Skiing in Beaver Creek and Vail before Christmas

The kids had the week off before Christmas so we decided to ski again before the holidays. We had settled on Beaver Creek, but didn’t make our plans until the last minute. I was showing the kids the World Cup, which was held in Beaver Creek at the end of November and it seemed fine. It wasn’t until after we made our arrangements and checked the weather that I found out there was hardly any snow and very little open. Uh oh.

We were locked in, so we just decided to make the best of it. Like last year, we were on our way to our holiday destination (Michigan this year), so we had 8 bags of luggage on the way there, as Elin was joining us for the week. Thankfully it all fit in the car. We have bad luck on I-70 as the road was closed at the Eisenhower Tunnel and we were forced to take the Loveland Pass, which caused a little delay.

On the way there I saw that our old friends, Betty and Andrew were already in Beaver Creek so we hoped to meet up. When we arrived at the mountain the next morning, they were the first people we saw. We met up with them again at lunch as they were leaving the next day.

The kids didn’t get to show Elin all their favorite runs because none of them were open. Despite that, there was still plenty of terrain to ride and we spent the whole week working on our turns (and hockey stop for Lucas). For months I was getting Lucas mentally ready to ski parallel this year. Up until this year, he skied a very wide stance, which made skiing parallel virtually impossible. We started with hockey stops (on both sides) and lots of sliding. I realized that both Olivia and Lucas could turn and stop pretty well when going right, but going left, not so much. From then on, they were only allowed to stop left (though there wasn’t full compliance).

We stayed at the Westin in Beaver Creek again and got a little more space for the five of us. We finally made it to Grouse Mountain Grill as a family, which I enjoyed for Nick’s birthday during the last season. On our third day, we skied a half day and headed over to Vail to watch Star Wars. Afterwards, Arthur invited us over for dinner. It was great to spend time with his mom and his sister’s family, who we see often in Vail.

We skied Vail on Thursday. The coverage was surprisingly thinner than Beaver Creek and it was a day of unsuccessfully avoiding rocks. Arthur made it out in the afternoon for a few runs together. We had more meals at some familiar places as well as tried some new restaurants in Vail during the week.

By week’s end, it snowed a few more inches and actually got quite cold. The last afternoon on Saturday were the windiest conditions in which I’ve skied (seemingly hurricane force). But, it was only my second chance during the week to let my new skis run as Grace and the kids called it a day early.

Even though the snow wasn’t the best (i.e., the worst), we still had a great time and both kids made great progress on their form and speed. I’d call it a success. Can’t wait to get back on the mountain under better conditions.

Thanksgiving 2017 in Orlando with the Parks

We spent only our second destination Thanksgiving in Orlando, FL last week. Coincidentally, the first was with the Rhees in Miami Beach, FL five years ago. Our family and Elin went down a little early to spend a few days at Universal Studios. We stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel, which was very close to the park.

The kids were most excited about Harry Potter, even though we already enjoyed the lite version in Hollywood over Spring Break. Orlando’s Diagon Alley did not disappoint. The weather was amazing the day we went. Our family lost steam around dinner time. We had dinner at Citywalk before heading back to the hotel. Elin, however, wanted to hit every ride and got most of them in by riding until closing time.

The next day, it was raining, but we still went to the pool anyway. It would have helped a bit if it was warmer, but the kids didn’t seem to mind too much. After swimming, we made a game time call to see Wonder. Afterwards, we had dinner across the street at The Portofino.

The third day we just had breakfast and packed up to move over to Disney. We went over to the Hilton next door to use their pool, which had a lazy river and a slide. Addy, Charles, the kids, and Dave all arrived and met us there. We tried to have dinner at Disney Springs with no reservation, but ended up just eating back at the hotel lobby.

