|Our soft campsite.
|A mirror pool.
As our boating plans did not work out for Lisa's birthday, and after we have
returned from that trip, we found ourselves facing a question how to, at least
after the fact, properly celebrate. I had an idea about an aerial adventure park
in Scotts Valley, but a look at their reservations brought me right back down
to earth — earliest free slot was some time in September, ha, ha. After
all, there are too many people resident in the area for some activities to be
possible on a spur of a moment. Eventually I have brought forth the ultimate
sacrifices, and on account of Lisa's birthday, I took her shopping. Into a large,
noisy, chaotic shopping mall, which I can't stand. Still, it's where Victoria's
Secret is, and Lisa got her first truly PRETTY and expensive bra, and many other
things for herself. She has, after a fashion, grown out of Harry Potter
t-shirts, or those with cute little goats on them.
Our children still had more than three weeks of summer break left, but local
brick-and-mortar schools were starting on August twelfth; Lisa's summer camp
ended its last cycle on the eighth, and suddenly summer seemed to be at end.
Not that our kids would not enjoy, not having to go to school, but the
atmosphere all around us abruptly turned into a nostalgic autumn-like.
Lisa still theoretically had vaulting rehearsals until mid-August, but after
the flop of a team of the last several months, she really did not feel like
doing anything. Besides, it was obvious she needed to advance to a higher
category — canter — so keeping "in training" in trot made
little sense. Even so, there really remained only a party in celebration of the
season's end, associated with mild organizing and introduction of the new team
coach, Fabian. Thus the vaulting year has officially expired, and with it, the
spirit of the summer.
|Behold, a natural miracle...
|I had performed the hike in home shoes...
Kids started attending on August 22nd, which was a Thursday, but their virtual
school began harassing us a week before with papers and forms. Despite this
premature intrusion it came to pass that Tom had not received his schedule
and supplies for two registered subjects, both more or less mandatory. It would
seem that the school had renumbered their classes and those students who had
already registered with the old number "somehow" fell through the
cracks. Hence we spent two subsequent weeks dealing with Tom's schedule —
would he not attend those classes, he could not graduate from high school.
Next to school, we dealt with more pleasant affairs. Tom's friend Ari has
a birthday exactly two months ahead of Tom, on August the twenty-fourth —
and we got invited to Sacramento to a pool party. On Saturday morning we packed
presents, as well as our tent and sleeping bags, and headed to the capitol of
California. A typical summer heat lingered there, around ninety-five degrees,
and pubescents, naturally, sat down limply in shade and looked like the pool
was just for little kids. But Sid and I left them to their devices (under the
supervision of organizing parents) and headed for lunch at a restaurant which
was air-conditioned and has proven to cook good food. Any date without children
is still an exceptional treat for us — not having grandparents handy, we
have practically not got out for years, and now the children don't even leave
for school in the morning, and sometimes we suffer heavy cabin fever.
When we had returned from our lunch, we discovered that even teenagers
surrendered to the heat (or got a clue?) and were splashing in the pool. I went
in after them — it was unbearable without. A cake and presents ensued,
and then we slid into our car and continued out eastward, into the mountains,
to the altitude over seven thousand feet, where it was much cooler. We had set
our eyes on a dirt road leading away from Red Lake, which looked like one could
camp along there somewhere. And indeed, we found several good places on whose
Sid declared that he would back onto the best spot; I told him not to do it, as
it was too soft (fine dust and pine needles). What do you think happened? Yes,
he bottomed-out the bus. So we went through the drill of pulling all our stuff
out of the car, Sid tried to drive out, no luck. We placed rocks under the
wheels, no luck. Eventually I chased him out from behind the wheel (which lifted
extra load weight), we removed some dry fallen tree trunks and boulders from
behind the car, I backed in fully, and drove out on the solid road bypassing the
ruts. We managed to do all this before a couple of pensioners came back, whom
we asked for help with pulling us out — they promised to help on their
way back — and to our surprise they actually returned and wanted to help.
Fortunately we no longer needed it.
