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A Colorado Birthday and Other Activities

May 7-13, 2017
Written May 9+
Dear Diary, Friends, and Families,

This is part of the story of my first trip by myself in a very long time.  I was heading east to see Brian and his family for his 45-th birthday.  (There is a separate story about a photo excursion in Rocky Mountain National Park in the middle of this trip.)
On Sunday, Marianne drove me out to Fresno Yosemite International Airport, a name much grander than the facility.  Actually, it is an easy and modern airport, one I actually like passing through.   Everything went well for boarding my United flight to Denver, although I did have to check my camera- and computer-laden back pack because the small plane's overhead bins could hold little more than a few purses. 

I would prefer something a bit larger,  but I planned to make use of the little plane's relatively low flight path to see what pictures I could take along the way.  My point-and-shoot technique yielded some nice shots.
d170507_04_Path.jpg  Flight path with photo records.
From Fresno Yosemite International Airport, across housing in north Fresno, and over Shaver Lake and the Sierras.
Nevada and Utah
Death Valley (I think), Great Salt Lake (I think), and Utah mountains
Capital Reef National Park
Canyonlands National Park, Manti-La Sal National and Gunnison National Forests
After two hours, we bounced our way over the Rockies into the Denver Airport.  Here, I looked down to see the road I would use within an hour, on my way to Longmont.

Once there, we all hugged and greeted as family should.  It was great to see the Colorado family, especially grandson Rich who was indeed taller than his mother now.  It is hard to believe he will be starting high school next year.  How did he get old, but we did not?

After a picture-free dinner, Brian took me off on one of his daily walks.  His routine has at least an hour of walking daily, while playing Ingress, a Pokemon-like game, on his smart phone.  The game involves stopping near "public art" and collecting virtual rewards residing in the virtual neighborhood.  A decent incentive for exercise, I suppose.
d170507_40_lake.jpgThis evening's walk was along nearby Mcintosh Lake.  While Brian was accumulating public-art rewards, I was enjoying warming up my camera skills by snapping the mountain and local birds.  Each to their own reason for walking.
I believe this is Long's Peak, the namesake of Longmont and near my Wednesday destination of Rocky Mountain National Park.  Later.

Now, it's birds:


We walked until it was dark, a pleasant way to share a walk, even if our activities along the way were isolated.

Part of the purpose of this trip was simply catching up on grandson Rich.  We do not get to visit him in person much, or host his visits, and he's not a Skype fan, so there is always plenty of new to learn.  d170508_03_carving.jpgWe started with a carving and plaster mask he had made at Tinkermill, the "makerspace" Brian is active with.  I liked it, especially for a first attempt.
Rich is definitely growing up, taller than his mom now, not unusual for 14-year-old boys.  Heading out to his last weeks in eighth grade, he was  looking more the young man than the tall-for-his-age kid. We certainly wish him well on the transition to high school.
Originally, my visit was timed to coincide with a band concert Rich would have with his eighth-grade band, but the director came down sick and the performance was postponed beyond the window of my visit.  So, instead of a group performance, I got a private audience, where Rich played all seven pieces of the planned performance.  He is really quite good, and that is as objective an assessment as an Opa can make.  But, really, he is.
Rounding out the grandson show-and-tell was a demonstration of a computer-controlled snake.  When I was a kid, and I think even when Brian and Geoff were young, kits were Lincoln Logs or Erector Sets, but nowadays Lego makes kits for robots.  This particular one required computer programming to teach it to slither or to strike at fingers placed in its path.  Rich did the required programming and the snake was actually pretty amazing.

Monday's other goal was some time with Brian on his 45-th birthday.  I don't know how he has added 45 years since that day in Miami,  but I haven't.  My story. 

