Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Fun on the lake!

The other day our friends Suzi and Kelly invited us over to their place to do some water-skiing and a BBQ. They live on a beautiful lake in a suburb east of the Minneapolis area. Once we arrived, we decided to hit the boat right away to do some skiing and tubing. I was to be the first one in the water so I strapped on my life jacket and jumped in.

I told Kelly (the guy driving the boat) that I have only skied about 5 times in my life so don't be surprised if I don't get up right away. I got situated with my skies and gave him the thumbs up. As I started to come out of the water, I thought I had it and then I went down. When Kelly came back with the rope, he said that the boat sputtered right as he was powering up. I'm going to attribute that to why I fell, but it was probably my lack of skills. On the second attempt I got up right away and started cruising around the lake. After I got comfortable, I started going outside the wake, trying to use the boats energy to whip me across the wake. This is fun! I went around a couple times and then my legs were starting to get sore so I let go and sank into the water without looking like a compete fool.

I remember telling Kelly when I got back on the boat, "It's fun when you go to the inside of a turn and then whip out to the outside of the turn 'cause you get to go fast." He kind of agreed but didn't say much. I thought I had discovered some new trick in water skiing but I was soon to find out that I'm not the first guy to discover this.

After I got back on the boat, Erin jumped on the tube do go for a loop around the lake. Since she was in a car accident a few months ago and suffers from whiplash (I know, sounds like a scam, but she actually has some damage in her neck), she was worried about her neck getting hurt so she wanted a nice and easy ride on the tube. As we started going around the lake, Kelly noticed that we were about to hit a big wave from another boat, by this time Erin was sitting backwards on the tube and as she hit the wave, she bounced about 5 feet into the air and into the water she went. She decided that she'd had enough so she climbed into the boat and Suzie jumped in (after thinking about it for 20 minutes). Suzie went around the lake a few times and then it was Kelly's turn. I said to him, "You are probably some expert aren't you." He says, "No, I'm just a regular guy."

He says this as he's pulling out this fancy slalom ski from the bottom of the boat. He jumps in, has his ski strapped on in seconds and is ready to go. We throttle up and he's instantly out of the water on one ski and before I know it, he's whipping back and forth. At one point, he was almost 90 degrees to the boat, yeah, I'm just a regular guy my butt. When I told him about how it's fun to go to the inside of the turn and then whip to the outside, I have a feeling he already knew that.

I decided to give one ski a try, after all, I've skied about 6 times now, I'm probably ready to drop one. I jumped in and got up right away and as I tried to drop one, I soon realized that it's not as easy as it looks. I was down into the water with my shorts in places I never knew about before. I tried it one more time and for about 1/2 second, I was skiing on one ski, and then I wobbled all over the place and fell finding more unknown places for my shorts to go. You can tell from the picture below how successful I was on one ski.

I tried to get up a few more times but was getting tired so we went in for dinner. Our thanks to Suzie and Kelly for a great BBQ and lots of fun on the lake. We were going to try skiing again later that evening but with some threatening weather moving in, we opted not to. Kelly seems to think I have a black cloud following me everywhere I go because it stormed last time we were out at their house.

Maybe next time, I'll get up on one. We're headed out to Flathead lake, MT later this summer, hopefully I'll get a chance to try it again there. Until then, tailwinds and smooth water to ya.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

A Long Ride!

I just got back from a relaxing trip to Erin’s parents house on Lake Michigan. After an early morning flight I was ready for a nap when I got home. I awoke to my phone ringing, it was my friend Mark asking me if I wanted to go mountain biking. “Yeah, that sounds great” I said to him. It was a beautiful day outside plus the trail we were going to was minutes from my house making it an even more alluring offer. I stuffed my bike into my car and a few minutes later I was rolling into the parking lot. I arrived at the park just a few minutes before Mark arrived.

We started out on a pretty easy winding trail, dodging an occasional rock or stump, I thought to myself, this is going to be a great ride. Soon, we arrived to a fork in the road (or trail in this case). There was a sign directing us to a “More Difficult” trail or our other option, the “Most Difficult” trail. It made me realize that it was going to be a “difficult” trail regardless of where we went. Anyone that knows Mark knows that he will always take the “path of MOST resistance” and therefore we were soon headed down the “Most Difficult” trail.

It didn’t start out too bad, it was pretty fast with a few more rocks to go around and some bigger logs to ride over. I was starting to get a little tired but I had a feeling we had a long way to go. After about one hour into the ride, I was about to jump over another set of logs. Apparently I didn’t pull my front tire up at the right time which I soon realized as it was pounding down onto the first log in the pile. I found myself looking straight down at this huge pile of logs, well, it looked huge as my face was plummeting towards it. Before I knew it, my left upper leg was slamming into the log and I was bracing my fall with my hands. I yelled some expletives, only so Mark would come back to check on me and found myself laying there on a pile of logs with my bike tangled and laying on top of me.

I wanted Mark to feel like he was helping so I let him pull the bike off my limp body. He asked if I was okay, “Yeah, I’m fine” I responded. Then he laughed at me, of course by this time I was laughing at myself. In the future, I’ll know that if I’m feeling a little too lazy to pull my front tire high enough to clear the logs, I can think back to this incident and realize that a little more “oomph” will prevent me laying in the dirt for 5 minutes.

After I got back on my bike, we continued down the trail. It got a little more complex with more logs and some narrow bridges and even a teeter-totter. However, by this time I wasn’t biking quite as fast and didn’t feel up for all the challenges the trail presented. I was having fun, however I was anxious for the trail to dump out into the parking lot where my car was located.

