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August - Birthday to Colorado and Back

August 1-9
Written August 3+
Dear Diary and Friends and Family,

August starts with family birthdays, mine on the first and Gabby and Chris' on the second.  Sometimes we celebrate together, but generally the logistics are too much, and so it was this year.  Besides, I don't REALLY celebrate yet another year.  There's been so many already.

Marianne did ask me for my choice of meals and I opted for breakfast out and dinner back at home.  Maybe it's just aging, but dinner at home is getting to be more and more the choice I would make.  I am also thankful for the freedom to choose.  Thanks, Marianne.

The next morning, we packed up and headed to Fresno-Yosemite International Airport (aka FAT).  This IS one of the advantages of our Fresno life. The airport is close, small, and convenient - even TSA security is only a few-minute delay.  (There are only a dozen flights out all morning.)
d180802_06_board.jpgI suppose my big-airport history makes me arrive way too early for a  FAT departure, but we end up with plenty of time to relax before walking the fifty feet out to our small Brazil-built airplane.  Fresno has bigger planes too, but I kind of like these smaller craft, especially when I have a window seat for trying pictures of the Sierra Mountains and the Great Western Desert.

d180802_10_overfresno.jpgd180802_14_dehazed.jpgd180802_12_haze.jpgPictures were the plan, but I am afraid this was not the most scenic flight.  First, even low out of the airport, the smoke from forest fires blocked any good mountain shots. I tried, and "in the darkroom" I could remove some of the smoke with Photoshop, but it is still not up toNational Geographic standards.

Later shots were fun to try, but I am not at all sure they lived up to even my own humble standards.  Oh well, it was a useful distraction while our little plane bounced between cloud banks.
d180802_30_coloradohaze.jpgd180802_32_landmark.jpgI had hoped that the air would get cleaner as we reached and crossed the Rocky Mountains, but that was not to be.  Apparently, there were fires in Colorado too, and it was not a good day for aerial photography.  The best I could do was a shot of a flat road heading off to smoky oblivion and a quick snap of a natural gas fracking site.  The latter is as common in the Colorado plains as are the mountain peaks farther west.

Landing at Denver International Airport (DEN), was followed by a very long walk to the transfer train, a two-stop train ride, the walk to baggage claim, a wait there, a walk out to the Thrifty car rental shuttle bus, the ten-minute bus ride, a (short) line at the car rental counter, and a walk, with luggage, out to our car.  We spent a full hour between landing and getting in our car, half as long as the flight itself.  (At least Thrifty upgraded us as we approached our tiny reserved car.  I think they felt sorry for us old-timers.)

We stopped at Wendy's for a quick salad to fortify ourselves for the hour-long drive up to Longmont.  A worthwhile stop, as we can now recommend their berry salad.  The airport drive itself was dull, a freeway commute basically.  Normally, we would be treated to a western horizon of the mountain peaks of the Front Range, but on this day, there was just a yellow-gray void.  Better next time, I hope.

The greeting from Brian, Jen , and Rich was a welcome end to our day's travel.  Rich had grown, as fifteen-year-old boys usually do.  We had brats and corn for a home dinner (my favorite kind) and then went out for ice cream for my day-after birthday.  A good ending to Colorado - Day One.

Friday started with exercise.  Brian had the day off so I joined him in a walk along one of Longmont's urban trails.  For him, walking is both exercise and a way to add to his Ingress gaming score.  Every once in awhile we would stop and he would do something on his little phone and seem satisfied. 
Along the way, we passed a "small acreage" plot, a local effort to make unused urban land productive.  These plots are bigger than hobby gardens, but small enough for hand tending.  An interesting option that we need to bring back to Fresno!

d180803_06_volunteers.jpgd180803_08_goal.jpgThis path runs along Left Hand Creek and has several areas where the river bank area has been fenced off and allowed to do whatever it will, without human intervention.  In this particular area, that means an invasion of feral sunflowers.  Or, at the end of our walk, a mid-50s wreck left to decay. 

