Sunday, July 31, 2016

(Dirt Road) Party Like It's 1984

I've come to the conclusion that 50 is the new 18.

As the wave of my high school classmates turning 50 crests, I've (re)discovered that we are, indeed old enough to know better, but young enough not to care. Not only are we old enough to know better, our kids are old enough that they don't need babysitters and can serve as our designated drivers. Heck, they're old enough to know better, too.

July has been particularly 50-candles intense (I'm not sure what happened 50-years and 9-months ago, but my money is on extended power outages, or a lame TV line up). With each get-together, we recognize the gravity of reaching this milestone (and the toll gravity has taken) even as we celebrate our good fortune in achieving it (remembering fondly our classmates who did not).

We also wax a bit nostalgic for our semi-wild, perhaps misspent youth. There is a good chance that we recall those days being wilder and more fun than they actually were. Still, the memories of that freedom, daring and excitement, and the sense of endless possibilities warm our hearts. More than one story has ended with a collective sigh, and a “If my kids do that, I'll kill them,” or “My parents would have killed me if they knew!”

Recently we gathered in the beer tent at the county fair to celebrate yet another addition to the Fabulous 50s club. I don't think the fair had a beer tent when we were 18 – and even if it did, we wouldn't have been old enough to enter it (as the drinking age was 19). Instead, we had to go to the barns or the campgrounds at the edge of the fairgrounds to sneak a drink.

More often than that, though, we headed out for a dirt road party (DRP). The memories of those illegal, ill-advised, quasi-impromptu events prompted one of my classmates to suggest we plan a DRP as part of our next class reunion. We all thought about it a moment, laughed, and then gave a collective sigh.

There would have to be some changes, we agreed, for example...

In the Good Old Days both sides of the narrow gravel road would be lined with cars and trucks. Usually, they were perched precariously on the edge of a deep, weed-filled ditch, making getting in or out of a vehicle challenging (and that was before we started partying).

These Days our minivans and Mom-U-Vs could present a tipping hazard if we parked too close to the edge of the road.

In the Good Old Days when nature called, our sprightly, bendy-legs allowed us to cop a squat in the corn field. The balance-challenged among us would use a car bumper for support.

These Days? Ain't gonna happen, no how, no way. I get skeeved out using a port-o-potty, let alone baring it all to the great outdoors.

In the Good Old Days parties didn't start until dusk, at the earliest. On an Iowa summer night, that meant most parties didn't start until 9:30 p.m. or so. In the winter, however....

These Days most of us are yawning by 9:30 p.m. or so, and we're sound asleep by 11. While we're at it, our night vision isn't what it used to be, either.

In the Good Old Days we drank beer – usually cheap and warm – and lots of it. Kegs were always a popular choice and occasionally lasted for more than one party (see “cheap” and “warm).

These Days the deposit on a keg and tap is steep. Besides, we may not have the same capacity for consumption we once did. Or maybe, just maybe, with age has come the wisdom not to drink as much.

In the Good Old Days, true DRPs alternated between three or four spots, one of the most popular being “Pete's Ditch.” Given the relative frequency of these events, the grid-like layout of country roads, and the party-radar inherent in teens (along with the trail of red tail lights and plume of gravel dust) we were able to navigate to these remote locations with ease.

These Days, a quick and random survey revealed that no one could remember the directions to Pete's Ditch. We may have to print out maps, or at the very least make sure everyone has GPS on their phones.

Looking over this list of new requirements for a dirt road party, it would seem the perfect party location These Days would be somewhere with plenty of well-lit, flat space for parking, somewhere easy to find, somewhere with flush toilets and cushy places to nap, and somewhere with plenty of cold beer on tap.

In other words, a hotel reception hall. But that doesn't sound like nearly as much fun.

Not that I ever went to a dirt road party, of course.

My parents would have killed me.

Monday, July 18, 2016

How I Became THAT Girl

I am not a pink and pretty, pampered and pedicured, foo-foo girl. Not that there's anything wrong with that. It just seems out of my reach. Except for the pink part. I make pink look fierce.

I'm just not that girl.

Nor am I a fix-a-flat, hawk-n-spit, tomboy-girl. I have enough trouble putting my old, hand-crank pencil sharpener back together, and I always forget to spit with the wind, not agin' it.

I'm not that girl, either.

That said, I'm no stranger to hiking in the woods, playing in the mud, or sweating (if need be). I would just prefer to be wearing a color-coordinated outfit and appropriate footwear while doing it.

So why was I hiking along the muddy banks of the Minnehaha Creek in downtown Minneapolis, wearing fitted, white capris, a swingy, trapeze tank top, and strappy, wedge heels?

I'm not that girl.

What can I say? Assumptions were made. Lessons were learned.

It all started with the prospect of a Girl's Weekend Out. It all started with the promise of shopping, and a fancy dinner, and a Very Special Birthday celebration for a Very Special Friend.

Let me point out that there usually is no difference between my “goin' to the mall” outfit and my “goin' to the woods” outfit -- or my “settin' on the couch” outfit, for that matter. My go-to, “goin' to” outfit usually consists of jeans or jean shorts, a t-shirt, and running shoes. The stores where I usually shop end with “-Mart.” My idea of fine dining is anything I don't order from my car.

