Friday, March 05, 2010

Riding the Sled

Now that the Olympics are over and you're missing them, here is an absolutely true story. The denoument is a little shaky since I don't remember our exact words, but I think it's kind of clever.

* * * * *

The Event: The First Annual Brother Fraternity-Sister Sorority Winter Drink, Dance, and Tickle Festival Field Trip. We were social young animals in our late teens and early twenties, not to mention that out mental elevators did not stop at every floor.

The Time: January 1966, ten-ish in the morning or thereabouts.

Where: The Olympic bobsled complex, Mount Van Hoevenberg, Lake Placid, New York.

Why: To experience the thrill of riding a sled down the side of an icy mountain where serious injury or death was possible.

The Waiver: Each rider had to sign a waiver stating that, in the event of serious injury or death, we agreed not to hold the State of New York (the owner) responsible for the serious injury or death. The minute I signed it, I felt like dead man walking. Or rather, like dead man doing poo in his pants.

There was no way I could back out, though, because the only girl amongst us chose me for her partner. Quite forcefully chose me, nearly pulling my right arm out of its socket. “Hey, watch it, that’s my pitching arm!” I barked, knowing that I couldn’t sue the State of New York for a dislocated shoulder. “Oh, are you on the baseball team?” she asked. “Nope, ping-pong,” I replied.

The Preliminaries: Our “ride” was a four-man model—in our case, a three-man-one-woman model—stripped-down to just the bare frame with gear shift-like knobs to hang on to. There was a professional driver, the redhead behind him (did I mention the girl had two tons of beautiful red hair?), then me (the ping-pong pitcher), and finally the professional brakeman. The verbose driver gave us our instructions: “Just sit there.”

The Ride: Only the two pros pushed the sled before jumping on, so we got off to a slow start. The run was straight for a bit to gain speed, and then we came to the first turn. A baby turn as I soon found out, but scream city anyway at suddenly riding sideways.

Like many things, the reality was quite different than watching it on TV. Down there on the ground the walls of ice looked HUGE and all encompassing, like a cocoon. All I could see was ice coming at us, faster and faster, while the wind slapped me in the face and every bump, hundreds of bumps from re-frozen ice and other sleds, rattled through my entire body. Fresh and smooth Zambonied ice? No fooking way.

Just when I thought I was getting used to sliding sideways on either right or left curves, we came to the famous


where the sled went nearly upside-down to the left and then immediately upside-down to the right before straightening out. Even though the team didn’t take us close to the lip, it was a thrill and a ½.

Finally, after the last curve, we came out of the cocoon to sunlight, trees, people, and a cloud of snow as the brakeman stopped the sled on an incline. With nary a word to us, the pros picked up the sled, carried it to the dump truck transport, and rode back to the top to be with their own kind.

I found out later that our top speed was 40mph, but mostly in the 35mph range. The sledders, lugers, and skeletons of today are insane, not to mention lunatics. But for me, riding a bobsled was the craziest thing I’d done in my young life, and I loved every minute of it.

The Denouement:

Your freckles are wind burned,” I told Red.

“Yeah, so are yours,” she laughed. “I didn’t know they had pitchers in ping-pong.”

“Pitchers!” I exclaimed. “Lettuce go to the lodge and quaff a couple.”

I was on familiar ground now; this was, after all, the Tickle Festival.


TechnoBabe said...

That does sound like loads of fun. And you got the girl!! Cool.

Robert the Skeptic said...

It's amazing to me how many dumb things I have done in my young life because a girl was watching.

Uh, Nancy came to watch my first Skydive, I recall - I was age 45.

savannah said...

i'm still smiling, sugar! great story. xoxox

Tiffin said...

I'm pea green. I've always wanted to go down a bobsled run. That's super, Charlie.

Pat said...

How very brave! Isn't it great though when you've pushed yourself - the feeling afterwards?

laytonwoman3rd said...

I'm green, too...but it's not envy, it's a little touch of motion sickness, just from reading that, Charlie. I think passing through the birth canal wore out my thrill-seeking gene.

Mary Witzl said...

I could NEVER bobsled -- too cold, too slippery, too fast. But I once did a backwards dive off the high board because a guy I liked was looking.

Charlie said...

TECHNO: A near-death experience has a tendency to bring two people closer. Now, if I could only remember her name.

ROBERT: Skydiving, to me, would be a suicidal mating ritual. But we males never change--no matter how old we are, we have the show-off factor to contend with, like peacocks prancing around with their feathers in full fan.

SAVANNAH: I always like it when you smile and call me sugar.

TUI: They still give rides on the new run, starting at the halfway point to avoid the dangerous Hairpin. And now it costs 75 bucks.

But you need a strong heart ...

PAT: There is a fine line between bravery and stupidity, but both produce a gallon or two of adrenalin.

LINDA: LOL--you are something else. Don't you get a thrill bowling, and especially winning a tournament? And have you never ridden anything at an amusement park? I know, they don't amuse you.

MARY: I had no idea that women (or perhaps some women), have the show-off factor too.

After you got out of the hospital for a broken back did you get the guy? Or, at the very least, impress him?

papa turtle said...

ok prof found your blog thru my daughter in laws blog {hatters clean cup} most entertaining, thankyou. It appears that we are approx. the same college generation 66-70. Anyway we did our sledding on "borrowed" cafe trays from our dorms. That could also be thrillingas one of my frat bros. can attest from his facial sutures but his Hudepol anesthetic kept him out of pain

laytonwoman3rd said...

Yes, I get a big thrill from bowling. Wouldn't know about the "winning a tournament" part. But beating a guy at it...oh YEAH. And there is no question that I do better when men are watching. I'm not exactly comfortable with that, but I'll take any advantage I can get if it raises my score. When we were in college, my husband-to-be and I were both taking bowling to meet a gym requirement at the same time. Girls had to bowl a certain number of games to pass. Guys had to bowl at least one game of 180 or better to pass. (I know, I know...) So, we went bowling together a lot. I hit 180 long before he did. And once he made it, he never picked up a bowling ball again. And NO...I do not now, nor have I ever participated in so-called "amusement" rides except to accompany my little girl on the merry-go-round when she was too little to ride it alone.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

You lived the dream, Charlie! Kudos, man.

Jimmy Bastard said...

My admiration for you continues to grow sir.

Charlie said...

PAPA TURTLE: Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!

I knew cafeteria trays were good for something--quite ingenious, and funny.

So, did all you boys grow up to be orthopedic surgeons?

LINDA: That's pretty romantic, falling in love with Mr. Linda in a bowling alley. It sure beats him picking you up in some sleazy bar.

The tournament win will come someday--all your team probably needs is one more power bowler.

I used to bowl with my mom, and I remember the time she almost bowled a 300 game. People started to gather around the 7th frame, and by the ninth everyone in the place was there except for NBC. And then she choked and had to settle for a spare. It was the highlight of her life.

Charlie said...

BARB: It was an experience I'll never forget. I think everyone, if possible, should have a daredevil experience in their life.

So when are you going to go hang-gliding? Or have you already had your thrill?

JIMMY: As you well know, you have to do what you have to do, especially when it's a woman egging you on.

And I may be an old fart, but the "sir" isn't necessary. I don't believe in good manners, except when a woman makes me.

papa turtle said...

actually charlie I'm more of a tooth surgeon.....the guy with the cut face is an attorney