Monday, January 28, 2008

It's All Fun and Games...

Our anniversary snowboarding trip last week went really well. Until it didn't. For the past two years, Jess has been trying to tell me that she has bad luck. And it's not that I didn't believe her, so much as I thought that maybe my life-long good luck could win out. But last year wasn't exactly an example of my rosy, stress free life so I guess I should have taken the hint.

But let's start with the good stuff.

Early Wednesday morning, we packed up all our gear and headed east into the sunrise. The drive was picturesque, the kind of post-card living one is privileged to get used to living in the the Pacific Northwest. As we left the little town of Sandy, we were surrounded by a dense morning fog that ended abruptly a few minutes later. It literally looked like we came out of a weather-made tunnel. Jess managed to capture some of the effect with some quick camera work.

Coming out of the Fog

The road sign on the way up advised carrying chains, but didn't mandate them. The roads were fairly decent, packed snow, but not icy. We wound our way up behind several large buses. We were shooting for a 10am lesson, but that would've required getting up at 5:00am.

We arrived at 9:50 and spent the next 90 minutes in various lines, behind several bus loads of Adventists on a group trip who arrived just ahead of us. Jess wasted no opportunity to comment on the fact that crowds such as the ones we were caught up in are a major reason why she could never seriously get into snowboarding. I'm used to her low tolerance for crowds and mostly ignored the griping. Fun awaited.

By the time we were got our boards and boots and found a locker for our stuff, it was almost lunch time. The next lesson wasn't till 1:00 so we decided to eat before hand. Also, we were already dehydrated and my elevation headache was making itself felt. We ate garden burgers in the cafeteria while we watched people come down the last insanely steep hill to the main lifts. I remembered well inching my way down that hill after a coworker stranded me at the top of the mountain with all of 5 minutes of 'instructions.'

After lunch we still had an hour to kill. "Come on, let's go up," I said. From the look on her face, Jess would've been content to hang out inside, but she agreed. I felt it was time to bring on the fun. I remembered how to strap my board on and how to skate with one leg strapped in. It was, as they say, all downhill from there.

I managed to exit the lift without too much trouble, but as soon as I was strapped in, I pretty much fell my way down the bunny hill. At one point, I got going too fast. I knew I didn't want to catch my toe edge and face plant at that speed but that led to overcompensating in the other direction, which put me flat on my back. Hard. I lay there for a moment while cartoon birds tweeted around my head. Well, at least my helmet had just paid for itself.

I was too busy falling to see Jess get down the hill, but it seemed to go a lot better for her. "I think I need a lesson," I said when we reached the bottom. My butt was really hurting and the slap to the head did not help my altitude headache one bit. I kept thinking if I could just take my laptop case (made of memory foam) and stick it down my pants, that would be so awesome. (I learned later, that someone has already thought of this, and yes, I went straight out and bought a pair!)

We made our way over to the lesson meet-up area. We had noticed throughout the morning that there didn't seem to be too many friendly people working at Mt Hood Meadows. They weren't exactly unfriendly but they weren't what you'd call welcoming either. This trend continued as I waited in the lesson area and the instructor standing two feet away and facing me ignored me steadily while talking to the two men beside me.

Fortunately, he was not to be our guide for the day. A woman named Rebecca turned out to be saddled with the newbies today. We were in the first timers group. Jess could've moved up, but didn't want to abandon me. She's sweet like that.

Rebecca collected all our vouchers and questioned us to see what our experience was. "Have you ever snowboarded before?" she asked me.

"Successfully?" I responded.

"Say no more," she said.

2008_0116_007_snowboarding.jpgAfter waiting for some late comers, we finally got going. She spent some time talking about the equipment, how to maneuver on and off the lift etc and then the magic moment came and we headed to the lift. As students in ski/board school, we got a special lift line that let us cut in front of everyone else.

When we got to the top, we all clustered together out of the way. Rebecca went over strapping in and then she did the single most helpful thing of the day. She talked us through the mechanics of controlling your speed and steering but then she demonstrated as well, using her hands to illustrate what her feet were doing. It was like being able to watch the rudder of a ship underwater and see exactly which movements made what turns. Light bulbs went off all over the place over my head.

