September became a very relevant month for us the previous year, as we keep
remembering that "...last year around this time..." We had closed
on the sale of our California house, and purchase of our house in Wyoming;
we were packing, throwing away, and giving away everything that had accumulated
in our home over eighteen years. Across the distance of twelve hundred miles,
we attempted to organize indoor painting and laying of new floors. Eventually
we drove two cars to our new home, and started dealing with delayed moving
trailer, delayed washer and dryer, delayed carpet and vinyl, and broken,
unrepaired windows. We found ourselves in a place where we did not know a soul
— accompanied by two children, whom we abducted from known home and life.
One year later, we still like it here very much; I shall not burden you with
the enumeration of advantages this time. Personally, the most fundamental
change for us happened with out offspring. During this year, they have shifted
from children's category to the level of adolescents — but ones very
self-reliant and capable. Perhaps the best illustration of it is a fact that
right on the anniversary of our moving in, Lisa received her driver license.
Now she, too, can drive on her own, and we got rid of many worries with our
|We know fall weather around our house from last year.
|This year we had the time and energy to explore and admire our landscape with colorful trees.
But we're getting ahead of things; there was more that happened in September.
On one hand we attended two more ballooning events. One was just
"decorative" — static balloons were providing a backdrop to
some marathon even at a University in Ft. Collins. We did get to fly during
the next event, and enjoyed balloon chase. It's a bit of a problem in Colorado,
as it's been under furious construction, disappearing fields and therefore
suitable landing spots, roads and streets as being changed — and those
already in place can't keep up with traffic demand. But we coped, and found
Dan with his Hare Ship
, when he landed.
On the other hand, there was a relatively taxing affair of vaulting Nationals.
Lisa had refused to compete at the onset of summer, but she remains in orbit
around the vaulting team. When she proposed to go see the Nationals in Durango,
Colorado, I found it a rather good idea — until I discovered that Durango
lies across multiple mountain ranges and valleys on the opposite end of the
state than we are. Thus we planned it as a girl-trip — our chaps are
indifferent to vaulting, and driving four hundred forty four miles in two cars
just to be able to split the family to tourists and spectators, did not seem
I was rather worried whether I'd be able to drive the whole distance, to get
there just on a Friday. At that time, Lisa only held a temporary license, so
she could switch with me in the worst case, but I would not have got any rest
hovering over a student driver anyway — especially on a route new to
We set out in the morning, after I took care of my goaties, had a breakfast,
and packed the rest of things that I thought I might need for those two days
away from home. Despite being afraid of Denver's legendary jams, we drove
through relatively easily, and then we entered the mountains. I lost my worries
of driving on a long distance. We were passing through such a beautiful
landscape, admittedly on county roads, but those were well-built —
and though Friday traffic thickened around us, we got far enough from main
population areas that it did not really matter. Here, in the country, everybody
must use a car to get anywhere, and therefore knows how to drive and goes very
briskly. At the same time, everybody needs to get to their destinations in good
shape, so no one makes crazy moves or threats.
The town of Durango lies on the western side of Rocky Mountains, and to reach
it from our end, one has to overcome three mountain passes — Kenosha Pass
(10,000 ft = 3,048 m), Poncha Pass (9,010 ft = 2,745 m) and
Wolf Creek Pass (10,857 ft = 3,309 m), hence driving get really
interesting. Especially in the fall, when trees begin to take on furiously
yellow and fiery red colors. Durango itself, alas, is a tourist trap. That is
not to say that the town in the picturesque foothills were not beautiful, but
it's apparently not very well suitable for normal life — stores along
the streets are either restaurants, or they peddle trinkets and memorabilia.
Our hotel was a big disappointment — for two hundred fifty dollars
a night, I imagined something distinctly better than sports-team-level lodgings
in the style of 1970's. When I skip the fact that the whole hotel smelled
slightly of poor hygiene and cigarette smoke (including our non-smoking room),
and the room design with huge windows leading INSIDE to the hotel lobby was
rather peculiar, which of course is not a fault of current staff, the
dysfunctional lamps or barely dripping shower head in our room, which invokes
the thought that washing in a creek might be a better deal, all sum up this
conclusion: the price is an outrage and a shame.
|Scrambling through rocky outcrops of Sherman Mountains.
|Scrambling through rocky outcrops of Sherman Mountains.
