I like things that are shiny and new. Sven likes things that are dependable and old. It appears that I have a bright future with Sven. And fortunately for Sven, I am also sentimental when it comes to things that begin to wear and tear. So, I'll hang on to him, until I have to use too much duct tape. But then again, he is my very own personal groomer. I would be wise to keep him forever. "What?" Oh, no. He doesn't trim my mustache. He's not that kind of a groomer. He grooms the ski trail with the snowmobile and a sawed off barrel-sled-contraption-thing. He originally cut a path around the field, through the woods and into the sand dunes, for a place to walk our dog. With our first winter in our new house, came heaps of snow, making it difficult to walk at all. So we bought some cross country skis and we skied the dog instead. Later, the Sven-made trail, became an important part of our training. Training? Well, about a dozen years ago, a bunch of us were on a cross country ski trail near Rib Lake, when we tried jumping out of the tracks and into the woods, to hide from two guys in tight, fluorescent suits, who were about to loop us, for the third fucking time. But we weren't fast enough to ditch them. And those iridescent people, snow plowed to a screeching halt and shot the shit with those of us still locked in our tracks, with mouths hanging wide. Son of a bitch. "What kind of skis are those?" Sven asked the Raleigh Fingers look alike, except for perhaps the outfit and the snotsicles hanging from the handle bars on the sides of his face. "These are skate skis," he replied. And then we learned all about skate skis . You don't kick and glide inside tracks. You skate, free style. I like the words free and style and Sven likes the word free. It was inevitable. The next winter we were proud owners of shiny, new, skate skis. And not only that, we were signed up to ski in the Kortelopet, 23 kilometer cross country ski race, held in conjunction with the 51 Kilometer, American Birkebeiner, in Hayward Wisconsin. I know.
How do these things happen?[one_half][/one_half]
[one_half_last]These things happen in hot tubs.[/one_half_last]After skiing at Rib Lake or any place for that matter, it is hot tub time. Something about the bubbling water, the jets riveting your back and the beer in your belly, combined with a day of having played in the snow, creates the perfect storm for friends to dream, BIG. And before our heads hit our pillows that snowy night, we were, soon to be famous, world class, kortelopet skiers. I know. Truly amazing. Especially considering how well we all skied and how awful we all felt on the ride home the next morning. But a dream is a dream. A vow is a vow. And a promise is a promise. One year later, there we all were, shivering next to a flagpole at winter Park, studying the trail map, strapped into our new equipment. We had our work cut out for us. It was the first official day of training. "Hey, let's do the Lake Marie Loop." I mean, how bad could it be, just because you have to unfold the map all the way to see it in it's entirety? People do it all the time. We shoved off. I pushed with my poles and I tried to skate. It didn't seem like it was working too well. I was getting all tangled up. But I followed the gang in front of me. It wasn't a pretty sight. Things were not working out very well for them either. Poles and skis were going every which way. A sweat bead trickled down the middle of my back. It was hard work. I was beginning to feel faint. We were almost past the parking lot. But I didn't care. My skis were shiny and new and oh so very, very, pretty. If you ever have the opportunity to stare at your skis, because you can't hold your head up, hill after hill, hour after hour, you too will develop an appreciation for the fine craftsmanship that goes into them. Besides that, concentrating on your new, sparkly, friends, will help to prevent you from crying when you learn that no one else has a drop of water left in their water bottles either, and that you have twelve more kilometers to ski back to the chalet, and the wax you'd applied is not compatible with the sky rocketing, record high temperature, nearing fifty degrees, thirty degrees warmer than it had been at take off, which was a long, long time ago, and then your husband trips going up a hill and he just lays there on the ground and refuses to go on. No. This would not be the appropriate time to shed a tear. Dehydration could set in. If this ever happens to you, do not cry. Do as I did. EAT SNOW. It might have been wise to have signed up for a lesson before taking on the Lake Marie Loop with those new fangled things. But we weren't wise. And had we taken a lesson. Had we brought enough water. Had we applied the right wax. And had Sven not hit the wall and then sat there in melting snow as that guy whizzed past us going uphill without any poles, pulling two kids in a sled behind him, and we all rolled our eyes and gave him the finger that he was unaware of, we would not be able to fondly look back to the fine day that we call, The Death March, 2003. After recuperating in the hot tub with jets and beer that night and compiling a few more months of training, our skis and poles began to work together. And then the most feared and dreaded weekend in February arrived. It was Kortelopet time. Marguerite calmed Sven down on the bus to the start, by making him a flower. "I am a flower," he repeated. "I am a rock," she said. "I am a rock," he repeated. "I am a brook," she said. "I am a brook," he repeated. You had to be there. And then we found ourselves at Telemark Lodge, home of the starting gate, shitting in our fancy ski pants, waiting for the gun to go off.
