Monday, December 12, 2011

Anniversary Adventures in the Snow

Today (Dec. 10th) marks Matt and I's 17th Anniversary! We managed to get a great price on our resort for a couple days, so we talked my mom into coming down to take care of the kids for us. As my dad discovered, it's more like being a taxi driver for the social butterfly. Anyway, Matt and I have been very excited all week. Matt even took some time to find out what there is to do at Bear Lake in the middle of winter. He texted me from work a couple days before we were to go with a loaded question: "We've been wanting for years to try snowmobiling. I found a rental place and they even rent equipment. Should we do it?"

Warnings of danger, thoughts of being stranded in a snow bank on a random mountain crossed my mind. We're not prepared for stuff like this and really don't know what all we should bring with us. Would someone be able to find us? Surely the rental place would send a rescue team when we don't return their snowmobile. How long does a rescue team look before they give up? My sister in law, Julie, had told me just a day before that if we ever had the chance to go snowmobiling we should do it. Her and Jay went once and had a great time. They're geeks like us, so surely we can survive, too. I text him back, "How much will it cost us?" His reply, "Snowmobile for two rental is $159." UGH. Matt and I like to try new things together and opportunities like this don't come often. I text him back, "Ok," despite my brain screaming at me, "What are you thinking?"

I can't be a scaredy cat forever. Although I have to admit this is the first opportunity snowmobiling has presented itself, so I decided to be excited about it. After all, Matt and I are good drivers so we'll be fine. Driving a snow machine can't be that hard....right?

Matt also finds a nearby hot spring and we decide that would be a great place to go after spending a day on the snowmobile. And, in case that's not enough, Matt also discovers that there was to be a total lunar eclipse this morning that we'd be able to see if we arise at our usual time. Considering I've never seen an eclipse, I was super excited about this one. Besides, it's FREE! It won't cost anything but a little gas money to find a good viewing spot. This will be nice after spending a boat load of money at the rental shop.

Oh, I can't forget my part. Julie had also told me to make sure we stop and get the famous raspberry shakes while we're in Bear Lake. While they were there, they tried a different flavor shake every day. I'm all about ice cream, so I agreed this would be a lot of fun!

Matt and I decided to go to lunch on our way out of town. It's been forever since we've eaten a Texas Roadhouse Grill, so that's where we headed. Upon arrival, we discovered they do not open until 4pm. What's up with that? So...we look around and decide to go to TGIFriday's for lunch. Our meal was delicious. We mentioned to our server that we're celebrating our Anniversary and she offered us free ice cream. Now remember, I'm all about ice cream. I said with a smile, "No thanks!" When she walked away, Matt felt my forehead to see if I was feeling okay. I explained to him that raspberry shakes will be much tastier upon arriving in Bear Lake! Luckily he understood and agreed with me; otherwise, I might have spent the weekend being psychologically tested!

When we got to Bear Lake, we discovered that it's somewhat of a ghost town in the winter. Nearly everything closes since it's tourist season is summer time. There are a few places open, one of which is a big pizza shop that also sells...raspberry shakes, among other flavors. We ordered one raspberry shake and one mango peach shake. Mango peach is my favorite flavor smoothie served at our local coffee shop. As it turns out, it's REALLY good in the form of ice cream mixed with fresh fruit chunks. Matt and I decided to share both flavors and were quite full. We even had half a shake left that we stuck in the freezer for later!

The next morning we slept in! Considering we usually get up at 5am to cook breakfast for the kids and get them off to school, sleeping past 8am with no one to interrupt our slumber is a big deal. The dog didn’t bark, the alarm didn’t go off, we slept peacefully. Ahhh. There’s nothing quite like feeling well rested. After having a bagel, we decided to get ready to go snowmobiling! It took us an entire hour to get ourselves ready to go. This felt like forever, but we wanted to make sure we had everything we might need. I told Matt, “If we get stranded, I will regret not bringing my Kindle with me for something to do while we wait to be rescued.” He laughed at me and decided to leave his Kindle at home. I would be wearing his coat with tons of pockets and he would be wearing his motorcycle coat. I don’t have a good outdoor coat, so I was so glad he had one for me to use. I filled all those pockets with amazing things: peanuts, almonds, pork jerky, toe warmers (the whole case), my Kindle, chapstick, and a couple Kleenex. I also had a Camelbak full of water for us to carry, which would provide plenty of water for the few hours we’d be out.

