|Cameron Pass - summer break has started, the summer, not so much.
Kids' summer break started even before the end of May, which became apparent
mostly by Lisa's vaulting suddenly starting at eight in the morning. This
complicates my life considerably, for by that time Costco does not yet open,
where I would normally spend the two hours of Lisa's practice, performing
family supply macro-shopping. Fortunately, Lisa can drive as of this year, so
if I can do without said shopping, her vaulting is out of my scope. In a similar
fashion, Lisa drives herself to her work — which is great relief compared
to last summer
Summer morning practices make mostly sense: to get done with physically
demanding affair before it gets horribly hot — yet, this years snow supply
by the end of May did not emanate a sense of summer. Wading through snow in
Rockies in May is something one expects, but then snow remained in the mountains
throughout June, which we tested on our own boots and feet at Mirror Lake.
The situation there was very treacherous — some snow-banks one could walk
on, but then the next step could lead to hopelessly sinking in to one's waist
— apparently depending on where and how sun shined, or whether the bank
happened to be undercut by a surreptitious spring stream. My newly purchased
hiking boots were of no use in this; I was soaked through.
|Treacherous snow banks.
|Lisa and I went to see a circus.
We were spending this summer quite separately — our children have reached
an age when they come up with their own program and preferences —
squelchy trip to Mirror Lake consisted of me and Sid. Circus, which promised
horses and silks acrobatics, was something for Lisa and me, for our chaps don't
interest in horses and acrobats much. The two of us quite enjoyed it —
we both have some prior exposure to training horses and silks, so we could
pronounce expert commentaries. There is just one problem that I can see; Lisa
again reinforced her conviction that she can run away from home any time, to
a circus — she could deliver most of their performances.
I took Tom out to a farewell grilling party with his shooting club —
they chose a merciful venue — a state park, where the club paid the
entrance fee and organized barbecue at noon — but folks could set out
hiking, biking, and kayaking as they preferred. Tom and I have discovered
a beautiful trail through cliffs over the reservoir — and then I still
managed to borrow a kayak and paddle on the lake. Tom refused because he did
not bring a change of clothes — well, his loss; had he listened to his
mom, who advised him to pack swim trunks, he could have had one more experience.
And to make my summer more complicated, I found myself a job — our friends
have started a diner
— a classic American restaurant —
and needed a cook. Advantages are: flexible shifts, family business, everything
is cooked to order from basic ingredients — so the food is good, and
offers me opportunity to perform a range of activities — I'm not stuck
in one spot, but I alternate between a grill, a stove, fryer, freezer,
prep-bench and a pizza oven. It's a small place, so we substitute for each other
and cover other jobs and functions. And I return home with a clear head, don't
bring my work home — except, in my dreams sometimes pizzas fall from
their conveyor to the floor, I get lost inside a huge walk-in freezer, or my
meat catches fire on the grill; still it's not the kind of corporate stress.
|Tom and I at a farewell barbecue of his club,
with a hike by the reservoir.
|Tom and I also flew in a balloon.
My goaties were mildly cross by this drop in service quality and my attending
to them, but their routine got more regular instead. By the end of spring I
noticed that Twilight had a considerably filled udder, and when I tried to milk
her, I got a cup of milk. Thus I scrutinized goings on in the shed and on the
pasture a bit closer — and discovered that the baby goats who are
(especially the boys) larger than their mothers, still sneak in to drink. And
I had lived throughout the whole winter thinking that they've been weaned off
long ago! So I re-established separating the old goats from the young ones for
the night, and get a pint of milk every morning for our use. The old goats
apparently like this — they have their peace throughout the night, and in
the morning can take it easy crunching their breakfast during milking without
the need to fight for grains with their muscly offspring. The offspring is a bit
less enthused, as they can't snuggle to mamma, but even on their side of the
shed there's more peace — since their skirmishes are not compounded by
their mothers. My overall impression is, milking gave my goats some sort of
meaning of life — they have a "job" and purpose again. And
a regular routine. They also tend to be more responsible — several times
a day they walk out to pasture — where they fulfill their other important
task — keeping the prairie — eating grass and fertilizing the soil.
My family accepted my new job well — for almost two years we had been all
"always" at home — so now at least one of us "leaves for
work" and relieves the general cabin fever (well, certainly for me).
At the time I'm writing this (end of August), I have realized that during my two
months of employment so far, I did not once need to clean our home kitchen,
I practically did not cook or shop for food.
