Vail Daily column: Checking out, catching up |

Vail Daily column: Checking out, catching up

Don Rogers
Laura Mahaffy/ | The Union

Last week, my wife and I traveled in time as well as space.

We traced our route to the Sierra and northern coast of California to the beginning of my newspaper life and even before that.

We saw family and friends, along with some new country. Hah, yes, I worked a little, too, though not nearly as much as I thought I would. I put more of my frets and worries and cares aside than I thought my constitution could take.

I even had a philosophical conversation with a lifelong friend about the nature of vacation. In short, the cardiologist and the journalist look at this in entirely opposite ways — just as we have pretty much everything since we beat dirt into fireline side by side as young hotshots decades ago.

The heart doc can leave it at the office, has to leave it at the office. The newspaper guy blends work and the rest of life together. It’s all rolled into one for him, even or maybe especially while on vacation.

The difference may lie in the scope of our attention. Medicine of the heart applies specifically. Attempting to cover life spans everything. Your own life only offers more clues.

Or it may be that the pressure for the doctor, with lives in his hands, requires full decompression from time to time. I might irk you from time to time with my mistakes, in other words. Different deal for my friend.

My wife and I began with just missing a big crash in a snowstorm, stranding us overnight in lovely Fernley, Nevada. We soon discovered Silver Springs while attempting a back way to Carson City through a whiteout. Mark Twain once got himself stuck much the same way around there, one of the smokers at the town casino where we took refuge said. The locals had a sweet rural charm, in a long unpainted sort of way, but I could tell Vail had spoiled us.

We wondered at the huge surf along the coast from the rugged country north of San Francisco through the city and on down to Santa Cruz. I remembered another big El Nino winter there, watching waves beat a house to splinters on one side of a point before whooping it up surfing the other side. I wouldn’t have the guts, or stupidity, now.

My mind emptied during long stretches of our trip. I don’t know that I could say this sprang from such confidence in our managers — which I have — or mere forgetfulness. Probably the latter. The office always awaits on the other side of any time away, the tasks and problems and piles growing as they will. You don’t have to think about it, and I guess I didn’t so much after awhile.

We dropped in at my first newspaper, in Quincy, California, part of the Sawmill Sierra well north of Lake Tahoe’s glitz. Same boss, who now owns the outfit. Not a big surprise there. But six more of my colleagues back when we were 20- and 30-somethings still work there.

Talk about amazing, all those kids gone gray at the same place. In that time, I went on to seven other papers in communities ranging from upstate New York to the Midwest to San Diego and finally to Vail, where my wife wagged her finger at me and said that’s enough.

But Quincy was the root of it all, where my son was born and spent quality time at his dad’s desk at The Feather River Bulletin. In a baby basket. Now he works at our newspapers on the north side of Lake Tahoe and expects his own firstborn in April.

It wasn’t all nostalgia. We got a couple of days in a cottage with big windows up high looking down on a cove and beach about 10 miles north of San Francisco. Two days of just us, bliss.

Both nights we turned out the lights, opened a bottle of wine, looked out the picture windows and took it all in — the surf, the wind, San Francisco out there in the distance, the silver sheen of the ocean and dark crags of the coast.

I scouted Bolinas for my hobby, an overly ambitious stab at fiction writing, and geeked out when the beach and detritus on it turned out to perfectly fit a scene I wrote long before ever visiting the place. I’m sure others steered a wide path seeing me in full touchdown celebration over a pile of kelp, but there you go. Something I had made up entirely was right there, in just the right place, in reality. I wrote fiction and it turned out to be … journalism. Awesome!

We walked in a cathedral of never-logged redwoods at Muir Woods in a hush. Everyone just naturally did this. Only camera clicks, like insects, broke the reverie.

We screamed ourselves hoarse watching the Super Bowl back up at Truckee, after snowboarding at Northstar, which reminded me why I don’t really have to leave Colorado at all. Oops. Not something you want to think much about during the long haul home through Nevada and Utah.

Ah, but that’s not why we took this trip.

Publisher Don Rogers can be reached at and 970-748-2920.

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