Alison and I went to the New York Botanical Gardens last weekend. We had a terrific time despite hot and sticky climes, and I took some photos. So nice to see some new plants and immerse myself in greenery.
I still remember the first time I ever saw Aileen outside of our usual haunts. We were both on the Upper West Side. She had a plastic carrier bag in one hand and was standing in front of a plate-glass window looking at some clothing items. The shop was Clothingline, when they used to have a brick-and-mortar, and I remember standing just near her, wondering if it was the same girl that…
Yep, it was. We exchanged hellos, and then some random platitudes. I can’t remember when we started hanging out after that, or if we actually did. I do know that when we did actually start shooting the shit together, it was in ways that were so far removed from the way we actually met that you might consider it lucky that we met at all.
So enough dancing around the shrubbery–how did we actually meet?
Answer: On bikes, both strong as can be, both confident, both just discovering, I think, what kind of a person extreme competency makes you.
Aileen and I met in 1997, during training for the 1997 Boston-New York AIDS Ride. I did it with my then-boyfriend, who lived in Boston. I was living in New York, and I trained for the thing largely in my living room, on a hydraulic trainer. But I did go on one or two training rides, and it was there that I met Aileen. We would both go on to complete the 1998 AIDS Ride together. Aileen would ride in support of an AIDS Vaccine across Alaska later, and I would ride across Montana in support of the same cause the year following.
Like I say, I’d never seen her in anything other than spandex before the day I saw her standing in front of Clothingline, but I do remember thinking that this woman of bright smile and open demeanor was one to keep track of.
We floated in and out of each others’ lives for years; and then we lost track of each other. Later, we floated back into each others’ orbits, and have known each other through a fair number of birthdays. I have spent two New Years with Aileen. One was a year in the height of my social life, when I had to hit five New Year’s parties, dragging along a boyfriend who wasn’t too keen on all of the shuffling. It was just before Aileen moved to Colorado.
Aileen was, at the time, the coolest person in my immediate circle. She was the quintessential New York girl, the one I wanted to be, with a terrific apartment in Hell’s Kitchen, two cats, her bike stored neatly away. She had a bar at which everyone knew her name. She knew the firemen and the guys who rode Harleys; her hairstylist was her best friend; she introduced me to lots of different people. She played the guitar. Her friends were vastly different from her. She picked up and moved to Colorado, a couple years after I was considering, and eventually not ready to, move to Montana.
Later, she would be a rock in what might be the absolute most confusing time in my life. But I had no way of knowing this. In fact, Aileen has been there through the Married Man, the Cocaine Addict, the Ego-Maniac, and countless friend rotations. (Why do we give our ex-boyfriends capitalized nicknames, but not our ex-friends? Maybe I should start. Well, there’s Dead-to-Me, but that’s about it…)
I also didn’t know, at the time, that Aileen can write. And if now I am eternally frustrated that she doesn’t do more with her writing, I also know that our relationship is indicative of the way I’d like to approach life, and my fragile wish that more of the world will eventually know Aileen’s writing: what’s meant to be eventually will be.
Aileen’s bike is in a corner now, and has been for a little while. It’s a lovely hat-rack. But it’s kept free of dust, and Aileen knows it’s a beautiful machine. She also knows that she’d like to get back on it. Wouldn’t it be nice if, one day, Aileen and I got to ride our bicycles again together?
Jim and I spent the weekend at the Trues’. I had a ridiculously busy Friday that involved a ton of networking (which, it seems, could be a full-time job even if you’re not actually following up on any of the networking with anything concrete); took some time off for lunch with a friend here in White Plains; and then bolted home to throw some final few things in a bag and drive up to Boston to squeeze in an overdue visit to an old friend before heading out to Melrose via the convoluted-but-beautiful Route 1. (Evans: Are you reading this? You are next.)
(Only in Boston would a relatively straight course end up looking like a misguided bowl of noodles.)
This route goes over the Tobin Bridge, by the way, which is stunning, to say the least.
Anyhow. We went to visit my friend Sarah, who had her baby boy, Jesus Jr., back in late December. I don’t know why there is only this photo of me, Jim and JJ and none of Sarah, me, Jim, and Jesus Sr. It seems people disappear when there are babies involved.
