|We form new ballooning friendships.
|This balloon has all the comforts.
October was dedicated to modifications of our new home, and to moving; November
was centered mostly around animals. December took on a different twist, because
we began to take notice of our surroundings, and had time to discover and
Our first important December affair was ballooning. In California, up to the
year 2010, we crewed for our pilot, Jeanne. She then moved to South Dakota, and
we became orphans. For a few years we joined the crew of Rubik, but its pilots
eventually decided to sell the balloon, and quit flying. So we continued
attending ballooning rallies in Reno, where we could see Jeanne again with her
new balloon, Dragon Moon.
Yet we never returned to the original system — that we could fly on a
whim, close to where we lived, in a small circle of friends. Rallies are
awesome, but also crazy, hectic, and chaotic.
|It's nice to fly outside a rally organization.
Now we got an opportunity to go ballooning in Colorado, a mere hour drive from
our home — and meet local pilots Dan and Nancy. Their balloon,
Dancing Sun, got a new experimental basket, which needed checking out and
learning how to fly with it. Thus we knew we were going to venture into the
unknown, and that the balloon would be tethered to the trucks so that it would
not get out of hand. The experimental basket is special in that it's not really
a basket, but a bench seat. A twin sofa of the size familiar from buses or
ski chairs, but equipped with safety straps. The advantage, when compared to a
traditional basket, is obvious — on can SIT DOWN. Disadvantage? Imagine
landing while strapped to a seat. Also, you fact backward when landing, which
makes sense as it's better to tilt backward on touchdown than forward (or
alternatively plow the field with your own face while being dragged by the
balloon), but still it seems to me like a wild thing. And it was obvious why
Nancy and Dan tried it first on a leash — with this, one really needs to
know how to land like on a platter of eggs, without excessive jumps and dramas.
|Climbing is done here.
Thanks to the fact the balloon was tethered, we could all take turns in trying
out "to fly" — the balloon responds to burning with several
seconds of a delay, so one must burn with care — in little bursts, while
you wait, how it would affect altitude. We naturally liked to do this —
but perhaps best was the feeing of normal. A regular Saturday, having come
together with nice people to fly balloons, having lots of fun, drank some coffee
afterwards — and then drove back home to sleep it off (even here one flies
at dawn, thus we got up by five-thirty).
Our December generally used to be a stressful month, with parties at school or
or in kids' clubs, at work, etc. I did not expect that I would ever eagerly
await these "silly parties" like an inmate looking forward to a walk
in a yard. Lisa's vaulting party took place outdoors and focused of horses
— decorating equine boxes and runs, riding, sledding behind horses.
No one else of us had attended; instead, we set out in search of a Christmas
tree. It would seem that the local system consists of obtaining a permit and
cutting down one's own tree somewhere in the woods — which we have missed,
as the permit cannot be had in the last minute on a weekend. The second choice
was to buy a tree at a store — which is what we did eventually.
California system of farms specializing in Christmas trees does not exist here.
Thus our tree is from a warehouse — but at least I managed to find a llama
decoration for it, and thus it joined our Finnish goats — after I spruced
up the llama with a Christmas bow, without which it looked a bit sad.
A party at Tom's new (shooting) club was indoors, in a huge hall. Thus wearing
masks — but with pizza and drinks. The team consists of children from age
six to pubescents of Tom's age and size, and Tom enjoyed it. I regarded
interesting a moment, when during competition of timed presents' unpacking
(every game had a Christmas theme), one of the rules was that no one may use
a pocket knife. After California, where even table knives were not allowed at
a school cafeteria, for they are an awfully dangerous WEAPON, I found it
pleasantly refreshing that here, a pocket knife is considered a common utensil
found in children's possession.
For some reason, I feel solstice being the most important day of winter.
I thought long about why that may be, that stress drops off of me a few days
before the Christmas proper, and Christmas Eve then proceeds all by itself
and without pressure — but it seems that it really falls on solstice.
Maybe I've become a real hag at my old age. It was no different this year, and
I celebrated the shortest day of the year by venturing solo into the hills.
Official reason was to check out snow cover, unofficially I simply needed to
get out. Since September I had Sid "at home", on top of the kids,
which led to the impression of total scattering of my own personality among
all the others.
|Such a normal family.
|We keep liking it here.
I did not find much snow, but I had a nice walk in a landscape of rocks and
tree devoid of people. I remembered then that actually, the Bethlehem Star,
a conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter, should be visible, so I compelled my
family in the evening to watch this astronomical event. We even managed to take
a picture of the planets, but when I went back the house to look for a tripod
and a looking glass, clouds moved in and the show was over.
