Sandy Dunkin New York

Right now I imagine a former home of mine is receiving a lot of rain, lightning, and high winds. Many former homes have been part of those circumstances.

I was born during a typhoon in the Philippines. This may be why I don’t really freak out during big rains. My birth versus the storm: I won, but I’ve also always made sure never to get too cocky. Don’t stand in an open field under lightning clouds. Don’t play in puddles and get ringworm.

I lived in Guam. Seems if you live in the Pacific Ocean, you have to expect the whole range of tropical weather. Which would include earthquakes. And if volcanoes were nearby, those, too.

I lived in Key West. Consistently warm weather often compelled my brother and me to stay inside with the air conditioning. But I played a lot outside, too. But I mostly blame Key West for making me break my brother’s arm.

I lived in Jacksonville. Hurricanes mostly miss Jacksonville. The city often catches the fringes of the swirlstorms, and it receives a lot of rain, but Jax has had its share of lucky breaks when hurricanes decide to turn northward toward the Carolinas. And that’s not so lucky for the Carolinas.

I lived in New York City. That damn town greeted me with a blizzard, and it rained when I left it nearly 7 years later. That place brought out my allergies and gave me a true glimpse of depression. Rain, snow, strikes, sweltering and stifling heat. I miss that place.

I live in Utah. The sun is out, I can see the mountains that still hang on to the turned leaves. I walked two blocks through wet and heavy snow the other day, and I felt nostalgic. Today, nary a trace of that white stuff. But the mountains cling to that, too.

New York, I know you’re prepared. Candles, flashlights, water, food, batteries. Board games, radio. Dance parties. Storytime. Quality time. Run to the Hills. Or Washington Heights. I’ll be praying for you.

Some Randoms

The whiplash is mostly gone, but new and weird pain has shown up in my knees. And my scabs are starting to itch, which in some ways, is so much worse than the pain.

After we came out at the end of the trail on Saturday, we loaded our bikes onto the doctor’s truck, and we headed back up to the trailhead where the other car was parked. People started transferring bikes from the car to the SUV. It was barely a 10-minute ride and I thought it was funny how we spent three hours on a trail for such a short return. It was definitely worth it.

People were chatting, and all of a sudden I felt dizzy. And the back of my head tingled. And everything was washed out in white light. And I thought, [bleep], I’m about to pass out.

I didn’t faint, though, but instead squatted where I stood and lowered my head and closed my eyes. I began to wonder if this was a result of the fall, if hitting my head had to do with the dizziness. It scared me a bit.

People kept on chatting, and I stayed seated. Then someone might have looked at me–he must have–and then he asked if I was okay. And I told him that I was dizzy. And the other stuff I was feeling. And he said that I had altitude sickness and that I should take two aspirin and drink a lot of water. That the aspirin would thin my blood and allow oxygen to travel more easily through my body blah blah blah fishcakes.

Someone gave me two ibuprofen and said it would do the same thing as aspirin. I dropped the pills from my palm into my mouth and drew some water from my Camelbak.

We boarded the white SUV and the driver blasted the air conditioning and I positioned the vent next to me to blow on my head. Someone told me how to recline my seat, so I leaned back and closed my eyes for a bit.

Within the first five minutes of the drive back to Duck Creek Village, some nausea sneaked up on me. I began to think how I would tell the people in the car how I was going to throw up at any second: could we pull over please, I’m about to vomit. Or that I’d just roll down the window and blow chunks and hope not to ruin the paint on the car. But, I continued to lay back and focus on the conversation around me, and soon the nausea subsided.

The sensation of the entire experience came back only one more time, and I worried that I would have to drive for four hours to Provo in this condition. Yet, my body adjusted to the altitude, and once I drank more water and had something to eat, it wasn’t so bad.

The drive to Provo was great. Thunderstorms booming and tumbleweed rolling across the interstate. Playlists and Radiolab podcasts. Mountain biking that morning and 8 hours of hiking the day before worked me hard, but maybe adrenaline kept me alert. And pain rode with me the whole time. Soreness had begun to settle into my joints and muscles. Mostly my shoulders.

I didn’t interact with very many people today. Maybe a total of two lines in Google Chat, and one response in facebook. All this morning.

I began rereading Atlas Shrugged. When I opened to the first page of Ms. Rand’s tome this morning, a familiar-weird-bad taste returned to my mouth. I was 18 or 19 when I read it the first time. I was only 17 when I read the Fountainhead. It’ll be interesting to see if my opinions have changed over the years. Writing: fine. Story: fine. Propaganda: whatever. I mean, it’s hard for me to understand how this woman could hate women so much; how her philosophy was JUST SO COOL once upon a time. If I take everything she says with a grain of salt, then I will also need a good prescription for high blood pressure. Or I won’t have to wonder why I’m retaining so much water.

I want scones. Real scones from England.

Before It Gets Better

It happens so fast, you know?

They tell you all sorts of things, like to “feather” the front brakes while going hard on the back brakes. Like hanging your weight at the back of the bike. And not to lean forward. And keeping the pedals horizontal–at 3 and 9–instead of at 6 and 12, so that they don’t catch  onto rocks or the sides of deep grooves.

And maybe the bike is a little big on me, but it’s also very light.

I. Am also very light.

Gravity doesn’t care. I’m on two wheels, and there are rocks and roots, and sometimes the trail isn’t much more than a couple feet wide before it falls steep. And suddenly.

There is a lot of skidding. And it is easy to slip.

I’m bringing up the rear, because I know I’m the slowest and most skittish.

Within the first 20 minutes, I fall off the side and into some brush. It’s a soft landing, but: gravity. I grab onto some branches to keep from sliding further.

I call out, “I fell.”

“Are you okay?” The girl ahead of me waits.

