Allison’s Gamified Getaway

Happy Birthday Allison! Photo by Allison.

A grey mini-van pulled up outside our apartment – just a few minutes late. People poured out of the car, there were hugs and a few whispers regarding the spacious of the trunk. With a sense of urgency we were hustled into the van. Once all doors were shut and silence had washed over the crowd, Allison briefed us on her birthday mission. Our grey sashes, with 70s cartoon versions of ourselves, in hand, we were told that participation in certain unknown events & games this weekend would reward us with badges. The car was quietly overtaken with competitive spirit when Michael received the first badge for flying across the country to be here.

Day 1: Friday, May 10th

Our first stop was In & Out was the Planet Walk hike in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park. After covering ourselves in sunscreen, we started at the sun and were kind-of determined to walk to Pluto.

The Sun.

The view from near Neptune.

When we finally reached Neptune we looked up the sun-bleached hill and proclaimed, “fuck it – Pluto’s not a real planet anymore anyway.” With that we turned around and headed to Whole Foods the house. We drove through a few long, windy back streets to get to the house.

The house! Photo by Allison.

There were four houses total on the land. The main house, guest house, kid’s house, and tent overlook. All of them were architecturally modern, full of windows, and tastefully decorated (for the most part). There was a pristine grass patch, salt-water pool, hot tub, tennis/basketball court, grill, rope swing, child-size rock climbing wall, and tons and tons of chairs to lounge around in. It wasn’t long before Chris took control of the kitchen whipped up some delicious pizzas for dinner.

Brussel Sprout Pizza. Photo by Chris.

By the end of that night I had won the Planet Walk, swimming, origami, and photography badges.

Origami flower for Allison. Photo by Chris.

Day 2: Saturday, May 11th

Chris and I woke up early-ish to the smell of coffee. Allison had already woken, took a ton of sunrise photos, and went back to sleep. Emily and Michael were awake, chatting softly in the kitchen. Chris and I took coffee and blankets to the back patio and sat in my favorite swinging chairs for most of the morning. We watched Karl slowly recede from the fields below and Chris befriended a caterpillar.

Karl. Photo by Allison.

Swinging chairs.

Saturday was particularly hot and most of the day was spent playing tennis, Kubb (a Swedish lawn game), lounging around the house, and playing with un-approved toys in the pool.

Kubb. Photo by Allison.

Eating while lounging. Photo by Allison.

Ugly pool toys! Photo by Allison.

For dinner Allison decorated the outdoor table with a lavish, beautiful designed table setting. Emily, with the help of Clancy, prepared a delicious dinner of kebabs and Emily’s famous carrot salad.

Emily & Clancy making kabobs. Instant photo by Allison.

Allison’s lavish table setting.

A classy affair. Instant photo by Allison.

That night Allison set up a photo shoot comprising of balloons, LEDs, and sparklers. By the end of the second night I had won the card game, tennis, and Kubb badges.

Allison dancing in the night. Photo by Nathan.

Day 3: Sunday, May 12th

Our final morning everyone awoke around the same time. After wishing all of our mother’s a triumphant “Happy Mother’s Day!”, we went on a quick hike recommended by the house’s owner. It was hot, so we were particularly happy that the trail was mostly shaded.

Hiking. Photo by Chris.

Our band photo. Photo by Allison.

The hiking crew. Instant photo by Allison.

Returning to the car.

Afterwards, before we all solemnly began to pack, Allison orchestrated a photo shoot jumping into the pool. The best picture was the first one of this post, but this is the aftermath.

Splash! Photo by Allison.

In an effort to get the last badge, which we discovered was Dominoes, we began lining up trains next to the pool & prompted Allison to knock them down. By the end of the final day I had won the hiking and dominoes badges.

Goodbye house! Photo by Chris.


Michael won with the most badges. He got additional badges for flying across the country & for sleeping in the bunk bed… both things I couldn’t have done so I’m ok with it. It was a wonderful birthday weekend and I hope it surpassed (at least lived up to) Allison’s dreams. Thanks again to Chris and Emily for cooking amazing dinners for us. The brussel spout pizza Chris made was the best pizza I’ve ever had & we will have to make it again. All-in-all I had a great time and badges Allison made were a great touch. I havn’t had party favors since… well since Allison’s 29th birthday when Chris and I got succulents then we ended up accidentally killing. Buttons are better, I can’t kill buttons.


If you’d like to see more pictures (there are a ton of them), check out our Flickr sets: Allison’s DSLR set, Allison’s Instant Set, Chris’s set, and my set.

All of my badges!