Baby Jesus is cute. He is just like the teddy bear he looks to be, warm and squashy and round.
Jesus and Sarah took us to the really great Village BBQ, where I had beef brisket, and Jim had…something I can’t remember. Jesus had hot wings whose flames could only be quenched by tequila, and Sarah had an entire rack of ribs. Have I mentioned that Sarah is but a mere waif? I never understood where she put the food. For that matter, I’m not sure where she put Jesus Jr.
Then it was off to the True household for a promised weekend of mountain biking.
That didn’t really happen. I mean, Jim and Colin went, and came back suitably muddy. The story is that Jim executed an awesome endo, but there were no photographs. However, as these were the photos that happened that night, I think it’s obvious that everyone had a good time. Indeed, Jim look properly relieved to have gotten out of the afternoon with nothing more than a good endo story to tell:
We girls went to hot yoga instead. It was very, very hot, although I know it wasn’t the 100 degrees on the thermostat. It was aggressive and I had some sort of aggressive woman next to me who flexed her hands wide open when she was doing Warrior and jumped back and forth with an annoying plip plopping noise whenever our instructor said to “jump or step back into upward facing dog.” You could see her tendons and she seemed to be very competitive. Anyway, Carli lost the lid to her WaterBox and it went rolling in a lopsided confused way underneath me before she caught it, which sent me into fits of snorting laughter that, thankfully, no one but Carli heard, I don’t think. This must be why Carli and I look so composed in this photo, because all of the giggling snorts had been sweated out of us.
Er. What happened just now? I got distracted. Oh, right, the weekend.
Perhaps one of the most cliché-and-yet-not moments of the weekend was when Colin dragged out his home videos, made back when he was, oh, I can’t remember, eight or so. People. You’ve never seen home videos like this. To be fair, they were shot by someone I think was an aspiring filmmaker (not Colin, but a childhood friend of his). There are sound effects and visual effects and great costumes and fake fighting and everything. They are from “Peter/Paul Productions,” with a proper nameplate, and they. are. hilarious. Seriously. I think I might have liked watching clips of those better than I liked.
Okay, so we knocked off to bed shortly after that, as Jim had to get up the next morning to ride in the King of Burlingame time trial race. People. Watch the video. Sometimes I cannot believe Jim rides this stuff. Sometimes I am sick with envy.
Other times I look at that and go, “Agh, mud, trail erosion…eeeEEEeee…bridges!” In this case, I was not around to see the actual race; I was inside the car, trying to get a head start on editing the newspaper. We left shortly afterwards, and stopped on the way home to consume what would eventually be The Bane of Our Existence.
It was, at the time. And then, four hours later, it was not, as Jim and I were rapidly overtaken with horrible food poisoning. I still haven’t decided if I can write up a Yelp review of this restaurant. Jim has fond memories of it from his days working in Groton, CT at Pfizer, but…oh, le sigh.
Anyway. So our wonderful weekend fizzled to a stop, as we both, in separate rooms, moaned our ways through the night (we didn’t know if it was flu and didn’t feel like passing it back and forth to each other). Jim gamely went to work Monday morning and I moaned my way through all of Monday and into Tuesday morning and now finally feel 100%. I am convinced that the hot yoga which made me sweat out all of the water in my system contributed to a slower recovery time for me.
Anyhow, we’re already halfway through the week, and I ahve a ton of work to do, because I have a houseguest coming Friday and things to do in the city tomorrow evening, I think, and then I am going to Haiti on Sunday.
Yes, I’m going to Haiti on Sunday. More on that later.
Bradley Cooper’s hair!
P.S. Carli made this thing out of WikkiStix. I have never heard of them until this past weekend, but I was suitably impressed:
It was near fifty degrees out yesterday, so Jim and Sprocket and I went for a stroll at a nature preserve that I’ve been reading a lot about, but haven’t actually visited myself.
The Teatown Lake Reservation is in Ossining, New York. They are the hosts of Eaglefest, an annual event celebrating that most noble of carrion-eaters, and have 15 miles worth of hiking trails. They’ve been in our local news quite a bit, as they’re about to acquire another 72 acres of land as part of an open space initiative.
