Saturday, February 24, 2007

Opening Acts

I really need to pay more attention to opening acts...

- OK GO (recent blog entry) opened for Coldplay back in 2002 at the Orpheum with Zwan (it's amazing how Coldplay just ballooned shortly thereafter)
- hellogoodbye opened for the All-American Rejects almost 2 years ago (blog entry)

and I really like their music. I just haven't followed them since seeing them the first time. But it's fantastic they've gotten bigger and better the past few years.

hellogoodbye was just on Leno a couple nights ago, performed "Here (In Your Arms)"

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Weekend at Sugarbush

Friday, February 16th, 2007:

The original plan -
Shawn flies intoLogan around 9:00am. Jackie picks him up, then Brian and I, and head up to Warren/Sugarbush, VT. Because of the holiday weekend, leaving in the morning would be ideal and would almost guarantee that we get there around 1 or 2pm. With lots of time, we would visit Montpelier, which Jackie has highly recommended. Then later that night, we would go to the Burlington International Airport to pick up Andrew around 11pm. Saturday we hit the slopes.

What actually happened -
Go to bed late the night before due to my procrastination to pack earlier. Wake up around 7:45am to finish packing. It takes Brian 5 minutes to pack and 5 minutes to shower, so I let him sleep in. I get frustrated packing, thinking "why is this taking so long" and "should i bring, yes, no, yes...yes." It's just after 9am when Brian finally emerges from the bedroom. Then I realized that I hadn't printed out anything (maps, confirmations, etc), so I get on that, and then check my email. One message in the inbox, sent at 6:24am. It was Shawn. His flight got cancelled due to the awful snow storm up here on Wednesday (DOH!), but he was booked to take the 1:20pm flight which would get him here at 2:50pm. Hmm...I guess I could take a nap now. But for the next five hours, I managed to prolong the packing. No nap was taken.

So just a few minutes after Jackie texts that Shawn's flight will arrive at 3:30pm (again, DOH!), I hear some dripping noise near the window. There's a leak from the melting ice outside. Wonderful. But it's definitely a good thing we heard it before we left.

Like my super packed backpack...and the blue container setup in the back to catch the dripping water?

So Brian and I wait on the stoop as Jackie pulls up on the ice-covered driveway, both of us almost wiping out as we load the car. Head to the airport, where we circle the arrivals terminal twice before parking at the gas station nearby.

Yay! Shawn has his bags and is ready to go. We haven't seen him since the wedding more than 2.5 years ago, so it was fantastic that we were able to meet up.

Time: rush hour

So, as you can imagine, we inched our way north on 93. It had already been dark for a while by the time we hit the New Hampshire border. Our first goal was to stop and pick up some drinks at the huge welcoming red liquor and lottery tickets stop just over the border. Unfortunately, we just wanted some beer, but they only sold liquor. So we continue on.

Our next goal was to get something to eat, pick up some groceries, and buy the Beerfest DVD. Brian suggested Hopkinton, which was just past Concord, NH, as a good place to stop by since it was a large dot on the map, but not large enough that it would be crowded with people.

Exiting to Hopkinton. We're all hungry at this point. Keep driving. Pretty quiet, not much around, when we stumble upon Blaser's (yes, Blaser) Fireside Tavern. Gosh darn it, tablecloths and candles on the tables - a bit too fancy for us. So we continue on hoping for an alternative, when we see a sign for Route 89. We decided to leave this town unsatisfied. Oh, but wait, maybe West Hopkinton will be better. There was definitely a clear sign for food at the exit. Driving driving driving...oh good, a gas station to re-fuel, but the town is dead, with what we thought was a Chinese food restaurant and turned out to be a closed cafe. Okaaaay.

Let's try this again.

In the meantime to carry us over, we munched on mini Hershey bars - Jackie preferred "Special Dark", Shawn "Mr. Goodbar", Brian "Special Dark" as well, and me "Krackel" - and a tub of pistachio nuts. These were quite the lifesavers. Lots of good tunes playing through Jackie's ipod and occasional radio station. Jackie's uncanny ability to guess Aerosmith's airplay...

Finally, at New London, we "stumble" upon Peter Christian's Tavern, which was thought to be a high-traffic jewelry store on first passing (Shawn). Perfect - no candles, no tablecloths, decent prices.

One mission accomplished. Three left: beer, groceries, DVD

It was maybe close to 9pm at this point.

Doot doo doo. Keeping our eyes open for grocery and DVD stores...oh, hey there's one whole shopping complex, as we fly by the exit, followed by getting lost, taking Nutt Lane into the unknown, all the while we can see the complex lights in the distance. We did manage to pick up some beer at a small gas station before heading back north on 89. Mission two accomplished.

Are we there yet???

We did manage to "watch" part of a Simpsons episode playing in a car in front of us before deciding to drive faster. Brian knew which episode it was with a quick scene change of Homer, Bart, and Lisa on the couch. Pretty crazy...

