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Winter Trip 2021 – McCall – This Time With Friends

Beautiful Payette Lake

We have returned to McCall after skipping last year’s winter festivities due to the COVID crap! If you, dear reader, follow our travels and my political rantings, you’ll know that we make an annual trip between Christmas and New Years. Usually we make the trip by ourselves, but this year we had another couple join us, my long time friend Jeff and his lovely wife Jaime. We, of course, all stayed at the Shore Lodge in the usual lake side suites. Just as the whole year of 2021 went, the trip started off very bumpy! Just two days before we left, the Seattle area was hit with a major snow event and then sub freezing temperatures. Combine that with a severe shortage of flight and ground crew, we left six hours later than we were supposed to. Finally hooking up with our friends, getting luggage, and the rental car, it was dark when we finally hit the road from Boise!! It made for a slightly harrowing drive except for the fact that road crews in Idaho do an excellent job keeping the roads manageable in winter! The hotel itself is under going major renovations and our wing of rooms had been recently been finished. As a matter of fact, in our room, we were the very first guests to stay in the renovated room. You might think that would be fantastic, but we soon learned that there were still kinks to be worked out! We discovered, not soon enough, that one whole wall of electrical devices would turn off when we turned off the entry light switch. These included both tv’s, a wall heater, and our fridge. So after loading the fridge with some items and then finally turning the light out to hit the hay, we effectively turned off the fridge for the night! It was no big deal and they fixed t the next day. Later, the other heater(the main one for the room) stopped working and we had to have a space heater in the room for our last two days. Never a dull moment for the Givens’!

Don't leave a full bottle of champagne out in sub freezing temperatures!

Let me tell you, we have been to McCall quite a few times during the winter. Before the trip, we were keeping an eye out on the snow report. In the beginning we were getting a bit worried there would not be a very good snow pack. That would quickly change the week before we arrived and the snow began to come down heavily. By the time we arrived, there was gobs of white stuff on the ground. There would be no worries involving having enough to play in however, it was extremely cold. It was colder than anytime we had previously experienced while there. Notice the picture to the right. Jaime had set out a bottle of champagne on their deck overnight and that was the result!

Jeff and Jaime, being from California, and all of us not wanting to freeze our asses off, we really wanted to ski but held off each day hoping for better weather. It snowed practically every day and we kept checking the conditions at Brundage and Tamarack and they were only for the die hards that were young and crazy. That would not be us! Our other option to enjoy the snow and get a good workout to stave off all the food and booze we were partaking was to go snowshoeing! We did this twice and it was easy as the hotel had snowshoes to rent right there. First we headed out to our usual location at Bear Basin Trail Head. It is a great place to snowshoe and also cross county ski. There are many trails with fantastic views of the valley to the west and it is hilly, which really pumps up the cardio. We also did some snowshoeing at Ponderosa Park which Debbie and I have been to before, but not in winter. It was a great place to snowshoe also and was a bit flatter than Bear Basin. That was okay by us and there were plenty of trails to choose from and not far from town either! We never did make to the slopes. It was just too damn cold for us wimps!


One thing that we always do, was rent a couple of snowmobiles and hit the tracks. We always use Cheap Thrills Rentals and discovered they are under new ownership. The new owners were great and it was like nothing had changed but the faces. They supplied everything, suit, gloves, boots, helmets, and everything was clean and kept us very warm. We had to drive ourselves to the meet up in a big parking lot where all the sleds were. Then after a brief safety and operation spiel, we were off on our own! Well Jeff and Jaime had NEVER been on snowmobiles before and by looking at the picture to the right, you would be saying ooopsie, one of them had a boo boo! Nope, just 15 or so minutes on the trail, I decided to ride on a small snow drift, lost control, and ended up in a tree well. Luckily for me, that stopped me from going over a steep drop into the snowy abyss. After some wrangling with help from fellow snowmobilers and nothing damaged but my ego, we were on the road to the first stop at Burgdorf Hot Springs. Like Cheap Thrills, the place was now under new management and it was quite a disappointment. Before we were barely off our sleds, we were approached by a guy who asked us if we had reservations. Huh!!! We had never needed a reservation to stop by for coffee and explained that to him. Now, due to COVID of fucking course, we now had to have a reservation just to walk in the building. Well, we left, without coffee.


