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Dillon’s bachelor party – An Adirondacks adventure! (Part 3 – GoKarts, games, and the journey West)

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Weekend from 30-Sept to 04-Oct

It’s been ages since my friends and I’ve had a good old fashioned get together.

COVID, living on the West Coast, tons of little things have delayed or denied getting to get together and catch up. But now, we’ve got a good reason to get together – one of the best reasons of all, in fact! A wedding! And what comes before a wedding? The bachelor party, of course!

Dillon had asked me to be his Best Man for the wedding in November, which of course meant planning and throwing the bachelor party itself – with much help from many people, a plan was crafted and a timeline put in place. A location chosen, a guest list compiled, and a date chosen.

Plane tickets were bought, rentals secured, and reservations called in. Now, all that remained was the best part of the process – sitting back and having an amazing weekend!!!



Sunday, 03-October-2021 and Monday, 04-October-2021


Yesterday morning, we’d cooked up a glorious breakfast after relaxing and eating home-smoked ribs.

Sunday morning, we stumbled out of our rooms, one by one, surprisingly sane and capable in light of the energetic evening we’d had on Saturday. Compared to back at Northeastern we hadn’t gone that hard, truth be told, but we still hadn’t gone easy… various games of sushi-matching and ultimate battles, combined with some exceptional drinks, had taken a toll on all of us.

Thankfully, that had always been part of the plan, and we had the perfect cure-all lined up and ready for us – a diner brunch, before hitting an arcade!

Both stops were exactly what we’d hoped them to be:

For brunch, we’d tracked down a diner that was perfectly reminiscent of the various haunts that you think of when you hear “Diner” – slightly aged, with sassy coffee and strong waitresses. The food was buttery and delicious, the booths felt like they were straight out of the 50s, and there were utensils for Dillon and Daniel to stack and balance while we waited for omlettes and pancakes to be piled high on our table.

Coffee was sipped, waters chugged, and bellies were filled in exactly the right amount to chase off any remnants of hangovers that may have been hanging around. And, since its a diner in Upstate New York in the off season, there wasn’t any rush for us to pack up and head out… We had a vague timeline for the day, but nothing set in stone… so we ate, sipped, and enjoyed the good company that comes with a solid weekend adventure.



The drive to the arcade was short, and soon enough we were kicking it old-school – GoKarts (the rain held off literally exactly until we’d just finished our final lap), arcade games, tickets, and HALO shooters. We crushed them all… with many thanks to everyone donating coins for Dillon and I! I don’t want to think about how much money we stuffed into that infernal HALO game… but maybe $30 or $40 later, the two of us had beaten the game and successfully backed up the Master Chief through the events of the first game – which, compared with the cost of a full game… was probably almost worth it? Maybe?

But while duo shooters are fun, they aren’t the end-all for a six-person bachelor party. The true key for that? Laser tag. Ideally overseen by an amazingly sculpted AT-ST Chicken Walker, and guarded by arguably the scariest statue of Yoda I’ve ever seen.


See, I didn’t mention that earlier, but this arcade was… interesting. You know those movies, where the protagonists are high school kids who work at a summer camp that was probably awesome 15 years ago, but hasn’t really been maintained since? Or when you see a fixer-up TV show where they refurbish an old restaurant that’s somehow been trapped in the late 90s?

Yeah… This arcade was amazing, once. The laser tag arena was beautifully sculpted, and obviously had a lot of love put into it by some very skilled artists. But… that was a long time ago, and this was (as I’d alluded to) the off season for this tourist town. The lasers worked, sometimes, and most of the lights stayed on pretty consistently.


But you know what? We had fun! We blasted each other, got confused by the (lack of) rules, and just ran around until we were tired and out of breath. In short, we did exactly what we’d come to do, and left with smiles on our faces, and enough calories burned to easily have earned the Stewarts milkshakes




While we drove back, we discussed how the rest of the day would be low-key. “Just relaxing, no real plans” we said to Dillon. A few of us knew better, but we kept it to ourselves… because what Bachelor Party would this be, if there wasn’t a surprise in store for the groom-to-be?



No, we didn’t hire strippers or anything. Obviously.

We did something much, much sexier… We had custom Magic card decks made!!!





Shut up, we’re nerds, and we absolutely love it. Embrace the nerd! Let it roar! I now have a magic card with my face on it!

We all do, in fact – with many thanks to my Stepdad and our friend Bear, we had specialized decks made for everyone. Custom commanders printed in our likeness, and even a whole set of rare cards compiled to give Dillon a… well, I don’t know MTG very well, but even I could tell that his deck wasn’t balanced for any real competitive play. I wouldn’t say it’s overpowered… but I absolutely will say that it’s a completely ridiculous deck.

Without getting into the deep mechanics of the game: Most of the time people have 3 or 4 creatures on the deck, that have power levels of 4 or 5 each.

