Monday, January 12, 2009

Viva FedEx! Boo UPS!

I've been on a wee road trip these past couple of weeks. It's been going smoothly, for the most part, but there have been a few inevitable hiccups that seem to occur each time I try to leave one location for the next.

Just after New Years (which was a fun one involving a night ski with Robin, John, and Manny and then a pajama clad sled-fest with Phaedra and Shelby), I hit the road. My dad was in Mexico, and in the midst of incessantly falling heavy snow, it was my duty to visit his house periodically to shovel crucial areas. My final shoveling job occurred the night before road trip departure. It was raining when we finished shoveling at 12:30 am, and upon waking at 4:45 am, there were another 7 inches or so of fresh, wet snow. Given the time constraints, I ignored it and headed down the driveway to drop Aaron off for his 6 am flight to San Jose. Coming around the slight bend at the end of the driveway, it became immediately apparently to me that stopping was not going to be an option.
Hiccup #1 : stuck in a snowbank at the bottom of the driveway approximately 0.6 miles into a 2300 mile road trip. Luckily, Aaron had insisted that I bring an avalanche shovel and he proved adept at using it.

20 minutes later we were back on the road, which was scary icy after the previous night's rain. I dropped Aaron off at the airport and carried on down I-90 in terrifying conditions. I saw several cars spin off of the road right in front of me and got briefly stuck again after stopping in the median to ask one crash victim if he was okay. I then allowed him to push me back onto the road. I'm sure that he was grateful for my stopping. Once I was a few hundred miles south, the roads cleared, the sun began to shine, and driving on real pavement for the 1st time in weeks proved to be a real treat.

I am the first to admit to being a summer person. I really enjoy Smartwool and skiing, but more than anything I love long, sunny days, lightweight clothing, bright blue skies and big shady green trees. Driving through Southeastern Washington, Eastern Oregon and Northern Nevada and California in January wouldn't light up the "oh this is so beautiful" parts of my brain on an FMRI but the stark landscape was impressive nonetheless.

Blowing snow between Pendelton and LeGrande, OR.

The roads are finally clearing up!

Northern Nevada near Sunset

Some of the straightest roads I've ever driven

Then, 850 miles later, I arrived in Tahoe around 8:30 p.m. The hilarious part is that I actually beat Aaron in getting there, as his plane was late due to extensive de-icing. Aaron, Noah, and Lily arrived about 15 minutes later and we settled into the rental cabin for the Scott family post-Christmas Christmas. It was a great week. Skate skiing, hard-core sledding, and eating Jim's awesome cooking dominated the agenda. Lily was fantastic, bravely taking on cross country skiing, ice skating, and sledding. She also mastered the all-important life skill of blowing up balloons. The good news is that none of the sledding injuries appear to be permanent.

Hiccup #2. Trying to leave Tahoe without any car keys. It's a long story, but instead of leaving on Thursday morning, as planned, I spent that day frantically trying to find a locksmith, walking into town to fax documents to the car dealership in Spokane to get a key code, pulling my dad out of surgery so that he could do the same, etc. In the end, it resulted in one extra day in sunny Tahoe, an amazing sunset ski along the ridge line at Tahoe-Donner, and a lovely swim in the Trukee Community Pool. I did learn that it's harder to swim at 6600 feet than at 2000.

Next destination: Bend. I really like Bend. The views of the volcanoes from town are spectacular, the downtown is charming, and there is no dearth of exciting outdoor activities in the region. They also have an awesome 50m pool in an aquatic facility that is open to the public year round. Spokane should take notes. The purpose of swinging through town was to attempt to avenge my dismal showing on the mountain bike in last year's winter triathlon national championships. In that race, I was unable to stay on my bike for any longer than 3 consecutive seconds, and I vowed to learn to handle my bike on snow. Instead, I thought about trying to ride my bike in the snow, but threw my hands up in surrender when the shed housing my mtn bike got too snowed in.
There were definitely some positive aspects of this year's race compared to last year's:

1. I arrived on time

2. I practiced mtn biking the day before

3. I deflated my tires

4. I tapered the day before the race by skiing for 2 hours, riding my bike, and swimming.

Well, it was all for naught, because I still got my butt kicked. Last year I led out of the run, but this year I came into T1 in 3rd. There was a super-steep hill at the end, and my legs decided that they weren't really into running up it. Even though I got passed by most of the rest of the elite field on the bike, I stayed on my bike for the most part, and conditions were nasty. The day before it had been cold, dry and the snow was packed, but an inversion overnight caused it to start raining and then the sun came out and turned the snow to slop. 2007 nats all over again. The only real bike-related complication arose when I started to hear my rear tire rubbing against the bike frame. I had endo'd a few times so I assumed that I had knocked something out of joint in doing so. After the race I figured out the real culprit - a non-existent rear skewer. Talk about being prepared to race!

My bad. The trip wasn't a total waste though - I discovered the Westward Ho motel. At $29/night including fridge, microwave, and WiFi, it was a screaming deal.

My other option was the Holiday Motel next door, but it cost $5 more.

Hiccup #3: US Homeland Security. Because my coach lives in Victoria, Canada, going to training camp involves crossing national borders, and I forgot to bring my passport to Tahoe. I had Aaron overnight it to my brother's house in Seattle on Thursday night after he flew home, and according to the tracking number is arrived in Seattle that very night. I had planned to catch an early ferry to Victoria this morning (Monday), so assumed that my passport would arrive in plenty of time. Well, it's Monday night and I'm still sitting in Seattle.

Apparently my passport hasn't been able to make it from the UPS warehouse to my brother's house for the past 4 days due to "adverse weather conditions." That's funny because I am in Seattle, and aside from a bit of cloud cover (it is Seattle, after all), the weather is far from adverse. 50 degrees, no wind or precip, a UPS delivery driver's dream I would imagine. So perfect that a UPS truck drove right past the house today. The more amazingly idiotic aspect of the whole situation is that I am not able to pick up my package from the warehouse because no delivery has been attempted yet. So because UPS won't even try to get my package to me, I can't try to get it from them. Moreover, there is no longer any scheduled delivery date, due the continuing "adverse weather" situation. I love that UPS gets to make up an "act of God" to absolve themselves of the ability to deliver packages as contracted.

Who knows when I'll get to training camp at this rate. I keep looking at the training schedule with a mix of sadness and trepidation. I'm getting there so late at this point that I'm going to be the slow, soft one who forgot (or never learned?) how to swim. And I know that ultimately this is my fault for forgetting my passport (though I'm going to blame homeland security a bit because I don't know that a passport is going to stop a terrorist coming from Victoria), but I heretofore vow to never use UPS again. I know 2 lovely people who work for FedEx, we use FedEx at work, and they've always been great problem solvers when we have issues, and they can't possibly do a worse job than UPS.

A rant. It's been a long day of waiting for the brown truck that never came.


Ordinarylife said...

Wow - those photo's of the snow on the hills are amazing. said...

Coops~ What's with all the hiccups? You don't have mishaps everything always works out for you in the nick of time. You must be getting older ;)

p.s. You're a dork for putting up that goofy picture of me sledding on New Year's when there's a bunch of cute ones of you! Did you not get them from Phaedra?