Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Science is Cool on a Hot Day in Colorado

June 18-20, 2016
Longmont, CO

Saturday we want to spend more time out of the car, but with the temps in the 90's, and high humidity, that means being indoors.

We collect the family and enjoy a tasty breakfast up the road at Red Rooster Restaurant (say that three times fast). Bill has been getting disturbing calls from his mother all morning, and as more of the family checks in he's not feeling like he can enjoy an outing. So we drop him back at home where he can focus on what may or may not be a serious issue.

Our destination this morning is the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder. Sounds like a strange place to have fun, but I'm hopeful that this family of geeks will find something to do.

1968 poster of the center
The Table Mesa facility designed by architect I. M. Pei, and completed in 1966
Pei described the building as a futuristic adaptation of the Mesa Verde Ruins
Built on a small mesa at the foot of the Flat Irons just east of Boulder, the short drive up the hill is beautiful. Many have parked here to hike the nearby trails. 

Although the center is filled with researchers and school children on weekdays, this is one of the rare places where there are very few others visiting on a weekend. Sweet!

There is no cost to enjoy the two-story exhibit hall. I don't see any staff other than security at the front until we are leaving and a docent is greeting several folks who appear to be arriving for an event.

Our first stop is a "cloud maker" that Ezra loves. What's not to love about having clouds pushed over you?

A lot of the exhibits are interactive and user-friendly. Wind and clouds and lightning and tornadoes and ocean tides and fire - and the challenges of predicting timing and impact. It is very well done.

Sculpting sand by changing the wind's direction
Earth's rotation, oceans, how it all works
The chaos of randomness "demonstrated" by spinning three double-jointed pendulums - both educational and hypnotizing
Look Daddy - just like Thor!
A small theater has a variety of seven short documentaries to choose from. The study of fire's behavior is playing when we enter. It highlights the tragic loss of 19 firefighters in Yarnell, AZ, and the importance of learning how to predict the changing winds in a wild fire.  

Next we watch how the city of Boulder has learned to live with the flooding of Big Thompson River. It is a very good film, showing how one man's understanding of living with the river, rather than thinking we can control it, saved lives and prevented major damage in the 2013 flood. The hinged bridge that swings to the side, and the use of concrete bike paths as flood control canals, are brilliant.

A large window frames the beautiful views and stream light on to a small scale model of the building and surrounding property.

I can't find an angle without the window glare, but I want to remember this nice model
Much of the next floor is dedicated to the reality of climate change. Although there are fewer interactive opportunities, the information here is very well presented. Real facts from real scientists - I still don't understand the nay-sayers.

We do have a choice - I hope for Ezra's sake we pay now
The ice core sample captures Ezra's delight

The computer lab downstairs is dark so we enjoy the final section on space weather. The bright colors are wonderful, and Ezra's laughter while he plays with his parents even more so.

NCAR turns out to be a perfect place to spend a few hours. I definitely recommend it if you're in the area.

Let's make sure we didn't miss anything.
We're in Northern Colorado where there are more breweries than there are Starbucks (maybe), so we really need to taste a few brews. We'll try some and then take our favorites back to enjoy at home.

Good Juju, Sawtooth Ale, Sawtooth Ale Nitro, Milk Stout
The highest rated brewery in Longmont is Left Hand Brewery so we make that our one stop. There is a line when we arrive, but find a table and order a small flight of choices.

Normally we like reds, but the Sawtooth is our least favorite. Both the Good Juju with a light ginger taste, and the heavy, sweet Milk Stout are very good. Brian adds a bottle of Wake Up Dead Stout to a six pack of each of the others, and we make our way home.

Ezra hangs out with his grandparents while the others are back at the hotel for a while. He is such a happy baby, so curious about everything, very fun to spend time with :-)

Pop Pop is very interested in Ezra's story
Jealous much?
Bill barbecues burgers and chicken while beans and mac and cheese get whipped up inside. Not just any cheesy macaroni - bunnies! Because when you're 10 months old you notice that you're eating cute little critters :-)

The temps cool down and the bugs hold off enough for us to enjoy the rest of the evening outdoors. I don't want it to end because I know they're all leaving tomorrow :-(

Sunday morning we sleep-in a little then pick up the family at 10:00. Renting the mini van worked out so well for this adventure - lots of room for everyone and everything!

