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Archive for January 2nd, 2013

Head West, Middle Aged Folks

January 2, 2013

Detail of art by Michael GarmanAs I mentioned in yesterday’s entry, Mr. Karen and I were out in Idaho for the holidays. We left the Friday before Christmas after work (my work; Mr. Karen had taken the day off to do last minute prep and packing) and made it to Chicagoland that night without incident. Saturday morning we visited with my mom and had an early Christmas brunch with her. She’s doing really well, even managed to get into and out of our pickup truck without help. Then we headed out to visit with Mr. Karen’s dad and sister and pick up a second vehicle, a big rear wheel drive sedan that’s going to live with Mr. Karen’s other sister in Washington state. Taking such a vehicle across the country and up onto a mountain in winter would not be my first choice for fun, but we were heading that way anyway and us driving it would save her family a lot of time and money. The rest of Saturday, we drove and drove and drove, communicated with each other via CB radio and getting slowed only for a short while in Wisconsin where they were doing cleanup along a stretch where several semi trucks had slid off the road. A pretty sunset hit just as we were passing a big wind farm and I really wished we could stop and take photos but we needed to keep driving while the good weather held. We did stop for meals, though. Tthe place we ended up at for dinner is somewhere I want to go back to sometime (The Ranch in Fairmont, Minnesota); there was interesting art in the entryway, the servers were very friendly, the food was tasty, and the salad bar wasn’t all the same stuff you see everywhere—they had things like liver sausage, which being raised by Wisconsinites, I consider to be one of the “foods of my people”. We stopped for the night in Mitchell, South Dakota.

Monkeys in Wall DrugSunday was more driving, of course. We stopped for lunch at Wall Drug; the town is really quiet in winter, with even chain motels shutting down for the season. The sunset was once again beautiful but not at a time when we were stopping, so I couldn’t get any good photos but could enjoy it as I drove along the wide open spaces out west. I think we were in Montana by that point, but it could have been that little corner of Wyoming that’s on the southern route out to Idaho. The weather continued to cooperate until we go to the mountain pass outside of Butte, Montana, where we decided to stop for the night rather than push on through the snow and dark while tired.

Day 359 - Christmas EveMonday, Christmas Eve, we awoke in Butte to find snow was falling. Normally on a ski trip, this delights me, but this time it led to a sinking feeling, as I was not looking forward to piloting the land yacht on slippery roads. We took it very slowly and fortunately the roads got better after the first 150 miles or so, then stayed pretty clear until we got to the mountain passes near the Idaho line. Because we lost so much time to the weather, it was dark by the time we got to the last challenge—getting up the Schweitzer Mountain road. A light snow was falling as we headed up the nine miles of switchbacks and curves. Mr. Karen led the way in our truck, with me following behind, keeping a close eye on him to see which spots gave him trouble. We got to turn 5 (of 7, the major switchbacks are numbered, so if you do slide off, you can give the emergency folks a good idea where you are) before I experienced any real fishtailing. When we got close to the condo, Mr. Karen went up to check out the situation—was anyone parked in front of our garage door? would he need to shovel before I could get in?—while I went on to the base village and turned around in the parking lot to position myself for a run up our road. He called on the CB to let me know things looked good and I made my move; fortunately there’s not much traffic on the mountain so I was able to get a clean shot down from the village and up to the condo. When I go there, I backed across the road to get a head start and made it into the garage in one try. Victory! While we were unpacking the truck, we met the people who are renting the unit two doors down and got to see Santa come by on his decorated fire truck as part of the resort’s Christmas Eve celebration. We celebrated by getting started on removing some of the record setting December snowfall from our decks.

Skiing above the cloudsChristmas Day it was finally time to start skiing! We hit the slopes the next four days, took a day off to take care of things around the condo (including taping up the broken window, then skied one more day before we had to fly home on New Year’s Eve. We didn’t get any big snowfall while we were there, just some flurries and a couple of light dustings, but the snow that was already there stayed in great shape, even with holiday week crowds, as it was cloudy most of the time so the sun couldn’t make a crust like it sometimes likes to do on certain slopes. The crowds weren’t really much of an issue, either, even though we heard one of the days was a record attendance. The longest line we waited in was one morning when one of the quad lifts was down, so many people diverted to a slow double chair. Other than that, it wasn’t bad, especially since we took advantage of the single lines at the major lifts (I love Mr. K, but I don’t need to sit next to him on every lift ride). I still got runs entirely to myself at times.

Monkeys Got Their Own SeatI was a bit stressed about our trip home, as we’d gotten a phone call and an e-mail from Delta that our flight out of Seattle was delayed, meaning what was a reasonable layover in Minneapolis had become quite short, but there wasn’t much to be done about it other than cross our fingers and hope it would work out. Which it did. We even got a row to ourselves on the Spokane to Minneapolis leg when two people across the aisle didn’t show up and our third person scooted over there. We only had to go one concourse over to get our next flight and lucked out and caught the airport train to take us, so we arrived at the gate before they’d even started boarding. We landed in Detroit early and were fortunate to find the towncar service was ready for us then, so we got home in plenty of time to watch the ball drop on tv at midnight (and we weren’t even too tired since the time zone change was working in our favor).

You can see more photos from the trip in this photo set (I left out the hand dryers this time, though they are still in my Flickr stream).

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