Sunday, February 22, 2009

When I grow up....

When I grow up, I want to be Lou. Or Tom. Either one.

I met Lou and Tom Sunday. They are friends of a friend, Craig, a former Boulderite who moved permanently up to Silverthorne, right next to many Colorado ski resorts. Craig is in his 50's and 'retired'. He is in fantastic shape; he skis almost every day. But I am getting away from Lou and Tom.

Lou and Tom are also retired. They also live in Silverthorne. Lou and Tom are old enough to be my Dad; Lou is almost 70 (not sure exactly how old Tom is). Lou and Tom ski almost every day. Lou noted that he gets into the back country about 3 times a week. Back country means skinning, which means hard physical exertion. These old guys are in awesome shape! These old guys kicked my butt!

This is Tom

This is Lou

Tom had planned a back country trek along the infamous 'Commando Run' and Craig was kind enough to invite Jesper and me along. This ski trek starts at Vail Pass and ends at Vail Ski Resort, some 15 miles to the north. Back in the 1940's, the Army's 10th Mountain Division did the Commando Run as part of their training. The trek travels northwest over Shrine Pass and Two Elk Pass before ascending up Siberia Peak and the into what is now Vail Resort via the back bowls.

The trip is not about downhill skiing, although we wore downhill tele skis and there is a reported 5,000 or so feet of descending. With 2,500 feet of climbing and most of the descending consumed in up and down rollers along ridge lines, this trip is more about getting 'out there' into amazing mountain vistas than it is about downhill skiing. It is also about working your butt off all day long.

The plan, as conveyed to us by Craig via email and a brief telephone conversation, was to meet at 7:30 am at the Rio restaurant on Main Street on Frisco. We had a bit of a drive from Boulder, so Jesper and I set our alarm for 5 freakin' am and were on the road at 5:30. As we approached Frisco, we weren't sure which exit it was, so we called Craig. No answer. Apparently, his cell phone was already stuffed in his back pack. We found Main Street and drove the length of it - nothing called Rio. Hmmmmm...

So, we pulled around at Mexican restaurant with a completely different name and prepared to call Craig, who had extracted his cell phone and was calling us at the same time. After a few minutes, we figured out that we were at the right restaurant - the guys were parked on the other side. Come to find that the restaurant used to be called Rio 10 years ago! These guys still refer to it as Rio and it never occurred to them we wouldn't know, even though we've only been on Colorado for 4 years and we don't live in Summit County! We all had a good laugh; it was a humorous way to start the day out, and the trend continued.

We donned our gear, including avy beacons, and set off. The parking lot was filled with skiers, snow boarders and snow mobilers. No wonder there were lots of people; it was warm and sunny - almost like a spring day. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and wouldn't be the entire day. No wind either. You could not ask for a prettier day.

Parking lot filled with skiers and snow mobilers on a blue bird day

Despite the crowds at the parking lot, people dispersed onto the various trail options and we soon only encountered a few other skiers from another group. We skinned up the drainage basin of Ten Mile and Turkey Creeks, wide expanses of snow that Tom promised morphed into glorious wild flower meadows in the summer.

Jesper and Dennis skinning up an alpine meadow

Lou set off first like he was in a race. I thought to myself, "surely this old guy won't be able to maintain that pace" --- WRONG! Lou kept this up all day almost until the very end. Layers were shed as we warmed up and we all soon were skinning without jackets.

As we attained a high meadow, the Sawatch Range appeared to our left, dominated by Mount Holy Cross, striking with it's snow cross markings. The extremely rugged Gore Range majestically appeared to our right, Tom swearing our vantage point was the most beautiful view of this mountain range. Untracked white fields of snow in the foreground with rocky, snow covered peaks as far as the eye can see; the views were unbelievably beautiful.

Jesper and me, with Mount Holy Cross in the background (photo credit Craig McNeill)

After a few miles of some uphill and some rollers, we pointed our skis straight up the fall line, the actual trail zig zagging underneath us using switchbacks we were not obligated to follow on the snow. Lou finally slowed down a bit to accommodate my slower uphill pace. I was not able to go as fast I as would have liked due to a bum left thumb, which I had sprained the weekend prior. It was still very sore and I couldn't use my left hand to push off my pole, significantly diminishing the power I could generate (I may not have gone on the trip at all had I known how much trouble my thumb would end up giving me, but I'm certainly glad I went now).

