Cold Play

Cold Play – this trip is dedicated to the band that made all that time in the car much more bearable. I’ve named the sections after some of the songs on their album ‘Parachutes’

(Austria) Friday the 13th, 2009 – Don’t Panic

Tender is the schnitzel?

We got up at 5 am. I’d had a cold for the past two weeks so I wasn’t really prepared. Or at least I hadn’t done my usual OCD planning and organizing. I had laid in a supply of new toys and games to entertain Andy once we were there. But he had discovered my cache a few nights before we left. So there was going to be no surprises for him.

So I just threw a few things – including my new skis in the car and we left.
The IPOD played; the Who’s ‘Magic Bus’ and Rama Das to keep us awake.
We stopped at a McDonalds in Augsburg.

The snow in Innsbruck was of the pretty kind. After checking into our darling room we headed off to the local shopping center to find a helmet for me. I was appalled to see so many people smoking…inside! We found a deal on a back-pack and a pair of sunglasses (not a deal) for Andy but not a helmet to fit my funny shaped head. There was a tense +/- 45 minutes when we went back to the car and simply could not find it. Despite combing every floor. Had it been stolen? That couldn’t be. No. We were in the wrong parking garage.

Exhausted we went directly to the Weisse Lamm – a local restaurant that our friendly Inn keeper recommended. Once past the unassuming (okay, shabby) entrance we were pleasantly surprised by the homey atmosphere and the delectable and affordable food.

(Innsbruck)Saturday 14th – Shiver

First thing we hit the grocery store and stocked up for the week. We figured it was cold enough outside that our car could act as an impromptu refrigerator. I left the challenge of finding room for all our purchases to Al while I visited the loo.
The plan was to ski in near-by Stubai since we couldn’t get into our room until 3 in the afternoon. Al and Andy had skied on before me. The ski run forked into a “Y”. So I thought I’d just go in between to see if I could spot them. I didn’t really fall so much as sink into the un-groomed snow. I figured the best thing to do would be to take my skis off and walk out. That worked but I didn’t notice that one ski binding wasn’t cocked. Well, no matter how hard you try and no matter how many cuss words you use in various languages you cannot reattach your ski to your boot unless the binding is cocked.

Just as I managed to cock the binding and seat my boot, Al yelled at me from the lift
to stay where I was because he was coming to rescue me. Yes, indeed. This whole spectacle had taken place directly under the chair-lift. I just waved and smiled at the people going up.

Other than seeing a prefect-and-too-expensive-helmet in a shop on the mountain the day came off without further incident. It was cold and I did need to fortify myself with a big plate of Kaiserschmarren (sweet scrambled eggs) but other than a little altitude sickness not much else interesting happened that first day. The slopes were gloriously abandoned. Saturday was turn-over day. Most people were still driving there. We had got lucky because Andy’s school had declared Friday the 13th a ‘study day.’ (teacher’s institute)

We got stuck in a terrible traffic jam at the exit before we had to get off. I snapped a couple of pictures of the snow covered pines as we waited.
Arrival at Residence Oswald in Ortesei found us ‘stupid/tired’. We unloaded the car (they had an elevator, hooray!) and decided to just have cheese and bread for dinner. As I unpacked and stowed things I discovered that I hadn’t packed a fleece layer to ski in.

Our neighbors the Biarts(Brian, Sally, Joe and Sam) had arrived before us and were in an apartment on the same floor across the hall. Hannie, Willem and Luuk were staying in the same building but on the floor below us.

I was a bit surprised to see that we had Pullman beds but other than that the apartment had a great location and was in great shape. I just pretended I was on a boat in the tiny kitchen. And realized. I would have to ‘make nice’ for a full week in a 10 x 12 foot room. This was going to take a lot of chocolate.

(Seiseralm) Sunday 15th Trouble

I made a full Austrian breakfast for the first and only time. It was too much trouble and made us late. Al was furious when tried to buy week-long lift passes at the lift by us and was told he had to traipse across town to the office by the other lift..

The crowd at the bottom of the Seiseralm gondola was horrendous. (Whoever manages to bring queuing to Europe will have my eternal gratitude.) But once we got by the first run it was blissfully empty.

