U of M Trip to Blaine’s Tahoe House

I was lucky to spend this past weekend in Tahoe with a different set of brothers. Jen and Matt bought and renovated a home in Tahoma during the pandemic. It is on the shore of Lake Tahoe and every inch of it is beautiful. Matt invited the entire NorCal U of M crew up to break it in and attendance was near capacity.

The trip was almost waved off due to the nearby fires. Blaine and Yo arrived early to scout it out and we were assured it was just “hazy.” Grady and I drove up together and as we got closer, the visibility was low and the air became acrid. We were pretty certain they were going to be bugging out just as we arrived.

We mostly sheltered indoors except for a short walk up to a great pizza place for dinner. Grady and I haven’t roomed together since our legendary Vegas trips. Thankfully when we woke up Saturday morning, it was quite clear and it looked like it was going to be a great weekend.

The first order of business was the Michigan football game, which coincided with breakfast prepared by Matt. The first indication that we were growing up was that fruit was served. After some more football, we took the boat over to Chamber’s Landing for lunch. The lake was running too low to bring the boat in, so Matt ferried us 2 at a time in his under-inflated dinghy, which was rated to carry 0.75 Benjams (now an official unit of measure). It was precarious, but we all made it aboard his more seaworthy vessel.

We arrived at Chambers Landing only to find they weren’t open for lunch. Based on our dress, it was easy to guess we were Michigan fans and made friends with people who had Michigan roots wherever we went. After a couple rounds of frozen drinks, we continued on to Sunnyside for a proper lunch and some grocery shopping.

Getting off the boat was even dodgier, so much so that Grady and Matt decided to swim vs. risk falling in. The afternoon was spent consuming more football and various chips (Greg even brought out some vegetables). For dinner, Matt prepared an amazing meal of grilled tri-tip and salad.

Dinner conversation covered many topics, books and shows. On the drive home, Grady compiled a list of over 20 books referenced during dinner. 17 were from him with an average of 1 each from the rest of us, my contribution being a young adult novel I read about 10 years ago. By the end of the evening, we reverted to our younger selves, playing bad pool while watching Caddy Shack. Ben said night night early.

Having been away on sequential guys trips (thanks, Grace!), I wanted to make it home in time for Olivia’s soccer game. Grady and I got on the road early, just as Matt and Jason were heading out for a ride (strong move).

Super big thanks to Matt for hosting us all at his new home. This was a rare full gathering of this group of very old friends (almost 33 years to the week for me and Dukes). It was also a reminder that we need to do this more often. We’re already looking forward to our next football BBQ and annual holiday party.

GO BLUE!

West Bloomfield Fishing Trip to Alaska

Members of the WBHS ski and golf teams (both JV) traveled to the far-reaches of the United States for our annual gathering. As mentioned before, this group goes back to kindergarten/elementary school. While we normally do a ski trip, this year we mixed it up with a fishing trip to Alaska. Chris wasn’t able to make our last big trip to Austria, which ended right as the pandemic was unfolding in March of 2020.

Chris did a great job of organizing our travel after hearing about it from a friend. We all flew to Kenai, AK, which is a 20 minute flight from Anchorage. We stayed for 5 nights at the Tower Rock Lodge, which is on the Kenai River where we fished for a couple days. I had no idea what to pack, so I packed all my ski gear. It turned out to be a lot like skiing … cold, rainy skiing.

Our first day of fishing was the most scenic. We headed to Crescent Lake in Lake Clark National Park, which is only accessible by float plane or boat. We took the former, which was an adventure in itself. Once landed with our gear unloaded, we took a couple boats down river. Immediately we saw a couple bear cubs playing along the shore, with their mother nearby. This was only the first of many bear encounters and sightings throughout the day.

We were fishing for Silver Salmon, but caught some Pinks and Dolly Varden trout, which are not good for eating. The fishing was tough and we didn’t get our limit, but two other guys in another group didn’t catch anything all day. The challenging fishing was made up for by a very scenic and thrilling plane ride home. Our pilot seemed to be inspired by Top Gun Maverick, as we flew up and over the crest of a range and descended down a narrow canyon. I wished I had some video, but most importantly we lived to tell the tale.