What did we have?

Dillon had… I think 26 level 13 creatures? I had a single level 74, and I think Brian and Bear both had 12+ level 20 creautres.

It was ridiculous, silly, and absolutely a blast to play!



We broke from the game for dinner, but kept it going long into the night.


Stepping back from Magic, though – it’s worth making note of our dinner for the evening. Chris yet again knocked it out of the park with an amazing spread, this time bought from his coworker.

Steaks.

Just… so many steaks. We had T-bones, we had Ribeye, and we had New York Strip. We had asparagus and fingerling potatoes. Roasted, seared, and delicious. We yet again gorged ourselves, eating more amazing food in a weekend than I’m pretty sure most of use would have eaten in a season a decade ago.



In short, it was an amazing evening. Good food, great drinks, and an absolutely ridiculous game of Magic.

I’ve missed this, man.




Monday, 04-October-2021


Our last day dawned drearily.

The rains that we’d been hearing about on the weather had finally hit overnight, and they continued in earnest as we packed up the cabin and tidied everything up.

But even the sky knows not to interfere with critical traditions, and the rain stopped for just long enough for us to get a few group pictures before we locked the front door and got ourselves back on the highway. One final group breakfast, at the same diner as the day before, gave us a chance to chat and visit one last time, before Chris said his goodbyes and the first member of the Bachelor Party fellowship went his way.

For the rest of us, we relaxed in the van as the miles vanished under the tires. We chatted a bit, napped a bit, and stayed low-key… a bit melancholy, maybe, but more content than anything else I think.



We dropped Bear off next, then Dillon. We had a brief visit with Liz, before dropping off the van and catching a Lyft to the airport – Brian had made the last-minute decision to fly to Baltimore to pick up his car, so I had company on the second to last leg of my weekend, before boarding a plane and winging my way back to Oregon, my own car, and my own bed.

Dillon’s bachelor party – An Adirondacks adventure! (Part 1 – The journey to the woods)

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Weekend from 30-Sept to 04-Oct

It’s been ages since my friends and I’ve had a good old fashioned get together.

COVID, living on the West Coast, tons of little things have delayed or denied getting to get together and catch up. But now, we’ve got a good reason to get together – one of the best reasons of all, in fact! A wedding! And what comes before a wedding? The bachelor party, of course!

Dillon had asked me to be his Best Man for the wedding in November, which of course meant planning and throwing the bachelor party itself – with much help from many people, a plan was crafted and a timeline put in place. A location chosen, a guest list compiled, and a date chosen.

Plane tickets were bought, rentals secured, and reservations called in. Now, all that remained was the best part of the process – sitting back and having an amazing weekend!!!




Thursday and Friday, 30-Sept-2021 & 01-Oct-2021


Thursday, 30-Sept-2021

I flew on a plane again! Heck yeah travelling!

We’d been planning this party out for a while – Dillon was getting married in November, which meant an early-October bachelor party. You know… enough time for bruises and cuts to heal. Maybe even enough time for a broken bone to set, if worst-came-to-worst. Everyone was psyched, we had a plan laid out, and Upstate New York was calling us!


I flew into Boston late on Thursday – I’ve found this flight is… not the easiest, since it gets in at midnight, but definitely the simplest flight to catch. That’s the downside of living in Portland, going East is way harder and way more time consuming. But, you know, that just means that the flight home is super easy, which is always nice.




Anyways I landed at midnight. Daniel picked me up, we hung out for a bit, caught up, and then hit the sleep nice and early in the morning.





Friday, 01-Oct-2021

Friday dawned bright, with Daniel and Erin’s dog Biscuit being unconvinced that I should be allowed in the house – He’s awesome, but definitely a stoic protector of the realm…

Anyways, We got going.

A nice breakfast, relaxed a bit, and then set about tracking down the various equipment and people for the trip!


The overarching plan for the weekend was aimed pretty low-key, but still sharp with some excellent adventures:

  • Pick up the Boston contingent and drive out to New York, meeting Chris at the cabin
  • Have some amazing dinner on Friday night, drink, and catch up with everyone
  • On Saturday, we’d hit up a small hike, then spend some time kayaking before getting ourselves ready for a bit of dinner and a pub crawl.
  • End Saturday night back at the cabin, crushing some awesome boardgames!
  • Have a nice brunch on Sunday, then do some go-karting and laser tag – maybe some games and other shenanigans
  • Grab lunch, then go back to the cabin for more board games / card games
  • Grill up steaks for dinner, and make an equally exceptional dessert
  • Clean up the cabin on Monday, then have one last brunch before driving back



With a good plan in mind and a shopping list in hand, Friday went exactly as well as we’d hoped!