Once we left Burgdorf, we headed further up the road to
Warren which is an old mining town that is almost a ghost town. It does have a population of 7 in the winter and there is a landing strip at the old town to get supplies flown in. We love it up there and made our way into the Baum Shelter for a quick bite and beverage. For a place this far out in the woods and away from civilization, it had an extensive
menu and was very good. After hanging out and warming up we finally headed back down the road and went a little bit beyond where we were supposed to. It was a great day and we put in 78 miles of riding! We all had a great time even with my little “accident”!


On days we didn’t have real plans, we drove around showing Jeff and Jaime the area, taking them to all the spots we usually make the rounds to. It’s also good for us to see what has changed, how many new houses have sprung up, and what is for sale. We didn’t see many for sale signs around, but it could just be the time of year too. Some of those drives had to be cut short due to blinding snow storms that would spring up out of nowhere! We also dined out and drank at some places that Debbie and I had never tried before. We had a great dinner at Ragazza Di Largo one night. The food was fabulous and so were the drinks. One day after snowshoeing we hit the Toll Station Pizza which was also good. Another evening we were craving Mexican food and went down the street to Pueblo Lindo and the albondigas soup was excellent. Right across the street from the hotel sat Lardos Grill & Saloon, and all these visits to McCall and we had never set foot in the place. We loved the place and it was just our kind of bar!!! It will be a constant stop each time we go back!!! Our New Year’s Eve dinner was in the hotel at The Narrows. It was really good and afterwards, all we had to do was walk down the hall and celebrate the coming New Year and not worry about driving. Oh and before I forget, we also had a spa day where we all got massages and spent some time relaxing in the pools. It was a great time with some great friends that ended too quickly! For more photos of our trip, go over to our online photo album and have a look at the rest of the adventure!!


McCall…….Again

Payette Lake

Yes, here we are again, the third trip to McCall in the last two years. Once again we stayed at the Shore Lodge in a gorgeous lake side suite just like last time. Also like last year, it was during the week of New Years and we did much of the same stuff we did last time. We were able to ski this time which we did two days in a row at Brundage Mountain! We also spent more time at the Old Idaho Penitentiary Rather than bore you with the details of another similar trip, you can refer here to last year’s trip and links, and I will list some highlights and provide more of a pictorial version on this one!


  • We were delayed getting to Boise by around three hours, thanks Delta Airlines.
  • Our rental car broke down and we had to fight with Alamo Rent A Car to get a replacement. We waited until 2am for the new one to arrive.
  • Debbie’s boots were “taken” from the ski resort changing room and never “returned”. Had to spend $200 for a pair of new ones.
  • This time we didn’t go snowshoeing, but instead ski’d two days in a row.
  • One of those days was New Year’s Eve and I was so beat neither of us saw the new decade ring in!
  • Unlike last year, this time we were able to book a massage and spa day at The Cove in the hotel!
  • And yes, we booked a room for next year!!






Summer Adventures

It has been a busy summer so far. Much of the spring was involved taking monthly trips to our island cabin, furnishing, cleaning, decorating, fixing, etc. I am having to learn how to fix things now and even tackled replacing the kitchen faucet and range hood, thanks to help from my buddy Larry! We had much of the interior painted except for the two bathrooms and one bedroom. We are going to do those rooms ourselves as we didn’t have colors picked out yet. The painter was a local guy who didn’t really do that great of a job and is still not finished and says he won’t be until the first week of September…….fucking unacceptable! We are not happy and I have paid the dude in full already, my very bad mistake!!! We have pictures that we cannot even put up because the mistakes really show up in the flash. At any rate, it looks better than before and is getting very cozy and comfortable with many of our touches. We have accommodated guests twice now and they felt very much at home and our little cabin was big enough for them all!

