It seems like the same thing happens every year.
Sometime during the spring, my wife, her parents and I sit around the table and discuss our summer vacation options. We go through the usual suggestions like Yosemite, Central Oregon, or the Colorado Rockies, and we all kick those ideas around for several days.
But inevitably, one of us comes out and says, why don’t we just go to Lake Alpine again?
Lake Alpine, at an elevation of almost 7400’ in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, is only a half-day’s drive from us. It’s located in the least populated county in California. There are tons of outdoor activities for everyone to do. And until recently, we had family members who lived there. It’s hard to argue against watching our kids doing activities they love alongside their grandparents and great-grandparents, creating memories that will hopefully last a lifetime.
Oh, one more thing: the lake happens to be breathtakingly beautiful. So you can understand why we always end up returning here each summer.
The one downside is the lack of Internet access anywhere near the lake. Last year, this almost drove me insane – not only was I missing all my blogging-related activity, but we also happened to be there during the crucial mountain stages of the Tour de France. By the end of the week, I was spending an inordinate amount of time curled up in a ball on the ground, sweating profusely and growing paranoid with Bloglines and Phil Liggett withdrawal.
To my surprise, this year’s Internet downtime didn’t bother me one bit – which I suppose could be seen as an indication that I’m becoming more well-adjusted. However, I think the real reason has to do with a certain “stash” I brought to help me pass the time, as I’ll explain in a minute.
As for the actual vacation report, I’ll run down the highlights in bullet form. Think of it like an awards show – there were many great moments to choose from, but these were the best. And since this is ostensibly a triathlon blog, I’ll start on an athletic note.
Best workout: One day, while my kids were out fishing with Grandpa, I did an open-water swim across the lake and back - a total distance of about 1.5 miles.
Remember that Michael Phelps commercial during the Summer Olympics, where he swims across the ocean, touches the shore and says “One!” before turning around and swimming back the other way? I got to do this at one end of the lake, where the water ends at an outcropping of boulders in front of a spillway area. I swam right up to the rocks, touched them with my palm, and shouted “One!” before pushing off with my feet in the opposite direction. Sadly, I don’t think anybody on or around the lake saw me do this - but for that brief moment, I sort of felt like an Olympian.
Best moment with my 3-year-old: My daughter sat in my lap one afternoon while I paddled her around the lake in a single person kayak. This girl loves singing, and often breaks into song on a whim.
So as we’re paddling around this beautiful mountain lake, taking in the tall trees and blue skies and other majestic sights surrounding us, she decides to sing “A Whole New World” from Aladdin. I mean … I don’t know if she chose the song on purpose, or if she really felt like Jasmine flying around on a magic carpet - but on the cuteness scale, her singing that song scored about a 9.9.
Best moment with my 6-year-old: At one end of the lake, there’s an outcropping of rocks that have a near-vertical drop into the water below. In other words, it’s a perfect rock-diving spot.
Once our family paddled over to the lake and saw the rock formation, the first volunteer to jump was my 6-year-old daughter. The rise was maybe 7 feet above the water – not a dizzying height by any stretch, but enough to make you think twice when you’re looking down from the precipice.
My 6-year-old is the adventurer of the family. She’ll try anything new, and she loves looking for new thrills (not exactly qualities I’ll be fond of when she’s 16 – but for now, they’re admirable). So after I took the first plunge, she didn’t hesitate to fly in right after me.
She got out of the water with an astonished smile on her face, and climbed right back up to the top of the rock to jump again. She probably jumped at least 10 more times by the time we were finished.
And every time, she had that same astonished smile.
Best moment with my son: One afternoon, my soon-to-be 9-year-old son and I had the following series of exchanges:
Son: Dad, can I take the kayak out by myself?
Me: No. I don’t think you can handle it well enough yet.
Later on …
Son: Dad, I really think I can do the kayak by myself.
Me: Um … maybe, but not right now – I want somebody to be out there with you when you try it.
Even later …
Son: Dad – how about when you paddle one kayak to the dock, I’ll paddle the other?
Me (growing weary of this): OK, fine. You paddle the other one.
And you know what? He did just fine. Then he spent the next day kayaking all over the lake by himself. I guess my parenting instincts aren’t exactly foolproof. So next time, when he tells me about eight different times that he thinks he’s ready for something … I’ll know he’s probably ready for it.
Best pop culture moment: Actually, before we get to this one - Is there any question that the portable DVD player is one of the top-5 parenting inventions of all time? Seriously, I’d put it right up there with infant car seats and disposable diapers. My wife and I felt absolutely no shame in cueing up a couple of movies and slapping headphones on the kids so we could have a few hours of normal conversation on the drives up and down the mountain.
The DVD player also allowed us to bring along 20 episodes of the first season of Lost. We clicked through 3 or 4 episodes per evening, until we polished off the entire season.
I’m completely hooked on the series. My wife had a moment’s hesitation, but I think she’ll hang in there. About halfway through the season, we had an exchange that went something like this:
Wife: I don’t know if I can keep watching this show. Some of these storylines are getting a little disturbing.
Me: I know what you mean. But I’m definitely going to keep watching.
Wife: OK … but don’t watch any episodes without me.
Predictably, she ended up watching the whole season. The whole thing became simply mesmerizing.
So now we’re both chomping at the bit to watch season 2. In fact, the only thing keeping us from rushing back to the video store is the Harry Potter countdown timer (which, not surprisingly, I never figured out how to make for the blog), and the knowledge that after midnight this Friday, our entire family will shift into bunker mentality until my wife, son, and I have all read the final pages of our all-time favorite story.
Thank God it’s taper time for my Ironman. Otherwise, all this vacation and leisure activity would put a serious dent in my training.
July 17, 2007
It seems like the same thing happens every year.