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An epic journey home and Happy Holidays.
Thursday, December 25, 2008

I want to wish all of you a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

If you’re bored you might be entertained by our epic journey home. FYI, it’s ridiculously long so no offense taken if none of you reading it. Either way, it took place during the four days after Sam Sweetser, Sam Damon, and I departed Panorama, British Columbia.

Best wishes to all! w

It was more of an odyssey, or a pilgrimage, than a road trip home. We headed south on Highway 93 toward the US boarder in Sweetser’s 1998 Dodge Mini Van commonly referred to as the “Purple Nurple”. We were off to a good start; hammering along until we ran into a storm south of Kalispell, Montana. I was in the backbench seat wrapped in Sweetser’s comforter at 2 AM when my body started to slowly rattle from ridding the rumble strips on the side of the interstate. I immediately looked ahead of me to see Sam Damon driving at an expeditious pace of 25 miles an hour on I-90 in an intense snowstorm. He was a bit dizzy after being blinded by the biggest and most congested snowflakes any of us had ever seen for the past hour. With Sam running low on energy, we made the group decision to get off the interstate and wait out the storm. After a few minutes, I quickly decided that waiting under an underpass in the middle of nowhere wasn’t the answer. Sam and I switched; it was my turn to get overwhelmed by snowflakes behind the wheel. Forty-five agonizing minutes later, we broke through the storm and before we knew it, it was smooth sailing. The roads were clear by 3 AM there wasn’t a single vehicle on the road. I even rallied the gear packed Nurple up to 104 MPH down a hill. Don’t tell Sweetser. He probably wouldn’t be that impressed; but either way, we were making up some lost time until we hit Idaho. The moment I saw the sign, “Welcome to Idaho,” it started to snow. And before I knew it, it was a complete white out. The snowflakes were significantly smaller, but as much as that helped with visibility the typhoon like wind across the interstate made it impossible to see. It was a little before 5:30 AM when Sweetser – sitting in shotgun – woke up and said, “Are you seriously going 60 right now, I can’t see anything.” I reassured him that I could see just fine and he responded with, “I’m scared. I’m going back to sleep.” I knew exactly how he felt. I’ve been a passenger on ski trips many times when all I could do is stuff my face into a sweatshirt and try as hard as I possibly could to sleep because I was absolutely certain the driver was going to stuff our van into ditch. Behind the wheel I felt pretty confident. I could see the two reflectors on either side of the interstate most of the time and in between them I was monitoring the vans distance from the berm of snow on the side of the freeway out the driver’s side window. It seemed pretty safe to me.

At 6 AM we made it to Idaho Falls for a nice breakfast and hoped the sun would come up soon and help our visibility. Sweetser took over the wheel and I quickly fell asleep until nearly Park City, UT. Once we arrived in PC, Sweetser drove us to the parking garage where Sam reluctantly left his 1991 Honda Accord Wagon in the Park City Ski Area’s underground parking lot. It was about 11 AM when we rolled into the Park City Ski Area parking garage – where apparently the entire Park City Ski Team leaves their vehicles on trips – and convinced the parking attendant that we were merely dropping off some skis so we wouldn’t pay $10, and slowly crept around the corner to see a large SUV parked in the same exact spot where Sam parked his car 10 days earlier. As it turned out, Park City Ski Area has a new towing policy for overnight parking, bummer.

After paying $155 in towing and storage fees, we finally left PC for Carbondale to catch our flights back east the following day. Our next hurtle came when I looked over at the gas gauge and asked Sam how far we were from a gas station and he unenthusiastically responded with, “Yeah… I probably should have gotten gas earlier, but I think we’ll make it to Fruita.” Fruita, Colorado is a small town about 50 miles away and our gauge already hit the empty line. A few miles later we decided our only option was to tailgate the nearest truck. We spent the next 40 miles going between 40 and 60 MPH no more than 40 feet off the bumper of a semi. It seemed he wasn’t quite as excited about the idea as we were. From time to time he would hammer on the brakes and put on his hazards. With his help, we made it to Fruita on fumes and rolled into Carbondale at 8 PM, 27 hours after we left Panorama. Exhausted and utterly exacerbated by the journey we went over to a good friend of Sam’s for dinner and spent the rest of the night repacking and getting our gear ready for our next leg. We shipped home nine pairs of skis and flew with five.