Still we moved into our room, I found out from a brochure that there was
a sushi place at one end of our street — and went to fetch a consolation
prize to the hotel bar — two drinks on the hotel for adult guests in the
afternoon. Refreshed then I was willing to venture out fetch the fishy dinner.
Carrying a box back to the hotel, I touched base with Lisa's coach Nicole over
the phone — and since they have not had dinner yet, and wanted to eat at
a local barbecue, we met at a patio there.
I had my doubts whether they'd let us in with our sushi box — but Nicole
laughed; we were in the country, and no one cared. Indeed, they did not.
Yet barbecue turned out problematic, for after an hour waiting they still could
not resolve Nicole's order, as well as an order of another vaulter's (Maddie)
family. Our pleasant sitting arrangement turned into a bad scene with whining
small kids and general disappointment, with most people hungry and upset.
|Drone picture over Lake Trail under Medicine Bow Peak.
|On the trail.
Getting up early in the morning was part of the deal — I volunteered to
help at the gate, and my shift began at seven forty-five. On a ranch some
twenty miles out of town. Competitions like this can function only thanks to
tens of volunteers from the parent pool — and the usual rule is that a
club must stand as many volunteers as there are competitors. Our club had, in
fact, only one vaulter, who's mother also volunteered, but I reckoned that
instead being stuck for two days as a spectator, I would rather do something
useful — and the club will get a small plus for it, somewhere. Organizing
entry for competitors at the gate to the hall meant that I got to see all my
old associates — mostly with Lisa's original team from California, which
had come at full strength.
I would like to drop here my disenchantment from the whole vaulting
competition organization. Qualifications for Nationals were a new feature this
year, taking place separately on the East Coast, and West Coast. Western
participants qualified in Sacramento, California; in August, when temperatures
remain around hundred, which is extra stress for both people and horses.
Sacramento was under the heavy burden of the Dixie wildfire, and everything was
shrouded in smoke. Colorado teams need to travel to California for two days
(especially with a horse trailer) — so Lisa's team eventually did not
go to Sacramento at all — except for Maddie, who qualified on a borrowed
horse. The glorious National ended up with California teams at full strength,
and the rest was made up with random individuals who had been willing to
expend a great deal of time, money and effort to qualify.
The second problem is Durango itself. Yes, it is located approximately in the
middle of USA, but at elevation of 6,500 feet. This has shown up to be
a handicap for the coastal teams — if you spend most of your life at
sixty or so feet above sea level, and then travel more than a mile higher,
you get naturally sick. Hence of those people who qualified in Sacramento
or on East Coast, many were in bad shape — there even was some vomiting
and head-aches and so forth. Vaulting is a fringe sport, competitors mostly
attend some school full time, their parents have non-vaulting jobs, and really
no-one had time to take a week to acclimatize like an Olympian.
The third problem with the race was the location of the ranch, somewhere
in boon-dogs twenty miles from hotels and civilization — no chance to
take a break from the event for a lunch or visit to a drugstore for head-ache
pills and such. There also was no local club in the place, which could provide
a base for everybody — like, running to a local barn to borrow spare
reins or a mat, or diggin in boxes with old costumes and vaulting shoes,
lending out forgotten, broken, or torn equipment.
|Sugarloaf Mountain — a saddle left to the hill leads to Lewis Lake where we hiked in summer.
|Libby, Lewis, Klondike and Class Lakes.
I liked working at the gate, but it was a rush — actual competitions took
place in the rear section of the hall, while the front half featured two rings
for team preparations, as their schedules came up. One team was competing,
another was waiting at the entrance to the arena, third and fourth was warming
up, and the fifth and sixth lined up outside the hall, ready to prepare, etc.
The actual ride takes several minutes, and the whole queue advanced rather
briskly, and keeping track of who is who, and where they should be, was
a rather hard work — especially since some horses went for multiple rides
with pauses in-between — in the style that they competed, then returned
directly to the prep rings, for their next ride came after this other team
— I think I got my head exercised so well, I pushed out Alzheimer by
several years. And by that I had the advantage of knowing two thirds
(Californian and Coloradan) teams personally — or at least I knew which
horses matched with which coaches, lungers, and vaulters. Yet only until the
moment when horses started being exchanged around, because, of course, even at
these competitions, there was sudden lameness and disqualifications.
|We have to take same trail back to our car.
|Pika was angrily whistling at us.
