I'm cranky! Maybe you're cranky, too, if you've also been stuck inside too much.
I blame the frigid temperatures, working through the holiday and the cold I've been nursing. Even going for a walk in town is an ankle-threatening ordeal. Shovel the sidewalk around your home! It's the law!
On my daily commute, I brood and mutter at all the shiny, happy people in cars sporting roof racks loaded with boards and skis as they head up Century Drive to collect their reward for living right — and for not buying a Mt. Bachelor Four Pack, to which blackout dates apply.
I hate being stuck inside so much I made a DIY stand-up workstation atop my desk, partly so I can see out the windows from my cubicle. On sunny days, people close the blinds and I replace the sun's glare with my own.
So what's a cranky outdoor lover supposed to do when weather, mild sickness, blackout dates or other fates conspire to keep you staring out the window like a desperate puppy?
When life gives you lemons, you have to dress for the weather and make lemonade — in this case, frozen lemonade.
Sick or not, on Saturday morning, I tossed our toboggan, sled and kid-sized snowboard in my wife's van, rounded up two of our three daughters and headed for the hills, away from all that no-playing, dull-making, indoor-standing — you get the idea — to the aptly named Wanoga Sno-park.
I'd meant to seize the day, telling everyone that we'd be departing early to beat the holiday weekend traffic. Then I slept till 8 a.m. After the usual parental nagging and slow hunt for snow pants, gloves, hats and coats, we made it out the door shortly before 10.
Right before we reached Century Drive, I noticed the van needed gas. We headed to a fuel purveyor. One attendant on duty. A two-minute transaction stretched to five, six, tick, tick, tick. Strange that we the people aren't allowed to pump our own gas, but we are allowed to drive around in large vehicles full of the stuff.
Finally, we made it onto Century Drive and found our way into the long line of westbound cars. The car in front of us turned into Virginia Meissner Sno-park, popular with cross-country skiers. A mile later, we reached more egalitarian Wanoga.
Here, snowshoers, cross-country skiers recreating with their dogs, snowmobilers and sledders alike manage to coexist, just as the bumper stickers you see on some people's cars instruct.
We slow-crawled past a line of idling rigs lined up to get into the already-stuffed snowmobile lot, and made our way to Wanoga Snoplay Area. The lot nearest the long, wide sledding hill was already peppered with vehicles, but we managed to find a spot. I grabbed the toboggan and left behind the plastic sled and snowboard that my kids have really outgrown but that I keep wishing they'd try.
We made our way up the icy, snowy road to a less crowded patch of hill. Up we hiked, alongside the natural runs that develop from repeated usage. Other people's footsteps/postholes made natural steps we could take. The snow was dense and well-packed — not too fluffy, not too frozen.
Just about perfect, in other words, for flying down. About three-quarters of the way up, I plopped the toboggan down.
“OK, who's goin'?" I asked. The two hopped right on, my indoorsy, bookish daughters — Lilly in the front, holding the reins, Lucy tucked behind her.
“What could go wrong?" I thought, not rhetorically, as I watched other people zipping down the hill on either side of us. I wouldn't know the answer till I let go, so I did.
And there it was: that sound like no other, a whoosh of gravity and friction that only sleds sliding on snow seem to make.
I watched them go, thankful for the toboggan. For a couple of years after we moved to Bend from Florida, my mom sent us gifts ordered from the L.L. Bean catalog. The toboggan even has a little tag with our kids' names on it. Unlike the snowshoes she once sent all of us, it's held up through multiple winters. Of course, the fact that the last time the girls used it was four years ago has probably added to its lifespan.
Now, they're older and bigger, and far better suited to hiking up the hill unassisted — which they did in a hurry, after they popped off the toboggan at the bottom, and turned toward me bearing large, identical grins.
I felt my cranky, grinchy heart thaw a little. That snowboard stuck inside the van (well, maybe a newer, larger one) might get used someday after all.
In the meantime, it's the toboggan. While it lacked the zip and air time of other sleds we saw, its fine, lovingly handcrafted pine hull — or whatever overwritten language the L.L. Bean catalog writer used to entice my mom — makes for safer, more stable going, more so than the zippy, petroleum-based discs and other aerodynamic-looking things that looked like they were designed by former Boeing engineers.
I saw one tyke on a purple disc rotate backward, then get pitched, his head snapping back onto the snow, whereas our 5-foot-long, heavyweight toboggan clung just enough to the hill, flexing over both natural dips. We didn't test it on any of the ramps that wannabe Knievels made in direct defiance of Deschutes National Forest's rule against them.
In all, we probably made a total of 10 or 12 runs. The girls took turns riding solo, then again in pairs. Eventually, we had to share our run with a group of young adults who pretty much took over the one we'd picked.
Ah, well. We were almost done anyway. When the girls said they'd had enough fun, I jogged back up and enjoyed one last ride, a moment's respite from parenting, although, as I slid down, I looked for them as they played around in a little snow fort someone had dug at the foot of the hill.
As I waited for some hot chocolates at the concession trailer in the parking lot, I saw a boy go off a jump, flip off a sled that had raised legs and land upside down. He lay there crumpled.
“Dad," as the concessionaire calls himself, heard my sympathetic “Oof!" or something to that effect. He asked how bad the spill was; he just knew somehow what had transpired. Of course he knew somehow. He's probably seen it all from his little window.
We started talking about the ramps people build in the hillside, how the Forest Service doesn't like people making them. Dad said the Forest Service knocks them down, only for new ones to pop up like weeds.
Meanwhile, the kid was still sitting there. Two adults walked over to check on him. Eventually, he sat upright. From a distance, he looked pretty dazed.
I was grateful for our successful sled outing: all fun, no lacerations, fractures, concussions or contusions.
Back in the van, Lucy sipped her hot chocolate, then piped up, “That was fun. I'm glad we went."
“Yeah, that was really fun," Lilly agreed.
We even managed to misplace cranky dad for a few hours. He was missed by no one during his absence.