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June 19, 1999
a year ago

Wool Mart, Touchdown, and Sports

Today was adventure day again. During the little adventure with Kathy, the knitting shop told me that Estes Park's fairgrounds were going to have a Wool Market. Debbie at work also pointed that out and we coordinated lunch time to meet up on Saturday. I really wanted to see what there was to see, and while I wasn't going to buy much, if anything, I wanted to see what was available locally.

A lot of the best weaving, spinning, and knitting magazines seem to come from this part of the U.S.; and there seems to be a lot of merino and fine wooled sheep in the plains areas of the country. This is because it's dry enough and warm enough in the summers to raise those breeds. The wet in the NorthWest mostly fits the coarser wooled critters, other than up in the Banana Belt of the Islands. I wanted to see what there was to see. And since John wanted a gander at Estes Park and the entry to the Rocky Mountains National Park, we decided to do our trip today.

Got up mid-late, and made scones for a quick breakfast, showered and then I got into the Passat and drove us west and up, up, up. The Passat's German handling proved really happy with the mountain roads and we wound up and up and up and even passed quite a few less agile cars in the strategically placed passing lanes on route 66. That was really cool and really fun, and I was really glad that I was driving with all the winding, as I might really have gotten minorly carsick if I hadn't been driving. John did just fine, and we got to the Este's Park fairgrounds just as some thunderheads started to drift on in as well. The view just as one breaks over the mountains into the valley is just breathtaking with a far view.

The valley has a man-made lake, and is surrounded, on all sides, by the Rockies, the back range with all it's snow capped peaks are almost touching close and the front range looks like foot hills from there. It was beautiful up there.

The fairgrounds were right off 66, so they were easy to find, the first thing before even getting into town. We parked outside the parking lot that they were charging for and footed our way into the fairgrounds. The first thing I saw were tents and tents of alpacas!! That was somewhat surprising, as the front rows of barns weren't packed with sheep, instead, they were all packed with delicate alpaca with huge eyes, fuzzy everything, and tiny legs, hooves, and only five foot tall bodies. They're tiny compared to llamas and really, really cute. The breeding females also go for somewhere in the range of $15-25,0000!! Even the non-breeding males go for at least $800, so it wasn't any time soon that I'll be getting one, but it was really, really tempting as the auction is tomorrow.

We wandered about, didn't find Debbie or her friend, so ducked into the wool barn and got nice and close and personal with all the fleeces that were being judged and for sale. There were a lot of beauties. Fine fleeces, long in the lock, deeply and finely crimped, and just gorgeous natural colors. I was very, very impressed with myself when I didn't buy any. We then wandered through all the booths for knitters, spinners, and weavers and there were all kinds of colors, textures and things to feel and marvel over. Beautiful textiles, fibers, and yarns. Equipment of all types. We found Debbie and her friend mired halfway through the booths, buying something and deciding on other things, bags bulging and wanting to do more. So John and I wandered about, and I ended up buying some more alpaca fiber.

Penny and Hutch were the first folks that ever turned me onto alpaca, which is fuzzy, soft, and warm. And I've made scarves from it and fuzzy sock edgings and stuff like that. It's really nice and warm, too, though not all that lofty when one spins it. And a Texan has some really gorgeous grey top that was the color of the thunderheads just overhead. So I bought half pound of the stuff as it was on sale and soft enough for my hand to really like it a lot.

Lunch was out on a picnic table. Debbie had bought lunch at Whole Foods, so they went to drop off all their bags and get their lunch while John and I stood in line at a Greek booth that had lovely gyros from roasted leg of lamb with fat pita and yummy seasonings and a great yogurt sauce that just cooled it all off beautifully. Two pops from a pop machine on the fairgrounds and we were set. Yum. There was some talk, afterwards, about eating lambs where we could see 'em, but I figure that the animals humans keep around the best are the ones they eat.