“Yeah, I’ll be down in a second.”

My bike didn’t slide very far either, so I crawl back up to the trail and pull the bike up to me. I mount and begin riding the trail again.

I hit a relatively smooth section, and it doesn’t seem so bad. I do begin to go faster than I am comfortable, and I begin to squeeze the back brakes. The ground has gone from semi-firm earthiness to mostly dry clay and gravel. My rear tire starts to fishtail a little.

Two people in my group wait for me, about 150 feet ahead. I just met them this morning. The guy had told me not to hesitate walking any part of the trail that feels uncomfortable. He’s wearing full-upper-body armor because he’s a big daredevil. His girlfriend is friendly and smiles a lot and I instantly liked her when I met her. I’m excited to see them.

The trail breaks from the brush into an opening, a stretch of hard clay and rocks.  Some of the rocks are as big as mashers or golf balls, but they’re nowhere near as smooth or perfect. I come upon a drop–maybe 6 inches, with a root giving its edge a half-inch bump–or it comes upon me WAY TOO FAST, and in that instant I do everything wrong.

I probably pump the front brake. Hard.

I lean forward.

My pedals are vertical.

Then I am no longer holding onto the handlebars and my body is airborne.

Not sure for how long.

Not sure if my bike flew; if I landed near it or on it and then bounced off it.

I feel impact to my head. The ground slams the the left frontal side of my helmet, which pushes the same side of my sunglasses onto my left temple.

I land head first, then the rest of my body flips over.

I. Am very light.

I swear.

They say that swearing is a sign of stupidity, but my body is too busy processing pain to come up with anything intelligent to say.

However, I do roll onto my back from my left side to let my new friends know I’m alive.

The guy runs up to me. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine.”

“NO. REALLY.”

“I can move my limbs. It just hurts.”

“This is an advanced trail. I don’t know why they decided to bring you here for your first time.”

I learn later that the guy is a doctor.

He suggests we move off to the side of the trail in case other riders come down.

The girl runs up and I sit on a nearby log. She and the guy talk about options.

Do I head back up to the beginning of the trail, since I’m only a quarter of the way down? There’s talk of some sort of outlet halfway down where I could wait to meet the others.

I feel my throat tighten and then tears are rolling down my cheeks.

I can’t stop myself from crying because
-frustration
-embarrassment
-I hurt like hell.

The guy runs to get the rest of the group. The girl wonders if the guy got any of the fall on camera, because: cool story.  I try to laugh and the girl suggests I try eating something to calm down, because she see’s how shaken up I am.

She saw the crash. I only felt it.

The rest of the group comes. I ask one of the other girls for a wet wipe, and she hands me a small foil-lined packet. I open it, pull out the tissue and begin wiping the drying blood from my arms.

The others describe the rest of the trail to me.

They say there are switchbacks and rocky sections. They talk about steep sections with big rocks and roots. They say there are also gently rolling hills and shaded areas where it’s actually nice and I’d enjoy it.

The number of guys and girls in our group is even, so I get a balanced amount of technical riding advice and sympathy. From both genders, and it’s refreshing.

Heading back up no longer remains an option. They talk as if I’ll keep going.

Someone hands me my bike. I walk it back toward the trail, take a deep breath, and shake the nerves out of my arms.

I want to keep going.

And gravity will let me.

You Should Be Very Jealous of Me Right Now

Because I went showshoeing.

Vivian Park, south fork. Fresh powder, breathtaking views. On the way up, my fingertips were going numb, but once we leveled out and my blood was pumping properly, I was nice and toasty. Sweating, even.

Utah, today I really, really love you.

My friend, who was on cross-country skis, told me I did a good job. I told him I’m very strong.

By the way, is that very fair, him on skis while I’m in snowshoes?

We met a couple on our way up, Kaitlyn (not sure how she spells it) and George. Blond and smiley, they were. The girl spent last summer nannying in New Jersey, near the George Washington Bridge, and she said she prefers the fake niceness of Utah to the brashness of New Yorkers.

I can see where she’s coming from.

They took pictures of us, and we took pictures of them. I mean, how can one not bring a camera for an occasion like this?

I’m still kicking myself because I forgot mine. It’s sitting next to me now, in plain sight, cussing me out.

Sorry.

Good thing my friend brought his. I took a few photos with my camera phone, but the lens kept fogging up. You’ll see.

The snow brightened everything. It brought color to our cheeks. It was beautiful and powdery and frolicking in it brought me great joy. We would come to an untouched field along the trail and my friend would say, “This field is for you,” and so I skipped along in the snowshoes, sinking into the drifts and leaving deep prints and wandering trails of a very happy May.

Absolutely exhilarating.

Here are a few photos. Seriously, so much fun.

Even when “Someone” seems mad, I still love the view from my room.

It’s Monday, October 4, 2010. I yank the cord, and the blinds zip up the pane.

I don’t feel like a spy; I’m not close enough to be spying, but I want to catch up on the day.

It’s like how I know my roommate is in her room, because light strobes from under her door, and shadows flicker.

The mountain conceals enough to hide exactness yet reveals enough to spark curiosity.

Damn my curiosity.

There may be no mystery: the joke may be on me. I wait, regardless.

In less than fifteen minutes, the glowing vagueness dissipates, and only clear blue emerges.

Wherein I Leave the Part Out about Getting Charlie Horses in Both Calves

Click on the photo for more photos.

It’s the tallest I’ve ever been without the help of aircraft.

My hikemates make a big deal out of pushing through the spasms seizing my lower legs, but just as commendable are my hikemate’s

fearlessness
overcoming heights
overcoming fear of falling off the mountain
powering a major climb

I’d still be writing about this in the time we hiked up and down Mount Timpanogos. The photos will have to do for now.