Monday, October 27, 2008

Family Code Words

                 Every family has at least a few "code words" of which only their immediate family understands the meaning.  Growing up, my brothers and I used phrases like "on a page" and "gundos" to define things only amongst ourselves.  
                 My own family is no different, with the kids starting to coin their own phrases that stick for better or worse.  One of my favorites is "wild penguin."  This term was originated solely by Rigdon and Livi.  It was initially just the "Penguin."  Then it evolved to "Angry Penguin" and is now "Wild Penguin."  The official position of "Wild Penguin" is pictured below.    
Recognizable when Caroline buries her chin in her chest with a slight look of distress, while avoiding eye contact and bowing her body as pictured above.  When Sara or I hear Rig or Livi yelling "Wild Penguin!! Wild Penguin!!"  It translates directly as "Get your 'mostly potty trained' daughter to a toilet ASAP!!"  Thank goodness for older siblings.    
(Fortunately this may have been the last we have seen of it, seeing that Caroline has gone by herself for the past 5 days.)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Mid Life Crisis Resolved!

(Continued from previous post)
When you commit yourself to something your not quite sure about, the best way to make sure you don’t back down is to start verbally committing it to others. (Spread the word of your foolishness.) I confided first in my wife. She didn’t think it was a good idea. Next I shared my plans with my classes. They all thought it was a great idea. Eventually, I put some of the guys I ride with in the know. They didn’t try to persuade me one way or the other, they just made me promise to have the film rolling so they could witness the end result. Roman said “If I was going to do it, I would make sure I had at least a couple of cameras rolling to catch all the footy (cool guy talk for footage.)” I thought that was good advice. After all I did really want at least a picture to remember it by.

My plan had worked. I had committed my resolve to enough people, that the embarrassment of backing out would, at least in my mind, be worse than the possible bike wreck. I had talked myself into a corner of which there was only one way out. So over the next couple of weeks I worked on preparing myself for the jump. I found some smaller jumps to practice on. I practiced a lot of positive mental imagery, and most importantly I convinced myself a broken bone might give me a legitimate excuse to not run with my wrestlers during “Hell Week.” All in all the preparation was weighing on my mind more than I would like to admit and again I was laying awake at night because of some stupid jump.

I wanted one last look at it on my own, before I scheduled a day to recruit a camera crew. So the next Saturday at dawn I departed with my most common riding threesome: ‘me, myself and Ipod.’ Together we set out for the jump. It is about an hour ride to get to it, so I am usually mildly fatigued when I arrive. That morning I don’t know if I was more or less fatigued than usual, but for some reason the jump that normally seemed frightening to me appeared do-able. I looked at it for a while and finally decided, “Heck, I’m not going to lose another minute of sleep over this thing. I’m getting this over with today!” True there would be no footage, no photos, no proof, not a single eye witness, and no one there to ride for help if something went wrong, but hey, I like to think of myself as a risk taker. In the words of Sara Palin a “Maverick.”

During the next half hour I made a plethora of approaches, drew multiple starting lines in the dirt, said a couple of silent prayers, and finally got the vote of confidence I had been waiting for. It didn’t come from above. It came form the ipod attached to my arm. In shuffle mode, with 1200 songs to choose from, what could get me over the edge? None other than Hank Williams Jr. “A Country Boy Can Survive.” Was it a sign? It was at least a sign from my ipod and at this point that was all I needed. I committed to myself not to touch the brakes on my next approach regardless of how good or bad it felt.

I don't really remember how the approach felt. I only remember the feeling as my tires left the wood and all my muscles froze, paralyzed with fear. The smaller practice jumps I had done meant nothing now. Sure I could feel that my front wheel was falling to the ground faster than my back and that the worst case scenario of endo-ing seemed more and more likely, but there was nothing I could do. There would be no in-air corrections, I couldn't even draw a breath much less pull up on the handle bars.

The ten or fifteen feet I dropped felt like forty or fifty. Finally my front wheel hit the ground. As the shock compressed, my bike couldn't make up its' mind weather to throw me over the bars or let my rear wheel safely return to the ground.

My bike had compassion on me. My rear wheel touched down. I breathed, then I screamed. It was a holler of excitement that only my ipod would hear. I let my bike accelerate down the hill and coast up the other side. I let out another scream, this one more defiant than the last. I jumped off my bike and threw it like I had just won the X-Games. Luckily no one was with me because I must have looked pretty foolish. If the 'footy' had been captured, compared to the pros it would look pretty lame, but if you're just an average high school math teacher and father of three, then it feels a little bit like the X-Games. Is that feeling worth the risks? Heck Yes! Would I do it again? Where do you think the pictures came from?

P.S. If you read the whole thing waiting for blood and guts, sorry I bored you.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Mid-Life Crisis?

     Last summer I was exploring some mountain biking trails in my area and stumbled upon this jump.  I immediately thought to myself, "What kind of lunatic does something like that?"  As I was inspecting the jump a little closer and mulling over this question, my insides started to churn and my palms began to sweat.  I was dreaming of being in the club of  lunatics that would dare ride off a jump like that.  
 (I don't know if you can tell but the landing is pretty far down and there is a pile of rocks you have to clear.)

       That night I didn't sleep well.  Thoughts of what it would feel like to ride off the end of that wood and sail through the air for a second or two filled my head.  These thoughts pitted against the worst case scenario (paralysis) and the responsibility to provide for my family, waged war in my simple mind.  Let's face it when you are a thirty-something father of three, with one on the way, it is probably time to grow up and walk away from extreme sports or at least start to taper down your involvement.  Definitely not the time to start pushing your limits, but still I laid awake contemplating the decision more than once.      

      For a while it had seemed that common sense had won out.  I had shaken the urge to ride off the wooden plank and let gravity run its course.  (I chickened out.)  I retained my inner-manhood by rationalizing the fact that I didn't have a 'downhill bike' and really that is what that jump was designed for.  

     Months had passed with only an occasional thought of the jump that never was.  Then one night I was messing around on youtube looking for some new places to ride in my area.  When I stumbled back upon 'the jump.'  On a clip titled "Addicted to Webb Canyon" I watched an 'average joe' drop off 'the jump' on a bike no more worthy than my own.  Instantly I got that sick feeling and sweaty palms back that I had felt the first time I dreamt about taking the plunge.  The excuse I was hiding behind was no longer valid.  After watching the clip over and over I finally decided "Heck if some 'regular joe' can do it, so can I."  So again my sleep was regularly interrupted with contemplations of the risks verses the rewards. 

     I have no idea what it is that allows one person to see something that doesn't look safe and immediately dismiss any ideas of doing it without another thought, while another person is sentenced to lose sleep because of his desire to participate in it.  I am not even sure which group I would rather be in.  I think most would say it is intelligence that decides which group you align with but me being in the second I would have to argue it is more complicated than that.  Unfortunately, I am not smart enough to argue it any deeper than that, so perhaps it really is intelligence.  Nonetheless I guess we are who we are.  And Gosh Dang It!  I had decided I was going to be one of the lunatics.  I was going to rid myself of the demon that was haunting me now more fiercly than ever.

To be continued...