U of M Homecoming in Ann Arbor

Jon and Greg have been trying to rally everyone to Homecoming for a few years. This year turned out to be the year (it doesn’t hurt that we finally had a good chance of winning too). Jon may have oversold it a bit with talk of a barn dance, carnival rides, petting zoo, etc. His excuse was that he wasn’t able to build the barn, which I guess is a good one.

On Friday, Fran and Jon hosted everyone at their home. It was awesome to see all of the kids (and adults) together. Pretty much the entire Bay Area crew (Grace and the kids excepted – sad face) made a strong showing.

On Saturday, Jon and Greg hosted everyone at their tailgate. Many more friends rolled in from all over on what turned out to be a glorious Fall football Saturday. Worlds collided as Jen, friends from b-school and even POPSUGAR were there.

Greg graciously hosted me, Buecker and Allard in his seats in the new club level. This was my first football game in the new Big House (I had been inside for the Man U vs. Real Madrid game a couple years ago), and experience was amazing.

Afterwards, we went back to the tailgate and then someone invited everyone over to Greg’s house (but I’m not sure it was Greg). I had a quick dinner with Jen and Kim on Main Street. I walked out of the restaurant and ran into two high school friends, one of whom I coincidentally ran into at the Utah game last year. Shenanigans at Greg’s lasted well into the evening and thankfully nothing was broken despite many high-risk activities.

Sunday turned out to be beautiful and warm, which was perfect for coffee outdoors at Zingermans (where I ran into more friends randomly). I drove around to all my old stomping grounds: where I used to live, work, miss class, get parking tickets, get towed, do the crossword in the Michigan Daily, etc. I made one last stop and had a quick visit with Maggie (a POPSUGAR buddy and her Carhartt-wearing dog, Rupert).

What an amazing weekend with lifelong friends. Thanks again to Fran, Jon and Greg for hosting all of us for a memorable weekend. Next time, Grace, Olivia and Lucas are coming, too!


Visit from the Milano-Sessines

Jen and Mike brought the family out to the Bay Area for a long weekend. We were very happy that they spent a night with us for a long overdue visit. The last time Jen and Mike visited us in Burlingame was almost 15 years ago when they were traveling the world. They’re still globe-trotting with Zoë and Owen, but it’s usually to far-off, interesting places. We’re happy SF made an itinerary.

I told all the kids that while Mike and I didn’t start going to school together until 4th grade, our sisters became friends and forced a play date on us when we were in 3rd grade (i.e., about their age). Although that was almost four decades ago, I remember it very clearly.

Olivia and Lucas were sad the minute they drove away. We’re already looking forward to our next visit together, which will likely be on the East Coast.

2nd Annual End of Summer Airstream Trip

We all had such a great time on our Airstream trip last summer and it generated a lot of interest among friends. Jeremy showed the most initiative and several months ago, we had two Airstreams booked for the end of August. It wasn’t clear how committed the ladies were to a week on the RV, so I planned an itinerary that gave them an out after a few days. Grace also preemptively booked a hotel room in Tahoe.

As it happens, life gets in the way of the best laid plans and the Rogers family had to back out (reschedule?) at the last minute, which was totally understandable. I was still happy with my itinerary and Grace initially set the expectation that she would join for the first half. Right up until the last minute, I had planned to drop Grace off at the ferry so she could find her way home, but in the end she said she would join us for the whole week and she even cancelled her hotel room.

We rented again from Elite RV, which is under new ownership. Elaine actually reached out to me earlier this year after finding my last blog post and let me know they had taken over. Her husband, Brian, was also super helpful in coordinating the logistics. Because it was Jeremy’s first time pulling an RV, they were going to take one of the smaller ones and only the 19′ was available as the 20′ we used last year was booked. I opted for the one 25′ that was available, with only slight concerns that it was at the towing capacity of our truck. Along the way, Brian reached out and said he had a tight turn on the 25′ and asked if I wouldn’t mind taking the 27′ instead. I was only expecting it to be the 3.5 of us, so we really didn’t need such a big rig, but I figured it would be a good chance to test the extreme.

