And this is me now:
The hair fell from my head to my face, but I'm just as cute. C'mon, admit it. Changed my name from four letters to a letter and a number and I still watch C.O.P.S. like it's the only thing on. Same group of friends, most of them now married to each other. One such friend, who we call Duke, called one night. We were just catching up, shooting it. Good conversation. Well, we wandered to the topic of returning to Wolf Creek one day (no, not in a Brokeback sense). Sounded like a good idea to both of us and I knew we wouldn't be short of any willing travelers from my office. Word started to circulate about a magical ski trip to my aunt's place in San Luis, Colorado--just a stone's throw from Wolf Creek (actually, it's closer to a missle launch, but still closer than the Yellow). I mean, it was Wolf Creek's year. It had a freaking movie made about it billed as the "scariest movie since Texas Chainsaw Massacre." Okay, it was more coincidence that it was named Wolf Creek because it had a whole lotta nothing to do with where we were going, but still, all I needed was a reason and a few fellow skiers/boarders and we would be on our way. Well, I found a few people who would come with (in fact, we got a little too deep at one point having to turn a couple away). Here's a couple of the hooligans who jumped at the chance. Meet Mayhem and Timbo (also known as Angry Tim). Angry Tim's from the mountains. Mayhem's from parts unknown. And here, Tim's angry for no other reason except we're in Springer, New Mexico for our first gas stop.
During that stretch from Clayton to Springer, Duke and I talked about Hunter S. Thompson. Not sure I knew that he killed himself while on the phone with his wife. And then Johnny Depp had his ashes fired out of cannon. Seems we were embarking on some sort of Kerouacian voyage ourselves. He also told me a story of when Thompson invited Jack Nicholson out to his ranch in Colorado. When Nicholson arrived on Thompson's ranch, he hid amongst trees atop a ridge with a rocket launcher. Once Jack Nicholson made his way into plain view, Thompson began launching explosives toward Nicholson almost obliterating him into a million pieces. Can you imagine how strange it would've been if one of the greater actors of our generation died on Hunter S. Thompson's ranch after being hit with a large combat-ready explosive. Duke admires Thompson some more and then we arrive at Cimarron, New Mexico--the foot of the mountains and home to the St. James Motel which is host to some of the meanest poker-playing spirits this side of the Rockies--I think my brother has proof. As we pulled into Cimarron, the temperature dipped, the skies became grey and the long sleeves came out. We still had a fairly good haul ahead of us. Sarah almost killed herself attempting to take one of the following pictures.
Once arriving at Casa de Nardi outside San Luis, we began to unpack. Real quick: I'm watching Black and White on FX. This white woman doesn't look anything like a black woman. Okay, back to our story. We're unpacking, feeling out the house. We found our beds, everyone on a bed and Cody and I on the floors on our air mattresses. My air mattress took a couple of beers to fill up while Cody's was like a freaking safety boat. He goes outside with a sandwich bag and comes back indoors with the following:
Apparently, Cody didn't have enough foresight to let it explode near where he wanted to sleep so him and Mayhem were forced to wind it up the spiral staircase. Geniuses. In the back and forths between the automobiles, a few unlucky fingers ran into probably the toughest doorframes in Colorado. The damned thing would eat your freakin lunch if you weren't careful. I suppose I'm posting the following pictures for my aunt to let her know of injuries that occurred on her property. No, we're not suing, just sharing. The earliest injured fingers were Mayhem and Sarah:
Then, Angry Tim and, no, he's not happy. Could be the fact he's an Oriole fan. Man, as angry as he is, I can't say he doesn't do it to himself by pulling for Baltimore. Sorry, Tim.
Then, Mayhem again in what Sarah contends to be one of the best pictures of the trip even though it has as little to do with actually skiing and more to do with Mayhem's inability to learn from his mistakes and then taking it out on the photographer. I'll admit, Sarah, it's quite a photograph. Think I'll put a copy of it on my mantle for every guest in my house to view.
And in the examination of Mayhem's lacerated fingers, I noticed that Mayhem has one of the freakin ugliest pair of thumbs in the world. I mean, look at his (ugly one on top) and mine (normal one on the bottom). Tell me he ain't got funny thumbs. His thumbs, though, can flip automobiles like nickels. That's just Mayhem. But check out his Macho Man thumbs.
