Ladies NightParenting EscapesTravel

Tahoe Works

If you have been married for any length of time, finding a way to dump the kids on someone and be alone together is an interesting feeling. The chaos that surrounds you as a parent can be overwhelming at times but once you remove it, its almost as if you forget how to function without it. This trip was the first time we have been away from our kids for more than a day or two. Having Jen tag along on a work trip to Tahoe seemed like a great way to capitalize on the situation.

We had originally planned to take the Sprinter van, but due to a high wind advisory in the area, we took my truck instead. Jen drove the entire way to Tahoe while I continued to mash on the non-existent brake pedal on the passenger side floorboard for 9 hours. If you ever wondered what your life would look like as a sitcom rerun, just let Jen drive you anywhere. I promise you will have it flash before your eyes multiple times… but I digress.

We booked a room at the Hyatt in Incline village. As we rolled up and checked in, they gave us a room overlooking the pool. We quickly settled in and then made our way to the hotel restaurant. Both of us were starving. We couldn’t wait to eat something other than gas station trail mix. The menu made everything sound good.

The CutThroat Saloon

cutthroat's Saloon Incline Villiage

We started off with some fried calamari. You would think being fried should be fail safe. Unfortunately that was not the case. It was over-fried. It tasted like rubber and was much more chewy than calamari should be. We decided to order drinks to wash it down but had even worse luck with that.

Jen ordered an apple toddy which was basically a hot toddy but with apple cider. Jen typically has good luck and her beverage didn’t disappoint. Me on the other hand, well lets just say you should never follow me into a line; it is guaranteed that something will break and we will be stuck for hours. I ordered an old fashioned thinking it was a safe bet and would eventually lead to repressing my fear of driving with Jen.

The first sip was like getting kicked in the face with a golf shoe. The second sip I don’t really remember because my taste buds had all been fried by the first. My old fashioned was basically the bottom of the barrel bourbon with the budget model simple syrup or at least that’s what it felt like. On the bright side, it obviously had alcohol in it so I didn’t complain.

Pushing Forward

In retrospect, we probably should have cut our losses and went elsewhere. Unfortunately, we were too hungry to care. Jen ordered the salmon and I went with a grilled chicken sandwich. Lets be honest here, its really hard to ruin a grilled chicken sandwich. Again… this restaurant found a way to do so. Jens salmon was overcooked and my chicken sandwich was burnt to a crisp. We tried to be nice and eat as much as possible but I only managed to choke down half of the sandwich before giving up. Jen was able to get down most of her salmon.

incline village cutthroat saloon food

Despite the poor experience in the restaurant, we still left a decent tip. After all, it wasn’t the waiters fault. I feel bad for them sometimes. They are the face of the whole operation. If anything goes south, they have to take the heat. Also, after watching the movie “Waiting” I will never send a meal back or complain to the staff. If you have never seen it, I highly recommend you do.

Settling In

With dinner out of the way, we retreated to our room for so much needed sleep. The bed was a simple box spring mattress with a cozy V shape to it. Regardless of which side you chose to sleep on, you would ultimately end up in the middle. Honestly though, I didn’t mind. It was nice to be out of the car and even nicer to be spending time with Jen without tiny humans screaming at me.

The morning came in with a gentle grace. You could feel the crisp weather but were well insulated from the body heat after sleeping in the center of the V all night. I climbed out of bed like a grizzly bear from hibernation. My first meeting was at noon and we had planned to snowboard early in the morning. However, we realized that our kids were not rushing into the room at 6am, so we ignored our alarms and slept in.

Quiet Resentment

I remember the first time Jen stayed the night with me. She fell asleep in my bed while I was reading. I was so afraid to wake her because I thought that if I did she would realize she was laying next to me and leave. I felt so lucky to be next to her and I still do to this day. There is a quiet resentment all parents feel at some point towards their kids because they often interrupt those moments when you just want to be next to each other quietly. Maybe resentment is the wrong word, but we all feel slightly neglected by our respective spouses because of their unrelenting commitment to parenting. I admire Jen for her devotion to our children and I still feel lucky when I wake up next to her.

After rolling out of bed like a dump truck unloading a load full of rocks, we made our way out the door to breakfast. We decided against the hotel breakfast after our amazingly bad dinner. I found a place on the way to Northstar called “SpindleShanks”.

SpindleShanks for Breakfast

Spindleshanks Incline Villiage
incline village breakfast view

SpindleShanks is located right as you turn from Incline Village and head towards Northstar on a golf course. The restaurant has a quaint rustic feel to it and has decent views of Lake Tahoe. The food is the classic french toast, pancakes, omlets etc. but was amazingly delicious for a relatively cheap price. We liked it so much that we scheduled a meeting later in the week at the same location for breakfast with our whole Sports Medicine Crew.

spindleshanks incline village inside
spindle shanks incline village food
sports med incline village

NorthStar for the Meeting

tahoe northstar
northstar village

Jen and I then headed towards our destination of NorthStar. We used to hang out at the resort in College. It was a couple decades ago and it was a basic single lodge with a ski shop at that time. Over the last few years they rebuilt the entire place. They created an entire village with multiple condos, shops, restaurants, and even an ice skating rink in the middle of it. The place is insanely beautiful and was fun to just walk around. Lift ticket prices on the other hand are not insanely beautiful. A day on the hill will run you roughly $200 per person. However, My opinion is that Northstar is the best resort in Tahoe and has the best runs for both ski’s and snowboards.

