Padres vs. Rockies — Coors Field

My coworker Guy offered us these tickets on Thursday, and we immediately accepted. It took us two hours to drive to Coors Field through Friday rush-hour traffic. We paid $30 to park a block away and another $28 for a surprisingly-good cheeseburger, hot dog, fries, peanuts, and a lemonade. We’d been in our seats for maybe two minutes when the game began.

I hadn’t been in a park this empty since I saw the White Sox/Royals in 2006.

The game was fun. The Rockies jumped off two a two-run lead on Nolan Arenado’s 40th home run of the season. The Padres came back in the top of the second to tie it on a homer by catcher Austin Hedges. The Rockies got a single run in the bottom of the 2nd and five in the 4th on back-to-back homers by Trevor Story and Garrett Hampson. San Diego scored five of their own in the 6th to draw within one. Story hit another homer in the 6th and the Rockies held on to win 10-8. There were three or four excellent fielding plays along the way.

We relaxed and enjoyed ourselves. After the fifth inning, people filtered down into our section from further up and made things less enjoyable. A clown sat in front of us who kept cracking jokes to his girlfriend and laughing loudly at them. A kid sat behind Sally and kicked her chair repeatedly until she turned around and stared at him. His mom kindly took him down to an empty section. We stayed until the final out, battled the construction traffic on I-25, and got home around 11:30.

Here’s a time-lapse of the eighth inning.

     

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Bird #548 — Groove-billed Ani

crotophaga sulcirostris

Sunday, September 8, 2019 — 2:17 pm

Denver, Colorado — Sand Creek Trail

Sally and I went shopping on the way home from church. I was waiting patiently by the registers at King Soopers while she checked out. I looked at Facebook and saw a post from the Colorado Field Ornithologists that someone had found a Groove-billed Ani along Sand Creek on the north side of Denver. I informed Sally that I was taking off as soon as I dropped her and the groceries and home.

Groove-billed Anis are considered “local and uncommon” in south Texas during the summer. They do wander occasionally—as far as I can tell, this is the fifth one ever seen in Colorado. Anis are related to cuckoos, with long floppy tails and huge parrot-like bills.

I had a walk of about 200 yards from where I parked to where a large group of birders were lined up looking down into a brushy creek channel. None of them, I noticed immediately, were looking through their binoculars, cameras, or scopes. I spotted Chris, a birder I’ve bumped into a few times before, and asked him what was happening. He said the ani was down in the bushes along the creek and hadn’t been seen for about 35 minutes. He also said he expected the bird to show up again soon because it was far too early for it to have settled down for the day.

You can see a few birders on the left side of the photo. To their right, there’s a larger, darker-leafed tree. Just to the right of that is the patch of bushes where I saw the ani.

I joined the line and kept my eyes on the brush where the bird was last seen and on the clouds building to the west. It was a pleasant afternoon, compared to the hot summer we’ve had. It was around 80° with a light breeze and more humidity than is the norm for Colorado.

After perhaps 25 minutes, I heard a sharp “pep, pep, pep” coming from a bush right along the bank of the creek. A few seconds later, someone yelled, “There it goes. ” I spotted a thin black bird trailing a tail that seemed to be as long as the rest of its body. It flapped fairly slowly for about 30 yards across a grassy patch and then dove into a clump of bushes.

We all moved down that way. I found a spot to stand on top of a small hill of dirt that allowed me to see down into the bushes. Seconds later, the ani flew and landed on a branch in a small opening right in front of me. Although parts of it were generally hidden by cottonwood leaves blowing in the wind, I had good views. I think I was the first person to spot it in that location, and I was able to show it to several other birders. After I took several photos and videos, I stepped aside to let others see it.

I spotted it again from a couple other angles, but my first view was the best. When I went back to that spot, it had moved slightly and was more hidden. I was looking at it when a guy with a cane climbed up on the dirt pile. His wife said to him, “Be careful, I’m not going through another surgery with you. You’ll have to find another wife.” I chuckled as she turned and saw me. She informed me that her husband had fallen backwards off a stage into an orchestra pit and broken his arm and leg and hit his head.

Then she introduced herself as Joy Lake. I gave her my name, and she said, “Oh, so you’re Roger Massey. I knew I’d run into you sooner or later.” She proceeded to inform me that Guy Tomlinson used to be her boss and that she’s in a class at her church with Rene Stewart. She then told me that her granddaughter is getting married in three weeks and moving into a house on the next block over from where I live. Of course, I asked her how she knew to connect all this with me. She said she’d seen my name on ebird and saw where I birded, so she figured I was local. I never did quite figure out how she knew to ask Guy and Rene about me.

It was about then that the ani flew down into the brush out of sight. I’d gotten good looks, so I headed for home, arriving around 5:00.

When I got home, I found this photo on Facebook. I can be seen in the center, behind the woman with the denim shorts. You can tell it’s me because my camera lens is about a 10th the size of everyone else’s. Joy’s husband is sitting in the chair on the right.

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August Recap

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Labor Day Balloon Festival

This was a morning that didn’t go as planned. Lindy asked if we would like to go to the Labor Day Balloon Festival with Andrew and her. We said yes, and that we’d pick them up at 6:00. They thought we meant p.m. — they wanted to go to the concert and balloon glow tonight. We thought they meant a.m. for the lift off. So their apartment was dark when we got there. Sally woke Lindy up, but it turned out she had to work this morning anyway.