It would seem that we have indeed acquired
an amazing house where these "things" happen all by themselves. Fall,
when Tom would leave to live in a college dorm, and Lisa will have school beside
her job, shall likely be somewhat more complicated. Especially once Sid leaves
for another business trip to Texas.
|We came to help to Frederick.
|With our pilot Jeanne.
Let's return to the start of the summer break. A ballooning rally took place on
the last weekend in June in Frederick, Colorado. Arriving for the occasion,
Jeanne and Tom stopped by our place for one night, after which they had
accommodation secured by the event organizers. We kept commuting, for it was
only one hour drive away and we did not feel it worth the hassle of hotel rooms
— not to mention cost.
Tom and I got to fly on Friday; the only excitement came in the shape of
a property owner who arrived in person to throw us out, when we wanted to land.
Jeanne chose his lot, because it was an unkempt meadow — obviously not
growing any crops that we could damage, nor grazing any stock that could be
spooked by the balloon. But the geezer has possibly been cooking meth in his
basement or something of that sort, and insisted that we stay away. Well, his
property, his castle.
Summer continued in a ballooning theme. Due to mine and Lisa's work, only Sid
and Tom went ballooning again right the week following Frederick, culminating
in Fourth of July. Honestly — it would have been difficult for me to find
a caretaker for the goaties during the holidays, and I had moved to Wyoming
especially to have room and peace — I was not itching to join other
thousand of tourists in the foothills of some of the most famous national parks
(Teton and Yellowstone), during the most famous national holiday. I did not even
feel regret. On Fourth of July, Lisa and I sat on our porch and watched
fireworks by our more festive neighbors, on the background of the large city
fireworks, and had our peace. Nature is still the most amazing of them all
— storm clouds had gathered on the horizon, darker than summer night
— and when they figured humanity with their light show got a bit too
uppity, lit up the whole sky with giant lightning, obliterating mere petards
into the bucket of children's toys. We managed to watch such theater for a long
|Goaties have it good.
|Soon to be a Sleeping Beauty territory.
On the following weekend, kids took off with a gang of friends, to camp in the
mountains. Actually — they are no longer kids, Tom is a young adult, and
Lisa is just one year short of that age — and they practice leaving the
nest ever more frequently. Including the part where they packed everything by
themselves for the trip, planned with their friends who would bring what —
and drove themselves there. All that was left for me was worrying about them
having an accident or doing something stupid. On Sunday, Sid and I ventured into
the same vicinity for a hike, hoping that our offspring might join us —
but they refused in the end. For some unfathomable reason they prefer silliness
with friends of their age over dragging along some mountain trails with old
geezers. Young people these days...
They would still not avoid a vacation with old geezers, in particular, their
parents. We all went to Riverton in middle of July — ballooning, for a
change. We feel a bit sentimental about Riverton — it had triggered our
move to Wyoming — in summer 2020, Riverton was one of our options:
"and why not Wyoming?".
Strangely enough, this feeling is shared in our whole little family, because
ALL of us took time off from work and other commitments to be able to go.
I had an automatic water dispenser, automatic chicken coop door with a light
sensor installed, and issued a whole bale of hay to my goaties — and
arranged with Tara that they would come every day and check what's going on in
the shed and the coop — and we were ready to go.
|Only Sid and Tom went ballooning under Grand Tetons.
|Locals enjoy sunshine.
Our sentimental feelings got reinforced by an apparent fact that this may have
been our last organized all-family vacation. On one hand, children
show trends to scatter into the world and follow their personal preferences
— and on the other hand, despite reassurances of comrade president that
there is no inflation, much less recession, our hotel rooms for those three
nights were 150% of last year's price — and we're still rolling our eyes.
Soon we might have to dust off our tents and sleeping bags, and rediscover wild
camping like in our younger days. Which might be a fine adventure, but not quite
a vacation, when one must keep packing and searching and organizing.
Balloon-wise, this year's Riverton Rendezvous went splendidly, flying without
dramas or problems. A new addition for us was a visit to National Museum of
Military Vehicles in Dubois. A private collection turned museum had opened this
May, and when we heard praises from all sources, even I assented to check it
out. I was mentally resolved to endure a drag across some meadow in summer
heat from one tank to the next, and hoped that they sport at least a coffee
kiosk (or possibly with something stronger) to get fortified — for it was
clear to me that our men are capable of spending hours debating trade-offs and
minute differences between individual models.
|Upper Messa Falls, ID.