The drive was clean and simple, with tons of time to relax, chat, and catch up. Grocery shopping for the weekend went beautifully – I’ve gotten so used to just shopping for myself that I’d forgotten the simple joy of having one huge shopping list for a camping weekend, and just watching the whole group scatter across the store like an ancient horde, grabbing what we need and vanishing just as quickly. It was awesome, and definitely set an excellent tone of cooperation and comraderie that held through the rest of the weekend.

The cabin itself was absolutely perfect, and since Chris had arrived a bit before the rest of us, it was even opened up and ready when we got there! We arrived a bit later than we’d initially planned, but that just meant that we got some excellent sunset views as we drove into the mountains and along the river. And then, when we did settle into the cabin? It was the perfect time to start up the fire, heat up some dinner, and settle into the weekend!



What did we have for dinner, you ask?

We had pure, unadulterated happiness, I’ll answer. Home-cooked, slow-roasted, beautifully seasoned baby back ribs!

With, of course, the standard accompaniment: beans, cornbread, mac and cheese, and cole slaw – and some excellent whisky and beer, of course. You know, just a few things.

Our hunger satiated, the rest of the evening was spent claiming bunks, enjoying the fire, and just simply catching up – It’d been FAR too long since we’d gotten together, and there were new friends to get to know for everyone. We had a whole weekend ahead of us, and nothing at all holding us back…

A labor of love – My labor day climbing road trip! Part 3: A rest day in South Dakota and Wyoming

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Saturday, 04-Sept-2021, through Saturday, 11-Sept-2021

I love road trips. I’ve learned that, speaking to various therapists and councilors in the last year or so, long drives are a major form of meditation for me. I have something to keep me focused, and I’m accomplishing a goal, but I can let my semi-conscious mind wander and reflect on what’s been happening in my life.

ISaturday, 04-Sept-2021, through Saturday, 11-Sept-2021

I love road trips. I’ve learned that, speaking to various therapists and councilors in the last year or so, long drives are a major form of meditation for me. I have something to keep me focused, and I’m accomplishing a goal, but I can let my semi-conscious mind wander and reflect on what’s been happening in my life.

I try to do this at home, of course, but… I always get too stressed out, feeling like I should be doing something instead of just sitting back and letting my brain process all the various thoughts and possibilities that are constantly screaming around in my skull.

For my birthday, I’d originally planned to climb at Index with Daniel. When that fell through, I’d sketched out a road trip down highway 101 into California with my friend Laurel. That fell through too. Finally, I gave up and decided to do something on my own – something I’d always wanted to do, but had never quite been able to make happen.


An ascent of Devil’s Tower...



Tuesday and Wednesday, 07-Sept-2021 and 08-Sept-2021


Tuesday, 07-Sept-2021

After turning the car around and drinking down some post-climbing Gatorade, I headed back onto the road. From now, I had just over a day of relaxation and rest. Two days of climbing, one day of recovery, and then the summit day at Devil’s Tower itself. A good plan, if I may say so myself, and at the end of climbing on Tuesday I was absolutely thankful that I’d have a day to rest before doing any more climbing.

Our story begins right as Doug and I parted ways off the Western edge of Mt. Rushmore. Since I was already on the mountain, I figured that I may as well make use of my location, and visit the monument itself – As I ranted about in an earlier post, I have mixed feelings about the faces… but those feelings won’t change the fact that they are, in fact, there. And if I’m there, I may as well at least learn a bit about it, right?

I drove in, parked (paying a frankly ridiculous amount of money for parking, damnit), and took a lovely quick walk around the monument / tourist trap.

It was definitely interesting. The monument itself is definitely impressive, but… I don’t know. It wasn’t quite as grand as I’d expected; Perhaps it’s the distance, or the prior knowledge of the rock, or the huge granite entryway that was trying to mimic a grand hall… It was absolutely beautiful, but I don’t know if I would be able to rationalize a full trip just for this one monument.

Thankfully, I didn’t have to – Since I was already here, I wanted a bit, took some more pictures, and enjoyed a bit of people watching. “A life-changing patriotic experience”, the signs had heralded… and while I can’t say that my life was changed, I can definitely say that I appreciated learning how it was carved, the history behind it, and that the people watching was definitely top-notch.

There were, unsurprisingly, a ton of RVs… and, as so often seems, quite a few political shirts and slogans being bandied around. What was interesting to me, though, was mask wearing – The news tells me that everyone in the country is polarized with masks – but I’ll tell you, dear reader, that wasn’t the case here. We had all walks of life, and all forms of very overtly political shirts… but not one person complained or argued about wearing a mask indoors.

Simple, clear, straight-forward signs were placed at every entrance to every building, stating mask requirements. And everyone put theirs on as they walked in. It was… nice. Uplifting, almost. Interestingly, I’d say that one simple action had a bigger patriotic impact on me than the huge faces carved, from what I was told by the historian, specifically to bring tourists to South Dakota.