We picked up the Airstream at noon on Saturday and pretty quickly got underway, as I had been through the drill before. I immediately sensed the extra 2,000 lbs we were hauling and proceeded gingerly on our way up to … Marin. My theory was that the kids would have fun if we parked this thing in our driveway, so I figured they wouldn’t mind a semi-staycation for part of the trip. Ann and Jeremy used to live in Greenbrae, so I thought it would be a good chance for their kids to experience their parents old hometown. Even after they backed out, I figured it would be a great chance for the kids (and us) to do San Francisco stuff, which we rarely do.

Thus, we descended upon Marin RV Park. While it was a lot nicer than where we stayed in Half Moon Bay last year, it’s really about a 9 iron from the 101 on one side and a short swim to San Quentin State Prison on the other. The real benefit was being walking distance to the Larkspur ferry, which was part of my agenda. The kids always have fun with the Moon boys, who joined us for a bit last year. I asked them to come along on this trip, but they had already started school. We were in their backyard, so we met them for dinner at Farmshop at the Marin Country Mart on Saturday. The kids romped around on those big trees for hours.

We were back at it (Marin Country Mart) on Sunday morning for breakfast at Rustic Bakery before we headed out for a hike. It was one of the 5 things I had on my list of things to do that day. We drove up to the trail head on Mt. Tam and did the Steep Ravine Trail. Lucas was objecting to such a long hike and put a hard limit at 3.5 miles. Thankfully we were under it at 2.6 miles and the entire hike was downhill to the ocean. The kids had fun along the way and the hike went by fast for everyone. We took the bus back up to our cars and then headed back to the RV for the afternoon until dinner at … wait for it … Sushi Ko at Marin Country Mart.

Monday morning, we cooked our first meal on the RV before heading to the Larkspur Ferry, which we were going to ride into the city. Of course we  went to MCM for a quick stop while waiting for the next boat. The ferry ride was a lot of fun and the weather was typical for SF summer (cool and windy). We had lunch at Slanted Door (not exactly roughing it so far on this trip). Afterwards, we spent the afternoon at the Exploratorium, which was the first time we had all been to the new location on the Embarcadero. Hours of fun. Next on the agenda was a cable car ride. Grace has been in the Bay Area for 20 years and had never ridden it and neither had the kids. We indulged in a pedi-cab ride down to Fisherman’s Wharf, right past my old Bluelight.com office. We waited about an hour and the kids were super patient, though when asked if it was worth it, the answer was “maybe not.” We took it to the end of the line at Powell, picked up our favorites at the SF Center food court, Ubered back to the Ferry Building, and caught the 2nd to last ferry back to Larkspur.

Tuesday morning we had breakfast again on the RV before packing up and heading up to Tahoe. We stopped for lunch at our usual Il Fornaio in Roseville, which was convenient because I needed a big lot in which to park the Airstream. We only took up 6 spaces. It ended up being a long stop at the mall for some last minute supplies (and Merry-Go-Round and Pinkberry). Finally we were back on the road and arrived at Coachland RV park again in Truckee just after 5pm. Dinner that night was ramen in the RV.

On Wednesday, we drove over to South Lake Tahoe in the morning to spend the afternoon on a fishing charter. This was a first for our family and after not getting a nibble last year on Donner, I wanted to increase our chances of catching something. There was one other family on the boat and everyone, including Captain Sammy and his deckhand, Greg, couldn’t have been nicer. They set the expectations that the salmon for which we were fishing were difficult to land (about 50%) and sure enough, Olivia and Lucas hauled in 3 and lost 3 just as they were surfacing. The other family brought in a much larger trout, which was awesome for them. It was a beautiful and fun afternoon on the lake for everyone.

We gave our fish to the other family and opted for a well-earned dinner at Manzanita at Northstar. It was quiet as we expected and we enjoyed a nice meal at one of our favorite places in Tahoe. The kids slept well that night.

Thursday was our last full day in Tahoe. Lucas, Olivia and Grace did the ropes course in Tahoe City for a couple hours. Afterwards, we stopped in Incline Village for lunch on the way to Sand Harbor, which is another one of the kids’ favorite stomping grounds. Having lunch lakeside at the Lone Eagle Grill was awesome. My younger self only went to the Hyatt to gamble, usually while all my buddies were sleeping. Sand Harbor was gorgeous as usual and the kids spent hours there playing and exploring. We drove back to Coachland to clean up before dinner at Plumpjack at Squaw Valley. Creatures of habit we are.