We stopped in at the local starbucks and picked up some coffee for the doc we were meeting. The urgent care clinic was located at the base of the village. The staff was amazingly friendly. The clinic tour revealed 3 small patient bays separated by curtains for triage and a few small private exam rooms. They had Xray on-site and easy access to the snow so ski patrol could access the physicians easily. The parking on the other hand… That is an entire story on its own. If you want to visit Northstar, just park at the bottom and take the shuttle. It’s worth it.

My colleague, Dr. Ellexis Khan, had also met me at the clinic. She decided to park in the clinic parking lot. Jen and I had to walk back to the shuttle stop and ride the shuttle down while Ellexis walked steps to her car but had to fight the traffic out of the resort. We essentially left at the same time and somehow Jen and I managed to board the shuttle, ride it to the parking lot, walk to our truck, exit the parking lot and pull directly in front of Ellexis. So rather than spend the $40 for “premier” parking at the clinic, just take the shuttle from the free lot at the bottom.

Work Out of The Way

The day being done, and work completed, we decided to head back to the hotel. Everyone changed and got cleaned up for dinner. Jen and I went ahead over to the Lone Eagle Grille in Incline Village. There was ample outside seating with multiple fire pits. The views of the lake made for a serene and peaceful end to the chaotic work filled day (work filled because I know my employer will eventually read this). Realistically we had a handful of tours and meetings scheduled for the week with ample downtime sprinkled in. The downtime was mostly because the Docs I had to meet with were all working nights in the local ER. To accommodate them, we either met first thing in the morning or late evening. Obviously I chose the morning to maximize my time with Jen.

The Lone Eagle Grille: Dinner

Dinner was, for lack of a better way to describe it, amazing. The food and ambiance of the Lone Eagle Grille was well worth the premium we paid for the food and drinks. My colleague Ellexis and her fiancé along with Jen and I thoroughly enjoyed our meal next to the fireplace with lake views. If you are venturing to Tahoe, I highly recommend eating at the Lone Eagle Grille.

lone eagle incline village drinks
lone eagle incline village bar
lone eagle incline village fire pit

For comparison, Jen and I ordered the exact same drinks as the Cutthroat Saloon. Only this time, I was met by a subtle vanilla with a hint of caramel. The spice of the whiskey had a distinct cinnamon bite to it but was well balanced with the zest of the slight citrus feel. It went down smooth and left me wanting more. Jen’s apple toddy was the perfect balance of tartness from the apple cider met with the vanilla of the bourbon. The heat only amplified the coziness one gets when coming in from the cold. The cinnamon stick reinforced the ambience of the moment without overpowering the allure of the experience. For lack of a better way to describe this evening happy hour with Jen, it was an “experience” and I can’t wait for the next one.

Guilty Pleasures

Wednesday came and went with the usual meetings in the morning and friendly lunch with small talk. When we finally reached the free time I had so desperately wanted and needed, the wind had picked up. Our foursome drove to Donner Peak to snow board. We chose this location because Ellexis’ fiancĂ© had never been and also because this being my first time since my infamous ankle injury. It is tough to justify the $200 lift ticket prices at Northstar when donner is $60. I wasn’t sure if we would be there for 20 minutes or a full day.

Donner Ski Ranch summit

We rolled up in style in a mid 90’s 4runner. We purchased our tickets, geared up, and headed towards the lift. Eric and Ellexis went to the beginner slope and Jen and I headed straight for the peak. I figured if I was to test my ankle, I needed to “test” my ankle. The lift to the top was delayed by 30mph gusts of wind and icy conditions.

Donner Ski Ranch Ellexis and eric
Donner Ski Ranch Josh, ellexis and eric
Donner Ski Ranch Josh and Jen

It Never Gets Any Easier

The lift approached the top of the hill and was about to let us off on the steepest ski lift exit I had ever seen. For context, both Jen and I have been snowboarding since the 80’s. We typically go roughly 2-3 times per year. With covid and children in the mix, we had not been in 3-4 years. Exiting a ski lift on a snowboard can be difficult in the best of conditions. We are now faced with essentially jumping off a fast moving ski lift onto an icy cliff that abruptly ends in a burm while being pushed by 30 mph winds and unable to adequately see the ground from the snow drift.

Jen pushes off the lift ahead of me. I have always been a better boarder than her, this is no secret. I try to delay as much as I can to give her space. The chair suddenly rises and hooks my jacket. I am mid stride when I feel the chair tug me backwards. I land on my back foot and begin to slide forward. Somehow I end up in front of Jen. I push my board into a toe side carve where I am now perpendicular to Jen and directly in front of her. I put my arms out to brace the impact and inadvertently push her away from me.

