Saturday, March 12, 2011

3/12/2011 A most extraordinary day

This will probably get rolled up into another post later about our ski trip, but I just must get this out now.

Whew. What a day. So much bad, so much good.

So, we had a horrendously dreadful drive from the Bay Area to Truckee yesterday, despite a remarkably efficient early traffic-avoiding (we thought) start at 2:15pm. Yet we encountered two accidents and a lot of stop-n-go traffic, setting us up perfectly for more stop-n-go traffic pretty much from Davis to Auburn. We were exhausted and frazzled by the time we gladly reached our rental condo in Truckee. So much for the benefit of an early start.

But immediately, we were dismayed by our rental place. No lights in the kids' rooms. The master bed was unmade. Only a dim oversink fluorescent light in the kitchen. The main source of heat, a gas fireplace, was supposed to have fans that sent heat downstairs, but they didn't work. And the big topper: a note from the maintenance person to the previous renters (not us) about all the problems with the place, most of which we'd just found, except the bathtub (the only bathing facility) not draining properly. So this was no fluke -- it was negligence.

Dave tried to call the emergency maintenance contact: voicemail box full. I tried to call the owner (luckily had noted his cellphone number), left a message. Call service only existed on the balcony, and the land line had been disconnected.

This was a total nightmare. The place just wasn't livable without electricity (heat) in the kids' rooms. If it were just cleaning, fine, but it wasn't. And who knew what else was wrong.

We scrambled and snapped at the kids to be quiet while we tried to figure out what to do. We had to get them to ski school at 8am tomorrow!! This was no time to be searching for lodging!

The one thing that worked was wireless Internet access, and we'd brought our new Netbook-sized laptop. From there, we searched around and found a hotel that had openings.

Meantime, Dave got a hold of the maintenance person -- she said they weren't expecting anyone until March 17. Then I got a hold of the owner: he'd gotten confirmation that morning from the same maintenance person that the place was ready. She told us to use the wall heaters for the kids' rooms. He told us not to, they were dangerous.

This is a mess. We're outta here. We packed up the kids and went to a hotel.

I was furious and miserable and deeply disappointed -- I wanted to be relaxing in a charming place, making hot chocolate and spreading out our stuff, not fretting about where we were going to stay! I'd planned that a long time ago! And we're skiing tomorrow, not looking for lodging!

Fortunately, the Hampton Inn was very nice (for $300 a night they'd better be) and we got the kids to bed somehow at 10:30. They were wasted. Then Dave got to work, sending the condo owner a list of things that would have to be fixed before we could stay there. Then I got to work, looking for alternatives. I sent a few desperate inquiries to places that appeared to have openings for the weekend. Then I got all the kids' stuff ready for tomorrow -- top priority was getting them to ski school on time tomorrow.

We pulled that off. In the morning, the kids and Dave had a nice breakfast in the Hampton Inn lobby, while I sent off two more inquiries to places. We were in the car by 7:45 and arrived at Sugarbowl about half an hour later, just in time to miss the lines getting everyone's rentals and checking them in to ski school. I even ran into an old friend from Las Madres (Cornelia, for you LM2002 readers). Kiss, hug, have a great time, BYE.

Now to figure out what to do. This was the darkest time for me. I was so resentful that instead of being excited about skiing now, I was exhausted and frazzled and worried. I really hated staying in the hotel. There's no place for kids to play outside in the snow, no convenient washer/dryer, nothing for them to do, we're all in the same room, and I had bags of food to make our own dinners and treats in the car. I don't like hotels. I like houses. I hate hotels.

Incredibly, Dave got a voicemail. An inquiry I'd sent this morning -- last-minute -- resulted in a phone call from a kind rental owner who recognized the panic in my email and wanted to respond right away. While we juggled talking to the original condo owner about if the first place would be ready, this new place's owner was relaxed and kind and assuring and said no problem, let us know later in the day if you'd like to stay there. We just couldn't risk it. Time in our lives means too much. We decided that even before waiting to hear from the first place if it would be ready that we'd take the new place.

We left messages for the first place's owner -- who'd told me that he had a cleaner, electrician and plumber out there today -- that we weren't coming back and that we'd like a full refund. Then my new guardian angel in the form of the new place's owner sent us email with all the information we needed to get into his rental house.

I was so relieved and so glad it was over that I just wanted to cry. I knew that much more serious things were going on in the world -- I'm mortified by the events in Japan -- but it still was hard not to take this to heart. I'd been looking SO forward to our ski trip, probably the last of this year, how dare these people mess this up for us!!

It was interesting talking to the new owner and his wife -- they love their place and want to share it with people. The first guy has his place as a rental, but that's all it is, he doesn't live there. A home versus an investment. BIG difference.

