Summer Vacation Kickoff in Las Vegas

We’ve been starting summer the last couple years in Carmel. However, my parents came to visit for a few weeks, so we decided to take them on one of our Vegas excursions. Jen was needed to complete team Rhee, so she came out to CA and flew with us.

Our Vegas crew also includes Jea and Eddie. I’ve been asking them for years to bring the kids, which is always harder for our normal Spring or Fall trips. We planned this after school was out for everyone, so Emma, Ethan and Audrey finally made their debut in Las Vegas. This was a first for both families to be traveling together, unless you count our chance encounter in Vail a few years back.

The kids finished school on Thursday morning, and by that afternoon we were on our way. Our flight was a little delayed, so we went straight to our scheduled dinner at the new Momofuku in the Cosmopolitan, which hadn’t opened yet when we were there in December for Jen’s birthday. Eddie’s family were not arriving until the next day, so it was just us.

Bobby, who does not love Las Vegas, happened to be be in town for one last bachelor party. He came in a little early so we could golf together on Friday morning at our usual Bear’s Best. He came and had lunch with the family, who were out at the pool. We haven’t really been to Vegas in the summer in a while, so it was nice that it was warm, but it was unexpectedly windy.

The Lees finally arrived right before dinner, after a very long day of flying to LA and driving to Vegas from there. We were happy to finally all be together and enjoyed a great meal at our usual Mon Ami Gabi. Emma, Ethan and Audrey were already getting the full Vegas treatment. Because it was their first time, we crossed the street to watch the Bellagio fountains for a while.

Ed and I played golf at our usual Royal Links early Saturday morning. Everyone else had breakfast at the Wynn and went straight to the cabana. The Wynn pool is a lot better for the kids and the Lee kids were now very deep into the routine. We all got a little rest and had the kids eat before seeing Blue Man Group, which they all loved. Afterward, the kids stayed together while all the adults had dinner together.

We had an early flight on Sunday, so we enjoyed one last meal together at a new restaurant at the hotel. Our kids had a great time with the whole Lee family. We hope they’ll be a regular part of the crew next time (i.e., this Fall).

Spring Break 2017 in Los Angeles

After a lot of skiing this winter, we decided to road trip to Los Angeles for spring break. The main motivation was because Grace was convinced her mom was turning 75 and wanted to have a surprise party for her. Then Addy and Charles changed their plans to meet us in LA, and Dave came down, too.

We drove down on Saturday and stayed in Westwood. We were going to go to Santa Monica, but decided to go to Century City for dinner instead. While there, we decided to see a movie. The nice thing about taking your kids to a 9:30pm movie is that no other parents bring their kids to a 9:30pm movie. I stayed awake for all of Boss Baby. They loved it.

When Grace was planning her mom’s dinner, she mentioned it was going to be on April 9th. Ummm, that’s our anniversary… No matter – it’s her 75th! We celebrated our anniversary at lunch instead with the kids at Bouchon. Lucas was very leery of French food, but found the donuts to his liking. We did some shopping for Grace’s mom in the afternoon.

The kids wanted to visit with Emme and Elsen before dinner even though we didn’t have much time. I took the opportunity to catch up very briefly with my long lost friend from home, Joanne, who also lives in Santa Monica. Our visit was too short, but still long overdue. So great to see her and meet her sons.

Sometime before all the family arrived at the restaurant for Grace’s mom’s surprise, we determined that it was actually her 76th birthday. Surprise! She deserved a big party anyway, so it was all good. Awesome to see all the Park cousins.

On Monday, we met up with the family at République in Los Angeles. It is a beautiful building, which used to be Charlie Chaplin’s estate. When I got there, I looked up and saw someone familiar. My instinct was to say hello and his instinct was to say hello back. It was Henry Winkler. Who is more familiar than the Fonz? That was one of the highlights of my trip year.

Grace went with her mom and sister to the spa, so I took the kids to the Grove to get out of the house (i.e., off their devices). We went to a real book store, which had real books (each kid got 2). We had more donuts, ice cream, and people-watching. Afterwards, we went to Slurpin’ Ramen Bar to celebrate Dave’s birthday a little early.

On Tuesday, we went to Universal Studios, which was the 2nd big reason for our LA spring break: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Ann and Emme joined us (Elsen had no idea what he was missing). The kids have been wanting to do this for a while and were so excited. I had no idea about the rides, but we all (adults) got so wrecked by the Forbidden Journey. I took more than one for the team and rode that one twice (worse the 2nd time because it broke down the first time and I didn’t have to suffer through Quidditch). By the time we got on the Minions ride, I learned to just keep my eyes closed the entire time. I’m still sick.