On Thanksgiving, my plans to eat nothing until dinner was thwarted by a nice lunch at Eddie V’s. We hit the pool at our hotel in the afternoon, which had less amenities but was at least heated. We had Thanksgiving dinner at the hotel restaurant, which is not our style, but still a lot easier for those who usually cook and or clean. Our main motivation for visiting Orlando was to see Grace’s mom’s brother, Ben, who lives there. We were happy that he joined us for our family dinner. This was Elin’s first American Thanksgiving, which she hopefully enjoyed.

Black Friday was spent at Disney World. It was my first visit there since 1980, which was before Epcot was even built. We planned this part of the trip terribly, as we just bought our tickets and had virtually no fast passes reserved among our big group. Our plan to mitigate this was to catch the first shuttle to the Disney, which meant a pre-dawn wakeup.

The main attraction Charles wanted to ride was the new Avatar-themed Pandora attraction. We didn’t exactly elbow our way into the park or run to the ride. By the time we were in line, it was already a 3-hour wait. Oof. Thankfully, everyone was patient (including the Grandparents). I don’t do well on these 4D rides. It was pretty amazing, but I’m still queasy. The kids and Elin loved it. We took it a little easier in the Animal Kingdom and did some Safari ride. Because the damage was done, even the Dinosaur ride was painful to me. We did actually have 3pm fast passes for Pandora, so Elin, Addy, Olivia, Lucas and Cameron rode it again.

We all headed over to Epcot for dinner. It was my first visit there. We then rode the monorail back to the transit center. Olivia, Lucas and Grace’s parents were done at this point, so I took them back to the hotel. The rest of the group headed over to the Magic Kingdom to check it out and watch the grand finale. Everyone was impressed.

On our last full day together, we finally made it into Morimoto Asia for lunch. Afterwards, half the group went back to Disney World for another day and night at the park. Elin had a Fast Pass at 11:30pm at Space Mountain and didn’t make it home until late. The kids, Grace, Dave, Grace’s Dad and I went to the pool for a bit. We were back at Disney Springs for a healthy meal of fried everything at Art Smith’s.

Sunday, we packed up, and headed out of Disney for the last time. What we didn’t know was that our flight was going to be delayed about 4 hours, which made for a long rest at the Orlando airport. The one good thing about it was running into my long lost b-school buddy, Ted, who was on his way back to Austin.

As always, we have so much for which to be thankful and now this amazing trip  with family is also on the list.

Work Hiatus Golf in San Francisco and Las Vegas

For the first time ever, I took off a little time between jobs. By first time, I mean the first time when I voluntarily changed jobs vs. being laid off or unemployed. Somehow, I found myself quite busy during this time, as Grace gave me a big punch list of things to do around the house and for the family. Honestly, I didn’t knock it all out, but I did my best and made some progress. It also helped that I didn’t have a car to fix.

First, big shout out to my buddy Albert who took off several stealth days from work, including the first and last days of official time off to golf with me. We got in a round at Half Moon Bay on day 1 (Erich also joined that day) as well as a couple rounds at Harding Park in San Francisco. I also got in one solo round of contemplation during week one.

For the last hurrah, Eddie met me in Las Vegas for 5 days. I can’t tell you how relaxing it was relative to our normal itinerary, which usually involves break-of-dawn golf, pool with the kids, dinners, etc. (i.e., too tired to gamble). Aside from our morning tee times, we had no agenda. We got in four rounds of golf at Bear’s Best, Royal Links, Paiute Wolf and Coyote Springs. The weather was perfect for golf in the desert.

Each day we had lunch when we were done and dinner whenever we were hungry. We had great meals in the Encore/Wynn where we stayed and also ventured off the property to Carnevino (best lamb chops ever) and a romantic dinner outdoors at Mon Ami Gabi. We had some fun in between, but truthfully, we were in bed by 10pm on day one and got crushed on day three, also resulting in an early night. Although we see each other once and sometimes twice a year, we gathered that we haven’t traveled alone together in over two decades when he was single and still in medical school. It was QT with my ride or die.

Although I technically rolled right into a family vacation for Thanksgiving, my hiatus is all but over. I’m already having dreams about work. I’m very thankful for this time off, for the big pass Grace gave me, and for the time friends made for me.

