Friday, May 9, 2008

What the Hail???

I’m fortunate in that my employer allows me to work from home one day per week. That day is Thursday, and I look forward to it because I don’t have to make the hour-long commute into the city and can perform my job in my bathrobe if I want to. It also affords me a full day with unGuy and a rare daylight run, and I bank my hours during the other four days of the week to allow me this luxury. Yesterday, I decided to split from my afternoon routine and go for a jaunt in the morning instead. The sun was out, and the temp was around 50 – perfect for an easy neighborhood excursion. I gave unGuy a warm bottle and strapped him in the BOB, affixed the shield accessory to the stroller and began my circuitous route through the outer reaches of our neighborhood. The roads were still a bit muddy from recent rain and I found myself powerhiking a fair amount just to keep my heart rate in check. About seven miles in, I was starting to tire, so I decided to end my run using the shortest distance possible. Thankfully, our area is comprised of a series of intersecting loops, so I can change my course on the fly if I want to.

While navigating this shortcut, I noticed the clouds beginning to build overhead, further lending to my decision to call it a day. However, the speed at which the sky began to darken became increasingly disconcerting. I started picking up the pace, ignoring the high heartrate alarm pulsing from my Garmin. As I was climbing a steep section I sensed a rushing sound in front of me that diverted my attention from the road to the landscape beyond, and what I saw was a curtain of white, advancing on me like an angry mob. It was starting to hail. At first, I reveled in this freakish front, crying out ‘No way!’ in an incredulous, almost childish tone of voice as the deluge increased in intensity. Soon, the stings peppering my head and arms became too much to bear, and I crouched beneath the little shelter the stroller had to offer as the hailstones grew from peas to marbles. I nervously scanned my surroundings, with seemingly no refuge in sight. To the right, a cliffside, hail pouring off its lips and accumulating in pyramid-shaped piles below. To the left, a drop-off and no place to push a stroller. I knew I had to make a decision quickly. Lighting clapped around me, and never mind that 5-second distance theory – I had to find cover fast. By now the hail had completely blanketed the ground, and I pushed further up the hill while I still could. Chin buried deep into my chest, I pressed onward, feeling a warm sensation in my shoulders seconds before a bolt struck nearby. I felt exposed and vulnerable, and I decided that getting under a tree would be the lesser of two evils. About 100 yards later I came upon a driveway with a welcoming conifer nearby. I raced towards this giant and came to a stop completely out of breath through a mix of exertion and hyperventilation. This incredible episode had unfolded in a matter of 3-4 minutes. I quickly poked my head around to the front of the stroller, expecting to find unGuy wailing uncontrollably. He was not. In fact, in typical unGuy fashion, he appeared to be enjoying himself.

As quickly as it had come, the storm front pushed eastward and the sun began to seep through the cloudcover. I hesitantly slipped out from beneath the tree and returned to the road. I could only walk as if pushing a sled, pristine ice bearings collapsing under the weight of the stroller, and I was still about 1.5 miles from home. Finally, I arrived at the house, the BOB covered in pine needles and snowy aggregate, unGuy looking none the worse for wear. The squall had barely glanced our property but managed to pummel an area only an earshot away. My hands were so cold I could barely unclip my son from his harness, and I began to absorb the gravity of what had just occurred. Even now as I write this, the anxiety of that brief ordeal is a persistent afterthought, and I suppose I’ll be ordering a home weather station before the day is through.

Ground Zero. Looks kinda flat from space. It's not.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

If I Could Save Pee In a Bottle

Aspen and I live in one of those neighborhoods with a single road feeding a dozen or so less-traveled roads. The main drag is curvy with posted speed limits of around 30MPH, making the 3-mile trip from the highway to our house seem like an eternity when you’re in a hurry. Of course, while driving that slow, you’re afforded temporary glances of neighbors’ spreads, dogs, horses and other farm animals, and the occasional elk or deer grazing nearby. Sadly, the views are coupled with the errant unsightly home or derelict property. I suppose they start to become part of the scenic woodwork after a while. Creating quite the opposite effect was the amount of roadside trash that began to surface when the snow started to melt. Once Aspen brought it to my attention, trash started popping up out of nowhere on this stretch, diverting our attention from the road and threatening the promise of any future houseguests. Finally, one day we decided to stop complaining about it and put our words into action, choosing a well-traveled 1.5-mile section of the main road and setting out to collect all of the trash on its shores. I put unGuy in the backpack and we parked our car on the side of the road with a sign stating ‘Trash Pickup Ahead’. We decided to work in tandem, combing one side of the road and then returning on the other. The task began in earnest, as we gleefully upheld our self-appointed roles as refuse stewards, joking about who would be the first to stumble on a dead body or porno magazine. About two hours and seven or eight full trash bags later, the novelty had worn off and the end of our journey couldn’t have felt more distant. But, shortly before our car came into view, a woman stopped to thank us for our efforts, reviving our spirits and serving as just reward for our voluntary deed. We didn’t find any corpses or porno, but I did learn a thing or two about the demographics of our neighborhood:


  • likes to drink and drive, beverage of choice being Miller High Life 40s. We found about 15 of these scattered throughout the 1.5-mile stretch, each in their own bag, and the bottle was always partially filled with beer or other undesirable liquid;
  • drinks a bunch of this beverage called ‘Talking Rain’ but can never finish the bottle;
  • chews that bottom-shelf tobacco Husky and spits into a beer or soda bottle, whatever’s available;
  • likes to eat a small bag of chips and drink a 20-oz. soda while driving, finishing off the snack by rolling up the chip bag like a joint and stuffing it into the empty bottle before throwing it out the window;
  • named ‘Sharon’ had a birthday in December.

Except for several lipstick-coated cigarette butts and maybe Sharon, I’d be willing to wager that the rest of the repetitive trash was borne by men. Slobs. Regardless, we’re delaying the unglamorous task of separating the trash from the recyclables until our stomachs have had a chance to recuperate. For now, the shoulders of this short segment are free of litter, bounded on either end by more trash-riddled roadway, and no one to scour its banks. I have a feeling we’ll be scavenger hunting again soon.