Sunday, September 04, 2011

Stairway to Hell

If ever there was a weekend that proved to me exactly how out of shape I am, this weekend was the one. This weekend was an exercise in humility. And humiliation. I got bitch-slapped by reality. Needless to say, it was not fun.

On Sunday, Ruanita and I had the seemingly harmless idea to take the kids to Taylor's Falls. Taylor's Falls is about an hour or so away from the Cities on the St. Croix river. On our way, we decided to stop in Stillwater, an extremely cute little town also on the St. Croix river, for lunch. Ruanita had packed a picnic lunch and we found a nice spot on the ground near the Stillwater lift bridge and had a chilly picnic lunch. After lunch, the children had this bright idea to climb the stairs.

As you enter Stillwater, there is a set of old stairs that ascend up the side of a cliff and disappear into the trees above. We have passed these steps on numerous occasions. Never have I ever felt compelled to climb them. Never have I ever wondered what is at the top of them. However, I am not an eight-year-old boy. To an eight-year-old boy, steps that lead to a mystery destination in the sky are enchanting. An adventure. A mystery that must be solved. How in the world Ruanita and I were talked into climbing those steps completely mystifies me. But somehow, we were convinced that it was a good idea. Stupid kids.

The steps appeared to be about 100 (though I didn't count) concrete steps straight up the side of a cliff. I began strong, but faded quickly. The kids' excitement over what treasures were to be found at the top of the stairs was the only thing that kept my creaky old knees moving. As I neared the top of the stairs, I admit that the children's excitement was beginning to be contagious. I also found myself—between gasps for breath—wondering what we would encounter in the tree tops. You can imagine my disappointment when we found a quick turn, a small landing, and another 100 steps at the top of our climb.

At the halfway mark—the spot that I thought was the top of the staircase—there sat a bench. Ruanita and I unceremoniously collapsed on the bench. I was straining to get enough air into my lungs to supply my body with oxygen. As I took deep, frantic breaths, my lungs felt as though they were going to explode. I clutched my chest. My mind was screaming, This is the big one! You hear that, Elizabeth. I'm coming home to see you. (Yea, that was a Sanford and Son reference. Not only am I telling you how out of shape I am, I am also letting you know that I am old. Damn old.) The kids were anxious to keep going. I thought I was going to die. Literally. Die right there on the spot as my limp body plunged back down the staircase in the sky to land in a heap in the middle of downtown Stillwater. It would be quite dramatic.

Unfortunately for me, I did not die. My excruciatingly painful lungs miraculously continued to provide oxygen to my equally painful limbs. As I sat gasping for air, a group of people passed us on the stairs. No one in the group appeared to be younger than 65. And no one was even breathing heavily. What the hell?! With the spry geriatric group as my motivation, I stood and continued my trek up the stairs, leaning heavily on the railing and willing my less-than-stellar knees to please—for the love of God—do not fail me now.

Eventually, we made it to the top. Of course, my kids made it first. The minute they reached the top, I heard their cries of disappointment. There was nothing “cool” at the top of the stairs. There was nothing exciting. Certainly nothing worth nearly ending my life to see. The stairs emptied out into a neighborhood. A nice neighborhood, but just a neighborhood full of houses. With a bench at the top for me to collapse upon. And collapse, I most certainly did. There was a nice view of the St. Croix river from that vantage point, but my kids were completely unimpressed. And I was too busy warding off the grim reaper to enjoy the view.

Eventually, we made our way (slowly) back down the stairs. I briefly debated asking Ruanita if she would climb down and bring the car around up to pick me up, but thought better of it. I was already near death, so why not finish the job? End the misery. Unfortunately for me, the misery was only beginning.

After we descended the cliff and made our way back to our car which, mercifully, was parked pretty much right at the base of the stairs, we made our way to Taylor's Falls. For those of you that have never been, Taylor's Falls has a cool park made up of cliffs overlooking the St Croix. The cliffs are full of sink holes and cool geological formations. The kids absolutely loved it. I love Taylor's Falls, as well. However, by the time I got out of the car after making the 20-mile trek from Stillwater, my legs were complete jello. They barely held me up. It was nothing short of comical to watch me try to climb over rocks and cliffs with the kids. I did more sitting on my butt and scooting like a toddler than actual climbing. At one point, I was sitting on a large rock while Ruanita took the kids down some stairs into a particularly deep sink hole. I stood to look over the rail at them, and immediately fell back into a seated position. Like an old granny who needs a mechanical chair lift to get out of her moth-eaten recliner, I could not get my ass into a standing position. My knees buckled and I landed with an “oomph” right back on the hard rock. Nice.

Eventually, we left Taylor's Falls. On our way home, we stopped at the Franconia Sculpture Park and decided to walk around looking at the cool—and somewhat freakish—sculptures. Very cool place. It is basically a large field full of sculptures. More walking. Lots more walking.

This morning, I am back at work and barely able to move. A 38-year old woman should be able to climb stairs. And climb across rocks. And walk around a grassy field. Perhaps it is time to get into shape? Perhaps I should start an exercise regimen? Finally get the motor on my dead treadmill repaired and start walking again?

Or I could just stay home. Adventure is highly overrated.


Madgew said...

I feel your pain. I would have just stopped and told the kids to goon without me as long as I could see them and then watch them come right back to where I was sitting. But I am a grammy and get those perks.

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