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Blowing and Drifting - Christopher Tassava
Life in and around Northfield, Minnesota.
Updated: 1 hour 21 min ago
Julia made me this excellent piece of art for my birthday. She included both one of the funniest lines in the first Harry Potter book (the "few words" that Dumbledore offers to the new class at Hogwarts [#spoiler]) and various illustrations of themes and scenes from the books.
She’s a pretty great Muggle.
Riding my bike, I see a lot of drivers doing a lot of crazy stuff. People driving with both hands occupied are a dime a dozen (the usual combination: talking on the cell phone and eating food; another common combo: talking on the cell phone and picking a nose), and I’ve see a lot of the other cliches: women putting on makeup in the rear view mirror, teenagers looking down as they text, men holding maps up front of their faces, couples arguing…
All in all, these sights – and the erratic driving that corresponds with them – have made me very, very leery of all drivers. It’s not for nothing that many bikers say that “cars are coffins,” but it’s maybe more accurate to say that cars are killers. And though I’ve never had a serious mishap with a car, I continue to marvel at the idiocy of drivers who could – but for a few seconds in either direction – kill me.
This afternoon, for instance, I stopped at a stop sign and decided, on a hunch, to let the next car go past before I rolled out into their lane. When it went by me, I saw that the driver was (of course) on her cell phone, that her passenger seat was occupied by a Cujo-sized dog (which barked furiously at me through the open window), and – amazingly – that she had another big dog sitting on her lap as she drove. How she could see anything except the back of that dog’s head, I have no idea.
Sometime this winter, Vivi got hooked on shooting baskets at the Carleton gym. With spring slowly on the way, Shannon and I decided we would get a hoop that we could roll in and out of the garage. (Our townhouse association’s rules prohibit putting up a permanent hoop, either on the townhouse itself or in the ground.) As luck would have it, I found someone at work who was selling a used but serviceable hoop for just $30. Though I had to do some gruntwork to get the thing home and assembled last weekend (and might need to do some minor repairs later), it’s paid off enormously:
I’d guess that Genevieve has spent about fifteen hours shooting baskets, and that Julia has spent about ten, which is remarkable given that she’s far less inclined toward sporty stuff.
Not only is it fun to watch them dribble and shoot (and endlessly chase the runaway balls), but I’ve been impressed at how much they’ve already improved. Vivi can make a basket with her light but more-or-less regular-sized ball from just about anywhere on our driveway, and Julia – using a men’s regulation basketball – has gotten very adept at shots from close in. I think it might already be time to raise the hoop a couple notches.
My year of being forty is almost over. Maybe because forty is such a milestone, I’ve been more and more aware of the ways that my age – or at least the appearance of my age – is working to my unearned advantage. People call me "sir" more often, even on the phone. In crowds, especially at work, students – who are, yes, half my age – seem to get out of my way a little more readily, especially if I say "excuse me." More than a few times, I’ve (inadvertently) quieted down a teenager at Target or a coffeeshop simply by looking at them. No scowl or anything – just a look.
The other day I went to the Verizon store to see about upgrading my iPhone. I’d received an email saying that I was eligible to switch for free to one of those candy-colored 5c models with more memory than my current phone, so I thought, "Why not?"
A salesman came right up to me when I walked into the store, addressing me as "sir." He seemed inordinately young: if not 18 or 19, then a baby-faced twentysomething. I told him about the emailed offer, and he got right down to business by explaining some of the finer points of the upgrade scheme; checking on the store’s inventory of 5c devices; trying to upsell me on insurance, a new data plan, and a case; and finally looking up my account – at which point he learned that only Shannon’s phone was eligible for the upgrade, not mine.
I was a little bit surprised by this, but I didn’t care too much; my current phone is just fine. Sales Boy, though, was incredibly embarrassed by his error. He blushed, his hands started shaking, he dropped his pen, he stuttered as he apologized for not looking up my lines right away, and he started twisting one of his (many) rings around and around his finger. I’m not sure if he thought I was going to yell at him or what, but I just shrugged it off. No biggie.
As I left the store, I saw my reflection in the window and realized why he might have been so deeply embarrassed (apart of course from making such a dumb error). In my work clothes, I looked old and serious. It was strange to think that this mattered, but it I think did.
I went out for my first real springtime ride this afternoon. I chose an easy route over some of my favorite roads south of town, and true to the season, I wound up fighting a headwind for the first half of the outing. But after I turned around, the tailwind blasted me home, letting me savor some of the nice aspects to riding in warm-ish weather: wearing fewer layers of clothing, exposing a little bit of bare skin (only my lower legs today), feeling the splatters of water and mud on my face after hitting some puddles, meeting other riders, enjoying some long vistas
and rolling past spots that I don’t see on winter rides:
Today I got spammed through Facebook’s chat feature by someone who hacked a former colleague’s account. A few choice excerpts from my conversation with the hacker, which ended abruptly when I said I’d be reporting the exchange as spam to FB.