It was such a beautiful day out, bright sunshine everywhere, and, obviously, mud, as all of the snow that was piled up from the previous weekend melted. There were lots of people out everywhere–the overflow parking lot was full–and although we didn’t get to visit the nature center, we did have a really nice day.
I wore my slick-soled Blundstones, which proved to be a big mistake–the snow, which was wet and heavy, was also packed down in enough places where folks had walked earlier that day. Anyone who’s ever skied in the late afternooon knows what that means: mini-berms everywhere, some iced over, some mushy, some hidden under kicked up snow.
I had my twenty-pound pack on, too, all of which combined to make our 2.5-mile walk quite adventurous, at least insofar as my core, hamstrings, ankles, and knees went. Here are some photos.
I love this bridge, although I wasn’t able to capture the running water and the reflections it made on the rocks just above the brook. Jim crossed this bridge stomping at the crusty snowy bits and kicking them off, all in the guise of making it easier for future visitors to walk and not slip, but he inadvertently let loose his true intent by muttering, under his breath, “DESTRUCTOR JIMMY!” Sigh. Boys are so transparent.
I love these trail markers. They were everywhere. I was very tempted to pull them off and use them as coasters in my own home.
There’s apparently a permanent orienteering course at Teatown. Very cool. This marker says that if you turn 96 degrees from looking at the sign and walk 23 paces, you’ll find the next marker. Orienteering. The sport that proves that the universe makes sense, after all.
Why does everyone say “mossy green”? Personally, I prefer this color, which I am calling licheny green. Okay, so they’re two different colors. Still, this one is preferable to me.
Some deer had been before us. I did not take pictures of the deer poo. This was good enough evidence.
Spotted this way-cool underbelly of tree. Looks like a massive star anise. Good for a garnish on a massive cocktail.
Overlook Trail is very very short but very steep and slippery and sometimes treacherous. At some point I slid down on my rear. Stupid pack!
I liked this little wishbone in the snow. Sprocket was completely insane on the ride up there. Now he is lying flat on his side, moaning. He must be pretty pooped, too.
I hope this is not the last of our snow days yet, although it’s supposed to rain later this week, and I must confess that standing outside in nothing but shirt-sleeves was really nice this morning.
In May we will have been here a year. It hardly feels that way…!
Almost exactly a week ago I began a long trip to Florida via Philadelphia. I met my friend Bill in Philly so we could catch a plane to Florida and ShelterBox USA’s winter workshop meeting. It was terrific to catch up with Bill and spend some quality time with him, and to see other friends I hadn’t seen in a long time, and meet some people I’ve been communicating with on the telephone or by e-mail.
Really, really cool stuff. Of course, today the work begins–I’m back to scheduling stuff and just waiting, waiting, to go on deployment while I steal a few moments here and there to devote to my other clients.
“Other clients”–ha! as if ShelterBox is a client! Still, I find the work they’ve set upon me interesting and a natural extension of the work I’d be doing anyway. However, now that I know I have some folks depending on some productive results, there’s an added extension of pressure. At the moment, I’m itching to deploy. It seems all of my friends are going! Agh. Nothing to do but move forward and wait for the call.
In the meantime, here’s some of what I saw in Florida.
Erica picked me up from the Winter Workshop. We got locked out of her car–it was still running!–and E’s brother Nick tried to make it right. Three older folks (we were in Florida, after all) stopped by to help, and two hours later, the locksmith showed up.
This bird seemed to think it was such a good sight that it stuck around to watch how we did.
There is no photo of either bunny, the cat, or the fish cos, respectively, I am a bad photographer; the cat and I had a raging fight and I have started to referring to it as North Korea, a la Erica’s boyfriend Kevin; and I did not want to scare the fishies with the flash on my camera.
Anyway, E and K went off to Tampa to celebrate Valentine’s Day and I proceeded to spend the rest of the night editing, watching the Olympics, and fighting with the cat.
I went to volunteer at the ShelterBox USA offices the next day. Good fun. Busy. Crazy.
The following day E and I went to the Ringling museum to check out the Norman Rockwell exhibit. It was way, way cool.