Bang!The tenth and final wave of first time or not so fast skiers participating in the 2004, American Birkebeiner and Kortelopet, blasted out of there. And we found ourselves in a herd of penguins, climbing the mountainous, power lined hills, with hundreds of people who undoubtedly spent too much time in hot tubs as well. We crossed the finish line on the same day.
We were not last.
Gold medals were draped around our necks and photos were snapped.
We'd been bitten by the bug. And we were diagnosed with Birkie fever, which included seven more years of hot tubbing, training and racing in the Kortelopet and or the Birkebeiner.
And apparently, we were quite annoying.The last Birkie we participated in was in 2011. I nearly froze to death that day and as I made my way across the endless lake , the last leg before the finish line in downtown Hayward, Main Street, I was oblivious to all of the supporters in lawn chairs with fur hats, because there was someone, screaming inside my head, over and over, " IF you are EVER on this FUCKING lake AGAIN, you will be in a fucking BOAT." But don't worry. I am not planning to bore you to death with all of my old ski stories today. I would rather kill you slowly.
[one_half]All I really wanted to tell you was, I got new skis![/one_half][one_half_last][/one_half_last] You see, last year the top of one of my poles busted off. "That's okay," I said. "I can stick it back in there." But then I lost the piece that I stuck back in there. And then this year, my buckle wouldn't snap shut on my boot. "That's okay," I said. "I can duct tape it." But then, the little strap that I pull to open the binding, broke off in my hand, leaving me to skate on one ski across the driveway to get to the house, untie my boot, slip out of it and hop in through the kitchen door." "That's NOT okay." I like things that are shiny and new. So Sven took this old and dependably bitchy thing, to buy some new skis for our vacation weekend, because a bunch of were going to Winter Park, home of, The Death March, 2003. And Winter Park is still one of my favorite places. I'm sure that The Lake Marie Loop is still very beautiful too, but we didn't feel like opening the map all the way. You know how maps are. You can never fold them back to their original form once you undo them. Well, it was a picture perfect winter day. The still, silence and fluttering snow, in the north woods stirs my heart. That is why I often stopped while going up hill and hung on my poles by my armpits. To hear the silence and to take in the day. Marguerite and Lynn skied classically in the tracks and they stopped for a cup of tea at some tea house on the trail. No. I'm not kidding. Louisa and Pierre snow shoed until half time of the basketball game and then they peeled out of there because the Badgers rarely win if they aren't there to cheer them on. And they take that responsibility very responsibly. My brother, Timmer, probably skied The Lake Marie Loop three times, without poles, while pulling two borrowed kids in a sled, behind him. It's hard to say for sure because I only saw him for a second and then he flew away across the snow. If you were to put a fluorescent suit on him and give him a handle bar mustache, you wouldn't be able to tell the difference between Timmer and the guy who showed us his skate skis in the first place. Pitter, Sven and I? Well, we skied the intermediate, blue trails, making sure we didn't stray too far from the chalet. After all the fun, we congregated in a bar in Minocqua for spirits and sustenance and to meet up with the devout Badger fans. Then by foot we headed back to the hotel to regroup, but, Marguerite, Louisa and I didn't make it. We stayed out until closing time. I know. Truly amazing. What? No, they didn't flicker the lights and say "Last call." At this establishment, a little old lady rang a tiny, antique bell and yelled, "We close at three o'clock. That is in five minutes, people. Please finish up your shopping." What? You thought I meant that we were out until bar time? Hahahahahahahahahaha No. We stopped in at The Thrift Shop. [one_half]
Check out this home made, knit scarf that I purchased.
It was only a dollar.
It touched the floor on either side when I tried it on.[/one_half] [one_half_last][/one_half_last] [one_half][/one_half] [one_half_last]
And then it was hot tub time.
The perfect storm for friends to dream, BIG.[/one_half_last]
Like the song says,
Make new friends, but keep the old.
One is duct taped and the other's gold.
Hey now you old ski's, let's all try to get along. Don't worry, I won't ever forget you.