We started with his normal daily walk to find Ingress valuables while I saw what pictures I could find.  He found his public-art-centered "portals" and the goodies available for him.  I snapped some shots of the art and of the little prairie dogs that popped up along our path.  This was my preparation for moose and elk photography.

d170508_20_tinkermill.jpgProperly exercised, Brian and I headed over to Tinkermill, the Longmont cooperative for people who want hands-on skills and practice for everything from hobbies, new business ventures, or simply curiosity.  There are work stations for everything from wood-working to metal-machining, jewelery and glass creation, and a blacksmith forge.  And, in today's age, plenty of 3D-printers, digital laser cutters, and even a plastic extruder. Truly a place to expand any tinker's imagination.

d170508_30_bdayice.jpgBrian's choice for birthday dinner was "Melt's", a newish chain of  casual restaurants specializing in cheese sandwiches.  It sounds uninspiring, but I'll admit I liked my "Italian" sandwich and sweet-potato fries. Brian, Rich, and Jen all enjoyed their favorites too.  We finished the birthday party with cups of elaborate ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery. None of this may be on my diet, but how often do I get to go to family birthday parties?

On Tuesday through mid-day Thursday, I left Longmont headed off to Rocky Mountain National Park for wildlife photography lessons.  That's another story.

On Thursday, I made it back to Longmont in time to take a few pictures of Jen and her horse riding lessons.  She has been a volunteer at the Colorado Therapeutic Riding Center for years, but lately she has been taking riding lessons as well.  This lesson covered maneuvering the horse while bareback.  I am absolutely no horse expert, but it look challenging to keep up the communication between horse and rider.  Congratulations Jen!

Friday morning started with another walk - an Ingress session for Brian and more bird photography for me.  He chose the particular nature park because Ingress players of "the other team" had established some sort of footprint there, and apparently he gets benefit from destroying their work.  In fact, he even ran across a friend (in person) who was the competing team member whose accomplishments he destroyed.  Oh well, it's a game after all.

For me, it was just fun looking for colorful little birds or trying to track a big pelican.

Nearby, there was a crop duster doing his work, so we moved from bird photographs to a daredevil plane.  The pilot was zipping down around power poles and homes with necessary precision. Another  photography test for me, but without risk.

d170512_40_fracking.jpgd170512_44_oilstorage.jpgOn the way back home, we passed a number of "fracking" facilities. It was interesting to see how close these wells are to housing and the  various fields and wildlife areas.  I do hope these engineers know what they are doing.  (In fact, one house not far from here blew up recently when an abandoned well line leaked and filled the house with orderless natural gas.  Oops.)

The rest of the day was peaceful, with Rich at school and Jen and Brian doing their normal chores and activities.  After school, Rich finished his homework and then headed out on a walk.  I tried to catch up with him, but he had chosen a path different from mine.  As I walked along the Left Hand Creek bike and walking path, I concluded that Longmont is a pretty good place for outdoor activities.  My Fresno neighborhood walks are ok, but these were better.
Our final Friday event, was a "game night" at Tinkermill.  Brian organizes the weekly event for folks who enjoy games.  I'll admit, it's not my normal interest, but it was more fun than I anticipated.  We all seemed to have fun, from third-grader Max all the way to us old timers.

Saturday started early, since I wanted to be at Denver Airport when they opened at 6:00.  It was an opportunity to watch sunrise over the flats of mid-west plains, but I was getting tired of rising early!  Otherwise, going through the airport formalities was painless enough.  (Being "Gold" at United Air Lines, and "PRE"" at TSA screening helped avoid the longest lines.)
 The United plane from Denver to Fresno is a pretty small Canadian 50-seater and the overhead bins hold little more than one big purse per passenger.  I had no choice but to trust my largish camera-computer bag to the at-gate luggage rack.  This always makes me nervous, but nothing in fact ever happens.  Even with much-maligned United.

On the flight itself, I took another series of pictures.

Colorado, from the Front Range and Flat Irons near Denver, over Winter Park, and west.
Utah, from the Green River Valley through Sevier Lake.  We need to cover this on the ground!
California, from the Tonapah Solar plant, over snow-laden Sierras and beetle-infested forests, and the Pine Flat Dam.
d170513_40_littleboxes.jpgFinally, the little boxes of Fresno.

Now I am back home and caught up on diaries.  We need to DO something.

Stay tuned.

John and Marianne


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