It's worth noting that I didn't have another hard fall for the rest of the day and my speed didn't get out of control anymore.

The day pretty much continued in the same pattern. She would demo a technique and then we would meet up halfway down the hill. Jess already knew this stuff of course and I felt like I had discovered the keys to the kingdom. The two of us were always way ahead of the nine others in our class, and spent a lot of time waiting for them to reach the rendezvous points.

By the time our lesson ended, Jess and I were working on something called 'linking our J turns,' which are the precursor to real turning (AKA carving) down the mountain.

We took a break to get some water (I'm definitely bringing my camelbak next time) and have a snack before going back out to keep practicing.

2008_0116_015_snowboarding.jpgWe kept at it until the sun set and we got cold. Then we drove back down to the Resort at the Mountain in Welches, where we enjoyed a completely swank fireside lodge with kitchenette. We had pre-made dinner of fried rice and a few other things which was maybe the most brilliant suggestion ever (made by Jess of course). We were so sore we could barely walk, and hauling our stuff up the stairs was a bit of a trial. I expected my butt to hurt (and it did not disappoint), but I wasn't prepared for the throb in my lower quads, no doubt from trying to squat down and stay on the right edge all day.

Long showers and lots of Arnica later, we settled into the king sized bed for the night with some DVDs and prepared to abuse ourselves some more the next day.

Day Two

We were up bright and early, not wanting to spend our whole morning in lines again. We got to Meadows at 9:00am and there were no bus loads of Adventists or anyone else so we walked right through all the rental lines and reported for our lesson at 9:50am.

We decided to upgrade to "Green" status, which supposedly meant that you were comfortable on Green Diamond areas of the mountain. I'm not sure that was the case, but we were definitely beyond the first timer class.

As luck would have it, we had our instructor, who's name was Nate, all to ourselves. Nate turned out to be the second nice staff person we'd met. Rebecca gave us a great review at the lesson meet up so we didn't dally, but headed right to the lift.

2008_0117_004_snowboarding.jpgThe day was clear, gorgeous and warm and Nate put us right to work. My big goal for the day was not to fall hard on my butt because it was wickedly sore from the day before and the snow was packed down hard and fast. We started out reviewing the linking turns we'd worked on the day before for a couple of runs. The first trip down went OK, but on the second run I got going too fast again and did my classic butt/head plant. My goggles slanted sideways off my face from the impact, and my helmet's value went up another infinite amount.

Nate and Jess came to a stop just above me. The fall must have looked bad because they both seemed really concerned. "Are you OK?" asked Nate.

"Oh yeah, that's just how I like to start the day," I joked, to try to put them at ease. I actually wasn't hurting as much as I did the first time. Maybe my butt was too numb already. In any case, I was able to get up and finish the run with no problem.

We went up again and Nate wanted us to try putting our J turns together into actual back and forth turns, or carving down the mountain. He kept trying to explain how we could make very wide swaths across the hill by sitting on our heel edge a certain amount. "You're just going to have to get it once to see what I mean," he told us.

2008_0116_010_snowboarding.jpgSo with that, Jess started off, and a second later, I went after her. Unfortunately, she had started a little ways up the hill from me, and our wide, crossing trajectories were now carrying us straight towards each other in an X formation. I tried to make a sharp left that would bring me parallel instead of across, but didn't quite make it. We didn't collide, but I went by just in front of her and she brushed the back of my board. We both went down. We were going pretty slowly when it happened and my fall wasn't bad. But as I lay on my back, I could hear Jess yelling. She has a much higher pain tolerance than I do, so when the yelling didn't stop and I flipped over and saw her holding her wrist up in the air as still as possible, I knew in my gut that our day was over.

Nate slide to a stop close by and I crawled up to where she was and convinced her to let me unstrap her board. We got her sitting up and took off her mitten and put some icy snow on her wrist. (Damn snow--if it had only been softer---this was the first of a never ending series of 'if-onlys' my brain would rotate for the foreseeable future: if only I'd bought her a pair of the small wrist guards that fit under her mittens; If only I'd started a few seconds later; if only I'd turned faster--you get the idea).

