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What's the Point?

Okay, so we know how I’ll benefit from this endeavor. I’ll gain experience in the great outdoors that will help me write a better book set in the Adirondacks. But you, my dear reader, may well be asking, “What’s in all this for me?” Hopefully you’ll gain a little knowledge, have a few laughs, and vicariously enjoy a sense of adventure. Think of it as a modern-day Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, where you get to sit comfortably at your computer screen – much like Marlin Perkins watching from a safe distance behind some bushes. I, on the other hand, will go out into the wild, ala Jim Fowler, and do all the heavy lifting in an effort to entertain you.

            Well, on second thought…

« It's A Trap! | 46 Sandwiches »
Friday
Dec162011

Bobsledding For Dummies

Bobsledding is a winter sport with a long and illustrious history that I’m too lazy to go and look up right now.  I’m pretty sure, though, that it all started with a guy named Bob who had some serious thrill issues and needed to find a way to get to the bottom of a hill really fast. Unfortunately, either Bob didn’t understand that the quickest way from point A to point B is a straight line or else he had a lousy sense of direction because your typical bobsled run has more twists and hairpins than an overbooked hairstylist on prom night.

The result is that good old Bob invented an activity that has become the most dangerous winter sport. Sure, folks can get hurt playing ice hockey, but that’s called fighting and people pay good money to see that. The sledding sports (bobsled, luge and skeleton) are the only ones that actually list fatalities among their statistics. (Unofficially, there may be some fatalities associated with curling, but I think those people just died of boredom).

Keep in mind that each of these fatalities involved elite athletes who had trained in their sport for years. Why should they bear all the risk, you ask? Turns out, they don’t have to. There are six Winter Olympic sports complexes in the world that offer bobsled rides to average people who possess that dangerous combination of cash and the willingness to sign any waiver that’s put in front of them. One of those Olympic venues is Mt. Van Hoevenberg in Lake Placid, NY, site of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics. Since Lake Placid is practically in my backyard (I have a big backyard) and it’s been some time since my last near-death experience, I was eager to give bobsledding a try.

Wanting to model recklessness and rash decision making for my children, I talked my family into going with me. Once we’d signed up we were placed in a van, driven to the top of the run, and left there. The only way back down the mountain was via the chute of death – I mean bobsled track. There was a small cabin where we were fitted for our helmets, which we were told should be snug. And I must say, I don’t believe my head has been squeezed that tightly since I came through the birth canal.

Then it was time to get in the sled. A driver (i.e., someone who actually knows what he’s doing. At least I think he did. I didn’t ask to see his bobsled license) sat in front. We then were loaded into the sled from tallest (my husband) in the front to shortest (my 7 year old son) in the back. I don’t know if you know this, but the back of a bobsled is totally open. So not only would I be unable to see my children on our way down the mountain, I had to hope the pusher guy (an official bobsledding term) would be able to hop in the sled in time after getting us started so that my son wouldn’t fly out the back. Yeah, I’m putting all this on my application for Mother of the Year.

I’ve heard that in space no one can hear you scream. But on a bobsled you don’t want to scream for fear that any sudden exhalation of breath may upset the delicate balance of the hurtling vessel of doom and wind up capsizing the whole thing. They may call it a “track,” but there’s no guarantee you’re going to stay on it. This is no ride at Disney World, people. Check out this YouTube clip if you want to see what it was like. I hate to brag (okay, I actually do like to brag) but our run time was 10 seconds faster than the one in the video. 

 

One of the last things they told us before sending us down was to sit up straight. That’s because your instinct is to hunch down to avoid what you’re certain is going to be immediate decapitation. But if you are hunched over I can tell you from personal experience that your head is going to get slammed into the side of the sled. Which, even with the fits-like-a-second-skull helmet, doesn’t feel too good. When I got to the bottom I asked my husband to check out my head, but he said I should have had it examined before the ride.

The whole ride was somewhat of a blur mostly due to the wind-induced tears in my eyes. Not to mention that being in a chute made it hard to know where I was on the course at any given moment. So I was surprised when I found out afterwards that the course does a 180 at the bottom of the mountain and sends you back up to the finish line.

 

 

We stopped at the finish line by sledding into a pile of snow. Getting out of the bobsled was not a graceful moment, I can assure you, given the rubbery nature of my legs. But I managed a smile as we posed for a picture, despite the worst case of helmet-hair since the invention of helmets, because I was just so happy to be alive.

 

 

 

 The course at the Bobsled Experience is just a fraction of the course the athletes use in competition. And although I thought we were going fast, they go much faster. So to all the men and women of the U.S. Olympic Bobsledding Team, my helmet is off to you. Thank God.

 

This is me standing with my back to the official New York State "Hey Wing Nut, Don't Say We Didn't Warn You" sign. I'm clearly hoping that my extra-swoopy bangs will create enough drag to slow the bobsled down.

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Reader Comments (2)

I loved this! So funny. For years I have been trying to convince my husband we would have a blast trying the bob sled run. Lucky for me, he had a similar response to your husband's idea of needing your head examined.

January 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMelinda

Loved the story! I've heard great things about bobsled experience from friends who took the plunge. I will have to go there sometime. My grandfather dedicated a bedroom of his home to the Lake Placid Olympics.

January 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRoss H Williams

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