Regular Life

Regular Life

In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on. – Robert Frost

Donuts and an Uplifting Experience

Click any pic in this post for a bigger and sharper version.

You ever face your fears head-on because people are relying on you? You ever do this while on vacation?

Wednesday, Shannon gets up with Ben to let me sleep that extra hour between 6:30 and 7:30. She goes back to bed while he and I scarf down our respective bowls of Cinnamon Shredded Wheat and then drive to T-Buck’s The Hole Thing.

I discover that even here no donut shop features a white creme filled. Hundreds of miles from home, I’m foiled again. Curses! I order for everybody, including Mom and Dad, and hand the lady my debit card.

“We can take that if you run it through like an ATM card,” she says. She points to a card reader with buttons labeled in $20 increments. (this is just surcharges waiting to happen)

“I don’t have this card pinned for ATM use yet. So, I can only pay with cash?”

“Yes, sir.”

Their donut supply is dwindling. “Please hold our order until I get back,” I say.

I strap a slightly confused Ben back into his car seat and reach the upper limits of 35 mph back to our cabin. The van locked to help deter would-be car and kid thieves, I dash inside and upstairs to grab some cash. I mumble to Shannon what I’m doing, but get only a pillow-muffled grunt in response.

Ben’s still safely inside Homer when I return. Back at The Hole Thing, a man waiting in line for the full breakfast restaurant talks to Ben in a great Donald Duck impression. I can’t understand a word the man says, but Ben laughs every time he speaks.

Across from our roundtop table is an interesting item for sale. The sign on it reads:

For Sale
The building,
pancake and
fritter recipe
and living

(their reason for such self-serving payment methods is made evident)


Ben quickly jumps into my camera’s view and grabs the door handle for a picture. Our collective donut-tooth sated, we start the quick jaunt back to the cabin. I spot two deer rooting in scree for tasty wildflowers. The young buck’s meager antlers are in velvet. Ben enjoys watching them forage while I snap a few pics.

By the time we get back and rouse Shannon, we’re in a hurry. Mom and Dad, being much better at this “vacation” thing than we are, make the short walk from their camper and assure us that we still have time for fun. After we decide our course of action, they all watch me slather on the SPF 45.

Dead sexy.

First up is the ski lift. One great thing about four-year-olds (or at least ours) is that they haven’t learned to be scared of many of the things that make adults wet themselves. Bouyed by their child’s confidence and blissfully ignorant courage, parents often engage in behaviors they otherwise would avoid. We aren’t scared of the ski lift, per se, but we temper our reactions when seeing it close-up for the first time. We don’t want to cloud Ben’s judgment beyond the requisite, “Be still.”

We stand side-by-side on black feet painted on a red box, Shannon holding Ben in front of her. I wonder why only every other lift chair has seat pads (there may be a prize for anyone who knows the answer before reading it). The next one rounds the semi-circle and scoops us off the ground. I pull down the safety bar and up we go.

I’ve been on this ski lift before, when I was about seven. I’m anxious to see whether my mind recalls that trip.


Within the first minute, Shannon and I glance at each other with that, “This is freaking me out, but don’t scare the boy” look. I can jump out of tall trees all day with the proper equipment and a reliable belayer, but the safety bar on the lift chair doesn’t even latch, and the impact-reducing slope of the hillside is little consolation when it’s 30-plus feet below. (is there a word for “impact-reducing?”)

Another good incentive for someone to invent the impact absorption shield in my story “Falcon.”

A few minutes later, the lift stops and our chair sways forward and back for a full minute. I look at my watch to time it for the lawsuit. 11:24. “It’s okay,” I say, trying to reassure myself, too. “It will get started again in a minute.” I try to recall details of long ski lift outages, and rest my mind after realizing we probably could last a very long time up there in the middle of July.

At about 11:27, the lift starts again and we sway for another minute as we ascend.

Shannon and I confide that we can do without the random stopping.

The few times we pass over trees, our feet easily clear the conifers. We notice beaded necklackes that previous riders have dropped into the trees. My cynical side instantly thinks, “Idiots.”