Nate called ski patrol and even though we were halfway down the bunny hill in sight of the clinic, the patrolman put her in the sled and took off with her. Nate took care of her board and I strapped mine back on (I had taken if off while we waited) to board down the rest of the way. The clinic was across the hill from where we were and, in a final twist of irony, I figured out what Nate meant about the heel edge and successfully traversed the hill instead of going straight down.

By the time we de-boarded and got to the clinic, Jess had her own bed next to a woman who was in truly bad shape from a ski accident. They were having trouble finding her husband. Apparently it had been a while but, she said, he wasn't the type to read the signs posted at all the lifts advising him to get the hell down the mountain and check on his wife.

They took an X-Ray on site, and as soon as the pictures came up, the nurse offered Jess some Vicodin. "I'm afraid you've broken your wrist honey," she said.

So this is what she means when she said she has bad luck...

Jess was holding up pretty well, all things considered but I could tell she was in a lot of pain. Not only was our day over, so were most of our plans for the next six months. She wouldn't be able to work for a while (Hi, IV nurse here, I usually do this with my right, but we'll just see how it goes...). She can get short term disability, but first they'd make her eat up every bit of vacation/sick time (it's all combined). There went our plans to visit her friends in Colorado for some cross country ski fun in March (or any cross country skiing close to home for the rest of the season). There went our plans to do the Oregon or Washington bike tour this summer (no vacation time). The suckage just seemed to go on and on, and the long weeks of house chores and care taking I was looking at was the very least of it.

Fortunately, (or not, since it comes from too much experience), if there's one thing Jess is good at, it's handling adversity. Minor annoyances like getting cut off in traffic, or me forgetting to change the toilet paper drive her crazy. But give her real challenge and she shines. This makes her an excellent person to have around say, when your mom is dying. It also means that, aside from a few moments of understandable frustration, she's a good patient who's really easy to take care of. We've settled into a nice routine, I make the meals and tie her shoes and write things down and she does whatever she can, which includes more things every day.

In some ways I feel like I'm living two lives (three if you count the fact that I still need to deal with my mom's house), but this is a risk we both took when we went up to the mountain. I've learned my lesson about her luck. She's retiring from all downhill sports (she broke a leg skiing at 16, which ended that sport), and I don't think she'll be needing a mountain bike either...

Despite everything, I'm not quite ready to give up on the sport. Aside from the fact that I'm hoping my own luck will hold out, I felt like I was making good progress and could probably get the hang of it in a few more sessions. Besides, I already bought the wrist guards, helmet and now, the padded shorts. We bought a package of three lessons and got vouchers for our ruined day, so there's still two lessons left that I can use anytime this season. Rentals and all-mountain passes included. Now all I need is a buddy who's crazy enough to join me.

Any takers?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A Plan Comes Together

Remember my great revelation that winter sports would make the time fly by? Dear reader, it's working already!

This week is our two year anniversary and we're celebrating by going up to the mountain (Mt Hood for you non-locals) overnight and taking some snowboarding lessons. It's a good thing it's only week two of the term since I'll be skipping classes already.

Although Jess has the sportier car, it doesn't have the clearance for tire chains so we'll be traveling in the hoop-d, as my car is affectionately known. I had the tires checked today (nail in the right rear) and yesterday we practiced putting on the chains. We're ready.

Jess' friends who just moved to Colorado have discovered cross country skiing and invited us to visit. We might be able to go after Easter if Jess can get time off. We'd also like to take a trip to Bend to ski, since the snow there is legendary for it's powdery perfection. Trying to find a good weekend between now and March makes it seem as if winter is already over and I actually had a moment of sadness, that maybe we won't be able to fit it in.

Yup, this strategy is working out great.

In the gear department, things are coming together as well. There was an almost-panic as I had to search the house four times for the snowboarding pants that mom got me for Christmas a few years ago. I've used them all of twice and had stored in them in a place that was a little too safe. I found an awesome snowboarding jacket for super cheap online with no shipping last month. The $20 I spent on wrist guards seems like a grand investment in leiu of the deductible for broken wrist treatment. And of course, a helmet is a smart fashion statement for any hair-brained activity and they were on sale at Next Adventure.

