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Back to Real Life

January 27, 2003

Yes, I was vacationing again; this time it was skiing in Utah. Much as I like getting away, I’m very glad to be home and to know that I can settle in for a while. Other than a quick weekend trip to Toronto, I’m not planning on going anywhere for months and months. I’ll be able to put the suitcases away and tackle some of the projects that have been piling up at home. There are quilts to design and sew and rooms to be painted and plenty of clutter to be cleared, but first there’s a trip report to write.

As I alluded to in my last entry, Mr. Karen and our friend Hank left for Salt Lake City a few days before I did. (Thus Mr. Karen missed my electric vehicle adventure, which I’m glad to report has a happy ending. The tow truck driver was able to get the EV into our garage so I could plug it in and charge it up, and Mr. Karen reports that it behaved normally on his drive to work this morning. I’m relieved.) Originally I was planning to fly out Tuesday night, but after I’d bought my ticket, the flight I was booked on was dropped from the schedule, so I ended up with a mid-afternoon departure. Rather than try to leave from work and risk being all rushed and frazzled like I was at the start of my last ski trip, I took the whole day off. I had time to run errands before leaving for the airport and would have had a relaxed experience once there if only a) I’d accepted that an empty space close to the elevators was not going to appear no matter how much I drove around the parking deck and b) I’d admitted I can never remember which end of the terminal the Taco Bell is at and checked the map before heading off to the wrong end yet again. I ended up eating my Gordita (that’s a proper noun, right? a name Taco Bell made up?) on the plane. Fortunately, there was an empty seat next to me, a rare treat, so at least I didn’t have to offend an immediate neighbor with my fast food fumes.

I think my least favorite part of ski trips is maneuvering my ski bag. It’s much easier since Mr. Karen gave me a wheeled bag a few Christmases ago but still unwieldy. This was the first time I’ve traveled with that bag since the TSA’s “don’t lock your checked luggage” directive went into effect. Since the lock is the only thing holding the bag together, that was a problem. Before he left, Mr. Karen and I discussed possible solutions: tie or tape the key to the bag or use a cable tie or bolt instead of the lock. Thinking we were not the only ones who had this problem, I checked the manufacturer’s website to see if they had any other suggestions, but they didn’t. We ended up tying the key to the handle right next to the to lock, figuring if it were tied on that the key would be less likely to get lost, then taping the key to the side of the bag to minimize the chance that the key would get ripped off by baggage handling equipment, then labeling the tape with the word “KEY” in waterproof ink so it would be obvious if the bag had to be opened and searched.

I made it to Salt Lake City without incident and Mr. Karen came in to meet me while Hank circled in the rental car (well, rental SUV) while we waited for my luggage to show up. Bags wrangled, we made a quick stop at the grocery store before headed to the condo to rest up for the next day’s adventures. Wednesday we skied at Brighton, a first for me. Like the two other areas Mr. Karen and Hank had skied that week, they didn’t have very good snow. Can I blame global warming for this? To still have early season conditions in mid-January is really sad. True, a lot of the runs that were closed due to lack of cover were ones I might not have skied anyway, but still it would have been nice to have the option.

Thursday we went to Alta, my favorite ski area. We’d heard the conditions were better there than any place else near Salt Lake, and that turned out to be true. (I think the fact that Alta is one of the few ski areas that doesn’t allow snowboards has at least something to do with their snow staying in better shape.) They’d had a very light snowfall overnight, but I wasn’t convinced it was enough to warrant wearing my powder skis as Mr. Karen and Hank were doing. After a few runs I changed my mind and my skis. There wasn’t much powder, true, but there was enough, especially in the trees, to make it worth getting on the wide boards. I did have one incident where I failed to cross a streambed in the right place and buried the tips of my skis in the opposite bank before pitching over forward. That took a while to extricate myself from, mostly because there was open water to one side of me. In better snow years, those streambeds are completely covered over and not a problem; this year, they added even more excitement to skiing in the trees.

Friday was another Alta day. They’d had more new snow overnight, and flakes continued to fall most of the day. It wasn’t anything like the big powder days we’ve experienced there in other years, but still it was a lot of fun. I spent most of the day on the friendly and easy tree runs, enjoying the quiet. A special treat was seeing a porcupine in a tree next to one of the lift poles. Though it didn’t seem like a very relaxing spot to me, she slept there all day, getting whiter and whiter as the snow fell. At the very end of the day, Mr. Karen and I skied down next to that tree and were rewarded with the sight of her moving her head ever so slightly when the lift stopped running. We thought that might be her alarm clock, the signal that it was time to get up and start her nocturnal activities.

Saturday we drove to Park City to ski Deer Valley. I’d been there only once before and didn’t have fond memories. The weather was so bad and the winds were so strong that day that eventually all the lifts but one were closed down and I ended up spending most of the afternoon hanging out in the day lodge because I really wasn’t good enough at that point to ski the few runs that were open. I was hoping for much better this time. Like Alta, Deer Valley doesn’t allow snowboards, but that didn’t seem to have helped their conditions much. There were a lot of runs with scraped off verging on ice spots, which surprised me because Deer Valley is famed for their grooming. All we could figure out was that there just wasn’t enough snow on the ground to groom. At least the lifts were all open this time, even if some of the runs were closed due to lack of snow. I was disappointed that their food service was not sensitive to my need to eat food in a bread bowl at least once a day on a ski trip—they served their soups and chili in china bowls only. That’ll teach me to go to a place that caters to rich folks.

Yesterday was purely a travel day. Because of the time difference and the flight schedules, the only way we could get back to Detroit at a reasonable hour was to leave Salt Lake City on an 8:10 a.m. flight. The check-in area was a zoo, with lines stretching well out of their marked off queues. One thing that contributed to the problem was that the TSA baggage screeners were in front of the check-in counter, which is a much less efficient way to set it up than having them behind the counter as they do in Detroit and other places. Before you can check-in at SLC, you have to get the attention of a TSA screener and then that person has to test your bags and then move them for you up to the counter before you can check in. Detroit, the TSA screening takes place behind the counter and at the same time as the airline person is processing your check-in. The security screening to get to the gates at SLC was also poorly set-up, because instead of using the more efficient bank/Wendy’s/Taco Bell style queue, where one line feeds all the screening stations, SLC uses the McDonald’s model, where you have to pick one of several lines and take the chance that people who got there after you may get served before you, which leads to increased passenger frustration. Sure, life isn’t fair, but that’s no excuse for them to not use the fairest system possible. SLC is still doing random screens at the gate, which is another potential point of frustration. I like it much better the way Detroit and other places are doing it now, with the random screens done when passengers first enter the secure area. Not that I’ve ever been selected, but I’d rather be stopped then rather than just as I’m about to get on the plane and have a chance at getting some space in the overhead bin. I also like not having to deal with putting my photo i.d. away at the same time as I’m being jostled on the jetway. Anyway, once we got through all the lines at SLC, it was smooth going. By five o’clock, I was home and ready to watch the battle of former Vikings quarterbacks, also known as the Super Bowl.

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