We continued to climb, stopping to eat our lunch at aptly named 'Lunch Rock'. The location was exposed and windy, so we soon cooled down and felt the need to get moving to generate some heat. Personally, I would have chosen another, more sheltered location, for lunch. However, Lunch Rock, which looked like a big marshmallow as we approached it, afforded spectacular views of Copper Resort and the Ten Mile Range to the southeast and the Gore Range to the east.

Lou approaching marshmallow-looking Lunch Rock (photo credit Craig McNeill)

Me and Dennis at Lunch Rock with Copper Ski Resort and the Ten Mile Range in the background (photo credit Criag McNeill)

After Lunch Rock, we skinned through the trees along a ridge line and hit our high point of the day, somewhere around 11,700 feet. Jesper and I had our GPS units and maps and knew the official track stayed to the east and north, but we were just following the other guys, who have done the route numerous times. A debate ensued between Lou and Tom about how long to stay to the right up on the ridge and when to descend.

Lou and Dennis on the ridge before we prematurely descended

Finally, the desire to ski some downhill won out and we descended through the steep trees in some luscious untracked powder. When we got down, Lou proclaimed, "Crap, we went down too soon!" Instead of staying high and ending up at Two Elk Pass in position to summit Siberia Peak, we had dropped down and ended up at Two Elk Creek, just outside of and at the bottom of Vail's Mongolia Bowl. We had added a lot more climbing to our day.

We snacked and put our skins back on for the long slog up Vail's Silk Road; all the way from Two Elk Creek up to Two Elk Lodge, bypassing Siberia Peak itself and staying on its western flank. We crossed over and up Mongolia Bowl, Siberia Bowl and China Bowl, all of which were closing for the day. It was strange to see the last remaining skiers and snow boarders out there, knowing they had been riding the lifts all day while we had climbed all the way using our own powers.

More uphill skinning at the end of the day

We skinned back out of bounds up on the ridge line above the Mushroom Bowl. A large cornice paved the way down to a steep and cliffed drop, probably quite avalanche prone, which NONE of us felt inclined to attempt. We stayed on the ridge line until we encountered a rock gully we needed to negotiate to get back down to Vail proper. Skis came off for this one! From then on, it was a short skate ski to Two Elk Lodge, which was long closed by this time.

Jesper making his way toward Two Elk Lodge (tough to see but down the white slope toward the left)

All that was left for the day was to ski down one of Vail's fine ski runs to the car. We opted to ski down the black diamond run Blue Ox, usually a nice run, but that day a sheet of ice from all the radiant heating! Legs tired from skinning up and up all day, we all struggled on Blue Ox. Lou finally succumbed to the effects of his blazing pace and wiped out hard. He finished the day with a bloody nose, but still in good spirits. Everyone was glad to make it off the tilted ice rink that Blue Ox had become.

We were done. We were tired. We were satisfied. I was wonked! Those old guys kicked my ass! I thoroughly enjoyed it and hope that Jesper and I will, one day, be retired and able to ski every day in the back country like Lou and Tom. Yep - I want to be Lou or Tom when I grow up!

The whole Gang - Dennis, Lou, Craig, Me, Jesper, Tom (photo credit some guy from the other group with Craig McNeill's camera)

Stats: 15.7 miles; 4:26 moving time (3:00 stopped time); 3.1 mph average moving time; 2 mph avg overall time; elevation gain ~2,500 feet; lots of laughs.

White squiggly line is our track (click on the pic and its easier to see)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Happy Valenmetime's Weekend!!

Jesper and I love skiing and we love each other. What better way to celebrate Valenmetime's Weekend than skiing together?!?!?

(BTW - don't ask about the special spelling of Valentine's - it's a long story rooted in high school silliness and will make some old friends giggle when they read this, especially if they are eating a sammich with mamonaise on da half side).

We were so excited to hit the slopes before the anticipated Prez Day/V-Day crowds, we got to Mary Jane on Saturday morning 45 minutes before the lifts were even running!! We scored a parking spot within spitting distance of the Super Gauge Express Lift! Guess we didn't have to get up at 5:15 am afterall.

Proof that we parked right next to the Super Gauge Express, which is in the background!