We generally had breakfast and dinner at the lodge, which was always prepared and served beautifully. The food was really good. Thursday after breakfast, we walked a hundred yards to the river and fished the Lower Kenai all day. We were split 3 and 3 into two boats and neither boat hit their limit (3 Silvers per person). The limit just prior to September 1st was only 2 per person, which we did achieve.

Our Halibut charter on Friday was cancelled due to high winds and rough seas. We ended up on the Lower Kenai again with the same groups, but we switched guides. This meant we got to spend the day with Bear the dog, who comforted us through tough times. I think our boat only caught four keepers that day, though we did throw back a couple Pinks.

The weather and seas on Saturday were much nicer. We got up for a 5am departure and a 90-minute drive to Homer. I haven’t been on that many boats, but when we boarded Big Dan’s fishing vessel, we knew it was something special. He said it was the nicest sport fishing boat in Alaska and I don’t have a reason to doubt him. It was an almost brand new all-aluminum catamaran with four outboard Yamaha 425 V8s.

We cruised about 90 minutes to our fishing spot. We did an experiment where half the group took Dramamine and the other half didn’t. I didn’t, and honestly, I didn’t feel great. Nick, it turned out, wasn’t feeling 100% either, but we both gutted it out.

Halibut fishing seemed to be a lot easier. We started pulling up keepers almost immediately. There are a lot of regulations in fishing. For halibut, you must catch one smaller than 28″ and the other can be any size, so the goal is as big as possible. All of us got our big ones except Nick, which meant that every time there was a fish on, he had to reel it up. Nick caught 3 skate and a flounder while trying to get his limit. He was grinding hard and digging deep to bring up those fish.

It turned out to be surprisingly difficult to catch our last few small ones as the tide and conditions changed. I think we ended up being just one short when a line got caught in one of the props and we had to limp home on 3 engines. Once that was sorted in the marina, we made our way back to Kenai. Someone caught a halibut that was almost 7 feet long and 300 pounds, which we saw on the way out.

The cook prepared our halibut cheeks as an appetizer and cooked some of our halibut as our final entree. The rest of our fish was sent to the processor to be cleaned, packed and frozen for our return trip home. Five of us split up the fish and I’d guess it was about 30-35lbs each.

Even though I live the closest, it still took me 3 flights and about 15 hours to get home. I can’t really complain because Nick just got home and Mike might still be flying to Laguardia.

This was another epic trip in the books. I mostly came to hang out and take pictures of these guys fishing, but I had fun getting mine, too. One of the kids asked me if I was having fun and I said it was fun, but not pleasant. Fishing is hard work. I wouldn’t normally stand out in the cold and rain for 7 hours, bouncing bait off the river bottom about 12,000 times. But, it was worth it to spend some solid time together.

We’re already talking about our next trip. Chris feels like we missed out on King Salmon season and Nick is wondering why we don’t go somewhere warm to golf. I’m always game for anything and hope we can try it all (before we can’t).

Spring Break on the Big Island

Spring break this year was also a belated celebration for Grace’s 50th birthday. Although we used to go to Hawaii a bit before the kids and also when the kids were very little, they’ve only been one time that they remember. We had a great trip with the Lees to Maui for spring break several years ago.

Grace thought it was time for a return trip to a special place for us, which is Hualalai on the Big Island, where we spent the second half of our honeymoon. We also went there with my parents on a babymoon before Olivia was born. Then there was one last trip with Olivia when she was a toddler.

In the past, we rarely left the resort, but Grace planned some memorable excursions for us throughout the trip. On Monday evening, we went manta ray feeding nearby. There were about 10 other boats in the same area just off the coast near the airport. They use bright lights to attract the plankton, which in turn attracts the manta rays who feed right below you. We ended up seeing 6-8 manta rays with four continuously looping under our board for quite a while. We weren’t allowed to touch them, but they were close enough that they touched us. Lucas had some trouble with his gear so didn’t enjoy it as much. Olivia said it was the coolest thing she had ever experienced.