This is Brian's first Father's Day as Daddy - such a great daddy! It's still hard to believe my son has a son.

We get them all to curbside check-in and with lots of hugs we say our "see-you-soon's". The time went by waaaaay too fast, I can hardly believe they're already leaving.

Monday I run some errands in town, but mostly we just hang around home. Laundry gets washed, food gets cooked. I try not to be sad :-(

Although the parting is no fun, we are really glad that we can share this life with our kids. Having them visit us in beautiful places is such a treat for all of us! We're fortunate that their schedules allowed for them to be here together this time as well.

We hope some day the other boys will be able to join us on the road as well. The second grandson arrives in August so Ezra will have a cousin to share the adventures with!

Bill's mom is doing fine, false alarm as anticipated. The Jeep dealer did a software update, and made a recall fix, but couldn't duplicate the problem we've had for months. So it's still not fixed. Oh well......

Thanks to Brian and Shalise for some of the NCAR pics!


  1. Temperatures in the 90's are too warm for us too. Thank goodness there are many fun indoor things to do. That little boy sure is growing !!

    1. We might have missed this fun place so I guess I can't be too mad at the temps - they just don't need to stick around now!

  2. How fun you are getting some quality time with family in new places! I hope those ridiculous temps don't last too long for you...

    1. We ran away to 7500' today, much cooler, but we're missing last summer's PNW's temps for sure!!

  3. Sounds like good fun with the family, isn't it great they can visit us all around the country. We had one son visit us in VT last summer then in AZ this past winter, the other has visited us in TX one winter.

    1. It really is a plus to get to show them parts of the country while we caught up with family time :-)

  4. Glad to see you enjoyed NCAR, too. We had a great time making clouds during our visit. Guess we are all ten months at heart:) A brewery stop sounded like the perfect next place:) Those stouts sound yummy! What a terrific visit with family filling your heart with lasting memories:) Ezra is such a doll:) Poor Tessa:)

    1. It definitely brought out the kid is all of us too! I forgot to try the one Brian got, but the Milk Stout was superb.

  5. Little Ezra is getting so big! Love the selfie.. Got a good laugh at Tessa.. I'm glad to hear Bill's mom is doing okay. Hugs and love.

  6. Ezra is so cute and alert...what a joy!
    NCAR is cool and added to the bucket list...thanks Jodee!

    1. He is definitely a joy. You'll enjoy it and can hike the Flat Irons from the parking lot on the same day!

  7. NCAR looks so interesting! I love Ezra's expressions, and how engaged he was with the experience. So wonderful that you're having these special times with family while you're on the road, making great memories. I can understand how you would feel sad when they left. :-( As for the beer—we just bought a six pack of Lefthand Milk Stout here on Lopez. It is indeed yummy!

    1. He surprised me with how much he really looked at everything - and he made us laugh all day :-) Oh how fun you had the stout!

  8. I just can’t believe it is as hot or hotter in Colorado than it is in Virginia. Yuck! The thing I hate about winter is having to be in doors and that’s what I hate about hot and humid summers too. Glad to hear the problems with Bill’s mom aren’t serious but sorry to hear the jeep is still in limbo. Sorry he missed out on such a great adventure. Loved what you learned about Boulder. I do so wish we would live with Nature rather than constantly controlling it. We can never really win that battle. I don’t understand the climate nay-sayers either. What do they get out of it compared to what their heirs will lose? Really sounds like you had a wonderful time with your gang. It is terrific for all when they can join you on the road. Carrie has done that at least once each year. I hope she’ll be able to keep that up with Celia.

    1. I'm really bummed that we're seeing such high temps at such high elevations - hoping it's temporary as we head for WY and MT next week. I meant to include Gilbert White's name as the one who worked with nature to mitigate flood damage. Seeing Carrie's visits helped inspire me to bring our kids to us - Celia will love it too!

  9. I've added this place to our must visit list. We absolutely love science museums with hands on exhibits. Thanks for sharing the details of this one.

    1. There were three interactives that were "under the weather" (loved that sign), so there's even more to play with usually. Definitely a fun addition to any trip to Boulder.

  10. Looks like an interesting place and even held Ezra's attention.

    1. We all loved it - and were delighted at how much he enjoyed it.