If I should happen to get hooked on this new venture, as I probably will, then I can see next about aquiring my own board and boots next winter. Jess doesn't think she's going to want to do it all that regularly, given the fear factor and the ongoing expense of lift tickets. I'm a little more into adrenaline thrills than she is, although she's been boarding more times than I have.

If there's a downside to all this winter fun, it is this: having convinced ourselves that we would actually spend some time at home this winter, we vowed to work on the ever present list of in-house projects. Things like, making the house look lived in (we still have no pictures on the walls), unpacking the last of our boxes (Jess has way more than I do), re-organizing the garage (haven't we done this twice already?). Not to mention the 16 credits I'm taking, that will start demanding some serious attention in the not-to-distant future.

But hey, I can sleep when I'm dead. Right mom?

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Is there anything more irritating...

...than voice mails in grave, urgent tones proclaiming to call back ASAP? At this point in my life, I think not.

Here's a tip:

If you have bad news for me and you get my voice mail, either fake normalcy, hang up and call back later, or just say what you have to say. Trust me, I can take it.

Body of sand

While I was at the campus bookstore last week, buying my books early like a good girl, I saw lots of textbooks that simply looked interesting. I succumbed to only one, "The Best American Magazine Writing." More on why later.

Last night I decided to delve into it, with the first article I flipped to, "The Recruit" about a boy's decision to join the military and the consequences of that decision. Somewhere between talking to Jess and starting to read, my eye grazed another title, "A Matter of Life and Death." by Marjorie Williams. The article was an account of her diagnosis with an incurable liver cancer at age 43 and her subsequent acceptance of her fate.

A few of the more resonant sentences for me:

Notice, though, that I don't include my husband among those to whom my death was an imminent fact...
It could make me crazy, lying awake...wanting to talk about death, while Tim lay awake...trying to figure out the next five moves he had to make to keep me alive, and then, beyond that, to find the magic bullet in which I did not believe....drifted into a tacit, provisional agreement to act as if... I were in some genuine suspense about the outcome.

Yet it made me furious anytime someone tried to cheer me up by reciting the happy tale of a sister-in-law's cousin who had liver cancer but now he's eighty and he hasn't been troubled by it in forty years...I was working so hard to accept my death: I felt abandoned, evaded, when someone insisted that I would live.

This is so akin to my experience with mom that it was both a shock and a relief. There I was, trying to prepare (you can't, but I had to try) for the inevitable, deal with the ugly practicalities and have some kind of meaningful closure. And it seemed as if just about everyone around me was entrenched behind their wall of denial with an unlimited supply of non-perishable foods and they weren't coming out until the bomb went off right in their shelter. It made me crazy. If I had hair, I would have pulled it out.

Well, it's no surprise where my dream from last night came from. I was dying and I had gone around to say goodbye to everyone that I could. And now I was laying in a bed, in a room, by myself, waiting for the end. I couldn't leave the bed anymore because my body was slowly turning to sand and if I tried to get up, I would literally fall apart. As time when on, I felt more and more tired. More tired than I thought was possible. Any time now, I thought, I'm going to go to sleep and not wake up. But then I decided I needed to have the last word. So, struggling against the tired, I sat up in bed, laptop perched on my sandy legs and composed my last blog.

I never did get to finish it.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Take your life in your hands

Let's start today's post with a generalization: Women are more safety conscious than men. You can ruminate on that thought as you read my tale.

2008_0105_008_froglake_ski.jpgThe wind and the pounding rain kept both of us up most of the night. I seriously considered the wisdom of heading up the mountain in the morning. When Jess came in to say goodbye before leaving for work, she said, "Have fun skiing today honey," so I decided I might as well go. It doesn't take long for the weather to 180 around here.

I packed up all my new gear and headed to the 97th and Sandy Blvd park & Ride. I arrived right on time and saw a group of people with skis. Larry was the group leader and organizer. Once upon a time he volunteered for my mom at SEI. He's retired and as far as I can tell, spends most of his time doing fun outdoor activities and traveling. In 2003, he took us to Siouxon creek in Washington for a hike, where the infamous hiking-while-reading picture was taken. We just recently got back in touch after I emailed him about the dedication ceremony last month.

He came over and gave me a big hug. "Kronda, it's so good to see you! I feel so sorry for you..."

