The Places We’ve Been – 2015

I have a tendency to go to bed early.  Sometimes very early.  If I had it my way, I’d have dinner in bed.  Often I find myself laying on top of the bed sheets by 7:00.  The lights are just bright enough to read by, the cell phone is within arms reach, and the television is on, with the volume low.   But because I’m in bed doesn’t necessarily mean I’m sleeping.   I just find the bed to be one of the most comfortable places in the house, kind of like a bear in his cave.  Besides, what the hell else am I going to do during a winter on Long Island?  After reading, I’ll most likely be asleep by 9.

But it’s not always that way.  There are those major annual events that may keep me up late. New Year’s Eve last year actually had me awake until nearly 10pm.  I know, I could hardly believe it myself.  I’ve become such a party animal in my old age.   For a couple of years Mrs. SirOzzy and I went to our (my) favorite local restaurant.  But even there we found ourselves crapping out by 10 and struggling to keep our eyes open and head above the table by 11.  The problem with New Year’s is that it just comes too damn late.

Ahhhh, but all this old man-pooped out nonsense is for when I’m home.  When I’m out traveling everything is different.  I sleep just late enough to enjoy the comforts of the strange bed, then I’m up and out.  I try to explore every nook and cranny of wherever it is I am.  I’ll find the local breakfast joint, a tour, museums, hiking paths, people watching, adventure, shows, bars.  And I’ll stay up so late it’s early tomorrow.

My first resolution for 2016 is TRAVEL MORE and stay up later.

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After virtually hibernating for the entire month of January, our first trip of the year was to The Baker House 1650.  We celebrated our first wedding anniversary at this fantastic Bed and Breakfast in East Hampton.  It’s very pricey during the season, but equally reasonable during the off season.  For a little bit extra we had the spa closed off and reserved just for ourselves.

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What a difference a month makes.  We went from the brutal cold and snowy environs of the Northeast to the tropics of Jamaica.  Yeah Mon!    There are not many things in this world more satisfying than catching a big fish, and I caught one.  Since we were staying at a fantastic place that fed us all the freshest seafood we wanted, I had no need to keep my catch.  Not thinking it was too big a deal, I gave the fish to one of the mates on the boat.  He hugged me and told me it would feed his family for weeks.  Giving the fish away was even more satisfying than catching it.

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We decided to switch things up a little and drive to Quebec City.  And man, did we drive hard.  10 hours, only breaking for gas and restrooms.  The drive was worth it however, as we stayed at the Fairmont Chateau Le Frontenac, the most photographed hotel in the world.  A grandiose building that is visible from nearly everywhere in the city.   We drove hard the way home too, staying for a night in Freeport, Maine .  But as beautiful as Quebec was and the memorable drive, the thing I came away with most was the nightmare that followed.  Our Jeep spent the next 3 months in and out of the mechanic’s shop recovering.  More shit in that engine had to be repaired than you could shake a stick at.

A midsummer day-trip brought the SirOzzy family to Montauk for a day.  After a long scenic drive through portions of the Hamptons in our rental car (the Jeep was still in the shop), we found ourselves at an ocean beach.  Teaching an inexperienced 10 year old how to body surf in 4 foot waves has to be one of those things only slightly more satisfying than catching a big fish.  We could have been out there for eternity.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get a single picture.

Which brings me to my second resolution.  This year I’m going to take more photos and become a better photographer.  I recently received as a gift a sparkly new Nikon D5500 DSLR camera, which I’m learning more about everyday.  I can’t wait to share my new masterpieces in 2016.

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Shortly after acquiring the new hardware we made our way to one of the more scenic regions of our country.  Lake Tahoe and the surrounding Sierra Nevada Mountains is as beautiful and grand as anywhere else I’ve been.  One of my favorite things was driving around the lake, occasionally pulling off to the side to capture images.  Mrs. SirOzzy hated it.  She was near paralyzed with fear that we would fall off a cliff or a boulder would come crashing down on us.   One month after we left, this happened.

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We wrapped up the year with a family trip to Hershey, Pennsylvania.   This was our Christmas/Chanukah gift to the kids.  I suppose with all the wonderful trips we take, it’s only right to include them once in a while!

My third and final resolution for 2016 is to write more.  My goal is to post one blog per week for the year.  So please help inspire me by following this site (there’s a link at the bottom of the page), “Like” SirOzzy on Facebook, and follow _sirozzy_ on instagram.  I’m hoping for a ton of new followers by 2017, but in the meantime, lets Enjoy The Journey.

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A Week In Lake Tahoe

A Week In Lake Tahoe

DSC_0213As a kid no dare was too great.  Riding a skateboard down the biggest hill and fighting the toughest kid on the block were just two of many notches on my belt.  I was King of the Ring and Run.  I could swim the furthest distances and jump from the highest peaks.  As a young man the feats became greater and more death defying.  Fast cars and hair raising adventures were my thing.  Fear was an excuse for others, not me, I’ve always had a never ending quench to conquer the greatest challenges.

Now I find myself in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, speeding along the ridge of another majestic ascent.  Switchbacks and hairpin turns race past me in a blur.  Just off the shoulder-less road is a 3,000 foot vertical drop along a sheer faced granite slab.  The cliff ends where the crystal blue water of Lake Tahoe crashes into sixty five million year old boulders. The drive is exhilarating and sublimely mesmerizing.

DSC_0379“Would you please slow down?!” Mrs. SirOzzy shrieks from the passenger seat.