We were finally in bed, or on a couch (it was actually a huge step up from the backbench seat of the Purple Nurple), asleep a bit after 1 o’clock. The next morning we rallied to the airport at 6 AM, checked in smoothly (they didn’t charge Sam or me a cent for extra baggage), and continued to wait in the Aspen Airport all morning. Aspen is an extremely small airport that is apparently the most difficult airport in the country to fly in and out of because it’s wedged in between two mountains. The FAA requires a minimum of one mile of visibility for takeoff or landing. We finally boarded the plane just after noon, deiced, and waited on the runway for an hour as the weather came back in. We were deiced again and finally there was a break in the weather so we could fly. Our flight was bound for Chicago O’Hare airport, but since we were expecting a flight attendant from one of the cancelled connecting flights into Aspen, we were forced to stop in Denver to drop off a flight attendant and pick up a new one. Our flight to Denver was pretty average and the moment we landed I immediately called United to try to rebook my next flight from O’Hare to Boston since I was certainly going to miss the connection. On the phone, I was told that there weren’t any available seats on either of the two later flights from O’Hare to Boston, but there was one seat open out of Denver. I asked if there were two so Sam and I could both switch, but there was only one and he already had a seat on a later flight to Boston out of O’Hare. I quickly asked our new flight attendant if I could jump ship. She told me, “There weren’t any seats going east out of Denver for the next three days and it would be a bad decision to get off the plane, but you can and you would lose all of your baggage.” Without her entire blessing, I jumped ship and spent the next four hours in Denver as my new flight’s departure time kept getting pushed back. Apparently there was only one operating runway in Boston so Air Traffic Control kept changing our departure time. We finally boarded the plane at 7 o’clock. I instantly fell asleep once I sat down on the plane and after what seemed like a few hours I was thrust into my tight seatbelt as the plane came to a screeching halt. My first thought was that we just landed in Boston, but the pilot came over the loud speaker, “Sorry about that, but all planes on the west side of the airport were forced to stop immediately. I’ll give you more info as soon as I hear it.” A few minutes later the pilot was back on the loudspeaker, “Unfortunately, a plane has gone off the runway where we were scheduled to take off. We are being diverted to the east side of the airport. There’s emergency personnel all over the place so it could take a while.” We couldn’t see any of the wreck, but there were vehicles all over the place.

We finally took off forty minutes later and made it into Boston just before 1 AM. I rushed off the plane to wait in the taxicab line to catch a cab downtown. I found out in Denver on Facebook that a bunch of Colby Alumni were having a Christmas party. I through the doors of the bar open just before last call, ran into Charlie Reed, and found a couch for the night. It was great to see all those guys, but they didn’t go to bed until 5 AM; I was patiently waiting in Charlie’s room on the floor half asleep until my couch became vacant. It was good to see Jake, Matt, Charlie, Prasky, and Tague. Later that morning Heidi woke me up at 7:30 telling me she was on her way down to pick me up. She wanted to be ahead of the nor’easter. I slept for another hour and caught a cab back to the airport where I miraculously found all my bags, talked to the United baggage services attendant, picked up a $50 travel certificate for the delayed bags, and I was on my way north.

I rolled into Gilford by noon and immediately started unpacking, tuning my slalom skis, repacked, and got back on the road for an eastern cup slalom at Sugarloaf in the middle of the nor’easter. I really wanted to score a slalom race so why not let’s keep rallying. I drove through Twin Mountain making good time and then ran into another snowstorm. It was dumping again, but this time there were tons of cars on the road that made for extremely slow driving, painful condition. It ended up taking me 3 hours to get to Bethel and I spent the night there with Jamie. It was great to sit down for a meal and catch up. The next morning I woke up at 5:30 AM to see the parking lot under at least a foot of wind blown snow. There was a drift up over the driver’s side of the car. I jumped into the driver’s seat through the passenger side and pulled out of my parking spot. I dropped my automatic transmission into drive and the car wouldn’t budge. I spent the next half an hour digging it out and plowing a path out of the driveway. Luckily someone came out to start their car and ended up giving me a push. I was on the road a little late, but get over it. I almost to Kingfield when I ripped around a corner was stuck behind a plow truck. He was crawling up a hill and without snow tires and limited gravel I had no chance of reaching the top. I hastily started to back down, began to slide, tried to use the attributes of a front wheel drive car to flip a 180, and ended up lodged in a snow bank. Damn it. I tried to dig it out with my hands; but to no avail, I was stuck. Luckily a crew of construction workers drove by in a van and pulled me out with their chain.

I was thankful for their help and knew that I was finally going to make it to Sugarloaf a little late for inspection. I was about five minutes away – a bit late for inspection – and ready to race. It was game on when Joey Swensson sent me a text, “Cancelled.” Seriously. I decided since I’d spent six hours driving to the Loaf, I was going skiing. I picked up a volunteer lift ticket and lunch from Laurel in the comp center and went to the lift and I tried to click into my skis, but my boots didn’t fit into my binding – I forgot that I had let Jon Olsson use my slalom trainers in the slalom run of the combined. I found a screwdriver from a lift attendant on the quad and made it up for a few runs of epic powder skiing. On the way out of town, I swung by the Manter’s house where I stay every year in Sugarloaf and was able to catch up with Sue, Ben, and Abi. Abi is a dental student at Tufts so I started asking her about wisdom teeth since one of mine erupted and the gums were really tender. For some reason – probably my schedule and since it didn’t seem to matter at the time – I had never pulled any of my wisdom teeth. Abi responded with, “I’m going to Waterville in a few minutes and my Dad is going to pull one of mine. He could probably pull yours too.” So before I knew it I was in the chair in George’s office, he pulled my wisdom tooth, gave me a cleaning, and bought us all lunch. It was quite a day. Apparently, my gums were infected so it was great to start home with one less tooth. I finally rolled back into Gilford just before nine and was ready for a full night of sleep.

It was one of those trips where you experience every single emotion. I’m home and it’s great to chill out for a couple days with the family in NH.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. w

posted by Warner at 12/25/2008 04:07:00 PM


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