Summer Trip to Michigan – 2021

Our family made our first trip to Michigan together since 2019. I was thankful to visit my parents back in June. We also haven’t seen Jen and Blue since then, so it was a great reunion for our family.

The first week, we spent some time with Grace’s family in Ann Arbor. Delaney was still in town for school and Addy joined to help her move apartments. Grace and the kids spent time at Youngjoo and Il’s house, where they had the best time on the lake.

We didn’t get to see too many friends on this trip, though we did have a nice dinner with Frances and Jon in Ann Arbor. We had a great weekend away in Chicago at the end of our first week. The following week, my aunt and cousin’s daughter, Sara, joined us in Michigan. This was also the first time my mom has seen her sister during COVID-19.

We were super happy that SJC was back on this summer, though it was quite different experience, starting with the drive-through drop off. It was great to catch up with lifelong friends at Dairy Queen before heading our different ways for the week. Thankfully, everyone has been surviving the pandemic and now our kids were spending a week together as second-generation campers.

Grace and I headed straight from Higgins Lake to Traverse city. We dropped off Jen at her friends Jen and Dan’s house. We checked into Grand Traverse resort and got in about 10 holes of golf before heading in to meet Jea and Eddie’s family. While it was great to finally meet their newest addition, Bella, it turned out she wasn’t welcome to stay at the resort, so our couple days of golf and hanging out were blown up. We had a quick dinner together before the mosquitoes came to eat us alive. We were mostly able to avoid the rain and got in a couple rounds and a nice dinner at the resort before leaving for home. We met Jen and the Lipfords for lunch in Traverse City and then drove home before the Haus started arriving.

Myung and Millie arrived in style as Myung piloted a single engine plane from New York, with a stop in Ohio. They took went flying around Michigan and up to Mackinaw Island and now have been to more places than me. Andrew and Clarence drove from NJ. We spent some time exploring Detroit and reminiscing about how our uncle terrorized us in the glass elevators at the Renaissance Center.

Halle, Liz and Mochi flew in on Friday. The main purpose of their trip was to show Halle U of M and show Andrew what he missed out on. We will probably never let him live that down.

On Saturday, Clarence and I went to pick up the kids at camp. We brought Zoe home with us and dropped her at her grandmother’s house. It turned out that everyone, including Lucas, had the best week/year at camp. I’m so glad Olivia and Sara were able to spend this precious experience together. I hope she’ll be back.

It was now a full Hau-Rhee family reunion, like so many we had in the 70s and 80s. We made full use of my parents’ back yard with some serious kickball and whiffle ball. This is the last time we’ll ever be able to do this as my parents will be moving next year.

My mom shows her love in many ways, but especially through cooking. While we told her to take it easy, she was set on cooking her delicious food for us. We went on yet another tour of U of M. Clarence and I overlapped while he was in graduate school and we had a lot of fun reminiscing about our time together. He knows a lot more about electrical engineering than I do. We gave them the full experience with a stop at Zingerman’s and the Big House.

We took a lot of family photos and had one last meal together at Benihana. We celebrated my Eemoh’s birthday and the big ones we weren’t able to celebrate together during the pandemic. We had such a great time together and it would have been even better with Lou and Sandor’s families. Hopefully we’ll all be together again soon.

Weekend trip to Chicago

Although we’ve taken some trips during COVID-19, my parents have been pretty locked down. While we were all home in Michigan, Grace wanted to take a trip with everyone to give them a change of scenery. After considering some destinations, we decided on Chicago as we haven’t been there together in forever and the kids have never visited.

My dad is on dialysis and his treatments are M-W-F, so we left directly after his Friday treatment. All 8 of us (including Blue) fit nicely in our rental Suburban and we made the trip to downtown in good time. We stayed at the Waldorf Astoria, which is not only beautiful, but in a quiet and accessible part of town.

Our first dinner out on Friday was at Prime and Provisions, which was kind enough to let Blue eat indoors with us. It was loud, but the food and service were great and I think everyone enjoyed their meals. Olivia especially enjoyed taking in a new big city.

On Saturday, we went on an architectural boat tour, which I think is the best way to see and learn about Chicago and its beautiful skyline. The kids enjoyed it and learned a lot. We spent a little time at Navy Pier before heading back to the hotel.

