Editor: This article, by David Susong, Cross-Country master skier, husband of Olympic skier Kelly Milligan, and President of The Utah Nordic Alliance (TUNA) in Salt Lake City, Utah, was first published in The TUNA News (see www.utahnordic.com)
Road trip is a cry that echoes through every fraternity B movie and appears in the nightmares of most parents with teenage drivers. The movie version of a road trip is an excuse for juvenile debauchery well beyond the confines of normal accepted behavior usually in a car at high speeds with mind alternating substances on board. It is a customary part of the plot of fraternity movies and acted out annually by Utah’s high school students as they head to St George or Florida during spring break.
Road trips reoccur through life at regular interval especially for middle-aged men. I called Cullen midweek after a particularly long dreary afternoon of reviewing reports and suggested a road trip. His immediate response and change in the tone of voice gave away that he was a veteran. There was what sounded like a little bit of a let down when I explain the objective of the road trip was to go to a ski race, The Potato Cup, near Pocatello, Idaho. I think he had other things in mind but this still peaked his interest.
As I drove to our appointed meeting spot at 6:15 AM, I was having my doubts. What inspires three normally somewhat (with the emphasis on somewhat) sane respectable men to slip out of town under the cover of darkness to drive to another state to physically abuse themselves with the ultimate reward of winning a potato? Cullen was waiting impatiently in the parking lot looking at his watch when I drove up two minutes late. He is a sick man. Mike showed up 5 minutes later. Quickly sorting out who would drive we piled into Mike’s SUV and headed north.
As with any good road trip the conversation quickly degenerated. The high point was a discussion of the intelligence of our beloved President. You can see that we started low and went lower. I am sure you are wondering what men talk about for hours while riding in a car on a road trip. A safe subject that always comes up is cars. None of us are particularly motor aficionados and are definitely limited in our repair skills – Yup, the tire is flat! Do you know where the jack is?
Men talk about cars at least for a little while. But the subject of conversation quickly shifts to a common a theme of middle age married men. It’s not Viagra. That comes in second. The atrocities their wives have committed to their cars and how they were informed of the said incidents trumps the latest wonder drug. The jest of these stories is the gross underestimate of the damages like, “ I put a small scratch in the car”, when the door and front quarter panels are almost gone. I won’t get into specifics here for fear of inciting long-past marital conflicts but the story about crashing one family car into another was pretty good.
We arrived at the race early, right behind the organizers. With an hour and a half before the start, we had plenty of time to check out the course. The race started an hour late and so we had a 2.5-hour warm up. In spite of this we all had respectable races and Mike finished in the money or potatoes by placing in his age category. We later learned that all competitors got a participation prize of a potato, better known as spuds in this part of the world.
We all grabbed our spuds and piled back into the car and headed home. There are nothing quite like three middle-age men in sweaty-long under wear in a confined space after indulging in the post-race chili feed. Ah, this is the life. The level and sophistication of humor descended with the air quality. Cullen and I, being of perverse and devious nature, quickly decided that it would be better to come home with two spuds rather than one and tried to cajole Mike out of his. He, being of a bit more serious nature, would have none of it. Arriving in Salt Lake, we were tired, stiff and sore and rejuvenated by our reacquaintance with our juvenile past and promised that we would have to do it again.