And now, Colin’s 2¢!
The force of gravity mixed with the frictionless inclined slope that was the Black Mountain Ski Area parking lot/skating rink rendered us terrified, defenseless accelerating objects in a textbook physics model. In the darkness of the early evening sleet, we cut our losses, took our chances, and glided over to where our trusty steed of a van lay parked and coated in ice. There was humidity, a chill, and fear in the air as we strapped in and tore out of the parking lot at a break neck 15 MPH. We were the final Nordic team to rumble out of the dark parking lot that evening, the last living proof that such an incredible weekend had unfolded in those backwoods of Maine.
1800 hours: My “artisan” music playlist played softly in the background of the full van as the conversation in the back faded from the excitement of the Races to seemingly underlying, yet pervasive, topics of interest. Mostly horror stories and dogs. As the co-pilot of the van, I picked up on some truly colorful campfire ghost legends, shocking tales of psycho killers, and adorable dog stories from the safety and distance of the passenger seat. My post-race mind, now sodden as a result of the afternoon and evening winter downpour, began to fade and I drifted in and out of a feverish semi-sleep while attending to the nervous chit chat of parents making sure their children weren’t frozen in a crashed can like cod on an icebox (your worries were all well-merited considering the situation).
1930 hours: We ordered some expensive and, in my opinion, darn good ‘Za from the Matterhorn Ski Bar on the road, picking it up and hitting the road again in less time than it would have taken us to rob the place! When you’re grounded to a 35 MPH speed limit due to there being ice on, around, and under your van which has no studded tires, you gain time where you can. The pizzas were devoured in a terrifying predator-prey ratio of 9 to 4, Dennis having already taken his share of the kill back to the Subaru he was driving behind us.
2050 hours: Johanna and Perrin stepped nimbly from the confines of the van, which, this far into the trip, had begun to take on a rather unpleasant funk in the back that wrinkled many a nose. The two lucky winners (both in the races and in this long journey home) met up with their parents here in Lancaster. They were staying north New Hampshire with their families and were quite the inspiration of our jealousy as they climbed from the accumulating filth of our post-race van and into the cold, clean of the winter evening. The mental state within the van was quickly melting into a state of mental anarchy. Bizarre, beat-like noises escaped from the dark recesses of the van. As the current co-pilot, I realized things were looking grim for our band of travelers. I decided to take a moment and step out into the fresh air while the Millikens and Bandlers were consulting with Scottie. I leapt from my seat, immediately experienced the result of a frictionless surface, and went flying across the iced-over parking lot on my butt like a bowling ball out of Hell. Needless to say, what was left of the ski racers in the van, now savage and sleep-deprived, found this hilarious beyond anything they’d seen that day and responded with a chorus of hooting and shrieking like that of excited howler monkeys. This was the turning point. As I climbed back into the van, something was different. Something had snapped. I sat still, but my mind was angered by being forced back into the confines of the van. I heard crunching, explosions, screaming. There were bees in my mind! Bees!
2100 hours: The trip continued and the ice persisted from this point. There was no turning back as we skirted the western side of the White Mountains. The next hour or so of this unholy pilgrimage was filled with some classic hits on the playlist, my ultimate display of multi-tasking skills (texting parents, writing blog entries, and managing music), and an ever-growing musk about the van of pent-up teenagers. Our minds weren’t slipping. No, rather, they had already slipped and now it was a matter of just how far they’d fall…
2200 hours: Jack, coasting on a terrifying cocktail of caffeine drinks which he’d purchased on a whim earlier in the day, looked around and found himself rather sound in mind and body in comparison to the chaos and depravity of what surrounded him. A quick stop for bathrooms had liquidated the last of my resolve and I became an incoherent and unreconcilable mess in the back of our van.Jack realized that the fate our the team lay in his hands, forcing him to leave his seat and take up the torch as co-pilot for Scottie during the last leg of this journey. The rest of the trip is a foggy, dim smear in my mind. We drifted in and out of sleep in the back, attempting bizarre conversations between us and making outrageous statements. I believe I claimed that I had invented the question mark. Needless to say, we were all barely surviving this trip.
0100 hours: The Ford Sayre van rattled to a stop. Scottie pulled the key from the ignition. The engine turned off. There was an unnerving silence around us. Slowly but surely, one by one, we stumbled, disgruntled and zombie-like, from what had become a hobo encampment in the back of the van. The now-pungent funk of 7 hours in a car full of tired, filthy people and packs gave way to the crisp, clean air of the night. It was the witching hour and all the streets were desolate. My body felt in denial. I grabbed my pack, my skis, a bunch of bananas, and loped to my car. As we parted ways and headed home along the cold roads of the Upper Valley, it was as though we had all left a little piece of ourselves in that van… whether that was a piece of garbage or a piece of our spirit.