I was shocked by the high cost of lunch. So far our lift tickets had been the most expensive – more than the room. Food was going to take a big chunk of our budget over the next week.

We sought in vain for a grocery with Brian in the evening. Our toilet paper situation was getting dire. Hanny helped us out by giving us a few spare squares to tide us over. Andy and Joe were playing in the snow. Unfortunately it was on a ledge hanging over the parking garage with a good 12 foot drop to the hard pavement.

The evening found us all together in a lovely pizzeria. Al and I made a mistake by having Latte macchiatos after dinner. That meant we were both awake in the middle of the night.

(Sella Ronda) Monday 16th – High Speed

“A day on bad skies beats a good day in the office.”-Brian

We drove the 10 minutes to Wolkenstein early to score a good parking spot close to the lift. Fortified with B3 (Niacin) I donned my ski boots.

The crowds were terrible. The first run was a busy, steep nightmare. But after successfully navigating that – I figured I could handle anything. I found the skiing challenging but not impossibly frightening. It was remarkable how well the kids got along. The gentle runs were covered with funny flour-consistency snow. All around the Dolomites offered up spectacular scenery. I spied some extra rolls of toilet paper in a rest room and considered taking one but decided against that because they were of the recycled newsprint type.

It was cold with improbably blue skies. We finally stopped at a grocery on the way home. I bought the nicest toilet paper they had. That used up all my cash.

Back in the room we played ‘Blokus’. For future reference – to have any chance at winning – all the players have to gang up on Allan. I made tosti’s (paninis to you Americans). For dinner and that was that. I’d traded my hammock-like bed for Allan’s rock-hard one. At least I could at last lie flat.

Tuesday 17th

I was planning to take the bus later in the morning to join up with our group. So I was able to have a lovely leisurely morning. I met my girlfriend for coffee. She was extremely helpful in arranging the bus because she spoke Italian.

After a quick soft pretzel I hopped on the local bus to Wolkenstein. I got off at the wrong stop (maybe. I think). So Al and I had to triangulate with cell phones. Everybody else was very tired so after only one perfect, long, glorious red run we called it quits for the day.

That allowed us time to visit the local swimming pool. Again there was a miserable queue going in but then the huge facility could accommodate quite a crowd. Despite the warm water in the outdoor pool – I caught a chill while lounging outside trying to catch snow-flakes on my tongue. So I spent the bulk of my time curled up on the splendid heated tile bench.

We had pizza in ‘The Mill’. I calculated that my lunch had been in the neighborhood of 800 calories and dinner +/-1400.

I sipped star anise/peppermint tea while the group played Zombie Fluxx. And yes, I think the point of the game is that you are supposed to argue endlessly about the rules.

Wednesday 18th Yellow

This was my favorite day.

I walked to the bakery in the morning but I was too early. Never mind. The brisk air and alone time was refreshing.

Again we drove back to Wolkenstein with the goal of reaching Corvarra. We got side tracked by Forcelles, because the pistes were beautifully inviting and empty – except for us.

For the morning break I couldn’t resist some nut torte. I was still so full at lunch that I just had a few ounces of Als’ schweinxhaxe (pork knuckle) and a bowl of fruit salad.

I got into a lovely rhythm again and again on the lovely, gentle and empty rums. And then I got bored.

I followed Joe into a jump – which I made successfully but I was so intent on staying lent forward that I didn’t turn to stay on the groomed snow. Once again I was forced to take off my skis and walk out.

I got cold so I took my ski boots off in a café. We were just horsing around like I couldn’t get them back on and then a kindly waitress came over and helped me cram my feet back into my ski boots. People can be nice.

I was in the groove. The horrible chopped up bumps at the end of the day were no problem for me for the first time. I could ski over, between or any which way I wanted through them. We tried to ski all the way back to the parking lot but I went too fast over a series of small bumps and fell ‘plop!’ in the soft snow.

(Seseiseralm) Thursday 19th

Finally we all got to ski together. (with the exception of those who took to snowboards – first Brian and Joe and later Sam and Andy). The difference with the crowds was night and day. We stopped early in the morning where I ordered a marocchino (espresso, chocolate and cream) – which was a very nice change from my usual warm apple-gluh mix/skiwasser (hot grenadine).

