Rancho Europa, 2083 Lazy Z Road, Nederland, Colorado 80466
Dear Friends, Family, and Colleagues,
After the hottest year in Colorado since weather measurements began in the 1870s, a touch of winter has finally arrived...so it may be a white Christmas here, after all. The abnormally warm weather began in early March and we were still having breakfasts on our deck in early December. In the summer, it felt more like Tucson than Colorado. Denver had five days in a row of 100+ degree weather and our satellite TV receiver quit working because it was too hot. Major wildfires destroyed forests and homes all over the state. On August first, a lightning strike started a fire a few hundred feet from our property, but it was quickly put out by several dozen firefighters (thank you!) and a water-dropping helicopter.
Now we are faced with a potential man-made disaster. The Boulder County Commission- ers have the final say in whether Gross Reservoir, two miles away, will be greatly enlarged by a five-to-seven year major construction project. The project would further drain water from the already depleted Colorado River, help feed the urban sprawl around the plutonium-contaminated Rocky Flats superfund site, and provide water for fracking run amuck in the Front Range. Beyond that, it might mean that as many as 2,000 heavy-duty logging trucks would roar past our home during the first 8 months of the project, thanks to Denver Water buying an easement from our neighbors (who consulted none of the rest of us). The ostensible purpose? To slightly decrease the chances that Denver residents might not be allowed to water their Kentucky bluegrass lawns during an already unlikely extreme drought some single summer in the next few decades. The Commissioners have all said that they oppose the project, but Denver Water is intimidating them with threats of massive lawsuits. Our evaluation of the horrible, proposed Intergovernmental Agreement is at www.ranchoeuropa.com. The decision may be made on January 7th.
We've had an exceptional year of travels, despite having to endure TSA inspections, hellish places like the Miami airport, and the ever worsening service of American Airlines. In February we spent a splendid week on the National Geographic ship Endeavour, exploring the Galapagos Islands and all the wonderful land and sea creatures in that unique group of undisturbed islands. With wild birds landing on your shoulder, sea lions plopping down in the sand next to you, and sharks swimming harmlessly past as you snorkel, it was unique.
After spending a delightful, sunny week in Vancouver, we visited Japan for the first time in either of our lives. The drawing card was the every-three-years "Asteroids Comets Meteors" meeting, this time in Niigata on the Sea of Japan. En route via the speedy, on-time Japanese trains, we stayed in a traditional inn (Shimaya Ryokan) in the Japanese Alps, visited snow monkeys in their natural habitat, experienced a mountain-side outdoors onsen, and celebrated Clark's birthday with an amazing Japanese feast in a dining room for two. Later, Y visited Sado Island and tried out its famous drums. Then we zoomed back to Narita to watch, with partial success, the annular eclipse of the sun, followed by a day exploring the amazing collection of ancient to modern temples in that small city.
During the summer and autumn, we toured western Colorado by car several times, visiting such places as Glenwood Springs (where we dipped into the world's largest hot springs pool), Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Telluride (the Bluegrass Festival), Breckenridge (twice), and Beaver Creek (twice). We also flew afield to Tucson (where Clark helped celebrate Planetary Science Institute's 40th anniversary, though he considers it the 42nd), to New England (we visited Clark's brother and family in Maine; then we visited, among other sights, the House of Seven Gables in Salem, Mass., the town where a MESSENGER Science Team meeting was held), and to Santa Monica (near the famous pier) where a later MESSENGER meeting was held. In Santa Monica, Clark snapped a picture of Y standing next to an ElliptiGo bicycle, just like the low impact bike that is waiting at Rancho Europa to be ridden by Y.
In October we had the fascinating and, for us, unusual experience of taking Amtrak from Denver to Reno and back (more than 24 hours each way). The annual planetary astronomy meeting was held in an immense casino resort in Reno. But for us it was especially rewarding to see the scenery of eastern Utah and western Colorado as our train traversed a route, much of it along the Colorado River, often paralleled by no road. But the slow wobbly ride, which left Reno two hours late on our return, compared very unfavorably with the Japanese bullet trains we rode earlier in the year: no train was more than 35 seconds late. The United States seems to be drifting into third world status in many respects. We imagine that the strangest thing to a Martian landing in the United States would be the discrepancy between all of our consumer safety regulations and the fact that anyone can purchase a lethal device that fires off a projectile so fast you canít see it or know where it will land.