And then I go to meet Lindy for lunch! Lindy! Lindy! Lindy from my ARFE life! Crazy! She’s started up her own company based around Nordic Walking…we had a really lovely day on Siesta Key, and I realized that I need sunglasses if I’m going to do this kind of thing. I mean, I have them, but I’ve been wearing my spectacles a lot, and I wanted to see everything crystal clear, so I went without on this bright day. What a moron. Needless to say, I went and ordered a pair of photochromic glasses then next morning.
We walked about five and a half miles along the incredible sands…they were beautiful. I was so grateful and happy to see Lindy. It’s not that I had despaired of ever seeing her again, but I didn’t know if we would stay relevant to each other after she left her job and I left ARFE. But personalities don’t change with jobs, and I always liked Lindy. Along the way we did this:
Lindy says they’re “seablobs.” Jim is informing me over my shoulder that they are actually jellyfish, and that he and his friends used to throw them at each other when he was growing up in Rhode Island. Yuck!
That night I had dinner with some ShelterBox USA board members and then drove home to hang out with Erica, read, watch some Olympics, and have a glass of wine.
Next morning, last day of my stay in FLA, Bev, another SRT, came and picked me up. We had lunch at Simon’s, a lovely little whole-food joint. I had some gorgeous haddock wrap thing with smoked gouda and a mango salsa. Yum.
it was an hour ride to the airport filled with terrific conversation, then, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
I had a great time. It was well worth the effort to go down there. If I hadn’t, I doubt I’d be either as energized or as overwhelmed by the work ahead. In the end, the added energy and sense of cohesion about the organization–and face time with key folks, friends, and admin alike–make it all worth it.
I am ridiculously proud of him. Without getting too much into the gory details, we’ll just say that there were a number of obstacles in the new couple’s way. Some of them were curiously people-shaped.
There’s not much to say here, really. I’ll post what I said during my toast to the happy couple, as best I can remember it.
“Hi. I’m Yi Shun. I’m Bor’s sister. I write for a living: I tell stories. I’ve got a couple of good ones about Bor (some involving some embarrassing bits), but I’ll only limit myself to one tonight. We can talk about the embarrassing ones later.
“When I was nine or ten–that would have made Bor four or five–I considered myself a really cool kid, too cool to be seen with the likes of a little brother. So one day, I was out playing with the way-cool neighborhood kids, and Bor was tagging along, and I told him, in so many words, to Go Away. So he went, all tears and sniffling, and I went on playing with the cool neighborhood kids.
“Not five minutes later, they turned on me. We got into a huge fight, me on one side, them on the other, yelling across the street. I think they did something to my bicycle. Now, if you ever wondered what five-year-olds do when they’re not trying to play with their older sisters, I can tell you: They’re spying on their older sisters. I know this because, suddenly, from around the corner, came Bor.
“You have to picture Bor at age four or five. He was perfectly round. So from around the corner comes this perfectly round little kid, and he’s screaming, ‘HEY! Don’t pick on her! That’s my sister!!’
“That day, I knew. I knew what loyalty meant, and unconditional love. Some four, five-year-old taught me that.
“So when Bor met Laura, years later, and we met Laura, I was so pleased to find someone who not only was deserving of this level of loyalty, this brand of love, but someone who understood it, gave it back, reflected it onto her community, her friends, her family. I am proud to call Laura my sister. I mean, I always wanted one of those anyway.
“At this point in the wedding, someone usually cracks the old joke. They ask the bride to put her hand on the table, and the groom to put his hand over hers, and then they say something like, ‘Oh. Cherish this moment, because this is the last time the groom will have the upper hand.’ That’s funny and all, but it doesn’t work that way for Bor and Laura. They’ll go through life hand in hand, on equal footing, sharing all of their major decisions and as true partners. Congratulations, you two.”
Yeah. That’s about it. Great ceremony, great to see friends and family, great to be a part of the wedding party, great to see them get married and celebrate under a warm California sun.
