Salt Lake City, 2013

The yearly all hands meeting for one of my groups at work was held in Salt Lake City again in 2013. My dad and sister actually bought tickets and reserved hotel rooms before I made arrangements to attend the conference, so staying after to ski was non-negotiable. This was written up a couple of weeks after the trip, from calendar notes, so is a bit sparse.

Sunday January 6, 2013

Taking a taxi to the airport with my new(ish) shorter skis is so much easier now, they fit in the trunk of a cab fairly easily. I'd bought a new check in sized suitcase, kind of sporty/casual, but with lots of pockets and room to pack my ski boots with lots of padding. It also held more than enough warm clothes for the work week + skiing, and I just had my ski jacket and pants in the ski bag for extra padding. I had grabbed a 5pm flight out of Boston, transferring in Charlotte. The first leg had a flight attendant with a strong British accent, it was lovely and she got me tea. :) I was famished by the time we landed in CLT, but my outbound gate was just across from my inbound, and both were close to a food court, so I popped over to the Chili's and had a chicken salad sandwich and an iced tea (because: the South). I misread my boarding time/flight time but luckily I hadn't gone far and wasn't quite the last person on board. Apparently there was a glee club or something on my flight, there was a lot of singing coming from behind me, and despite being ritually annoyed at the interruption of my peace and quiet, they were good enough not to grate on me much. Still put my noise cancelling headphones on ASAP though. :) I was parched on this leg, a bit longer than the other ones, getting both tea and water but still feeling dry when we landed. I finished my book on this leg as well, and started book 2, a tiny bit worried that I'd only brought two this time.

It took a while for my skis to come out in SLC, and I wasn't 100% sure where my suitcase was going to appear (there was only a garbled announcement, my flight never appeared on the boards above the bag claim belts). Luckily I spotted it sitting in front of the baggage office and grabbed it before it could get locked away. I had forgotten to make a shuttle reservation more than 24hrs in advance, and the next one leaving the terminal for downtown was in 20 minutes, so I decided to take a 10 minute cab ride instead (half the time, twice the price, sort of evens out). Downtown felt *deserted*, there was a fair amount of snow on the ground and it was pretty chilly, it felt like a wasteland rather than a Sunday night near midnight. I think I only saw the Marriott desk clerk who gave me my key and the porter who brought up my luggage (they wouldn't let me use a cart myself). My room looked down on the colourfully lit Gallivan Plaza and it was empty as well. I quickly unpacked my clothes for the work week (I hate having to iron, so hoped that any packing wrinkles would fall out overnight), had a quick shower and fell into bed. I'd stayed up until 1 or 2 the nights before so I wasn't completely jet lagged, but it had been a long day.

Monday January 7, 2013

I had breakfast, spotting a few familiar faces and saying hi, in the hotel restaurant, then wandered up to the conference rooms to see if they were open. They were, so I settled in to work as people trickled in for the official start with lunch at noon. I had a severe attack of shyness when I had to present my projects, I didn't look up once. *sigh* I'm usually better at these events, I know pretty much everyone there, but nerves got the better of me that time. Got some good coding done, worked until 6.

I got swept up in dinner plans made by the guys at my table (a lot fewer women this year than in previous ones :-/ ), and I met them in the lobby at around 6:30 or 7. I grabbed a restaurant sheet from the hotel desk clerk and tried to help along a consensus on where we'd go eat. Daniel liking steak and me not made it a bit of a challenge, but we eventually settled on Mexican food at the Blue Iguana. It was chilly on the walk there, and not crowded once we arrived, so they were able to seat us at a table for 6 right away. Tina and Sandy were at a table across the room, but no other familiar faces except at our table (Daniel, Peter, Adrian, Kehan and Ramesh). The food was awesome, I went with a vegetarian enchilada with a non death nut mole sauce while Daniel got his spiced steak. I abstained from the margaritas, but encouraged the guys to join me for a night cap at the Red Room. It was *cold* in there, we all kept our coats on while the space heater struggled to warm up the air (high ceilings, maybe just opened for the night?). We claimed the huge leather couches under the monkey shrine and kept trying to steer Adrian out of depressing topics. :-) I had a raspberry tuxedo drink, and Ramesh enjoyed his death by chocolate drink after I pointed it out. It was pretty empty when we came in, maybe one person at the bar, but it filled in a bit by the time we left. We walked back to the hotel and settled by the fireplace at the first floor bar to warm up some more. I missed the drink ordering round when I popped out to the bathroom, but was content to marinate in the heat and talk sleepily. James and someone else joined us after a bit, and I remember talking with them about near death experiences. I could stand having fewer of those on my vacations (not that they've been that near, but I had one story to tell that sort of semi counted and could have ended much more badly than it did).