Tuesday we golfed together. It was a tough round for everyone as the wind got up. Olivia got hit by an errant ball early on in the round and took a break for a while. We were mostly all smiles by the end of the round (except Lucas). We checked that off the list.

Wednesday morning we went out on a canoe at the resort. It wasn’t expected, but a pod of dolphins went right past us, which was so cool. We also saw a couple sea turtles. On the way back in, we were able to snorkel along the reef and saw many fish.

On Thursday, Grace and I golfed again while the kids tended to themselves by the pool. They survived the several hours unattended. We had lunch together and had more pool time.

Friday was our last full day and Grace had planned a ziplining activity in Kohala, which was about an hour from the resort. I though it was controversial to spend our last day away, but it ended up being really fun and the kids said they enjoyed it even more than the manta ray feeding. We didn’t really have time to swim when we returned, but everyone was okay with some down time.

Our amazing week in paradise went by so quickly. Given our late spring break, we ran into several friends from school at the resort and then met a few more families who were on our plane home. I also ran into an old friend from my earliest start-up adventures when I first moved to the Bay Area. It’s always a small world.

Lucas said it was sad like leaving camp, which I understood. Grace said it was one of her favorite trips ever (perhaps behind her 40th birthday extravaganza). We all had an amazing time and did the math on how old we’d all be if it were another 13 years before we return. I hope it’s not that long, but it will be worth the wait.

U of M Ski Trip to Vail

A group of guys have been going on this ski trip for a while. This year, Thorne let me know he and Blaine had space in their room and invited me along. Among the other first timers were Blaine, Jon, Lamarchial and possibly some others. Some people departed as others arrived, but my guess is that there were about 16 or 17 people in this group (almost all Sigma Nus, plus some relatives and close friends).

The SF crew arrived Thursday afternoon, but some others had already had a full day of skiing and were gathered at the Red Lion for après. We spent hours there catching up before moving over to Vendetta’s for pizza and the Michigan basketball game. We finished the evening at the hotel before calling it a night. It’s no wonder why some of them did not make it to first chair, but the committed were waiting at the Gondola 1 before service officially started.

It’s not easy to keep a group this large together on a mountain like Vail. To that point, we lost Lamar about 3 minutes after getting off the gondola and didn’t see him again until lunch. It was almost as bad as losing your kid at the mall. There wasn’t a lot of new snow, but it was good enough. The groomers were a lot better than the back bowls, and we covered a lot of the mountain in search of good terrain.

How many old dudes can you fit in a hot tub? Too many is the answer. The size of the group also made it hard to find fine dining, but that was okay because we all fit inside the Blü Cow. Those guys behind the bar had no idea a group would come in and pay for the next 3 months’ rent. I wasn’t there to shut it down, but they reserved half the restaurant for us for the following night as well.

Although I’ve seen most of these guys here and there over the years, I hadn’t met John before because he was a little after my time in the house. The Flint crew showed up on Friday, and Paul and I decided we hadn’t seen each other since college. That meant it was awesome to catch up on almost 30 years and also learn he has 580K TikTok followers. Who knew!

The number of skiers/boarders dwindled on Saturday, with some opting for recovery. Greg and Scott had a beautiful champagne lunch at the Four Seasons. We’re all very happy for them. The rest of us were dining on burgers and chicken strips at the Eagle’s Nest and only the bravest continued on through the end of a very full day of skiing and riding.

Saturday’s Michigan-OSU game did not end as well, but we shook it off with more Vendetta’s (sorry, Blü Cow crew) in Greg’s room. Things got a little crazy with our all-night Euchre tournament. No punches were thrown, but let’s just say some people will do anything to win.

Sunday, I ventured out alone for a few runs in the morning before packing up and saying our farewells. Thorne, Idema and I had our first civilized meal of the trip at Sweet Basil before heading out to Eagle and home.

One thing I loved about this trip was that I got to really catch up with everyone, unlike at a tailgate or a game. There’s lots of time on the chairlift and while hanging out to meaningfully reconnect. On the mountain and in the bar, everyone is still 20. But our conversations really reflect our age as we celebrate our children (and babies!) and partners, support each other with our aging parents, lift some out of unimaginable hardships, compare colonoscopies and cholesterol levels, and contemplate the next phase of life.

