Monthly Archives: January 2017

The 2017 Australian Open

Tennis Grand Slam events are wonderful. To me they are the ultimate elimination bracket championship in sports (I realize many will disagree and side with the NCAA basketball tournament, but as someone with strong reservations about “amateur” college sports I have a stronger affinity for tennis). This year I caught small pieces of many matches via Sling TV.

By the time the championship matches arrived this past weekend, there was much talk of the tournament being a throwback. This talk was based on the Williams vs Williams and Federer vs Nadal matches, but it could have included my viewing behavior too. In the 2008-2012 window of time I would watch large amounts of tennis majors–especially the Australian Open. I returned to form this year, watching the majority of both finals in the wee hours of the morning.

In the women’s final I didn’t have a strong rooting interest. I found myself pulling for Venus, since she was such an underdog. But when Serena established her dominance I didn’t mind. The match was entertaining, but not particularly memorable. The story was great; the tennis was okay. I think the women’s matches lose out on a lot by being best of three. There is only so much drama that can fit in three sets, and two set finals are too common.

The men’s final was poetry. I’m a big Federer fan, so his return from injury and success in Australia was a source of happiness. When I get old I expect to tell people I watched the greatest tennis player of all time. I was hoping for a Federer vs Nadal final, since it might be the last championship clash between these titans of the court. Even though Nadal is Fed’s nemesis, I feel nothing but respect for him. In fact, if I’m honest, there is a part of me that fears him. He has a pocketful of kryptonite, derailing Federer even when he was playing otherworldly tennis.

The match did not disappoint. When the decisive fifth set began with Nadal breaking Federer’s serve I was worried. But Federer played inspired tennis. He attacked Nadal’s serve with fury. In the moments of highest tension he came through with a break. And then another break. In a very close match he edged ahead when it mattered most. Masterful tennis from a legend.

Every time I watch tennis I start to get the urge to play again. I need to get out on the court. . .


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Christmas in Montana

Pam and I (and Pip) spent Christmas in Essex, MT with the Crane family. We stayed in a cabin owned by the Izaak Walton Inn.

Essex has no stores, no stop lights, and beautiful open country. The main draw is the Inn and the 60 km of cross country skiing trails.

Prior to this trip I had not cross country skied. Many years ago Jon and I used to treat a set of strap-on cross country skis like downhill skis in the backyard, but that involved bombing down a hill and crashing (for me at least). I got some helpful pointers from Charlie and Nancy, which kept me upright on my final run of the day on green and blue trails. Before those pointers I had several crashes.

The Izaak Walton Inn has the primary inn building, cabins, and rail cars that are outfitted as rooms. The rail cars are a very cool touch. Some of them are along the ski trails, so you could drop right out the door onto the trails.

Traveling to and from Montana, Pam and I took the train. We had a roomette, which is easy to picture: just imagine a small cubicle with two train seats and a fold-down bunk modeled after submarine sleeping quarters. It was a very fun way to travel. We took the Coast Starlight from SLO to Portland (well, we were supposed to do that, a delay caused us to divert to a bus from Klamath Falls to Pasco), then the Empire Builder from Portland to Essex. It was fitting we played Ticket to Ride several times during this vacation.


My travel buddies in our roomette.

Living in a place lacking a winter makes me appreciate cold temperatures and snow when I get it. Essex definitely scratched the winter itch, with snow falling more often than not when we were there, and the air crisp and cold. We were prepared for temperatures below zero ºF, but it stayed in the balmy 10-30 °F range. Perfect for skiing and keeping fingers thawed. I believe we got to Essex at its best. Lots of snow. Cold but not too cold.

During this trip I also got to spend some time at the cabin Pam’s grandfather built in Essex. It is a sweet cabin, with a sweeping panoramic view of Glacier National Park. Plus there is a hot tub on the deck, so you can soak in comfort while taking in the scene.


The view from inside the cabin Pam’s grandfather built, the hot tub is in the lower left foreground.

This trip also allowed the newest Crane cousins a chance to meet again. It won’t be long before they can play together.


The meeting of the cousins, both of them were very quiet this weekend.

It was great to see family, eat good food, drink Montana beer, and ski.


A family picture in the cabin.


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