Shannon struggles to keep Ben still. There is enough room between him and the safety bar that if he straightens his body and wriggles free from her grip, he’ll slide right into a free fall of approximately two seconds. We express this to him in slightly different terms. “If you don’t quit moving around, you could fall, and you would be hurt real bad.”

Thanks to her efforts, I’m able to take pictures and video. The lift stops a couple more times on our way up. “Maybe someone fell while trying to get on and they had to stop it for a minute,” I guess wildly.


A full 30 minutes after we started, we reach the top. I wonder aloud whether the lift moves that slowly during ski season. Let’s see… 30 minutes up, three minutes down (baseless ski time estimate, FYI). That means for just four runs down the mountain, a skier has to endure a full two hours in the lift chair. Bummer.


In the restaurant at the top, I discover that I can’t remember a damn thing from when I was seven. The lady behind the counter confirms that this is the only restaurant that’s been up there, and describes in detail the additions that have been made since its inception.

“I just asked because I remember when I was a boy that a bear left a paw print on a window here,” I say.

She points to a small window on the west side of the building. “Probably that one right there. They always come to that one. They try to get in the door, too. You can see bite and scratch marks on.” (We don’t see any when we check.)

We see familiar faces while eating. Our neighbors from cabin two are at the next table over. Red River’s a small place, but being easily entertained, we enjoy the moment.


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Before getting back on the lift, I ask one of the operators the burning question of the day. “Why does it stop sometimes?”

“For people who can’t get on while it’s moving,” he says. I was close.

“Okay, so why does only every second seat take passengers?”

“Because in summer there are a lot more people going down on the lift. In winter, they’re skiing down. We do it to distribute the weight better.”

Translation: The lift’s motor can’t handle all the extra weight.

As we pull the safety bar over us and start down, we discover the reason why movie scripts often include the line, “Don’t look down,” but never, “Don’t look up.” Down is much scarier.


Just about the time Shannon and I get over our renewed vertigo, the lift makes one of its delightfully disconcerting stops. The swinging still bothers us more than it should. I take a careful look at how the lift chair is attached to the cable. Looks tenuous, at best, so I block it out and avoid looking again.



We get some grand views of the town. We smile and nod at mountain bikers riding the lift up, each bike occupying its own chair.

Ben spots a go-kart track.

After our safe landing, I fork over the nine bucks for a go-kart ride because Ben asked and, I’ll admit, I have a weakness for those four-wheeled wonders. I wish secretly that they didn’t chuff pollutants in such a picturesque place, but then realize that even rechargeable batteries ultimately get their fuel from dead dinosaurs, too.

Ben and I start out in the lead. One little boy passes us when I swing a curve wide for a photo op. He tries to hold us off later, but I pull a Mario Andretti and never lose the lead again. Somehow, defeating a 10-year-old pleases me.


For those who made it this far, here are a couple of videos (you read the book — now see the condensed version).

Length: 1:28

Length: 0:26

Next up: we take a drive to, and walk out on, the third highest bridge in the United States; and much more, and on the same day as all of the above.

8 Responses to Donuts and an Uplifting Experience

  1. Now see, in my (warped) mind, I don’t understand at all, how people go ANYWHERE without money in their pockets! It’s a complete mystery to me.

    I’ve taught my kids to never, EVER go out of the house without money in their pockets. While people with credit cards are stuck when the power goes out, me with cash can pay and be on my way anywhere in the civilized world.

    It also bugs me when I’m in line waiting for something trivial (under $10) and someone must pay with a credit/debit card. It takes far longer than cash, and some times, the card gets refused.

    Nobody refuses cash. Nobody. Just a pet peeve of mine I guess.

    Nice pics though…. *S*

  2. Dave – I can understand that policy. Unfortunately, you’d have been groaning in line behind me as I whipped out my card to pay for that $2.49 smoothie I got just yesterday (as a “warped” reward when the optician charged me nothing to fix my glasses).

    Coincidentally, while he was swiping my card, I was eying his cash drawer thinking how much fuller it would have been even as few as 10 years ago. (the Smoothie guy, not the optician)

  3. Mark, that pic with Ben and the water bottle really makes me want to get a dSLR. My little 6 Megapixel Sony Cybershot could never capture that.