Okay, just a few miles from Sugarbush, we had to travel up and down a mountain on roads with a light coating of snow. That was slightly unnerving since we weren't in a 4wd. Plus with the dark abyss of the valleys on one side and railings/guards covered with snow, I had to request we drive in the middle of the road.

Yay! We finally arrive at the resort. (It's just after 11pm - poor Andrew, being at the airport since around 7pm, his flight was also cancelled, , and was waiting for news of rescheduled flights. Turns out flights to Burlington from JFK have been cancelled since Tuesday!)

Now, where to pick up the keys...Claybrook - "sorry the keys haven't been delivered yet"...more driving...Sugarbush Inn - thank goodness, the key to the condo was there. After some more wrong turns, we FINALLY make it to the condo, which was just perfect (except for the unsurprisingly uncomfortable sofa bed.

with a sa-weeeet fireplace (which Brian spent a lot of time in front of - building the fire, nurturing it...) and free firewood

So, it turns out that Andrew was the #4 standby on the 9am flight out of JFK the next day. It's after midnight, maybe close to 1am, and he was just leaving the airport, just to have to get up early to maybe get a flight out at 9am and if not then the 12pm flight...what a headache. So we would await his call in the morning. For some reason, I thought it would be good to set the alarm for 9:01am. Yeah, right. Turned off immediately. Next thing I know Jackie's knocking on the door at about 10:30am.

Saturday, February 17th, 2007

Watching skiers go by on the "Out to Lunch" trail just behind our condo.

Checked the phone - Drew had called with fantastic news. He was on the 9am flight that would get him here around 11:30am. Egg-cellent!! Off to Burlington we go!

Thinking he packed light, we saw him with just a regular backpack only to find out that the airline lost his bag! Can things get more chaotic?! But the good part was that he made it. We would just have to do some shopping...

Before that though, let's get some eats. Wow, with all the choices we have now, where to about the Pour House? Umm, a chili contest? Scratch that. Next...

driving complex...Asian Bistro anyone?

finally, a perfect choice - a sandwich shop that was pretty popular among certain people (inside joke).

My discarded olives...

Back to the shopping complex that had a Dick's Sporting Goods AND a Best Buy (Beerfest!). After overcoming a rotary, we go to Dick's where Andrew browses around for the perfect purchases (ski pants, socks, jacket, gloves, pj's, etc.). This may take a while as we notice that he hadn't picked anything up for a good several minutes, so we left him there and headed over to Shaw's which was just across the way, picking up some snacks, beer, food, water and what would be the best munchie that weekend - Tyson's chicken wings (yum!).

We did have a tentative plan for the day, which was to possibly get back to Sugarbush in time to rent skis and have them for tomorrow to save time, meaning that we get back before 4:30pm.

The way things were was not surprising that that was not going to happen.

Starbucks had eluded us, and on the "critical" drive back to Sugarbush, Andrew gets the call saying his bag is at the Burlington airport, just minutes after leaving the area with the next exit actually being the exit we would take to get back to Sugarbush.

So...yet other u-turn (goodness gracious)

It's great that Drew has his bag, and we drive back to Dick's to return his new purchases.

A little gift for all of Jackie's hard work driving...

We did make it back to the condo BEFORE the sun set completely, which I had hoped so that we could actually see the area around the resort, instead of just darkness.

Shawn reviews the different trails...

photo frenzy among photographers...

beer and relaxation...

Brian at his favorite spot...

Can't eat some wings if we can't get the old school oven to work. Let's see, set temperature...oh, turn knob to BAKE...ohhh...

We literally just sit and watch the fire crackle and enjoy some tasty buffalo and tequila lime wings. We decided to go out for some dinner, and it took 30 questions for the hostess to answer before deciding on this one place.

Heading out for some good old fashion ski lodge food, just a short walk from the condo crossing the bottom of some of the trails.

The slopes were completely black except for the lights in the parking lots and the main lodge where we were heading. We did encounter a woman walking a dog who so happen to have walked down one of the dark trails saying that there was a man lying down on the slope, probably a hundred yards or so up from us. No way were we, or I, was going into the darkness to check up on him, but she eventually told a lodge worker about it.

Timbers Restaurant at Claybrook. We sat at the bar for cheaper but good eats - Drew's first burger in a long time - and watched some Cast Away on the big screen.

Mel, one of the bartenders, is a snowboard instructor there, and he suggested we all took a lesson in snowboarding since none of us actually had one, and it was Jackie and Shawn's first time. The other bartender, at the end of the dinner, after we had gotten the check, gave us all a free shot of Jagermeister - it wasn't a bad as I remember, but still...not a tasty shot. We did notice that a lot of workers were coming out of the kitchen, and Mel was beet red. Jackie said that it was their drink break. I guess we were just a part of that.

Some snowballs and wrestling, followed by Brian's snow angel.

Two prepared cowpokes...

We get comfortable for some beer and Beerfest! "It was ze greatest beer in all ze vorld! "

Love the look on Shawn's face

After the movie, it was a tad late, so I "rolled" out the air mattress while the rest of the gang were going through all the special features. hint, hint...need sleep, want an early start.