"I'm alright." I really didn't want o get into it in front of a big group of strangers.

Things got down to business and it was quickly revealed that organization isn't Larry's strong suit, nor does he particularly care too much about it. Though he was ostensibly 'leading' this trip for the Nordic ski club, he had a terrible time sorting out who would ride with whom. He had assured me through email that I would ride with him so when he announced that he was riding with a woman who was driving a Subaru SUV, I got a little concerned. "Um, Larry, you said I was riding with you."

"Oh right, I forgot! Wow, looks like we don't have enough drivers. OK, we'll take my car, and John can drive it." That struck me as odd, and I was a little annoyed. Especially when I saw that his car was a 20 year old hatchback that probably hadn't been cleaned in that entire time. He regularly carries his three dogs in it, and when I got into it, the smell was overpowering, as if I were trapped in a kennel. Since it was just John and I, I'd be expected to be social and make conversation. I was hoping for a car with two other folks in it, so they could talk while I read my book. It didn't make me feel better either when John said, "I haven't driven in snow in years," and started tooling around the parking lot so he could get used to the stick shift, which seemed to stick a lot.

Finally everyone got sorted into vehicles and we got going. Larry had decided that because it was so windy, our original destination of Clear Lake was too exposed. Instead we would head to the Frog Lake sno-park, where there was also Skijoring races happening. We agreed to stop in Sandy so one person who'd brought the wrong skis could rent some and people could get coffee and gas.

I wasn't having a great feeling about Larry's forgetfulness and apparent lack of organization, but I went from concerned to downright angry at John's words once we were already on the road. "Larry forgot to bring his chains today."

My stomach clenched and I was furious. Chains were mandatory after a certain point on the road up the mountain, and for good reason. We'd already seen the police out patrolling and ticketing people without chains when Jess and I went up two weekends before. Not to mention the very real chance of sliding all over the road or getting stuck in a snowy parking lot. There wasn't much I could do about it now so I made small talk with John. He turned out to be something of an adventurer, although I took it with a shaker of salt when he claimed to be one of the first people to bike across the U.S. He talked about his hitchhiking travels and the fact that he commutes by bike quite a bit. "I know it's all the rage now, but I just don't like wearing a helmet," he said.

I resisted the urge to give him my tirade on why I think people who don't wear helmets are stupid said something neutral in response. I don't know him, so what do I care if he cracks his head open? I noted that he didn't mind wearing his seatbelt. But maybe that was a combination of the law and the fact that we were headed for snowy roads.

After our coffee stop, we pulled over again so that the prepared people with brains chains could put them on. If only I'd known the situation in advance, I probably would have offered to drive. I have chains in my trunk. I'd never put them on, but I'd watched Terra do hers two weeks ago and could probably have managed, and gotten help if I need it.

To his credit, John got out and told Larry that he needed to drive his own car. I'm sure he didn't want to pay the ticket if we got pulled over. Larry agreed amiably and he and Marley came and got in. "I hope the Po-Po doesn't get us," I said.

"The Poco?"

"No, the Po-Po.

"The P-O-C-O?"

"No, P-O-P-O. You know, slang for Police."

"Oh, I'm not going to worry about it." How nice for him. He said this just as we passed a cop that had pulled a semi over to the side of the road. Luckily the cop was too busy with the truck to come after us.

Larry didn't seem to worry about the road conditions either. Our side of the road was fairly plowed and sanded, and we weren't slipping around any. But I looked over at the other side and worried. The snow was deeper and who knew if it would be plowed when we left? Completely oblivious to my inner panic, Larry talked casually about how long he'd had the car, that it would probably die soon, and what he might get as a replacement. Eventually I took refuge in my book, and he turned on the radio.

A couple of chapters later, we were still alive and pulling into the parking lot. The snow covered parking lot. Now we did slip a little bit, but made it into a spot. "Are we going to get stuck in here?" I wondered out loud.

"Oh, I'll worry about that when we come to it," said Larry. At least he was consistent. I got out of the car and my ears were met with a cacophony of barking. The lot was full of huge trucks and trailers, sleds and dogs all here for the racing. Marley was thrilled and wasted no time in jumping out of the car and adding his own voice to the chorus. I only had time to meet and greet a few of the closer dogs before getting into my boots and other gear and making sure I had everything I needed in my pack.