By the time we returned from our 9,000-step walk, Brian was tired and I was ready for coffee.  I think he took a nap while Marianne and I went out for a Starbucks breakfast.
Meanwhile, Jen had been collecting Rich from his band practice.  On Saturday a seven-school combined marching band would highlight the Longmont parade.  (See below.)

d180803_14_tocheese.jpgOur next event was a semi-surprise birthday dinner at Cheese Importer's Warehouse (aka: La Fromagerie), a Longmont cheese store and restaurant.  This was supposed to be a surprise, but apparently I asked too much about what-are-we-doing-for-dinner and Marianne had to break the surprise to shut me up.

d180803_18_bookhint.jpgd180803_16_goodies.jpgBefore we ate, we needed to shop.  La Fromagerie has all sorts of things French, from baked goods to decorations and books, especially cheese-related books. 

The main shopping attraction was a giant walk-in cooler, filled with butter and cheese.  The selection would have put even a Paris shop to shame with its French and American choices.  If we were to live in Longmont, this room alone would add ten pounds to both me and Marianne.
Dinner at Le Fromagerie could have been a zillion calories as well, but we watched ourselves.  Marianne and I split a cheese and meat plate and a salad Nicoise, Jen had a cheese omelet, and Brian and Rich had a pair of baguette sandwiches.  All pretty French.  All pretty good.

Friday evening at the Longmont Trotters is game night.  Actually, it is game night at "Tinkermill, The Longmont Makerspace", an event organized by Brian and family.  
d180803_50_lake.jpgStep one was to go to "Lake Tinkermill" and take some sunset pictures. Currently, this little man-made puddle has no name, but some one heard that names placed in common usage become official after ten years, so that is  THE NAME for all Tinkermill fans.
d180803_56_goin.jpgStep two, was to go inside the building for a Tinkermill tour.  I'm not sure a diary tour is required, but it's hard to explain a "maker space" without that. 

Basically, a maker space is the garage all hobbiests and tinkerers would want to have at home, with the added advantage of colleagues hanging around to kibitz and help.  A wonderful concept.  The Longmont version has a jewelry bench, a pair of pottery wheels and kilns, a blacksmith's forge, a machine shop, several 3D printers, and a state-of-the-art woodworking shop.  (My favorite gear is the "SawStop" table saw that will save fingers by stopping so fast when encountering soft, wet material that no blood will be shed.  Exactly what I would need in my garage wood shop.)

There are also other toys I did not take pictures of, such as a big laser cutter and a large digitally controlled router, but I really can not remember all the facilities included in one monthly membership fee.  A bargain in any event.
d180803_72_ice.jpgd180803_70_gamers.jpgBesides, our mission was much simpler: play some games, chosen by the evening's participants.  Initially, our end of the table was covered in "flicking" games, where participants "flick" little pieces at target or each other's pieces.  It sounds pretty simplistic, but it was fun, especially for those of us who are  non-professional. 

The other end of the table was busy with a much more involved game with cards to read and complex rules to explain and follow. Beyond our skill level.

Saturday's first event was the reason we had chosen this week for our family visit: the Boulder County Fair parade where grandson Rich would play trumpet in a school marching band. Jen and Rich and I arrived early enough to get him to the preparations and to allow me some behind-the-scenes pictures.  I only include four here, because no audience needs the whole range I did.  I enjoy taking pictures more than folks would want to see.
d180804_10_waiting.jpgThe parade itself started on time, more or less, with Main Street lined with eager fans (and relatives) and the required honor guard. 

Then came our prime attraction, a huge marching band built out of the bands of seven high schools, including Rich's Niwot High. They sounded GREAT!
The rest of the parade covered just about anything a farm-town parade should have: horses, tractors, old cars, an "ordinary" bicycle, and two knights in plate armor.  (Brave guys in the 85 degree sun!)  I lost count of exactly how many separate performers there were; I just know the parade lasted longer than we did.


Toward the end of the 90-minute parade (!), an entry from the local Democratic Party passed buy to (thankfully) loud applause.  This was a nice balance to the earlier participants from the-other-side.  Longmont, as a relatively urban town, is Democratic, but it is surrounded by solidly Republican farm country.  For the Boulder County Fair parade, everyone behaved civilly, as they should.

