Jay's "Home Trip" to the U.S.A. - Fall 2009

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This year Nicole agreed to me taking a 3-month break from our life in Israel to visit family and friends back in the U.S.A.

So, in August I flew from Tel Aviv to Wisconsin, via New York, Ohio and Michigan ... a long trip!

For those who don't know, Wisconsin is located in the upper-middle part of the US, near the border with Canada.

Wisconsin is surrounded by the states of Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois and Michigan.  

Lake Superior and Lake Michigan also make borders.

Virtually all of the half-million residents of this area have northern European ancestry, since the climate & growing conditions were similar to where the early immigrants came from.

Wisconsin was flattened by ancient glaciers; there is farm land in the south and forests in the north; with lakes and rivers scattered all over the place.

My home town is called Kaukauna, which is located between the bigger cities of Green Bay and Appleton. Many towns in the central US have retained names derived from early Indian tribes.

I arrived during what is normally the nicest part of the year; with warm days and pleasant nights.

Everything was green and, even though there hadn't been much rain, everything in Mom & Dad's backyard was looking pretty nice.

After unpacking I opened my big mouth and asked my Dad if there were any projects that needed to be worked on.

It seemed that the deck needed scraping and painting ... my question came at the perfect time for him ... but not for my back!


My sisters live locally, so my mom organized a nice get-together on the newly painted deck.
I unfortunately didn't take any pictures ...  so below I will use some pictures from last year.

Mom (Clarice) and Dad (Wayne)

Sisters Lori & Pam

Chelsea & Kahla (nieces)
 and Tom, Jr. (nephew)

I set up a work place in the 'family room' where dad has the TV and his computer; it was actually quite comfortable.

I found myself working on the various family computers, which took a lot of time ... next time I need to focus on spending more time outside! 

It took me a while to go through my mail (almost a year's worth) and to get caught up with my tax returns and other paperwork.  I do my banking online, so luckily there were no bills to be paid!

I have a storage unit to hold all the stuff (junk) that I couldn't take with me. I made shelves and got things quite organized ... the truck can even fit in there too.    Just don't ask why I keep all this stuff :( Dad and I went through all of our electronics; we made a trip to the recycler with all the old crap. 


I got to attend an annual "corn roast" hosted by Annette & Steve, who live out of town. The party was centered in the garage, by the food & beer, but migrated to the volleyball court as it cooled down.   Classmates Karl, Jay & Steve ... all members of "The 50s Club" !

<== The highlight of this party has always been the bonfire; this year there were no real big items to burn, just scraps.

Annette and daughter Amanda make plans to get the fire going.

Steve moved the keg outside ... and everyone else followed. As more people showed up it seemed like a high school class reunion ... here are Mary, Joe, Tom, Vicki, Bruce and Paul. We should have parties like this instead of formal class reunions!


The fire began and was much better than we had anticipated. 

Annette's spiked cherries were deliciously tongue numbing; there was enough for all!

The weather was perfect and ...
there were no mosquitoes :)


The group spent hours by the fire, until the last wood was put on the fire; that's when Steve's legs became the next barbequed item. The beer was consumed and the place cleaned up ... a success!

I was also able to attend a Green Bay Packer football game.  Dad and I got to the parking lot before the game and had a "tail-gate party".  We grilled sausages, drank micro-beer and played cards while watching all the other people having parties.  Oh yeah, the game was pretty good too!

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We went "up north" to the cabin and I was able to play around with the latest 4-wheelie toy.  The wooden deck normally looks over a small lake, but it has been drying up because of the lack of rain.

Dad was in charge of making dinner.  He decided to have a BBQ at the fire pit, my favorite!

It was a great bachelor's meal of beans & bratwurst ... with a bloody mary & beer chaser; all things I cannot get in Israel.

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The fire was lit and after a short while it was ready for grilling. After dinner we stoked the fire with more wood.  The forest offered an unlimited supply of wood, which meant a great bonfire!

Earlier in 2009, I contacted some friends that I had met while working in Sunnyvale; we made plans to meet for a little reunion.

Towards the end of August I headed to California to meet up with them and to visit some relatives along the way.

I decided to drive so that I could take a lot of stuff, and have a flexible schedule.  My itinerary took me west through Colorado, with my first stop in Denver to see my nephew TJ.

The drive to Denver took about 20 hours. I only took a few breaks at rest stops; it was cool to have internet access at most of these places.

Once on the major highway, I was able to relax and the drive was over before I knew it. 

TJ was renovating his place, but he declined my offer to help ... 

 ... so we got three rounds of golf in before the weather turned bad.

I continued westward; after an 18 hour drive I made it to Reno, Nevada ... to play golf with Uncle Don.
It was HOT and DRY on the golf course, but it was great to be out of the car and walking around. 

We stayed at cousin Dean's place, which is on a river; it was nice and relaxing ... and cool !
After a few days of golfing and hanging out in Dean's "Man Cave", I headed to Silicon Valley.  

I met up with Bill, a co-worker from my first job, who is now living back in Sunnyvale

<==  Bill welcomed me
with an excellent dinner
... he's quite a master chef!