    I guessed right on the padded seat thing. That bike riding solo on the way up as you’re going down just looks funny. I wonder if it’s scared too? I’m going to guess that the chairlift is slowed down in summer to make for better sight-seeing. It’s also easier to get off a faster moving lift when you have skis on and can just slide off rather than double-step out of the way. I imagine the ride up the slope is faster in the winter.

    Loved Shannon’s “White Knuckled Grip o’ Death” that opened up the first video. And the ominous music. (Pretty toes, Shan!)

    I would have taunted that 10 year-old after passing him. Eat my dead dinosaurs, slowpoke!

  4. My first time on a ski lift was more than a bit embarrassing. Twenty-one and visting family in Reno. My cousin James and I headed to Northstar for some skiing on a whim….as in wearing jeans on a whim. Never having been on a lift, when the solitary skiier ahead of us moved forward to sit on the three-seated lift, I assumed the proper thing to do was to fill the seats. I moved ahead and only noticed after in position that James was not coming. The lift almost on me, I made what I thought was a smooth move. I dropped to the ground to let the seat go over me, planning to catch the next one with James. Ski lift understandably freaked and slammed the whole thing to a hault. I was slightly embarrassed, James moreso. However, my mortification rose as it becamse clear that the operator was unable to resume the lift’s motion without a supervisor. So we all had to wait for about five to ten minutes while the supervisor snow-mobiled down. I tried to smile friendly-like to the folks in line…but they were having none of it ;)

    Simon – Actually, those aren’t Shannon’s toes. She’s the one in the read white and blue tennis shoes ;)

  5. Simon – I took a few shots of him with the water bottle. I liked the lighting and the serene mood.

    I’ll bet your guesses are right. Makes sense to me.

    Shannon informed me I played up the fear too much. It wasn’t palpable the entire ride. Just right at first and each time it stopped unexpectedly. Especially when we started the descent, though. It was a weird feeling.

    When we finished the go-kart ride, I told the kid, “I think we had the fastest go-kart.” It was just a little bit faster. But, once I got behind him he could have held me off the entire race had he known what to do.

    MG – We both loved your story. That’s a Jack Tripper all-timer right there. He couldn’t have done it better (or worse, as the viewpoint may be).

    Guys, we don’t need any more encouragement for Shannon to dress me in drag after your own past performances, so watch it on the toes comments!

  6. Thanks for the video Mark. It’s the only way this scaredy cat would ever see it. And I think you played up the fear just right!

  7. Markus….You have GOT to start keeping some cash on you. Sooner or later you’re going to need to rely on a fellow pedestrian for something, and they aren’t going to take an ATM card. Just tuck a $50 bill somewhere in your wallet and NEVER touch it. And, keep $20 in there somewhere else so that you don’t have to worry about ATM machines being down, which happened just the other day at Sonic…but I had cash so that LC didn’t have to carhop to pay for his corndog.

    I had a period where my twisted logic told me that I wouldn’t spend money as readily if I didn’t carry much, so I used my ATM almost all of the time. In reality, it was the opposite. ATM’s are so readily accepted now, that if I use it all of the time I lose track of how much I spend. I can remember spending $20 bucks cash, but it’s harder to remember $6 here, $5 there, and $9 somewhere else.

    The pictures and movies are awesome…except that TERRIBLE song about heaven…had to turn down the volume. I remember that ski lift. I hate heights, and I don’t think I would have enjoyed that too much.

    That looked like the a pretty lame go kart track. Branson has some killer ones, and that awesome one at Lake of The Ozarks in MO right around Tantara Resort is still there!!

  8. Okay, the cash thing. Does everybody remember that I went and got cash from our cabin closet? We had cash for the trip. I just left it in the cabin when Ben and I drove downtown (all of three minutes) to grab donuts.

    I put the cash on the closet shelf each night of our trip so Ben couldn’t get into it. Any time we left town, I made sure to have the cash with us.

    Does this make everybody happier about the cash situation?

    Now, as far as when I’m not on a trip, I guess it wouldn’t hurt to carry cash on me. I’ll give you that point.

    Charles – Didn’t like that Love and Rockets tune, huh? I wondered why nobody mentioned it. Just being nice, I guess. Oh well. At least maybe you liked the trumpet stuff from the track at the beginning.


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