It started off like any Wednesday morning. I have my son overnight on Tuesday
nights and bring him to school on Wednesdays at 8:00 a.m. Then I go skiing.
We got a late start on Wednesday morning, so I just left my ski stuff at home
with plans to return & pick it up, then depart. I still hadn’t decided which
of my passes to use – should I go to Mad River Glen or Smugglers’ Notch? If
I don’t ski Smuggs again this season, I will have spent $14.28 per day there.
If I don’t ski Mad River Glen again this season, it will have cost me $100 per
day to ski there. I did have to work Wednesday night, Smuggs is 30 minutes away,
MRG is 1 hour away, but I was still leaning towards Mad River Glen. Even though
Smuggs has more snow, I haven’t skied enough at Mad River. What should I do,
what should I do… It really sucks to have those two options. It is easy to feel
sorry for me, I know, but please don’t. I’ll get by somehow.


Everything got skewed when my clutch decided to just give out and die, before
we even got to the Elementary school. It suddenly just went, without ever showing
any signs there was anything wrong … ever. So, I coast into a driveway and
ask to use the phone. I wake up my son’s mom and she shows up & brings us to
the school. I feel like I’m in school again when I go through the proper
channels and explain at the office why I was late. My son gets a note to show
his teacher with “CAR TROUBLE” underlined, and I am on my way. His mom
then uses her vehicle to push my vehicle, and I jam it into 2nd gear on the
move and drive slowly to the repair shop where I’ve frequented with vehicles
in the past. Wade says he can get to it tomorrow, but in the meantime I’m stuck
without a way to go skiing. Alex’s mom has plans, so I can’t use her car (can’t
believe I even asked). I call two other friends and no one answers either phone.
It seems I won’t be skiing after all… that sucks!

So, I’m at home and my wheels are turning. I read a few e-mail messages, sulk,
then pace back and forth. I look outside and it seems to be a nice sunny day.
AAAAARRRRGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!!!! It feels like torture to look outside… and
see… HEY! My old junk Toyota Tercel is sitting there in the back meadow, with
tall, dead grass & weeds grown around it as this is where it has sat since last
April. The inspection ran out that month, which prompted me to park it and buy
a new vehicle. A rear side window was long since blown out, gone. The brakes
required rapid pumping to even work at all. Such pumping would frequently make
the engine stall. The E-brake never worked. It burned as much oil as it did
gas. But it always ran OK… There is still a ski rack on it… HMMMM…..

It’s about 3 degrees out, and I’m walking out to my old car with key in hand.
As I get near, there is a smell that reminds me of something: When I first got
the thing, a friend accidentally dumped an entire bottle of patchouli in the
back seat. The smell seems to emanate more than ever, I am 20 feet away and
it is strong. I get into the car and notice how messy I had left it. It’s twice
as messy as my now clutchless Jeep is! It’s riddled with all sorts of junk.
To go with the snow on the back seat, the floor is obscured by a deep sea of
garbage. Dozens of old coffee cups, paper plates, pizza crusts, bottles, cans,
Dunkin’ Donuts bags, McDonald’s bags, plain brown bags containing who-knows-what,
plastic wrappers, bottle caps, black banana peels, dirty old socks, and assorted
other unrecognizable items of waste (What IS that thing?!?!).

I insert key into ignition and it actually turns over… and over, and over,
and over. But it doesn’t catch. I try again, but thinking of how cold it’s been
recently, and of how the last time I started it was July (out of curiosity –
and it fired right up that time), I am not optimistic. Soon the battery is losing
its will and I give up. For now.

I go back inside, thinking of how foolish that was to even try. Then 30 minutes
later I try again. This time, it almost goes. The battery starts to fade out
again, so I try and push start it. No can do. The thing is stuck to the ground
in frozen mud. I go inside, fill a 5 gallon bucket with hot water, and try pouring
it around all 4 tires. It still won’t budge. This whole act has already become
an obsession. I refuse to let this situation beat me. So I try turning the key
again. This time, it comes even closer to starting, but not before the little
bit of juice in the battery says “no way”. I go inside and find the key to the
riding lawn mower and after some searching, jumper cables. Wouldn’t ya know
it, the lawn mower wouldn’t start – no jump start this way! I am still determined…

The sun is really shining brightly by this time, and the air feels just a bit
warmer. I open the hood of the piece of crap Tercel, hopefully this will heat
things up enough make it go. I look at the frost all over the dirty little engine
and think, “this is stupid.”