We arrived at what I thought was the end of the trail, chatted with another biker for a few minutes and then headed to the parking lot. I was ready to be done and it looked like we were getting close. Mark was ahead of me and the last time I saw him we were meeting each other on a switchback. Every time I hit a switchback, I thought it was going to pop out into the parking lot, but it never did. I found my legs starting to cramp up, after all, one of them was developing a huge bruise from my run-in with the log earlier. I also realized that my rear brake had gotten damaged in the crash and was now dragging, adding insult to injury.

After I couldn’t find the energy or leg strength to muscle my way up another hill, I found myself pushing my bike up a through the woods. I noticed a group coming up behind me. As they got closer, I realized it was a dad with his two 8 year old daughters. I can’t believe this, I’m getting passed up by a little girl with streamers on her bike. I asked him how to get back to the trail head, he told me, “Well, if you stay on the trail, it’s another 6 miles to the trail head.” What!! Somehow I had missed the turn to the parking lot and I was already a mile back into the trail. I asked him if there were any shortcuts and he agreed to show me how to get back on city streets.

A few minutes later I was pulling into the parking lot. The whole ride was about 8 miles but I felt like that guy on TV that collapses after finishing an Iron Man competition as I pulled up to my car. Mark had called my cell phone (which was located in my car) asking where I was. He said he had been out of the trail for 30 minutes already and was worried that I had crashed. I touched base with him and we met up a few minutes later.

We agreed that I was an idiot for missing the exit from the park and that we would do it again next week sometime. My goals next week are, (1) Don’t crash, (2) Don’t get lost, (3) Don’t cry, and (4) Have fun!

Friday, June 02, 2006

The biggest wasted hour of my life!

The other night Erin and I were watching TV, she was getting ready to go out with a friend, I was getting ready to go ride my motorcycle, when someone knocked on our front door. I went to see who it was and found a younger fast talking gentleman who handed me a can of carpet cleaner. He asked if we had any carpet stains, I told him yes, and then he asked if he could have U of M student come inside and demonstrate something and he would get the stain out for us for free. "It will only take a few minutes of your time" he said. Okay, I have a few minutes, so I let his salesperson come into our house.

He comes in with two huge boxes and a backpack. He starts setting up this vacuum cleaner and all it's accessories like our living room is his showroom floor. Then he asks if he can use our vacuum to clean up an area of the carpet. Sure, so he vacuums an area with our vacuum and then vacuums the same area with his fancy vacuum. His vacuum didn't have a bag, instead it had a filter so every 3-4 strokes of the vacuum he could pull out a filter and show us what a great job his vacuum was doing. Then he'd put this filter on our floor as a "visual aid".

I thought he would do this a few times.....nope. After about 100 filters are laying on our living room floor, he gets ready to move on to his next demonstration. He asks, "How often do you vacuum?" Erin replies, "About once a week". He says, "So, once a week is 52 times a year, say you go over each spot twice, that's 104 times you go over your carpet." Okay, what's your point, I was thinking to myself. Then he did something that was the straw that broke the camels back. He took our vacuum and went over one area of our carpet 104 times! "One, two, three, four.......Eighty-one, eighty two, eighty-three.....a hundred one, a hundred two, a hundred three, a hundred four."

I just about went ballistic! After he went over this one spot with our obviously inadequate vacuum, he went over it with his fancy vacuum that apparently is God's gift to cleaning. Guess what, his vacuum still picked up dirt which obviously meant that our vacuum is worthless and we better bring it to the nearest dumpster as soon as possible.

I asked him how much the vacuum cleaner cost. He said, "Oh, it runs $1975." WHAT!! There's no way I'm going to pay TWO GRAND for a vacuum cleaner! He says to me, "We have very good financing options." HA HA!! I'll finance my house, a car, a student loan, whatever, but I'm not going to finance a vacuum cleaner!

About now, I was getting very ticked off. This guy said he'd be in our house for a few minutes, now it's ONE HOUR later and he hasn't even talked about the stain that he said he'd get off for free. I told him that I needed to leave in about 15 minutes (to go enjoy the Minnesota freeway system on my motorcycle) so he'd better hurry along.

So, he puts together the shampoo system of the vacuum and mixes this soap and water combination and starts getting suds and water all over our living room floor. By now I didn't care about the stain anymore, I just wanted this guy out of our house. He starts talking about how great the shampoo system is, but by then I wasn't listening anymore. I was starting to get tunnel vision, kind of like you do right before you kill somebody!

I think he could tell I was getting agitated as he sucked up the suds pretty quick. He asked if I'd ever be interested in purchasing this vacuum. NO! WHAT ARE YOU STUPID???!!! Not for $2000!!! He quickly cleans up the 3,000 filters that are all over our floor and packs up his little mobile showroom. As he's picking up the filters (which have dirt and hair on them), the dirt and hair is falling off back onto our floor AND there are still soap suds on parts of our carpet! I quickly escort him out the front door.

I said to him, "Good luck and have a good night." He says without looking at me, "Yeah." Not, "Thanks for the last hour and a half of your time" or "Sorry this didn't work out", not a word of appreciation for my time!

So now, I just spent the last hour and a half watching my blood pressure rise as this kid was trying to sell me a $2000 vacuum and now I have to clean up after him because there's dirt and soap all over my floor! After I got it all cleaned up I went out on my motorcycle for a few hours and during the last 8 miles I got caught in a torrential down pour with strong winds! Not a great night for Smiling Paul.

What I didn't realize until after he had left is that my vacuum cleaner was picking up dirt and his vacuum cleaner was picking up dirt which didn't prove anything other than that both of our vacuum's worked. His never picked up so much dirt that eventually it ran out of stuff to pick up. There was always more dirt which didn't prove anything. I wish I could have asked him about that when he was at our house.

By the way, I just sold the motorcycle which was a sad day but there will be more bikes in my future!