In addition, on Saturday the organizer came up with an idea to secure dinner
for the competitors — from three to five pm — after which more
rounds of races were held. This meant that some were present at the ranch from
seven in the morning till eight in the evening. Including some of the youngest
vaulters, without the option to detour through town for an ice-cream or
a rather more decent lunch, or to the hotel to rest in bed or in a pool.
Neither Lisa nor I were competing, I had my gate duty, Lisa worked as a horse
woman for Dozer — and we both chatted with friends and associates —
and still were completely tired. Back in town in the evening we barely managed
to order sushi to go — as we had no time or nerve to seek and check out
alternatives, while restaurants closed by eight or eight-thirty. Meanwhile we
encountered a drunkard with a memory dysfunction, who repeatedly demanded to
know where we were from, as we talked to each other in Czech.
We subsequently ate our dinner together with Nicole and Maddie's family,
sitting at formica tables in a gloomy hotel cafeteria — an impressive
cultural experience in a resort town.
I did not work on Sunday, and thus I had more time to follow the schedule and
talk with people — but Lisa and I also needed to get reasonably back
home. We packed it in by noon, had ice-cream in Durango, and then drove.
Lisa carried part of the way, just to try an unfamiliar route, and I kept
calculating when we'd get to Denver and its Sunday evening jam. Fortunately
it was not as bad, we got delayed on only one mile near Bailey, where the road
narrows into one lane. Fortunately, our bus having automatic transmission,
there was no need to ruin the clutch pumping it into a steep uphill. We even
got home in a decent hour. I was hoping a little that Lisa would regret not
having competed, and that she might return to vaulting actively, but no luck.
Instead, Lisa was happy to have enjoyed it while being part of the happening,
but not unnerved through having to perform.
|Autumn mountain landscape.
|First snow of the season fell during the night from twelfth to thirteenth October.
The coach seemed happy as well to have another pair of hands along — so
next time a competition was held, Lisa rode along as a matter of fact.
OctoberFest took place in Denver, and eventually sported many more teams and
vaulters than the whole Nationals. Even Lisa's club arrived at full strength,
with all four horses, and an incredible number of rides, perhaps in all
categories. Lisa did not get to stop — taking care of horses, herding
youngest vaulters, monitoring preparations on barrels, issuing band-aids and
bandages, and calming down dramas. Still she returned enthusiastic, and perhaps
the system suits her, attending the vaulting club once a week, teaching and
training a young horse, and subsequently staying behind and helping little
girls with a barrel set. She keeps more or less in good shape, and on top of
that she has her horse, while collecting coaching experience.
Tom turned eighteen this fall — somehow I don't quite process how come
he's suddenly adult. Still, eighteen here is not as much of a big deal —
we still can't take him to a bar and have a beer! We did not splash him with
presents — he got his car in the spring (as far as Horace the revenant
can be called a car); he did not want a new phone, so it's been hard.
|Goaties did not like it a bit.
|Fortunately it all melted away and the prairie is fine again.
With fall, prairie turned yellow, and suddenly it all looks just like when we
had moved in. Unlike the previous year, this time we had time to notice what's
happening around — and drive out to trips, to see colorful trees.
I did not like fall when I was a child, perhaps because it was time of a new
school year and frequent rains, but here, fall is really breathtaking (and I
don't have to go to school). Our family turned into a bookie joint, and
accepted bets for first snow — I went for mid-September, Sid and Lisa
chose September/October break, but Tom won — he bet on October 15, and
snow came on the 12th. It melted by noon, of course, but it counted —
and since then we did not have any truly warm days, and nights get close to
Goaties do not like this much — although they have already grown their
winter cashmere sweaters, but they did not expect such a low deal, i.e., snow,
from me. Twilight, on this account, decided to stop bothering to produce milk
— and thus my milking days were over. Chickens, too, stopped laying eggs
— they are one year old, go through a plumage exchange — and fall
comes with shorted days. I must admit that I, too, feel somewhat less
productive — and after the summer rush of digging, turning compost,
cutting and raking, I'm rather glad when it's "ugly" outside;
I "cannot" work and it's OK to hide in the house.