pron. “GUY-sir”

Bryan called first thing in the year to invite us to brunch at Castle O’Sullivan, but I declined with thanks:

“We have a plan!”

It’s so unlike us. To have a plan. And to decline brunch, for that matter. Yet without undue shouting or sarcasm I had both daughters, one husband, a freshly synched iPod and an Ikea bag full of swimsuits loaded into Hedwig the silver Jetta by half past ten. And then we drove and drove and drove, to Ritual for coffee and then onto I-80, past Berkeley and Golden Gate Fields, through Albany and left at Vallejo and right towards Napa and on and on through Yountville and St Helena while the girls snoozed in the back. And we arrived in Calistoga and parked the car.

It was brilliantly sunny but cold, and as we changed I doubted the wisdom of my crazy scheme. But the hot springs were just as hot and sweet as I remembered, and we lolled around for an hour and a half while the girls splashed and played. I swam laps in the coolest pool – I am too ashamed to tell you how few laps – and my shoulders and arms cried out for mercy; but a dip in the hottest pool was enough to shut them up. We oozed out of the baths and into our clothes just absurdly happy and relaxed.

Lunch at a place on the main drag then on impulse we drove around to the Old Faithful Geyser, a Calistoga roadside attraction that features regularly scheduled geothermal eruptions and fainting goats. Why fainting goats? Why are you asking me? As we waited for the geyser to, um, geyse, a goatherd alarmed the goats for us, demonstrating their not-unimpressive fainting chops.

We waited about forty minutes. The geyser sent up two disappointing squibs, both of which Claire missed. We were about to pack up and go, with Claire on the verge of tears, when the GEYSER SHOT UP SEVENTY FEET INTO THE AIR WITH THE STEAM AND THE SULFUR AND WE SCREAMED AND SHOUTED AND APPLAUDED IN OUR JOY!

As we left I scratched the head of a friendly four-horned ovine gentleman, who smelled pleasantly of lanoline.

“He’s rambunctious,” I said as he cantered away.

“He’s on a spree,” said Jeremy.

“No,” I said; “a rampage.”

It was pretty much the best day ever.

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