Sunday, April 10, 2005

We went to Lake Tahoe again this weekend. Somehow I keep getting suckered into going, and the trips keep not being horrible. I'm not yet convinced though. I've gotten this far in my life using my carefully-honed strategy of pessimism and I see no reason to turn back now.

Tahoe is about 200 miles from San Francisco and should take less than 4 hours to drive in decent traffic. However, traffic sucked the big wazoo and the journey took nearly 7 hours of driving. The worst part was when it took nearly 2 hours to travel about 4 miles. The roads were snowy and a bunch of morons assumed that they could safely traverse the roads in their two-wheel-drive vehicles with no chains. Cars were sliding around in a carefully choreographed idiocy ballet, a vehicular dance whose sole purpose seemed to be to keep us from our destination. Had there been any way to turn our car around, I would have gone home right then and there. Although I am prepared to give up at any time, large snowy banks on either side of the road prevented me from executing that plan.

No one in our family planned on skiing. I knew my daughter would be too scared. My wife fears hurting her back, and there was no way I was going to get on the slopes one week before the Boston Marathon (have I mentioned that I'm running the Boston Marathon in a week??). This was all the more reason why the trip to Tahoe was a lame lame lame idea.

Saturday morning the weather was perfect, a beautiful Spring day in Lake Tahoe. The sun was out and fresh powder covered every surface. We brought our daughter to the ski resort to see if she had any interest in skiing, and much to my surprise she wanted to give it a try. Not to be outdone, I decided to risk it myself. I decided that if I was very careful, I should be able to avoid injury. We signed the kid up for lessons and I strapped on skis for the first time in nearly a decade. I mostly stuck to the beginning slopes and took it easy. The conditions were glorious.

After my daughter got out of her lesson, I got to ski with her. I was truly and honestly surprised and amazed at this development in our day.

I never skied as a child. My family wasn't really the outdoorsy types, so I learned these skills as an awkward adult instead of as an adaptable child. So, doing these types of activities, especially with a small child, is somewhat foreign to me.

Three images will stay in my mind:

1) Skiing down the hill, with my daughter a few yards ahead, watching her cut some turns and handle some simple slopes. It just seemed surreal to me.

2) My wife stood at the bottom of the hill and took a short video, capturing our daughter skiing down the hill towards her. In the background you can hear me yelling "Pizza wedge! Pizza wedge!" (which was what the instructors called the "snow plow" maneuver that you do to slow down). My daughter fails to slow down quickly enough and the video very nearly captures the collision between my daughter and my wife. Just before my daughter gets there, the camera angle jerkily swings all around and you can hear my wife busting up with laughter.

3) At one point I tried to lead my daughter down a short sleep slope. I told her to cut across the hill and follow my lead. I started down the slope and she came after me a little too soon. Before I knew what was happening, she had caught up to me and clamped on, wrapping her arms around my right leg and holding on for dear life. I tried to safely ski us down to the bottom while simultaneously laughing myself out of breath (high altitude and all). Somehow we made it. I suggested that she refrain from grabbing onto me while skiing, but I applauded her physical comedy talents.

So, despite all the hassle of getting to Tahoe, I had a lovely time. I was very glad that I decided to ski and that I didn't get hurt (although I did stress some leg muscles that I really needed to rest (something called the IT Band, I think)).

Also, I realize that every parent in the world gets the joy of watching their child develop some new skill, but the pleasure of the experience surprises me every time. I'm not sure I understand the mechanism that drives being proud of your child, but it seems to work rather effectively.

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