Tuesday January 8, 2013

Breakfast with the group today, a 2 hour meeting after lunch, and a good one on one discussion after that. I also had to take a quick break to pay for my last part of the trip to India as the invoice had ended up in my spam folder. Ended just before 6 this day, after agreeing to meet up with James at 7:15 or 7:30 to take our skis to be tuned. We both wanted to hit the gym, I did a 3 sets set of weights, getting a bit self conscious when Ivan and Peter were lifting near me, and James was on the elliptical behind us. I'd planned to share a taxi to Canyon Sports for their over night tune, but as we were trying to get one out front at the hotel, the valet dude said that they had a driver there who would take us for $10. A cab would have been less, but they were a bit sparse on the ground, so we jumped on it. The driver was on the phone with his bank trying to get access to some funds, but we made it okay. Dropped off our stuff, and then had a quick walk back, trying to catch a group going for dinner at 8:30 or so.

We just made it, but two groups were going and James and I ended up in different ones as I played baby duckling to Sonia's mamma duck. :) I wanted my sushi, dammit! Sonia led me, Junichi, Laurent from Boston and Adam, Csaba and Tomas from Queens to Takashi, where we found that we faced an hour wait. We left a cell number and went next door to Kristoff's for a drink, claiming the couches in the front window. Another party was there waiting for a table, and one seemed pretty enthusiastic to talk to us. Turns out he was a stand up comedian out helping to celebrate a friend's birthday. He had quite a few inappropriate for a work gathering jokes, he was funny but it was a bit uncomfortable. My first drink was incredibly sweet and I couldn't really drink it (sake pear cosmo), but then I had a good bombay sapphire gimlet. Once we were seated, the sushi was amazing, and the agedashi tofu was one of the two best I've ever had. I decided to go for things I'd never had before, the torched black cod that was amazing, the monkfish liver was very rich (a bit too foi gras for me), but the Tasmanian tuna wasn't that great. The other fish I had was also good, blanking on the name. Adam let me try his mackerel for some monkfish liver. I think we closed the place out, we didn't get seated until maybe 9:30 or so. I was feeling a bit out of sorts, so headed right to bed once I got back to the hotel.

Wednesday January 9, 2013

Breakfast and lunch with the group again, a bit smaller than normal with about 100 instead of 120. Think I gave an impromptu module writing tutorial this day. I started sneezing a bit and coughing, and Peter shared his trick of eating a whole raw clove of garlic. It fended of the worst of things (and then we worked together but not with anyone else for the rest of the day :) ), but by the time 5pm rolled around, I wasn't in any shape for staying an extra hour. I slipped out and dropped my stuff in my room in preparation for grabbing a quick dinner by myself. I walked over to Eva's and got a seat at the bar by the kitchen. It's a Greek influenced small plates place and I indulged in some serious cheesy comfort food: a cheese plate to start, then sweet potato gratin, and spanikopita on a bed of spicy feta. I was feeling rough enough to turn down the cocktail offerings, sticking to water. Uncontrollable coughs were hitting me by the time I got my bill, so I made my way slowly to the Rite Aid I'd been to before on Main St. It had already closed, but my phone reminded me that there was a new grocery store called Harmon's near by. And near was all I could handle, I was getting a bit feverish and weak. I wrapped my scarf around my face to stop breathing in the cold dry air unfiltered and made my way over. I made a bee line to the pharmacy section and loaded up on extra strength all symptom cough syrup (miracle drug!), ibuprofen, tissues, and allergy pills just in case. I also indulged myself with a cedar scented bar of soap and a tangerine scented bath bomb since I knew that my aching muscles could use a hot soak. Back to the hotel and I did just that (the bath bomb cured any dry skin issues, it was wonderfully moisturising), then curled up in bed with a book until I fell asleep (aka a couple minutes after I got through the expectorant phase of the cough syrup - gross but effective!).