However that next phase plays out for each of us, I hope we can keep doing this trip while our knees and (some) livers will allow. Until next time.

Note: I can’t be in all places at all times to capture all the shenanigans, so these are a collection of photos from the trip.

Long weekend in Tahoe with Moons

We spent the long weekend with the Moons in Lake Tahoe. Clara and Grace conspired to sign-up Lucas for ski team at Northstar. This was his first time skiing with his Mountain Explorers team. He’ll get some more days on the mountain this season and is happy to have Nico to keep him company.

Olivia and Alex didn’t ski/ride as much this weekend, but they still got out for some tubing. We didn’t end up getting on the mountain on our last day, so the four kids went tubing instead. It was a great end to our weekend together.

Thanks, Moons, for having us (as always). We’ll see you again in two weeks.

Ski Trip to Beaver Creek with Jea and Eddie

We planned a ski trip for the 2nd week of the kids’ break. It’s always a gamble with the snow that early in the season and a week or two before our trip to Beaver Creek it was looking very bleak. It was dumping in California during that time, but not all of the storms seemed to be hitting Colorado.

While we’re used to going to Beaver Creek now, we chose it in particular because Jea and Eddie planned to be their with their family and their friends. It’s a crazy time to travel and the only thing we could find was a 3 BR at the Westin. We didn’t need all the space, so Jea and Eddie joined us in one of our rooms, which was nice to be able to stay together.

Between COVID-19 and the weather, our flight to Eagle was cancelled after several delays. We spent most of the day at the airport trying to re-route and got on a flight to Denver in the afternoon, rented a car, and drove ourselves up that evening. It was very snowy and slow, but we made it safely, but our bags did not.

We arrived on Sunday, but our bags didn’t arrive until Wednesday night. Luckily I had shipped all of our ski gear ahead of time because we were supposed to be coming directly from NY. The kids didn’t have their base layers, so we bought some there and everyone wore the same clothes for 3 days straight. Thankfully we had laundry in the unit to stay fresh.

It snowed pretty much every day we were there, yet much of the mountain and lifts were still not open. The lack of staff impacted everything from the restaurants, in-room dining menu, and lift operations. I don’t think I skied a groomed run all week. Even Starbucks was shut down in the hotel, which is usually an important part of our routine.

In any case, we made the most of the fresh snow and being with our friends. It wasn’t easy to coordinate the whole group, but the kids skied together some days, as did the adults. We had some meals together and celebrated Olivia’s birthday. We enjoyed spending time with the Lim family and their boys were great with Olivia and Lucas (even if they were no match for him in Super Smash Bros). We were supposed to spend NYE together, but the other groups headed out a day early to beat a big storm that threatened to snow them in. They made it safely to Denver after a 5-hour drive.

We were suffering as well back at the hotel, watching Michigan get destroyed in the semi-finals. I barely made it to east coast midnight, but I did manage to get out early on New Years Day to find some fresh powder. Lucas and I skied 6 days while Olivia took her birthday off with Grace.

Although we were delayed again on the way home, we were relieved to just get a flight out with all the cancellations. We made it home safely with all of our luggage (though our shipped ski bags were dropped off ironically to the wrong house).

Happy New Year!

Christmas Day at Home

We came home early from New York City and spent Christmas at home alone (with Luna). The kids were excited to open all of the presents that were under the tree, as they originally wouldn’t have been able to open them until after we returned from Colorado in January.

Thanks to all our family for the generous gifts.

NYC for the Holidays – 2021

We finally had planned to spend the holidays in NY to be together with family. This was technically a Park Christmas, but my mom would be with Jen and the Haus would all be around. I hadn’t been to NY since Eemoh’s 80th birthday over three years ago. We planned to spend the first half of the week in Manhattan. Grace wanted to minimize walking, so we stayed at the St. Regis vs. the Essex House or Mandarin, which are more towards Columbus Circle.