As you can see, my expectations were quite moderate. Thus, the greater was my
surprise, when we found ourselves inside a huge, air-conditioned, modern
building, where the docents were urging us to leave a huge gun vault room near
the entrance "for later" — but even so, we managed to view
a rifle there that used to belong to Private John Simpson — from which
came the first shot in the year 1775 at Bunker Hill, opening the fighting
between Americans and the British Army. John Simpson shot too soon, defying the
order to "shoot, when you see the white of their eyes",
yet for his transgression he was eventually only reprimanded, and lived to see
the end of the war and reach a rank of Major. It's interesting that he got
never paid for his military service — he claimed that his newly created
homeland was too poor to be able to afford paying awards and pensions.
John Simpson lived seventy seven years and was the grandfather of American
President Grant, and great-grandfather of the discoverer and cartographer
Merriwether Lewis (yes, that
Lewis of the famous Lewis & Clark
We watched an introductory video for the whole museum, and then we began weaving
through the maze of several miles of displays. It began with vehicles and
mechanics of Normandy Invasion, everything documented and thematically ordered.
My soul of a history teacher was pleased — besides technical parameters of
all that hardware (boring for me), everything was presented in a historical
context of the conflicts — and more importantly, political situation and
related events that led to the wars. Everything was illustrated by details that
I had been unaware of — like, the anti-tank barriers, those I-beams welded
together, were called "Czech hedgehogs" — because they were
invented in 1930's for planned defense of the Czech border — and Allies
had later encountered them on the coast of Normandy — where, during high
tide, hedgehogs ripped open bottoms of beaching boats, and during low tide
obstructed movement of vehicles.
|A stop in local mountains, almost no snow left.
|And we're ballooning again, this time in Riverton.
From my communist history textbooks, I had never learned about the Red Ball
Express — white flag with a red circle was originally used as signal for
admiral's ship, later during transport of VIPs, then to mark railroad cars with
perishables. During WW2, Allies advancing eastward through Europe needed
supplies for ever extending distances — and thus tens and hundreds trucks
traveled through France and farther with food, medical materials, fuel —
and munitions. Perhaps I should not be surprised by the erasure of Red Ball
Express — it also supplied Patton's Third Army, which, according to
official sourced, had never reached Pilsen, and therefore could not need to be
Unfortunately, while I had thought that after three hours I would be glad they
close and I would be able to drag Tom and Sid away, three hours had gone and
we were only just passing through the Korean War section, and were forced to
simply sweep through the Vietnam section — our consolation is that this
museum is not very far and we can make the trip again in the future. I know even
less about Korean and Vietnam Wars than I do about WW2, and it would be worth
going through these sections again and carefully. An anecdote — in this
museum of military conveyances, there was a display dedicated to sergeant
Reckless — a mare, who operated in the Korean war as a carrier between
front lines and the rear; after learning the route, she could follow it without
a human companion, and knew to lie down and find cover in a shootout.
|Popular baths at Big Horn River.
But let us leave the museum — on our next vacation day we visited hot
springs in Thermopolis — this year there was even less water than the
previous year, so the drought is real — when the river bend where one
could swim and splash, was now dry, and pools with hot water above the river
only trickle down. Still we swam and splashed — and on the following
day, after attending to the balloon rally, drove back home, I to enter a crazy
week without the lead cook — after a few days of training, suddenly
covering the whole kitchen and doing double shifts every day — from seven
till one, and then from five to eight. With a half-hour commute it was rather
taxing — there at some point I "lost my track" of works on our
property — I simply could not keep up both my job and also weeding and
cutting. I was glad to not forget turning on the irrigation to our little
After leaving my workplace on Saturday noon, I had to quickly put new sheets
on our guest room bed — and Karel with family arrived. Karel is the friend
who lends us his house in Estes Park — and we have finally met him in
person. And we could send his family into the whirl of Wild West — for
Frontier Days were currently happening, which is ten days of rodeos, parades,
shows, carnivals, exhibits and programs. I admit that we did not participate
— after over-crowded California, I have still not begun to miss bustling
|Lisa flew over Riverton this time.
Karel left on Monday morning, and in the afternoon Lisa and I picked up Lisa's
Californian friend Lucy at Denver Airport. I have seen a few airports in my life
(including those in Asia and South America), but I did not expect such chaos.
