Friday, February 23

The Ghost of Mammoth's Past

It is probably going to take some time for this Mammoth trip's lingering memory to subside. It was such a deviation from what I have been accustomed to that i almost feel weird i did it. It's like I was out of my skin. And lately, as if some kind of a Bad memory, i have found myself trying to contrive ways to forget the Ghost.

Although i did get to stretch my legs a little or open up the throttle at full song if you will, i had some stuff on my mind so couldn't really enjoy my solo runs irrevocably. Even though i stayed with the newbies for instructional purposes on their first run, i felt responsible for their well being and i couldn't really clear my head when i went off on my own. I suppose there is some kind of a snowboarding paternal sense in me, though not entirely matured. I was never taught anything about Snowboarding, i was sort of just thrown into the snow so to speak. The basics and the fundamentals I'd picked up on my own the hard way, without so much any advice from anyone. The carving, the swift turns, the jumps, and the many many aspects of advanced Snowboarding i learned by observing and emulating. You could almost say i learned by Osmosis... Since i was not mentored i really didn't know how to handle my first Snowboard Student several years ago. I basically gave him the same treatment Kris gave me, which isn't saying much. The poor kid got clotheslined on the "Slow Down" sign, much to our amusement. So yes, newbies have been reduced to nothing more than just amusement to us lol... I couldn't handle one new Boarder let alone three new floundering snowboarders on this recent trip. And that weighed heavily on my mind during the trip...

That said, you can imagine my fright when the Jersey Girl went down in that phenomenal crash. I don't think I'll ever forget it. Probably not so much the crash itself but the fear i felt that she'd injured herself severely. Aside from that hellish event i might never forget that 6 hour trek down the backside of the Summit to the Main Lodge too. It was fun hanging out but i froze my butt off on the snow while waiting for her ass lol.

Aside from my immature Paternal senses and the Jersey Girl scenario, we spent an enormous amount of time making breakfast and getting ready to head out to the ski resort in the morning. I mean it was painful at some point lol. But, to their credit i admire that not a single one of them gave up. I mean these kids are surprisingly tough... Even on the last day, i underestimated this committed group. I'd figured they'd be sitting in the car 10 minutes before closing exhausted from a day of Snowboarding. However when i got there they were no where to be found. Heck man, i had to wait almost 30 more minutes. Even more surprising was that they looked somehow still fresh, even raving about how good they had done that day. I never looked that good on my second day of snowboarding...

Thursday Feb. 22. The best way i could think of to the get the bad Mammoth taste out of my mouth was to Snowboard, freely. I mean what better way to forget the memory of baby sitting floundering Snowboarders than going out again, right? I intended to go up like the following week, maybe a Monday or Wednesday (potential snow on Tuesday night). However, upon checking the weather around mid-day, i discovered the resorts were forecasting 8-12 inches of snow overnight. Obviously, Friday, the following day would be the best time to go not the following week. I think it is fair to say that this year, thus far, California Skiing has been less than spectacular so any time Mother Nature yields snow we are pretty darn happy around here (and take extreme measures to go). The only problem is, of course, I'd just taken a ton of time off for the Philippines and somehow successfully excogitated more for my fateful Mammoth trip. However, before i got the chance to say anything at all, my Boss seemed to have read my thoughts. Though he guessed the wrong day, he offered me to go. He said he doesn't know what happened in Mammoth but noticed that although my demeanor did not betray me, my face did. He said i looked a little gloomy and i needed to go...

Friday was potentially what we serious Snowboarders refer to as Powder Day. It is what we live for. I was on the road no later than 5:30 am, packing a banana for breakfast and large coffee in hand, drunk with anticipation. The road to Big Bear in dry weather though long and winding has become predictably boring. Having taken the drive literally over 100 times before in a span of 10 years, i know it like the back of my hand. In the snow however, that boring road turns into a different kind of animal. Mishaps are inevitable. It still astonishes me how many vehicles are turned away at the Snow Chain Checkpoint because they carry no chains. Plus they're not driving a 4X4 cars to begin with. These such people are the reason why there even is a wait at the check point, even at 6:00 am (two hours before the lifts open). Below is a picture of an Asian girl installing Chains as i trample on by (lol).

Beyond the wait at the Checkpoint, it was clear sailing (so to speak). I am not sure if i was driving fast or if everyone was going at a leisurely pace but everyone seemed to Pull aside to let me pass. To put it Biblically, it was like the parting of the Red Sea or something (okay maybe not). Even the cops pulled aside just so i can get by. When was the last time a cop pulled aside to let you pass? Okay okay, it was in the snow... but still. All of this equated to what could have been a perfect day. Not only in terms of skiing conditions but the entire day period. My thoughts were exactly that as the Police Car turned aside.

But, in a reversal of fortune, soon after I'd passed the Police Car the Exhaust Pipe underneath my car split in half (though i doubt the snow had anything to do with it). Suddenly my car sounded like a NASCAR (coincidentally racing in Southern Californinia on Feb 25) thundering through the San Bernardino Mountains, only its going 35 mph (its drivable without further damaging the exhaust or the car itself, its just ungodly loud). Bear Mountain was only 6 miles away while LA a good 130 miles... There in lies the conundrum... Do i dare rumble through Big Bear and actually still snowboard or do i drive back to LA and have my car fixed immediately? I'm a real stickler when it comes to repairing my car because i can't stand the thought of it broken. That said, it would have been unwise to drive back to LA because of the surefire traffic that would greet me. On the other hand, trying to get my car fixed in Big Bear was impractical because they sure as hell won't have the parts available (i proved this theory later on that day). For all intents and purposes, the only choice i had was to continue on. Bear Mountain was a few minutes away, so why the hell not?

So although the busted exhaust pipe weighed heavily on my mind too, i basically had no choice but kill time. And what better way to kill time than to conquer Bear Mountain? My plight simply gave me no choice anyway... However, as soon as i hit my first trail right off the speed quad chair, though momentarily, the fresh foot of Powder instantly sent me to Snowboarding Nirvana. Sadly, a Nirvana that we Southern California Snowboarders do not enjoy very often. It was a perfect day, snowboarding wise.

The drive home as you can imagine was a hellish one. The busted exhaust pipe was so loud i couldn't hear my stereo even at full blast. I'm pretty sure i scared a lot of women and children in other cars on the freeway because the exhaust would let off this frightful deafening Bark reminiscent of those un-muffled Race Cars in the Pomona Raceway every time i accelerated. Even at idle the motor it sounded frightening.

What a day. It was highly entertaining and hilarious. But, all the entertainment, the perfect snowboarding conditions, the foot of fresh powder, the coolness of rumbling through Big Bear's city streets, and more importantly the erasing of the ghost of Mammoth's past, abruptly came to a halt when the guy at the Muffler Shop reported that the entire exhaust pipe unit including the Catalytic Converter had to be replaced. A $680.00 job. Damn it... So much for the ghost of mammoth's past. This one hurts like the dickens...


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