I brought Flat Ben Jr. along - I fear I will need to mail him back to Ohio soon. He tagged along safely tucked into my pack. He's been having a great time skiing Colorado's fine resorts.

FBJ peeking out of my pack

Jesper and I skied Winter Park/Mary Jane on Saturday and finally made it over to the Vasquez Cirque. We had wanted to get over to this area for a couple of years, ever since we felt our skills could handle it. The Vasquez Cirque is a hike-in double black diamond EX area accessed off the top of the Parsenn Bowl at over 12,000 feet. The skiable terrain is reached by a long hike or skate ski in along a ridge; skins might not be a bad idea. Steep open bowls that drop into pine glades can be accessed after a mile long hike. Or, the hike can be made quite a bit longer with another mile of drop-in points along some cliffed out chutes that dump into the same trees. All the "runs" funnel onto a flat but winding traverse through the trees to the bottom of the Eagle Wind lift.

The Cirque is considered part of the resort in that it is avalanche controlled. However, it's a big area and not routinely patrolled. Due to the remoteness and the round trip time it takes to make it through this area, the Vasquez Cirque is frequently closed when the weather is even the teensiest bit foul.

And for the last two years, it has either been closed for weather when we have been there or we have been skiing with friends who would not appreciate the long hike in or the challenging terrain (or both). When we saw the OPEN sign on Saturday, we were stoked!!

We skate skied out along the ridge, trying to decide how far to go before we dropped in.

Jesper standing near the first drop-in point: let's go further!

We opted to continue further past the first drop-in opportunity, mostly because we both needed to pee and we had to make it to a clump of trees just past the West Headwall for some privacy. You can see the cornice along the edge of the Cirque in the photo above and the rocks between the West Headwall and the Alphabet Chutes. It is there that we eventually made our way. With a rock outcropping immediately to skiers left, we eyeballed a drop-in that appeared less steep than some of the other approaches.

Jesper checking out our point of entry down the Cirque

OK - it was pretty steep, but the snow looked very nice. Jesper went in first.

The trees down below look like those fake ones on a model train set

It was a long run down to the trees.

Now Jesper looks like a tiny toy

We alternated going down. You'll have to check out Jesper's pics to see the ones of me. I got a sweet shot of Jesper from a vantage point below him. Look how nice his form is - shoulders pointed straight down the fall line!

Jesper charging the slope head on!

But we're still not down yet!

Jesper almost down to the trees

As we approached the tree line, we poked down into a little mini bowl ringed with trees and large rock out croppings. It was beyond beautiful.

Jesper with the Big Hard Sun behind him

Jesper smiling BIG!

The snow was so deep, you can't see Jesper's legs below the knees!

We dumped out onto the traverse and took the Eagle Wind Lift up, then skied down the side of the Parsenn Bowl back to the bottom of the Sunny Side lift. After all that hiking and powder skiing, it was time for lunch!

Although the clouds were moving in, we decided to see if we could get one more try at the Vasquez Cirque after eating. Surprisingly, it was still open! I am glad we had good visibility on our first outing, since we couldn't see a thing on our second trip; it was snowing pretty hard. We dropped in almost as soon as we saw the OPEN signs between the South and West Headwalls.

Jesper skiing down in a white out

Although we couldn't see very far, we found some fantastic POW and took some cool video. We finished up the day with a cold 1554 at the Jane.

YUM 1554 - foggy effect courtesy of thawing camera

The next day, we once again got up at 5:15 am, this time for a day of skiing at Copper with our friend Tim Shanahan. Tim is the most enthusiastic skier I have ever met. He bounces and smiles all the way down the slope and you can't help but feel energized when you ski with him. Except when your legs are wonked from 2 trips to the Vasque Cirque the day before.

Once again, we beat imagined crowds to the resort and were among the first people in line for the lift. We did one warm up and then took Tim up the Storm King pommel lift, with the intention of heading down Spaulding Bowl.

Tim at the top of the Storm King lift - amazing white snowiness (or is that snowy whiteness?) everywhere!

Spaulding was not open yet, so we entered Copper Bowl for a couple of rough runs. It was really cold and the snow was funky because of it; very slow in places and then faster where the sun was warming it up. It was going to be a blue bird day, so I was confident the snow would soften and get faster, which it eventually did.