In the evening, Jen’s friend Kim came to the hotel to sit for Blue. My cousin Sunyong and his family also met us at the hotel for a visit and we went to dinner together. We haven’t seen them in a long time and I’m certain the kids don’t remember meeting Noah when they were all very little.

On Sunday morning, I took Olivia and Lucas to meet her school friend, who was visiting his sister in the city. The Starbucks reserve on Michigan Avenue is a sight to behold, but I don’t really recommend trying to eat there on a busy morning. Our last meal was at Joe’s, which reminded us of our meal there together in Miami.

After lunch, we picked up Jen and got right on the road. We were home by dinner time. Everyone had a great time on our excursion, especially my mom, who appreciated the luxurious time away.

I also shared this in a different post:

When my dad immigrated to the US in 1961, he landed in Chicago and spent a few years studying at the University of Chicago. He has always considered it his home town, despite living in Michigan for over 50 years. He roots for the Bears and the White Sox. Jen, Grace and I also have lived in Chicago post-college. We spent a quick weekend eating, touring, and reminiscing our way through the city with Olivia, Lucas, and Blue. It was us vs. 400K Lollapalooza attendees.

4th of July in Tahoe with Moons

You know things are getting back to normal when we’re in Tahoe with the Moons for 4th of July. We had intentions of setting out early on Friday morning, but didn’t quite make it. It didn’t seem to make much difference because traffic was bad.

For as many times as we’ve passed Ikeda’s on the way up, Grace has never been. The kids and I stopped on our first Airstream trip, but they don’t really remember. We had a good stop for lunch and groceries.

When we’re at home, the kids spend most of their waking hours gaming with the Moon boys online. In Tahoe, it was the same, but in person. Just kidding – they spent time playing chess, ping pong and a little time outdoors, too.

Our biggest excursion was tubing down the Truckee river. We have done it in the past with rafting operators, but Mike had the gear for DIY tubing thanks to a pickup from Clara and Grace at the end. Speaking of pickups, Mike’s Ohio roots are starting to show with his new Ram truck! Grace has been informed that we’re getting a Raptor so we can duel.

My tube started to deflate on the first leg, which was exciting. I also spent the first leg of the trip Googling “Is the iPhone 11 waterproof?,” but I never had enough signal. It turns out it is! The kids worked well together to keep us out of danger. We ran into a couple friends on the river, which was a pleasant surprise.

Saturday evening, we couldn’t convince Clara and Grace to head to the barn to see Wonder Bread 5, but Mike and I wouldn’t miss it. Sunday was pretty chill as we celebrated America’s birthday. Olivia caught a fish (they’re not smart this early in the season).

We were able to squeeze in a little Thando baseball after dinner before getting in the car to return home. We were talking in the car about how we never really make it a point to see fireworks on the 4th and we’re often driving back from festivities at that time. This time, we saw ALL the fireworks on the way home, which really didn’t end as we arrived before midnight.

Thanks to the Moons for hosting us again in Tahoe. It’s always beautiful and relaxing. The kids (and adults) have been having fun together since birth and I hope they never outgrow their special friendship.

Spring Break in LA and Palm Desert

Grace’s parents have thankfully been fully vaccinated, so we planned our spring break around seeing them and also celebrating her mom’s 80th birthday. Dave planned to come out and join us. At the last minute, Addy decided to join us as well. Bummer that Charles and their kids couldn’t make the family gathering complete.

Grace got lucky with her first vaccine shot a few weeks ago, but that put her second shot in the middle of break, which couldn’t be changed. She also hauled to Sacramento to get it, so that meant a 2 day delay and 3 hour diversion on our drive down to LA, which was a problem worth having.

Grace hemmed and hawed (never does that) on where to stay. Ultimately she picked West Hollywood to stay at a hotel she enjoyed in London. It was nice and quiet, but a little out of the way and not really walking (for me).

Chosun Galbee isn’t open on Mondays, so we went to some other place, which was fine. Benjamins were distributed by grandpa. Tuesday, Addy was flying in, and she had never been to Manhattan Beach, so we all met up there for lunch. The weather wasn’t the greatest, but it’s always nice to visit.

