Dog days are here, but school days are just around the corner

Shane Smith, 14, jumps on the skate park ramp at Long Family Memorial Park. Shane will attend Palisade High School this fall. Many students like Shane are trying to cram as many activities and fun in to their last couple weeks of summer vacation. Aug. 12 is the first day of school for those attending Mesa County Valley School District 51 schools.

Disc golf, football with friends or a last family vacation are some of the activities many students are trying to pack in during their last weeks of summer vacation.Here,14-year-old Tucker Rhoads plays a round of disc golf at the West Lake Park Course. Tucker will start high school this fall.

Kat Eggers and her 13-year-old daughter, Amber Eggers, a student at Bookcliff Middle School, spend some of the last days of summer vacation reading at Mesa County Libraries’ Central Library.

Right about now, if you listen very closely, you can hear the clock — far away but getting much, much closer.

Tick tick tick.

It’s inevitable and inexorable, the countdown to summer’s end: the first day of school. The calendar says otherwise, but everyone knows that true summer is over when the starting bell rings Aug. 12 for most Mesa County Valley School District 51 schools.

True summer, when the days stretch seemingly endless and freedom’s the thing and eventual boredom from too much free time is an option. True summer is for swimming and wandering and being shoved outside after hours of video games. It’s for sighing through a part-time job and making parents gaze longingly at the Aug. 12 square on the calendar. It’s for all the time in the world and everything to do in it.

But now, just two weeks left! That’s not much time to cram everything in, all the made-at-beginning-of-summer plans and dreams of awesomeness. The question, then: What to do with these last, valuable days?

“I want to go somewhere and do something,” said Robby Arnspiger, 13. “Anything.”

So far, he’s spent most of the summer playing baseball with his team the Gators, and that’s been fun, but staycations are great to a point. And then the restlessness, the desire for something big.

At this point, Robby, with time dwindling, where would you like to go and what would you like to do?

“I’d like to go to Water World over in Denver,” he said. And that might help calm his fidgety nerves, since he’s starting high school Aug. 12 at Central.

If dreams of summer’s last hurrah came true, he’d be joined at Water World by Trey Satterfield, 13, and J.T. Cogburn, 13. They’d both like to go there, too, for fun and fortification as they head into the eighth grade at Bookcliff Middle School.

J.T., the lucky guy, already had a pretty spectacular summer with a family trip to Puntarenas, Costa Rica, and Trey saw the Professional Bull Riders tour in Minnesota, “but I want to do something else,” Trey said.

It’s a familiar longing for anyone who has ever stood on the cusp of a new summer and felt the time as infinite, only to come to its end and realize it flew by in just a few blinks. And then reality strikes.

“I need to finish my AP homework,” admitted Aubrey Riggs, 16, who will be a junior at Central High School. She’ll be taking AP language and had summer assignments, which… well, they’ll be done by Aug. 12. She has to find six articles and write two pages about each of them.

Otherwise, her summer has been “nothing too exciting,” she said — swimming at Highline Lake and weekends at the family cabin near Rangely.

Ashley Petefish’s summer has been equally low-key. The 14-year-old is heading into Central High School as a freshman, and she’s more excited than nervous, but she’s still not anxious for summer to end.

“We’re going to go on vacation (in these last two weeks),” she said. “To California, San Diego.”

They’re supposed to leave soon, she said, so the last two weeks of summer will be all about the San Diego Zoo and Sea World.

As for Noah Rivera, 11, visiting Grand Junction for the summer from Wyoming, he’d like to spend his last two weeks of summer “getting better at writing,” he said, “and, I don’t know, exercising more.”

Noah. Dearest. Be honest here: What do you really want to do with your last two weeks?

“Play football,” he said sheepishly. And not even organized football, really, but free-form games with friends.

And that’s what summer at age 11 should be, games with fluctuating (or non-existent) rules and not having to think about getting better at writing, because inevitably a parent is. Right now, in fact, parents are making mental tallies of school supplies already bought and needing to be bought, forms to fill out, new clothes to buy, registrations to be made. These last two weeks are jam-packed.

Jessica Rich, in town visiting her mother, Judy Panazzo, is trying to get ready for her son, James, 6, to enter first grade. In Alabama. And they’re just back to the United States from Germany, where her husband, a 17-year U.S. Army veteran, was stationed.

“So, I’m trying to buy a car so we can drive to Alabama,” she said. “And school starts Aug. 6 in Alabama, so it’s really important that (James) is there for the first day because he’s excited about first grade.”

But those are her worries, because she’s the mom and she’ll get the markers and backpack bought and the family safely to Alabama. James and his brother, Elias, 4, are focused on fun. They were thrilled by the river rafting last week and now, to make their summer complete, dinosaurs.

“We’ve got to get out to Dinosaur Journey,” Jessica said. “James keeps asking me about it.”

There’s always so much to cram in when summer suddenly seems finite. There are bikes to ride and books to read and there’s lolling around to be done. The clock may be ticking, but summer’s not over yet.


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