We finally de-winterized the trailer, cleaned her up, loaded it with supplies, hitched her to the truck and headed back to………yep, Oregon, once again! Our destination this time was the coast once again and we camped at Beverly Beach State Park. It was beautiful. We explored the coast again, heading to Newport, Depot Bay, Florence, Agate Beach, etc. We also scoped out campgrounds, visited scenic sights, lighthouses, and did a little wine tasting as we always do! We never tire of the Oregon Coast and are planning the next trip to start from the California redwoods and drive back up the coast next year!

Duplicating our route in February, we drove to central Oregon over the Santiam Pass to our secret camping spot near Sisters, OR. There we met up with some very good friends Rich, Pam, Kelsey, Rob, and Ursie. We all camp together in the middle of the woods and eat, drink, build big camp fires, hike, shoot guns, drink, ride dirt bikes, more eating, and drinking. It is hot, dusty, and dirty, but a very fun time with great friends! Have a look at the few photos we took of the trip!

Camp Givens

After we got back, the following weekend we rode the Mt to Sound Greenway Snoqualmie Tunnel Bike Ride. It was a twenty-five mile bike ride down the John Wayne Pioneer Trail which took us through the two and a half mile tunnel. All these years of living here and we had never been to the tunnel. Going through an old two-mile, abandoned train tunnel is dark, cold and spooky, but was fun as hell! At the end we had a great BBQ. It is fun to get out and explore what is just right outside our doorstep. We have a wedding coming down in Portland we are going to, the Boeing Classic Golf Tournament that we always volunteer to work and watch, then we will be spending a whole week at the cabin right after that which takes us right into September. Wow, where did the summer go!!!???

Oregon Vacation 2012

It is obvious we seem to love the great state of Oregon because we keep returning there year after year. Once again we took a road trip back there. We first headed to the coast winding up in Newport. We have driven through the quaint coastal town many times in the past, but never stayed and explored it much. This time we did and discovered it to be very beautiful. We stayed at the Hallmark Resort right on the beach. Cordell loved running on the beach. He goes crazy out there on the sand and watches the waves and seagulls and explores the driftwood and bits washed ashore! If you just drive down the coast highway like we have done many times past, you don’t discover the very cool part of the town, the old historic dock part of the town. We did and it was very cool with many shops, galleries, restaurants, and sights. We had one of the best dinners ever at a place called Local Ocean! It was fresh and wonderful and if we lived here, it would be our favorite dining stop. We also took a drive up the coast a bit and ended up at the Tillamook Cheese Factory. Debbie loves going there and any time we are within driving distance, we go eat cheese!!!!!

Leaving the coast for our second leg of the trip, we drove to central Oregon over the Santiam Pass to our next destination of Suttle Lake near Sisters, OR. There we met up with some very good friends Rich and Pam and bunked together at the Lodge At Suttle Lake. It is a very beautiful property nestled in the woods on the shores of Suttle Lake. We had a very nice cabin but no internet and you know I needs my internets!!! We had dinner with another couple of friends Rob and Ursie at the Tumelo Feed Company where you can get great steaks and a nice big plate of rocky mountain oysters (no….Deb nor I tried them). It was very nice being together with all these great people at the same table. We have shared many good times together! The next day was snowmobiling time!!! Rich and Pam have their own, so Debbie and I had to rent ours. The weather was iffy at best with the wind blowing hard. In Bend things looked hopefully, but by the time we hitched the trailer with our sleds and followed Rich up to the sno park near Mt Bachelor, the wind was howling and snowing sideways. Well did that stop us, hell no and off on the trails we went. It was fun but slow going as visibility was an issue for all of us at times, sometimes not being able to see the trail in front of you. We made it to the Elk Lake Resort where we dried and warmed up a bit with a hot coffee drink before heading back. We were going to do a loop, but due to time constraints and needing to get the sleds back in time, we had to go back the way we came. The trip back was much better as the wind and snow stopped and the sun came out! It was fun regardless of the weather!