“Jesus Christ, Babe, I’m already doing ten miles an hour under the speed limit, and there are fifteen cars behind me!”  My knuckles are white on the steering wheel of the Ford Focus.  I’ve entered middle age.DSC_0208Our one week stay in Lake Tahoe was supposed to be for relaxation.  It’s been a year of hard work and routine day to day stresses.  A mellow resort during the off season seemed like an ideal place to unwind and rejuvenate before the grind of yet another Northeast Winter.
DSC_0291A casual hike is always a great way to jump start a lazy day.  Granted, I’m not in the condition I used to be, but I believe I’m still better off than my counterparts.  Although I’ve gained a bit over the years in my midsection, my hairline has receded and thinned, and my beard has some aging colors in it, I swear I’m not old, fat, or bald – yet.  I only wear glasses for reading.  I also can’t jog or run like I used to, but I can still walk a few miles at a good clip.  So when we asked the concierge about a moderate hike and were told about a place called Tunnel Creek, we figured we were in for an easy morning.DSC_0302The trail head starts just behind a coffee stop called the Tunnel Creek Cafe.  A genuine establishment reminiscent of the mining period.  This is the kind of place Mad Jack would buy his supplies from on his Ol’ Number Seven Mule on the TV series Grizzly Adams (Did I just date myself?).   We were assured that the trail would be easy walking, despite the significant snowfall a few days earlier.  Of course we were looking forward to stepping into the cafe prior to our departure, not so much to load up on provisions, but rather to get a cup of coffee and maybe chat with some locals.  Ominously, the cafe was closed;  good thing we weren’t climbing Denali.  Oh well,  we’ll make do with out.DSC_0312Onward and upwards we went.  Mrs. SirOzzy will readily admit she is not an outdoors-woman, or really much of the adventurous type.  A hike to the indoor pool at a Ritz Carlton is excursion enough.  But she is a trooper and an accommodating partner.  Steadily climbing uphill, the scenic lake and mountain vistas opened itself wide to us.  The views of this region are really magnificent, they can’t be understated.  We continued plodding uphill.  The snow was thick and icy under our feet and elevation was gained with every step.  Living our entire lives at sea level, we’ve become accustomed to full breathes of air, here the cold air is refreshing, but thinner with every step.  Holy crap, this isn’t as easy as I thought it would be.  My steps slowed and became increasingly labored.  My less than eager hiking parnter was falling back quickly.  If we could just make it to the top of the next ridge.DSC_0317There was a “Bear in Area” sign.  Are you kidding me?  Of course the thoughts of being mauled by a giant Grizzly Bear were already on my mind.   The Sierra Nevada Mountains was the home of Grizzly Adams and his Bear Ben.  But who the hell puts a sign in the middle of the woods?  Ok, we’ll go back now.DSC_0305After trail blazing a few exhausting miles, and what seemed like 7,000 feet of elevation gain, we were cozily back in the car.  The drive down the scenic highway brought us to Zephyr Cove, one of the countless beaches pockmarking the perimeter of the lake.  Though we’ve made this drive a number of times already, Mrs. SirOzzy never quite got used to it.  She’d slump down in her seat, tuck most of her face into the neck opening of her coat,  cross her arms in front of her body, hands in her armpits, and stare straight out ahead, never looking out the window, as that may cause us to crash into the cold blue water hundreds of feet below to our ultimate peril.

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At the dock we boarded the MS Dixie for a narrated afternoon tour of Lake Tahoe.  This was more her cup of tea.  An old, but comfortably apportioned, paddle-wheel ship loaded with tourists, our cruise would bring us to Emerald Bay and back.  Lake Tahoe is 22 miles long and 12 miles wide filled with the clearest water this side of the Caribbean.   Surrounded by the towering pines of the Sierra Nevada, the million dollar views never get old.DSC_0356Arriving into Emerald Bay we learned the fate of Captain Dick Barter.  After a day of drinking, his ship sank off the shore of Rubicon Point in 1,400 feet of water.  His body was never found.  Some claim on a foggy morning you can see his ghost rise from the water and make it’s way back up the hill.DSC_0303We finished our boat tour and decided to drive the perimeter of the entire lake.  That’s when we had our aforementioned cliff driving event in the Ford Focus.  For our day of relaxation we nearly suffered altitude sickness, were warned about presumably hungry bears, heard about ghosts, and had a near death experience cliff driving.   But man, was it ever scenic.  It was time for a glass of wine by the fireside.DSC_0256Our adventures didn’t stop there though.  A day in South Lake Tahoe is somewhat enjoyable, but one day in a lifetime proved to be enough.  Another day trip brought us to Virginia City, an old mining town that I would recommend to anyone, also just for one day in a lifetime.  The residing attitude here was, “When everything else fails, invite the tourists, but don’t make them too comfortable.”  After a couple haunted hotel visits, beers in the Bucket-O-Blood and Red Dog Saloons, and crappy hamburgers in some run down lunch joint, we were ready to get back to the familiar environs of our noisy and smoky casino.
DSC_0224Another day brought us hiking along the Western States Trail near Squaw Valley California, home of the 1960 Winter Olympics.
DSC_0271Sand Harbour is Tripadvisor’s number 1 thing to do in the region.  A remarkably beautiful and serene state park, if I lived in the area I’d be there everyday.  But unless I get cast in the remake of Grizzly Adams, I don’t think I’ll ever live there.DSC_0309Our final day brought us back to Reno.  Homeless people, drug addicts, and derelicts littered every corner of this shit-hole excuse for an American city.  If you paid me a gazillion dollars, I might consider driving through, otherwise you’ll never catch me in that dump again.
DSC_0328But as for Lake Tahoe…  We met some wonderful people, ate A LOT better than we expected, and had lots of fun.  We came home far more tired from this relaxing vacation than we expected to.  Next stop….Margaritas in Key West!DSC_0418DSC_0442DSC_0440DSC_0438DSC_0437DSC_0427DSC_0420