Clark is now working 90% of full-time; his research, dependent on NASA, suffers the same threats that most governmental enterprises do from the gridlock in Washington. Having watched Spielberg's "Lincoln," we keep thinking of his charge that "it is rather for us to be here dedicated to...[ensuring]...that government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth." That is, we should not dismantle government but fix it and improve it...and maybe a baby step was taken in that direction in November. We are encouraged as the privately funded Sentinel spacecraft mission to discover potentially threatening asteroids ramps up toward a hoped-for 2017 launch on a SpaceX rocket (b612foundation.org/sentinel-mission/).
Toward year's end, we took another special trip, this time to Grand Cayman Island. While it was expensive, the cuisine was wonderful, and our experiences with stingrays in their natural habitat and being pushed and pulled around by dolphins were very special. A trip we are looking forward to in the future is to North Carolina, to visit Clark's mother, who will be celebrating her 100th birthday in April.
Both of us, and Rocko too, have had several minor medical issues this year, but we're basically healthy and doing well. We hope that you and yours are doing well, too. Happy holidays...and best wishes for peace and further recovery in the coming year.
With cosmic hugs for all,
Clark, Y, and Rocko
P.S. This greeting and other important things are posted at www.ranchoeuropa.com.
January sunrise at Rancho Europa.
Our National Geographic ship "Endeavour" in the Galapagos (Feb.).
Red-footed booby protecting egg in nest on Punta Pitt, Galapagos.
Kicker Rock, Galapagos.
Olympic Torch in Vancouver, with Grouse Mountain in the background (May).
Snow monkey with baby, Japanese Alps (May).
Y banging on a drum, Sado Island, Japan (May).
Our high-rise hotel at Niigata, Japan, convention center (May).
Clark, using Japanese eclipse-viewing glasses, viewing annular eclipse, Narita.
The mostly eclipsed sun, after the annular phase, Narita, Japan (May).
Narita temple and gardens (May).
Looking west down the Colorado River from a cable car above Glenwood Springs (June).
John Fogerty and his band perform at Telluride Bluegrass Festival (June).
Antique cars, after parading through Breckenridge, 4th of July.
Firefighters assemble in front of Rancho Europa to battle wildfire a few hundred feet from our property (Aug.).
Pentagoet Inn, Castine, Maine, where we stayed while visiting Clark's brother and family (Aug.).
Bicyclists finish 4th stage of Pro Challenge, Beaver Creek, Colorado (Aug.).
Gross Reservoir, two miles from our home, where Denver Water threatens a 5-7-year destructive project.
Distant Gore Range, viewed from Beaver Creek ski slopes (Aug.).
Butterfly, during hike above Beaver Creek (Aug.).
Poste Montane Lodge, Beaver Creek (Aug.).
Y on trail through aspens, near Holy Cross Wilderness, Colorado (Aug.) .
Y with flowers, Beaver Creek (Aug.).
Rocko, sitting in a chair.
Sunset cloud views from our Amtrak window, eastern Utah (Oct.).
Y's boat excursion on Lake Tahoe (Oct.).
Y at the Grand Junction, Colorado, train station.
Our train in Gore Canyon, Colorado (Oct.).
Upper Piney Creek trail, Colorado, late October.
Y in downtown Santa Monica standing by an ElliptiGo bicycle (Nov.).
Feeding fish scraps to frigate birds, Tukka restaurant, East End, Grand Cayman Island (Nov.).
Hugging a stingray, Stingray City sandbar, North Sound, Grand Cayman Island (Nov.).
Dining at the Grand Old House, George Town, Grand Cayman (Nov.).
Night-time view of beach in front of our unit, Morritt's Resort, East End, Grand Cayman (Nov.).
Y examines her lobster before cooking, Morgan's Harbour restaurant, West End, Grand Cayman (Nov.).