With a hurt left leg that was swelling and bruising, my return to Denver and the prospect of driving 825 miles back to Minnesota alone had me worried. I knew I could do it, but at what cost? In the back of my mind I was concerned about blood clots–my injured left leg wasn’t necessary for driving but it would be stationary, not elevated, for hours and hours. My brother Robert had a blood clot in his leg that had been life threatening and I only heard the stories of how they fileted his leg to relieve it. He had been in the hospital for weeks.
I thought about calling one of my boys to drive with me but of course they had their day jobs. And my friend Rett had offered to come and help–I consulted with my daughter and decided to call on Rett. For a fiercely independent soul, it was hard to ask such a big favor, but I did, and he dropped his commitments and flew to Denver to drive me back.
Our flights into Denver landed within hours of each other. I had a wheelchair waiting for me when I landed and got wheeled to baggage claim where I waited for Rett to arrive. Not more than an hour and a half later his friendly and smiling face greeted me and he showered me with pity. Yep, I was having a pity party and Rett was the only guest. Poor guy.
We wasted no time. Rett navigated the bags and me to the Pikes Peak shuttle bus, and within minutes my trusty Little Blue Truck was in sight. I clearly had left in a big hurry–bags were haphazardly jumbled in the truck bed, backseat and passenger seat. It took some commandeering on my part, but we soon had it cleared up and out enough that I could lie down in the back seat, or I could co-pilot riding shotgun.
We took a short stint west on Pena Blvd and caught Colorado E470 North to Interstate 76 East toward Sterling. Back in my Cargill sales days I had a salt account in Sterling–a Cargill molasses plant managed by Roger Sage. The drive brought back wonderful memories of a time of life over 40 years earlier! I had been on I-76 the day after John Lennon was killed. It was on I-76 where I pulled over to take a nap and got chewing gum stuck on the back end of my slacks–the only pair of pants I had to make sales calls the next day. The miles flew by as fast as the past 40 years had. We were entering Nebraska and the path of the great Sandhill Crane migration. Virtually every year at the end of my Ski Sojourn I got the treat of seeing the migration, but usually I drove through later in the month. Rett had never had the opportunity to see the incredible phenomenon.
By the time we got into migration territory the light was waning. We saw one flock on the ground, but we couldn’t tell what kind of bird it was. I swear they looked like flamingos. In Nebraska. I know, I must have been hallucinating on the pain killers, but all I was taking was Advil and Tylenol. The Sandhill Crane migration path narrows through the mid-section of Nebraska, about an 80 mile stretch of I-80 between Kearney and Grand Island. I could be off by 20 miles either way. I was hoping to get to Kearney where my best friend in first grade had lived and raised her daughters. Delores Hernandez and I had met up several years ago and reminisced about our lives. I wrote about her back then. Sadly she passed away a few years ago, but her memory lingers with me.
The weather became worrisome. It was slightly north of freezing, but drizzling rain covered the roads. I had forgotten how many semi-trailer trucks used I-80. They were bumper to bumper. Rett kept up with traffic, going 75 mph or so, but we were on high alert. We stopped in Paxton for a bio break, which took longer than normal because I was hobbling on two crutches now. We got back on the highway and five miles into it Rett asked me, “Where’s my phone?” Ah, those dreaded words. I called his number. A man answered. From the gas station. We’re in Nebraska. On the Interstate. The next exit was ten miles out. We only lost 40 minutes, and I was just glad it was him and not me. I think Schadenfreude fits here.
By now it was dark–no birds in flight here–and the drizzle continued. Then the traffic slowed to a stop. Some poor trucker hit the ice ahead of us. We waited for maybe 15 minutes, and then decided to test my 4×4 and took to the shoulder and made a U-turn. We decided to call it a night.
It turned out for the best. The next day we got an early start. It was overcast and dry. The birds were everywhere! Flying, circling, eating corn in the stubble fields. This year the Snow Geese were dominate, as many or more than Sandhill Cranes. We didn’t have much time to tarry, but one of my favorite stops is the Crane Trust Nature and Visitor Center outside of Grand Island. It’s so informative and easily accessible on/off the freeway. We stopped briefly and while Rett explored the many photos in the gallery, I watched the video and pushed the buttons on the flyway map.
