Oooh, fun and games! This was a blast! I had so much fun, as did we all.
First off, the flight was uneventful, and much shorter than I anticipated. Oh, I knew it wasn't going to be long getting from southern California to Utah, but somehow in my gut, I always expect a plane flight to be five hours long and involve one stopover. Intellectually, I knew this wasn't going to be nearly that bad, but emotionally, it was still a surprise to descend and land after only an hour and 45mins, roughly.
While we were descending, both Cindy and I could see "red stuff" in the mountains, and had no clue what it was. Turns out it was fall color! I felt so homesick for the east coast -- the trees were magnificently colored, all aspens and scrub oaks, and every variety of orange and yellow and pink you could imagine. It wasn't in quite the profusion that it is on the east coast (there were large patches of green and brown on the mountains between the reds and yellows), but it was gorgeous nonetheless. The area near the airport and Salt Lake City is very similar to southern California, with the exception of the clarity of the air. It looked pretty much identical to the foothills in Pasadena, except you could see every ridge of mountains out to the horizon. It wasn't until we got up into the mountains near Sundance on the van that the reds and the golds came out of the mountains and suddenly the landscape changed. Two hours in a van, and it felt like we had gone from LA to Pennsylvania with the shift in landscape. Utah can apparently masquerade as every state in the Union.
We were also fairly high up -- about 5,000ft at the SLC airport. I felt merely tired, but Cindy as a veteran skier was able to recognize it as altitude fatigue immediately, and moreover pinpointed us at about 5K above sea level. By the time we got to the resort, it was more like 6K, and I could feel it.
The Sundance resort is also just gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous. Everything is bare or stained wood, literally everything, including the buildings which are made of wood. Not so much country as rustic, which is my all-time favorite decorating style. It was all very much like a beautiful hunting lodge without the dead animal heads. Perfect.
Everyone who worked there was also spookily perfect -- all young (under 25), fit, and exceptionally attractive. We didn't get a bad-looking waiter the whole time we were there, and let me tell you, it was nice to realize as Cindy did, that the only men in the dining hall while we were eating with the other attendees were exceptionally attractive young men who were serving us. O:-) They must hire for looks to present a very fresh-scrubbed, healthy, youthful image as a resort, as well as ability.
There wasn't an ounce of snow anywhere on the ground (perfect slightly brisk but warm-in-the-sun fall weather, just picture-perfect), but the ski lift was still operating as a sightseeing vehicle, and we all took it -- Kim and Cindy with cameras in hand. The views were spectacular, and I hope that the pictures come out. It wasn't a trivial ride, though, and took some time. By the time we got to the top, I was definitely feeling it in my lungs, and given the state of my lungs, I entertained mild fears of a pneumothorax which never materialized. I probably shouldn't have gotten on the lift at all, but it was too beautiful not to, and I'm glad I did. I don't think I'll ever forget those views.
Meals at the conference were fabulous -- they really wined and dined us. The first dinner consisted of barbecued chicken or vegetables, corn on the cob, a delicious salad, and key lime pie! It was buffet style, so you could eat as much as you wanted, and they had chardonnay and cabernet both (Kim and Sid got the chard, Cindy and I the cab). The food wasn't at all the fancy airline food that you'd expect from a catered affair. It was very high quality, and we ate like empresses the whole time we were there. The second night was just as good, with a ratatouille-type stew and the same wondeful wines. Dessert was chocolate and cocoanut/lemon cake, but I couldn't fit it down.
The restaurant adjoining the resort was also wonderful, and we got a really nice lunch there the first day we arrived. Garlic-mashed potatoes, a wonderful caesar salad, and on Saturday an amazing chocolate dessert -- a little warm, gooey lump of chocolate cement, with fresh blueberries and raspberries, and a little scoop of vanilla ice cream. HEAVEN, I'm telling you. And the most darling-looking fresh-scrubbed, close-shaven young waiters you can imagine, two of whom Sid and I noticed were lefthanded.