We met Dave for dinner on the first night. My mom came down from Jen’s to hang out with us on Monday. We went to Rockefeller Center to check out the tree. It was pretty crazy down there. We had our first celebrity sighting when Olivia noticed Gaten Matarazzo from one of our favorite shows, Stranger Things. I told her to ask for a photo, but she hesitated. My mom was the most aggressive in getting close to him and in the end Liv wanted one, but we missed our opportunity.

We had a late afternoon snack at the St. Regis before heading out to go skating in Central Park at Wollman Rink. It was a bit of a zoo down there, but we had fun and no one got injured. We had dinner at Quality Italian with Dave, Jeanah and my mom. The last time we came here together, my mom took a really bad tumble on the last couple stairs and broke her knee cap and wrist. We rode the elevator this time.

On Tuesday, we went to the MOMA with the kids. They weren’t really in the mood for a museum and were being very teenagery. Grace did a little shopping on her own while the kids and I had another snack at the hotel. All the food and service there was excellent by the way, especially breakfast. That evening, we had dinner with Zoë and Jeanah. We hadn’t seen her since SJC.

By Wednesday, things were getting a little crazy with COVID-19 in Manhattan. Our Christmas plans were becoming very uncertain and it looked like we weren’t going to see extended family, including my mom, and Grace’s parents, who didn’t even come in from Michigan. Although the kids were very sad to miss spending time with Cameron and Dex at Addy and Charles’s house, we decided to head home early on Wednesday.

We took a PCR test before we left, got home safely, and all received negative results. We survived and Luna was especially happy to see us arrive home early vs. being gone for two weeks straight. We were supposed to fly directly from NY to Colorado, so those plans had to be rearranged.

Until next time, NYC!

Annual U of M Holiday Party – 2021

It’s hard enough to schedule a holiday party and much more so during a pandemic. We skipped it last year, but were determined to get back on track this year. Some regulars decided to leave the country (temporarily) and others had conflicts. Amy and Grady were kind enough to host at their new home.

In the time of COVID-19, it’s perfectly normal for one of the hosts to participate virtually. Grady had a solid reason to be away and Amy handled this rowdy group effortlessly. As we age, the gift exchange becomes tamer and tamer (and more full of CBD-related products).

Glad we didn’t pass up the opportunity to celebrate the holidays with dear friends, despite a lot of other things going on. Happy Holidays and GO BLUE!

Lake Tahoe with Mom and Jen

We capped off our Thanksgiving holiday with my mom and Jen in Lake Tahoe. I’m not sure if it counts as a staycation when you drive 4-5 hours each way, but it is somewhat routine for us. We wanted to give them the full treatment, which included a stop at Il Fornaio in Roseville for dinner. Blue came along and they were nice enough to let him sit with us in the restaurant (instead of on the patio, which would have been chilly).

Grace was thinking that this would be somewhat of a ski trip, except it was in the 60s and the only snow on the ground was from October. I think at that time they were optimistic for an early start to the season, but it has been quite dry since then. It turned out to be fine because we could just relax and show them around.

We were all able to fit nicely into a 3BR at the Ritz-Carlton. We started Saturday morning with brunch in the hotel. Olivia wanted to skate so we took the gondola down to Northstar village, but the rink was closed until the evening. We drove half way around the lake to South Lake Tahoe. It was a perfect day and in the 60s. My mom hadn’t been to Lake Tahoe in 33 years and back then she didn’t see much.

When we got to Heavenly, it was a lot more crowded. Lucas has been wanting to do the bungee thing since he missed out in Jackson Hole. And, to Olivia’s delight, the skating rink was open over there. I took my mom up the Heavenly gondola, which has stunning views of almost the entire lake at the observation level. By the time we got down, Olivia, Jen and Lucas were all skating.

The main event for the evening was the Big 10 Championship game. This was supposed to be an early birthday celebration for Jen. There was a lot of planning of dinner around this game, including a dog sitter for Blue. In the end, we just ordered room service and watched the game in the room, which turned out to be perfect. Also perfect was our blowout, decisive victory. Everyone was happy.

Sunday, we just had brunch again at the hotel and got on the road to return home. It was a short trip and a long drive, but worth it to experience Tahoe all together. Lucas is doing ski team at Northstar this winter, so he and I will be making this trip often.

© www.graceandjason.com 2022