I'm back in California, rested and tanned after a delightful week in the mountains. Snow quanitites are abysmally low--there was a high pressure that provided excellent views from the airplane, but the views all across Nevada and Utah were uniformly of brown hills.
Curt drove up from Ogden to pick me up. He certainly looked rested and tanned--academic life agrees with him! It was a pretty large group in attendance-Del and Margaret (parents), Eric and his girlfriend Laurie, Curt, and of course JoDee and Mark. We sat around talking of this and that, in a kind of cosy family atmosphere. Of course even now Del was at work--he was building a desk for the computer. Had a long talk with him about Saudi Arabia, and Chubby's marriage.
Margaret looked well. She is in a wheelchair and can't speak, but she understands, can read and play bridge. (She also doesn't take too much shit from Del any more!) We played bridge--Eric and I against Margaret and Curt. Of course Margaret won...
After dinner, watched Mark and JoDee's wedding video. (This was Curt's xmas present to them.) The tape started in Tucson, with the Dyresons packing and trying to decide when they were going to leave. All in all, a typical Dyreson outing! Then we watched some other Dyreson Christmas videos and I realised, while watching Christmas '91, that this marked the 5th consecutive xmas I've spent with some number of Dyresons! ('91 and '92 in Tucson, with Eric, Curt and their parents; '93 in Ogden with Eric, Curt, JoDee and Mark; '94 with Eric, JoDee and Mark; and now '95 with the whole clan sans the Hawaii chapter.
Didn't actualy get in any skiing in Utah, but there wasn't really any snow worth talking about--so we had a fun time at home instead. Del and Margaret are wonderful people--Margaret worked at the university in Saudi, and Del just sort of hung out. They'd go on some amazing hikes and have wonderful videos. (Reminds of the slide-shows of their camping trips...) And neither of them are in any way Ugly Americans--they seem to assimilate wonderfully.
Of course Curt and I spent a lot of time talking... James Cook U. seems to have the right idea of what a professor's workload should be! Curt has to deliver 28 lectures a year; and the head excused him from any committee obligations! So he gets to spend his time snorkeling and scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef, going on mountain bike rides, hiking in the outback etc. etc. Life certainly is rough!
Finally on the 26th, time to say good-byes and head north to Poky. Curt and Eric would come up the next day for the ski trip; and I caught the shuttle.
What a wonderful feeling coming back into Poky! No snow anywhere, which was unfortunate. But it was Idaho! My Idaho! To see Ken and Mary and Stephen again was truly wonderful too. A pity that Mike and Margaret and Sarah were no longer in Idaho. 'Twas wondrous strange, being back--to think that I only spent two years at ISU. It felt like I was truly coming back home, and I have never felt that way about any other town. Not Delhi, not Bombay, and not Tucson. Perhaps in Pocatello I had the most impact on the most lives (evidenced by the fact that some of those people actually wanted to see me!). This was where I redeemed myself.
Ken had caught some beautiful cutthroat that morning, which we enjoyed baked; and with a stew to keep it company. Afterwards Ken and I went to inspect the place that the Golden Wheel has become - they have a nice selection of beer now, but I don't know how the chefs are.
The next day dawned without snow again... and smoggy. A nice late morning followed by a chat with Mary and Stephen, and then it's time for the lunch with the students. I stopped off on the way at the College Market to see if Ana or Gail were around, but neither of them were... and then, on the way out! for some reason I stopped and looked behind and see Terry going to the shop. I stood and debated for an instant as to whether I should go and talk to him--then decided not to. In that brief instant he looked up and--as though he weren't entirely sure of what he was seeing--hesitated. I turned and went on.
Lunch was a truly uplifting experience. Here were 5 people whose lives I made miserable, and they still wanted to see me! Actaully they said that it being the holidays they just couldn't get in touch with more people; these five guys came down from Idaho Falls to see me. They gave me the dope on the department and I told them how wonderful industry was...
Lunch concluded, it was time to head for the slopes. We drove first to the east side of the Bonneville range but the gates had been closed. Why? There was no snow; the snowmobiles couldn't have gone up that trail. Then headed for the Pine Creek (or Fish Creek) mountains. Got up to about 6000' and then there was some very nice snow. A lovely workout, ending (of course) in a suicidal plunge downhill through the trees... par for the course when skiing with Ken. (Actually I was amazed at how it all came back, that I could still turn. I actually enjoyed the runs through the trees!)
Back to town for some dinner... and then of course it was time to call Bonny. She wasn't at home--out shopping, apparently. But she did call back, and did want to see the sights; which we did. Well, sort of... went to the Bistro for a drink which was a disappointment. The drink, that is--the waitress first made my mouth water by saying they did have the Full Sail Stout but then dashed my hopes by telling me they just ran out, would I try this pilsner instead. What the hell is the connection between a stout and a pilsner? It boggles the mind. I bade her remove the ghastly beverage and ordered the Bass instead. It all turned out well though because of the excellent company. Afterwards, of course, we looked in on the Round Up Room. What a disappointment! Neither Kevin nor Tiny E. were there. Even Story wasn't working that night. Looked around (Bonny said it reminded her of NY bars) and left. The ``sights'' of Poky were dispensed with, except for a quick drive through the scary parts of downtown.
What a perfect day!