I may never play golf again… (until ski season is over, that is).

3rd Annual End of Summer Airstream Trip: Utah and Malibu

Our Airstream adventures have been the highlight of our last couple summers, so it has been my intention to make it a ritual. I declared myself Captain of the trip, but the Admiral tried to take the RV trip off the summer agenda. The kids and I had a secret vote to reinstate it. Everything was still up in the air in the weeks leading up to the trip as the Admiral requested for the trip to be moved up because of work travel, which only allowed one day between our Michigan and RV trips. Right up until departure, Grace was suggesting Yosemite, Crater Lake, Tahoe again, not Vegas, not Utah, etc.

It. Is. Exhausting.

Eventually, everyone got on board, both literally and figuratively. This summer, I was determined to venture beyond our Northern California backyard as there’s so much of our country to see. My goal was to visit some national parks in southern Utah.

Our trip happened to coincide with the great eclipse of 2017, so the entire fleet of Airstreams was booked. I emailed Brian earlier this summer and he let me know the 25′ was available and that they had rebranded their company to “Go Silver.” We enjoyed the 27′ we rented last year, but we found out it wasn’t available because Elaine and Brian were living in it! We figured after the 20′ and 27′, perhaps the 25′ would be just right. It was a 2015 model and the biggest upgrades were the power awning and ducted HVAC, which was much quieter.

After returning from Michigan, it was a tight turn of laundry and packing, but we had the car loaded up on Wednesday on schedule to pick up the RV at 10am. The pick up time was what was actually limiting us on how far we could get on day one. Trying to get all the way to Utah would have meant not only a long day, but also a late arrival. All routes pointed to a stop in Las Vegas.

We made good time toward Las Vegas, but one thing I hadn’t measured in the past was our gas mileage. Our longest drives were to and from Tahoe and we always made it on one tank of gas. Not only was this our longest haul ever, but we were on the open road and moving quickly. I experienced first hand the exponential nature of the force of air resistance and could barely get 250 miles on a tank at cruising speed. With one quick stop for lunch and gas and another as we got closer to Vegas, we pulled into Las Vegas Oasis RV Resort right at dusk. The gilded lobby was a little over the top, but it was clean, had many amenities, was lined with palm trees, and was less than $24/day!

We spent only a few minutes getting hooked up before setting straight out for dinner at Allegro at the Wynn hotel. By the time we got back, the kids were ready for bed. The next morning, we only had time for brunch, which was back at the Wynn. It didn’t take us long to get underway for our short haul (2 1/2 hours) to Utah.

We stayed about 13 miles from the entrance to Zion National Park at the Zion River Resort. It was the nicest park at which we’ve stayed and we had a great corner lot that backed up to the river. After settling in, we went straight into town to rent gear for our first hike, which was through The Narrows. We each rented boots, neoprene socks and a walking stick. We had our first dinner in the RV and the kids enjoyed the pool before ending the night with a campfire and s’mores.

The key to hiking the narrows aside from having the right gear is to get an early start. The first shuttle is at 6:00am. We were not that aggressive, but we were waiting on one by about 7:20am. The advantages of an early start are to beat the crowds and also the heat. It’s always 10-15 degrees cooler in the narrows, so layers are necessary. After a 40 minute ride to the last stop on the shuttle, we were on the Riverside Walk trail, which is about a mile to the gateway to the Narrows. From there, it’s another mile and a half to Wall Street. We took several breaks and when we finally made it to Wall Street, we had lunch there before turning around. I was proud of the crew for making it that far without too much complaint (aside from being cold, which was understandable). It was much warmer as we emerged from The Narrows. Hopefully the kids will go back one day and go farther beyond Wall Street.

We had some down time that afternoon and earned a nice dinner out in town. The kids enjoyed Spiderman Homecoming earlier this month, so I thought it was time to get them caught up on the Avengers universe. There’s some different views on the order in which to watch the movies, but I downloaded about 10 movies for this trip, starting with “Captain America: The First Avenger.” We watched parts in the evenings and during breaks. Everyone was pretty wiped out after this first day of hiking.

