The thing that made our trip perfect right from the start was Christine’s mind-boggling organization. As a control freak with OCD tendencies, I am never more grateful than when another OCD sufferer releases me from my duties. All AK and I had to do to prepare for four days in Mammoth was hop on the wiki site Christine built and print out the relevant pages: directions, packing list, map of who’s sleeping where, photos of ski clothes available for borrowing, menu.
“We’re having shrimp and co
It was nice taking a road trip that didn’t involve the 5. As we drove past jagged red rocks, tiny ghost towns, spiky Joshua trees and sprawling strip malls, AK said, “I had a college friend who was from Palmdale, and one time another friend and I drove her home. She thought she lived in the most beautiful place in the world and was so excited about the Joshua trees in her back yard. As soon as my other friend and I were alone, we cracked up. We just couldn’t believe someone thought Palmdale was beautiful. But now I get it.”
After the five stops it took for me to pee out the giant Diet Coke I picked up at our first stop in Mojave, we arrived at Krystal Sierra East, the condo complex where Christine, her boyfriend Jody and their friend Alex were staying. The air was fresh and cold and steam was rising off the neon-aqua hot tub. Already the tired, mopey, bicker-y Friday night AK and I had was melting away.
We shelled shrimp and marveled at all the things Christine (who brought one tiny backpack on her trip to
Later, Jody spilled chowder all over his lap and the couch, and the upstairs toilet overflowed the first time I flushed it. But it was okay. You can’t prepare for everything.
sunday: live like a norwegian
When I told people I was going to Mammoth, I described myself drinking lots of hot chocolate and being very warm. Sure, people kept mentioning this skiing thing, but that was their problem.
Still, we quickly lea
But my roller skating trips with
This did not work. I flagged down the P.E. teacher and asked for tips. She deferred to an 11-year-old who flung herself on the ground and hopped up as if she was made of Slinkies.
AK and I videotaped our trials and triumphs (coming soon if I can figure out how to upload them) and by the end of the day, she was tackling the hill that quite literally kicked her butt earlier, and I was searching out hills where I could fake-downhill ski.
I wouldn’t know it for another four hours or so, but I’d gotten the bug.
After a big dinner of veggie chili and huge slabs of co
It was hard to lure people away from their laptops, though. I realized that this would be a permanent feature of traveling with grownup professionals. People had cases to file and cities to plan and molecules to research and graphics to design. Or something like that. AK and I were determined slackers, although AK did find time to email her office that she was out with the flu.
We managed to generate a little Ungaming: Christine pulled a card that said, “Finish this sentence: I wish I had someone with whom I could share…”
“…a nice roast beef,” she said, looking pointedly at pescatarian Jody, whom she’d already moved back to “Start” during a previous tu
“I don’t like this game,” said Jody.
AK pouted when she pulled a card that said, “Talk about your favorite day of the week.” “Um, Thursday?” she shrugged.
We spent some time in the hot tub talking to a 20-year-old Norwegian snowboarder with a nose bu
monday: the downhill bug
Jody and Christine didn’t have to work very hard to talk me into downhill skiing. AK had had her fill of landing on her ass in the snow, but she said, “Do it—I can tell you want to, and you never indulge yourself.”
So I indulged. And it was amazing. But before the amazing part, there was an adult beginner class on the bunny slope, where JP and I lea
But JP and I were pretty good for adults, if I do say so myself, which I can because none of the other people in our class read Bread and Bread. We were better than Tina from
“I’m worried he’ll get hurt if he tries to go on the chairlift and go down one of the bigger hills after this,” our instructor told Tina as they studied the tiny dot in the distance that was Minh.
“Oh, he must’ve just misunderstood,” said Tina. “He’s not willful like that. He’s so superfriendly!” she squealed, and I decided they must be newlyweds.
Our instructor gave JP and I the go-ahead to hit the green-diamond hills at the end of the day. JP’s boots were biting into her cyclist calves, so she took a break after one run on Schoolyard Express (which I wished had a slightly more badass-sounding name). So it was just me, the mountain and my skinny couch-potato calves.
I swooped down that schoolyard, leaning into the curves, my muscles recalling something ancient and wonderful: the feeling of flying, lea
tuesday: maybe more like a guitar hero than a war hero
I was excited when AK decided to join us for a final mo
While Jody gave AK a private lesson, I followed Christine down the green-diamond hills, marveling at how her skis made a completely different noise than mine did: a slick swip-swip instead of a low prssh-prssh. She made it look so effortless that she appeared to be modeling her way down the hill more than skiing down it.
I, of course, wanted to know how to do all these things immediately, but I contented myself with tips (“You want to sort of bounce in your skis, like posting on a horse,” said Christine) and complements (“You’re the fastest second-day skier I’ve seen,” said Kyle). I was the fastest second-day skier someone had seen! In my mind, I was one lesson away from doing jumps. If I met the right ramp-like bump, I might even do it, who knows, I thought. I might just sprout wings and fly.
Then I found myself accidentally (but not totally accidentally) on a blue-diamond hill after Christine and I made a wrong tu
“Rollercoaster” has different implications than “Schoolyard Express,” and suddenly the image of a short yellow bus chugging down a flat road sounded extremely comforting.
But my adrenaline was pumping faster than my worries, so I skied carefully in Christine’s tracks as skiers and boarders whizzed by us at speeds faster than I’ve attempted by car.
Then I began to ski less carefully and I quickly slammed into the ground as my ski popped into the air.
Christine spent the next 45 minutes (well, eight minutes of regular time; 45 minutes of side-of-a-mountain time) gently coaching me back into my ski. A minute ago, I had been an Olympian, but now I was more or less someone who could not put her shoe on. My legs shook as I slipped and slid. All that kept me calm was a desire to not freak out and embarrass myself.
Never underestimate the power of not wanting to embarrass yourself: Determined not to be driven out on some angry employee’s snowmobile, I made it down the mountain, falling three more times but also doing a lot of actual in-control skiing, thank you very much.
Back on flat ground, I thunked up to our group’s lunch table feeling like a war hero. I’d lea
When we stopped in Mojave again, we played the same video game at the same pizza parlor we’d stopped at on the way out. It involved driving a speedboat through the Greek Isles, and I swear, we were better now.