Well we parted ways and started on the third and final leg of our trip driving down the road to Sunriver where we had a fabulous room at the Sunriver Resort! The place is gorgeous!

The Lodge

We absolutely love this area and have thought about retiring here many times! Having a state income tax on top of the federal taxes have changed our mind about retiring in Oregon though. We just don’t feel like giving an additional 10% of our pensions to the state. We have settled on somewhere else, but more on that in a later post! We took Cordell on a nice long walk around the grounds and into the Village, had a great dinner in the restaurant, and enjoyed the accommodations. The next day we went skiing at Mt Bachelor. The weather was perfect, but my skiing wasn’t. I think I rented the wrong skis and spent a lot of time on my back. It was pathetic and poor Debbie’s day was ruined waiting for me! I think some lessons are in order since I have never had any. I just pointed myself downhill one day at Ski Apache in New Mexico on fine day long ago and headed down and figured it out. I am sure I learned some bad habits along the way that need to be corrected. The next day ended our time and we had to head back home. Actually it was in the nick of time, as bad weather and snow had come and made driving a bit tricky at times but we made it back safely. The time had gone by very fast on this trip and the next scheduled vacation won’t happen until July. We will be busy though as you shall soon see, meanwhile have a look at the few photos we took and we’ll see ya soon!

Mt. Bachelor

We have done some very good vacation planning this year, just like the last year! With my job, I have to pick my vacations in January for the complete year. Sometimes it is hard to know what plans to make in advance and what weeks to pick. But last year we did great and this year is all laid out. We have never done a week ski vacation before. Usually it is just a long weekend or possibly an anniversary trip that we do some skiing! This year we decided to plan one! Debbie looked and looked for a place to go. Colorado was a thought, but we found it to be on the spendy side. Tahoe was another target, but again proved to be to pricey. Another factor was Cordell. We planned on taking him with us and just couldn’t justify the expense. On of our friends suggested we check out Mt. Bachelor just outside of Bend, Or. We could drive down and plus we had friends there we could visit! Debbie found a great place to stay so off we went with Cordell in the back seat. Now people always ask, what about Patience (the cat). Have you ever travelled with a cat? They don’t do well and she is happy at home just fine. We have very good friends that take good care of her.

The drive to Bend isn’t a bad one and we had great tunes to listen to whilst on the way from SnoJoRadio my music podcast! Debbie had found us a condo to stay at the Seventh Mountain Resort for the week and our unit was dog friendly! It was a very nice place and just twenty minutes at the most to the slopes at the mountain. It also had a kitchen so we could cook there when we wanted. A very cozy place. Cordell loved walking the grounds and exploring. Both of us had been to Bend a few years back, but had never been to Mt Bachelor to ski and only vaguely remembered anything about the town itself! It is a really cool, hip town and the downtown section is very vibrant and alive. There are many restaurants for a town that size, so when we did decide to venture out for dinner, we had plenty of choices. We ate at the Pine Tavern Restaurant, McMenamins, and also the Brickhouse Restaurant. Each of the were fantastic! When we weren’t on the slopes, we drove around and explored. We took a drive down to Sunriver, and also headed out to Sisters, Or. It was a bit quiet at both places, but we did find a lively and enjoyable place to have dinner in Sisters at a place called Bronco Billys Ranch Grill and Saloon. Dinner was filling, tasty, and cheap. Check out my salad that I had to take part of back to the condo:

My Huge Cobb Salad

Now the real reason we went down to Bend was to ski and ski we did! The only snafu was my feet, especially the left one. I have very flat feet and also pronate somewhat. I have to wear special orthotics in my street and running shoes and the rental boots on the mountain just killed my left foot. After the first day, I was in severe pain. I was hoping not to spoil the rest of the week for Debbie because she was looking forward to doing a lot of sking. We spent a whole day looking at ski boots and thought we had found a pair for me, but hesitated. Then I decided to rent some demo boots skis at the mountain. I explained my situation to the boot fitter there and he came up with a pair of Tecnica Mega 12’s and I was in heaven. It was the first time in my life I could ski for hours and have no foot pain. I scored on a new pair, and as well fitted as they were, they still needed to be punched out for my left foot. Then Debbie wanted to also demo boots and skis and by the time we left, we each had a pair of brand new boots! I guess we will be skiing more often now! We’ll demo skis for a while until we decide to buy, but we need to save money for the next big vacation adventure coming in May! I also put up some pictures of our trip in a new album on our Flickr Photo Page, so go have a look!

Seventeen Years

Ahhhhhh yet another year has passed of wedded bliss with my sweetie. We put another notch on the anniversary pole. There are now seventeen notches logged. This was my year to plan the secret get away and I had a tough time figuring out just where to take my girl. After some serious pondering, I came up with the idea of a ski weekend might be fun. Since the Winter Olympics had just been held in Vancouver/Whistler, that destination was discarded as an idea. After doing some research and putting out some feelers, a buddy of mine gave me the idea of taking the train to Whitefish, MT and skiing there. At first I thought that may be to far to go just for a weekend, but after checking into it, it looked like a great idea. On Friday afternoon we hopped on the Amtrak Empire Builder and away we went. Debbie has been on Amtrak before, but I hadn’t and neither of us had slept on a train. I had booked a sleeper car which was nice, but very small. We had to sleep in bunk type beds that brought back memories of childhood. Along with the sleeper came dinner in the dining car! I was very impressed  with the quality of food on the train. Sure beats airline food any day! Then came sleeping……oh boy! Debbie had chosen the upper bunk which she later regretted as it was small, hard, and had no window to look out. She got little sleep and I didn’t fare much better! With all the rocking and noises and whistle stops, I mostly watched the clock and tossed.

We arrived in Whitefish early the next morning bleary eyed but ready to start our adventure! We got shuttled to our hotel, the Grouse Mountain Lodge, which was a big beautiful lodge right on a golf course. There would be no golfing on this trip as there was still snow on the ground. Even though it was early morning, our room was already ready so we could head right up and get freshened up. Even though we were dead tired, we decided to head up to the slopes for a half day of skiing. After a quick breakfast, we got the shuttle and headed to Big Mountain at Whitefish Mountain Resort! It was beautiful and the weather was gorgeous, warm, and not a cloud in the sky. It was a perfect day of spring skiing and we had a blast. We skied pretty good for not having much sleep, but once we got back to the lodge, we didn’t last very long. The next day we put in a full day on the slopes then went into town after we were worn out. Whitefish is a very cool place surrounded by mountains and lakes. As we usually do when we visit new places, we think we might like to live in them and Whitefish was no different. This place has possibilities for a future place for us to land after retirement and could be a target on our six-year plan as Debbie will have 30 years in the State Retirement System and can throw the working world away! We plan on a return trip to spend more time checking things out.

After walking around town and grabbing a bite, we headed back to the lodge and readied for our trip home. It would be another all nighter on the train again and we had a plan. Deb took the lower bunk and I had to suffer above. We headed to the lounge car and had a few adult beverages to get us happy and tired. When we were ready to crash, took a couple of Tylenol PM, shoved in some ear plugs, and hoped for the best. It helped, but we still only got a fitful night’s sleep but managed to get up before the last call for breakfast. As I type this back in our warm cozy home sore, tired, ready to sleep in my own bed, I realize I won’t get to posting the pictures on our Flickr page until sometime later, so I won’t even post this until I do. It may be a few days before you even read this.  It was worth every sore muscle and every hour of lost sleep and another anniversary memory to never forget!

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