Tuesday, December 27, 2016

From Illness to Snowboarding in a Few Short Days

Image result for snowmobiling in Tyrol
I didn't take my cell phone. A stock photo will need to suffice.




    Today I eased my way from the world of convalescence back to the real world with a snowmobiling excursion. The terrain here is filled with an abundance of snow, and my hosts have cutting edge equipment enabling themselves and their guests to take advantage of nature's bounty. Claudia, our former exchange student, whom I initially knew as my introduction to all things wild, dangerous, and fun when my parents were out of direct line of sight and ear-shot, though now a respectable and responsible oncologist, wife, and mother of two, had very kindly pre-purchased winter attire for me so that I wouldn't be any colder than was absolutely necessary. A person will inevitably feel the cold outside in this glacial environment, but the proper clothing in layers creates the difference between standing stiffly as though one is as frozen as the poles, trees, and whatever other projectiles spring vertically through the snow and actually becoming one of those frozen vertical projectiles. Claudia did well; the drafting of my epitaph can hold off at least for the immediate future.

     Snowmobiling, for one who has never undertaken it, is probably a great deal like you would imagine it to be.  It's not entirely unlike riding a motorcycle except that the very basics are easier to master, and the very basic mishaps are less catastrophic than they would be if experienced on a motorcycle. Falling into snow won't cause quite the level of abrasions,contusions, and worse than will falling and skidding along the pavement or gravel of a road. This is not to imply that snowmobiling is an inherently safe activity, but, rather, to suggest that if a person does not consider himself or herself to be the Evel Knievel of snowmobiling on his or her initial ride and conduct himself or herself accordingly, even in the scenario of a nasty spill, one  will most likely walk away from it. Furthermore, it's easier in basic situations to remain upright and not have the nasty spill in the first place on a snowmobile as opposed to on a motorcycle.

     The snowmobiles I rode today were well-maintained, and I didn't experience mechanical failures.  I was lucky, if the stories told by others around me can be counted as reliable. Snowmobile malfunction is apparently the rule rather than exception. Traveling alone by snowmobile  through lightly traveled terrain is virtually asking for an account of one's story to be retold in Reader's Digest (if the periodical still exists anywhere other than in the offices of doctors who re-stock their magazines once every decade or two; does anyone know if Reader's Digest is still in print?). My hosts pride themselves on buying only the most reliable of snowmobile makes and models, and have them maintained regularly as well.

    Some motorcycle riders refuse to wear helmets despite all the evidence pointing to the efficacy of helmets in motorcycle riding. These people have a nickname: organ donors. Snowmobilers who refuse to wear helmets are risking almost -- though not quite -- an equally grim fate. Just once, take a brief ride down a straight path without a helmet to feel the force of arctic winds against one's face purely for the thrill of it. If you've done it once, you've done it a thousand times. Then put on a helmet and keep it on as long as you ride. Someone very close to you will eventually be glad that you did put your helmet back on if you intend to make snowmobiling a habit.

    I am by nature a very cautious person. With all the other snowmobiling novices, Claudia's father was incessantly cautioning them. He left me alone. I'm the person who looks four times before crossing a street and who never goes through a yellow light. I was not harassed. 

    We were in an area not-well-traveled, but there were enough of us and we stayed close enough to our home base that the off-the-beaten-path nature of our trails worked to our advantage. It was the perfect environment under which to perfect our previously non-existent skills and to learn the basic workings of the equipment. Being there must have been non-stimulating to the point of boredom for our hosts, but they were good sports. Franz, Claudia's father, was happy with the outcome by the end of the day because neither snowmobiles nor snowmobilers had been damaged in the process of introducing us to the equipment and to the sport. It was difficult for my brothers (and probably a few of the other young males as well) to follow the guidelines of Franz and the others offering direction, but they (my brothers, anyway) were told by my parents that if they wanted to be wild and stupid with snowmobiles, they would need to rent the machines elsewhere and assume their own financial responsibility for them. (Mom and dad made no such warnings to me. My level of caution in everything I do is well-known and documented.) Claudia's younger brother indicated, though, that tomorrow (now today) we, the "adolescents" of the group, would venture a bit further away from the geriatric group and would have a bit more fun with the machines. 

    Once the morning chill lifts, we'll take the snowmobiles out for more adventurous rides without the extreme supervision of yesterday. we'll spend the day touring the area. Somewhere along the trail we'll find a place for lunch, and we won't return until the sun has set.  My muscles and bones will ache before we return, but it's a price I'm more than willing to pay. 

    Today will be our final major snowmobile excursion, as future days -- weather permitting -- are reserved for snowboarding and skiing. I cannot recall if I told anyone in advance of the trip that I dreaded traveling here because of the boredom factor, but if I said such a thing, I was obviously speaking out of sheer ignorance.

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