We had dinner at Ann and Jeremy’s. Grace and I have watched Queens Gambit three times and the kids twice. They are obsessed with chess, which seems like a much better use of device time, so it is usually allowed. Lucas is improving against Jeremy in their matches and can hopefully make a strong showing in a visit or two. I’m 0 for 2 against Olivia already.

Wednesday was moving day, so we took advantage of the empty roof-top pool. Our teenager wasn’t interested and Lucas asked me to join him. It was warm enough, but once the sun was hidden for the foreseeable future, it was time to go. We did get to have Chosun Galbee for lunch on our way out of town.

Our family road trip was to Palm Desert. I haven’t been to Palm Springs in almost 30 years and I don’t think anyone else has been there recently either. The weather was a little dodgy when we arrived, but it cleared up nicely for a couple days of golf and pool. Grace played 18 holes for the first time in forever and held up great.

The resort was nice enough, but was a little too big. I believe it peaked in 1983 and was a little understaffed for the number of guests. The food there was great and we had some meals in town, including Grace’s mom’s birthday dinner.

We had ambitions of going to Joshua Tree, but it turned out to be more effort than was wanting to be expended. I saw a lot of people posting from there the week before and the same week. Grace’s parents, Addy and Dave stopped there on the way back to LA and we headed straight home after our last brunch together. We’ll have to come back to check it out.

Happy to be spending quality time with family again. Can’t wait to see my family next.

Birthday Weekend in Lake Tahoe

Even though we’re still in pandemic mode, Grace planned a weekend away for our birthdays, which was in stark contrast to our last birthday at home. The kids were remote for school last week, so we went up on Wednesday night and they attended school from the room. I got in a few runs in the morning before work and meetings. It was nice that I had pretty much the mountain to myself and was the first one down on Drifter towards the backside at Northstar. At the end of the day, we rode the gondola down to the village, which was quiet and mostly closed.

On Friday, the kids and I skied together. We met Grace for lunch back at the hotel, which was the first of several meals at the only restaurant. On Saturday, Grace joined us on the slopes for the first time, which was huge given all she’s been through this past year. She did great and said she was feeling fine. She didn’t push too hard and went back after lunch.

Clara decided to come up and visited us for a bit before dinner, which was so nice of her. It was good to catch up some more after seeing all the Moons briefly while we were in Napa. Thanks to her for one of our few family photos during the trip (year).

We celebrated Grace’s birthday (and mine) at dinner, which was excellent. Together, we’re 100! This also means I have one year to plan for her milestone next year. I don’t know if we can top her 40th, so we have to set expectations low.

On Sunday, Olivia went to ski with some friends from school in the morning, so Lucas and I went out alone. We had planned to stay until Monday morning, but the kids were anxious about homework and getting to school. We packed up and made it home by dinner time.

It was a relaxing and beautiful weekend up in Tahoe, which was our first in over a year. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky for 3 days and the snow held up nicely in spring conditions. It was awesome to ski with Grace. I think this is as good as birthdays get, as long as we’re all together having fun.

Long Weekend at Carneros Resort in Napa

A month or so ago, Albert was telling me that we were going to Carneros Resort together in March. I guess I’m always the last to know. It is one of my favorite places in Northern California and I think I did say that I would love to visit more often. Going there is the vacation equivalent of camping in your backyard, if your backyard was the most beautiful backyard ever. Also, it’s ski season. WTH?

The Lees had to come up a day later than planned, but this was a third night free type of situation, so we enjoyed our free third night anyway. Friday was supposed to be work and school, but somehow the kids got out of school and I didn’t get out of work. It was fine.

We haven’t seen the Moons since right before the pandemic when we were at their place for ski week. They braved the drive and us crazy pre-spring-breakers to come hang out for the afternoon and dinner. Our kids have been hanging out a lot online, but there’s nothing like spending time IRL. It was so nice to see everyone.

Because Carneros is also one of my favorite places to take pictures, I decided it was a good reason to end my Leica experiment and go all in on a new (used) SL2-S. They were making me go, after all. I won’t go into it much except to say it is low-light sorcery and I could not love shooting it more, even after just a few days.