Road markings around the airport are completely confusing, so Lisa and I
found ourselves desperately circling around both terminals (several times),
until I gave up, dropped Lisa at one exit, and went to park randomly. It's
a miracle we have eventually found Lucy and managed to drive her safely home.
On Wednesday we took Lucy to see Thunderbirds — there was an Air Show at
our Air Force Base. Having learned a lesson last year, where we barely made it
in, this time we set out early, i.e. ninety minutes before the show start.
We arrived with time to spare, so we ventured on foot to see a static helicopter
display and stretch our legs. By nine we were told that there's waiting for the
morning fog and cloud cover to part, and that the show will be delayed. By then
I was somewhat nervous; I was supposed to start by noon at work. Show started by
ten, ended after eleven — and for the subsequent ninety minutes we STOOD
on the parking lot. It was impossible to leave, for the military failed to
organize a departure of several hundreds of civilian cars, loaded with festive,
friendly-minded people. I don't wonder any more that leaving Afghanistan was
such a mess and disgrace.
At least they texted me from work around eleven that I don't have to come, as it
was a slow day.
|Lisa and Jeanne have landed.
After about an hour of waiting, I got surprised by something like a panic attack
— a feeling that I'm trapped (despite being on a huge, mostly open,
prairie adjacent to an airport), and that I can't get out. I had to step out of
our air-conditioned truck and begin walking those few miles toward the gate
— or I would go nuts. In result, this is an event that I will really never
attend again — Thunderbirds are beautiful, but for one hour of fighter
jets we had to endure six hours of more or less waiting. On top of that, I could
have had trouble at work, as it did not occur to me that a one hour show
beginning at nine would not let me be at my workplace by noon.
We took turns (as our work and duties changed) taking Lucy to Terry Ranch to see
bison, to Vedauwoo, Pine Bluffs — and also to the Snowy Range mountains.
Thanks to Lucy we managed to lure Lisa out on this hike, and ended up with
altogether three teenagers in mountain tow. Actually — we were the ones
dragging behind; teenagers playfully ran ahead and did not show signs of having
anything in common with parents huffing and puffing behind. Unfortunately, we
did not make it all the way to a saddle between Medicine Bow Peak and Sugarloaf
Mountain, for black clouds rolled overhead and thunder sounded — it did
not seem rational climbing bald hills at eleven thousand feet in an advancing
On Monday Lisa and I delivered Lucy to the Denver Airport again. This time we
managed parking like pros (taking only two runs around it!), but then we could
not spot any information regarding her departure — like, whether the
flight is on, from which gate, and so on. Lisa claims that somewhere near the
parking lot staircase was a sign with the stuff — but no such luck in the
main hall. I understand that in our digital age such information can be found
on one's phone, but I would still expect some brief and clear notice before
would-be passengers thread through the security checkpoint into the innards of
|Bison on the ranch.
|11 thousand feet above sea level, but storm is coming.
Visit of Lucy, who is a vegetarian, made me realize one local peculiarity
— even in that tiny diner in this tiny village, where I cook, we carry
gluten free options of our meals; they are relatively common down-town —
but I have not seen many vegetarian dishes. I explain it by the fact that at
six thousand feet altitude, in a rain shadow of a major mountain range, there's
not much room for frivolity. Vegetation period here is approximately ninety days
and everything must be irrigated, which creates additional problems (e.g.
salting of the soil). Fields must be planted in stripes to prevent Dust Bowl
effect, like it happened in Oklahoma in the 1930's. The only thing that grows
here without human intervention are grasses in the prairie — which, of
course, are not edible for humans — unlike the cows, who thrive on such
a meager vegetarian diet without complicated care or supplements — and
who enjoy the open spaces. Human vegetarianism in these conditions is a form
By Lucy's departure, my summer kind of ended. All cowboys and carnies have left
town as well, and I went to work. Colder nights began occurring (which we have
all welcomed gladly). Sid went on a business trip to Texas, and the house turned
quiet — and all of a sudden, Tom's entry to the University was knocking on
the door. School began officially on August 22, but freshmen were moving into
their dorms already on Sunday the fourteenth, to be ready to attend a week of
orientations without mixing with ALL other students.
A child leaving his home represents for us not just the end of summer break,
but the ending of one phase of life. Wish us all good luck.