Monday, February 7, 2011


If you want to go tubing at Northstar, you have to take the gondola to mid-mountain. This costs $15. Tubing itself costs $21 for the first hour, $12 for each additional hour. They have ONE tubing lane. Oh, and you have to make a reservation 24 hours in advance – otherwise you pay your $15 for the gondola and take your chances as to walk-up availability.

We decided, then, to go to Soda Springs, where we’d tubed before. It takes a car to get there, and a taxi would be expensive (and less than optimally convenient), so a few of our number took the bus down to a car rental place, and came back with an SUV. We road tripped out to Soda Springs – but first stopped at Squeeze In, a tiny little hole-in-the-wall place known for awesome omelettes. (Get something with bacon.)

Soda Springs is not the world’s best tubing establishment, but it’s way better than the one at Northstar. $25 for as long as you want. 6 or more lanes open. Jacob and his folks went over to the kids’ play area (with little tiny tubing) while the other two of us went grown-up tubing. You take a little “magic carpet” lift (your tube goes on the lift, too, but you sorta have to pull it along) up to the top of the lanes. Once we got there, they told us the UPPER lanes were open – two more tubing lanes starting WAY UP THERE. Problem: no magic carpet lift. So we just had to haul our tubes up to the top of the two higher tubing lanes. (This was a surprising amount of physical effort for the upcoming fun.) Just a few people got there before us, so they were the guinea pigs down the long tube track.

At Soda Springs, the bottom of the tube track curves uphill – this is supposed to stop your tube. They also lay some straw on the track (just before it curves up) to further slow your progress.

The first couple people go down the high tubing lane, and their tubes both go right to the top of the uphill bit – they hit the little mesh fencing at the top. Soda Springs employees spread a little more straw on the bottom of the lane. The next pair go, and similarly hit the top. My friend is among them. The guy at the top of the lane responds to this by moving the “start here” sign all of three feet down from the usual start line. As though this will slow our velocity enough to keep us from going all that high.

I take my turn. The course is fast and fun. The stop – not so much. The straw at the bottom hasn’t so much been SPREAD here as plopped in a pile, which my tube bounces off before continuing to the top of the lane, at which point it comes down and is stopped hard by hitting the pile of straw again. I’d had a bit of a headache earlier, and it just came back.

We decide to stick with the lower, safer tubing lanes – a call eventually made by the Soda Springs people, who shut the upper lanes after about a half-hour. The lower lanes are fast enough, and the stop is very gentle, as it should be. Way More Fun when you aren’t in fear, and my headache quickly subsides. We tube for upwards of two hours – joined, alternately, by one of Jacob’s parents (while the other stayed with him in the Planet Kids area). As the afternoon wore on, the tube lanes got faster – the Soda Springs guys kept moving the start line lower and lower, and eventually told us all to switch to tubes without the little “flying saucer” on the bottom (which smoothes the surface and makes for better tubing). By this time, we gave up, and just went to join Jacob in the kids’ area. (He was climbing to the top of a pretty big mountain of snow. When we got there, he was about halfway up and sliding backwards. He eventually made it to the top All By Himself, which was pretty impressive. Kid is determined – he’d apparently been on this for 45 minutes, and refused all assistance.)

On the way back to Northstar, we stopped at a grocery store – bought dinner supplies and the makings of s’mores for dessert.

We bought pasta for dinner. We had made pasta the night before, so decided we’d go out for dinner – especially since we still had the car. So we made our way to a nice place near the lake itself (somebody’s Waterfront Grille). The meal totally reminded me of restaurant meals when I was a kid – a big steak (which you cover in A-1), with a choice of fries, baked potato or rice, and a salad bar with no low-cal dressing options and a “fresh fruit” selection that’s a coupla slices of melon. Don’t get me wrong, I quite enjoyed it – we were pretty darned hungry (sliding down a hill apparently takes a lot out of you) and it was good eatin’. Still, it isn’t the sort of place you can readily find in SoCal these days – come to think of it, it may be. There’s a “Steer ‘n’ Ale” near my house which probably serves a similar menu.

Came back to the condo – I ran upstairs for the s’mores fixins while the others went to stake out a fire pit (the ice rink is surrounded by sofas in little lounge areas around fire pits). I come off the elevator with fixins in my hand, only to be met by the gang, saying the fire pits are all off. We’re going to try again today.

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