Since we were up … We parked three or four blocks north of Memorial Park and arrived about 10 minutes before the first balloon lifted off. We stayed for both waves. Things looked much as they did two years ago, with many of the same balloons. But there were more character balloons this time.

Almost as visually impressive as the balloons in the air were the reflections of the balloons in Memorial Lake.

We stopped at Urban Egg on Briargate for breakfast on the way home.

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Lost Island Mini Golf

Spent 4½ hours on a hot, sunny afternoon playing two rounds of mini golf with my department at Lost Island Mini Golf. I won both games.

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Josh Groban at Red Rocks

We’ve wanted to go to Red Rocks Amphitheatre ever since we moved to Colorado almost three years ago. But we were waiting for a performer that at least one of us actually wanted to see. Josh Groban fit that description exactly.

On the way, I predicted that the audience would be made up mostly of women in their 50’s. I was right.

A friend who’s been to Red Rocks on several occasions recommended that we park in the northern lot. I drove around that way, only to be directed to a slow-moving line of cars that wound through the entire park to the southernmost lot. We had a long walk to the arena—probably about half a mile, all of it steeply uphill.

After we found our seats, I had time to climb to the very top of the arena and buy a bottled water. For some reason, the woman in the concession stand wouldn’t give me the top to my bottle, so I had to protect it all night to keep it from tipping. I saw other people with exactly the same brand of water, complete with caps, so I remain confused.

It was hot as we walked from the car, but once the sun went down the weather could not have been better—around 70°, clear sky, mild breeze. There were very few empty seats, but one of them was next to Sally, so we were able to spread out a little. The “seats” are wooden slats attached to the front of stone steps. By the end of the night, I had numb-butt.

The venue was visually stunning, with towering cliffs on all sides, the lights on the stage, the crowd, and the lights of Denver in the distance. I took this photo when I walked up to the top to get my water.

The concert was scheduled to begin at 8:00, but Groban didn’t come out until almost 9:00. For part of that hour, the Colorado Symphony Orchestra performed.

Josh Groban sang perhaps 15 songs, maybe 6 of which I’d heard before. There were a lot of show tunes and three or four in another language. I enjoyed myself, but He’s not really my dish of tea. Between songs, Groban gave some of his personal story and cracked some jokes. I liked him better when he sang.

The concert ended around 11:00. We got out of the arena, out of the parking lot, and onto the highway much quicker than I’d expected to, but with construction on I-25, we didn’t get home until almost 1:00 am.

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Maroon Bells

Maroon Bells is high on every list of must-sees in Colorado. We knew going there would cost us, but we decided to join the herd. We drove over Independence Pass to Aspen and paid $10 to park in the lot of a resort. We walked up to a bus and asked the driver if he was heading for Maroon Bells. He said no, it was the bus into town. He then pointed to a bus stop about 40 yards further on and told us that’s where we were supposed to be. We walked on. As we did, the same driver pulled forward in the same bus and stopped at the Maroon Bells stop and changed the destination sign to “Maroon Bells.” We bought two $8 tickets and climbed aboard.

The driver thought he was clever and funny, but he was just odd. His non-stop banter included the information that he “had a thing” for one of the goats in the roadside petting zoo we passed.

After a 20-minute drive, we were let out at Maroon Bells. A short walk took us to the view. And a beautiful view it was. We stayed maybe an hour, wandering around the shores of the small lake and enjoying the beautiful day but not so much the intense sun.

The mountains are named for their reddish color. They’re also called the Deadly Bells. As 14ers, they attract a lot of climbers, but the route is hard and several people have died in the attempt.

On the way home, we drove back over Independence Pass. I got out briefly for a few photos.

We stopped for lunch at a tasty but expensive sandwich cafe in Buena Vista. We got home around 5:00.

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Leadville, Colorado & Southern Railroad

I booked rides on the Leadville Railroad at 10:00 am on Saturday. The town was about 20 minutes from our B&B. We were able to board right when we arrived, and we sat in an open car that had a roof to keep us out of the sun.

The ride went several miles up the Arkansas River Valley, then backed up and returned the way it came. A convention of people who owned Bernese mountain dogs were on the train with their dogs. The owners were enjoying themselves, but I didn’t see much evidence that the dogs were thrilled.

That’s the old freight station in the background. The brick building in the left distance used to be a hospital.

Mount Elbert

Mount Massive

Arkansas Mountain. Runoff from this mountain forms the headwaters of the Arkansas River.

Looking south up the valley with Mount Massive in the distance. That tiny thread of water, mostly hidden in the thin band of dark green, is the river.

Also looking south from the place where we stopped and backed up.

Looking north up the valley. We were 800 feet above the valley floor.

On the way back to Leadville, we stopped for 15 minutes or so and were allowed to detrain. There was an old water tower (no longer lined up with the tracks because the tracks were relaid after an avalanche). The conductor (on the left) spent much of the trip giving us the history and geography of the area. His information was good, but his overly-goofy voice was off-putting.

The ride was comfortable and fun and the scenery was stunning. We decided it wasn’t quite as enjoyable as the Durango-Silverton train ride, but was about as fun as the Royal Gorge Route.

We ate lunch at a pizza place in Leadville. The food was very good. We had to sit outside—as did 90% of the customers. The sun had gone behind clouds, and it was chilly. We walked up and down the main street but found little of interest. We were not impressed by Leadville. It looked and felt like a washed up Rust Belt neighborhood.

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