Rett drove the whole way, 825 miles home. I was able to ride shotgun, my left foot up on the dash. I slept. We chatted. Even without the responsibility of driving, my leg was restless. I was thankful I didn’t have to drive.
My Solo Ski Sojourn 4 ended not so solo. I had debated about doing the Sojourn this year, thinking it might be my last. I didn’t break any vertical feet records, no Bloody Mary taste tests, no major purchases, no major expenses and only one major ski accident that put the kibosh on things.
As I reflect upon this season’s Sojourn, I realize it was more about the people than the places. From the very beginning, people played the central role, skiing was the prop.
Big Sky: Hawaii Ski Club, Mike and fellow Solo Sojourner Diana.
Lake Tahoe: Rett, Tom and Karolyn
Los Osos/Morro Bay/Cayucos: Eugene, Robbyn, Richard
Redondo Beach: Andy
Park City/Deer Valley: The hot tub couple who encouraged me to try Nastar racing
Vail Valley: Ellen and Fred
Frisco: Mo and Gina, Diana
Santa Fe: Gina, Ann the Realtor, Diana, Dina, Tom, The Guv, Sue, Ann, Linda (Skijourn Sisters)
Sipapu: Donna and her son Brian, Barb, Weto & Skijourn Sisters
Taos: Gina, Ann, Linda, Cathy, Sue (Skijourn Sisters)
Savannah: The Imer extended family–Patti & Steve, Harry & Sheri, Donna (the siblings) and all their kids including the bride), Andy and my own daughter Maiya!
Denver to Hopkins: Rett
It is only now that I realize I had friends all along the way and that doesn’t include ski friends I couldn’t connect with. That’s why these last few days back in Minnesota have been so hard. Not that I am sad that the Sojourn is over, it’s realizing that I don’t have the extra hands and support I’ve had ever since I got hurt!
It’s no “poor me” though. As soon as I returned, my girlfriend Richelle made sure I was settled. Her daughter is a doctor of Physical Therapy. She and a Sojourn Sister’s husband told me to go to an ortho doc ASAP. The next day my son drove me to the Ortho Urgent Care and I finally got the MRI that I needed two weeks earlier. My son Tom took the day to run me from the doc to the pharmacy, to my condo, to his house, to the MRI lab back to the doc for the results–all in one day! Minnesota health care really is the best. It turned out I did indeed have a torn gastrocnemius muscle (the doc is the only person in my life who admired my large strong calf muscles), and I had a crack in my tibia plateau or something like that. I can now say I have broken a bone in my body, even though it doesn’t even hurt. The doc ordered an inflatable boot that gave me almost immediate relief, and recommended I do the hip surgery as soon as possible. I’ll be able to rehab both at once.
Just for the record, here are some stats:
- Apps used: Open Snow, AccuWeather, Ski Tracks, Apple Fitness, Google Maps, GasBuddy, Highway Weather, Booking.com, Libby, Audible, Spotify, Ford vehicle trip tracker.
- 18 days of skiing
- 12 states
- 11 different ski resorts
- Top ski speed, 34.2 mph
- 172 miles skied
- 141,926 vertical feet skied
- 19.4 mpg average, 2021 Ford F-150
- 137 hours of driving
- 6350 miles driven
- Most expensive gas: 2/1/23 San Luis Obispo, California, $4.399/gal regular
- Least expensive gas: 1/18/23 West Fargo, ND, $2.899/gal regular
- Six audiobooks
- 13 TikTok/Instagram reels created
It’s been another incredible Solo Ski Sojourn 4.
Hum, what next???
6 thoughts on “Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig.”
So glad you are home safe and fairly sound! I was worried about you this year. I know I shouldn’t and that I was projecting my own worries of my aging body onto you. Turning 69 this year has been mentally hard for me. I’ll get over it! I think turning 70 will be easier-starting of a new decade. Good luck on your surgery! RC
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Always a good read!
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Elaine… Great stories always enjoy the read!!
Hope you heal quickly and can prepare for next year‘s journey…
Maybe it lies somewhere between the bunny hill, and the double black diamonds
All my best… Keep up the writing!
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Thanks! Working on a couple more books. Stay tuned…
Home sweet home and time for happy hour!
Kinda Makes you cry, all that fun and then… I hope you have a quick recovery and then onto your next adventure a new HIP! Be well my friend, the slopes will be there again next year a waiting for you!