Okay, enough about Mayhem's big ass thumbs. Let's talk about this house. Casa de Nardi is situated across the road from the oldest church in Colorado--a humble adobe Catholic church that has been standing since 1837. On the backside of the church is an old graveyard and this house we're sleeping in for the weekend was formerly used for the wakes of the burial ceremonies. Now, I didn't want to freak anyone out so, knowing what I know, I kept it quiet in hopes that there were no run-ins. The most that has ever happened to me in this house is, as I was falling asleep in the front bedroom (as my aunt describes as the most active place in the house) I felt the bed shake for a brief moment. My wife described a cold rush come over her while putting on makeup in the front bedroom. My dog wouldn't even go in that room without having to be picked up and thrown in there. Aunt Madonna says that the first time she walked into the house, she saw a line of old women in elegant dresses standing along the wall. My grandma had the same account of old women walking through the living room. Well, Duke and Sarah stole the front bedroom because, well, she was our den mother and required some privacy and we figured the queen would be perfect for them. Plus, hell, it's the most haunted room in the house. Why would we want to deprive our esteemed guests of the opportunity to witness a possible paranormal experience? In fact, I think I have the following photo that proves a presence not only haunts the front bedroom (in the background) but also the living room. Two things to note here as we sat down for our first of many hours of dominos. First, please note my freaking awesome hand of bones--double five, blank five and double three. Secondly, notice the sheer look of terror as Mayhem saw something bolt from one wall to another as the rest of us direct our attention to Sarah.
Then, as we flipped through the photos, I came across the following photo which clearly indicates the presence in the living room. We later found Mayhem tossing his dirty drawers into brush behind the house.
Beyond that, no noticeable instances of a ghost/spirit sighting. I did wake up at 5am in the morning with incredible pee pains upstairs and tried to hold out as long as I could because, well, I'm a wuss and I didn't want to interrupt the wake that was taking place downstairs 70 years ago for fear that I might find myself on the business end of an old woman's cane. Well, I didn't make to sunrise, but my late night date with Porcelian Perry went without incident.
The next day, Saturday. It was the day I would return to Wolf Creek. I was stoked. So were the others. Unfortunately, we ran into quite a bit of snow which made for slower travel and a later arrival at the peak. I relied on the music of one of the j3 Ski Extravaganza's proud sponsors, Wolfmother, to help keep my energy high. While, I don't look overly excited, this is the face I make when rocking Wolfmother on the way to Wolf Creek on snow-packed roads in my wife's Toyota on the 60th mile at 25 mph.
And here are those roads.
Wolf Creek, prior to our arrival had received 61 inches of snow in 5 days. They would receive an additional 13 inches the day we skied there and would end up getting 100 inches in 7 days. And, yes, we were right smack in the middle of it.
I haven't seen this much snow since, well, I dunno. Maybe I haven't seen this much snow. It was everywhere. Hell, it was a foot deep in the urinals. Wait a sec. Maybe that wasn't the urinals. Anyway, you couldn't escape it. And all of it was ready for the skiing. Or boarding as the case may be for this motley group.
From the left, Cody, Mayhem (in his ugly farmer fatigues), Angry Tim and Rory. On our way to the mountain, we were just licking our chops. This was the moment we were all waiting for: the first ride up the mountain. We stood in line, got our lift tickets strapped in and took off. Just a note, any snowboarder I've ever seen is usually doing a lot of this:
Apparently, that's their way of saying, "Damn it, j3! Put up the camera and let's go." Mayhem was, as usual, bustin' at the seams with excitement, usually leading the way down the mountain. Pretty good boarder except for his definition of "air" was apparently when you lift at least the front of your board more than two inches off the snow. "Air" to me is when you're at least the length of your body off the ground. Dude, was so excited to make it down the mountain once we got to the top that he once said, "Okay, this time let's try and make it down without stopping!" Felt like I was eight years old again. Like making it down without stopping would be the coolest thing in the whole wide world. He's like a monkey on meth.