It is technically winter, but the kids didn’t care and went swimming anyway. Despite having their own pool, the Lee kids think this was their first time swimming since we were last here in July. Thankfully they’ve outgrown the kiddie pool because Albert and I are convinced it is 80% full of pee. Also, it isn’t a real Rhee+Lee vacation unless a Lee kid shows up with a cast.

Saturday night dipped down into snow temperatures, which made it too cold to eat outside. We ordered in instead, which was just fine. The kids roasted fancy marshmallows on a Duraflame. It was weird.

Sunday was daylight savings and half our crew slept in right until brunch. We had one last meal before saying our goodbyes and heading home. Olivia said she wanted to get home to do homework, but I hear her cackling with her friends online playing games.

It was a short but welcome getaway. If we don’t come up with a plan A, we’ll be back there for Memorial Day weekend. I won’t say no.

2021 Ski Week in Park City, UT

Not seeing family and friends and limited travel were probably the toughest parts of the past year. Our RV trip last summer was just what we needed at the time. We still weren’t ready to board a plane, so ski week was limited to destinations within driving distance. We stopped in Park City on the way to Yellowstone and it was very manageable, even though we did it in two stretches. Tahoe seemed too close and Colorado seemed too far, so Park City it was.

Normally, we pack the morning of or departure, but we planned to leave around 6am, so the car and skis were packed and ready to go the night before. Luna didn’t knew what was happening and didn’t want us to leave. It really wasn’t too bad and I didn’t hear one complaint during the 13-hour ride. The kids also experienced their first KFC, which received a thumbs up (though not Chick-Fil-A level).

Ann and Jeremy’s kids also had the week off, so they invited us to stay with them at their new home in Utah. We weren’t their first guests, but there are so many rooms, we got to choose one that hadn’t yet been occupied. We skied our first day at Canyons/Park City and then two days at Deer Valley, which is their home mountain.

Jea and Eddie also came out for the week, so we all met up for dinner, as we had last year for Olivia’s Birthday in Beaver Creek. We also enjoyed some great dinners at home.  The kids ventured out to sled in their back yard, which is a golf course in the summer. We’ll have to go back to check that out.

Emma and her friend, Natalie, joined the party at the same time we moved over to a hotel in town mid-week. We skied Park City and Canyons the rest of the week. We celebrated Natalie’s birthday at 350 Main, which was quiet and very manageable. The next night, we went to Tekila, which was a little closer to Señor Frog’s during spring break. Grace was double-masked.

The rest of the family voted to leave on Saturday to have a full day at home on Sunday. Friday was our last day of skiing. We were able to say a quick hello to Teresa and the twins. Unfortunately, we never connected with Ulrik, who kindly texted me every morning to search for powder without the kids (it snowed over 3 feet while we were there). We had one last dinner with Ann, Jeremy, Emme and Elsen before packing up and heading out at 7am the next morning.

The weather was a little clearer on the way home. We stopped for a late lunch in Truckee before getting stuck in Sacramento traffic. 14 hours later we arrived home to Luna, who missed us, but was kept company (and alive) by Romana.

Honestly, skiing during COVID-19 wasn’t too bad. Everyone wears masks. We tested before and after the trip and thankfully we were negative. Looking forward to getting a few more days in this season and hopefully things will be more back to normal next winter.

Lastly, after 170,000 photos, Olivia and Lucas are starting to tire of taking pictures. They are now inclined to oblige me by swapping smiles. I’ll take what I can get.

2020 Airstream Trip – Part 4: Malibu

The last and final leg of our Airstream journey was to spend a few days in Malibu, where we ended our last RV trip. It was too long of a haul from Moab to Malibu, so we stopped for the night in Zion and stayed at the same Zion River Resort as last time. I went into town myself to get some supplies. The last time we were there the market was packed with people, but this year it was eerily quiet. This wasn’t like other places we had visited.

I was hoping to maybe catch the sunset, but my camera got unloaded and there wasn’t much light in the valley anyway. When I got back we had dinner and ended up playing late night Settlers of Catan. I came so close to winning (perhaps for the first time?). I ended up rolling a 7 on my turn while holding 16 cards. Then came a crushing defeat by Olivia.

We had about 8 or 9 hours of driving planned to get to Malibu. We considered stopping in Las Vegas like last time, but decided to just skip it. We stopped in St. George, Utah, for breakfast and shortly after getting back on the road heard a noise coming from either the car or the trailer. I thought it might be a flat on the Airstream.