The children needed gentle slopes to learn snowboarding. I discovered that I hated green runs with a passion now that I could really ski. Sam did very well on the snowboard at first but eventually got tired. Andy was extremely frustrated at first. I skied on ahead because I could not stand to watch. So I left the job of supervision to his father.

We had to rush! Rush! Rush! to get back in time for the last lift. I found that extremely tiring. Also there was far too much traversing and walking uphill for my taste.

As we reviewed the trip’s pictures with everybody that evening I realized I’ve turned into THAT PERSON- the one who insists on showing you an interminable series of boring pictures of their vacation.

We dined again at the ‘Moulin’ only this time we met up with my friend, her husband and 2 boys. Her boys left most of their pizzas in favor of helping Andy finish his fries. We had a lovely wine.

I had weird dreams that night. I dreamt we lost the car. And then I was at the beach by the local amusement park watching Asians being baptized. I thought they must be cold. More strange dreams were that I thought my Mother had too many cutting boards and that we hadn’t fed the cat-which we couldn’t find anyway.

We don’t have a cat. Anymore. Odd.

(Seceda) Friday 20th Everything’s Not Lost

We rushed in the morning to get to the Seceda lift. A short walk across the village and then up and up many escalators found us at the foot of the enormous gondola.

The wind was biting at the top. And while I could manage I seemed to have no strength left in my legs. So I stopped. Joe had fallen earlier. I had lunch alone at the restaurant at the top of the gondola. Afterwards Brian spotted me and I saw that Joe was sporting a disposable sling on his right arm. The 3 of us made our way back to the apartments. I gave Joe so ice and what wrist braces I had but he really needed one that went further up his arm.

When Al got back he grabbed his camera we took a long and meandering walk through the village. Ortisei is crammed with charming wood carving shops. Anri’s originate in nearby Wolkenstein. I lusted after a little exorbitant figurine of a child sleeping peacefully amidst a flock of adorable lambs. I also liked a sweet baby Jesus with a bird perched at the head of his crib.

After a stroll through the local museum we stopped for coffee. I had a latte macchiato and layer cake. It was divine but I was still beyond tired.

I sent Al on to the grocery with my list and money while Andy and I returned to the apartment. When I got there I discovered that the pocket where I kept the key was unzipped. I checked and rechecked all the numerous pockets in my jacket. But.There.Was.No.Key. I sent Andy to stay with the Biarts while I retraced my steps hoping against hope that the durn thing had fallen out of my pocket at the place where I’d had cake. It wasn’t there.

Shortly after I returned to the apartment, Al came up and said, ‘didn’t I remember giving him the key?’ Actually, no, I didn’t. I was way too tired. In my head I’d already filed the insurance claim for having to pay to replace all the locks in the building.

The car was for the most part packed when we went to bed.

Saturday 21st

At 4 a.m. Al woke me up and we had a good breakfast of the last of our eggs. It took us 45 minutes to get going. The snow was pretty heavy when we drove North ito Austria. After we got by Munich, I took the wheel for a little under 4 hours so Al could nap. It was extremely pleasant to drive full-out on the German Autobahn. It’s a pity that full-out in a Honda mini-van was only about 140 km/hour.

I drowsed when Al took over driving. Al one point the traffic just stopped all of a sudden. We skidded to an adrenaline rush stop. Luckily, there was room between the lanes or we would have back ended someone. I think that all three of u s fell head over heels in love with our Honda at that point. It really saved us. Traffic was slow in places but there were no other incidents on our 12 ¾ hours trip home.

NEXT TIME: Al wants to use the group owned roof-top ski carrier. I must remember my gray footie-house sock that makes my left foot big enough to fit my ski boot. I’d tried various jury-rigs during the trip but rued not bringing it. And I need to pack a fleece to ski in.

Now that I am working through the mountain range of laundry I think it would be a terrific idea to take less clothes. You really only need four outfits:

1. One to ski in. (layered for warmth)
2. One to sleep in
3. One to travel in
4. One to go out in the evening in.

That’s it. Photos.