Jen falls flat on her ass. I start laughing and pointing because lets be honest, it was hilarious. Unfortunately, Jen created enough of an entertaining distraction that I didn’t see the one skier behind me. I slide backwards into them and completely mow them down. Like a soldier wandering a battlefield looking for their lost compatriots, I scan the damage and find Jen. She is still smiling. The skier on the other… “not my problem”.

Jen Donner Ski Ranch fall

I enthusiastically reinforce the hatred of snowboarders by every skier and collect Jen while ignoring the fact that I literally pulled a hit and run on another individual. In my defense, etiquette is to immediately move to the side of the lift once you exit the chair. If you are standing in the middle of the road and a car hits you… thats on you.

Constant Reminders

Jen and I pick the run and head down. Jen likes to use me as a crash test dummy so I head down first. I like to think it’s because she trusts my ability to mitigate risk and tell her how to safely navigate things but we both know its because I’m essentially “dumb” and have a thick skull. Fading into a toe side carve, I hit some uneven terrain and my ankle feels like someone just clipped me with a baseball bat. A burning sensation shoots up my leg as I collapse on the snow. Jen is nowhere in sight.

I am doubled over in pain mostly for dramatic effect but also because it hurt that bad. A few moments later Jen comes flying by me and sprays me with snow. Collecting myself, I shake off the impending sense of old age and slowly make my way down the hill. I eventually catch up to Jen in a flat section. I go blowing by her knowing that speed is a necessity to maintain otherwise I “get” to unstrap and walk half the run.

The Joys of Marriage

I make it to the beginner slope and see Ellexis and Eric burying the beginnings of a lovers quarrel. Ellexis is trying to teach Eric how to snowboard for his first time ever. As a man, it is impossibly difficult to understand your wife when she is trying to teach you something. They use a language based on “feelings” and “intuition” while men speak in literal terms. Clearly he cannot read her mind and I find a spot on the hill to wait for Jen as I watch them navigate the daily grind of marriage.

Eric pops up on his board and begins sliding effortlessly down the hill. Ellexis begins to follow. I lose myself in the moment and begin to reminisce about teaching Jen how to snowboard. I push myself to my feet and head down to the bottom anticipating a full on war between them. To my surprise they are high fiving and hugging it out. As I sit there in the snow at the bottom of the hill watching the stereotypical “young love” play out, Jen comes in from behind me with speed. She deliberately brakes last second, covering me in a tsunami of snow.

Ellexis and Eric are staring at me, likely waiting for my explosion of anger. I feel nothing but pride as I turn to Jen and laugh. I congratulate her on the spray and take it as a playful challenge to get her next. Eric and Ellexis look perplexed. I like to believe they understood that with time, relationships change from the expected crutch of dependency to the tough love and competitive nature that we all feel as parents. Jen and I have been together for 23 years as of this writing and we still love each other to death. I can only hope our relationship will help others strengthen theirs

The Last Meeting

Thursday morning came without delay. Eric and I felt the expected pain from the effort put forth the day before. Eric unfortunately felt it EVERYWHERE whilst I only felt the same daily swelling and aching in my trusty ankle. If my ankle didn’t hurt, I would probably miss it. I have grown fond of its constant reminder that I have lived a life well lived and much like the Stockholm syndrome, I have found its power over me to be somewhat romantic; I simply couldn’t imagine life without it.

We all loaded up for our morning meeting. I chose the restaurant and happily suggested Spindleshanks. Frank met us there. We discussed the usual experiences of the rotation site, clinic time vs. downtime, and the impression of the physicians running it. Everyone was overwhelmingly positive and felt fortunate to have this as a part of our curriculum. Ellexis and I were even more excited because we had clearly taken advantage of the time we had for this “work” trip and made the best of it. Despite the pending 9 hour drive back home on friday, everyone was upbeat.

My ankle needed the full day to recover. I began scheming a plan to maximize our time. Ellexis and Eric had planned to stay friday night. I had to rush back due to a pending Basketball game. I had casually asked Jen if she was at all interested in leaving right now and heading to mammoth.

The Spontaneous Nature of Life

Jen looked at me like I was crazy. There I was, sitting at the table whining about my ankle and asking if she was interested in driving 4 hours to another ski resort. I had not been to Mammoth in a couple decades. Jen had never been. Work was essentially finished and Friday was a travel day. I asked “why not leave now, stay the night in Mammoth and then drive home friday night?” It was roughly half way home. If we left now, we could get in by early evening. Friday was a lost day due to travel anyway, so why not take advantage of it?

Jen skeptically agreed to let me change the plan with little to no research. This is completely unlike my normal routine but I really didn’t want to sit around the hotel nursing my ankle only so I could sit in weekend traffic in Tahoe. We packed everything up and loaded the truck. An hour later we were on the road. Stay tuned for the rest. It was a “fun” drive with just a tiny bit of snow…

Jen at Mammoth


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