Afterwards we watched a sheep shearing. There's a guy that does it every year, Debbie says, and he's quick, fast, and really, really good and soft-spoken about it. He was amazing to watch, especially how he handled the sheep so completely, bending it this way and that to get the cleanest sweeps with his shears. He did two in about ten minutes, cleaning them completely of their coats, throwing away the really dirty bits, and leaving the rest of the fleece in one piece. Not a cut on them and he cut so close you could almost see the pink of their skins. No second-cuts anywhere because he never had to go back. Turns out, he said, that the main reason they shear them in the early spring is for two reasons. The first is to get the wool away from their udders so that the lambs can suckle easily. The second was less obvious. Turns out that if you shear the mothers, when it gets cold, they have motivation to get into a barn, or a warm area, which means that their lambs come with them and, therefore, have protection when it's cold out. The lambs don't have the wool coats their mothers, have, so by shearing the mothers, they respond more appropriately to the needs of their young.

That was very cool to learn.

By the time that was over it was starting to rain, so we parted ways. They went back into the yarn barn to get more stuff while John and I decided to wander about Estes Park and even up into Rocky Mountain National Park.

That was cool. We bought an annual pass as we expect to be up there again sometime. And it looks a whole lot like Yellowstone, up in there. Mountains, plains, trees, water, and bit mammels were all about the same varieties as what we'd seen in Yellowstone, so it was very keen to wander about some and stop here and there. It was far more crowded that we'd had Yellowstone so early in the spring; but I bet Yellowstone is more crowded now, too, with the kids out for summer. Elk were on the road, bison in the plains, and deer wandering here and there. It's nice that it's only about an hour and a half from home, too. Wild, wild areas that close are very cool.

On the way back home we stopped in Lyons. First stop, however, was the Lyons Ice Cream Parlor, where we bought drinks. John got a peanut butter shake while I asked for a vanilla soda with strawberry ice cream. Most of the girls working there were brand new for the summer, so it took a while; but when I got my soda it was really, really good against the heat of the day. Seems that as soon as Kathy left, things have heated up here. Clear mornings, thunderstormy afternoons and then cool nights. It hit the mid-80's during the day and the radio was talking about a heat wave here. I like that as the hottest for a heat wave. Kinda nice.

From there we walked to the antique store where I'd bought my Waterman last week, and I found the Scheaffer Thriumph nibbed Touchdown pen and bought it happily. The proprietor's wife was happy to see me again, and was very happy that I'd bought the more expensive pen as well. I really enjoyed giving them business and there were folks wandering all over the shop, but I was probably the only one that went in and directly bought something. That was kinda fun.

On the way out of town we stopped off at their little hardware store and found some things that John needed for home; and then we headed home.

It was hot. Really, really hot by 3 p.m. and I was half dozing in the car by the time John drove us home. Once home, I checked the mail box and my other Duofold, the sub-deb, had arrived. The diaphram was obviously unattached from the pump and while it's in pretty good condition, I didn't really want to work on it. Instead, I filled the Sheaffer, sat down and wrote with it happily for a bit.

I didn't really want to do a lot, so I just sat down in the livingroom for a bit, then went down into the basement, found my knitting needles down there in a box, and then went back up to watch TV and knit. I watched some of the Food Network and then found out, though John, that the Women's World Cup was on. So I started watching that! Then, later in the evening, John and I found out that the sixth game of the Stanley Cup was being played between the Stars and Buffalo, so we swapped between the two happily.

It was so hot that we just couldn't eat a hot dinner, so we had fresh tomatoes, the fresh mozarella, and the last of the loaf of Whole Foods bread all sliced up with a bowl with a pool of extra virgin olive oil, a splash of the aged vinegar that Carl gave me, and half a handful of crushed herbs as a kind of dressing for the 'sandwich'. Yum. Cool and simple and fruity with the ripe, ripe, ripe tomatos. That was really good and plenty of sustenence for the nearly three full periods of overtime that they played!!

That was exhausting to see them play for that long with that much intensity. By the time it was over, I had finished one sock and I was ready to fall into bed; but it was still hot enough that I decided to take a cool bath with the Body Shop's 'Slave to Rose', which is a bath milk with rose water, almond oils and almond milk. It smelled wonderful and the cool water floated away the heat of the day and I slept happily after that.

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