On Christmas Eve (day), Sid and I had some things to take care of in town,
and we ended up in Accomplice. Thanks to the fact that Americans treat the
twenty-fourth still "before Christmas", everything is open, and we
could even on this day celebrate by having a good lunch and, more importantly,
draft beer from a local brewery. And naturally by sending our picture from the
bar to our friends in California, where everything has been closed for months,
to no end. This was our good answer to Christmas greetings, and questions how
we were. At both ends of our move, we keep encountering careful inquiries into
how we are coping and what we think of our new place. Usually accompanied by
a musing about how hard it must be adapting to such a great change. Which seems
to us a bit misplaced — we are excellent, and speaking of great changes,
it certainly is an improvement in all possible ways.
|Some days have a short-sleeve weather.
|And on some days not a single goat (or chicken) would venture out.
Our larger house gives us not only more space, but to all our stuff as well.
I consider a great improvement in my life, not HAVING to have skis in my
bedroom, and not being bound to jump over bicycles when getting into my car.
My time and nerves are preserved, for I no longer need to spend several hours
daily by commuting to a from my goaties, along one the most dangerous highways
in the United States. Now I can see them anytime. We did not plan to get our
chickens this early — but they, too, have a net bonus effect — on
December 27, Jet started laying eggs. Lisa's local vaulting club is functional
and she likes it there, and — another bonus — there's a club for
Tom. The prairie is not only beautiful, with the peaks of Rocky Mountains barely
visible straight from our house, but Medicine Bow National Forest and
Curt Gowdy State Park are about 30 minutes drive away.
Curt Gowdy is probably our closest, a place with reservoirs and a creek,
dedicated to water sports and fishing. Past this park, Medicine Bow begins,
its southeast corner being the Vedauwoo area — with rocks popular for
climbing. I had first expected that one could cross-country ski somewhere there,
but the reality is such that these spots are still insufficiently wooded, thus
exposed to wind and sun, and snow stays down only shortly. After consulting with
locals we ventured to the westernmost edge of Medicine Bow, Happy Jack
recreational area, where people sled on wooded, snow-covered slopes —
and where hills are threaded by a maze of trails for hiking, snow bikes, and
snow shoes. Sid and I scaled a part of it on New Year's Eve, and on New Year
we made even the kids join us. Subsequently, Tom and I went there on cross
country skis. And then we discovered that the ridge sports maintained ski
tracks — for which it's better to park the car uphill, avoiding the
ascent on slipping skis, or risk breaking them or legs in steep downhills.
I find the system of separate trails very interesting and civilized:
one set of paths for skiers, another (steeper) trails for everybody else.
It seems that people respect the separation. Foot traffic (with or without
snow shoes) and bikers refrain from shredding and rutting ski tracks,
and that is very nice.
|Ice-fishing tents in Curt Gowdy State Park.
|Trails at Happy Jack.
Given the fact that of our whole family, I am the one most ecstatic about
winter, cross country skiing is a reward for me. I am not sure whether my
joy comes from having lived for twenty years in California, where snow was
always far away and hard to get, or whether it's a result of having spent
my formative youth in Czech-Moravian Highlands. I'm equally unsure if my
excitement fades after a few months, and I would exchange it for pining after
a day when the ugly white stuff stops falling from the sky and it get finally
warm again; for now, I enjoy the winter. If you feel dizzy from my celebratory
journals about our new home, know, we feel dizzy too — we are still
confused from how our move turned out so positive, and no disaster surfaced that
would make us regret.
And if you want to know how we spent Christmas, which I had skipped in this
journal a little bit, it was great as well. We're not much into celebrating,
but we had our tree, and pork tenderloin parmigiano dinner outside our
tradition, since we had fish that prior week on multiple occasions. I must had
been the goodest kid, as I got a who bunch of presents — a new phone
(here I would like to not that if you wish for a new phone mostly to improve
the camera feature, it behooves the quality of the pictures to peel off the
camera lens protective plastic foil), and most importantly — climbing
holds, so that I can have a bouldering wall built in our barn/garage.
And also a new sleeping bag, for the one that's twenty years old falls apart.
We did not celebrate New Year's (Eve). Kids may have had some impromptu virtual
party with their friends. Sid played with his computer — and I went to
bed. After many years of dealing with sleep problems, and having been half of
my time unusable due to a heavy sleep deficit and tiredness, I SLEEP. Less noise
here certainly plays a role — but in my case, stress level is very
important, and by moving, it dropped to a minimum. I go to bed in the evening
and fall asleep; I wake up in the morning around seven, and function
subsequently the whole day without problems. Thus, celebrating the New Year by
sleeping was my best idea. Waking up well rested and in good spirit in a new
year, cannot be beat.