Still very tense and upset, Dave and I went to go get our lift tickets and his rental gear. It seemed forever before we were able to finally, finally, FINALLY get on a lift, but when we did, I felt 10 times lighter. Finally. We're safe.

The relief and joy was short-lived though. At least for Dave. I'd assured Dave we were going to an easy blue run, one he'd done last year, the easiest on the mountain. He was nervous about it and said as long as I stuck nearby, fine. But moments into our lift ride I realized that we were on the wrong lift -- one that takes to you where there are no green runs or easy blues to get down.

Actually, the blue runs from the top of the Mt Judah lift turned out not to be bad, but they weren't what Dave wanted to start with. He made it down, with one or two small falls, and found that most of it really was doable. I'm a terrible teacher though -- these runs were fine for me, but I can't begin to convey verbally what to do.

This made the "easy" blue run he'd originally been nervous about very easy for him! We did that a few times, though I started to look forward to our 1:30 lesson. (It should have been 10:30, I prefer morning lessons, but our lodging issues made us too late for that .)

After lunch, I went to the lesson area and volunteered myself as a "Level 4" -- even though I hadn't done most of what "Level 4" is supposed to do: pole plants, easy blacks, off-piste terrain. "But I WANT to do all that!!" I told the guy directing people to lessons. He laughed.

In the end, only four people -- including Dave -- appeared for the Level 3-4 lessons. It only took skiing to the lifts to separate us further: and me and a French-born African-raised professor of veterinary medicine (cool!) got our own semi-private lesson. More cool!!!

And we did all the "level 4" stuff! I had SUCH a great time in this lesson. We went on all sorts of lifts and areas I never went to last year at Sugarbowl. We did whoop-de-doos (hills) in terrain parks, we did something of a half-pipe (more like a quarter-pipe really), some off-piste non-trails in the woods threading our way between trees, we did all sorts of blues (smooth and icy; rough and cut-up), and, it turns out, a black diamond, though we didn't know it until afterward. We were even encouraged to try the little half-dome jump and straight-run terrain park features (don't know what they're called) that you ski (or more commonly, board) up to, then slide on and jump off.

I was delighted that I wasn't fearful during the lesson (certainly concerned at some points though!), never felt out of control, and though I chickened out on some of the more interesting features, I tried more than the instructor expected -- and more than my male companion too. It was SO fun, and my confidence has gone way up. At the end of our lesson, the instructor even hugged me.

It was hard to believe the day had started the way it had. I was on such a high from such a fun, diverse and expanding lesson. What a change from the blackness of this morning!

We picked up the kids from ski school and went through the usual painful logistics of getting everyone's boots and gear off, then went to go find our new rental house. Which we did, with ease.

Paradise. This place is absolutely lovely. It's well-appointed, it's nicely decorated, spotless, everything's in place and ready for us (the last place was missing toilet paper in a bathroom). We're beside ourselves. It's really, really wonderful.

So despite being exhausted, I made hot chocolate and popcorn for the kids when we first got to our new place, then later made dinner. I was delighted to make dinner, because I had a kitchen instead of just a microwave in a hotel. I had the bright idea that since I'd brought marshmallows for hot chocolate, butter for toast, and Brown Rice Crisps (like Rice Krispies) for breakfast, that we could make rice krispie treats. And, the kids have their own rooms (boys in bunk beds), with doors, and Dave and I have our own bathroom. We are deeply gratefuly to this kind house owner who called us right away to help. It's completely turned around our trip.

So why am I writing now!! I'm beyond exhausted!! Well, because that's just what I DO when I must get things out of my head. I can't believe that 36 hours ago, we were struggling with some truly horrible traffic, then the intense frustration and upset about the first rental condo, and now -- we're in a lovely place with a fabulous memory of a wonderful experience today.

Oh wait, one more thing. Kids - they all did GREAT!! We saw Katrina skiing -- really skiing, on her own! No pole to hold, no hoop, no tether -- just skiing!! Slowly, but she was doing great. Julian had poles, but that's because this ski school now gives all Level 2 kids poles. He too did great, I saw him on a blue and talked to his instructor later. Gabriel, sure enough, also hit a black diamond today (I knew he would!), and also did some terrain park and off-piste stuff. They all had a great time and really advanced their skills.

We so did the right thing picking Sugarbowl for the kids' ski school -- but it turns out to be absolutely perfect for me too, as I'm on the steep part of the learning curve and don't need a lot of greens anymore. Dave too had a good lesson -- he ended up on some of the same slope I'd accidentally taken him on this morning, and did just fine!

And while my first shot picking a place to stay was a disaster, my second shot -- mostly a lucky one -- was great.

Not a lot of photos today - hopefully tomorrow.


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