As soon as we saw the Cat running, we coerced Tim to ski down to it for a run down Tucker (OK - Tim was game for absolutely everything we suggested the entire day; no coercion necessary). The Cat at Copper is free and takes 10-12 skiers at a time up to a ridge line on Tucker Mountain. From the ridge line, you hike (yes- more hiking) up the ridge to one of several drop-in points. On the picture below, the Cat deposits you off to the right side of the picture, and you hike to one of many drop-in opportunities; we hiked out as far to the left as we could that day, to Freemont Glade 2. All the runs off Tucker are considered double black diamonds, with the Freemont Glades also being designated EX. It's steep and remote.

But I am getting ahead of myself. Before we could even get to the hiking and skiing, we had some waiting to do. The Avie Control guys were still finishing up their patrol of Tucker and then we had to wait for room in the Cat.

There were 43 people in this line! Good thing we were near the front!

We entertained ourselves with FBJ while we waited and used the time to get some food down.

Jesper, FBJ and Tim hanging out in line for the Cat up Tucker

Jesper having a snack and FBJ enjoying the mountain views

The Cat ride is kinda cool. We got a little briefing on the conditions from a patroller while riding up. The snow was reported to be variable and challenging to ski. Hmmm.. hadn't softened up completely yet.

Tim, wondering why I'm disturbing him from the patroller's briefing

It's a lot of work getting up to these runs. After the hike, we put our skis back on for the downhill fun!

The views are pretty amazing up here! (photo credit Jesper Kristensen)

The run down was totally worth the wait and the hike, according to Tim.

Tim coming down Tucker like Tigger on skis (photo credit Jesper Kristensen)

I think Jesper might be enjoying himself coming down Freemont 2!

Me, throwing chunks of "variable and challenging" snow on Tucker (photo credit Jesper Kristensen)

After all that hiking and challenging skiing, we needed sustenance! We did a couple more runs in the Copper Bowl and then we skied down Gold Digger (very nice) to the T-Rex grill. Believe me, hot dogs are delicious at 10,000 feet!

Jesper inhaling one of two gourmet hot dogs

Flat Ben Junior came out of the pack to hang out again with his buddies.

Tim, Flat Ben Junior and Jesper, messing with FBJ at lunch

We kept on skiing, despite Tim's earlier prediction that he would only make it to 10:30! Jesper lead us all over the mountain. We only stopped after I hyper-extended my thumb on the icy, rocky, "single track" to Lower Enchanted Forest. Despite the injury (I HOPE it's just sprained), it was still a great day and a great weekend filled with skiing.

Did I mention that I love skiing? Happy Valenmetime's Day!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Flat Ben Junior Skis at Winter Park/Mary Jane

Jesper and I rented a funky little condo in Winter Park so we could ski for 3 days over my birthday weekend. Of course, we brought FBJ along! He liked the stuffed moose hung on the condo wall.

Flat Ben Junior hanging out with the stuffed moose

FBJ having fun with ski bunnies Suze, Jen and Mary Lou (photo credit Patrick Bragg)

Winter Park is home to a fantastic ski resort that merged two ski areas into one; Winter Park on the right and and Mary Jane on the left. The highest point, the top of the Parsenn Bowl is 12,060 feet in elevation - that's pretty high!

Map of Winter Park/Mary Jane showing the Ski Runs

Mary Jane is known as the wilder side, which obviously means it Jesper's and my favorite. FBJ liked it too. It's Extremely Colorado!

Me and FBJ at the sign to Mary Jane (photo credit Jesper Kristensen)

It was very windy when we skied, so I kept FBJ in my pack; I didn't want him to perish on a mountain top like the first Flat Ben!

FBJ was tucked safely in my pack while I skied (photo credit Megan Ryan)

Down at the base, the wind was calm, so I took FBJ out to visit with friends who were skiing with us.

FBJ with me and Kim at the Winter Park base (photo credit Jesper Kristensen)

FBJ enjoyed coming out with us for dinner.

Me and FBJ at dinner after a hard day of skiing (photo credit Jesper Kristensen)

After 3 days of skiing, FBJ needed to stretch his sore muscles, so he went to yoga class with me and Jesper.

FBJ doing a head stand while Breanna, the instructor, does a handstand

What adventures will Flat Ben Junior encounter next?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Middle Aged?? Not Me!!


