Best Birthday Ever

After Eli and I finished our ride, we came home and drank a couple of beers.

Today is Columbus Day, the annual celebration of the man who ‘discovered’ America. Never mind that the Americas were already populated with people when he got here, and there is clear evidence that northern Europeans were already traveling back and forth to North America, Columbus gets the nod. As a kid, I learned Christopher Columbus was a hero. Since then, I learned that he and his men pillaged communities, raped women, enslaved humans and committed mass genocide.

Susan, Eli and I each got a holiday from work and school in his honor. To be fair to my employer, the reason we planned to close for today was to conduct an all-staff meeting. That was cancelled two weeks ago because of significant Covid transmission in our county. We already announced the closure so I wound up with a holiday. To be fair to Susan’s employer, this is the last year they get Columbus Day off. Next year, it’s business as usual. Eli’s high school? We’re a conservative community. I read op-eds in the paper decrying the Critical Race Theory taught in our schools. Kill Columbus Day? Ain’t gonna happen.

So we rode, then we drank. The ride was amazing. We rode a trail system interlaced with large tree roots after a fresh rain. Those roots, slicing diagonally across the trail are treacherous when wet. Bike wheels slip to the side without warning knocking the rider off balance and often to the ground. I rode them like a pro today. I cleaned almost every trail with no dabs (cleaned means to ride cleanly, to dab means to touch the ground with your foot). I also cleaned a tough line that always gives me trouble. With the weather, today wasn’t the day I expected to be killing the trail. A birthday treat, I’ll take it.

If you’re paying attention to the narrative, you noticed that I drank beer with my high school son. If you pay attention to my blog in general, you know I stopped drinking altogether six years ago. In September, I wrote about my excitement over discovering the Brewdog alcohol free line of beers. Susan got me a mixed twelve-pack for my birthday. This afternoon, I gave them a try. Holy God, this is excellent stuff. A flavorful, refreshing, low calorie drink with a sharp hoppy flavor. Every bit as rewarding as a ‘real’ beer. Eli liked it too. My life just changed for the better.

Last Thursday, we drove to Burlington Vermont to visit Sophie at college. Well, that’s not exactly true. We drove to Plattsburg, New York, eighty-one miles away, which is as close as we could get to Burlington without spending four hundred dollars a night on a hotel room. Apparently fall foliage is a big deal in Vermont, and the leaf peepers snapped up all the overpriced hotel rooms ten months in advance. As it turns out, this past weekend marked the fall foliage peak for the year. It wound up being rather jaw dropping. The trees, all the trees, burned with red, yellow and orange leaves.

We divided the weekend into three principal activities. Hiking, eating and entertaining each other.

Hiking: Those leaves! On Friday and Saturday, we took three hikes. One through a Burlington park where Sophie sometimes goes with her friends. The other two hikes, one Saturday the other Sunday were actually the same hike. It was so beautiful, we decided to hike the same trail again. The route was on narrow cross country ski trails cutting through the closest thing to an old growth forest I’ve been in for decades. Sophie is taking two forestry classes this semester. She had nonstop information about the plants surrounding us. Both days were dry and in the high sixties. Seriously magical stuff.

Food: Thai, Mexican, Turkish and pizza. Each restaurant vied for the top spot. The Thai and Mexican were Plattsburg mom and pop joints serving only carryout due to Covid. For each meal, we all crowded around the little table in our hotel room making yum noises. The pizza shop, Sophie’s favorite in Burlington, easily met her hype. But the Turkish kebab restaurant, the place I chose for my ‘birthday meal’ was simply amazing. We ordered chicken and lamb kebabs wrapped in lavash bread and dipped in a spicy yogurt sauce. The sort of meal you wish would never end. Gettysburg is crowded with three-star restaurants. The food is fine, mediocre but passable. This weekend, this was five-star stuff.