Besides sunken car, we somehow failed at packing. We discovered for example,
that toilet paper "had been forgotten", and we were forced to cover
the night and morning with only a pack of paper tissues and some wet wipes.
Furthermore, Lisa did not pack her sneakers, only a pair of pool flip-flops.
That was a bit harder; fortunately her feet are the same size like mine, and she
could borrow my sneakers. Thus I was left with my horribly worn and ruined
"stable" moccasins. They are comfortable, no doubt about it, but they
can't be said to be suitable footwear for mountain hiking. And they look like
soft house shoes — so on the next day's hike I looked among exclusively
equipped millenials like a real old bat.
|Round Top dominating the mountain meadow.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. It would be polite to mention that the
aforementioned soft ground had caused the bottoming-out of the car, but on the
other hand it was great to sleep on. So we slept in and our morning took a long
time to let us come back to life (gone are the days when children getting up
AFTER seven o'clock was a bonus; now puberty has arrived in full strength);
we breakfasted, slowly packed, and monitored traffic on the road. A jam had
developed in one moment, when two cars passing each other in opposite direction
right next to our campsite, intersected with horse-back riders, and now
everybody tried to dodge everyone else without losing nerves (I bet on the
horses, but even they had managed in the end). So we peacefully finished packing
and drove that little bit to Carson Pass. Parking lot was full, so we found
another spot further off in the woods, and set out to Winnemuca Lake.
On our way we detoured to Frog Lake, which has rewarded us with a grand view
to Red Lake. Then we met a ranger, who advised us to turn uphill at a brook
towards a spring, saying there were lots of wildflowers. And he was
right — only by his description we imagined it to be a struggle up some
steep terrain, and in reality the spring was removed from the trail proper only
by a few yards; then one found self surrounded up to one's waist in blooms.
Later, on our way back, we even tasted the spring water.
This whole trip had fulfilled several of our requirements — our children
got to a party in Sacramento, where we would not normally drive them with any
great joy; on top of that, we were left with the second half of the weekend and
camping and hiking in the mountains.
|Lots of flowers surround the spring.
Hence we arrived to the beginning of September — the first week of this
month often forms a three-day break, for we celebrate Labor by an extra Day off.
We did not get out this year, for on Monday we were expecting Pepe whith Sarah.
Pepe has been my friend of many years; we had been together through much fun, at
international camps, first jobs, some drinking parties, loves found and lost,
troubles, trips, including an unforgettable gall-bladder incident in a forest
ranger cabin. After some time, Pepe had moved away to and subsequently married
in Vienna, Austria, and when they had their first daughter, Sarah, I became her
godmother. By then neither of us would guess that in two more years, it would be
I who moved farther, and across an ocean. Thus I saw my goddaughter last when
she was eight, and we overnighted at Pepe's in Vienna, with our baby Lisa and
toddler Tom, who caught laryngitis right then. Pepe saved our departure home by
declaring that it was nothing and that he would get better on a cold air —
and indeed, Tom recovered during our drive to the airport in a frosty February
Over great distance, which has been separating us, Pepe and I keep in touch
— thanks to internet an ocean is no barrier; much less than one between
Prague and Vienna twenty years ago. And Pepe keeps devotedly meeting me for a
few hours in Telč whenever we found ourselves visiting our family cottage, so we
actually see each other in person. Now, however, the impossible became reality
and Pepe had arranged a vacation from work for herself, broke the piggy bank,
and flew in with Sarah to visit us (leaving her younger daughter back at home).
|Ladies of the Lake.
|Thanks to Pepe I now have a picture of myself taking my goats on pasture.
Yet on Sunday, before our visitors' Monday arrival, we were invited to a dinner
with Nejedly's. Just then our local friend Regina texted me whether I was at
home. I had thought that they, too, perhaps stayed at home, and would like to
do something together, but no luck. Regina was at home, but her husband was out
of the country on a business trip, and Regi's back started acting up. So we
drove to Regina's, loaded her into our bus, dropped her off at her hospital
emergency clinic, and continued on to check out Nejedly's new house and their
pork roast with sour kraut. We truly liked their new home, the dinner was
excellent, and just as we were finishing, Regi called that they were discharging
her and whether we could pick her up again. So far, it had worked out great.