On Friday morning, we started to pack up, went to downtown Truckee for a quick breakfast, and prepped the Airstream to be returned. The plan was to make it back non-stop, but Grace called an audible and we pulled into a Walmart for a quick bio-break. Just after 4pm, we pulled back into Elite RV.

I’m so glad Grace decided to come with us for the week. We all had a great time and the kids were sad to leave the Airstream behind. We have this trip pretty dialed in now and I’d go any year and every year for as long as the kids would like to. Next summer I think we might have to venture a little further, but even if we don’t, it’s going to be awesome. Let me know if you want to caravan.

Visiting Day and Pickup at SJC

Last Friday was visiting day at SJC, which we’ve attended for the past five years, but this was our first as camp parents. My parents and their friends also made the drive up, making it three generations of people at camp who have contributed so much over the past 40 years.

Lucas and Olivia were happy to see us, but were doing fine. When the bell rang at the end of music, Lucas abruptly departed, fully-programmed after just one week. We met their cabin mates and they showed us around.

There is no longer a bus option, so we stayed overnight to bring the kids home the next day. There happened to be a beautiful top-ranked public golf course right in Roscommon, so I hatched an ingenious plan to stay there overnight. JP and YY booked a room there at the last minute and we now had a foursome and the first tee time. It was all so perfect, until I woke up to steady rain. JP and I hung out in the pro shop and watched the radar before finally throwing in the towel.

We got to camp around noon and the campers and staff were already saying their goodbyes. There were lifelong friends, new friends, Westminster staff, and our kids’ new friends and heroes. Beautiful people all of them.

Lucas’s expectations were very low and they were greatly exceeded. Olivia said as we were walking out that she didn’t want to leave. Neither of them were happy about the spiders, but that’s camp life. Thank you to everyone who made this a great first year of camp for our kids. Until next year!

Visiting Family and Friends in Michigan

Olivia and Lucas were bummed to spend so little time at their grandparents’ house during our Michigan visit. Grandma and Grandpa were very proud to show them their expanded garden this year and even protected a few vegetables from the local vermin just so the kids could pick them. I saw a tiny little snake and hesitated for just a second to catch him. It’s been over 20 years since the last one I caught. They even indulged in the simple pleasure of spraying the hose, which is something that is not quite permitted in California.

The kids were introduced to “Detroit Style” pizza at Buddy’s before we headed up north to camp. JP, YY, Jen and I went to AA on the way back from camp. On Monday, JP got in a round at U of M golf course. Jen got crushed by the big Delta outage and her flight was cancelled. The silver lining was that we were all able to have dinner together at Social Kitchen in Birmingham.

On Tuesday, I took my dad to lunch down in Detroit. Nick suggested Selden Standard, which did not disappoint. I need to spend more time downtown. My West Bloomfield buddies made time that evening and we caught up until late night.

On Wednesday, I explored the area on my own for a while. That evening, I had dinner with Melanie, Nick and the kids in Fashionable Ferndale. I needed my beard for that hipster outing.

On Thursday, Grace came to town and we went straight to Ann Arbor. I had my second Zingerman’s lunch of the week (there can never be too many). I unwittingly introduced Grace to Shinola and she walked out with a watch. Jon plugged me into Ann Arbor Man’s Meal, which was a very convenient way to catch up with Marty, Greg, Paul, Rob and Jon. Grace was able to hang out with Frances and we kept them up way past bedtime.

When we returned with the kids from camp on Saturday, my mom was happy to be able to cook for all of us and took special orders from the kids. Lucas even got ramen for breakfast as his choice. We met up with the Feleses one last time and had a nice lunch with my parents before heading home.

Already looking forward to returning next year!

Sae Jong Camp 40th Anniversary Reunion

Sae Jong Camp started in 1976, so this year, a reunion was planned to celebrate its 40 years. It was conveniently held just before camp and although the official agenda was just an overnight, we upgraded to come up early and get as much time as possible together. This was my opportunity to finally get Olivia and Lucas to attend camp, and it allowed me to be with them for a couple nights to ease into it.