Thursday January 10, 2013

Today was the formal all hands meeting, with presentations most of the day. I was still feeling muzzy headed and weak, but the worst of it was gone. I set up near the back and for once mostly just listened to presentations instead of coding through them, my brain wasn't up for any more than that. Afterward, I took a pass on the "beer at Murphy's" tradition since the increased price plus cash bar and pub food weren't appealing to me. It was snowing heavily as well. On the spur of the moment, I decided to see if the Copper Onion had space for one. They did! Right at the kitchen bar so I could see all the magic happening right in front of me (I want a micro plane now). I figured high quality and tasty food was just what was needed to complete my cure, and it certainly didn't hurt. I also managed to self justify trying their D'viation cocktail with muddled cherries, creme de violette, gin and lemon (fruits are healthy right?). I revisited the mushrooms, fries and egg dish that we had last year, still tasty and a nice indulgence to get one all to myself. My main course was a duck breast and duck leg confit with portabella cap - the breast was a bit dry, but the rest was divine. I couldn't resist the cheesecake for dessert, I was just barely able to finish though. I had another early night at the hotel, content with bed + book. I also packed up most of my stuff in anticipation of check out the next day.

Friday January 11, 2013

Last day of the conference, group breakfast then project progress summaries. Lots of Bostonians took off right after breakfast to get the 10am direct flight home, and more and more people left as they had to catch flights, so the summaries went quickly. :) It was snowing again, but I was tracking Dad and Sue's flights and they had no delays showing. I ended up staying in the room, checking out and leaving my luggage with the valet service, until they started packing up - once the power cords were gone, so was I, though my new to me Mac laptop had great battery life. I scavenged a few granola bars that people had left from their lunch boxes, and ended up eating all the dessert like things in mine as I kept getting hungry. My cold was almost all gone, thankfully. I moved downstairs to the lobby at around the time their flights were landing, but it was an hour until they could get their bags, the rental SUV and make their way downtown through the slushy streets.

We almost slid through a pedestrian crosswalk on the short drive to the Crystal Inn and Suites and I didn't push to go night skiing that night. I think I ran over to Canyon Sports to claim my skis that night. Sue and I were sharing a room, and Dad was next door, this time at the far end of the building from the lobby and on the 4th floor. I was a bit nervous when I saw the huge group of highschool kids checking in, but we didn't hear them more than once. I sent a text message to Luis inviting him to join us for dinner at Squatters since he and I hadn't had a chance to hang out this week, and he joined us there. Dinner was good, I always have a hard time deciding what to eat there. I unpacked a bit after dinner and set my alarm for the same time it had been all week, 7:15am, so that we could hit the breakfast buffet and the slopes in a timely manner. :)

Saturday January 12, 2013

Alta day! :) The breakfast buffet was fairly quiet, a lot fewer people coughing than last year (and I didn't come home sick this time!). Dad was just getting over bronchitis, so he wasn't moving as quickly as in previous years, but I think he got more runs in than last year at least. The highways were clear, but the drive up the canyon to Alta was done in a line of slow moving cars adorned with ski gear. The odd thing was that we were an hour past lift opening time at both Snowbird and Alta (right next to each other) but the parking lots weren't nearly full. The -15C at the base might have had something to do with it - despite a dumping of powder the day before, I guess locals were willing to wait out the cold snap.

