Not a whole lot to remember from this early month although I did get to attend my first ever NFL playoff game, only to watch an awkwardly-thrown, prayer of a pass slip out of Darrel Jackson's hands in the endzone. The Rams ended up beating the Seahawks three times last season, including that playoff game. To compound matters, the Cascade Mountains were having one of the driest winters on record and I didn't get to go snowboarding once the entire month.
This particular month started off strong with our first annual Super Bowl Party in our new house. We had about 14 people over to watch the game and although one couple brought their kids -- which prevented people from being as comfortable as they would have -- it was still quite a lot of fun. Some people who didn't come over last year are self-inviting themselves to our 2006 party, so we must have done something right. This time, no kids. But hopefully, plenty of Seahawks! As for the rest of February, no snowboarding, lots of work, nothing really to report.
March was a good month in that the warm, dry weather got me thinking more and more about mountain biking and I ended up buying a new bike. I bought a 2005 Giant NRS C2 full-suspension cross-country bike with hydraulic disk brakes and a carbon fiber frame. This would be the impetus for us to have the kind of outdoorsy year we planned on always having when we first moved to the Pacific Northwest 3 years ago. The bike, however, was embarrasingly expensive and I had to make a deal with my wife that I didn't ride it at least once a week by Labor Day I would sell it. Well, I ended up riding it an average of 4 times a week for most of the year and had over 1,100 miles of singletrack under it by the time Labor Day had come. Also in March, Kristin's parents flew out from the east coast to visit and see the house. Kristin's father is a realtor and although we were confident in our choice, it was reassuring to get his congratulations on a good decision. Being first-time home buyers we were quite nervous. Also of note in March is that I traded in my Acura RSX Type-S to get Kristin a Honda Civic Hybrid. And if that isn't love, I don't know what it is.
Being an independent contractor can suck around tax time and 2005 was no exception, but if I'm to make any mention of money issues in this column, it's to be that in April of 2005 we mailed in the final payment on a $25,000 student load I had from my years as undergrad--don't worry I still have more student loans; even with a track scholarship Lafayette College was damn expensive! Nevertheless, this happened to coincide with the death of our Isuzu Rodeo so rather than enjoying the extra $400 a month, we promptly turned around and went back to the Honda dealership and bought me a Honda Element. My mountain bike would take up permanent residence inside it for the remainder of the year. But April wasn't all seriousness. Kristin's Grandmother (who would kill me if I ever referred to her such) and one of her sisters came out to visit. Halfway through their visit I flew to NJ to visit family and attend a friend's bachelor party in Atlantic City. What to say about the weekend other than I slept for about 6 of the 96 hours I was in NJ and had an incredible time?
May was probably one of the most memorable months for us as we returned to Hawaii for my friend Lou's wedding. Our choice was to either join Lou and his fiancee Kathleen in Maui for the wedding (along with her best friend and sisiter) or return to NJ in July for the reception. It wasn't a hard choice. But I did have to miss the big E3 Expo for the second year in a row and miss another chance to actually meet Bill Harris face-to-face. On the bright side, I did get to spend a few days surfing in Maui with one of my best friends and watch him get hitched to his very beautiful and way-cool bride. Best of all, while they honeymooned in Lihue, Kauai, Kristin and I traveled over to Kaui and backpacked the world-famous Kalalau Trail in the Na Pali region of Kauai. Not only is this 11-mile (feels like 25 miles) rugged trail in the "1,000 Places to See Before You Die" book, but it has also been featured in National Geographic's "Top 25 Hikes in the World" book. The hike was breathtaking, scary, arduous, and wonderful all at the same time. There were times when we though the heat and humidity wouldn't let us walk another step; there were times when a single misstep would cost you your life (several hundred foot freefall into the Pacific), and there were times when you almost had to weep from seeing the beauty that surrounds you. I took the following photo during this hike.
Not a whole lot went on in June other than a lot of mountain biking. I was going through a lull with work and didn't have any projects to speak of for quite a while so at this time I was riding my bike almost every day and, unfortunately, not losing any weight. Made a lot of friends through the BBTC club in the area and would spend my days and weekends riding. Not a whole lot going on.
In early July Kristin's youngest sister and her boyfriend came to visit for a few days. I'm not sure if they wanted to necessarily see the new house or if they just wanted to escape the heat and humidity of New Jersey, but either way it was good to see them. Later in the month Kristin and I started camping again with the bike club -- she would go running while we rode -- but, again, not much really jumps out.