I turned 45 on Friday. According to my older brother Vince, I have now entered the ranks of the middle aged. Middle aged?!?!?!? Me???? I don't think so!!!! That rule may apply to others, but not to me (OK, I know my friend Cynthia is laughing at that comment!!!).

I don't feel 45.

I don't act 45, or at least my idea of what a lot of 45 year old's act like.

I don't think I look 45 (other people tell me that all the time, and I assume they are not saying it just to be nice).

Me (not looking 45) with Flat Ben Junior and Kim (also NOT looking her age)

I think it's a HOOT that I'm really that old, like it can't possibly be true.

I am fortunate to have been born with an abundance of energy, which I have managed to maintain through the years. I've been smart enough to have taken good care of myself, physically and mentally, so that I can continue to be very active; as active as many in their 20s. So, how did I celebrate my entrance into middle age? By tele-skiing my tookus off for three days!


Jesper and I do not work on our birthdays; we adopted this protocol from my brother Jeff and now take every birthday off to partake in something fun and active. Having a birthday in February means I usually go skiing (although this year it was warm enough in Boulder to mountain bike if I wanted to). Being that my birthday was on a Friday, we decided I should celebrate my birthday the entire weekend. That sounded just fine to me, so we rented a condo up in Winter Park, where some good friends from North Carolina (Suze and Patrick) were staying and other Boulder friends (Kim, Dan, Megan and Ryan) would join us for an anticipated 3 days of skiing.


Hmmmm... 3 days on tele-skis. Would I be able to do it and still enjoy myself? Since Jesper and I spent 2 weeks in Denmark this December, we are down a little on our ski days. It takes many days of tele-skiing to get the legs accustomed to doing lunges all day long and for the little muscles in the feet to get used to all the flexing they do while on the slopes. Back in January when we booked the condo in Winter Park, I was still feeling pretty worked after 1 day of skiing and I was worried about how 3 days would go.

Some of you may not be familiar with telemark skiing (or tele-skiing for short). Tele-skiing is a downhill method of skiing with special skis and boots that hinge at the heel and flex at the toe. This allows the skier to go uphill, like a cross country skier, a feat made even more nifty by putting "skins" on the skis. Skins are self adhesive fabric strips you stick to the bottom of the skis to add extra friction when going uphill. We did not skin during our weekend at Winter Park; that's what ski lifts are for (Megan, you nut!)!!! The other difference between tele-skiing and regular alpine skiing is how you proceed downhill. A telemark skier genuflects one knee down to initiate the turn and then does the same thing on the other leg to turn the other way. It looks like this:

I love tele-skiing because it is graceful and rhythmic. It get's you very close to the snow. And, it's an awesome workout. Like I said, doing lunges all day long! Hence my concern about doing this for 3 days.


We arrived at the condo Thursday evening, unpacked and got the dog settled and went over to our North Carolina friends' condo for dinner, drinks and games.

The next day was my birthday!!! Yay! We met up with Suze and Patrick and proceeded to show them our favorite places on the Mary Jane side of the resort. It was cloudy, windy and cold, but we still managed to get up the Panoramic Express Lift a couple times.

Patrick coming off the Panoramic Lift

I was surprised they were running the lift, as it is usually closed when it's really windy. I did not enjoy the lift ride up at all (really freakin' cold!) and the top of the Parsenn Bowl was wind scoured and icy. But as soon as you dipped into the bowl itself, the wind-deposited snow was nice and the trees were fantastic. We also did a couple/few laps on the Mary Jane Trail run. This long, blue run has a great pitch and always has great snow. It did not disappoint on my birthday! Jesper and I even did one non-stop run from top to bottom, finishing up with shaking quads and hammies!

After lunch, we headed over to the Winter Park side of the resort.

Patrick and Suze up on the Vasque Ridge (el. 10,700 ft.) on the Winter Park side

Jesper and I haven't spent a lot of time on this side of mountain since we first started tele-skiing. Now in our 4th year on tele skis, we were struck by how our perceptions of certain runs had changed in a couple of years. Slopes that had seemed steep were easy. Off-camber runs that had vexed us before were fun! I guess we've improved our skills in the last couple of years!

A rare photo of me AND Jesper (photo credit Patrick Bragg)

We headed back over to the Mary Jane side of the mountain for another COLD Parsenn Bowl run (still can't believe the lift was running) and some more laps on Mary Jane. A pint of 1554 was the perfect way to end the day on the slopes.