Still, we were headin' to the Big City. We were headin' to The Big Mall, yes, that one, America. And we were helping a friend celebrate a Big Birthday (the latest to join the “Who's Counting” club). I didn't want to look like I just fell off the turnip truck.

My travelin' partner-in-crime always looks effortlessly put together. And the birthday girl always looks perky and classy. I always look like I just fell off the turnip truck.

But this was a Girl's Weekend. A Girl's Weekend with four women traveling in one car with one small hatchback for luggage and shopping bags. I did NOT want to be that girl. The one with a pile of luggage and different shoes for each outfit. So I packed light. Extremely light. As in one-outfit-per day light. I brought just two pairs of shoes, chosen for fashion, not function.

Prior to this excursion, during this month alone, I have hiked muddy trails through overgrown woods, explored caves, waded through creeks, zoomed down a mountain (ok, a hill) on an alpine slide, struggled to keep up with some serious Fitbit fanatics, and participated in a mini-triathalon. There is a better than average chance that I have, at one time or another, made fun of women (and men) wearing inappropriate footwear or clothing during these activities. (Seriously, hiking in dollar store flip flops?)

And yet there I was, one martini glass shy of looking like an extra in Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie, picking my way around tree roots, trying not to slide down the steep declines and shuffling across the sandy sandbar.

I had become that girl.

My mantra became “Don't slip, don't sweat, don't swear out loud.” Because the only thing worse than being that girl, is being that whiny girl.

The good news is no ankles were turned, no shoes were ruined, no bodies needed to be hidden. No one wound up wearing an orange jumpsuit.

Although if I do wind up in an orange jumpsuit some day, I have the perfect pair of strappy wedges to wear with it.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Try, Tri, Again

The latest in my series of “What does not kill me (or get me mugged) makes me stronger” adventures was the Sigourney Tri in July. This sprint triathalon included a 330 yard swim, 5.4 mile bike ride and 2.02 mile run. I'm always on the look out for something new and different, and I figured, Hey, why not? What could possibly go wrong?

This kind of thinking only occasionally leads me to disaster.

I enjoy these kinds of physical challenges because they give me plenty of time alone with my thoughts. I usually I don't pay much attention to myself, but there's something about running (or biking or swimming) that forces me to actually think about what I'm thinking. I gotta say, there may be a good reason why I tune myself out most of the time.

My race number, or how old I felt after the race.
The first “Oh, so this is what could go wrong” moment hit as we were lined up according to our estimated swim times. I used to be a lifeguard and I used to be on my college's swim team (small college, smaller team, bathtub-sized pool), so I estimated that I was a slightly faster than average swimmer. (Besides, being completely honest about my 5K pace time always puts me behind the walkers. It was my turn to be optimistic.)

Please note I used the past tense when referring to my swim experience. I am convinced that most former athletes (or former anythings) tend to underestimate the importance of the term “former” when given an opportunity to brush off those skills.

Regardless, I found myself lined up on the pool deck between a current lifeguard and her high school-age friend. My confidence was already beginning to ebb when these girls started questioning their ability to finish the swim.

Oh, so this is what could go wrong,” I thought. I could drown or I could get lapped by the 20 people following me. My internal monologue for the swim was pretty simple: “Stroke, breath, don't drown.” Words to live by. All three of us survived, and none of us were lapped.

The transition from swim to bike went pretty smoothly, although I may have wasted valuable time double checking to make sure I wasn't removing my sports bra along with my swim top.

Oh, so this is what could go wrong.” The sight of my codfish-white belly probably traumatized enough people.

The 5-mile bike ride gave me plenty of time to think. I realized that while I like riding (moderately) fast, I don't like turning corners (even moderately) fast. After watching the riders ahead of me lean (dangerously far) into the corners, I tried to console myself with the old “it's not a sprint it's a marathon” platitude.

Then I remembered it was a sprint triathalon.

Eventually I reached a zen-like peace with being passed by young men with tree trunk-sized calves, curled over the handlebars of their high-tech racing bikes. My competitive spirit kicked and I picked up the pace as we neared the turnaround point. I even managed to pass someone myself. (So what if he was only 12 years old, and wobbled all over the place.)

I started to enjoy the thrill of riding fast, and the rush of the wind in my face. I felt free! I felt like I was flying! I felt like I was hardly pedaling at all!

Because I was hardly pedaling at all. I was going down hill. And what goes down hill must eventually go back up....

Oh, so this is what could go wrong.

By the time I made it back to the park to leave my bike and start the run, my butt cramps had butt cramps. I wondered if I would be able to unclench long enough to get off my bike, or if I would have to run with the seat stuck between my cheeks.

Oh, so this is what could go wrong.

The second transition was even smoother than the first, and I was able to dismount without disrobing.

So, this went wrong.
I had hoped the run would be my strongest part (relatively speaking) of the event. And it might have been. If it wasn't for the swimming. Or the biking. Or the swimming and biking. As it was, I ended up doing a “Lego” run, going block by block. By block.

But I did keep going, and I did finish (24 seconds slower than I really hoped to finish). And it didn't kill me. And I did have fun.

And I am going to do it again next year.

Because anything worth doing just for fun, is worth doing 24-seconds faster.