Everyone enjoyed the studio tour. Seeing animatronic Jaws made the kids feel a little better about sharks after I screened Jaws for them a few weeks ago. We were all traumatized by it when we were kids; I didn’t see why they shouldn’t be, too.

Wednesday was a very routine beach day in Manhattan Beach. By routine, I mean lunch at Rock’n Fish, beach, Starbuck’s, and the Creamery. Every. Single. Time. That evening we had dinner with Ann and Jeremy at Katsuya in Brentwood.

Thursday, we had lunch with Grace’s parents in Westwood after I upgraded them from 0 MB DSL service, which was killing me, but was the only thing instilling grit in the kids on this trip. We walked to the other end of Westwood and back and then loaded up the car to drive home.

My spring break officially started on Friday with the first round of golf in a long while with Charles and Albert in Half Moon Bay. We spend the rest of the weekend with Addy and Charles, who left early on Sunday. Our nice break ended with Easter brunch at the Crowthers’ and dinner with Jeanah and Christine at our house.

Spring Skiing in Tahoe with Kimuras and Lees

We’ve been trying to get to Tahoe with the Kimuras and Lees for a few years now. This year, we finally made it happen. We rented a great house in Northstar last weekend, which was perfect for all the families. The Lees were only planning to ski one day, and unfortunately their Olivia stubbed her toe in the morning and fractured it! Bummer.

We had some great home-cooked meals thanks to Torsten and Grace. We had some fresh snow and generally very spring-like conditions. The kids just don’t care and I was pleased they were eager to go down the hardest trail (for Northstar). Lucas might have bitten off more than he could chew, but he made it without complaint.

Next year, I think we’re going to try to go somewhere out of state. Wherever we end up, it will be fun with this crew.

Colorado Ski Trip with WB Guys

After missing our annual ski trip last year, the WB guys reconvened in Colorado last weekend. This was the first time we’ve been to Colorado together since Chris was living there a couple decades ago. We’ve been going to Utah for several years. Steve graciously hosted us in a couple of his timeshare units in Beaver Creek.

We’ve been asking Nick to join us for years and he’s always politely declined. This year, I conspired with an influential person (Melanie), who surprised him with a plane ticket to join us over his birthday weekend (surprise!). Both of us were a little worried about the fallout, but he was a good sport about it.

I think Nick’s hesitation might have come from the misunderstanding that this was a hard-core ski trip. It didn’t take him long to realize the truth about old-man skiing is that the entire trip is planned around eating. Each day, we get up later and later and go to bed earlier and earlier. The trip is measured in calories vs. vertical feet.

On Thursday night when we got in, we headed over to Vail for dinner at La Bottega. Friday, we skied over at Vail in very Spring-like conditions. Friday was also Nick’s birthday. To celebrate, we had an amazing dinner together at Grouse Mountain Grill in Beaver Creek. I’ve been wanting to go there for a while, but we were never able to get in on our family trips. Melanie very thoughtfully arranged for some champagne and appetizers and every person in the restaurant seemed to know it was Nick’s birthday. The evening (and possibly the trip) culminated when the resident musician came over with his accordion to lead a rousing “Happy Birthday” to Nick. All this was topped off with bread pudding for dessert.

One other thing that Nick and Chris might not have bargained for was the Big 10 basketball tournament. Every day, lunch was planned around catching the end of the Michigan basketball game, which really meant the 2nd half (and sometimes included half time). They were good sports and cheered along with us Wolverines as we won every game including the championship.

We all skied Beaver Creek together on Saturday, followed by dinner at Maya at the Westin where we usually stay. Nick and Herb were both leaving on Sunday morning, so the rest of us didn’t get on the mountain until close to noon. Monday was the only day we got up early. Steve, Scott and I were there as the lifts opened as Chris had to work.

Everyone really seemed to enjoy Beaver Creek, so I expect we’ll return again. There’s already talk about going back to Whistler, where this trip all began over 10 years ago. I don’t think it matters much where we go as it’s always a good time, with good food and great friends. Until next time, fellas.

Ski Week in Tahoe with Moons and Uncle Dave

The last couple of ski weeks, we went to Colorado in search of snow. However, this year’s wet weather gave us more confidence that Tahoe would work out and we got even more than we bargained for. We rented a house with the Moons in Martis Camp. Their brother, Ed, joined us and then Dave came up for the second half of the week. We ran into friends from home and school, including Mrs. Zirelli, who was both kids’ first grade teacher, and Mrs. Lawson, Olivia’s teacher this year.

We arrived on Saturday just as a storm was coming in. It started snowing and basically didn’t stop for the week we were there. The first couple days it was dumping heavy, wet snow. It cooled down after that and the snow turned light and powdery. It was the most powder I’ve skied just about anywhere. The first day was a little tough for Olivia and Lucas, but when the snow lightened up, they got the hang of it.