I do hate losing my mo. One of my favorite lines to trot out about having chosen writing as a career is that you can find inspiration in whatever you do or say. You wake up every day knowing that something is going to strike you as worthy. Everyone has something to offer you. It’s a very lucky thing, knowing that you’ve got that on your side. Inspiration’s not a problem. It’s motivation that’s the issue, motivation to get up and outside and look for inspiration. You don’t find it in a cubicle, although a good friend mentioned the other day that I am the type of person who would do better in a box, entirely closed up, if I am to really focus. Sigh.
Take today, for instance. We went to bed last night at a reasonable hour and I decided that this week was going to be the week that I get back to being physically fit. Yes, yes, I really have done nothing since Ironman. I did this jog on Monday:
and it took me FOREVER. I ran the loop six times, for a total mileage of 1.8 miles, and it took me 21 minutes. Argh. Speed isn’t really an issue–I’ve become quite pokey since I started distance training, and I’m okay with that–really, really–but what I was really struck by was how much my legs ached on Tuesday.
At any rate, I thought, OK, let’s just get back on the bandwagon, do cardio three days a week this week: Wednesday you’ll do the same loop six more times, maybe 7, do the same thing on Friday. By week two you should be working out six days a week, strength training on the days you don’t run.
Guess what? It’s Wednesday. I have not yet gone for my jog. Later, though, later.
The weekend was strange. Friday night I took Jim to Horsefeathers with Peggy, since he’d never been. We got home kind of late for my 5:15 wake-up call to get to the U.N. in time for U.N.-Rotary Day. It was a nice day representing ShelterBox, but I ran, as predicted, on all six cylinders that day and was totally wasted by the time I got home for dinner with Kate. Still, it was awesome to see her, and nicer still to have yet another friend in our home.
We didn’t take any photos with Kate (why not? why not? morons!), but I’ve been charged with a Flat Stanlina until after Thanksgiving, and she got her photo taken at the U.N.
I spent all over Sunday on the couch. Totally exhausted. It was a gorgeous day, and I read Wuthering Heights and watched the BBC film version, which was unexpectedly moving.
Anyway. So here I am, flabby and unexercised. In other news, though, I’m finally beginning to wrap my head around finishing my applications for the MFA programs I applied for (really, it’s just sending in manuscripts and essays and things), I wrote close to 3000 words yesterday for NaNoWriMo, I just found out my good friend Jody is going to be Chicago the same time I am over Thanksgiving, and I think I am *this* close to convincing my brother that he needs to come out early for Christmas so we can have some quality time before the holidays take over.
I think I might actually have most of my shopping & making-stuff (I do hate the word “crafting,” don’t you?) done, too, believe it or not. Most of it.
Here’s a gratuitous photo of the United Nations building. I’ve always loved this building. It’s due to be gutted, though, because it’s way out of honking code. Asbestos and everything.
I forgot: Flat Stanlina and I had coffee together. She ate most of my egg sandwich, the little so-and-so.
More writing now. Some exercising later. Bleh. I have a horrible hankering, by the way, to be back on Dartmoor. Wannh!
My, oh my, oh my.
How time does fly. We’ve done a lot in just a short week. I’ve mentioned our friends Colin, Carli, and Lily before. We went on that incredible Fat Tire Narnia trip with them? Right, anyway, Halloween kicked off a week early for us, as we met the Trues over in Sleepy Hollow for some good graveyard fun. Honestly, it was just us, walking (okay, first driving, ‘cos we weren’t clear on the concept of an unmarked parking lot) through the graveyard, visiting the graves of people more creative, more famous, wealthier than we are. This is where I really regretted not having a camera, since there were actually some really beautiful, very moving monuments to people. But it’s OK. Through the wonder of facebook, i have poached a photo taken by Carli that shows one of our favorites:
I can’t remember who it was, but I’m going to have to just go back to the cemetery, maybe in winter, and take a few photos of my own.
There was one family that had some very good, very snarky epitaphs on their stones–one of my favorites said something about the adventure of a bargain.
Anyhow, we wandered through Sleepy Hollow for a bit, seeing with dismay that everything was closed on a Sunday, even brunch places and then we went on to Irvington and had lunch at Geordane’s, after which I promptly left my bag on a bench.