On Saturday afternoon, we took in part of the Boulder County Fair (BCF).  Like the opening parade a few hours earlier, the BCF was a nice, small-town affair.  Here are some of my pictures, but only a fraction, because this really was a simple event.

Walking in, we saw a few snack stands and successfully passed them by.  The single stage was just warming up.  And the most interesting ride was the wild bull ride. 
Inside the nearest pavilion, young riders were being put through their paces.  Rich, a rider himself, enjoyed the show.
d180804_78_mechs.jpgAnother pavilion held the expected displays of top county bakers, painters, quilters, artists, and photographers.  No pictures of theses works, because it was hard to determine my favorite.  I did like the circus performers walking around as a colorful butterfly and a zebra as well as these silver and yellow transformers.

Speaking of butterflies, the pavilion featured a netted cage holding flowers and Monarch butterflies.  For a small fee, Rich was handed a sweetened paint brush to lure the fliers. He was mesmerized and I was fascinated by taking bug-and-grandson pictures.
By now, the skies were darkening and we decided to return to the car rather than continue our county fair visit.  As we walked out, the wind picked up and started to take apart the small kiosks that lined the entrance way.  Brian, Jen, and I lent a hand at two or three places to prevent the places from flying off.  This was our Good Samaritan deed for the day (week?)

The plan for dinner was a meal at "Samples", a newish Longmont place none of us had gone to before.  Unfortunately, lots of other people were trying it out as well, ever since it had been featured in Diners, Drive Ins & Dives.  We passed on the 45-minute wait and moved a block uptown to Mike O'Shay's.  Food was fine, just not so famous.  (Besides, my grandmother was christened Kathleen O'Shay, so Mike might be related.)

Sunday started out with little planned.  Rich had a morning swim lesson and Marianne and I went out for our Starbucks coffee while he and Jen were swimming.  When we all got home, we needed a plan.

I remembered I needed a piece of camera gear for my photos this week and that Boulder has a decent camera store (also called "Mike's).  Real, brick and mortar camera stores are fairly rare, so I was happy to have an excuse to shop, even though they no longer kept the filter I wanted in stock.
From there it was Pearl Street, Boulder's eclectic downtown main street. Here too I actually had a favorite store (My Trail), this time for cold weather gear and, despite the summer temperatures, they had just what I wanted - and on sale.  One out of two isn't so bad. 
d180805_04_pizza.jpgBy now it was also time to stop for a bite to eat.  We chose Pizza Colore,  a decent pizza-by-the-piece place, a sign of a sophisticated town!  Pearl also has a wide range of street entertainers, another urban success, I suppose.  The guy on the ten-foot unicycle was pretty funny and skilled enough that I did not see any big bruises or band aids.

Coming home to Longmont, Brian, Rich and I made one more shopping stop - Atomic Goblin Games.  Brian has been into games like Goblin's for forever and even his father is recognized here.  (Don't tell Ava and Sam, but I bought a game for them.)  All in all, a good day when even I enjoy shopping!d180805_10_apergy.jpg

As a final event, Brian took me out to his office at Apergy, where he programs natural gas well gadgets. He explained enough for me to learn that the gadgets are important parts of every (?) producing well. I will let him handle any questions you might have.

d180806_02_pagoda.jpgMonday morning started early.  Brian had to get in his morning walk in time to get to work, so we were out of the house by 5:45.  We walked along a bike path that led past Rich's old elementary school;.  It was (almost) familiar.  We also passed the five-story Compassion Pagoda, a local reminder of Japanese people in the Longmont area, both as successful farmers before and after World War II and as detainees in local war detention camps.  Sobering in today's environment.
We finished our walk in time, even allowing for pictures of a tree that had blown down the day before.  This time a reminder that wind and old trees don't mix.  (Remind me to get ours trimmed at home.)

After breakfast, Jen took Rich was off to band camp, Brian went to work, and Marianne and I headed to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park - A different diary.

Thursday, return to Fresno.

John and Marianne


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