Sunday, February 18th, 2007

Yay! We're going snowboarding!

We didn't get up in time to be the first in the rental line, but we did get up rather early. Unfortunately, they ran out of a size 6 and 6.5 for both Jackie and I, respectively. So Jackie went with a 5.5, which was also offered to me as well but was WAY too small, and then I used a size 7. I put on an extra thick pair of socks I brought along, and this would prove to be a bad decision - so much so that after the first run, I had to take them off and sit a little bit for the blood to painfully rush back into my toes. My toes were super squooshed.

Getting on the "Village Double" lift for our first run on the "Easy Rider" trail.

We were quite happy with the "mild" temperature, so we didn't need to be fully bundled. It was snowing...

Shawn & Jackie...Drew

It's been more than five years since we've hit the slopes, so I clung onto Brian as we got off the lift, avoiding a spill. Jackie couldn't avoid hers as Shawn was not much help, trying to figure out his own descent.

Drew was the pro among us having 8 snowboarding days in his pocket, 10 years ago.

Our first run. Quite reminiscent of our last time. As the speed increased, down I went. How to turn, how to turn...need to work on that. Did make it down with tired calves and numb toes. Drew definitely picked it up again as he was the first one down, waiting for us slowpokes. Jackie was actually really good on her first run, being many times better than Brian and I on our first. Shawn hit the deck pretty hard just a few meters from the top of the slope, and it looked like he was just going to sit there. But he got much better, making his way down and after Brian helped him out of the deep area (near the ski lift) "how much do you weigh?!" Brian exclaimed, with Shawn pretty much stuck in the snow.

Poor kid. He got stuck too.

We made 4 runs (probably would have done more if I didn't have to recirculate my blood to my toes and a much needed bathroom run) before heading back to the condo for lunch.

But before that, we got some DELICIOUS chocolate-dribbled waffles and hot apple cider from the small Waffle House at the bottom of the "Gate House Express Quad" lift. Here we're waiting in line

We were all happy to be back at our condo, where we started another fire and relaxed eating our turkey sandwiches. It felt so good to have those pesky boots off. Shawn (on the couch) and Jackie (on the floor with blankets and a pillow) got a little too comfortable and decided to just stay and not go for an afternoon run. It was tempting to just stay in the warm cozy condo, but Drew, Brian and I continued on. We headed out around 2:15pm.

We were able to squeeze in 2 runs - one on the trail we've been on so far, and then we cut across on Sugarbear Road to get to the Gate House Express Quad lift to try our hand on another route called the "Pushover". It was then that I realized that these routes are green circles - but for skiers. When we reached the top, and I saw the trail, I was like, "this is NOT a green!" Because of all the snow, there were lots of thick bumps, almost like moguls, that made it pretty difficult to turn. Plus, it was a bit steeper than the other trail, but fortunately, this trail connected to "Easy Rider" so at least the run won't end so badly. I was doing pretty well back on familiar territory until crossing over to go back to the condo, where I fell pretty hard on my bum - ouch! - for the first time that day. So a sore bum wasn't the best way to end the day...

Here we are on "Out Road" on the way to the condo

After showering and somewhat passing out whereever we sat, we headed over to the Phoenix Tavern which was just a short walk from the condo. Jackie and I played darts, and I was pretty much dominating up until the point I had to get the bullseye, the last one I had to close. Just couldn't do it, and Jackie came in for the kill. Food was decent, belly was full. Everyone's happy.

Back at the condo, we popped in Talladega Nights. This one wasn't as good as Beerfest, but it did have its moments - especially when Jackie shrieked and pretty much woke me up from my dozing when Elvis Costello briefly flashed on the screen. We had to rewind it for her.

Monday, February 19th, 2007

As the "parental" figures of the group, Brian and I wake up early, and he prepare breakfast as the other cowpokes continue to snooze.

We managed to get to the slopes when we wanted after packing up the car and cleaning up the condo.

Nice and sunny, and no lines - not many folks out yet.

At the top of the slope, before our first run:

Yowzah! Not quite the same conditions as yesterday, with the soft thick snow to carve and fall on. With the slope plowed, it was a whole new experience, painful at the least. We had to learn all over again, somewhat, and while Shawn was relaxing somewhere in the main lodge, Jackie would soon join him.

This is before she knew what she was going to face...

...and then back at the bottom...a happy camper deciding she's had enough

Drew, Brian and I continue to tough it out on the slopes as Jackie and Shawn go back to the Timbers Restaurant for some beer and eats. I felt pretty good on my last run, having somewhat gotten my bearing, and we headed to the waffle house again for one last chocolate-drizzled waffle and hot apple cider - yum! - before meeting up with Jacks and Shawn.

I'd say even with all the chaos we had that weekend, it was pretty successful, considering the first timer, Jackie, would like to go back again sometime in the future. Just say when, and I'll be there...