Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Drake powders his nose

Two days into it and no injuries to report. This is very good news! Especially considering neither Drake nor I have any experience skiing powder and that's about all there is up here on this mountain. At times, we are cutting through powder that comes above our knees making it incredibly difficult to do anything other than steer straight ahead and hope for the best.

We treated yesterday as our day to get warmed up on the mountain and agreed we would stick to intermediate trails only. This meant no trips to the peak of the mountain where all the trails are black diamond. We fared pretty well but the powder saps the energy out of your legs pretty quickly, and one fall in the powder for Drake took the rest of his energy.

But Carl called us last night and instilled extreme confidence in us! Spewing out motivational speak like "it's only a mountain" and "go slowly" and "there's nothing you can't do" and "just remember, lean into the mountain" and "don't be afraid to go off trail." We were empowered! There was nothing we couldn't do. Bring it on!
And so we hit the trails this morning brimming with absolute confidence. Two runs on the old familiar trails and we were ready to conquer the mountain. So up the Cornice Express we went. Who cares the storm has moved in. Who cares it snowed another few feet last night. We had Carl's spirit guiding. For a little way, anyhow.

We stood over the lip of that trail, looking down the steep, powdery slope and I knew, now was the time to act cool in front of Drake. No big deal. Just go slow, right? So Drake headed off first, gliding through the powder like nobody's business. And there was me behind, toes curled under, trying to grip the snow, as if it helped. And then, the powder bit, and Drake fell over sideways. Not a problem. Just get up again and try and fetch that ski pole that he dropped 6 feet uphill from him. Only trouble is, getting oneself upright in four feet of powder is a superhuman feat. While he focused on pulling himself upright, I sidestepped up the hill to fetch his pole. 20 minutes later, we were all intact, ready to proceed down the mountain, but boy, were we tired. Another 300 feet and I look up to see Drake face first in the side of a snowbank and all the people skiing around him shouting "are you all right???!!" It's never a good sign when other people are asking that. It's a clear indication that the wipeout was bad enough that you might not be all right. Luckily, Drake was fine. He had powdered his nose BIGTIME, heard his kneecap pop and cracked his goggles landing face first, but otherwise he was ok. And once again, he pulled himself up. This time, he was pretty worn out and we decided to stop at the lodge for a drink and a rest. He planned to go back to the condo, but I convinced him one more run would be well worth it. Good to end on a high note. And so we went back to old faithful, and had a lovely last run before Drake headed in for the day.

And I soldiered on, determined to "get my money's worth." What I ask you, is this: at what point to you know whether or not you got your money's worth? I went to the back of the mountain, dragged my way through more powder and got windwhipped on more chairlifts, always colder when you're on your own. Eventually, my legs began trembling and then I realized, maybe now I've gotten my money's worth. So I headed for home, and the hot tub, and the continuation of the Dr. Who marathon (that we began last night.) What a great day!

Tomorrow, we hit the trails for as long as we like before heading back to Oakland. With any luck, 88 will be open and the drive home will be an easy four hours.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Spikes and Spiders

My word, what a day. I thought coming up to Tahoe was supposed to be fun. Drake and I packed the car this morning and left the house at 10 am which I thought was pretty good time. We wanted to make it to Kirkwood around 4:00 pm. I checked all the websites that said Hwy 88 East was open so everything was all set up for success. First stop: Saturn dealership for some chains.

I remember when I bought the car they warned me that "regular" chains would not fit the saturn wheels. Whether or not that's true, I don't care to know anymore. I went to the dealer thinking I would buy some chains and be on my way. Little did I know the "spikes and spiders" as they call them would a) cost a fortune and b) need to be installed. I was super irriated thinking every minute counts when we're trying to beat the road closures.

From the dealership, we went to the ATM, got a cup of coffee and some bagels and were on the road but by now it was 11:49. Still, not too late, right? I called both the Kirkwood conditions line and the Caltrans line to find out the roads were still open and so, headed east. 100 miles later, we were at the base of 88 East, ready to head up over the pass--only 60 miles to go. Just to be safe, I called the Caltrans road conditions line again--only to find out the ROAD WAS CLOSED due to avalanche.

Drake and I, well not Drake, were left to decide whether to chance it over 88 E. and hope the road would open, or to head up to Sacramento and over Hwy 50, which was still open. Because the road was closed due to avalanche warnings, I figured it was a safer bet to go around, which was going to add another 150 miles to our trip.