Fortunately, the people of Irvington are very nice folks and when we got home there was a message from the Irvington Police department saying that someone had found my entire bag and that I could pick it up whenever I wanted. People are good. When we returned to Irvington, we spotted this in a shop window:
I really like the plastic-eyeballs in martini-glass detail:
(That’s some innovative garnish.)
The rest of the week was spent in panicked preparation for our party, to which we were expecting 20, 25 people in our teeny tiny apartment. In the end, it all worked out OK–people hung out on the balcony and largely away from the over-lit kitchen. I tried to take some photos with my broken camera:
And then I switched to Jim’s camera, which has uber-aggressive flash and does not show the spookiness of our black-lit, scary apartment.
Really, really fun. We had a great time. I, by the way, was the only one who didn’t immediately guess what my friend Tom, who came in the LORD outfit with the FLIES pasted all over him, was. Argh. SO LAME.
I said it before, and I’ll say it again: I have awesome friends. Folks really got into the Halloween concept, and everyone seemed to either be drunk or having a good time. Snort!
And now, the view from my window lately:
In writing news, on Wednesday afternoon I hit a massive glitch in my most recent manuscript, freaked out, and sent in applications to three MFA programs. Why, yes! I am a spazz! Thank you for asking!
At any rate, the day after I’d paid all the application fees and sent away for my transcripts, I fixed the glitch and sent the novel off to my group, and then I had a ridiculously good HopBack beer and felt lighter than I’ve felt in months. I really like this manuscript, and think it has a good chance, but now I’ve got to wait a month until my critique group gets back to me with what they think.
Fortunately, it is now National Novel Writing Month. So this is what I’ll feel like for the rest of the month.
Also, I went back to the gym for the first time since Ironman. I guess that should read, “I did something with my body for the first time since Ironman,” ‘cos I haven’t been a gym rat in ages.
At any rate, it’s now gorgeous, gorgeous fall, and I can start looking forward to winter pursuits. Yay!
That’s it for now. I need to be better about keeping up this thing. I always feel better after I’ve posted. Lugging too many memories around in my very small brain can’t be good for me.
Head and chest cold
HOW does one acquire so many fabulous, varied, tangible and intangible things in the space of one weekend, you ask? The answer is simple: FAT TIRE NARNIA. What *is* Fat Tire Narnia?
Well. Let’s just say that it involves mountain bikes and the never-ending search for good places to ride. Yes, yes, I know I said, particularly after Isabella was stolen, that I really didn’t know if I was going back to mountain biking. i’d invested what I saw as a fair amount of time and never really gotten any better at it, after all. But then, see, Friday afternoon, we crossed the border into Massachusetts, and the leaves were gorgeous and crunchy, and somewhere deep in my physical memory there was a buried a sense of woods, trails, and the curious, fragrant crunch that occurs when you fall off your bike into a pile of soft, welcoming leaves. There was speed, and crisp, cool air, and the joy that comes from being out on your bike in the woods in the deep of the fall. It’s different from riding in the summer, you know. Anyway. Jim and I pulled into Colin and Carli’s house in the early afternoon, and we mucked about Melrose for a bit, getting to know the town. Chris came in later that evening, to a nice seafood dinner at Turner‘s and some nice local microbrews to boot, and then we all called it a night.
The next morning, after some faffing about buying groceries and getting fueled up with coffee and whatnot, we packed our cars and headed off to East Burke, Vermont, home of Kingdom Trails, only to get stuck in a lot of leaf-peeping traffic.
Here is proof of the pretty foliage.
There are no pictures of awful leaf-peepers or the traffic they caused, ‘cos there were’t any when I took this photo. That’s ‘cos I figured out too late that the white screen my camera was showing was indicative of a smashed LCD, rendering my camera useless. So I pointed it around and took random photos of leaves, but it didn’t much feel right (my camera doesn’t have a viewfinder).
I took a bunch more like this:
and then gave up. Sigh. Too bad, because there were some really good times that weekend. Good thing Boyd had a video camera, and Colin is an inveterate shutterbug.
