Jan 292010
 

After an ungodly wakeup time of 4:30 a.m., and I hit the road at about 5 a.m. toward Crystal Mountain Resort, near Thompsonville, MI. Four hours and an uneventful drive later, I was signed up, suited up, geared up, and ready to fall on my ass. Repeatedly.

There were only two of us in the class: me and a 14 year old named Kristen. The instructor was the beautiful Jessie Jones, a 23 year old woman from Traverse City. We started with the parts of the board, then how to “pedal” it: scooting it along flat ground with one foot out of the bindings. Once we practiced sliding down a short section of Totem Park, the practice slope, we put both feet in and learned the difference between toe- and heel-edging: basically which edge of the board to apply pressure to in order to stay upright, move, and steer downhill.

We practiced that for a bit and it started to make sense, until we chained heel-edging with toe-edging in order to make C-shaped turns down the hill. My initial early progress kind of fell apart, but I persevered until the lesson was over at noon. It was during the first lesson that I really appreciated having a helmet, after banging the back of my head on the snow a few times, and understood why Jayson recommended hip pads, which I didn’t have.

Andy and I regrouped for lunch, then he took me back to Totem Park to continue lessons, as he used to be a snowboard instructor himself. Things went along relatively well, until he dragged me up one of the lifts to the top of Main Street, the first slope above Totem Park in difficulty. In my initial terror, I expected he’d just send me down on my own, but he pretty much held onto me part of the way down and reinforced what Jessie had already taught me.

Things didn’t fall apart until he turned me loose, at which point I spent more time in the snow rather than on it. After a head-smack that really rung my chimes, I yanked off the board in frustration and anger and walked the rest of the way down the hill. A guy from Ski Patrol pulled up a couple minutes later and asked if there was some reason we were walking. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but it was something to the effect of, “I can’t do this shit anymore.”

After I cooled off, I asked Andy to leave me on my own in Totem Park for awhile, so I could work on the basics until it started to click. I was overloaded with info, I just needed quiet time to process it all and start turning it into muscle memory. By the time we left for Andy’s parents’ house in Kingsley, I’d made a little progress, but it was becoming clear that the kiddie hill was so short that it was actually hindering me. I ran out of hill before I could really get a feel for what I was doing.

I met Andy’s parents (who are great folks, by the way, and perfect hosts) briefly before they left for the night. We took turns showering and, since I felt like I’d been beaten with a 2×4, I tried to nap before we went to dinner. I dozed off twice but when I closed my eyes I was back on the slope, and kept kicking myself awake.

Jessie had suggested we stop by the Firefly Cafe and Lounge, where she worked in the evenings as a bartender, so we took her advice and had a really good meal. They serve sushi and small-plate items, so I had to try a Leelanau Roll of salmon & dried-cherry cream cheese, along with an Empire Roll (Blue Crab and cream cheese), chasing it down with a pomegranate mojito. Good stuff.

After dinner we had a drink at the bar and talked to Jessie and her friend Keith for awhile, who were heading to Grand Rapids the next day to party. It says something about northern Michigan life when getting away from Traverse City means going to Grand Rapids, but everything’s relative I guess. I also swear Keith was gay, but Andy didn’t pick up on it.

We called it a night after one drink, since we were going cross-country skiing with Andy’s dad the next morning on the Vasa Trail. Shortly after we returned, so did his folks, and we talked for awhile as we put away a bottle of Riesling they had picked up from Left Foot Charley’s, a local vineyard/wine bar. At last I dragged my battered carcass to bed.

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