Monday, February 06, 2006

Kirkwood, Lake Tahoe Take 2

Kirkwood was much better this time around. My lung did much better and this morning, Monday, I went for a 6 mile run along the beach and didn’t feel my lung at all. Co Enzyme Q10 is for sure partially responsible for the cardiovascular improvement. But nevermind that. Six of us went up to Lake Tahoe for another round of fun at Kirkwood. Nikolai, his two roommates, Ryan and Mattnand Kendal and Pino who we picked up at SFU at the last moment. We all pile into the Escalade and head up to Ryan’s late Grandfather’s country house in Auburn, CA on the way to Tahoe, where we’d be spending most of the weekend.

Nikolai offers me a brownie soon after we leave and I ask him if it is... a magic brownie and he assures me it is not. So I munch it down and then he starts laughing and then I look at my crumb covered fingers and wonder if he is pulling my leg. I feel fine. About a half an hour later I start to notice I’m feeling pretty spacey and about an hour later everything's gone a hazy shade of weird and I'm having weird mental trips, my mind playing tricks on me something like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Ah, but at least I didn’t eat the whole bag of brownies. That would have been bad.... As we arrived at the cabin, I threw up all over the floor. I had been dizzy in the car and was so stoned I didn’t recognize that sick throwing up sensation until it was too late. Way too wasted from the brownies.

We don’t get to the mountain until noon the next day. I’m still feeling queezy from the night before. It took us 4 hours to get to the mountain because we didn’t know how to get there and because the cabin was farther away than we realized. We also had to stop for breakfast. Then we all got separated upon arriving, but finally Nikolai and I connected and we had a blast tree skiing via access from “the wall” and just otherwise tearing up the swooping bowls. Well, at least I was, Nikolai didn’t find the demo shop and ended up renting lesser quality skis which weren’t up to his standards.

We get back to the cabin to find Titan behaving very strangely. Upon brief investigation we find the bag of brownies to be missing. We then find the plastic bag torn up on the floor. Titan could barely walk straight. He was excited we had come home but he kept losing his balance and otherwise behaving how you might expect a dog who had eaten too many pot brownies to behave. Fortunately he had thrown them up four times all over the carpet.

Nikolai and I drove him to the vet where they tried to charge Nikolai $1,000. After a long time waiting around at the vet, it was decided to have the dog stay over night since the animal hospital threatened to call the police and animal rights for animal neglect if Nikolai didn't admit Titan. We drive home, but we can’t find the damn cabin. We drive around for what feels like ages and a guy blasts a searchlight on Nikolai and me as we’re driving into random driveways trying to find the cabin. After driving by his driveway three times he finally flagged us down with his light to find out where we were trying for, but he didn’t know where the Moore residence was.

We finally find it at about 1:30am after trying just about every driveway in the area.

The next morning it turns out no one set the alarm clock and I end up waking everyone at about 9:00am. But even so we are all slow to motivate and I kept trying to motivate everyone, but even bacon and eggs and coffee wasn’t enough to get people moving. To make matters worse, Nikolai needed to drive back to the animal hospital to get Titan. He has some trouble finding the house again on the way back and by the time he gets back we realize we’ll only have a couple hours max on the mountain. So what do a bunch of kids with a cabin in the countryside to themselves do?

Nikolai and Matt rummage around in the attick and find an old 22 and start shooting stuff around the picturesque property. It was suh a beautiful day, one of those spring days where a barbeque is in order. So everyone but Ryan and me go to the store to pick up barbeque essentials like steak, shishkabobs and shrimp. But I let Titan free too soon after the Escalade pulled away from the driveway and Titan bolted in the direction the SUV left in. Ryan and I ran after him and caught up with him just as he was approaching the road. Luckily I managed to grab his collar just at the edge of the driveway. On our way back to the house we came upon these two crazy llamas. They were the funniest creatures I’d seen. Bucking and prancing about as if they were on something a bit stronger than pot brownies. They kept following us along the fence and they’d get all skiddish and suddenly flail away from the fence, circle and then come charging back, all spastic and spazzing, to follow us some more.

Then I went the wrong way when I ran ahead of Ryan with Titan in toe. He kept running up to other dogs and such and then we got to a yard with a goat tied to a tree. Titan swankered up to the goat and started barking and got a nearby dog barking too. Then a beligerent redneck came out and started barking at me. “Where you from?” I apologized and tried to tell him to wait while I tried to get the dog but he continued barking expletives at me: "I don’t expletive care about the expletive dog. Don’t walk away from me! Don't turn your back to me. Answer my question! Now you’re gonna piss me off! Where you from?” I start explaining to him where I’m from and where I’m going and, satisfied, he buggered off. I turned around upon hearing Ryan come up the road and briskly headed toward him with Titan held close by the collar.

