It’s been a while since I’ve been back to Massachusetts… I think it was for Dillon and Liz’s wedding, wasn’t it? That’s sounding right… though I frankly can’t believe that was only six months ago. These last few months have felt like forever, and it was high time that I got back East. The rock was calling, family and friends beckoned, and I hadn’t seen my Grandma in far, far too long…
Saturday to Monday, 16-Apr-2022 through 18-Apr-2022
Man… how long has it been since I’ve been in New York to visit my Grandma?
I’d been to Upstate New York back in October of 2021, for Dillon’s bachelor party… but before then? I think it must have been 2017, maybe? Five years… that can’t be right…
It’s been along time, we’ll leave it at that.
I met my Dad and Stepmom there – they’d actually driven out from Arizona (!!!) to visit for a week or two, so just like the Seder earlier in the day, we were getting the whole family together for a long-overdue visit. It’d been ages, and I was absolutely looking forward to a good bit of time catching up with everyone!
And… we spent a good bit of time catching up!
There’s not really too much to go over, as a blog post, for this one. We spent time together, we talked, we told stories, and we took the time that we had as a very appreciated gift. We didn’t rush, we cooked great meals, and I wrote down as many stories as I could get from everyone. We helped out around the house a bit, took walks, played with the cats, and enjoyed the calm and quiet.
It was an excellent few days, and even the unexpected snowstorm on the drive home somehow felt… right.
And, as a quick addition… did I mention that we cooked a lot? I think I poached more eggs that weekend than I have in the last year – having a few experts on hand definitely helped me out, and I’m pretty sure I leveled up my Hollandaise sauce skillz at least a few points…
And, along with the excellent cooking… New recipes to try out!
I started this post out by just creating a list of all the adventures that I went on in 2021. But… I realized pretty quickly that wasn’t particularly interesting – While it was informative, it was pretty dry, and the list didn’t really capture the feeling of the year.
Instead, I think I’ll just post my favorite pictures, along with a quick summary of the sort of the major adventures of the year:
The winter brought lots of backpacking and snow hiking – It’s still strange to me how much I’ve grown to know Oregon in the last year and a half… or, more accurately, how little of Oregon I really met in the preceding four years.
I visited friends in Sacramento in the spring; had amazing catch-up time, and saw some stunning views of Lake Tahoe
In the late spring, I visited one of the most photographed lakes in the Pacific North West – Colchuck Lake! I even summitted Asgard’s Pass with a friend… though the blood-price for that trip was steep. I injured my knee again, which put me out of hiking condition for nearly two months afterward.
The summer saw the death of my Grandmother, a blow to the entire family that we’ll never truly move on from. I was brought unexpectedly face-to-face with just how much of my personality came from her. Her passing brought an unexpected gift, though, in the form of nearly two weeks visiting family and friends back in New England.
The early fall brought my first dedicated rock climbing trip in quite some time – along with summitting what is probably the most iconic climbing route I’ve ever done. Devil’s Tower, in the bag!
The late fall brought friendship and comradery in amounts I haven’t seen in years. A backpacking trip with friends, and a huge event in my friend group – My friend Dillon’s bachelor party, and my role as best man in his wedding!
The winter is still coming in to Oregon, but the end of 2021 brought the return of beautifully snowy conditions up on Mt. Hood, and a reminder of just how glorious the Oregon Coast really can be…
**As always, if anyone would like a copy of any of these photos, please let me know. I have many of them already printed, but can always re-print anything that anyone would like.
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.
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.
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.