Bathroom break and then back again to the lift ticket window to get our hotel issued passes turned on. The lines were minimal (like never more than 60s), but the woman at the lift let us skip anyway when we came back with our passes. We skied off of the Collins lift all morning, I skied straight through while Sue and Dad stopped for warm up breaks and early for lunch (my India gear shopping paid off in keeping me warm). Did a couple of diamond runs, but tried to stick to groomed blues. I didn't realise that lower High St wasn't groomed, I tipped over in some powder, then made it down cautiously - asking Sue for any tips paid off, keeping my weight back made a huge difference. I might sign up for a lesson next year if the snow is that good again. Met up with Sue and Dad at Watson's Shelter midmountain for lunch at just after noon, then started up again at 1:30. Dad wanted to stick to the Collins lift and warming up when he needed to, so Sue and I went off to try out runs off of Sugarloaf. Sue did a warming break at Alf's, I explored for a bit on my own, eventually doing the long flat pole along Collins Return (not as miserable as last year, no blowing snow, though it was windy and consistently -20 to -22C at the peak). Did a straight run down, thighs were burning by the time I got to the bottom. I had a chai latte at Goldminers Daughter and contorted my face as my toes made it known that they'd frozen on the last run and were not happy about thawing. No shot of whiskey at that building to warm me up, so I just had to make do with tea and steamed milk. We knocked off at 3:30 and had an easy drive back down the canyon to Salt Lake City.

After showering and changing, I convinced the other two to try out Eva's with me. We made the chilly walk over to the main downtown area and were able to get a table right away (just beating the rush). We were seated at the end, so out of the eventual crush/bustle, and our server reminded me of someone I know in Boston, very chill. I ordered the cheese plate again and the spanish salad with manchego, Sue and Dad helped me finish them. I also had the crab cakes but didn't share more than a taste of them as they were my "main course". :) I shared in the ricotta donut holes with (not spicy) drinking chocolate and the fig bread pudding. Sue got the lamp chop and the steelhead trout, Dad got the sweet potato gratin and the steak with gorgonzola cream sauce. I had the desert sage cocktail (tequila and st germaine and lime) and the eva's whiskey (maker's mark muddled with oven fired lemon slice). Back at the hotel, I did a quick change in the pool dressing room and made full use of the hot tub's jets to pound out sore spots in my legs. A few families splashing around in there, it wasn't quiet and restful, but I did get to eavesdrop on one mother talking about her lovely vine and quote tattoos. The heat made me sleepy, right to bed after drinking lots of water.

Sunday January 13, 2013

We decided to try out a new resort this time, Canyons in Park City. The decision was driven by the fact that it was going to be even colder than the day before, and Park City was showing a slightly higher temperature than the Cottonwood canyons, and sealed by the fact that Canyons has a covered lift. I was fine most of the day, but Sue and Dad were stopping frequently to warm up. We skied off of the orange bubble express chair for 2 hours in the morning, I loved the long steep ridge run down to the bottom. Going right up to the top of the lift instead of getting off midway led to an annoying find of a super fast rope tow needed to get back to the base. It felt like it was ripping my arm out after I was able to get a hold of it. Later in the day I managed to perfect skiing up to it at a matching speed but it still was annoying getting tugged up the slope.

We'd arranged to meet for lunch at the halfway point of that lift, not quite realising that it was a sit down table service restaurant. We were cold and hungry and Dad offered to treat us, so we stayed. I had a delicious and filling mac and cheese dish as well as some kick ass hot apple cider. I explored more on my own in the afternoon, found the far right most (from the bottom) lifts and the runs would have been fun but for low snow cover and having to edge around some grass and rocks. I found Sue at the shortcut lift when I made a wrong turn trying to get to another part of the mountain (I think I skied maybe a quarter of it?). We stuck together for a bit but I think she knocked off early, while I went right up to 3pm. At one point I saw a cut rescue dog rolling around in the snow trying to get his vest off. I pushed myself a bit and ended up wiping out on my last run down lookout ridge - another skier blew past me and kicked up a cloud of snow that obscured my vision and I didn't manage to recover before catching an edge. No injury, just a long slide down a steep section, head first, with an elbow brake before I got stopped by anything solid. I walked into the lodge at the bottom and my toes immediately felt like they were on fire, it took a couple of minutes of grimacing at the pain before they warmed up enough to make it worthwhile to get myself something hot to drink. I tried to get a shot of alcohol in hot chocolate but they only had beer, no liquor. I settled for a big hot chai instead and that hit the spot.

