Monday, May 05, 2008

Knock on Wood

I got voluntarily kidnapped Friday and packed off to Thermopolis, Wyoming, one of my favorite places. Late last week I had been feeling unusually zen, so I thought a vacation weekend was worth a try. I did OK until Sunday, by which time we were all sapped, reeling from rushed buffet breakfasts and hours in the water and inferior hotel sleep that began too late and ended too soon. There was a 3-on-3 basketball tournament in town, so the hotels and main streets were swarming with adolescents, but it turned out not to be so bad. The museums were empty. The pools and slides were no more crowded than they would have been otherwise.

The drive up is always fun. I am an anticipation junkie, and on the way up I am still tough enough to remember other drives along the highway over the continental divide, like the trip up four years ago to retrieve Dad after surgery in Riverton. On the way home I was driving the Buick with Mom snoring quietly in the back seat and Dad asleep in the passenger seat in the front. He began to do strange things around Farson. He must have been dreaming about fixing something, mechanic that he was, because his hands flailed towards the dashboard, fingers flicking and flexing while he murmured an unintelligible diagnosis. He chuckled and maybe cursed.

On the way up I am not yet too tired to face the memory of Dad four years ago at the rest area at South Pass, huffing, cursing uncooperative limbs, asking no one in particular, “Is this me for the rest of my life?” Inwardly cringing, suffering for him, I scoffed to be encouraging; it turned out the answer was yes, but only for a year or so. He’s been gone three years this April, and M and I were remarking over the weekend how much we miss him. That, I suppose, is only natural.

It was pleasant weather at 4,300 feet (2,700 less than here, where it’s still too wintry for my taste), 60 miraculous degrees in the sun, and we spent most of the weekend in bathing suits. Most of my skin hasn’t seen sunlight in seven months, since I gave up shorts and T-shirts in October. After that length of time, it’s odd to see your own toes in the grass; your own forearm out the open window of a car seems almost foreign. My wrist and hand were paper white in the sunlight, almost glowing.

These were my thoughts as I waited my turn at the slide, perched on the edge of an imbedded platform spewing jets of lukewarm sulfur water. You’d be surprised what thoughts bob to the top during the thirty second ride, too, as you become a human projectile in a dirty plastic tube. The plastic is green and halfway translucent, stained reddish brown with iron and manganese at the edges of the path of the constant flow of water. My elbows and knees and tailbone are bruised from the joints and sudden spirals in the tube and the edges of the rough cement trough at the bottom, and I still find it fun.

A few weekends ago, after a visit to a hot spring in Utah with a similar hydrotube (photos of which you see below, although I didn't include the ones I took of myself in the tube), I came down with a nasty something that felt like the plague. I lost 5 pounds in 24 hours and nearly froze to death on the inside while cooking on the outside. It could have come from anywhere: the fast food restaurant we stopped at after the hot springs, the locker room, the water itself, some infected person or tainted raw spinach I encountered during the week leading up to the trip. Who knows? These things happen. But usually to someone else.

I am generally recovered now, even from the head cold that followed, although I’m still noticing heightened sensitivity to noises and vibration, and things don’t taste right, particularly artificial flavors, which I usually don’t mind. I am determined to remain healthy throughout all the adventures slated for the next four months, and I figure with that big one out of the way, I should be home free.

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