After the Barbeque and firing the 22 at an old mailbox, we gathered ‘round the boob tube to watch the Superbowl. Kendal had been going on the whole weekend about how she had to see the Superbowl and then when it was was finally on she wasn’t around 1/2 the time to watch it. Fancied shooting the 22 more I suppose. I, who had had zero interest before the game had started ended up being quite engaged in the whole affair; even guessed correctly who the MVP at the end of the game would be (Hines Ward of the Steelers).

I drove back that evening and we all decided it was a good idea to come back next weekend again. Pino has 5 passes at Sierra at Tahoe and so we might ski a day there and a day at Kirkwood. Hopefully we’ll go back to Kirkwood because I have an unused demo reservation I made with the expectation we were going to be skiing on Sunday. Despite a short day skiing Saturday and not skiing on Sunday the weekend was a lot of fun and I didn’t get bitter for skiing much less than I was expecting to.

San Francisco and Beyond....

So I get to LA and immediately find Allie and Shawn to welcome me home upon leaving the baggage claim area at LAX airport. I hang out with them for a couple days and then I get a rideshare through Craigslist up to San Francisco. No one knew each other but the driver and the other ridesharer seemed to be on the same wavelength which was kinda eerie. I guess it’s all part of being hip to the times living in LA and San Francisco: they both used to live in S.F. and the other ridesharer was in the process of moving to LA, where the driver was living. They were talking about -- I don’t even remember now, but it was something I hadn’t heard about and they were talking about it like it was something everyone was aware of-- some sort of philosophy to live by-- and the driver was a quarky lady wearing pink pants with a pink patch in her blonde hair. They seemed to both be athiests and the driver was part of a hiking group in L.A. which I thought was cool, but then she went on about how all the hikers in the group are athiests and subscribe to this philosophy for living thing she was talking about. Any idea what they were on about Illona? Also, they had both been to Burning Man, an art festival out in the desert. And they weren’t acting like it was a coincidence they had so much in common - it was more like, well, yeah, we’re hipsters living in California.

Been in San Fran for little over a week now. Will be flying home in a little over a week. Had a Chinese New Year dinner with Paulo’s family and at 10pm during dinner I start talking to Phil, Paulo’s cousin whom I barely know, and ask if he skis at all, says he’s going skiing tomorrow morning at 4am in Lake Tahoe and invites me along. My first reaction is, “are you crazy?” I’m still tired from all the travelling around - was out late the night before with Allie going to some art exhibit in the middle of a cornfield right in the middle of downtown LA where Arnie was part of a larger than life puppet show with fires and drummers. Besides, I had no ski equipment and few warm clothes. But then Phil said he had goggles and a jacket and I could rent skis at the mountain-- better yet, I could demo top of the line skis and boots! Wow, suddenly I was going to be doing big mountain skiing out west, something I had wanted to do for over ten years! And now, in an unexpected transpiring of events that couldn’t have been anymore spontaneous or last minute, I was suddenly going. That was the kind of stuff I had been hoping was going to happen during my three months in New Zealand and Australia. And then finally, when I’m least expecting, when I think my trip is finally over, that no more adventures could possibly happen, such an opportunity for spontaneity presents itself and I don’t even recognize it and almost let it slip passed me!

As we were driving through Chinatown after dinner on our way to Phil’s, we stopped at an intersection to watch chinese new year fireworks celebrations. People were lighting fireworks in the middle of the street and they were so loud if someone had started firing a gun no one would have known.

As we climbed into the mountains the next morning, snow started to appear all around. What stark contrast to Australia to see snow covered mountains in all directions. When I had arrived in Los Angeles I immediately tasted and smelled winter in the air. It was so inviting and invigorating. And the evening before when I walked outside the restaurant my senses were filled with it even more. I had really been missing winter when I was away, as strange as that sounds, especially while I was being fried by the 115 degree sun in the middle of the Australian Outback on Christmas day. Now I was suddenly submerged in the full effect of winter. The roads were slick at 7,000 feet on the way up to Kirkwood and we had to bust out the chains. After dealing with uninterested to be helpful demo and rental people, another skier finally told me what I wanted to hear: “Out here, man,wou definitely want the best equipment .” Because I was trying to figure out what sort of equipment I wanted to demo or rent. So I was hooked up tough and even though I had never skied this sort of terrain before and it had been almost a year since I had last skied at Catamount and I hadn’t had much exercize travelling, I was tearing it up like a seasoned pro... well almost... the air was so thin I had to stop and catch my breath every ten turns lest I start getting light headed. My lung also was acting up and it really kept me in check and required me to keep my vigil so as to not overextend it. Towards the end of the day pole pushing into position at the chairlift cuased my lung to hurt and I had to rely mostly on skating. I almost skied into the chairlift once because I didn’t want to use my poles to stop myself and there wasn’t enough room to snowplow. Any sort of pulling or pushing I did with my arms caused my lung to hurt.