"Have you heard the good news,about Mark Zuckerberg facebook founder who help deafs,Hearing,and retired on facebook? Oh i thought you heard about it,its a lottery promotion he made to few people on facebook.com to benefit from the gain of the company $150,000.00 did you get yours?"
"Ups delivered the money to my door step. I saw your name on the lucky winners list, so I thought I would see if you have gotten yours?"
"Anyway i think you should contact to the clamming agent right now so that you can be able to claim your own win money because i saw your name on the winners list when my own money was deliver do you know how to do that on facebook ?"
"https://www.facebook.com/agentjefflawsons click on the link it will lead you to the agent facebook page and sent him friend request. Tell him you want to know if your name is still on the winner’s list he was always online there to attend to the claiming winner ok?"
I35 south to I90 west to the Rocky Mountains. The long flat straights of South Dakota. Gas station stops for fuel, beef jerky, and water. Passing the Corn Palace in Mitchell. Lake Francis Case on the Missouri River. So many Wall Drug signs. Cheap Subway somewhere on the road, made by a sandwich artist who had recently been beat up. Finally, Wall, but not Wall Drug – just a dinosaur statue and a gas station. The dim Badlands at dusk. Wyoming warnings to chain up. The hellish-looking coal plant outside Gillette. A good night of sleep in the industrial-park Super8 in Billings.
The mountains mounting in the distance. Flatlander freakouts start. A morning gas stop in Bozeman, where we saw no bozes. Lumberyards full of timbers for "log cabin homes" after the Four Corners south of Bozeman. The amazing morning drive south on US 191 through the Gallatin River valley. Overpriced Subway and snowed-in shops in West Yellowstone. Up and over the Continental Divide outside West. Dicey driving on US 20 down to Island Park, Idaho. "The longest main street in America." Pond’s Lodge and Cabin 17.
Admiring the Mad Max snowmachines in the parking lot. (These aren’t Midwestern sleds.)
Riding bikes along the edge of Harriman State Park).
Coyotes watching us from the banks of Henry Fork, snowmachiners watching us from the back of the Last Chance. Driving off the mountain through all the winter weather for dinner. Rexburg, home of the biggest Mormon temple in Idaho. All you can eat pizza at Pizza Pie Cafe. Sharing the dining room with a Mormon youth group discussing the best thing in your life right now. (Nobody said "racing bikes.") Getting groceries at Albertson’s, a Super Valu in different colors. Home again. One last night of good sleep before before the race, except for the nightmare about ferrets.
A lazy morning. Meeting Kid Riemer, the voice of "The Push." Coffee and breakfast and a morning drive to Fitzgeralds Bicycles in Victor. Every kind of weather coming off the mountain. A snowmachine trail next to the road, wider than the road. The big potato at the Spuds Drive-in in Driggs. The invisible Tetons in the distance. Taking advantage of the sales at Fitzgeralds and having an excellent americano. Newpaper stories about wolverines in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Relaxing all afternoon, but not really. Meeting the other roomies. Setting up the bikes. Meeting other racers at Pond’s. A bowl of beef stew and a hard cider for pre-dinner. The pre-race meeting. JayP turning the stoke to 11.
A huge pre-race dinner. More bike and kit prep. A surprise visit from JayP. Trying to go to bed, but actually staying up too late, jittered.
ANOTHER RACE DAY.
The six telephone poles leading to the US 20 crossing. JayP pulling me from the race. Disappointment shading into a shattered kind of satisfaction. Race talk with Ben, the fourth-place finisher. A horrible, wonderful shower. Dinner at Pond’s with other racers. The happy chatter of race stories. Swag from JayP. A hard sleep full of nightmares and visits to the bathroom.
Up early-ish. Saying goodbye to Kid. A gas stop in West for double-caffeinated coffee. Wondering where Checkpoint Two had been. The morning drive up US 191 along the Gallatin to Bozeman – even more amazing than it had been on the way in. Surprised to be missing a place that I hadn’t even known, or left yet.
One annoyed big horn sheep.
Bozeman through the car windows. The big mountains turning to lower mountains turning to hills turning to almost plains. Wyoming again, "Forever West" (unless you’re in Idaho). A lone pronghorn in a field along the road. Devil’s Tower in the northerly distance. Loaded coal trains heading east, empty ones coming west. A superb burger and beer in Spearfish with a mountain bike on the wall. The Super8 in Chamberlain.
A carb-y breakfast and then the rest of the road trip.
A partial list of amusingly named gas stations on the trip: Pump & Munch. Kum & Go. Loaf & Jug. The long straight flats of eastern South Dakota. A stop for Caribou Coffee and amazing donuts. The mysterious barn-y building in Worthington, Minnesota. Turning north again. F’real milkshakes at one last stop outside Owatonna. The backroads into Northfield. Home again. Sad to see Ben off. Unpacking forever. Getting my laundry done before the family gets home from school. Satisfaction, happiness, tiredness.