By now it was chucking it down with rain but I was still hoping for the best. All the way up Hwy 50 it was pouring rain and I couldn't see any cars in front or behind me. I started to get nervous that I was the only one crazy enough to try and head over the pass in the storm. But when we got to the chain checkpoint, there were stacks of cars, some of them even regular little cars, like me. I slapped on the "Spikes and Spiders" and man, was it ever quick. That was worth $30 bucks, at least (the cost to have someone else put your chains on for you!) Then we headed the rest of the way over the pass--at 20 MPH. At times I had to stop completely due to lack of visibility. Eventually we made it over and I picked up the turnoff toward Kirkwood. There were fewer and fewer cars at this point and the clock had just gone 4:30. We had about 60 hours of daylight left but, to be honest, I wasn't sure what I preferred, dusk or dark.

With only 13 miles left to go, I encountered a Caltrans snowplow blocking the road, which immediately concerned me. But Tom, the driver, came over and said not to worry, they were pulling a car out of the snowbank up ahead and as soon as it was out, he would be heading up the pass and I could follow him. How cool is that? I felt extremely relieved at that point, even though the visibility was still very poor. Only trouble was, the tow trucks move even slower than the cars. So now, instead of 20 MPH, we were down to 10 MPH. and the light was fading fast. Then Tom pulled over and got out and told me I was a very lucky person to be following him (like he had to tell me that!) At which point, he walked behind my car and closed the gate telling me I was the last car that would be allowed on the road tonight. Holy Mackeral! I think I would have completely cried if I had gone all that distance and not gotten to our final destination. But we did--it only took 7 hours and 260 miles. I'm still trying to get circulation into my fingers after driving white knuckled for so many hours.
I think the storm may continue into tomorrow but Wednesday and Thursday are supposed to be beautiful so let's all hope for the best!

Drake at the checkpoint where we put on the chains

Drake and Tom--our Caltrans hero

Ahhhh, finally at home in our lodging.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Move over Rudy, Drake's in town

That's right folks--Drake's back in his "hometown!"
He arrived on Sunday morning after his original flight was cancelled Saturday and Rob and I took him out around town. Our first stop, "Can't Fail Cafe." Does breakfast get any better than this? Before we could even order our food, Drake had bought the t-shirt and put it on in the bathroom. Talk about Superman.

Next we headed off to Telegraph Avenue to shop for music and, what else, t-shirts

Nothing more fitting than to buy a hemp necklace from an old hippie dude.

And to try your luck out as a street vendor/performer. A little more practice and he could have started to earn money towards our ski trip.

A delicious burrito from Cactus and a photo op with one of our favorite cashiers there--we have no idea what his real name but we call him Chris Kattan. And finally, some sleep. Tomorrow we head up to Kirkwood for a few days of skiing. F-U-N!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Protect Your Nuts

It's been a long time since I posted anything nutty so here you go.

We recently visted Neville and Loralee (before Warren was born--Congratulations N&L!) at their new spot in Fairfield. In addition to giving us a nice meal and torturing me with some spicy Doritos that I couldn't stop eating, they also sent us home with a bag of walnuts fresh off their tree. Anyone who knows me, surely knows I don't like walnuts so how Rob thought he would go through a whole bag on his own, is anyone's guess. When we got home that night, we left the bag of walnuts on the porch.

Later that week, upon returning from work, Rob found a parade of squirrels going up and down our back steps and hauling away walnuts. Thinking this was far more enjoyable than cracking them open to eat on his own, he decided to bring the bag indoors and slowly ration the walnuts to the squirrels over time. How cute.

The fun reached it's maximum this weekend when Rob heard an unfamiliar scratch at the door. He opened the door to find a squirrel gnawing away at it--shards of wood scattered about. (Let's hope our landlord doesn't read our blog.) Rob then moved the bag down a few steps while he finished up a phone call with his mum and dad. The squirrel was not deterred.

As soon as Rob hung up, we knew we had to move the bag away from our porch. So we put it the one place we wouldn't mind the squirrels hanging around--the neighbors house. You know, the ones who let their dog crap all over the yard and then never clean it up. Trouble was, the squirrel hadn't figured out where the bag had gone and kept returning to our porch to find it. While he was sniffing around and I was filming the action, I suddenly realize our back door was open. About the same time he realized the same thing. Rob, who was on the ground, had the brilliant idea of throwing a tennis ball in the house to move the squirrel in the opposite direction. How could he have anticipated the squirrel would chase the tennis ball into the house? We don't have very stringent gender roles in our house but chasing rabid varmints out of our house is definitely a man's job. So I went after it (just kidding--Rob did!)

The squirrel bolted all the way through the house, into our bedroom and then sprung onto the blinds. I was not into this scene one bit so I went back outside, all the while imagining the squirrel springing onto my head or something horrible. Soon Rob comes to the back door with a broom in hand and says--"here he comes"--before tossing I-boys squirrel toy at me. Without time to think, I completely FREAK OUT! That's the kind of joke you love--except when it's played on you.

Rob finally got the squirrel out of the house. Only 7 walnuts remain.
And Rob's birthday gift from Peter and Agna couldn't have been more timely.