; a crazy wind blew at the ocean beach and we did
not last long there. On the other hand, thanks to the stormy ocean, heaps of
kelp lay disgorged by the surf, and I could play clever and show the girls
what sea weed looks like.
|Wranglers could thus arrive to the bar with feet washed and hooves cleaned.
|Pepe at Moss Landing.
On Wednesday morning Sid dropped our visitors off at a railroad station, to take
a train to San Francisco. We have never grown fond of the City, and during the
last few years, when everybody there got progressively crazy, we try to avoid it
altogether. Especially since SanFran became the refuge of the homeless who live
in the streets — including depositing their waste there. If you think that
dog droppings in a city are a problem, try to imagine several thousand soilers
of the homo sapiens variety. Then add problems and expenses (several tens of
dollars per hour) with parking your car — and it may hopefully become
obvious why we don't rush to go there. Taking a train is not much faster (when
you include the necessary trip to the station on our end; the closest one is
some 20 minutes drive away), but it may be cheaper. And most importantly —
our visitors and we could get a short break from each other, following
Independence continued on Thursday; girls went on a bike trip and I have seen to
my goats, checking out the pens, shopping and such. Our program merged again
from Friday, with Sarah and Pepe and me — as we were headed for four days
in the Sierra.
You can see there are plenty of pictures again — more in the