The second day we had an even more ambitious day of hiking planned. Even though it didn’t require as much planning or equipment, I still wanted to get an early start to beat the heat. I read about the Angel’s Landing hike and saw some YouTube videos of the last half mile. I’m a pretty risk-loving person, but the prospects of death seemed a little too high to complete the hike. Scout Lookout is about 2 miles up the same trail and ascends 1,100 feet. That seemed like plenty for our crew, especially Lucas. It started out cool, but it quickly got hot, especially in the sun. Olivia was just cruising along, but Lucas did struggle a bit, so we took breaks often to rest and hydrate. It was a tough slog and Olivia and I went ahead for a bit and finally got the last steep ascent up “Walter’s Wiggles,” which are a series of switchbacks up to the landing. We waited for Lucas and Grace and when we saw them coming up, we went to the top where we waited for them there. Everyone had a snack and a rest before we took some photos. In general, the descent was easier, but Lucas was running out of gas, we were running out of water, and I was anxious to get to a cold beverage. I gave him a little assist on the way down, for which he was especially appreciative. Olivia and Lucas ended the hike with a short wade into the river to cool off.

We had a late checkout from the RV park, so we had lunch in town before heading back to pack up and start heading to our next destination, which was Bryce Canyon. It was only about a 2-hour drive to Bryce from Zion, which went through the park. We had dinner again in the RV and rested again after our big day of hiking.

During our only full day in Bryce Canyon, we took the shuttle from Ruby’s Inn RV Park to a few stops within the park. The kids were pretty hiked out at this point, so we got around by bus to the major view points. The rain (and light hail) seemed to follow us, so our visit was a little rushed. We had lunch at the lodge and once it started to really thunder and rain, we headed back for a leisurely afternoon. The only other thing I had planned was an ATV ride, which will have to wait until next time. I think we watched 2 1/2 Avengers movies that day. We had a nice dinner at Stone Hearth Grille before calling it a night.

The following morning, we were up early to head to our last destination: Malibu. It was about 9 hours total driving time, but took 11.5 with stops including lunch in Las Vegas at … you guessed it, the Wynn. This time, we pulled up to valet parking with the Airstream in tow and the valets had a chuckle. They were prepared for visitors like us and a runner took me to the “flat lot” and gave me a ride back to the hotel. We had lunch at Grace’s favorite, Wazuzu, which is on the Encore side where we usually stay. After a quick gelato stop, we were back on our way.

I’m not usually a big podcast guy, but I listened to Serial on one road trip to LA. On this trip, Malcolm Gladwell’s “Revisionist History” helped pass the time. Most of it was really interesting and the kids even listened here and there. It finished just as we got into California, so it was Spotify until we pulled into Malibu Beach RV Park around dusk. After a long day of travel, we had a really nice dinner at The Sunset Restaurant on Zuma Beach.

Tuesday morning, Grace’s parents drove out to Malibu to visit us and have breakfast together. They got a kick out of the Airstream and enjoyed the view. Despite living in LA for over a couple decades, they rarely made it to Malibu. We traded last year’s Marin Country Mart for the Malibu Country Mart this year and had a nice brunch at Marmalade Cafe. Afterwards, we tried to go to the beach across from the RV park, but playing frogger across PCH seemed deathly, so we drove back to Zuma Beach instead. The Sunset Restaurant was right there, so we enjoyed a light late lunch there. Back at the RV, the kids made up a game of interpretive dance where the themes were Disney and Star Wars. I won one round before fading into a coma. After some rest (i.e., more Avengers movies), we had a late dinner at Mastro’s Ocean Club, which was down on the PCH.

I’m glad I got up at sunrise on Tuesday to take some pictures because the marine layer was thick on Wednesday before we left. We went back to Marin Country Mart for a quick breakfast before packing up everything for good and heading north to return the Airstream in San Jose.