When we were all pretty much ready, A woman in our group who was clearly Larry's opposite, asked, "Does everyone have proper safety gear?" and proceeded to recite the list; extra food, water clothing etc. "If anyone doesn't have these things, speak up and maybe we can see if someone has extra." No one said anything. Her pack looked like she was about to camp for three days. I certainly appreciated the counterpoint to Larry's complete disregard, but I probably fall somewhere in the middle. I had enough food to last me all day and into the night if I stretched it, extra mittens, hat and socks and lots of water. Safety Girl, as I came to think of her, also had walkie talkies, which is probably not a bad investment.

As far as I could see, about the only thing Larry did that was remotely leader-like was to bring a few extra maps and hand them out, after asking about people's ski speeds.

I was already having tiny bladder syndrome and it occurred to me there might be a bathroom in the lot. I had to ask three times before anyone in the group responded, but there was a vault toilet right next to the start of our trail. It wasn't fun getting all my layers off, but better than going in the woods, in a big group of strangers. The delay meant I didn't have time to go watch the start of any of the racing though, since everyone else was already on the trail. I would have loved to make a little video of the start.

Once on the trail, my day finally improved. For one thing, the weather was better than I would have believed possible when I was laying in bed awake listening to the wind howl just 12 hours before. The sky wasn't sunny by any means, but it was bright and for the moment, it wasn't snowing. There was no wind at all.

The snow conditions weren't as nice as two weeks before, but it was decent. The trail was wide enough that I didn't have to adjust my poles from their standard length and the snow was packed and fairly hard, but not super icy. The going was all uphill at the start, but fairly gradual. There were clearly some beginners in our group and some people, like John, who hadn't skied in ten years. One woman said, "Is this uphill the whole way?" clearly freaking out about going on a prolonged downhill run on the way back.

"It goes up until we get to the top," responded Larry, and I thought it was a good thing he was out of reach of her poles when he said it. I kept my thoughts to myself and focused on my new skis, which were awesome. As were my poles and my new boots. I'd gotten a different brand of ski than Jess but with the same type of tread on the bottom and I seemed to be having a lot easier time getting up some of the trickier sections than my fellows on traditional cx skis. A few times the women in front of me asked for tips on how to do things. But all that was overshadowed by the triple awesomeness of my toe warmers, which, thanks to the beauty of mitten liners, I was also using on my hands. I was toasty warm for the entire trip.

After the first mile and a half, we reached a turn off and the front runners, including Safety Girl, were waiting for us. There was discussion of doing a loop that went up to and around a different lake. Larry wanted to know what time it was, but when someone offered to check their cell phone, he had a mock tantrum. "If your cell phone rings while you're skiing with me, I'll throw you down the mountain!" He was smiling when he said it, but I got the impression he was only half kidding. When someone else offered that she had a watch, he insisted on getting the time from her. He had also already made clear his feelings on walkie talkies and they were similar. "If I had it, I'd just turn it off." If he's not face to face with someone, he doesn't want to talk to them. I could understand the sentiment, I just hope nothing ever goes wrong for him on one of these trips.

But for today, there were plenty of people about to help if we got in trouble. In fact, we ran into another group from the Nordic ski club, about twenty snow shoers from a different club and, as I slowed to a stop at a large fork in the trail, who should I see but Terra, our ski buddy of two weeks before. "Dude! What's up!" I greeted. They were out with two other friends and probably bemoaning the number of people they were meeting on the trail. As I tried to line up for my turn, I took my first fall of the day. "Terra, you jinxed me," I said. "I hadn't fallen once till I saw you."

"It's probably true," she chuckled. "I've certainly spent some time on the ground today." I saw Leslie a little further along the trail and she admired my new skis. They went off ahead and I didn't see them again.

There was a fun downhill section for a while and then we started going up again. I passed a guy from our group who had lost the basket from his pole. He and John and a couple of others turned back. I ended up skiing with Larry and two other women, Sam and Leah. We got into some pretty tricky uphill sections that included switchbacks and a lot of side stepping and falling on my part. It was as if, having fallen once, I had opened the floodgates of gravity. Sam gave me some helpful tips as we went along. At one point she said out of the blue, "Aren't you friends with Skelly?"