I think the rental place was called Fun Time Rentals and Kirk was great with answering all our questions so we felt informed and ready to go. Matt and I are very chatty people and it ended up taking an hour to get us processed and loaded to go. I told Kirk, “If we are not back by 5pm when you close, send a rescue team to come find us.” I was very serious about this. Despite the fact that we’d rented a machine specifically for staying on the groomed trails, reviewed all the rules as well as techniques for getting unstuck, I wanted him to know we were only planning to be gone a few hours. We let him know where we were headed, according to his recommendation, so that he’d know where to start looking.

With snow pants rented, balaclavas purchased, boots for Matt rented, our own gloves and helmets, we were finally loaded and ready to go. We had endured lessons on how to run the snowmobile and the rules of using it. Matt and I are not risk takers so there should be no problems.

Twenty minutes later we arrive on the other side of the mountain just over the summit where there is tons of snow! Matt said I could drive first. Woohoo! So we unloaded and away we went. I drove us through the meadow and to the hills and couldn’t find the groomed trail, so we turned around and went back to the parking lot to ask the people who had arrived just as we pulled out if they knew where the trail started. They’d never driven these trails before, so they had no idea, either. Huh.

Matt’s turn to drive. As I was sitting behind him, my eye began to itch. With goggles, a helmet, and my gloves tucked in, there was no way to scratch it. Then my nose began to run. I must be warm enough for my snot to be liquid rather than solid. Who knows how long that would last. I had to switch from my sunglasses to my goggles because the wind was whipping around Matt and blowing in my face. Funny, but I didn’t have this problem when I was driving. Ah, yes. That’s because there is a windshield. But I didn’t let any of this bother me because this is what we call FUN!

We follow some of the tracks back up the hills and figure maybe we’ll find a groomed trail. We reached the top of a hill and didn’t want to head up to the next peak since there were no other tracks to follow so we decided to turn around….in deep fresh powder. Please note we’re on one snowmobile that is NOT meant for fresh powder. In fact, one of the rules was to stay off the fresh powder. I’m all for following the rules, but if there’s no groomed trail, what the heck are you supposed to do? In trying to turn around, the skis on the snowmobile stayed straight even though we were turning the handles. So we leaned for all we were worth…and fell off. It took us about ten minutes to do as we had been taught to get the snowmobile unstuck and going. But we still couldn’t get it going the direction we needed to go and fell off again trying. We discovered that we could turn it a bit and apply a little pressure to the gas and it would pull itself out of being stuck.

Side note here: We’re high on the mountain top, the temperature is about 10 degrees (maybe) and every step we take off the snowmobile we sink at least two feet into fresh snow. There is much less oxygen up there and so after taking three steps, we are exhausted due to the fact that our muscles are not getting enough oxygen to go anywhere. Second side note: Up to this point, we’ve only been out in the snow for 30 minutes or less. SO…Matt is laying on his back exhausted, and I’m trying to get the snowmobile going the right direction. I once again applied the gas just a tiny bit to get it to pull forward when apparently we hit a slight downhill and instead of stopping when I let go of my one second application of gas, the snowmobile proceeded to sled down hill very slowly, gradually, gently…..without me.

I start running. Now remember, with every step I take, I sink two feet or so into the snow, so I’m running in slow motion with limbs flapping wildly in hopes of gaining momentum. Trying to gain momentum resulted in my upper body ready to move forward faster, while my legs are stuck going up and down frantically. So about every three steps I fall down, which isn’t very far, considering my legs are stuck two feet deep into the snow. Needless to say, the snowmobile was sledding down the hill faster than I could go to stop it. “Heavenly Father, HELP!” is my plea heavenward. I think the good Lord has an amazing sense of humor. Moments later, the snowmobile stops against a tree. I think the Lord figured it would be better for us to be stuck a mile and a half from the parking lot rather than several miles into the mountains. I collapsed, completely out of breath, my heart racing, practically pounding out of my chest. About five minutes later I continued down the hill to assess the damage, Matt close behind in descent.

Just going down the hill required another period of rest before we could decide on a plan. Then we brain stormed as to what action we should take to get the snowmobile unstuck…again. Our two previous times now seem easy and simple compared to this. The damage was minimal, thank goodness, considering we had opted to NOT pay the extra $25 for insurance. The deductible was $900, anyway, what could we possibly get ourselves into requiring more fixing than that? I am truly afraid to ask. The machine had hit the tree on the front bumper bar, just missing the ski, which means, we have to pull the snowmobile uphill about two feet in order to clear the tree and turn it around. The two of us could barely lift the rear of the snowmobile and move it a few inches to the side.

After several small movements, and several rests, we realized we were getting nowhere as we could not manage to pull it backwards up the hill. This realization took us about an hour and a half of agony. So I asked Matt, “At what point do we decide to give up and call for help? We don’t want to be so worn out that we can’t walk back to the car.” We decided we had reached that point and began to walk and take breaks. Matt checked his phone a couple times to see if he had cell reception; of course not.