I'd spent sometime during the day texting with people and managed to organise what turned into a huge group dinner at Squatter's (I requested a table for 8 and as we were sitting down I got a text that five more people were coming after all). But before that, back to the hotel to clean up. Sue jumped into the shower first and I took a perfectly timed phone call as I was relaxing on the couch, talking with a driver on a long haul trip in Louisiana. We wrapped up our chat as the shower stopped running and soon I was cleaning up and changing to head out to dinner. We walked over to Squatters (Red Rock is also very close, but I really prefer the menu at Squatters's) and Madelyn and Paul soon joined us. Sonia and Josh and Josh's partner came a little while later, and then JC and his friends grabbed a table next to us when they arrived. I was in the mood for a refreshing cocktail and ended up having two of their lemonade-like ones (very weak). I also stayed fairly glued to my seat, realising after the fact that I could have circulated a bit more. Sonia had a red eye flight at midnight, and the locals had to work the next day, so it wasn't a long dinner, but it was fun.

Monday January 14, 2013

Sue and Dad had their flights home at 11am, but mine wasn't until 1:45pm. I'd spotted a billboard with an advertisement for a Leonardo da Vinci exhibit, and looking up the information online showed that the museum opened at 10am. I had to leave for the airport by 11:30, the museum was within walking distance and the exhibit closing in a week, so I decided to go for it. I saw Sue and Dad off after breakfast, helping them load everything into the rental car so that they could return it at the airport. I got everything packed up and ready to go, then layered up for the chilly (-18C) mile walk over to The Leonardo. I got engulfed by some very loud school children but got around them in the entry way to get to the admissions desk first. There were quite a few people meandering around the exhibit, also playing with the things that we were allowed to touch. :) About 75 models had been built from da Vinci's notes, some at full scale and some at half or smaller (the parachute looked full scale until I saw a video of someone using one from a balloon). It was a fascinating exhibit, giving historical context for his inventions and improvements as well as the physical presence of all the wood and metal and cloth structures. I finished just under the hour I'd allotted myself, peeked upstairs and then did a fast walk back to the hotel along 500S.

I grabbed my stuff from my room, checked out, and settled in the lobby to wait for the free shuttle to the airport. I've used it often enough now that I recognised the shuttle driver, and she and I had a nice chat on the way to the airport (I was the only passenger). Check in went quickly but somehow my opt out pat down stressed me out enough that I forgot something without realising it. I found my gate then grabbed a burrito bowl for lunch. It wasn't until I was back at my gate and checking the organisation of my carry on to make sure I had quick access to my book and headphones that I realised why my bag was so light - no laptop. I hurried back to the security screening area and finally managed to catch someone's attention. Luckily they'd put the laptop aside and after I logged in, they let me take it and I made the tail end of the boarding line. I had a window seat, then a space between me and the person in the aisle, for both flights. Great views of the mountains around SLC and the Grand Canyon as we flew over to Phoenix. I had a chicken sandwich in Phoenix as I waited for my connection to Boston. The flight was fine, I read a book that I bought in the airport since I finished my library book.

I quickly got a taxi in Boston after getting my stuff (skis out on the conveyor belt again, why is it so hard for them to put it in the special sized areas???), but soon regretted it. The guy took the long way through the big dig to get to the MOS bridge, and almost crashed us into a jersey barrier in the tunnels. Then he almost merged right into an SUV, and was coughing the whole time (yay, germs in a confined space). When he finally dropped me at my apartment, he just left my suitcase and skis in the road. I didn't leave a tip. Ferried my stuff into my apartment and gratefully closed the door behind me at just after midnight.

Back to my diary page.