Friday, June 4, 2010

Up the Peak; Down the Luge

Wake up, grab some food – quarter pounder combo (I'm not willing to be experimental with my food these days. Surprisingly McDonald's is actually staying down, unlike in years past, when it has been nothing but awful. Unfortunately, I think my stomach has re-adapted to McFood as if I were a raging teenager.)

With food in my belly, and the sun shining over head, I had no choice but to throw myself out into the beauty that was the day. I bought myself a pass to head on up the gondola to the peak, overlooking the city, and I also grabbed myself two rides on he luge up there. Now – the last time I was zipping down a steep hill on a plastic luge, I was perhaps twelve years old. And the luge flipped over, dragging me down the concrete for some time, slicing up my leg. But hey, that didn't stop me then (I had a ride all I could pass, and I wouldn't let a thing like a bleeding leg stop me) and the memory of such wasn't about to prevent me from doing it now.

Getting up the hill however? That was going to be something. I do not like gondolas. I do not like not touching the ground. Airplanes? I'm down with them. But some rickety cable car suspended over the ground? Look – I was in San Fran and we had a few cases of the cable car losing control, or not working properly, in my week there. That was on the ground though, and getting out and giving a push to get it moving again was all that was required, or a little extra stopping distance. I was not suspended over a rocky outcropping.

I've been known to hike up mountains to avoid taking the gondola to the top. This is a true story. Out in British Columbia, back in Oh Six.

But there was no other way up, and the view was said to be magical. I'd seen some shots of it back a Angie's place, and there was no way I wasn't going to check it out. So into the gondola I stepped, and up we started to traverse. Nothing like a good 35mm cable to get you from point a to point b. I find that if I watch the world through a lens in these things I tend to feel removed enough to appreciate the beauty without, you know, the terror. And as a bonus, I ended up with a good number of pictures this way too.

Up at the top people were all dressed up in their winter gear, for the girls: bright pink toques, white woolen scarves and jumpers; hoodies for the boys. Gloves for all. Me? I had my hat on. And my thermals. There is no way I can exist anywhere in this city, outside of the t.v. room, without thermals.

Up at the peak there was a lookout point from which you could watch the mountain's shadow creep across the city far too early in the day. There are those locations where the sun rarely reaches, and it is there that the frost builds up tricking the unexperienced eye into thinking a snow has fallen. Here on the hill a blanket of white covers all, but it is not the fresh powder of a late night's snow. Instead it is the jagged crystals of frost and ice. A much less welcoming cover for the ground.

From the main station, to the wee little chairlift I walked, grabbing a green helmet on the way. The helmet? It was to protect me when my street luge went sailing over the edge and sent my plummeting down the mountain. At least, that's what I assume it was for. Maybe it was for when I feel out of the chairlift? You know – on second though, I'd rather not test either of those theories. So onto the chairlift I hopped, and travelled to the top of the top. Well, the top of this top. Surely there was still another bonus, hidden, top just around the trees.

As a paraglider came sailing past from above, my thoughts were confirmed. How he got there to launch, I'll not know as the take off ramp is clearly signed as being lower down the hill. Mystery elevator?

I jumped into my luge and was taught how to use it. Pull back to go slow, push forward to go fast, but not too far forward. If you push too far forward you'll engage the parking break, and be sent catapulting through the air in a spectacular dismount to the viewing pleasure of those stationed along the side of the track. So – back for slow, kinda forward for fast, real forward for doom. Got it.

And I was off. Down the scenic track (read: slow track.) You need to start off on the slow track and get a stamp, and learn how to do what you're doing. Scenic, I don't know about – not much to see from the luge, but then it was up the chairlift once more for my second run down the grown up track. This time I was willing to embrace my inner Katherine, who is situations like this is far more reckless (adventurous, perhaps?) than I and setting the luge to its top speed I whizzed down the track, making the banked turns, and hoping that the slow down sign was more of a suggestion than a requirement.

It turned out that it was, though I'm sure I pulled back a wee bit. Again – being launched over the edge? Not my idea of a good time. Maybe some people would enjoy it – but then there are people who enjoy being suspected by metal hooks pierced into their body. So – it takes all types, doesn't it?

Me. I just got to the bottom, took of my helmet, regretted not buying the pictures their automated cameras took (they really grab some good ones on the lift) and then headed back up to walk down and take some snaps along the way.

Being up there on the hill totally justified my use of the day. If I did nothing else, the things I was seeing were beautiful. And it was amazing to watch as the shadows covered the city. So rarely does the town below get light during the winter, due to the tall peaks. And from up above you can see why. You can see the frost lines, where the sun never reaches. Trying to imagine hiking up to the top in the fifties to look down below before the early trails were cut brought thoughts of great adventure, but then also the realization that I'd have had no desire to hike 480 meters up. Been there, done that, moving on. No more hikes. Hmm – in this part of the world, would that be better expressed as No More Tramps? I would like that on a t-shirt. I would like that as a name of a band. OR – the name of the leading album from Advice4Stew. Here's Advice4Stew, with their top single [insert name], off their latest album No More Tramps.

Yeah – I could see that working.

I stayed at the top taking pictures for all number of people, and having them take all number of pictures for me, until the chill started to kick in, and I knew it was time to head on home. Back at the hostel I managed to grab myself some meat pies (I don't know if I love them, or if I hate them – it could go either way.) and then consume far too much water and juice. With that being done it was in to the TV room for some warm warm relaxing.

Unfortunately, around ten o'clock the pain in my side decided that it was sick of being ignored. And as such came up with such a fury that not even my fist full of homemade drug cocktails could put it at ease. Right when Flight of the Conchords was starting too! Bah.

I tried to throw myself off to sleep.

I no longer had the room to myself.

Well, hopefully there'd be no waking in the night in pain – I'm sure that would only slightly creep out the new guy, just like when I got a charlie horse in Santa Monica. Hello, yes indeed I am the guy who screams in the night. Pleasure to make your acquaintance as well!

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