I'd be in trouble if I didn't mention that our wedding anniversary is in August. It's hard to believe we'd been married for 8 years despite still being a couple months shy of hitting 30 years old, but what I can say? We're the last of a dying breed, I guess. Anyway, Kristin booked us a nice night out in the city to celebrate, complete with a stay at some fancy hotel downtown. It was a good time. But unfortunately, our anniversary signals the return of the busy season for work and 2005 was like no other. I ended up authoring guidebooks for 6 games between the last week of July and the end of October. Needless to say, I wasn't riding my bike every day anymore. But despite this onslaught of work, I did steal away for 4 days to Toronto for the annual trip I take with my friends. This year the votes were cast and Toronto was our destination. So 12 of us made the journey north, piled into two hotel rooms at the Toronto Hilton and enjoyed several days of drunkeness, public disorderly conduct, and all-around mayhem. The highlights were many, but walking over a mile in formation to see the Blue Jays play the Yankees with "T-H-E B-I-G U-N-I-T-S painted on our chests was definitely something to remember.
It's not in any National Geographic "best of" book, but it ought to be. I spent Labor Day weekend with three other riders up north of the border in British Columbia riding the trails in the Spruce Lake region of the Chilcotin Mountains. We rode on a float-plane up to Warner Lake and pedaled 25 miles through the mountains back to what passes for civilization up there. The scenery was terrific, we had great weather, our group was strong and got along superbly, and the constant scanning for grizzly bears added a nice touch of excitement and fear to the trip. The 8 hour drive from Seattle wasn't necessarily a highlight, but fortunately my copilot, Ellen, knew of a lesser-known border crossing that didn't have nearly as much holiday traffic. The following photo was taken at Warner Lake right after the pilot, Dale, dropped us off. Moments later two salt-of-the-earth backpackers emerged from the woods with high-powered rifles. That was their grizzly protection. We had none save for my can of Counter Assault bear spray, which everyone teased me for bringing.
It had to happen eventually, but on October 1st, I turned 30. Kristin was attending a conference in Las Vegas right around the time of my birthday so I tagged along and whiled away the days in the casino while she was at her conference. We had a great time and even got to meet up with fellow strategy guide authoring superstar Dan Birlew and his lovely wife for dinner at the Rio casino. They took us to a fantastic creole restaurant on the roof of the casino with a killer view of the strip (the Rio isn't on the strip so the view is even better). Anyway, this little trip to Vegas and a pair of Avid Juicy Seven brakes (top of the line disc brakes) for my mountain bike were supposed to be my presents, but Kristin nevertheless booked us for a brief weekend at a small B&B on Orcas Island in the San Juans. The San Juans are dead in October -- no whales to watch, most restaurants and galleries are closed, the weather is crummy -- but we had a great time anyway. Just the two of us relaxing in front of the fireplace or in the hottub and enjoying the view of the water and mountains. Speaking of mountains, we also discovered our new favorite spot in Washington on a camping trip early in the month. The Okanagon National Forest area near the North Cascades National Park and town of Winthrop. We are sooooo going to build a cabin out there once these cars are paid off!
With November came a lot of rest and relaxation for me as aside from the couple little weekend trips here and there (during which I always had my laptop with me for work) I was working 7 days a week for the better part of 3 months. November was no such thing. Instead, I putzed around the house, enjoyed walking the dogs, and riding my bike again. Best of all, the snow started falling early this year and we were up at Mount Baker for opening day before Thanksgiving with a 72" base and waist-deep powder everywhere you looked. That one day almost made up for the previous winter's complete lack of snow. Speaking of Thanksgiving, Kristin and I stayed home this year and made an incredibly abundance of food. I spent most of Tuesday and Wednesday cooking while Kristin was at work and together we celebrated our gluttonous American ways with a feast for the ages on Thanksgiving. Fortunately, Kristin's uncle needed a place to stay for a couple nights that next week and helped us polish off the left-overs.
If you've been reading this blog for more than, well, a day, you're aware that we decided to rededicate ourselves to the Christmas spirit this year and that we made a point of doing Christmas-y things at least once a week. We attended a play, we went and say fake snow fall in a mall, we baked 7 dozen cookies, we decorated, etc., etc. And it was all worth it. We had a very nice holiday with my brother Joe and although I missed not seeing my friends and family, it was indeed good to stay home for once. And now the end of the year is fast-approaching. Kristin's birthday is on New Year's Eve and this year, since it's her 30th and that's supposed to be special I'm told, we're going to have some fun. We're going to the big New Year's Party at the Experience Music Project in Seattle where the entire facility is reserved for the party. We'll wander the museaum, enjoy drinks and food, and take in live acts on several different stages with the band, the Presidents of the United States of America being the headliners. Kristin bought an incredibly sexy outfit in Vegas that I can't wait to see her in and we have room booked at one of the downtown hotels so no drinking and driving worries. It should be a great time.
Now if only I can think of something to get her for her birthday...
Happy New Year everybody. Have a great time!