We didn't stay at Sundance, purely because by the time we reserved a room (Sidra's company very graciously agreed to expense the whole thing given that she was able to give Alpine's GPS navigating systems a lot of nice PR), there were no vacancies. So we stayed at a nearby golf resort called "Inn at the Creek," and let me tell you -- had the suite been equipped with a kitchen, it would have been oodles nicer than my apartment. This place was gorgeous -- a huge spa-type tub, too, which we didn't even use. Instead, we hit the hot-tub near the pool. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Saturday was a really busy day with panels and speakers and films galore, so we didn't get a chance to wander or goof off, but Sunday afternoon, we could take a little time to ourselves and decided to go up to the Sundance stables and do a trail ride. I'd never been on the back of a horse before (something that still amazes Cindy for some reason), and I had the most fun. I was also concerned about this since a fall that could merely break a bone for an able-bodied person could blind or kill someone with Marfan, but my aorta is in fairly good shape, and I don't want to shy away from doing wonderful things until the day when I absolutely can't do them at all. I don't take silly risks, but I wanted to ride a horse, damn it, and I did! His name was Tipper, and he was whitish with silvery spots on him -- very attentive, mellow as all trail horses are I suppose, and responsive to me. It was a delightful experience to communicate to him what I wanted him to do, and have him understand! A wonderful wordless mental communication between me and him. Lean the reins one way, and he'll respond to you. Say this, and he'll stop or start walking. I certainly couldn't have carried him on my back for an hour-45, and I made sure to give him lots of love pats and forehead-rubs to thank him for his efforts on my behalf. If you aren't going to enjoy the warmth and specialness of communication between two living beings, hell -- you might as well drive a car.
Later that night, we bid our trusty steeds adieu and returned to the resort for a wine-and-schmooze with the Utah Film Commission, which was only too happy to promote themselves to a roomful of journalists. They are very interested in Sundance given the publicity surrounding the Sundance Film Festival, and unless I miss my guess, the UFC and that festival will conspire to make Utah one of the centers of the film industry. A lot of movies and TV shows are already filmed there, given the chameleon-like qualities and natural beauty that I mentioned above. And boy let me tell you, they fed us. This was our first experience as recipients of Quality Schmooze, and the smoked salmon, wonderful wines, and shrimp cocktails (BIG things, too, not those tiny little frozen ones) that must have seemed like old hat to some of the women there impressed the hell out of us.
After that, we moved immediately to dinner (both Cindy and I thought that the Schmooze Food was dinner!) and ate more and listened to some presentations and fun. Dinner this time was not in the rehearsal hall, but in the registration room. Cindy, Sid, and I sat outside freezing but holding a wild conversation about everything under the sun that seemed to attract lots of participants; I guess they heard us all waxing bombastic, laughing, and waving our arms and wanted to see what the fuss was about. Kim was inside schmoozing away with her table.
And after the dinner, one of the women somehow got a bra from one of the third wave panel members, Mylene, and we decided that we just had to burn it! Note for any male or uptight readers: IT WAS A JOKE. WE WERE KIDDING AND LAUGHING OUT ASSES OFF ABOUT IT THE WHOLE TIME. Sort of, "Look, we're feminists! Let's burn a bra! *uproarious laughter*" So out we trooped to the firepit and lit the thing on fire. Some people were unable to get their cameras to work in time, so I sacrificed one of mine, taking it off from under my shirt (you'd be surprised how easy it is) and watching it go up in smoke courtesy of Sidra's pocket lighter. We all joked at how, if the mainstream male media had covered the JAWS event, that would have been the only picture they would have taken at the whole event, and what was a larky joke would have been transformed into a screaming 200-point headlines: "FEMINISTS BURN BRA AT MANLESS JOURNALISM CONVENTION."
When we got back to the Inn at around 10pm, Cindy, Sid, and Kim were going to put on their swimsuits, trek out to the hot tub outside (in 50-degree weather) and climb in. I whined a bit about how I didn't want to freeze my ass off trooping out to the hot tub, no that's okay, you guys go on without me, I'll be fine . . . and somehow wound up in my swimsuit anyhow, dashing out to the hot tub and bubbling like a tempura shrimp with the rest of us. That was easily a high point -- it was clear as a bell, with a nice full moon shining overhead, and my glasses kept fogging up (we all have glasses, but Kim did the sensible thing and didn't wear hers. I'd have tripped over flat ground without mine on, though). So we sat there, shooting the breeze for over an hour until getting out, drying ourselves off as much as possible, and burning asphalt to run back to the room in time to not freeze our asses off. Too late -- I did, but man did I sleep well that night.
The next day, it was time to go, so we had a continental breakfast that morning at the hotel, and then it was off to the airport to return to southern California! I caught the train back to San Diego, and was greeted by my burly-girly kittycats when I got home. I always miss those little monsters so much when I'm away, and spend more time than I should worrying about them.
So anyhow, if you get a chance to visit Sundance, definitely do so -- in the autumn if you like color, and the winter if you like snow. The conference itself was fabulous, the setting was great, the food to die for, and the recreation was a blast!