The next evening we  ==> 
had a little reunion with 
 Mike, Pam, Kate & Bill; 
everyone is doing well! 

 Background:  Mike and I meet every year for a sporting contest, called the "Winner of the Week".
Each day we play a number of sports, or games, to see who is the 'winner of the day'.  
At the end of the week, whomever wins the most days, is the "Winner of the Week"

Mike flew in from Virginia and we played a round of golf on the first day.  He is a much better 
golfer, but I made less mistakes and easily won the round ... Jay is the Winner of Day #1

The next day we visited Tom at the Las Brisas complex, where I used to live ... he's still there!

We played: billiards (Mike won),
ping pong (Jay won), 
and tennis (Jay won);

 Jay is the Winner of Day #2

The next day we headed up to Lake Tahoe, where we would hang out for five more days.

I stopped in Tahoe City and drove by my old condo; it's still nice!

The river level was very low and there were no rafters.  I had also heard that Lake Tahoe was quite low ... but I never imagined that it could be so bad.

The docks along the shore were no longer even near to the water.

The group of trees in the picture above used to be a little island ... I once scuba dove around it !  
It will take many, many years of above-average rainfall or snow to fill the lake back up.

I drove around the top of the lake and met up with Bill at Zephyr cove. This beautiful beach was still in great condition.

The Tahoe Gal went by, paddling tourists around the lake.

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Bill and I relaxed, watching the college kids playing around on the beach. The summer was nearing an end and this was their last chance to have fun.

I miss those types of parties ... but not the resulting hangovers!

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We then met up with Mike & Tom at South Lake Tahoe, where we got settled into Mike's timeshare.
After dinner in town we tried our luck at gambling ... only to prove we weren't any good at slots.

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At the timeshare we made ourselves comfortable with good music, great food, and unlimited beer!

On Labor Day we traveled to Reno to attend the annual Rib Festival ... lots of people & good food!

I took the guys to visit my cousin Dean at his popular pizza place ... called the Blind Onion.

He treated us like kings and we got to sample what is easily
"The Best Pizza in Reno"!

On the way back from Reno, we stopped at pretty Sand Harbor to test out Bill's kayak at the beach.

This is the same boat that I ordered on Amazon and that Kelley brought out to Tel Aviv for me.  
It's a great craft that fits in the trunk and quickly inflates; providing good exercise and nice views!

The next day Mike & I got back into our sports contest.  We played golf and had a close game ... but I ended up winning.

My victory was not convincing, so we played billiards and Mike won.  We began to play tennis but Mike hurt his knee.  To decide the winner of the day, we played scrabble ... and I won!

Jay was now leading the "Winner of the Week" competition 3 - 0 ... and Mike had a hurt leg!

Bill and Tom left the resort, which meant Mike and I had some room to spread out.  We reviewed maps & searched for coupons to plan the golf for the rest of the week.

The next day we traveled up to Northstar, one of the prettiest golf courses in the area; it is also a popular ski hill in winter.

The front nine was in a meadow; the long and flat fairways benefited Mike and his long hits.  
The back nine was in the mountain and required accuracy, which was to my benefit.  

Sometimes the map would indicate a ditch ... but it was really a 50 foot canyon = many lost balls. 
Mike won the front and I won the back, but Mike had a better total score ... by one point!

On the drive back we had a nice view of the lake; this entire area is truly majestic. 

We stopped at a casino and a blackjack dealer (animated) caught our attention.  After five hours, and quite a few free drinks, we were even ... so we happily returned to the resort for the sunset.

We got back early, so we played a quick billiard match ... I surprisingly won. Since Mike could no longer play tennis or ping pong, we played scrabble by the pool ... Mike won and was Winner of Day #4

We then sat in the jacuzzi to relax our aching muscles; it was a busy days for two ageing guys.
The view looking over Nevada was really nice ... but the sunset over Tahoe was even better!

During the next two days we played golf nearby the resort.  One course was in Nevada and was quite dry, whereas the Lake Tahoe course was lush and green.  Mike played great and won all the golf points each day.  Even though I won in billiards & scrabble, Mike was Winner of Days #5 and #6 

Winner of the Week Summary: The score is now tied at 3-3 ... with only one day left! 

Unfortunately our time at Lake Tahoe was nearly finished ... so we took in some last sights.
I enjoy this area and am saddened to think that it'll be many years before I return.

The next day we drove back to Sunnyvale; it was cloudy and cool, which made our last round of golf very comfortable. Mike was quite 'wild' and got flustered early after losing a few balls.   I was leading by a couple strokes when it got dark and we had to quit, after 17 holes ... Jay was the Winner of Day #7. 

Winner of the Week Results: Jay narrowly wins
by 4 - 3 ... yeah ! 

Note: Mike totaled up our golf strokes for the entire week.  It turned out that after six rounds of golf ... we were exactly tied!   We enjoy the fact that we are closely matched in so many activities.

I took Mike to the airport the next day so that he could fly back home to D.C. to join his wife and little girl. We are very lucky to be able to get away from our families to have outings like this!

This concludes the 1st part of my home trip story ... click here to continue to the 2nd part