Saturday, August 26, 2017

A Flag Football First

Brandt began playing flag football this week.  He expressed interest last year, but that was three weeks into the season, and it was too late.  So this year I signed him up early and Thursday was his first practice.  I've been nervous about him playing because he doesn't have any experience playing on a team, and little experience with football, but he was keen.  Kent took him to practice and, upon their return, reported that Brandt did well.  He caught some balls, he ran well, he followed instruction.  It was all good and put my mind at ease.

Today was Brandt's first game.  He was very excited.  We were excited to watch him, too.  There are 11 guys on the team but only 7 on the field at a time, so there was always someone off, but Brandt's coach, Joe Pyrah, is good to rotate the boys.  Brandt played well, was good to get after the ball and paid attention well.  He got to kick off once after his coach asked if he could kick and he confidently said, "Sure!"  Why not?  It was fun to see him engaged and their team won, so all in all, it was a positive experience and a great way to start off Brandt's football season.

When the coach pulled out their jerseys,
all the boys said, "Alright! Gray!"


Look at that concentration!

He looks fairly unsure about what he's supposed to be doing right at this moment.


Monday, August 21, 2017

Wanderings Home

As we were approaching Brigham City on our way home from Idaho and the solar eclipse, Kent said, "Do you want to go to the Spiral Jetty?"  I was so pleased that he made the suggestion and said yes.  I have wanted to take the kids to the Spiral Jetty for a couple of summers now, but it's such a long way, about 2.5 hours, that I haven't managed to work up enough enthusiasm to load them up and go.  Plus it's so hot, I remember that there is no shade, and while I wanted to take them, the day that seemed like the time hadn't arrived.  So being in that neck of the woods and having Kent make the suggestion all seemed like a great idea.

Near the Spiral Jetty is the Golden Spike National Historic Site, where the Union Pacific Railroad and the Central Pacific Railroad met as they worked to join the eastern and western United States.  Two stops and interesting sites in one detour!  The Golden Spike Monument has a small visitors center and shows a short video about the building of the railroad, as well as the railroad tie where the golden spike was driven.  They have a replica of the spike (the actual spike is at Stanford University), and replicas of the two trains that chugged into place as the rails came together.  Usually they have regular reenactments of the driving, but there is broken track that will likely be repaired next month, so you can only see them in the train house.  We got to climb into one, however, and ring the bell on the front.

Brandt and Blythe standing at the very site of the union.  
There are no spikes in the tie because of the reenactments,
but that's the spot.

We left the trains to journey to the Spiral Jetty.  The jetty is an earthwork sculpture on the north shore of the Great Salt Lake, truly in the middle of nowhere.  It's almost sixteen miles from the Golden Spike Monument, along a gravel road.  It is the work of Robert Smithson, an artist, and was constructed in 1970 out of mud and basalt rocks.  It forms a 1,500-foot-long, 15-foot-wide counterclockwise coil that juts into the water from the shore of the lake.  It is sometimes visible and sometimes submerged, depending on the water level of the lake.  At the moment it is nowhere near submerged.  The nearest water is probably half a mile away.  Kent and I had been to see it years ago, before children, and when we went, there was water around it, a sort of pinkish hued water, with salt covering all the rocks making them white.  Now the dark rock is exposed, there is little salt on it, and the landscape around it very barren.  We saw the remnants of a dead seagull and little else.  I didn't realize it, but this year the Spiral Jetty was named Utah's official state work of art.

The children were not thrilled about continuing on to the jetty, but we had come all that way, and I told them, since we had come and they were old enough to remember it, we wouldn't have to go see it ever again.  We walked the length of the jetty, stared in wonder over the vastness of the lake and landscape, then walked back to the car.  It might have been somewhat underwhelming for several in our party.  
The landscape we drove through to get to the Spiral Jetty.

Someone is not thrilled about this stop.

The Spiral Jetty from the parking lot.

Looking out into the lake.
Water is far away.

It's our very own Moon landscape.

An intrepid plant growing in the middle of the jetty path in the salty sand.
Fulfilling the measure of its creation.

We drove back to Brigham City, being able to recommence our book on CD listening.  We finished Prince Caspian as we were getting on the freeway in Idaho Falls and had been listening to the first book The Bad Beginning of A Series of Unfortunate Events.  It was too bumpy to listen on the gravel road; the CD kept skipping.  The children didn't mind as they were able to play on their Kindles.  We had some dinner in Brigham City, then continued home.  I was delighted with our detour and felt like the whole experience--road trip to Idaho, visiting with Cory and Erika, seeing the eclipse, then the Golden Spike Monument and the Spiral Jetty--was a wonderful way to end the summer.  Although school did start last week, I told Kent it felt like a true summer day, where we did what we wanted with little care for schedule.  Hooray for getting off the beaten track!

Great American Eclipse 2017

For months we have been hearing about the Great American Eclipse, a total eclipse passing across most of North America from Oregon to South Carolina.  While Provo was going to be at 90%, only a few short hours away, in Idaho Falls, the eclipse would reach totality.  We have family in Idaho Falls and the surrounding areas, and I've been thinking about going.  At Grandpa's funeral, I was talking to Cory and Erika about it, and they offered us their spare bedroom to stay in if we wanted to go.

Ah! The temptation was too much!  I decided last week that we had to go.  Kent was firmly in the "we shall not go!" camp, while I was convinced I really, really, really, really wanted to be there.  It seemed too close to not be a part of the whole thing, and the more I talked to others who were going, especially Gregg and Linda Pugmire, I just felt like we had to see it.

Saturday I told Kent I was going to go get gas in the car and the spare gas can, some books on tape, and some road trip munchies.  He looked at me, rolled his eyes, and said, "You aren't going to Idaho, are you?"