We skied six days straight, which is a record for us. By the end of the week, Olivia was crushing some legit black diamonds and skiing the glades. On the last couple days, Lucas also opted for some real black diamonds. He struggled a bit with a full steep mogul run, but got back on his fast groomer and skied about a third of his last run through the glades.

Grace cooked a lot during the week, so we only made it into the village on the last night. Everyone was pretty tired, but Lucas got hooked on Settlers of Catan and really wanted to play. He stayed up until 12:15am to crush me and was quite pleased with his domination (with Grace). We had a great time together with our friends and look forward to our next adventure together.

NYC with Family and Friends

After Christmas, we decided to spend a few days in NYC. We enjoyed meals with all the Parks and Rhees Bottega and Quality Italian. With met up with Clarence and his kids at the Time Warner Center, which was where we were staying. I had wanted to watch Rogue One, but the kids insisted on seeing Sing and Moana first. My dad joined us for the former on his 80th Birthday.

On the way back from Moana, we looked around Times Square for a bit and decided to take the subway home for fun. We popped out right at Columbus Circle and I saw this dude wearing my coat. Then I notice that this dude is Danny, one of the only people I know who lives in Manhattan. What a small world.

On our last morning in NYC, everyone slept in a bit, so I went out for a walk in Central Park, which we never do. We met up with Ana, Bobby, the boys and my sister and parents for lunch in Koreatown for one last meal before heading out to the airport.

The holidays are always nice in NYC. We’ll be back again soon, I hope.

Dad Park’s 80th Birthday Celebration in NYC

Because all of the family were together for the holidays, Grace’s Mom wanted to celebrate her Dad’s 80th a little early. On Monday, December 26th, several close friends and family met at Gaonnuri. Dave and Charles emceed the event and several people spoke, including Mom and Dad.

It was a beautiful event to celebrate Dad’s 80th and the food was excellent. Everyone had a great time. Happy Birthday, Dad!

Skiing in Beaver Creek Before Christmas

Grace has pushed all in with family skiing, which is great. This year, everyone got a pass again, which finally makes sense as the kids have hustled their way out of ski school. The kids were off the entire week before Christmas so we took advantage of their time off to stop in Colorado on the way to the East Coast for the holidays.

We have things pretty dialed-in now at Beaver Creek, so we headed there again. We usually stay on California time whenever we travel and without the rush of ski school in the morning, there are no first tracks for this family. I’d say we were more than leisurely on this trip, but having passes makes it less of an issue to pack it all in every day.

On day 3, Grace gave the kids an out because she had to work in the morning and they took full advantage of it to sit in the tub for several hours watching their iPads. I took the opportunity to ski by myself and hit some terrain I had never explored before. It was very efficient. Eventually we met up for a late lunch and they rallied with all their gear. We went up the lift at the base and got on the mid-mountain lift 5 minutes before it closed to get in one run from top to bottom together.

Everyone is making great progress, especially Grace. Olivia opted to hit some black diamonds with me and was fearless. More importantly, she’s my best student and very actively does the things I ask her to do to promote good habits. Lucas is still a work in progress, but he’s not afraid of speed, which is awesome. Grace will need to keep up with him.

On day 4, we went over to Vail for a change of scenery. The snow seemed a lot better over there. Arthur was now in town and graciously invited us to park at his place which was a huge help in terms of logistics. He was deep on the other side of the mountain by the time we were heading up, but we eventually met for a late lunch. After skiing, we stopped by to say hi to Heidi, the girls, and his sister’s family.

One other nice coincidence on this trip was that my friends Judy and Danny were staying at the same resort. Grace hadn’t met them yet, but Judy and I had the honor of being maid of honor and best man in Jea and Eddie’s wedding over twenty years ago. The one and only time we had skied together was at Beaver Creek and Vail over a couple decades ago. And, Danny is Eddie’s business partner. The last time we hung out was at Ed’s surprise 40th. It was fun catching up and having the kids spend time together. Hopefully, we’ll all meet again.

Exploring Detroit with Dad

Last August, I took my dad to Detroit for lunch, but we didn’t make it past Midtown. This past trip, my mom was in Korea with my aunt, so my dad and I went exploring downtown. We parked at 500 Woodward, which was my office building for my first 5 years out of college.

We had a nice lunch at Central Kitchen before heading to Midtown. We saw Jon and Greg’s Detroit Jolly Pumpkin restaurant and also stopped into Shinola’s flagship store where my buddy (and former camper), Gracie was working.

I’ll always root for Detroit and I think it’s on its way!

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.