Later that evening the long-awaited storm finally started to move in, but it was getting warmer and it was snowing lightly that night. The next morning was encouraging--we were in the clouds and it was snowing. Only about 4'' accumulation but better than nothing... we left our stuff and headed off up the slopes in whiteout conditions trying not to get separated... and it was pretty damn steep! I was thinking ``This time for sure that fool Ken is going to get me killed on the way down.'' The snow was looking better and better though!
Finally got up to around the 9000' level. Pity about the visibility because I know that you can see south to the Uintas, north to the Tetons, northwest to the Sawtooths and Boulders and southwest to Pilot Peak in Nevada... but on the 29th I could barely see my feet. Well, anyway, time to convert some of that potential energy into adrenalin! We headed off downhill and that snow was amazingly good. To think that it was 2 weeks old! It was a sublime experience, whizzing through trees, linking turns, falling... there were some slopes that were just too good to go down just once, so we'd climb laboriously back up and (in the words of shampoo manufacturers) Repeat. Lovely dry deep snow, the sort where the trailing knee (in the telemark stance) is also in the snow. My own speciality was carving my initial in the snow--this is where I turn right, turn left, then fall so that it looks like .S--and I should add that the fall wasn't usually by choice!
The 30th was slightly different--much warmer, and the snow was wet and heavy. And we now had backpacks on which makes turning just that much harder, and when you fall, makes getting back up... interesting. In fact there was one place where I fell in a dense stand of young aspens. My skis were wedged in the trees, my hands were stuck in the loops of my poles which were stuck in the trees, my head was about 3' lower than my feet and the backpack was holding me firmly down. Completely stuck and there wasn't a thing I could do about it! And being the slowest skier in the group the others were somewhere up ahead. That's the sort of thing that makes life interesting... after a few moments' quiet reflection I realised that I could work one pole a little loose, free that hand, then use it to undo the mitten on the other hand, then with hands free release the backpack and finally release the skis. Only took about 15 minutes... The sort of thing that convinces you that solo backcountry skiing might not be a good idea. (And I wonder if could have done the same if I were really in trouble, i.e. if I didn't know that in 30 minutes or so the others would come back looking for me.)
We still had to walk down the lower sections of the mountain because now it was raining. And the roads were a mixture of mud and slush, but I didn't notice any of that because I was still floating.
After enjoying a nice soak in the Bosworth/Hofle hot tub, we finally convinced Curt that we should stay for dinner so I could get my last meal at the Beijing. It didn't disappoint--pretty damn nice. And then Curt turned ``ornery'' and wanted to drive back to Ogden that night. Well, whatever, as the kids are saying. It was still sort of raining/sleeting but we loaded up and headed out. The Scout could only make about 30mph owing to the condition of the roads and the tyres... that defines a marathon journey. I used to think of Ogden as ``just next door'' i.e. about 1:45 away. It took us more than four hours.
For New Years' JoDee and Mark had as usual planned to go to the Utah Symphony. We decided that the honour of the bachelors must be upheld and didn't want anything to do with that sort of nonsense; a good pub-crawl was what we wanted. So after a quick trip to the local Mormon bookshops we headed for that Pit of Sin, Salt Lake City.
Dinner was lovely--forgot the name of the place, but the seafood! They said thay had it flown in fresh every day and I believe it. Massive helpings too, so much so that I was starting to worry about leaving room for the beer. Resisting the temptation to finish the dish, we left for ``Squatters.'' They didn't have any oatmeal stout, jsut an irish one. Tried that; a little too nutty, and too mild and sweet. Good colour and head. The waitress then (damn her eyes!) said that their sister pub (forgot the name) did have it; whereupon we resolved to go and search it out. Mark and JoDee then left for their Gala and then Eric said he was going to bed! How the mighty have fallen.
Curt and I then went in search of the other place. At least it was cool, even if there was no snow--must have been around 30. Very refreshing. The bar though--what a disappointment! Yuppie hell, with TV's everywhere, and when we ordered the oatmeal stout, they served us--the same damn irish one! The fiends. Well, we polished that off and resolved to commence our search for a good stout... off to the Red Rock brewery!
Hard to believe that it was New Year's Eve... but then again, it was Utah. I suppose we should just have been thankful that the bars could stay open! Found the Red Rock... hmmm, this looks promising. Inspected the list--they do have an oatmeal stout! Ordered it and zounds! It was good! Truly, as someone once said, ``This is the place.''
The place also had a sort of cheery insouciance. I noticed that the pitcher's lip was cracked and drew the fact to the attention of the waiter. ``Oh, yeah, they're all cracked. You know, the funny thing though is--where does all that glass go? It must go in the beer! So you better be careful, that beer just might bite you back! Hahaha!'' How could one not like a place like that?
Before we knew it, it was 1996. One table then burst into a most unseemly spectacle of horn blowing and screaming and were greeted with cold stares from the other customers. Good to see there are still people that know how to enjoy good beer! And we had an excellent time. Talked about depressing stuff, of course--like women, and the Broncos. But it was good to talk about these things with someone that truly understands!
Alas, the next morning there was barely enough time to pack, grab some breakfast (in a most unlikely looking NY deli--tiny little place hidden away upstairs!) and then drop me off at the airport.
What a vacation! We certainly do live in the best of all possible worlds. With friends like I have... but this is mere sentimentality. Less of it!