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Because we love our hot air balloons. We have hot air balloon rodeos, like the one we went to this weekend, and in the mornings, I often see them floating in the blue as I am heading to work. Once at ex-Pat’s house, one flew so low over the backyard that we heard the whoosh of the flame as we were laying in bed in the morning. They represent light and freedom, and the epitome of air. I have never been up in one, but someday…though I think I’d prefer the basket to the chair that this gentleman is riding in.

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Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” — Terry Pratchett

Daily gratitudes:
Cheryl and her gratitude challenge
Seeing MKL for the first time in a week
Janalee for buying us our birthday lunch
A cool bath at the end of the day
My little workhorse of an air conditioner

And tonight, I send special prayers to my friend Bridget and her family. My thoughts are with you.

One of our happy things to do on our summer visits to Steamboat Springs is to attend the PRCA Rodeo. It’s an outdoor arena, so if it’s been raining, it stadium is awesomely muddy. But still, everyone tries to get their eight!

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Steamboat Springs, Colorado,

Quote of the day: “I plan on growing old much later in life, or maybe not at all.”  — Patty Carey (Rodeo Rider, 1913)

Daily gratitudes:
Pretty evening clouds
My almost-better-than-sex soup
Having MKL home
Talks with Kender
That Lindsay Lohan got out of rehab today (which made Kelsea happy)
Philosophical conversations that skirt the edge of madness

Kelsea and I went to the Stock Show last night.  I’ve always loved the Stock Show – I think I first went there in 1985 with Pat – and have wanted to work for them forever.  I had a door open in front of me once in that regard many years ago, but I let it close without stepping through and have ever regretted it. 

Kelsea has gone to every stock show that she’s been alive for.  She was less than 2 months old when we took her to her first one.  (She doesn’t remember it.)  Somewhere along the way, Pat decided that it bored him, and he didn’t want to go anymore, so Kelsea and I started going on our own.  Some years have been better than others, and each year on the way home, we analyze why that is.  What makes one year of seeing essentially the same things as in previous years, different from another year?  We’ve never come up with the answer.  Last year, we went fairly early in its 16-day run, and the crowd at the rodeo was as enthusiastic as a dog-show crowd.  We were the only ones hooting and hollering.  I am proud to have taught her to hoot and holler well.  We wandered around for about 6 hours last year before the rodeo, and found that to be too long.

This year, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to take her at all, due to work schedules and finances, but figured out just before Christomas that I could  swing it.  I was so pleased not to be the cause of breaking her attendance record (wish I could say the same for her tardiness record at school.)    We went on the second night of the rodeo and allowed ourselves three hours of walkabout time. (And my wonderful kid said that it wasn’t necessary to spend any money on “stuff”.)

Traditionally, Denver offers up “Stock Show Weather” during the entire run of the event.  Locals know that this means cowpie-freezing, nose-reddening, corn-dog-chilling temperatures.  We were fortunate this year to get a day in the low ’40s, and for me, the current hot-flash queen, I was tremendously comfy coatless.  Fresh-faced Rodeo queens, complete with big hair and tiaras on their colorful cowboy hats, took our tickets, and everyone from vendors to exhibitors to janitors were upbeat and excited.  (From previous experience, we know that this is not so much the case towards the end of the 16 days, when burnout sets in.)

One advantage of our extended tour last year was that we found some places we had never been before – like the Stockyards and a completely different auditorium where various judging events take place.  Playing within the remaining daylight, we headed for the Stockyards first, deciding against having our picture taken on either the giant longhorn or the massive albino draft horse (we’ve done both before, but it will be time to do it again next year).  The yards were fairly empty, but we walked the long catwalk all the way across the top, then dodged “the running of the cows” walking back through the muddy alleys.  We talked, which was great, since we have barely seen each other since Christmas, and laughed and took pictures with our shared camera.  We consulted on school problems.  I pointed out an ex-boyfriend of mine from long before she was born, whom I hadn’t seen in ten years, walking past with his wife; he’d put on a lot of weight, but then I guess I had too, as he didn’t recognize me – or maybe he just didn’t notice me. 

Heading back inside, we cut through the cow beauty salon, and visited the blacksmith championship – they looked like they had pretty well wound down for the day, and there were no more free horseshoes (boo) but it was interesting to watch anyhow.  The Hall of Education was mostly an education in people watching, until we found….the petting zoo!  Believe it or not, I had never been in a petting zoo with Kelsea.  But there,  peering over the fence rail as if watching for us, was…a llama!  So the petting zoo became a must-do, especially since the line was short.  I don’t know when I’ve had such a good time.  The goats were cute (and pushy), the children made me laugh and the llama was sashaying through the crowd as if she owned the place.  Piglets were snoozing, sheep were looking sheepish and the miniature donkey was enjoying the breeze from the fan.  I could have stayed there all day.  But all good things must end, and we left, carrying the rich aroma of livestock with us.

In our quest for those wonderful sugar-roasted pecans, we went downstairs, and discovered, much to our delight, that we had chosen to visit on alpaca and llama day.  As you can probably tell, we are die-hard llama fans.  But alpacas were new to us, and we found ourselves in love.  They are small and adorable-looking and they make this wonderful little humming sound, like someone saying “mmmmm” as they eat something delicious.  And what they do with their hair-dos is remarkable. 

As we were admiring a darling llama aptly named Princess Elizabeth, we ran into the lady who runs Rocky Mountain Llamas, located close to home, who encouraged us to come and visit the llamas, and let Kelsea know that if she wanted, she could do Llama 4-H, as a couple of the llamas were available.  We know nothing about Llama 4-H, but we’ll look into it.  And with 120 llamas on their property, a visit is definitely in the cards.

The Atkins Diet forced me to break with our tradition of having corn dogs together.  I only ever allow myself the total treat of a corn dog at a rodeo, but this time, I was sidelined, and forced into the role of corn dog spectator.  And beer spectator.  And sugar-fried pecan spectator.  And nacho spectator.  Ah, well.  At least I had roast beef and water and 5 less pounds on my bones.

We got into the coliseum just in time for the rodeo, and had pretty good seats, above and to the left of the bucking chutes.  We move closer to the arena floor every year, having started literally at the very top row.  We’re not in dirt shower range yet, but maybe next year.  It was a good rodeo.  Tough horses, tough cowboys.  The crowd was fair to middling in their enthusiasm, much better than last year.  I wasn’t crazy about the announcer and the music seemed a little schizophrenic, but the hokey jokes were still good.  The authenticity of our tickets was questioned in a bizarre little incident, the couple next to Kelsea got on the “Kiss-Cam” and the drunken grannies down the row provided some fun, up-close entertainment.  The Horse Whisperer act was very impressive.  Our parking space was awesome.  We couldn’t have had a better time, and it went so fast! 

We decided that next year, we’ll try 4.5 hours, because 3 wasn’t enough.  This morning, Kelsea was wanting to go back, which is a sure-fire indication that a teenager had a good time.

Pictures will follow!

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