This is me at the summit of Mt. Everest. It might as well been. Normally, from this vantage point, you can see the mountains behind me. Saturday, you couldn't see but twenty yards away. Now this picture is one of a series of pics of me in the same spot with the same confused look on my face. I didn't give Mayhem enough credit. I swore the camera wasn't firing off. So I stood there telling Mayhem, "It's not taking, man! You gotta go half way, wait for the green light and then push it all the way down." Well, he did just that about seven times and all of them look like just a slight variation of the picture you see above. Notice one thing, though: I think the expression on my face in this picture is the same you'll see right before I rip a guy's arms and legs off and beat him with 'em.
It was an exhausting day in which Sarah learned to ski and the rest of learned that there is such thing as too much snow. I'll put it this way: an awkward six-footer in four feet of powder is like a giraffe trying to breaststroke. And, yes, I've seen the swimming giraffe and it's marvelous!
By the time we made it back to our cars, they had a new coat of snow on them which also meant there was a fresh coat on the treacherous road that brought us up to the Wolf. This time, we would be on the outside curve going downward. Dale used Cody's super-scraper. It made some incredibly atrocious sounds.
Just a note to whomever is in the backseat along a dangerous icy road just feet away from a fifty foot dropoff, please keep the flash photography to a minimum or else you'll find yourself strapped in your car upside down in a freezing creek bed with a face full of airbag. At the very least, you'll find yourself on the end of this glare from the driver.
I'm just kidding, Sarah. You're an excellent passenger. We made our way down the pass, taking us about an hour and a half to make it 35 miles. When we arrived in Alamosa, I took Tony up on the recommendation of a killer mexican buffet. Can't remember the name, but here's the situation: all the equipment is sitting in the bed of Cody's truck just waiting to be jacked. So we decide that before we get to eating, we'll put the equipment in the back of my lovely wife's automobile. I call my lovely wife just to tell her that I love her as I prepare the Quita the Toyota for loading. Just a note to mention a player for UNC-Wilmington is named Beckham Wyrick and he just hit a huge three pointer to take a four point lead on George Washington--the school not the dead president. The short of it is, as I was hanging up after speaking to my lovely wife, I locked the keys in the front seat of Quita. $50 bucks for the foul-mouthed locksmith who moonlights towing cars and I was sitting down at the mexican buffet which was delicious. I had menudo, sour cream chicken, what seemed like entire jars of salsa, a couple of sopapillas and a couple of tall glasses of water. By now, I was aching for nice cold beer or three.
When we arrived back at the cabin, the dominos flew out and our second night began. I had horrible belches. They sounded like a frieght train and smelled like a feedlot. Here's Mayhem enjoying my ferocious fumes. Another one bites the dust-ah!
The snow followed us all the way home and what was nothing but shades of brown the day before now looked like this as we rose for our drive to Red River.
That's right, we were actually driving away from deeper snow. We knew if we went back to the Wolf, we were risking getting caught at the resort and possibly spending the night in our cars as there had been discussion about closing the road. We figured they had some sort of snow because Rory had been there the weekend before and said as we passed it on the way up to San Luis that it was obvious they had new snow and, given what we had seen in the last day and a half, we knew they had got more. It'd still be decent snow. Duke obviously didn't care because he had his biker crank for breakfast. We really should tell Sarah.
The road was just as slick as Wolf Creek Pass minus the huge boulders just an inch of snow from breaking off and plummeting to the road below and nose-bleed cliffs that we drove along. Taking away those hazards, it was a better morning and a quicker drive to good skiing. But, still, a snow shower loomed on the horizon and we knew it was going to be another snowy day of skiing.
I like this picture just because I look like a psycho axe-toting killer and Sarah looks so unsuspecting of the psychotic predator behind those eyes. Don't know if I could duplicate that face if I tried.
When we pulled into Red River, sure enough, it looked nothing like when we passed through two days before. In fact, Red River never looked better. The plows were clearing Main Street as the snow was piled high in the middle and sides of the main drag. We pulled into the gas station, filled up the automobiles, emptied our bladders and drove the few blocks to the mountain.
