Sitting in the Atlanta airport waiting to catch a connecting flight to Springfield for work, I cannot stop thinking that my girlfriend, Allie, and I are expecting to be parents in 9 days. 9 Days.
Among all the thoughts and ideas spinning in my head, there is one that keeps standing out. Last weekend Allie and I went on a “babymoon.” We decided to act on a spur of the moment idea and drive down to Charleston from Johnson City. We got a cheap motel for Saturday night and hit the road.
On the way back home on Sunday we stopped in Asheville for dinner. Walking out of the restaurant, Allie grabbed a local outdoors magazine. She was especially drawn to it because the cover story featured “New Adventure Families.” We’re adventurous, we’re soon to be a “full” family. It was a great concept we could relate to. What brought Allie and I together was our love of the outdoors, adventure, & travel. All things we want our soon to arrive daughter to love and have an appreciation for. Allie read the article quietly in the passenger seat while I maintained homeward course. “Well that's not really relatable.” She exclaimed a few minutes later. The families in this article were not all that average. One of these "adventure" families consisted of a mother & father who were both runners & USA athletes. The other family owned a gym that did not require their attention full time. Both families shared a common issue, however: mom & dad were struggling to find a balance between training, personal aspirations, & home life while "adventuring" as a family. If they're having these sorts of issues, do we even stand a chance?
The easy point to attack here would be: “well they don't even have ‘real’ jobs, they have no right to complain.” I guess the problem we had is that these were the faces and models of what an “adventure family” should be.
Allie and I both are still trying to dissect the definitions of our new titles “mom & dad” and what they mean. More importantly, what we want them to mean. After all, I went from being a full time bike/ski bum and Allie, a Nomad with a cause, in the matter of an instant. When we learned Allie was pregnant there was really no fiscally possible way we could have our child in the Tetons. The place we loved, that brought us together, the place we both considered home. It was impossible for us to remain there without health insurance.
Allie’s native Johnson City has since become our home because her, and the baby will have insurance here. Our lease on our home is up in December and we are trying more than anything to get back West. We want our daughter to grow up in the mountains, something we both longed for in our own childhoods. Even with a college degree & 7 years experience in the Outdoor Industry this is proving to be quite the challenge.
Life has been hectic since relocating, to say the least. We have become full fledged weekend warriors. I get the same satisfaction riding my bike for an hour as I did riding lifts all day out West. Fishing for a little while in the backyard brings about the same excitement as floating the Teton on a summers afternoon. At least it seems that way while it's happening. At this point, I'm not sure if that's a good thing or bad. Allie has been obviously more affected by her pregnant state. It's been months since she's been able to trail run, and hiking has been reduced to a mile or two at most. This brings me to a confusing crossroads. Can I still have this kind of fun even though she is unable to? Of course, she tells me to go ride longer, fish more, & continue to do what I love. But I still feel guilty. I want her to be right there with me, like always.
Neither of us are still really sure where, how, or if we even fit into the definition of an "adventure" family at all. Our daughters due date is the 23rd of April and above all else we are focusing on that, but hidden behind every parenting bids this recurring question:
"How/are things ever going to be normal again? How do we get back out West?"
SKIING & ‘THE LION KING’
The very first time I skiied I was about four years old. I remember my dad and grandpa schlepping me into the rental room at Alpine Valley. Standing at the counter I couldn’t see more that the wood desk in front of me, yellow walls, and feeling cold, really cold.
Next thing I know I’m sitting on a toboggan roped to the back of a 4 wheeler. Dad and Grandpa said they were going to go ski “the big hills” and that they’d pick me up here when my lesson was done. I sat on the sled with 8 other kids as we were brought around to the bunny hill.
I don’t remember much about the lesson itself, other than crying and hearing “Pizza & French Fry." A lot...of each. Nothing sticks out like a thought I had, that I would never see my dad again. However irrational that is, it somehow made sense in my 4 year old brain as I was holding on to the rope tow for dear life enticing yet another crying breakdown.
Assumingly, the hours past, and my father did in fact find me, with enough time to take one run together before we left. I guess that my biggest takeaway from these memories is that I will be the one that teaches my children to ski…
That was the first experience I had skiing, and it would be the only one I had for a number of years. Granted, I did beg dad to take me skiing, but lack of snow for a few years never really let that happen.
In 2000 we took a family trip to Vail, Co. If anyone can pinpoint a single, life changing experience, this would be mine. I use the term family very loosely because my mom’s boss, took us on one of his medical conferences.
Again, dad signed me up for a lesson, actually it was a 2 day lesson. Great, what repressed memories would come rushing out? Again, I was schlepped into the rental room, geared up. And again, I was terrified. Until we were all grouped together and we met our instructor, a total Brad (His name probably wasn’t actually Brad). Brad loaded us up to the midway station and we played the usual name games, showed us how to Pizza/French Fry, and made us ski down to him, one at a time. I didn’t go first, I didn’t go last. I was somewhere in the middle. I remember making my way towards Brad and my body somehow remembered how to Pizza and French Fry. It had been about four years but my 8 year old body somehow retained the basic skills to slide down a hill at a very slow rate.
The lesson ended and I met up with my dad. We were able to take one run together before things shut down for the day. That evening we left our hotel and did the thing every tourist family does apres ski, walk around and look at the “neat shops”. This would also be the very first time I walked into a ski shop.
Dad and I walked into the dark room. There was a small TV behind the counter playing clip after clip of skiers and snowboarders jumping of cliffs and skiing through deep powder all while funky music plays in the background. Dad and I walked through the shop for a bit, checking out the cool skis and things I never knew existed. Neither one of us had goggles when we arrived, so he bought us each a pair of blue Smith goggles with persimmon lenses. I was stoked.
Day 2 of lessons went by about as quick as day one. We went through the fun zone, I did my first safety grab off a little roller, and for the first time, I remember falling in love with skiing and the snow. This is the same feeling I chase every time I step into my skis, to this day.
The next day, dad and I set off to ski on our own. This was an absolute disaster. I’m not sure why, or how, but skiing just the two of us triggered something in me to emotionally shut down. There was one run that overlooked what seemed to be a never ending valley, that I took one look at and the tears started. While my dad was already half way down the run. I finally was able to reach him, still panicked, and he attempted to talk me down. From there we headed to the halfway house and took a break.
Dad asked me if I wanted to ski the rest of the way down, or if I wanted to take the gondola. I told him that I wanted to ski down and we began to reassemble our gear. I don’t remember much after this, except having a mental breakdown somewhere near a “Simba” trail sign...and for some reason, 18 years later, I can’t watch The Lion King without flashbacks of an emotional breakdown as an 8 year old.
I also witnessed my first rail jam in Vail. Skiers and snowboarders were hitting what was probably an 8 set down rail. The winner of the rail jam was awarded with a brand new hot tub. This absolutely blew my mind. All these grungy looking people had to do was ride down a rail and the person that did it the best got a free hot tub. "What the hell is going on?"
The next morning we packed up our bags and headed back to Michigan. And for some reason, even though I cried, I panicked, and I was cold, all I wanted was to go skiing again.
Posted 4/6/17: http://www.tetongravity.com/story/ski/unspsonsored-content-skiing-the-lion-king