Monday, January 5, 2009

Rockin' the winter break

To the ocean and back
December 16th was a beautiful day so I thought: "Why not going to the open ocean today". While all my friends stayed in Seattle I felt like doing a little trip and get out. So I rented a car from enterprise (good deals) and started driving. I arrived at the open ocean just shortly before sunset and could almost finish my book "The Great Gatsby". On the way to the ocean I drove through the birth place of Kurt Cobain. Beside the lumber industry there isn't much to see there... very boring place if the ocean wouldn't be that close. You will find an overview of the itinerary in the photo album.

Skiing in Whistler
Just before Christmas my Danish friend Ras and me went skiing to Whistler. We took the train from Seattle to Vancouver which was an adventure by itself. To get to the train station in time we both got up at 4am to our surprise it was snowing crazily in the morning and of course we missed our bus. We were on time, we were sure that it came to early! Is there something more frustrating than an early bus or tram? Well anyway, we still made in downtown with the bus and then had to run the last mile, a very white mile. Me with my suitcase in the front leading the way, Ras suffering with his skis and his suitcase in the back, me yelling at him he should run faster but never stopping to keep him going... just one minute later the train departed. After this spurt we were very pleased to have such royal seats where even tall men can stretch out there legs. The only problem was the Chinese people all around us eating weird and very intensely smelling chicken for breakfast. Seriously, this woman ate a whole chicken for breakfast. Digusting - but we had a good laugh.

In Vancouver we had a meal break: my aunt picked us up and fed us with pasta. Our chef Ben cooked marvelous pasta. We were barely able to walk after that and Ras whished he was as cool as my uncle :)

Finally we arrived in Whistler: -28° C. Not very much snow. The other day a pole of one of the few lifts that were running broke and several people got injured. Great. At least it was sunny and I had great company. Usually there is lots of snow in Whistler because it is located in the coastal range, the first big elevation for the precipitation coming in from the ocean. Usually it is mild in Whistler because of the sea. Good advice: go only to Whistler if there is a lot of snow. Another advice: Take care going to the hot tub when experiencing huge temperature differences from the water to the air. It messed our whole metabolism up for almost a day :)

Christmas in Vancouver B.C.
Already the second time that I spend Christmas in Vancouver but the first time that there was snow - a lot of snow! It basically started snowing on the 23rd and did never stop until I left Vancouver on the 26th in the evening. I didn't shovel that much snow in a long time but it was a welcoming change to the 1000 piece puzzle we were trying to solve inside.
On the 24th in the evening Marianne, Luca and me had a Swiss Fondue. Our chef Ben was out cooking a delicious meal for a neighbor. It was okay because he is probably not the Fondue specialist and we knew that he will be anyway cooking for us on the 25th :D We even had guests over on the 25th, so I could practice my socializing skills a little bit ;)
All in all I had a wonderful time at my aunt's place as every time I go there. They are very nice people!

Sun bathing in San Diego
In one of the most sophisticated escapes in the US ever I escaped from the snowy, grey and dreadful prison Seattle :) Trust me, you don't want to be in Seattle when it snows too much. The city almost stopped living. Cab drivers wouldn't pick up the phone, public transport wouldn't run, but I made it to the airport somehow to take off into a complete different world: San Diego. I got a wonderful tan, could wear my sun glasses and my brand new Obama t-shirt for the first time.
I flew all alone to San Diego but by coincidence Arno and his girlfriend were there too. Have a look at the picture to get a sense of how 25°C and blue sky feel.

San Diego - Las Vegas with the Aussies
In San Diego I met up with three Australians. One of them is Bronwyn aka Bron. She told me that she will spend New Years with friends in Las Vegas just like me so we made a deal and I could persuade them to come along to a roadtrip with me. Her friends are Stephanie aka Steph and Jeniffer aka Jen. I knew that the roadtrip would be a blast if Bron's friends were only half as funny as her... and they successfully managed.
We had a great Italian dinner in Yuma, bought a good bottle of wine and watched Chris Rock on TV in the motel until I passed out. Well they partied on a little longer and I think they took some pictures of me when I was asleep... which I unfortunately don't have ;)

Partying into the new year in Las Vegas
How is New Years Eve in Las Vegas? Let me tell you! At 11:30pm we made our way to the strip to see the fireworks outside. The strip was completely packed with people from south to north. It was barely possible to move. Being tall enough we could make it to the MGM to see the big countdown. This thing was HUGE! So all of us getting all excited when the countdown started from 25, counting down, 20, 10, ... , 3, 2, 1 - nothing :D Hugging everybody but there were no fireworks except for a little "hansheiri" one. So everybody left the strip again...
Fortunately I had seen an exciting show before New Year. We saw Cirque de Soleil's Ka show for free and even got a backstage tour after the show. The whole stage is massive and takes eight stories of the MGM... huge lifts, lots of lights, impressive projectors! It was a wonderful show!
After that we went dancing until the early morning which was simply wonderful. I had a great time with you Dutchies :)

Las Vegas - Seattle with Christian & Ras
Already on January 1st we took off again direction Seattle! Christian, the coolest American guy I know so far, started out very early in the morning from Phoenix to pick Ras and me up in front of the Excalibur hotel. These were all the ingredients we needed for an awesome roadtrip. What I should mention right here is that Christian has a huge knowledge about the USA in general and he could answer almost every question Ras and me had. Very impressive! The roadtrip wouldn't have been the same without you, thank you very much!!
First stop: Salt Lake City - capitol of the Mormons.
Christian had a friend living here, Lauren, her family was so nice to give us shelter for a night, awesome waffles in the morning and then we took Lauren to to downtown Salt Lake City and the great salt flats. It is impressive how many people are Mormons - 60% of the whole Utah population are Mormons. Mormonism is very close to Christianity - they have an additional book and a few other additional things which are all listed on wikipedia. At the temple square we got more information and Lauren told us that the "family" plays a very important role in the Mormonism. Fathers will learn how to become better fathers and take care of the family and mothers will learn how to be better mums. Lauren & family: thank you very much for letting us stay with you!
Second stop: Idaho
- capitol of cowboys & girls
After a late start from Salt Lake City and a long drive we arrived at around 2:30am at a ranch close to Jerome in Idaho, to me everything just seemed pitch black. Friends of Christian again. This time I knew one son of the family though because we took one class together at UW. The next morning we found out that we were staying at the ranch house of the most welcoming American family I ever met so far. It was incredible. Very nice people! I got up to go outside and enjoy the weather when Jim spotted me and pointed out that his wife makes the best breakfast :) Diane, she actually made the ultimate best breakfast: Steak and Eggs. My first time, it was more like lunch though.
After that we got a tour around their 1800 acres ranch. They grow cows to eat them later and barley to drink beer later. Jim said that we should buy US beef, simply buy it you don't have to eat it. And we should buy Budweiser, simply buy it but you don't have to drink it :) Meeting this American family was a great American experience! Ras and me loved the place very much and I think Christian too, he simply can't handle the snow, haha :D

That's it for today.