Un-Tunnel Vision

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I hadn’t been on a bike in 20 years and was more than a little nervous about the prospect of spending 3 hours riding on mountain trails – however flat they were.  The last time I was on a bike a motorist had literally run me off the road into a ditch, and, after limping my bike home, I stuck to walking.  But this has been a summer of redemption for me, and it would continue to be from the first 10 minutes of our journey.

Fortunately, you really don’t forget how to ride a bike, and my summer fitness plan – intended to make sitting in a standard-size train seat more comfortable – paid off once again.  The mechanics were in place, and we would be riding in a converted railroad bed, ensuring there would be no maniacal motorists.  Faking the absence of fear was getting easier as we got closer to the starting gate, and then the trail guide began giving us the rundown of the road we were about to travel.  

We were to start with a 1 1/2 mile ride through a tunnel with no light save for our headlights.  There would be several tunnels throughout the ride, and several of them had trenches running alongside them.  I listened and smiled, taking courage from the relaxed faces of my family, but my stomach was already beginning to churn.  

The safety warnings noted, we mounted our bikes and headed for the first tunnel.  Thirteen-year-old Jack and his eighteen-year-old cousin, already thick as thieves despite having only met a few days earlier, charged ahead.  Fearless but not reckless, Jack sped towards the tunnel.  I was still getting my bike lets and was happy to pedal more slowly.  The Big Guy was trailing our youngest son, and went between us.

The darkness closed in around us quickly.  Behind me I heard one of my nieces struggling with her own fears, and the mom in me slowed to try and comfort her.  Her father, however, was just behind us and, falling back on his twenty years of military-instilled discipline, barked at her to get moving.  It worked for both of us.  I began peddling and calling back encouragement to my niece. 

Jack and his cousin got to the end of the tunnel first and were waiting for the adults.  One by one, we emerged, blinking at the summer sun.  I was shaking a bit, but when I looked at my oldest son, there was only excitement and happiness with the day and the mountains around him.  There was no fear, and I could see there hadn’t been any.  Part of me pondered how he got so brave with a mother who constantly lets fear govern her life – and his sometimes.  The other part of me was absorbing his excitement.  

We snapped a few shots of cousins and then pedaled further.  Every mile featured breathtaking views and, often, equally breathtaking drops that seemed incredibly close to the road.  The further we traveled, however, the less I even felt the fears that would normally have me thinking about the size of the drops and what it would be like to fall from them.

The sun in the cloudless sky that framed the majestic peaks that surrounded us drenched the day’s palette in intense blues and greens.  It also brought everything into sharp focus.

Jack and his cousin remained in the lead the rest of the ride.  And, while he was busy growing the part of me that had absorbed his excitement and joy realized that I was busy being reborn. 

A Flea Ring Circus

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“That looks like fun,” I said, pointing to the placard for the upcoming Bondville fair.  The Big Guy barely registered heard me over the din emanating from the diner into the waiting area, and I let it go.  There was already a circus waiting for us at home.

We had come home from vacation the night before already a little deflated from a two hour delay on our train ride, but we were still looking forward to a family evening of sloth on the couch.  Then thirteen-year-old Jack began yelling from the bathroom, and our homecoming was upended.

 I got to the end of the hall just as Jack raced out of the bathroom, his legs dotted with fleas.  Our dog, still at the kennel for the weekend, had left the larvae as a welcome home gift. Without a furry nest, the pests targeted each of us as we entered.  Fortunately, the upstairs of our house was still closed off and flea-free and, doffing our clothes downstairs, we scuttled out to the car for a hose down and wardrobe change before plotting our next steps.  

Hoping that Google satellite didn’t work too well by twilight, I rummaged through my bag for a clean pair of jeans as the Big Guy and I debated who would carry the best flea remedies at eight o’ clock on a Saturday night.  Three hours and four stores later, we rolled back down the driveway armed with fogger and traps and a strategy, but the vacation aura had seriously begun to fade.

We spent the night camped upstairs, slapping at phantom fleas.  I woke early on Sunday and went for a run, hoping to restore some of the restorative I’d been creating over the last two weeks.  Returning home refreshed, the Big Guy and I commenced the first battle of the day  – fogging the fleas.  The need to get out of the house for a few hours was the perfect excuse to head to the diner for our favorite breakfast, and my spirits continued to rise.  I knew we had a day of laundry and cleaning ahead of us, but nothing is quite as restorative as a meal with no dishes to do.  

Then we walked in the the door.

Almost immediately, I was assaulted by the little vermin.  Yelling to the kids to stay out of the house, I forgot about restoring sprits and began collecting washables while the Big Guy vacuumed up the pests – dead or alive.  For three hours we cleaned and scrubbed, preparing another round of fogger and traps.   All through the day we laundered and cleaned and vacuumed, and it was dark again before we cautiously declared “Mission Accomplished.”  It was a dubious victory – I had cleaned before the vacation, and a day of scouring left us with basically the same house, minus the invaders.  The fleas had rallied once or twice, but by the time we sat down for dinner, any itches were caused by our imaginations.  

More licentious than the itching, however, was the impact a day of hard labor had had on our moods – or so I thought.  Our previously-planned evening of sloth began late, but our boys were still ready for a snuggle on the sofa.  The Big Guy and I were starving and exhausted, but quietly pleased with ourselves.  More than once during the day we had remarked to each other that we make a good team, and that’s not something you always discover on vacation.  It’s something you find out when you’re standing in your underwear the middle of your driveway, frantically trying to find some peace in the chaos.