We reached the top of the first hill and the thought crossed my mind, “Maybe it would be easier to roll down the hill than to walk it.” I conveyed this thought to Matt and he laughed and said, “You’re serious!” We put on our helmets and laid down to start rolling. After rolling about three times, I was so dizzy and had to stop. Rolling made Matt feel nauseous so he had stopped already, too. So much for that idea. About half an hour into our return trip back to the parking lot, we decided to sit down and take a break. Matt pulled out his cell phone and said, “I have a bar!” He pulled the phone up to him to make the call and said, “It’s gone.” So he put the phone back down, dialed and put it on speaker phone. After explaining the situation, the guy said they’d come get the snowmobile unstuck but they’d have to charge us “shop rates.” Our thoughts were, “I don’t care how much shop rates are, I’m not paying for a snowmobile, come and get it!” Yeah, shop rates are $90 an hour and he didn’t exactly say at what point he would start charging shop rates. heavy sigh

After enjoying some nuts, and pork jerky, we pull out the camelback to discover everything in the tube was frozen. It took a bit to bite the ice into bits and manage to suck some water through. Finally, we got some water. Luckily Matt and I had dressed warm enough for the occasion so that we were not icicles like the water in the camelback. After a nice rest, we continued our journey. It took us an hour and a half to go about a mile and a half and our rescue park arrived at the parking lot the same time we arrived. Matt and I were exhausted.

Luckily Kirk brought his friend, Brandon with him. Matt hopped on the back of one of their machines and the three of them headed back up the mountain to locate the stuck machine. My hip wasn’t feeling so great, so I volunteered to stay at the van. I pulled out my Kindle and read my scriptures for a few minutes and prayed that the Lord would help them get that heavy snowmobile out of there without too much problem. A few minutes later I could see the three headlights coming down the mountain. Hurray! So pathetic that I could see where we’d been stuck from the van. Talk about an expensive first time on the snowmobile; twenty minutes of fun and several hours of frustration.

Matt and I both agreed if we had to be stranded somewhere, we would prefer to be stranded with each other. We also decided we’d like to try again….later; maybe next year. And, if all else fails, we’ll rent a snowmobile to haul kids up the huge hill for sledding! We’re not as likely to get stuck that way.

Once we got back to the rental store, Kirk only charged us an hour for the rescue mission, and that was only because Matt insisted he charge us at least an hour. Even though the rescue part only took half an hour, the poor guy spent an hour loading and driving to get to us. He also had to pay Brandon for helping him with the rescue. With enthusiasm, we told Kirk we plan to see him again next year in hopes to have a more successful day in the snow, thanked him for his great customer service and headed back to the resort.

What a relief for all of that to be over. We decided to go take a soak in the hot tub and then have dinner once we’d had a chance to relax our sore muscles. The hot tub was already full of people when we got there. They asked us if we’d been snowmobiling today, Matt responded with the affirmative and explained that we’d spent the day stuck. One of the guys said, “We figured you might have been stuck somewhere ‘cause we didn’t see ya on our way out so we looked around to see if you needed help but couldn’t find ya.” Holy Cow. Talk about coincidence. The people in the hot tub were the same people we’d talked to at the beginning of our snow journey to see if they knew where the trail was. Crazy. So they told us some of their own stories of being stuck, getting out and having fun, and encouraged us to try again.

After t-bone steaks for dinner, (I found them on clearance, WOOT!) We headed back to the pizza place to buy shakes for dessert. The server suggested peanut butter oreo so we decided to try it out! YUM! And of course we had to get another raspberry shake because those are the best. Sharing the two flavors is fun! We spent probably an hour visiting with the owner, who showed us his ovens that are large enough to cook a three foot pizza weighing in at 15 lbs. WOW! Truly huge. Matt and I want to bring the kids to that pizza joint just to try out their “Old Ephraim” pizza. If you want to see pictures, you can find them on FB under “Old Ephraim Pizza” I think. Anyway, the owners are extremely nice people and it was a lot of fun learning about their three businesses. They’ve got a steak house next door, a gift shop with all homemade candies and preserves, and the pizza parlor. This is their idea of retirement.

As always, time flies and we had to return home to our beautiful children, recently broken washing machine, and crazy household. Back to reality. With amazing memories to hang on to and our love stronger than ever, Matt and I are ready to take on yet another year of marriage.

My parents Anniversary is this week and now they’re up in Bear Lake celebrating while I watch my handicapped sister for a few days to give them a break. I’m sure their adventures will be less exciting than mine, but I’m glad they get to experience the beauty of that area for their Anniversary.