February was a busy month for us travel-wise. Not only did Chad have the usual work trips, but I had planned to fly back to Boston for Bill's birthday party, and all of us did our normal go-up-to-the-mountains-for-ski-week thing.
I was scheduled on a direct flight to Boston on a Thursday, was going to have a day to goof off by myself on Friday, go to Bill's party Saturday, and head over to see Chad's family in Rockport Sunday before flying back Monday. All planned out, all very straightforward.
Except for this thing called winter weather...
On Wednesday afternoon, my original flight was preemptively cancelled because of a storm due to roll in. Needless to say, I was a bit irritated, since it looked like the storm was supposed to roll through before my plane was scheduled to land there, but that particular airline (Jetblue) is apparently pretty prone to cancelling things early. I was even more irritated when, after trying to get through to the airline on the phone for several hours, they gave me a response of "well, we've rescheduled you on a flight for Sunday."
Sunday???? That's *three days* after the original flight, and after the birthday event. Not acceptable. Fortunately, while I was waiting on hold, I had found a relatively cheap alternative on Alaska for Thursday, so I had Jetblue refund my ticketand switched gears. The new flight was not direct, but Seattle wasn't too far out of the way, so all seemed ok.
Of course, that storm was still coming.
I got up early Thursday, took a shuttle to the airport for my 6am flight, and checked my phone for the flight status of the second leg from Seattle to Boston. All looked well, so I turned the phone off for takeoff. Not 30 seconds later, I hear a voice from the row behind me "Darn it -- they just cancelled our flight to Boston."
Argh! I ascertained that they were talking about my flight. We all headed up to the front of the plane (which hadn't quite left yet) to figure out what the situation was. Do we stay on this plane and hope they can reschedule us by the time we land in Seattle, or just give up? Four of the six people got off, but the two of us who had more urgency to actually get to Boston stayed on after the gate agent who came down to talk to us said "I might be able to get you on the red-eye to Boston tonight if it is still available when I get back to the computer." Not ideal, but ok. Birthday party isn't until Saturday.
At this point, I figured there would be more alternatives on Alaska going out of Seattle (it's their hub), and the worst that would happen was that I'd have to kill time in WA. I have family there too :)
Good thing for that family. I landed in Seattle to find that Alaska did get me a seat on a red-eye into Boston, but it was for Friday night, not Thursday, so I had a full day and a half to kill. I'd still make it to the party on Saturday, though!
After sending an email to the hotel in Boston cancelling Thursday and Friday night, I called my sister-in-law, who was kind enough to come pick me up and let me invade for a day and a half. Although my brother was out of town, I had a good visit with her and the kids. It's quite entertaining to watch kids' reactions upon arriving home from school to find an unexpected relative... It was really cool to have more of a chance to talk to both Becka and the kids than I usually do at larger family gatherings, and the kids were much more open and goofy on their own home turf. Very fun, and it wouldn't have happened if not for the travel troubles.
Friday night rolls around and it was back to the airport for me. All looks well; the main snowstorm is done and only a dusting of new snow is expected. It was a blessedly uneventful flight, and the view from the plane of the Cascades blanketed with a new layer of snow under the full moon just after takeoff was amazing.
On the approach into Boston it was apparent that they got more than a dusting. I don't think I've ever landed on a white runway before. It's hard to tell from the picture, but many of the runway lights were buried under the snow. Not what one usually sees upon landing.
Boston is easy to get around when the T is running, which fortunately it was at 6am that morning. I was clever and wore my snow boots on the plane; that paid off during the 1-block walk from the T station to my hotel.
I was amused by the cute little snowplow headed in to Boston Common to clear the trails.
The hotel, which had already been really cool about adjusting my reservation, found me a room so I could check in early and get a little sleep. I woke up a few hours later to enjoy the view of the park out my window.
By the time I made it downstairs, the rest of the group I was meeting was just finishing up with breakfast, so I headed down the street to a cafe that I had previously sussed out. I'm quite sure the cafe, which was serving Stumptown, had better coffee than the hotel :) It was also packed on a snowy Saturday morning.
Thus fortified, I had energy for the rest of the day to enjoy exploring the city in the snow, before attending the surprise party that was the whole driver for the trip. (Party was excellent, as expected!)
Sad snowed-in bicycle.
As if that weren't enough for the weekend, on Sunday after breakfast with the party group, I took a quick train ride out to Rockport and saw the crowd of Chad's relatives out there. I was too busy talking to people to really take any pictures, but did get a cute one of their new dog to show Nimue.
All three branches of the family covered in one fell swoop, on two coasts. I wouldn't have *planned* it that way to begin with (clearly lacking boldness), but should have!
I got home Monday night, recovered for a few days, and then it was Nim's winter break. For the last several years, we've followed the same pattern: go up to Downieville over Presidents Day weekend to see Linda and ski in the backcountry there, and then head over to Stephan's cabin sometime mid-week to go ski at the resorts when it is less busy. The plan this year was the same. After the previous week's trip, I was looking forward to it being straightforward.
The beginning of the trip went to plan -- we had an easy drive up to Linda's, relaxed a bit, and enjoyed an excellent day of skiing at Yuba Pass. Then the next "atmospheric river" moved in, soaking the state in yet another deluge of precipitation. This one was quite warm, so it poured and poured and poured in Downieville, and it wasn't clear if it would be raining or snowing if we went up the hill to ski -- plus the visibility would be bad -- so we chose to hole up in the house and read.
