The past two weeks have been a whirlwind, with work being crazy as I try to tie up all my loose ends and a trip to California to see my family last week. That trip was great and relaxing, and tomorrow I begin -- with a mixture of dread, excitement, and anticipated relief -- my last week at work.
Last Saturday I took off for San Francisco and upon landing was picked up by an old high school friend, whom I actually had not seen in 12 years. Although she was looking for "a blonde girl" (things have changed thanks to the cold and harsh northeast), I spotted her easily. We met two other long-lost friends from high school who live in the S.F. Bay Area at a restaurant in San Francisco's North Beach neighborhood called Rose Pistola. I had so much fun seeing my old friends, despite not being able to cope fully with the realization that we are all 'adults" now. I think the meal was pretty good. I know it was expensive. In any case I was wrecked. I got home to Grandma's late and fell into bed.
The real highlight of my trip was our mini family reunion on the north shore of Lake Tahoe. Unfortunately, my aunt, uncle, and cousins who live in the Bay Area were unable to join us so just five of us -- my aunt and uncle from Hawaii, my divorced grandparents, and me -- went to Tahoe and stayed in a house we rented for four nights. Before undertaking our three-plus hour drive, we stopped to have lunch with the family members who weren't coming along. It's always so nice to see them (and swim in their pool). My aunt went all-out with the food -- we had bbq'd chicken, southwest slaw, broccoli salad, green salad, fruit salad, and lemon cheesecake, all homemade. I'm still waiting for those southwest slaw and lemon cheesecake recipes (and will post them when I get them; you'll thank me).
After fueling up, we began the drive to the lake. We rented a gigantic SUV that somehow still didn't fit all of our stuff, so several suitcases had to be strapped on top. Oh, and I was sitting in the middle of the back seat in between my sparring grandparents. (It's all in good fun . . . I think.) When we finally arrived, everyone was ready either for bed or for a drink.
The next day (Monday) we got a visit from my grandmother's niece (i.e. my aunt's first cousin and my . . . well, according to Wikipedia she's my first cousin, once removed) and her husband, who live in Sparks, NV. We sat around catching up, walked to our neighborhood beach (where I, of course, took a dip), and looked at old photos cousin Chris brought of my grandmother's family. Hearing Chris's stories -- and she is a great storyteller -- about my great-grandparents and great aunts and uncles definitely piqued my interest in my genealogy (to be continued here, no doubt).
By the way, if you ever want to piss someone from Nevada off, call it NevAHda.
A short five-minute walk led to our local beach, small but uncrowded and perfect for swimming and exploring. One of the things that makes Lake Tahoe special is its water clarity. The water is as clear as you'd find in the Caribbean, thanks to some sort of strange science thing that prevents algae from accumulating and causing the murkiness so typical of other lakes. Lake Tahoe is also the second-deepest lake in the United States (at its deepest 1645 ft). Because of its depth, I read, Lake Tahoe never freezes in the winter (except of course at the shore where it's shallow). For facts about Lake Tahoe, click here. The place is stunning and a great destination any time of year (just be sure to put your turkey in early if you go for Thanksgiving).
Tuesday we saw another visitor, our family friend Randy, who spent just over 8 years building his very own plane from a kit. For the past few years since it's been finished, I've been wondering -- loudly, at that -- when I would get a ride in it. I even joked to Randy when I told him of our Tahoe plans that he should fly down from his Vancouver, WA home to see us and give me a ride. And he didn't disappoint.
It was alternately thrilling and terrifying flying with Randy. The thrills were due to his impeccable flying and the lake's natural beauty. The terrors were thanks to the strong (by my judgement) winds that day, which caused an unusually (by Randy's judgement) bumpy ride, especially over the mountains.
A photo attempt was thwarted, in fact, by one of these bumps, but the result is pretty perfect given the circumstances.
While we flew out over the lake, Randy and I talked through our headsets. He told me we were at about 9000 feet, or about 3000 feet above the lake (yes, I had to ask for a clarification).
Randy, like Chris, is a great storyteller, and it had been ages since any of us had seen him so we had a blast together. Sadly he had to get home before dark (a hazard of private plane travel, at least when you have an unlighted strip of grass to land on) so our visit was cut short.
Our third and final full day in Tahoe was kind of a lazy day, so basically no different from the others. We went out to dinner and did a little gambling at the Blackjack table at the Hyatt (Lake Tahoe straddles Nevada and California; once you cross the state line to Nevada there is a marked difference in ambiance -- flashy lights, cigarette smoke, and ker-ching noises replace serenity, clean air, and the crunch, crunch of hikers walking over a bed of pine needles). Dinner was great. Gambling we won't discuss. The next day was back to the Bay Area, with a stop en route for Mexican food at my request (which turned into pleading after GPS led us to "downtown" Davis in the middle of rush hour; we ended up in much-quieter Dixon).
I spent my last night in California at my aunt and uncle's hotel so I could walk to BART and ride the train to the airport in the morning. We drank some and reminisced a lot, and, as always, it was sad for me to leave the next morning. Even though I barely recall living in the Bay Area and can find my way around only with direction, there is always something about being there that feels like home. My family's memories seem to be around every corner.
It was a fun few days, just long enough so that no one killed each other. Despite our differences, we inevitably unite, probably thanks to my pressure to continue doing so. I may be the only one who admits to enjoying our time together, but I'd like to think I'm not alone in feeling it. There is always tension, there are always jabs, but there are is also always a ton of laughs and good memories formed. I walk away from time with my family feeling warm and knowing that they are good people who love me. It doesn't get much better than that, as cheesy as it sounds.
Driving home from Newark airport, I smiled to myself as I crossed an interchange of the very same I-80 we'd spent close to 7 hours on, singing, bickering, and reminiscing some 2500 miles away.