My day seemed to be full of moments requiring diplomacy. For this one I settle on, "Yes, I know her," and did not add that she would was now definitely in the category of 'ex-friend' after being completely radio silent during my year of hell and well before then. I have this funny basic requirement that says my friends should actually respond when I reach out to them. Go figure.

"She's up here today too," Sam said, but from her tone I gathered that she was probably at a different sno park altogether. I was glad I wouldn't have to run into her.

We reached a second lake and and there was no sign of Safety Girl and crew. Perhaps they got too cold. I was surprised though since she seemed so concerned with everyone keeping people informed of their intentions. She'd made a whole speech about not putting people in the position of assuming what others in the group had done, and now here she'd gone and done it. Our choices were to keep going around the lake and possibly hooking up with the Pacific Crest Trail to go down which was reported to be easier than what we'd just come up. But that section was outside the small area maps we had no idea how long it would take us. And it was already 2:00pm. Larry voted to go back the way we'd come, which seemed to be the first sensible thing he'd said all day. We agreed, and after a snack, started back.

We made a deal with the snow shoers, who had stopped in the same place, to let them pass us on the uphill, if they would return the favor on the downhill. When we came to the evil switchback, three of us (guess which three?) took our skis off and walked down it. After that the going was not too bad, except for the unrelenting uphill slog. It had seemed so fun on the way down, but now that I was getting tired and ready for some downhill, it just made me cranky and seemed as if it would never end.

But end it did, and I was thrilled to see the sign telling us we could now enjoy a sweet mile and a half of downhill bliss. The snow shoers were as good as their word, and after we passed them there was no stopping us.

Back at the parking lot, the folks who'd turned back, were also just arriving from a sojourn in the other direction. The Skijoring races were long over but there were still dogs to pet. This guy had fourteen dogs with him in a triple decker trailer on top of his truck. I never imagined people not living Alaska would have that many dogs. Larry saw someone he knew skiing in with three dogs attached and got caught up talking to her and then going to see her new trailer, which really looked more like a motor home, in which she carried all her dogs.

I felt like Jess must feel trying to get me to leave a party. I figured it might be a good time to see about getting home in one piece. Leah and Sam were riding together in Leah's car, which I noted had chains on it. Sam had commitments back in town so they were headed straight back. I told the guy who'd ridden up with them that I needed to go directly back too (which was true) and he graciously agreed to trade cars with me. I wasted no time getting my stuff out of Larry's rolling kennel and into Leah's car and we got going after a tiny bump into the snow-mobile parked behind us.

Hwy 26 was a mess. We watched fools with no chains sliding all over the road in front of us including a sixteen foot U-Haul. One truck was involuntarily parked perpendicular in the right hand lane of the road and they finally decided it might be a good idea to put their chains on.

After sitting in the road going nowhere for ten minutes Leah decided to turn around and head down Hwy 35 to Hood River. I had no doubt, based on the amount of stupidity I'd already seen, that there was an accident ahead of us. After we turned around, the road was suddenly a ghost town and we made our slow, careful way down the mountain, talking of men, women, safety and other things. My only regret was that our new direction meant not reaching a real bathroom for at least an hour or more. I should've gone in the parking lot. As it was, I ended up squatting in some knee-deep dirty snow by the side of road on one of our stops to check the road surface. By that point I really didn't care who saw me, but I did wish I'd still had my gaiters handy as snow sunk into the cracks between my waterproof pants and shoes. My ankles were cold and wet for the rest of the ride.

Once we reached Hood River and Hwy 84, things sped right along, but the whole adventure took three hours and I didn't get home till 7:00pm. I ate first, then showered and later on Larry called to ask if I'd left something in his car, so I knew he'd gotten home safely, no thanks to himself. I was tempted to ask him about the trip home, but decided against it.

On this week's to-do list: Get car tires checked and practice putting on chains.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Frustrated Elation

I went and bought books for my classes today like a smart girl who doesn't like to wait in line. Though I'm not sure what section of writing class I'll end up in so I covered all the bases and will eventually have to wait in line to return one of the books. Ah well, at least I won't get behind in class.