Sadly, our health care systems have debilitating restrictions; I had to pick
Regina up from the emergency ward, roll her in a hospital wheelchair to the
hospital pharmacy to receive prescription pills (which she was forbidden to do
while waiting for us), and only then we could continue on to her home, where
her two boys were waiting for her. We were hoping things would be alright from
that point on, but sadly, no.
On Monday morning Regina let me know that she was not feeling any better and
that she worried it was not be just a pinched nerve, but also a disc.
So I came for her again, planning that we would keep her two boys,
to give her time and space to run around various exams in the hospital. We
dropped her off at the emergency ward again, took her kids to our place, where
I fed them pasta for lunch, and then I left them and the rest of my family
where they were. I rushed off to the airport to pick up our guests.
Meanwhile Sid practiced a feint sortie for Regina, which failed on a detail
that Regi after spending a half day in the hospital could not stand on her own
two feet, so they could not discharge her, and more exams ensued.
|My goddaughter Sarah has grown a bit since I had last seen her. (photo Pepe)
|Pepe and I used to be young and beautiful together, now we are just beautiful. (photo Sarah)
Soon I brought Pepe & Sarah home, which has instantly doubled the usual
number of people in it (from our usual four to eight). We let them find their
bearings, and then we all jumped in two cars and went to eat a Vietnamese
dinner, for we had figured that stomachs disturbed by twenty hours of air
journey and by nine hours of time difference would best respond to a noodle
There were still no news from Regina, and thus we took her boys back to their
home, to grab pajamas and toothbrushes, and get them ready to overnight in our
place. While arriving at their place, we got a call from Regi that she was going
to get discharged, so we just turned around and went back to the hospital.
The boys were visibly relieved that they would have their mom back home,
and promised to take care of her.
If your head is spinning around and you can't track when where were how many
people, please know that we managed the logistics only with much counting
how many people would need to get from one place to another when, and if it's
going to take one or two cars. Our visitors were, to our luck, from their
transcontinental flight so knocked out that they did not object loudly to
anything. Were it not such a serious situation, when Regina was really feeling
unwell, it would have been rather comical.
I took Pepe and Sarah right on Tuesday to see our goaties, and then to Felton,
to see giant redwoods. I thought that we would also stop at my favorite Thai
restaurant for lunch, but no luck there. Fortunately our fridge was pre-loaded,
and we proceeded demolishing much of its contents and then I went with Pepe
for Regina, to take her on another round of exams. So Pepe and I spent our time
mutually catching up with life while sitting in waiting rooms, while Regina
suffered in exam rooms. That way, Pepe got to see America from quite a different
|With little Tom we used to see trains all the time. Now we only take visitors. (photo Pepe)
|Lisa on a cantering horse.
On Wednesday I took Pepe and Sarah to the stables, this time not only to the
goats, but also to the lower ones, at Bear Creek, where we rented a mare named
Cupcake, to let the girls try sitting on a horse. Our longer horizon included
a trip to Leavitt and for that it's better to take people who have already been
exposed to horses and who received my basic description of riding principles.
Also, Sarah likes horses, and it was a trip that suited her. In the afternoon,
we made a trip to THIRD stables with Pepe and Lisa, to her first vaulting
practice. September was reserved for open classes with the plan to form teams
at the end of the month and true rehearsing would start in October.
I was also curious about a new coach, Fabian. I have to say that his first
practice impressed me a lot. A man, who does not suffer American political
correctness (being from Argentina), who had practiced vaulting himself for
years, and holds a qualification of physical therapist, should be valued his
weight in gold.
But the best news came from Slavek, Regina's husband, who managed to switch
plane tickets and return home from his business trip. That way we could depart
with relief in our hearts, on Thursday to balloons in Reno, without a feeling
that we'd be leaving a helpless Regina and her boys at mercy of the system.
Thus began my three-week "vacation with Pepe" — although we
had not originally planned it that way, we would ultimately spend much of their
stay in California together, enjoying it very much. Next journal is about that.