I say this often, but this was one of our best trips ever. We covered a lot of ground (pretty painlessly), visited a couple of our most beautiful national parks, and enjoyed a quiet part of LA on the ocean. Most importantly, we were all together, enjoying each other’s company (mostly) in very close quarters. I’m so glad Grace stayed the entire trip with us (she had planned to leave in the middle). I didn’t miss staying in a hotel at all and love how easy it is to visit spectacular places with the Airstream. I hope we continue our adventures for as long as the kids are interested. Next year, we’re going north, way north! Let me know if you’re ready to caravan.

Caution: 8 days on the road visiting national parks and the California coast results in over 200 photos.

Epic Michigan Golf Tour

After dropping Lucas and Olivia off at camp, I had absolutely no where to be. Joseph (JP) and I have been contemplating this situation for some time. Still, we had no real plans.

We’ve been wanting to play Arcadia Bluffs for a while, but the opportunity didn’t arise until just a day or so before camp when a cancellation opened a spot on Monday. We left JP’s car at camp and headed to Crystal Mountain, which was not far from Arcadia Bluffs. When we arrived, we headed straight to the pro shop and got in a full round on the Mountain Course well before dark.

Eddie was visiting his parents in Ludington, which is about an hour away. On Monday, he and Ethan rounded out our foursome at Arcadia Bluffs. Despite living most of my life in Michigan, I had only laid eyes on Lake Michigan from the Michigan side a few times. I wasn’t quite prepared for how beautiful everything was: the lake, the elevation, and the links course nestled in the golden heather. Even though it was a tough course, JP went low and was actually under par through 9. Wow. I got our money’s worth on a per stroke basis. We all had lunch together and then JP and I decided to replay. We got in a solid 15 holes before we called it due to darkness. The wind had kicked up towards the end of the first round, but by late afternoon it was calm and beautiful as could be.

We had also secured a tee time for Tuesday. However, the one thing that didn’t go our way was that we wanted a room at AB, but it was booked (we only asked about 20 times during the day about cancellations). Graciously, Dr. and Mrs. Lee invited us over to their house, so we headed to Ludington. We got there late and stayed up even later being entertained by JP. On Wednesday morning, JP had to switch sports to tennis along with the entire Lee family. I went in search of coffee and postcards for the kids. We played golf at the Lees’ club, Lincoln Hills, followed by dinner together. We couldn’t have been more thankful for all their hospitality while we were golfing vagabonds.

Jen happened to be in Traverse City visiting friends, so we headed there to see them out at the bar. JP hit a wall like I’ve never seen (he’s usually always high octane), so we found a place to stay in downtown TC. Somehow he mustered some energy for 11pm ice cream. The next day we decided to play “The Bear” at the Grand Traverse, which was also a first for me. It was difficult, but fun. We had already payed for a reply when JP got the bat signal from our friend Anita that she was in town but had to head back to NY early. We changed gears and drove 3.5 hours back towards my parents house to meet up at Christine’s house.

JP now had the opportunity to entertain my parents for a couple days. We played U of M on Thursday (exactly a year to the day from our last round there). We had dinner at home together with Jen and cancelled our Friday golf plans at Forest Dunes. Our luck continued when a room finally opened up at Forest Dunes, which is the resort at which we stayed last year with Grace and YY. We got rained out then, so we were determined to play there this year. JP fancies himself a very lucky guy and true to form, when we checked in, they put us in a two-bedroom cottage because there was a group of 24 dudes that were expected to be a little rowdy. Perfect!

We finally got our last round together in at Forest Dunes, which didn’t disappoint. There was a lot of trouble and the greens were fast. The good news was that I made it through the whole week with only the balls I brought (and found of course).

I haven’t played this much golf since my honeymoon (Grace is the best). I just can’t see why this doesn’t become the annual ritual while the kids are in camp. We’re currently accepting applications for our 3rd and 4th players.