We pulled over the side of the highway (scary) and I couldn’t see any flat or other problem. We kept going a little further and I stopped again (in a scarier spot) and again I couldn’t see anything. We descended down the mountain and I got off again at the first exit and got under the car and finally found the problem. One of the rear tires had separated and the rubber must have been rubbing on the inner fender liner because it was torn. I could see the steel belts. Honestly, this could have been catastrophic, so we were lucky to avoid a blow out at speed.

We were about 15 miles past St. George so rather than continue on to hundreds of miles of nothing, we turned around and made it safely to a tire shop where I had the full-size spare changed. It’s kind of an odd tire size and new tires were at least a day out. Grace suggested the dealership, so I called ahead to one in Las Vegas and they had them so we headed straight there. I couldn’t convince anyone to Uber with me to the strip to play a few hands have lunch, so we grabbed In and Out and waited at the dealership. We were on our way after a couple hours.

The worst part about this was that we had to cancel our dinner reservation at Mastro’s in Malibu. We finally made it to Malibu Beach RV park after about 13 hours of travel. If there was a sport for towing an Airstream to get from the I-5 to the I-10 via the I-605 through DTLA at night, I would be champion. If it were required that your spouse must be your co-pilot during the race, I quit the sport.

Everyone was pretty wiped so we didn’t stay up late. It all seemed worth it when we woke up to the view of the ocean, literally out our back door. The rear hatch now seems like a must have option on the Airstream. Right, Grace?

We considered skipping LA due to it being a COVID-19 hot spot, but Grace really wanted to see her parents. This move itself was controversial, but we hadn’t seen them since Thanksgiving and they ensured a socially distant lunch outside. They’re doing their best to stay safe and it was really nice to see them and have them see the kids.

There wasn’t much downtime at all on this trip, particularly for the driver, but I had a 30 minute power nap with the ocean breeze flowing over me and it was blissful. We managed to squeeze in an early dinner at Mastro’s after all and it was a well-deserved meal while off the road.

After a trip to the hardware store to fix a leaky water hose, Olivia wanted to hit the beach, so we pulled over at Will Rogers Beach just as the sun was setting. She was so happy. The evening ended with Scrabble, where Grace crushed us with Bingo on her first turn.

The next day was our true beach day, so we braved the traffic and the other beachgoers at Zuma Beach. We spent a couple hours there and dug a hole of which we were all proud. We grabbed lunch to go at The Sunset restaurant right there and headed back to the RV to eat.

We had a quick turn to get ready to go to Ann and Jeremy’s for dinner in Santa Monica. This was a do over for Jeremy’s big birthday, which we weren’t able to make in Deer Valley last month. It was great for the kids to play and the adults to catch up. We’re glad to see them doing so well and also to meet their new dog, Layla (RIP Murphy).

On Sunday, we got our earliest start in order to get back to San Jose and were pulling out of Malibu by 8:15am. Malibu Country Mart is our unofficial home base so we planned to go there to grab breakfast, thinking it would be empty at that hour. I pulled in and the parking lot was full of classic and exotic cars and people (Wheels and Waves, apparently). Suddenly, we were the main attraction, pulling an Airstream through the parking lot. I’m sure it was equal parts WTF and don’t run over my McLaren. It was funny once we navigated our way back out of the parking lot.

The whole trip went by so fast, especially our short stay at the beach. We made it home without incident, if you don’t count the scorching heatwave and wild fires waiting for us in Burlingame. This was our longest and certainly most ambitious family trip ever, but it was really necessary after months of being at home. We visited so many amazing national parks and sights that I’ve waited a lifetime to see. Through 3,800 miles, I really don’t recall anyone complaining about the drive, so hopefully that part was painless.

That said, this was a real family road trip. There was fighting in the car … even between brother and sister. There was virtually no signal in Yellowstone, so it was like traveling in 2005. I had to coerce a few photos so I could get in some of them (is anyone really doing holiday cards this year?). But, it was all totally worth it.