Overall, a better day of skiing except for the winds that barrelled through the trees, lifting snow off the pines and unloading it upon us as we helplessly sat on the lifts to the top of the mountain. You can never contain Mayhem. Apparently he pissed of Angry Tim (go figure) when he and Cody agreed to meet at the top as Angry Tim and Rory followed a couple of chairs behind on the same lift. Mayhem didn't wait. He just took off with Cody and, along with Cody, the keys to lunch which was approaching quickly. I can just hear Mayhem: "Hey, Cody, I want to go all the way to the bottom without stopping! Let's go!"
Well, we all skied a long day. Duke gave us a little scare--probably moreso for Ms. Duke. As the lifts closed, there was no sign of Duke. We all sat with a worried Sarah who kept exclaiming, "That bastard! Where in the hell is he?!" Meanwhile, Mayhem decided to take one last run. This is Angry Tim and I watching Mayhem take one last run down the face. Once again, he caught about an inch and half of air on the way down. A beast, I tell ya! Notice the look of amazement on my face:
Sarah was like a fish to water. She took to skiing like a cheap stripper to a brass pole. I was really impressed.
Good to have the Austin folks up. Certainly made the trip so enjoyable for me to ski with both of them. We'll have to do it again next somewhat year.
When we arrived back at the cabin, we were all ready to cut loose. We finished off the mexican soup I had prepared (gotta find that recipe) and relaxed behind a few cold ones. It was a few moments after dinner and before we began our last you-only-live-once marathon domino game that I introduced the new guys to the shakeface phenomenon. I led it off just to give everyone a taste of how to produce the perfect shakeface. Eyes open, tongue out, cheeks loose and shake violently.
There was a comment of how white my tongue is. I should get that looked into. Next was Rory. His turned out freaking rawesome.
Angry Tim was too angry to give us a good shakeface, but it was a noble attempt nonetheless. He just needs a little more coaching. He'll get it one day.
Mayhem's was a little too exhuberant. As always, he's trying a little too hard. Maybe it doesn't work because there's not a single ounce of fat on his body. Not sure. Here it is anyway.
I left Sarah's out because, well, it's one of the few things that Sarah doesn't do very well. She'll admit it. It just doesn't ever come out right. But her husband managed to deliver what could simply be described as possibly the best shakeface I've ever seen. In fact, I still am completely boggled how he accomplished this. Remember, this guy is an graduate of Texas Tech's prestigious engineering program and now serves as a project manager at a very large company that shall remain nameless.
That's our boy, Duke. After that and before the marathon was to begin, Duke and I took to the piano where we attempted to play a little something to entertain others. Think we faired better at entertaining ourselves.
Meanwhile, Cody came alive from the couch. Could have been the historic consumption of alcohol or maybe cabin fever. Could've been both. He just sat on the couch and freaked everyone out all night like a dirty old man. Sometimes he was getting uncomfortably close, while other times he was just belching random words and phrases. But the kid had us rolling. Quite possibly one of the most inspiring comedic performances I've ever been witness to.
And, then, the marathon domino game was to begin. It was me, Mayhem, Rory and Angry Tim in a game of fives to 1,000. Timbo dropped out early citing frustrations and fatigue. Rory, attempted to bail at one point which I then mistakenly lied to him about the score suggesting that he was pretty close to the lead and that he couldn't possibly leave the game when it was so close. Sucka, he stuck around til the very end. Mayhem, like most head-to-head contests that I've had with him, eventually won, however, not very decisively. I believe he won by roughly 35 points or so. But as they say, close only counts blah, blah, blah.
Notice Angry Tim is visibly frustrated and fatigued. He bailed shortly after this photo was captured. Everyone else remained as poised and concentrated until roughly 2am central time when Mayhem rose to victory. Surprised he hung in there as long as he did, I mean, it was almost five hours past his bedtime.
The next morning, we loaded up the automobiles, cleaned up the cabin and hit the road for the Yellow drawing to a close the First Somewhat Annual j3 Ski Extravaganza. Maybe next year we can do it again. Either way, we will do it again and next time my lovely wife will join me on the mountain so long as she's not buried in four feet of snow. So, here's to good times, deep snow, cold beer, long laughs and Wolfmother.
Photos courtesy of Mayhem and Sarah.