Entertainment: There is no one (full stop!) I’d rather hang out with than my family. When we’re all together, we’re at our best. The conversation, drenched in humor, races around the group. Everyone is quick on the uptake and well versed in sarcastic wit. Sophie came back to Plattsburg with us on Friday night. The four of us crammed into two double beds, breathing stale sleep-breath on one another relishing each other’s company. Even the car ride between Burlington and Plattsburg was fun. You’ve never seen four adults get so excited driving past a US/Canada border crossing.

It’s so hard to let these kids go and live their own life. Everything Sophie reports from college in our weekly facetime calls, our daily group texts, and across the course of the weekend let’s us know she’s killing college. We’re so happy for her, but miss her terribly. Just a month and a half until Thanksgiving. Three weeks after that, home for the semester break. Counting the days.

We drove home on Sunday, which was actually my birthday. Eight hours in the car, it’s hard to call it a great day, but the rest of the weekend made up for the long drives. 2021 was easily the best birthday ever.

Photo by Carl Newton on Unsplash

18 thoughts on “Best Birthday Ever

  1. Where are your pictures of the beautiful leaves??
    My favorite birthday would be spent absolutely alone in a cottage by the beach… nevermind that my birthday is in February, less people at the shore then anyway.

    Usually a Daughter will cook or order something yummy, then we just hang out. My girls are my favorite people to hang out with too.

    Good to know the NA beer is good. I knew right away cuz I pay attention😉, but even if you guys were drinking full alcohol beers, that would be fine too. My girls drank occasional beers with me before they were legally allowed to, even while they were in high school.

    Happy belated Birthday! 🍻🎂🥳 I’m glad you had such a great weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I didn’t really take many pictures. Sophie and Susan took a lot but they haven’t sent them to me. It was really stunning though. When I was 17 and both of my brothers were over 18 (legal drinking age at the time), my parents decided they didn’t care if I had a beer around the house, I’ve read that that sort of demystification/normalization of alcohol can help people drink more responsibly later in life. Didn’t work that way with me. Part of me worries that this could give Eli a taste for beer, which is probably one of the biggest barriers to high school drinking. But he’s got a good head on his shoulders so I probably don’t need to worry. I freaking loved it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Happy birthday! Sounds like a great time with family. And good to know about the NA beer! My dad’s birthday is today – he sometimes gets to celebrate it on the same day as Columbus as well. No one here was off for it though. That stopped for us a while ago for the same reasons you mentioned. Funny enough, we were planning on going to Gettysburg this past Saturday to see the battlefield and the trees changing color in your area. Bob’s birthday is in a couple of weeks so he has been pre-celebrating with special trips. But it was a cloudy day – not the best for what we wanted and ended up hitting a local orchard instead. He’s headed up to Penn State in a couple of weeks – he’s hoping for some nice fall foliage then.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My entire childhood, my family went to the beach on Columbus Day weekend. I got pretty spoiled thinking my birthday was a big deal. It might be too early for leaves in Gettysburg. I was pumping gas when I read your comment. I looked around and all the leaves were green. The battle field might be a little ahead, but probably not much.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, this was a nice comeback from our last new england vacation. Looking forward to more like that. Thank you on the compliments on my family. Everyone has been getting along so well since the pandemic started, it’s almost eerie.


  3. That’s fantastic Jeff! Yeah I wondered about the beer. I’ve started giving praise to these breweries that are making really good NA beer. Have you tried Athletic Brewing company? I subscribe to their beers; they ship all the way over here from CT. So good to hear so much positivity and fun from your birthday weekend here. That your favorite company is your family, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Facebook often recommends Athletic beers to me. I dunno,. I might find it hard to try a different beer. These Brewdog beers are so pleasant (having one now after mountain biking). Really, it was a great trip and great family time.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Yay for birthdays with loved ones, for fall colors at their peak, for terrific beverages and amazing hikes in the forest!

    Sounds like your weekend was one that will live in the memories of all four of you for decades to come.


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