Anyhow, we pulled into East Burke, Vermont at around 3:30 that afternoon, just enough time for the guys to squeeze in a late-afternoon ride, and Carli and I packed up Lily (Colin and Carli’s gorgeous little 3-year-old girl) and Sprocket and went off to the campsite to set up camp, but not before I looked shiftily at the local bike shop and tried to talk myself out of buying a bike right then and there.
At camp, Carli and I encountered several problems: the campground was shaped like a circle with a couple of off-shoots that we didn’t see at first, making finding our site a small adventure; Sprocket kept on trying to explore the greater area; the hammock Colin had thrown into the car at the last minute turned out to be not-a-hammock, the ground was almost too soft, so on, so forth. By the time we got everything set up, it was time to meet the boys back in town for dinner.
I just about made up my mind to get a damned bike when all three boys came rolling across the street on their bikes, covered in mud, faces covered in shit-eating grins the likes of which I’ve never seen, not even on athletes crossing the finish line after a long race. Cos, see, finishing a race is still work. There’s a very different feeling to doing something that you’re just good at, something that doesn’t involve winning, that just involves being out with friends and riding to your skill level.
We ate at the local pub, finding some terrific beers on tap and discovering the crap service that exists in a small town that revolves exclusively around mountain bikers and locals, and then we went back to camp to experience the hell that is starting a fire in damp weather.
I put my Leatherman to good use (also, some handy skills that I picked up from watching Bear Grylls on TV–shut up), shaving wood into teeny tiny bits for tinder and then dumping the entire pile of shavings into the dirt just shy of the fire pit (blame too many micro-brews). At the end of the night, it fell to Jim to save the evening, since he apparently breathes sheer oxygen from his lungs, where the rest of us mere mortals exhale only a shallow mix of useless CO2 and other pointless gasses. At any rate, our dismal fire fell prey to the damp in the air and an eventual rain as we slept that night.
I woke up feeling groggy and snotty, but rallied enough to drag my arse up to the bathroom and brush my teeth. Sprocket came with me, hellbent on saying hello to whoever was in the bathroom stalls. Good thing mountain bikers have a good sense of humor. When I came back we’d decided on abandoning the oatmeal-in-a-camp-pan breakfast and settled on a hot breakfast somewhere in town, thereby putting me in striking distance of the bike shop again.
I wandered in with our friends, trying to stay casual, loose, but then I found a real steal, and, bolstered by four people who clearly weren’t going to let me out of there without a bike anyway, I walked out with a ride I really like, a new pair of shoes, pedals, and cleats, all for a nice price.
Carli and I left the boys for a ride while we drove Lily into the neighboring towns, hoping to get her to sleep, and then we went back to camp for lunch and then geared up for our own ride.
Colin, Chris, and Jim returned with predictable shit-eating grins again, and we suited up, left Sprocket and Lily with Colin, and proceeded on our own ride.
It was a sheer joy being back on the bike again. There’s nothing really unrideable, even for me, about the trails at Kingdom Trails, and I’m hoping that we’ll go again before the season’s out. I executed one stunning crash on a run that involved some banked berms and chose to peg-leg my way down the rest of the trail, but that’s OK–I’ll get better as time goes on.
The rest of the afternoon’s kind of a blur. Our time on the trails went by in a ridiculous flash, all woods, leaves, laughing, and Carli taking out a small defenseless tree, and then we headed off to dinner in a neighboring town and back to the campsite, where the fire lit successfully and we chatted into the night.
It was a terrific trip. There is something really cool about getting together with people you don’t really know, making that leap into friendship, committing yourself fully to an experiment, only to find a good match all around. Lots of laughs and automatic inside jokes, things that can’t be posted here because they won’t make sense to anyone else.
For Jim, I think it was an extra-sweet trip. We know only a select number of people who can keep up with him on a mountain bike, and while he always enjoys riding with me or our mutual friends, it’s not the same as actively pushing your partners–and being pushed–while still having a great time. Onward and forward, to the next Fat Tire Narnia.
Great beer: Switchback, Trout River, Magic Hat, Flying Dog, Dogfishhead
Great food: Poutine! Poutine! Poutine!!! Powerfood on a plate!!
P.S. Congratulations to Laini Taylor, whose book Lips Touch is a National Book Award finalist.