Jesper took me out to a very nice birthday dinner at the Tabernash restaurant at the Iron Horse Resort. The food was excellent (salmon with udon and cucumber strips) and the tiramisu was yummy. The service was also first rate, so I would highly recommend this place to anyone visiting Winter Park. Afterward, we were too tired and full to get in the hot tub!


Saturday morning our good friends Kim and Dan arrived with their dog Patch for an overnight stay at the condo. Initially, Strelka was very protective of her new "home" and wouldn't let Patch in! But after a few bared fangs and growls (mostly on Strelka's part), they settled down, even playing and laying next to each other. We left the condo fairly confident that both dogs would have a nice day together and we wouldn't come home to a bloody mess.

Patch and Strelka playing in the condo

Kim and Dan are fantastic mountain bikers who hadn't been on their snowboards in 2 years. You wouldn't have known it from how they rode; it was like they had been hitting the slopes every weekend! We met up with Suze and Patrick and the 6 of us skied/rode a bit together at the Mary Jane side.

Patrick, Suze, Kim , Dan and Jesper all heading off the top of the Parsenn Bowl (el. 12,060 ft.) on the Mary Jane side - it's kinda pretty up there...

After lunch, we separated and Jesper and I took Kim and Dan over to Vasque Ridge on the Winter Park side via Thunderbird Traverse, Eagle Wind, Lower Egress and Big Valley. That was a lot of traversing for anyone on a board, but Kim and Dan know what they are doing and had no problems. Once at Vasque Ridge, we played around in the trees and on some runs Jesper and I had never been on, including some big black steep moguled runs. Oddly enough, we all really enjoyed the moguls. What's up with that? Snow boarders and telemarkers enjoying big, steep moguls?!?!? Kim had a huge smile plastered on her face the entire day, so I think she was having fun!

Dan and smiling Kim at near the top of the Parsenn Bowl

We ended the ski day down at the absolutely packed Derailleur Bar, replete with Jaeger Girls. The vibe at Winter Park is sure different from the vibe at Mary Jane!

Jesper sporting his Jaeger Girl Shirt!

Dan and the ever-smiling Kim

Later that night, Megan and Ryan showed up, bringing yet another set of fresh legs for Jesper and I to contend with. Oddly enough, I was not nearly as wonked after Day 2 as I had been after the first day of skiing; might have been the overindulgence of wine on Thursday night that contributed to my tiredness Friday!


Sunday morning Kim and Dan took off after breakfast to head back down to Boulder. We met up with Ryan and Megan, who had skinned up Sleeper with a friend at 7:00 am, (I said she was a nut!) and Suze and Patrick for our Day 3. This was Suze and Patrick's 4th straight day and they were getting tired. So, after one run together, they decided to go off and ski at their own pace, recognizing that Megan and Ryan had fresh legs. Jesper proposed that our smaller group of four hit some black bump runs. That sounded like a good idea after how nice the moguls had been the day before. Note to self - don't do bumps before you are warmed up and before the snow has softened! Our feet cramped up and we all struggled to make our legs do what we wanted them to do the whole way down. We had enough of that and next decided to brave the cold and head up to the Parsenn Bowl to hit some yummy tree runs on the way down. We must have done 3 or 4 laps of this. It was super fun and challenging to keep up with Megan and Ryan, who are strong, fast skiers.

Even though we were enjoying the laps from the Parsenn Bowl immensely, we decided we needed to show Megan and Ryan the Vasque Ridge area of Winter Park. We skipped lunch and headed over once again via Thunderbird Traverse, Eagle Wind (yummy), Lower Egress and Big Valley.

Ryan, Me and Jesper, posing for our Camelbak ad at the top of the Vasque Ridge

Jesper skiing down to Ryan and Megan somewhere over at the Vasque Ridge area

Jesper and I only had time for a few runs over there, since we had to head back to the condo for a late check out, which was followed up by an apres ski beer with Megan and Ryan. Beer tastes so good after a day of skiing!

After three days of tele-skiing, I felt surprisingly good! I could ski some more! What's all this talk about being middle aged?!?!?!

Thanks to Jesper, Suze, Patrick, Kim, Dan, Megan and Ryan for celebrating my birthday weekend with me and making it one of the most memorable birthdays I've had!