So the days of tour guided adventures weren’t quite over. Phil was an excellent “tour guide” as he was kind enough to lug around my camera, water and lunch! --as well as showing the way to hidden powder stashes and other hidden “gems” of the mountain, one of which turned out to be a bit of an adventure. Thanks for that Phil! First of all, the slopes and bowls are ridiculously steep. Even the photos can’t hide the harsh reality of real mountain skiing. But the snow is soft enough to be able to attack the near verticle wall without being hurtled for a long tumble down the mountain. But Phil had this chute he wanted to ski down. So he leads us, the other snowboarders that were with us, too, one of which was his second day --mad props to him!-- high along one of the ridges of the bowls. During the traverse over one of Phil’s friends has a bit of a misadventure with his snowboard. He dropped it and it started running away down the hill. Phil was about 50 feet below the rest of us and the board was coming right at him. He gets prepared to try to stop it but it’s rapidly gaining speed and by the time it reaches him it is going so fast that he has to think about preserving himself as well as stopping the rapidly approaching board. He manages to slow it down significantly when it crashes into him but it keeps going and gathers enough speed again to leap off a lip and disappear below, out of sight. Apparently, and luckily, the board flipped when it landed and with a short hike down was retrievable.

We finally arrive at the chute between two giant rock outcroppings and it takes me a few minutes to realize there isn’t really an alternative way to get down. I inch my way out over the edge to peer down the enbankment and half laugh to myself sarcastically. Surely Phil had made a mistake. But I look over to Phil to see him unconcerned and that he is actually serously considering it, to my fear and bafflement. It is clear to me, anyway, that the snow has been windswept sheer. Phil claims he’s done it before, but when there was decent powder. I would conisider it if there was powder, even in my tired and bedraggled state as it was towards the end of the day. He finally takes the dive and realizes it’s much icier than he had thought, has he precariously teeters sideways on the edge of his skis, contemplating what he is going to do, the icy scraping sound from his skis making it hard to watch. I’m sure at any moment he is going to fall. His skis are completely perpendicular to the slope, and his edges are the only thing keeping him from tumbling to the rocks below. “Shit, it’s steep!” he exclaims. I burst out in stifled laughter, the camera jerks, since of course I’m filming him. Ya think? I think I was more afraid for him than he was for himself. He slowly starts to slide down, the awful scraping sound of his edges keeping us all on edge as he slowly and painstakingly negotiates the steepest and narrowest and most difficult top section. After a very drawn out few minutes, he somehow manages to get a turn in and jams out the rest of the gauntlet with a reasonable level of control and panache and we all watch in awe as he shoots out the bottom.

The rest of us took our equipment off and walked around to the left. This way was not much easier as there were tons of jagged rocks everywhere as if purposely placed to keep dumb skiers and riders like us from venturing off the beaten trail. Most of us got passed the rocks without too much difficulty, but one of Phil’s friend’s hurt his ankle. Fortunately he was able to get down the mountain okay. We came out to some tree skiing that was only really steep, (as opposed to ridiculously steep) which now seemed like a cakewalk after witnessing Phil. Phil’s stunt instilled a newfound confidence in myself and my whole perception of what I could was altered for the better. I just hadn’t skied this sort of terrain before and needed to acclemate a little. His stunt helped me do that. I also needed to aclimate to the altitude. Hopefully next weekend will be better....

My back was pretty sore the next couple of days but I had such a blast I asked Nikolai if he wanted to go again this weekend. He said all his stuff was at home and none of his family or friends were in the country to ship it for him. So I reluctantly called Ben to see if he would send the stuff for me/Nikolai and to my great relief he agreed and provided the stuff arrives on Friday as promised by the pack and ship shop, we will be driving up to Lake Tahoe once again in one of Nikolai’s friend’s Escalade with TVs in the back seats.

Until next time, this is the ... responsible Uncle Jason signing out. (Well I can’t say the Intrepid Dr. Root, now can i? having chickened out and all.) Sorry for lack of photos. Will try to upload some soon!