This was supposed to be a test run on an Airstream lifestyle. Sure, everyone was happy to be home (i.e., see Luna). As long as we’re WFH and the kids are in virtual school, I’m ready to go nomadic. The Airstream has solar and dual-zone A/C, neither of which we have at home.

2020 Airstream Trip – Part 3: Arches and Dead Horse Point

On the third leg of our trip, we were headed down to Moab in southeast Utah. We didn’t make it that far during our last Airstream trip to Utah. We were passing through SLC and stopped to see the Binzers, who recently relocated to Park City after COVID-19 disrupted their plans to drive around the world in their recently acquired overland vehicle.

I’ve been to Park City more than a few times and had no idea beautiful lakeside communities existed within view of the mountain. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see the Binzer boys, who were at camp. We did get to catch up with the adults over lunch. Ironically, I saw them during ski week up in Tahoe right before things locked down, so they are one of the few (only) families I’ve seen multiple times in 2020. Thank you for having us! We’ll hopefully be back during ski season.

Our lunch stop helped break up a long haul down to Moab. We got there around 8pm and had leftovers for dinner in the RV. The Idema boys were also in town, but we failed to connect with them. The closest I’ve gotten to seeing Matt since COVID-19 started was throwing a bag of Ikon coffee over his fence at the beginning of April, when me and the other Burlingame guys would discuss pulling espresso shots daily on WhatsApp. This is what we’ve been reduced to.

During our first day in Moab, we were going to explore Arches National Park. It would have been good to get an early start and beat the heat but we waited until around 11am (normal Rhee family time), when it was already 100 degrees. The red Utah rock was familiar, but the towering monuments, shapes, and of course, arches, were incredible. We explored a lot in a couple hours and took a break for lunch in Moab.

Our plan was to go back into the park before sunset for better light. We didn’t have that much left to see except Delicate Arch. The group was not up for the hike to the base, so we did the half mile trek to a view point instead. We also didn’t hike Fiery Furnace, as suggested by my friend, Ted. On the map, it looked like Devils Garden was the last area of the park to check out, so we drove out there and started hiking the canyon. The only problem was that one of my main objectives was to photograph the sunset, but we happened to be deep in probably the only area of the park where golden hour was not visible. By the time we emerged, it was over.

This wasn’t the first time of the trip where I was fretting wrong light, wrong filter, wrong lens, wrong camera. It was probably mostly wrong photographer. It’s fine. It was still spectacular and everyone will remember the amazing things we saw and did on the trip. Hopefully the photos we did get will be a good reminder.

The second day we planned to visit Dead Horse Point State Park. I knew it would be a short visit. It was beautiful and we hiked around a little and took some photos. Again, the direct overhead sunlight was harsh and oppressive, but we were right on schedule.

On this trip, I didn’t include Canyonlands. I also know we didn’t see “everything” or do every hike at all the other parks, and I’m okay with that. It gives us or the kids a reason to go back and see it a different way. I’m just thankful that after 50 years, I was able to see it for the first time.

2020 Airstream Trip – Part 2: Grand Teton and Jackson

The second stop on our RV trip was Grand Teton. It was originally the first stop, but due to limited availability at RV parks, we went to Yellowstone first, which I think worked out great. I don’t know anything about this area, so even though “Teton Valley Resort” sounds like it’s near the Grand Teton National Park, it’s not. It was about 45 minutes over the hill in Victor, Idaho

We dropped off the Airstream at the park and headed straight out in search for a late lunch. Grace found a great little Thai place in Teton Village at the base of Jackson Hole. I know many people love to ski here, but I just haven’t made the trip (until now). After having our picnic lunch, we went to the top of the mountain on the gondola and took in the sights over a drink.

Afterwards, we went into the park to knock out some must sees. Our first stop was Mormon Row, which is technically just outside the park. After some photos, thankfully we continued down the road beyond the most famous house where several cars were stopped to gawk at … a herd of bison! After the onesies and twosies in Yellowstone, we felt like we hit the bison jackpot. There were baby bison and huge bison. Long before this trip I taught the kids that the scientific name for bison is Bison Bison (thanks, Mr. Engelhard – 9th grade biology).

We had dinner back in Teton Village at Il Villaggio Osteria in Hotel Terra. This was only our second meal indoors during COVID-19. The food was great and the service even better.

