Jan 302010

My subconscious was apparently still traumatized from having its cage rattled the day before, because the most prominent dream I had Friday night involved Andy pushing me out onto M-115, one of the two-lane roads we drove to Crystal Mountain, on a snowboard. I had to board down the road, stay upright, and dodge traffic in both directions.

The breakfast his mom cooked for us made it all disappear, however, and Andy, his dad, and I stopped in town at Don Orr’s Ski & Surf shop so I could rent gear for the Vasa Trail. The guys declared my skis to be surprisingly good for rentals, and a steal at $10 for 24 hours. I was out of there with skis, poles, and boots in about 15 minutes, and ready to exhaust myself in new and exciting ways.

After a brief lesson in the basics of skiing, we pushed off from the head of the trail and down the flat, straight path.

Where I promptly fell over.

Fortunately, falling on skis was far less punishing than falling on a snowboard, and I didn’t need a helmet to protect the tattered remnants of my ability to do math. The trail has a pair of narrow tracks carved into the snow on one edge of it, and for the most part you just plant your skis in them and push along, sort of like a slot-car track. The only times I needed to leave it were for hills so steep I had to plant my skis at an angle in order to climb it, and for turns at the bottom of hills so sharp that you’d fly off the track into an inconveniently placed tree.

What was especially fun was getting to the top of a high slope that ran straight out at the bottom instead of turning, like being on a really cold roller coaster.

After about the first 2 km, I was asked if I wanted to stick to the 6k loop, or continue on to the 12k. Giving in to my testosterone-soaked male pride, I voted for 12k, but I managed to not thump my chest as I did so.

I fell a lot (surprise!), and never really did figure out how to turn, so much as learn to gently suggest to the skis that, if it wasn’t too much of an inconvenience, would they mind terribly if we altered our course by a degree or two at some point entirely of their choosing?

By about the 7 or 8k mark, I started going through distinct levels of fatigue. At first, I was all about staying upright no matter what, by sheer force of will and latent telekinesis if necessary. I often failed, but eventually improved. That, or the telekinesis was less latent than I thought.

Then I reached a point where, as I started to topple, my intention to stay vertical was preempted by a sudden “oh, screw it!” It was less effort to just get it over with, fall, and get back up.

Finally, at around 10k, I came full circle, and the thought of picking myself up out of the snow again had me right back to staying upright by any means necessary. I also gave up using the tracks, for the most part, because I realized they were like training wheels, and I’d never learn to keep my skis under me if I kept relying on them.

Exaggerations of my clumsiness aside, it was a lot of fun, and gliding through a remote pine forest while fat snowflakes drift silently down around you is an experience I highly recommend.

We hustled to get home, shower, and change, as Andy’s folks were taking us to dinner at Tuscan Bistro before they attended a play. My penne alla vodka with prosciutto was great, but unfortunately the others were kind of underwhelmed with their meals.

Andy and I managed to find Left Foot Charley’s after some trial & error and cursing of Google Maps, and rewarded ourselves by sampling all five of their whites, the single red, and both hard ciders. The whites were great, but the red and one of the ciders bordered on nasty. Andy loaded up on bottles to take home, and I picked up three varieties of Riesling for his parents, my mom, and Aaron and I.

We went from Left Foot to Right Brain (Brewery), and some serious beer sampling. Conveniently, there were 12 varieties on tap, each sampler tray held six glasses, and there were two of us. Isn’t symmetry beautiful?

The only one we both agreed on was the Hearthside Stout, a very dark brew that tasted like chocolate, vanilla, cinnamon, oatmeal, and (of all things) pipe tobacco. We each bought growlers of it, and Andy also got a jug of Wasabi Cream Ale. Blech.

After two glasses of water and an hour of sobering up, we drove back, guzzled more water, and called it a night, since the plan for the morning was to load up the car and drive to Boyne Mountain in time for a 10:30 a.m. snowboard lesson for me.

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