George and Gabe chill in Adirondack chairs at Telluride, day 2 of our short trip.
Those two words keep running through my head over and over again. Act natural. Don’t make a big deal out of it. It’s nothing special, nothing out of the ordinary. It’s just another day, just another amazing, superb, absolutely incredible day. So act natural.
But it’s hard to act natural when things are so incredibly amazing. It’s hard to pretend everything is normal when I also need to remember not to take things for granted. And it’s hard to think of this as just another day when I’m not sure I’ve ever been happier.
Last week, I was riding high stress: Working 30 of the last 33 days, trying to plan out this trip, preparing for family that I haven’t seen in over a year to roll into town, and dealing with my own funky personal issues.
In so many ways, not having a car is a stress-free life. I live by the kindness of others, exchanging breakfast and company for rides, and I consider myself lucky to have such good friends and such good luck. But traveling for a few days, dragging gear, food, clothes, and more makes it a bit harder.
On Sunday, after arriving home a little after 11, having worked the last 5 days, I began packing once more, trying to make sure I had everything I needed for my trip. I packed clothes, second guessing how many and of what. I packed toiletries, reminding myself exactly what I needed for the following morning that would have to be packed late. I ran a mental checklist of gear, entertainment, electronics and more. And then I crawled into bed, unable to sleep, far too much on my mind.
My alarm didn’t wake me. It wasn’t set to go off for another hour. I lay in the dark, contemplating my existence and stressing the day. One more day at work. One more class already picked for me. Finding my traveling companions, two other instructors who had been out sick most of the week, and rolling out.
After a half-hour, I slid out of from the warm cocoon of my bed, figuring I’d have extra time to prepare. I packed and repacked. I cooked and prepped food for the next few days. I danced through my house as gingerly and quietly as possible, lamenting my still wet laundry unable to be dried thanks to the loud buzzer that would perturb my roommates. I stared out the window, wondering how the strange puzzle that is my life fit together so beautifully despite its problems. And I tried to smile for the adventure ahead.
At work, I ran through the motions at first, piling the pieces of the Sunkid, our magic carpet area, into place, and worrying that my lesson plan, one designed to deal with the massive ability split in my class, would alienate or bother my kids. But soon I found myself lost in the moment, my desires and hopes, my dreams and happiness reflected in the eyes of my students.
We rode hard, pushing their limits, giving them confidence, and taking them places they hadn’t been before. We avoided the breezy start to the day by hiding in the untouched trees on the little mountain, dominating slopes covered with classes trying to perfect their turns. We rocked the roller coaster, the trick ditch, the Little Hawk trees, and the chutes. We talked about making their heart race, conquering our fears, knowing that even if we fear, we can do it.
And at the end of the day, I had happy, smiling, elated kids.
As the mountain wound down to nothingness, the trip started to take form. We gathered our gear together, collected all the bodies we needed, figured out food, and disappeared to Summit County.
When my grandfather retired, he purchased a condo in Frisco, at the heart of Colorado ski country. During college, I rarely took advantage of this. He was mildly overprotective and skiing, a social occasion for me, rarely took my up the mountain without family there. Since finding a passion in being a ski instructor, I’ve taken advantage of the condo a lot more. The past several years, it’s become a home away from home. I’ve hosted dozens of coworkers and friends, spent countless nights before great ski days, and stored gear and goodies there. With my grandfather aging out of visiting the condo, though, my family has put it on the rental market, making it less a home and more a privilege. Luckily, our first night was covered there, and I felt comfortable and relaxed.
The snows began falling over night, several inches falling before we even left the condo. The five of us rolled into Beaver Creek by 10 AM and found nothing but fresh lines in the trees all day. We hit deep and steep til we could barely stand, the second blessing on a trip I had been anticipating for a month.
Our final run down revealed a bluebird sky for the first time all day. Clear roads West let us part quickly and safely and head toward our final destination: Telluride.
My lack of a smart phone came back to bite me as I realized I had no information about the address or accommodations for which we were destined. A flurry of texts later, I had touched base with a half-dozen people, gotten the information we needed and found our long journey steadily flying by.
We arrived in Telluride shortly after 11 PM, another long day behind us. We got lost thanks to an error by the GPS, but eventually found it, unable to see where we truly were in the darkness. Unperturbed, we skipped the hot tub, walked slack-jawed into my friends condo, and quickly claimed beds.
This morning, we rose early, gathered our gear, and wandered out onto the snow, finding ourselves a literal stones throw from Telluride’s center village. With 10 fresh inches reported and several sections of mountain opened for the first time in days, we rode as hard as we could for four hours before seeking lunch, finding fresh tracks, incredible steeps and views, and amazing riding from top to bottom.
Sore legs and a tired body couldn’t compare to the pain from the smiles permanently plastered across our face. Tonight, our host and several other friends join us for another day of riding tomorrow. Compared to the stress of the last few days, the whole thing seems positively surreal. And while they’ll stay for the remainder of the week, we’ll be returning to the charmed ho-hum of Eldora and Boulder on Wednesday.
Our accommodations, our friends and companions, the conditions all combine to remind me that the kindness of friends and strangers extends far beyond what I could ever repay. I can try. I can work hard and offer as much back in kind as I’m able, but I can’t ever express the amount of gratitude I truly feel.
So instead, I try to act normal, offer what thanks I can, and enjoy every moment.
But it’s not normal.
It’s absolutely incredible.