Half an hour later, I sit back in the drivers seat and am ready to get really
pissed off. First try, IT STARTS! WE HAVE IGNITION BABY!!! YEAAHHHWheez, cough,
rev, choke, rev, gag, rev, kkgh kghh, rev, rev, rev, revvvvv, ughkghhh, hack,
ghkghhh ughkughhh, rev, ACKCGHHHHH CGHH CKGHHHHHHH! The car is filled with rich,
thick, black smoke. I can’t even see the steering wheel. It’s something out
of a Cheech and Chong movie, only this is not the good smoke. I finally open
the door and bail. The car is idling on it’s own, but very sickly. It had always
made a big cloud of dark smoke when I started it in the past, but never this
bad. I figure it’ll calm down after a few minutes, so I let it run while I gather
my ski gear. First, I opened both doors and rolled down the windows to let the
smoke out.

I come back outside, and sure enough, the smoking had subsided substantially.
The muffler actually let out a nearly normal amount of fumes for a small car.
I put my skis on the rack and throw my stuff in. I’m good to go!

Not. The little Toyota didn’t seem to have the power to break free, it was
frozen even more solidly to the ground now that I’d poured water around the
tires. So I really beat on it in an attempt to escape. First, reverse, first,
reverse, first, revv revvv revvvvvvv stall. Start, reverse, first, reverse,
first, stall. Start, first, reverse, first, reverse, first, stall. Start, reverse,
rev, first rev rev rev, CRACK! CRACK! The tires finally broke free and the piece
of shit rolled forward. I get out, look around, and notice the left rear tire
is completely flat. I get an idea and leave it running.

After an extended search of the basement, I finally find a bicycle pump. A
bizillion fast sh sh sh sh sh’s, two very tired arms and an aching back later;
the tire is fully inflated. I throw the pump & the jumper cables on the back
seat, through the non-glassed back passenger window.

I become a devious deceiver. I go in the house and come out with a tall glass
of water. I pour some of it out across the top of the windshield, and bottom
corners of the license plates. I grab some snow and stick it to the places that
are wet. The registration stickers are covered and the red “4” (April ’99) on
the windshield gets obscured as well. I make it look as natural as I can, then
briefly admire my work of art.

I depart.

A mile up Westford road, I see one of Milton’s finest coming my way in his
cruiser. We meet and pass by each other. My heart skips. I glance to make sure
the snow is still hiding my illegality, then look in the rear view mirror at
the cop car. No blue lights. Whew! Then I realize the gas gauge reads
“E”. The oil light is flickering like a little red strobe light. I make it the
4 or 5 miles to Minors Country Store where I coast in to the gas pumps & open
the hood to hide the fact that I am hiding something. I squeeze 4 bucks worth
of gas in the tank and a quart of oil in the engine. The rest of the journey
to Smuggs is uneventful. A little cold (no back window), but not that bad in
the bright sun.

I arrive at 2:30 and note how great it is to be here. My first two runs are
through FISfall, and are divine! Snow is much like in the Slalom Glades the
previous day at Mad River Glen. Completely untracked. Fairly light and deep
enough to avoid ever touching bottom. Sweet turning through tight, steep trees
all the way down to “the bulge”. A perfect pillow landing area is below the
BIG ice bulge and the pleasure is just as BIG. Next time through, I 8 my own
tracks and the pleasure was even BIGGER. Popped out onto Freefall both times
into uncut white and the second time I again 8 my own tracks. Third and final
run, I hit the Back Bowls Riverbed. It’s a twisting, turning, steep natural
halfpipe of a narrow gully with more untracked in it. I take the variation near
the top (which I believe is called Stovepipe). This is a SSSTEEEEP!, NARROW
chute that exits the riverbed, elbows, and returns with no choice but to point,
gain LOTS of speed and make ONE big turn back into the Riverbed with hair-raising
momentum. Up and down the sides of the banks, I corral control and bring the
speed down just in time to make the last bail-out into a traditional Back Bowl
exit onto route 108. Passing by the aqua-blue, iced-over, ledged 70-foot waterfall
confirms that bailing was not just a good choice, but a means of survival. That
ice is more plentiful than I’ve ever seen it. Good part is it covers more rocks
than ever before. Bad news is it has almost no snow on it. When we get another
dumping, that exit is gonna be sweeter than ever…

The drive home after sunset was frigid. When I got on the Sterling Lift, I
noted the temperature was minus 5 – in the sun. I was driving after sunset with
full ski gear and shivered the whole way. I even threw on my face mask to cover
my nose. Not just because of the arctic wind coming in the smashed out window,
but because the heater was thawing a rather unpleasant something on the passenger
floor. The stench mixed with the odor of patchouli. I think I was transporting
the remains of a dead hippie!!

I am tempted today to fire up the crappy old beast, but I figure with all the
possible legal repercussions, I’m gonna stay home today, WAY ahead of the game.
My Jeep should be ready for tomorrow…

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