Jen met us at the airport on Thursday and we drove up together on Friday. The hard core group was small, and included only Doug, Sandy, Jen and us. I was worried the kids might get spoiled staying in the new Worthington Lodge, which was a little too nice compared to their regular camp accommodations. Jen and I bunked together right next to Olivia and Lucas.

On Saturday, more old-timers arrived. Grace, Sandy, Mary Ann and Doug and their families represented the 2nd generation of campers, as their four mothers were the founders of camp and to whom we owe so much. Jin and Christine made a special effort to come and join us from DC and our BFF Linda’s family came in from NYC. After some touring of camp and some fun on one of the high initiatives, we joined this year’s camp staff for dinner.

The staff members’ dedication and motivations for their service to SJC were very inspiring and especially gratifying to me as I retired 13 years ago. No one has dedicated more time, energy and years to SJC than Doug, who has been there for some 30+ years of the camps 40-year history. His mother, who I remember so well, would be so proud of him. I feel especially fortunate that camp has survived long enough for my own kids to finally participate.

We saw even more old friends on Sunday, as the campers arrived. Some really surprised me. Linda’s kids, Phoebe (the youngest in camp) bunked with Olivia, and Olivier bunked with Lucas. Also, Karin’s daughter, Jamie, was Olivia’s counselor. Karin get’s the assist for introducing me and Grace back in college.

Lucas had been especially apprehensive about going to camp. He was the youngest boy and on Sunday morning, I got up at 5:30am (2:30am “my time”) and couldn’t sleep as I was a little worried about him. There were some tears as I re-packed his bag. He pulled me aside for a private chat and said, “Dad, I need to tell you something. I only came here because I thought it would make you happy.” I died. He killed me at 7 1/2. “Buddy, that’s so sweet, but I only wanted you to come to make you happy.” He clung to me until the very end and there were tears.

Ben, the program director, and several of the counselors were my campers back in the day. It was awesome to have that continuity and know they were looking out for Olivia and Lucas. I had some special operatives who provided me with proof of life by dinner time and regular updates thereafter. They were fine. Our family’s 2nd generation of SJC campers were having a great time.

Thank you, all!

Laura and Chris Visit from San Diego

Chris is one of my oldest and dearest friends. Although we weren’t technically in the same Kindergarten class (I was AM and he was in PM), I still count him among my “Kindergarten” friends. That’s 40+ years of friendship, which has included family trips, long road trips since we could drive, camping, fishing after school, and our first entrepreneurial venture, A&R Window Cleaning. Thankfully, all our mischief never landed us in jail (together).

Somewhere in the middle, we went to different schools and Chris moved to different states, but nothing revokes Kindergarten-friend status. We finally ended up in the same state and we always see them when we’re down in SoCal. It took a while for Laura and Chris to deem Cooper and Stella road-worthy, and a couple weeks ago they went on a great California adventure that culminated (peaked?) with a visit to our house.

Little did they know that meant being integrated into our strict routine of car repair, Il Fornaio, froyo, the park, the other park, and the farmers market. The adults did manage to sneak in a dinner in San Francisco. The kids were fast friends and had lots in common (Minecraft and arts and crafts brings everyone together).

We’re already looking forward to their next visit and they now know the drill.

Annual Summer trip to Camp Crowther at Tahoe Donner

We spent the weekend with the Crowthers the weekend of July 9th at their place in Tahoe Donner. We got an early start on Friday and arrived early enough to go to the pool and have dinner up there. On Saturday, we all embarked on a hike up to Donner Summit. Lucas ran out of gas a little more than half way up. Olivia and the Crowthers made their way to the summit and had lunch up there and did some butt sledding on the glacier. Saturday evening we had dinner in Squaw Village.

On Sunday, the kids planned to do the ropes course at Squaw Village. John ended up taking Lucas’s spot. Lucas was content to enjoy a warm croissant in the village and get some bungee jumping in. We all had a nice lunch together outside at Plumpjack before getting on the road to home.

With all that had been going on in the world those several weeks, it was nice to get away and enjoy the peace and quiet in nature. We are fortunate to be able to escape the headlines, let alone having to live them. Thanks, Crowthers, as always for your hospitality.