For our only full day in Grand Teton, we got an early start. No, we didn’t. We made it to downtown Jackson for brunch at Persephone Bakery. We didn’t get into the park until almost noon.

Skip down to the bears if you don’t care to geek out on cameras.

In anticipation of this trip and possibly these specific photos, I bought a new (used) camera. For the past seven years, almost every photo on this blog has been shot exclusively with the Sony RX1 and then Sony RX1R II. It was the world’s first full frame mirrorless point and shoot. Coupled with its fixed 35mm F2.0 Zeiss lens, the RX1 produces amazing results in a small camera I would take anywhere. I love it. Shortly after getting it, I sold my Canon 5D Mk II rig and never looked back.

During COVID-19, I’ve been selling every unused thing in sight: 5 iPads, 3 iPhones, bike, SUV, golf clubs, memorabilia, etc. A while back, Grace indulged me in an old hobby and I assembled a stereo system that was beautiful to look at, but rarely made any sound. Initially while sheltering in place I was listening to it a lot, much to the dismay of the other inhabitants in our household. I’m not hard of hearing, but I like it loud, like concert level. No one else likes that. So, piece by piece (some 130 lbs), it has been liquidated.

I decided to swap my hobby of not listening to music with a new hobby of not taking pictures. Just kidding, I take a shit ton of pictures. I knew for this trip I would need something wider than 35mm. There aren’t any bad cameras these days, but also no perfect camera has been created. Mostly out of brand affinity, I bought a pre-owned Leica SL. The camera was basically new, but the model is five years old and the SL2 recently came out. Most digital cameras do not hold their value, Leicas included, which I used to my advantage. The body was already 75% depreciated. The glass, on the other hand, is still nuts and the SUV mentioned above barely covered one lens. I know it’s not the best or most capable camera, but it was the one I was most interested in shooting.

Now that I had the body in hand, I still didn’t have a lens to shoot. I knew I wanted to try something different than 35mm, which I already had covered. I started with a 50mm because I haven’t shot with that in forever. Specifically for this trip, I also got a 16-35mm wide zoom, too. This, too, is not the fastest, nor does it have a constant aperture, which Canon, Nikon and Sony all offer. For landscape, I knew I’d be shooting stopped down, so a fast wide-angle lens was not a priority. It turned out to be perfect for Yellowstone, as so many sights are visible only from the boardwalk, where you can’t back up. I ended up shooting it almost exclusively at the beginning of the trip. It’s only F4.5 at 35mm, but even so, I rarely took out the Sony except to do some A/B testing. I also got a tripod, which came in handy for some longer exposures and family shots.

The irony of all of this is that I somehow forgot the Leica in the RV for our one full day in Grand Teton. It was too far to go back and get it. Grace told me it was done and get over it. By the end of the boat ride across Jenny Lake, I was fine. No, I wasn’t. I was crying on the inside all the way up to Inspiration Point.

It turned out that the Sony was more than adequate for Grand Teton. It’s faster than my wide zoom and after developing the Yellowstone photos, I decided wide zooms are terrible for people photos. 35mm isn’t great for portraits, but it’s perfect for family shots, is wide enough for a lot of landscape, and works for friendly chipmunks, too. Each camera can do its own thing, but the Leica cannot really replace the Sony. The SL with a 35mm F2.0 Summicron-SL lens would weigh 3.5 lbs. (more than 3x the Sony) and is twice as large. I could shoot fast M-glass, but it would be manual focus only and that chipmunk would have never cooperated.

End of camera talk.

Getting back to animals, we saw two bears on the way back to the west boat dock at Jenny Lake (possibly the same bear). The first one was only about 20 feet off the trail and Grace didn’t approve of me chasing it for a photo. We had an afternoon snack on the shore of Jackson Lake. Just as we were leaving the park, we finally spotted our first moose! We checked basically every animal off the list.

We had time to kill before a late dinner back in Jackson. We spent about an hour just hanging out in Jackson Town Square. Grace and the kids got re-obsessed with Word Bubbles, which helped pass the time. We had our best meal of the trip so far at The Kitchen.

It’s possible that I didn’t schedule enough time in Grand Teton. Everyone agreed we should return at least to ski. I might have to come back alone to get some images I know I missed.