However, I was also compulsively watching the weather forecast. It looked like it would get colder and the precipitation would taper off on Tuesday afternoon, indicating that Wednesday might be one of those glorious epic bottomless powder days, before another storm rolled in. Clearly the thing to do was to drive over to Tahoe on Tuesday afternoon when the snow in the upper elevations tapered off.
This is not tapering. See all the snowflakes whizzing by as we drove?
The poor windshield wipers kept getting gummed up with snow and ice. Fortunately, the rest of the truck handles these conditions better than the windshield wipers.
Clever teenager practiced her usual "I'm bored in the car" strategy as we worked our way up and over Yuba Pass.
We had timed things so that we could drive over, stop at the grocery store in Truckee, and make it to the cabin before it got too dark, but the drive was a little slow and it was starting to get dark as we got to the store. We navigated the zoo that is a ski town grocery store in peak season, and got in one of the overly-long checkout lines.
Blackness! A collective groan went up from everyone in line as the power went out. Now we were in a crowded zoo of impatient people in the dark, lit only by the glow of cell phones. The store got their backup generator up pretty quickly, but it took a while to get the registers up, and then we realized that we had made the tactical error of assuming that the group of young adults in front of us were purchasing their items together. All the lines aside from ours started moving. We were stuck behind about eight underaged-looking European tourist skiers each trying to buy large bottles of alcohol. Individually. With nonstandard ID, given that they were visitors. The front end of the store was so packed that we really couldn't move to switch lines.
Brrr. Chilly morning made it hard to get out of bed. Did we turn on the Nest controller right last night?
But it was gorgeous out! Lots and lots of new snow! Sunny skies!
We headed up to Sugarbowl and had a glorious day of skiing on more deep fresh snow than I've seen there in years. Deep enough that your pole could go all the way down and not hit bottom if you were skiing off-trail. As Nim put it, "It's like skiing on air!" Definitely worth the trouble of driving over in the end of the storm the previous day.
The lifts weren't all open, as they were still making sure that everything was working and they had cleared any avalanche danger after all the snow and wind the previous days, but that just meant that there would be fresh deep powder the next day too.
We skiied until about 3, when everyone was frozen because the next band of storm had rolled in, and then headed back to the cabin.
Brrr! Still not very warm in the house.
Nim coped in the best way she could.
We made sure the Nest was set correctly, communicated with Stephan about what to do (he was back in Sunnyvale), searched in vain for the key to the basement room where the furnace was, and were about to break into that room (with permission) to see if we could hit the reset button when the furnace whooshed back to life. Yay, warmth!
At least for a little bit. Things would start to get warm, and then the furnace would turn back off. Woe. Maybe something wrong with the power? The lights had been flickering a bit. We called the power company, who put the address on their probably very long list of things to check out, and then went to bed.
Another glorious day of skiing, this time at Squaw Valley. I haven't been there for years, and they clearly hadn't had much of the mountain open the previous day, so there was plenty more powder to be found. The game was to try to keep track of what they were opening next and hit it before everyone else did -- but there was plenty of good snow to go around even if you mistimed things a bit. We skied until they stopped letting people on the lifts and were looking forward to another day.
Back to the cabin. Is it warm? Not exactly. 57 degrees, but the furnace again turned on. I took a shower, then noticed the furnace was off.
"Hey Chad, do you smell anything funny?"
Hmmm. Slight burnt smell from the vents. Not good. Break into furnace room (delicately with an axe to the doorknob--yay Chad!), no obvious thing to address. Lights in the kitchen now seem extra bright. More consultation with Stephan who calls a furnace guy, head out to get some pizza for dinner before said furnace guy is supposed to show up.
Hmmm. The garage door opener won't open. Beginning to suspect dire electrical woes in the house.
Pull the cord to disengage the automatic opener and try to open it manually. Door won't open.
Great. The ski hut really has it in for us and is now trying to trap us.
Fiddle with the mechanism, rig a sled rope to pull on the part of the door that appears to be stuck, and incidentally tighten many screws that appear to be loose on the hardware, and eventually get the door open so we can escape. Yay! Pizza ho!
The back to the cabin. Very very cold in the house. Forecast low temperature for the night: 0F.
The furnace repairman showed up a few minutes after we got back from dinner. I started poking at my phone to look for hotel options just in case, with no luck, while the guys headed downstairs to look at the furnace.
"Pop!" The fluorescent light downstairs just blew. Now the lights in the kitchen are scarily blindingly bright. The ones in the upstairs bedroom are almost nonexistent. The furnace guy checks a few outlets with his multimeter.
(Chad thinks he should have had our multimeter with us).
190V. Hmmmm...that's kinda scary. Aren't those things supposed to be 110? Half the outlets in the house were at 190V; half were at 50V. Clearly a power problem. 10:30 pm, power people weren't going to get around to fixing that night.
By this point, I was already starting to slowly pack up a few things, and had ascertained that there were no nearby hotel rooms available. No heat, power so freaky that the prudent thing to do was to turn it off, forecast temperature low enough that it would also be prudent to turn the water off. I hated to admit it, but the right thing to do was to bail out and go home. We haphazardly threw everything in the truck, set the cabin to order as best we could, and headed down the hill.
Good thing we got two amazing days of skiing in before having to leave.
The additional silver lining when we got home was that I realized that there were actually still tickets available for the Redwood City showing of the films on tour from the Banff Film Festival the next night. I had originally thought we were going to miss it this time around, but we got to see it after all :)
And in case you need closure, the problem with the cabin did indeed turn out to be a power thing -- it turned out that the storm had knocked out just the neutral line to just their one house, leading to some weird voltage divider stuff going on that blew the transformer to the furnace. Stephan was able to replace it a few days later with a part he bought off of Amazon.