We didn’t go to the balloon glow on Friday night, because of Covid fears and we didn’t go to the balloon race on Saturday, because it was too hot, but this year the balloon race came to us instead. It has only done this once before. The Forest Park balloon race is done in the hare and the hound style, which is more a test of navigational skill than speed. The hare balloon launches first and then fifteen minutes later the hounds launch in a mass start. After the hare balloon lands, winning is determined by which hound balloon drops its bean bag marker closest to the target that the hare has set out. According to the paper, this year the Schnucks sponsored balloon won. The hare balloon traveled due west from the park, landing in Ladue, north of the highway. The hound balloons that flew over our neighborhood had already been heading west-south-west from the park, but then veered south-west-south just before they would have passed directly over our house. By this time Anne and I were already walking around the neighborhood, looking up. Joanie soon joined us. Most of the balloons were quite low, making sighting them difficult among the trees, but enough of them passed overhead close enough to us get a few good shots of them. Most of the balloons landed south of the highway, putting them way out of contention in the race. As they crossed the highway, often extremely low, their spectacle caused a huge traffic jam on Highway 40. About this time sirens from the nearby police/fire station could be heard starting up. I suspect that the interstate’s gaper block had been accompanied by an auto accident or two. Returning home, I watched a portion of a Facebook Live post that was shot from one of the balloons as it overflew the highway. It was looking down on a trio of other balloons that were quite low, directly above the jammed highway, about a semi’s length in altitude. It looked like they were going to try to land on the old A. B. Green ballfield that adjoins the south side of the highway. Earlier, I had been near there on an overpass, but returned home to alert Anne instead.
The world’s biggest tree—the 2,500-year-old giant sequoia known as General Sherman—has been wrapped in protective foil in a last-ditch attempt to save it from a rapidly approaching wildfire. The Colony Fire was expected to reach California’s famous Giant Forest on Thursday, and firefighters have put an aluminum wrapping around the base of General Sherman and some other of the ancient sequoias in Sequoia National Park ahead of the fire’s arrival. The park is now closed by the fire, but we were able to visit it in May. It was dry then, but we were allowed to have a camp fire then. Our biggest fear was that of our RAV4 being attacked by ethylene glycol guzzling marmots. Yes, really! They are a problem in the park.
It is quite the opposite here in Saint Louis. We’ve had so much rain that all of the vegetation is quite lush and green. Normally, by the end of the summer things have dried out, but not this year. For example, last night we drove to Forest Park. One of my astronomy apps had alerted me that a recent Starlink launch would be passing overhead. In May, when we were out west, we saw a line of them pass over us at the Grand Canyon. They were impressively bright, but then the Grand Canyon is a dark sky park. Anyway, I figured that we would be able to see them here, even with all of the light pollution from the city. We drove to the central ballfields for a good field-of-view. Unfortunately, we did not see them. What we did find were way too many mosquitos. They were so bad that even Anne was bothered by them. What we also found was the setup for the balloon festival, which is back on this year. Tonight, is the balloon glow, where tethered balloons fire off their jets and light up the night. It is reportedly the most attended event in Forest Park for the year. I asked Anne if she wanted to go, but she declined fearing that it would be a super spreader event with all of the unvaccinated that are about. On Saturday, they do the balloon launch, which is a much more spread-out event and would be safer to attend. We might do that, it I can tear Anne away from her sewing machine.
Anne and I went to the Clayton art fair last night. It is not a particularly big art fair, maybe half-a-dozen blocks in total. It is not a particularly affordable art fair either. For example, one booth specialized in etchings of birds. There was a nice one of a Great Blue Heron, but an unframed print was going for $2,700. Another booth specialized in photos of fireflies, using long exposures. The Czech artist was featured in the fair’s merch booth. A poster of one of his photos was going for $600 there. Another booth featured Rube Goldberg style mechanisms, in which steel balls would circulate through a maze. I didn’t even look to see how expensive his art was asking. Still, it was a pleasant evening to be outside, looking at beautiful, if unobtainable things.
We had parked off of Wydown, outside of downtown Clayton and avoided all the parking hassles there. It was a bit of a walk, but like I said it was a nice night. Returning to the car, we noticed that the Starbucks at Hanley and Wydown had closed. When I was still working, I would patronize it daily. In 2009 at the height of the Great Recession, some days when I walked into the shop, I would be the only customer. It would be just me, the manager and his two “latte ladies” in the store. Before that it was Café Paradiso. I always ordered the same drink, a regular plain old latte. So, when it was crowded and there was a line, I would queue up and as I passed the barista, he would hand me my drink, even before I ordered it. The look consternation on the other people in line was priceless. I wonder what the spot will become now.
On Labor Day, we went to view the Flags of Valor display on Art Hill in Forest Park. Erected on occasion of the twentieth anniversary of 9/11, it is composed of about 7.500 American flags, one for every fallen service member since that date. Each flag has a dog tag memorializing the individual that it represents. There was only a light and variable breeze that day, which caused occasional ripples across the field of flags. I think that this project has been planned for quite a while now and the idea of it predates recent events in Afghanistan. Still, it underscores the loss that that forever war has cost us over the last twenty years.
Sunday was a day at the races, up atop The Hill, the Italian neighborhood in town. The weather was pleasant, a great day to watch some bicycle races. We bumped into Chris and Sandi, two Kaldi’s teammates and palled around with them all afternoon. Giro Della Montagne is the original race that started it all and has now grown into the Gateway Cup that now runs four days over Labor Day weekend. Chris and Sandi are probably the most ardent of bike racing fans that we know. Taking a break from feeling the breeze every three minutes, as the peloton streams by, we grabbed some gelato. It was great seeing them again and catching up on old times.