Monday, February 11, 2008

Shuttling Pointers: How I escaped humiliation on the Vasa trail

I've never been able to figure out why people find it so difficult to figure out a shuttle. Not the space shuttle, or the 'Super' bus that takes you from the airport to your downtown hotel, or even the little feathery badminton thing that you whack. No, I mean the relatively simple act of leaving a car or bike at the end of your one way paddle, hike, or ski trek so you can manage to get back to where you started. There are a number of people, many of which are friends of mine, that have all kinds of trouble with the concept. I was on an inner tube float trip down a local river when the the dreaded Shuttle Block struck my buddy. An inner tube float involves getting a couple of truck size inner tubes on a hot summer day and putting a cooler of ice cold beer in one and your rear end in the other and floating down a nice quiet stretch of water. We drove Dougie's car down, left it at the take out point, drove back up to the put in spot, and floated down. When we got through, tired, sunburned, and a bit tipsy, we looked to Dougie to shuttle us back up to get the other cars so we could load the gear. When we told him to start the car and lets get rolling we got that puzzled look you get from your dog when it kind of cocks its head, knowing something sounds familiar, but not really knowing what it is. "Jeez, I locked my keys in Dave's car so I wouldn't lose em on the river". The poster boy for not understanding the shuttle concept.

When the shuttle discussion for the relay began, I kind of tuned it out with no small amount of disdain. It was a five person team. The BessemerConvivialist had the starting leg, I did the second leg, RonO the third, TheManFromSnowyLegs the fourth, and the VoiceOfReason was the anchor for the triumphant entry into downtown Mora and the cheering crowds of her hometown. Team director, shuttle coordinator, and official team photographer was none other than the BemidjiIntelOfficer. As the shuttle discussion dragged on I made the smart ass remark, "I wonder if Eisenhower had it this tough on D-Day". Ha Ha!

Sunday morning dawned -20F(-29C) with a stiff breeze. Word arrived at the house that the race was definitely on, a severe disappointment to a couple of team members. We saddled up anyway and headed to the start line with the shuttle plan firmly in place. We all hit the start, cheered on the BC as well as the Irish Pirate & BjornDahlieOfMahtomedi, who were skiing the entire 35k race, and I headed for my designated relay point. The second relay point where the second leg of the race started, skied by the second skiier.....yours truly. We got down there in plenty of time and I put my skis on and began testing the wax and getting warmed up. For some reason, the BemidjiIntelOfficer pulled up; I figured she just wanted to watch the exchange before she headed down to the third relay point where the third skier left from. I didn't pay much attention to the animated discussion that the BIO and VOR were having until the VOR came running over, "Hey, HEY! Mr. Shuttle Master! You're at the wrong relay exchange point!!". Impossible. I'm the second skier so I-should-be-at-the-sec......oh, son of a bi....; I need to be at the FIRST exchange point! I pitched my skis in the rocket box, leaped in the car with RonO and the VoiceOfReason, and took off at breakneck speed for the first relay point, muttering every curse that I knew under my breath (OK, maybe they were all out know). Fortunately we had our get of jail free pass, the relay team vehicle pass to get us through the traffic points. I knew that if the BessemerConvivialist arrived at the relay point after a strong effort in the cold weather and I was not ready and waiting to 'take the baton', that I would be abused like a rented mule for years to come. Especially after my remarks of the evening before. I did make it in time however and as she skied up, all frosty, smiling, and breathing hard, I leaned over, gave her a hug, and whispered, "You ain't gonna believe how I almost flocked this one up!", and took off in the general direction of Mora.

In the end we all survived, took 7th overall, and managed to hit all of the relay exchanges perfectly. Ok, I missed the MFSL/VOR exchange but they made it and thats the important part. I was down by the soup stop at the bottom of a hill hoping to wave to the Renegades at the top of the hill when the MFSL came through but in the end RonO had to come down and inform me that the exchange had been made 10 minutes ago and why don't we head downtown and watch the finish. So thats exactly what we did and cheered the VoiceOfReason across the finish line and heard our names read on the PA system. And the BemidjiIntelOfficer had that little Mona Lisa smile every time she looked in my direction for the rest of the day.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That was a close call...

I too fell victim to a shuttle block experience once when a friend and I canoed a portion of the Rum river - He left his keys in my car so that he wouldn't lose them. We came out about 3 miles from his van as the crow flies, about a 7 mile walk. It was the first and only time I have ever hitchhiked; I was picked up by a minivan containing a family of hippies, complete with a great big obese chocolate lab who sniffed me incessantly. I think that they were more scared of me than I was of them.

I learned to never underestimate the kindness of strangers and to always ask the designated shuttle person if they have their keys with them before you get into the canoe.