Then I went to Next Adventure to pick up my skis. They weren't done yet (bindings were being put on) but the wait was only 5 minutes. Got caught up in the helmet section and found myself going home with a new snowboarding helmet. But mom, it's got a really warm liner that goes down the back of your neck! And it was really cheap (for a snowboarding helmet). And I actually have plans to snowboard in less than two weeks, so now I won't have to rent some ill fitting, possibly lice-ridden hand-me-down.

I did look longingly at the used boards in the bargain basement, but I have sworn off buying my own until next season, depending on how the lessons/rental adventures go. I suggested to Jess that we take at least one trip to Bend this winter. Could be dangerous.

New skis and bootsWhen I left the store, the sun was shining in earnest, and I looked forward to riding over to the Red Bike for lunch with Curt and some other bikey errands in the afternoon. When I got home, my boots were waiting for me on the porch and they fit perfectly.

But wait! What's this chip in my skis? Crap. So I call the store and now I have to drive (need to get that Xtracycle!) back after lunch and have them exchanged, which means waiting while they remount the bindings. Annoying. But it will all be forgotten when I hit the slopes tomorrow in all my glory. Plus, there will be dogs! I wouldn't take it amiss if the sun would like to stay out tomorrow as well.

Thursday, January 03, 2008


Hopeful Sky

The sun IS still up there. Somewhere. Even as we got spit on by some evil dark clouds on our way home with our new bookshelf, this little patch served as my ray of hope.

Hardcore winter bikerBut while the weather continues to be cold and miserable, people still have to get places and do things and some of them are still on two wheels. To those people, there's no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear. The hardest part is just getting out the door, and then I usually start to enjoy myself. This biker was clearly up for whatever the sky throws down.

There's a kind of relief in the unambiguity of weather that's just gross. You don't have to wonder what to put on, just load up for bear: booties or waterproof shoes, rain pants & jacket, facemask, warm gloves (there's no such thing as waterproof gloves) and in my case, I've been known to wear my ski goggles. Nothing makes me happier than to bike around for five hours in the rain, as I did a couple of weeks ago, and come home dry underneath it all. Sure, I'm wearing $500 to do it, and that's not to say there aren't much cheaper ways to be comfortable, but to me, it's worth it.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Be Nice To Me

I gave blood today. It's a nice way to start the year--giving life, instead of losing them.

Let it snow

I had an epiphany during our first cross country ski trip of the season, about winter sports. It seems pretty obvious now that I've had it, but since I didn't really have easy access before, it just didn't occur to me. But having spent four glorious hours in winter wonderland, I realized that getting outside in the winter in a way I can really look forward to, is a way to combat S.A.D., make the long dreary months between Jan and March go by quicker and even avoid that feeling of dread I get during Fall every year because winter is coming.

Aside from the exercise and the endorphins, just the fact of getting out into the postcard that is the pacific NW gives me a new perspective. Endless rain in town means snow on the mountain.

Jess already owned cross country skis when we met. She's been doing it since she was six years old. I had been a few times in high school and then not again till last year with her.

I had a much better time on this trip, what with the better snow and the not having hives from an extreme allergy to hidden Brazil nuts in my bread. I had enough fun that I've spent the last week shopping for my own gear and it'll all be delivered/ready for pick up on Friday. And like magic, I got an invite from an old friend of mom's to go skiing on Saturday.

After lots of shopping around, I managed to get pretty good deals on my kit. The skis and poles from Next Adventure, boots from and bindings on sale at REI. And if my feet were smaller I could've gotten the boots at REI for $80.

Alpina Control Skis: $109.00
Rottefella bindings: $46.99
Rossignol BC X3 boots: $114.00
Leki Back Country Air Ergo adjustable poles: $79.99

(Keeping up with your girlfriend on the slopes: Priceless --yeah I had to do it :)

I'll report back after Saturday on the performance of all my new gear.

ETA: This also counts as Art#2 since I made the movie after midnight. I'm slowing learning my way around the IMovie. It's fun.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Art #1

My committment to the art thing is mostly a ploy to force myself to make time to write. But I also have some other ideas brewing so I expect my interpretation of this project will be pretty liberal:

"Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!"