"Yes. Yes I am," I replied.  He was not happy, and when I got back from my preparation errands, he and I talked.  He had heard all these disastrous forecasts of horrific traffic, the trip taking eight hours instead of four, there being no food or gas available, and general pandemonium in and around Idaho Falls.  I agreed that traffic might be bad, but also pointed out that it could be terrifically overblown and it might be just fine.  I told him he didn't have to come, but he said he felt like he had to.  He said he would come with us, if I agreed that if traffic was awful, we would turn around and come home.  I agreed, and then packed.

We agreed that we would leave immediately after church to drive to Idaho.  The car was ready except for the cooler full of food.  It was recommended that in addition to extra gas, you bring water, food, and possible shelter if you needed to camp by the side of the road.  I'm exaggerating about the shelter, but reports did say you should bring food, water, and gas.  As we talked with people in church, there was a mix of excitement and incredulity that we were going.  Those crazy enough to be joining us in the exodus north were thrilled and eagerly anticipating the whole thing.  But there were others that really thought we were crazy.  Several people said, "No way! Why are you going?!"  I didn't let the skeptics get to me, feeling like all adventures have an element of danger and foolish hazarding attached to them.  How can you see new and interesting things if you aren't willing to venture out the door?

The drive was lovely.  We didn't encounter a bit of slowed traffic and made it from Provo to Idaho Falls in 3 hours 40 minutes.  We listened to Prince Caspian the whole way up, and found the drive and the roadtrip munchies to everyone's satisfaction.  Cory and Erika greeted us warmly and openly and as the children had lots of pent up energy from having sat for three hours in church and then an additional three plus hours in the car, quickly took us to a nearby park to run around and play frisbee.  We had delicious nachos for dinner, then went and walked around downtown by the Snake River and the temple.  There were lots of people around, eclipse frenzy was palpable, and the whole place seemed abuzz with anticipation.  We were excited, too!


A small Barr-us on a small bear-ass.
That's probably not appropriate, but kind of funny, don't you think?

This morning after breakfast, car repacking, and some reading up on what to expect during the whole eclipse process, we headed east of town to a rise above the valley.  We read that just before totality, a shadow moving at super sonic speed sweeps over the landscape and if you are watching from a higher vantage point, you can see it coming.  So with quite a few other people, we trekked up and set up our chairs to watch.  

Line of fellow sun worshippers



There's only so much eclipse "excitement" one can stand in the run up to totality.
Kent told me to let them play until it was close. 
We did get them out of the car!


I like how it's obvious, even in this blurry picture,
that the sun isn't fully round.

And in the refraction of this picture, you can see the partial eclipse.

This is what we were seeing through our glasses. 
This and the next few pictures of the eclipse were taken by our friend Gregg Pugmire.

Just before totality.
This effect is called the diamond ring.

At totality.

Just as totality is ending.
Another diamond ring.
This picture was taken by Sunny Barrus' father.
I pilfered it from Facebook.

The whole experience was amazing!  It was super cool to watch the sun slowly being overshadowed by the moon, eating away at it over 40 or so minutes.  As we watched through our eclipse glasses, the sun got smaller and smaller, until just a sliver remained.  The temperature dropped, crickets began to chirrup, the sky darkened.  At totality, it was like dusk, we could see Venus and the north star, it was chilly enough that the kids wrapped up in blankets, and the corona around the sun was brilliant.  It was just so, so cool.  We all shrieked in awe and wonder, reveled in how amazing it was to see the sun blocked by the moon, and marveled at how eerie the landscape became.  It was somewhat otherworldly knowing that it was the middle of the day but dark outside.  

And then just like that, the sun began to peek out again, there was the diamond ring phenomenon, and it began to warm up.  We made a frantic dash to load the car again and after hugging Cory and Erika goodbye, sped towards the freeway.  We decided that a "get out of Dodge" approach to freeway traffic would be better than a "wait and see" approach.  While it took about 40 minutes to get onto the freeway after wending our way along back roads south of Idaho Falls, once we got on, we made good time.  It was a bit slower than normal, but we averaged between 50 and 60 mph until after Blackfoot, then went even faster until we got to Brigham City.  We did stop at a rest stop before Tremonton to use the facilities, and there was certainly a longer than usual line for the bathroom, but we got back on the freeway and had no problems.

As we approached Brigham City, Kent suggested we make a detour to see Promontory Point and the Spiral Jetty, which we did, but even after a three hour delay, when we got back on, we found the drive tolerable.  There was some slowing around Ogden, but we slowed for maybe twenty or so minutes and were home by 8:00pm.  It was a marvelous experience, one we would love to duplicate.  There is an eclipse that will pass in 2045 right over Provo, with totality lasting for over five minutes.  We can hardly wait!!  And we hope Cory and Erika come to our house so we can host them.

Here is some eclipse frivolity--jokes, comics, silly stuff.

From one of my favorite comic strips, Fowl Language.

From another of my favorite comics, Awkward Yeti.

And nine ridiculous jokes.
  1. What’s the most famous painting of an eclipse? (The Moona Lisa!)
  2. What did the sun bring to the solar eclipse party? (A light snack!)
  3. How does the man in the moon cut his hair? (Eclipse it!)
  4. What did the sun say when it reappeared after an eclipse? (Pleased to heat you again!)
  5. What kind of underwear should you wear during an eclipse? (Fruit of the Moon!)
  6. How do you organize a solar eclipse party? (You planet!)
  7. Why didn’t the sun go to college? (It already had a million degrees!)
  8. Have you heard about the restaurant on the moon? (Great food, but no atmosphere!)
  9. Why did the teacher bring solar eclipse glasses to school? (She had bright students!)