After my visit, I headed out toward Custer State Park. It was still fairly early in the day, and I wasn’t quite ready to go back to camp just yet…

I drove, I explore, and I saw Bison (I thought they were buffalo at the time, so forgive me if you got a text about buffalo), and I enjoyed some great views and cool bridges.


I made my way home, cooked up some delicious dinner, and finished reading Treasure Island.


An excellent day.




Wednesday, 08-Sept-2021


I woke up early, for me.

I mean, not that early, of course… I’m talking about getting out of bed around 9am, give or take. Compared to my normal weekends, though? Yeah. Early.

What got me out of bed so early, you may ask?

Adventure! Of the pancake variety!

Today was my day off – only goal was to relax, rest, energize my muscles for the big climbing on Thursday, and then drive myself to the tower sometime before it got too late. I had to check out from the campground too, of course, but… that was pretty simple, right?

Well, we started with Pancakes, and then moved into rescue.

See, I’ve been making a point to chat with more people. I miss how easily I had made friends back in Boston, and while I’m still finding it much harder to meet people here on the West Coast… I’m slowly getting back into the swing of just being excessively friendly. Maybe it’ll work, maybe it won’t… but I can say that this time, it worked.

See, earlier in the week I’d chatted with a family who had set up camp near me. We’d said our hellos, talked about trips a bit, and I’d even given them a quick lesson in how Technical Rock Climbing works, showing the Mom, Dad, and four (!!!) kids the gear, and giving a quick overview of how the safety gear works together. We’d had a good time, and even shared a glass of scotch (not the kids though, of course).

As I was packing up, they stopped by my camp again – I assumed to say goodbye, and while my assumption was correct… it wasn’t complete. Their van had died overnight, and they were hoping that I’d packed some jumper cables…

Well, I had, of course. Paranoia to the rescue!

Clip clip, lickity split, and their van was powered up and running! We said our new goodbyes, I felt good about being a rescuer, and we both headed off on our separate ways…



The rest of the day was mostly unplanned… I started off by driving down the road a bit to a place called “Chapel In the Hills” – a lovingly recreated Scandinavian chapel, built almost exclusively from wood and placed out in the woods slightly outside of town. It was gloriously beautiful, and I absolutely enjoyed learning a bit about the immigrants from the area, and seeing what they’d lived like.



After the Chapel, I headed into town – I wanted to poke around a bit and find some interesting gifts for folks back home, but didn’t have any specific targets in mind… a quick google search found me a distillery, so… good a starting point as any, right?

Frankly, I was astoundingly disappointed.

Rapid City, and South Dakota itself, had frankly astonished me so far with how cool it was. Lots of neat stuff, positive energy, and… just a great up-and-coming place. This distillery was not so much. It had a cool name, and a neat bar, but… Well, I guess I’m used to Portland bars having the faux dive bar look, but actually not being a crappy dive bar.

This distillery was a crappy dive bar. No tours, no interesting spirits… and when I asked them about aging or any details?

Well, a quote is all I can give, “Ohh, yeah! We filter it through charcoal! You know… Brita filters! Yeah, we just buy them, and filter all our liquor through them. Just the normal things from the grocery store”.

I’m really hoping they were just messing with me… but I’m not feeling positive about it.




Anyways, that was a bust.

But hey! It had found me a place to park, and a starting point for an exploration!


I quickly found an “Art Alley”, where spray artists were welcomed to paint anything they felt like – and they had gone about it with a passion. Beautiful art was everywhere, and had turned a dull alley way between businesses into a gorgeous outdoor gallery:

From there, I wandered my way to a nearby gallery, and was treated to a truly gorgeous display of Rapid City Art. What this town lacks in distilleries, it makes up for in amazing artists… though I’ll freely admit that one of the galleries still haunts me a bit.

Everything was beautifully done – And yes, I absolutely checked to make sure photography was allowed before snapping so many pictures.

The first gallery hit the “strange and quirky” rather intensely, combining beautiful landscapes with very… odd… framing and contextualization.



The second gallery, actually the main gallery, was the results of a contest – various artists from the area, painting their own scenery in their own media. A lovely collection about a lovely town…

((Skip this next section if you’ve got a queezy stomach, or don’t want to see very graphic paintings of dead animals))

The last gallery was the one that still haunts me. It was a commentary on the meat industry… but specifically hunting-related butchers. It didn’t actually say against against it, but just drew the focus to the coldness and intrinsic sadness of butchering a carcass… Many of the paintings were done on raw, unstretched canvas… that appeared to have been treated to resemble leather, or animal skin… they were left to hang and sway ever so slightly in the breeze, under the very dim gallery lighting…

Link to better photos of these paintings, by the artist herself:
https://www.ravaeluckhart.com/portfolio/visceral



Link to the art gallery:
https://www.thedahl.org/current.html