I’m going to back-pedal a little bit. Not as far back as this shot of Carla, Paul and me in New York in our twenties…but before Aspen, before Paul rode his bike across Iowa— back a few years ago to another vacation that was just the 3 of us.
First of all, to me the meaning of a vacation is that you do something fun, different, relaxing, out of your comfort zone. Which is why I could not fathom why Carla wanted to celebrate her 50th birthday at Canyon Ranch in Tucson—doing outdoor activities and exercise. Some vacation. As a personal trainer—exercise is what she does every single day. I agree to join them for a few days—somewhat grudgingly, since I know there will be no decent chocolate.
Carla and Paul spend several days before I get there. I arrive late at night, exhausted—I think I can use a vacation. Only Carla has us signed up for a bike ride the next morning. It’s her birthday trip, so I don’t complain— even though I can’t function before 9 a.m. and the ride starts at 7.
I drag my butt out at dawn. I’m a little hesitant about serious biking, but Carla and Paul assure me this is an “easy ride.” I am woman, hear me roar. Before I get to roar, I whimper: I can’t work all the gears. The group leader is forced to give me a private lesson on “Biking for Dummies.” Meanwhile I’m holding up the normal people, 20 chipper and cheery types like Carla and Paul. I’m still googling gears as the group starts off without me. Carla and Paul zoom up to the front of the pack— and I don’t see them again for the whole ride.
The leader is satisfied I can handle the gears well enough not to sue Canyon Ranch. He heads out with the group, leaving me to bring up the rear. I am such a good sport, I follow— instead of going back to my room to bed.
Right away I wish I did. We’re on the shoulder of a busy highway. I hate riding in traffic, hate breathing the fumes. All the cars speeding freaks me out. I always think I’m going to get hit.
In retrospect, that was the good part of the ride.
Pretty soon, the “easy ride” turns into a 14-mile odyssey up the side of a mountain. A MOUNTAIN.
I would make it to the very top—-if only I didn’t stop for 15 minutes while our group leader rips open the emergency pack for a granola bar and orange juice so I don’t faint. I don’t think he carries any oxygen, or I would take that, too. While I stand, doubled over, gasping for breath, I catch a glimpse of my sister and Paul as they whiz by on their way down from the summit.
The staff guy now feels the responsibility to ride next to me all the way back to be sure I don’t sue Canyon Ranch can finish the ride under my own power. After what seems like I have ridden across the state of Iowa myself, I finally see the resort in the distance like a nomad sees an oasis in the desert. My spirits lift; that means solid food, and solid ground.
It’s 9 a.m. on day one of my “vacation”. I have had enough exercise for the rest of my trip. Maybe for the rest of my life.
Drenched in sweat, I find Carla and Paul in the dining room. They’ve been back so long they’ve almost finished breakfast. I expect Carla to suggest a massage. Or at least a little praise for the fact that I returned in one piece. I moan a little to indicate my state of being. Paul is absorbed eating breakfast. Carla is studying the schedule, planning the rest of our day starting with an aerobics class right after breakfast. The blood drains out of my face as I realize the bike ride was the beginning and not the end.
Carla motivates me to do far more exercise than I would do on my own—a little insight into my sister as a personal trainer. And a little inspiration—-she doesn’t have a single cell of cellulite or body fat. Luckily I love my sister. Or I would hate her. I survive the rest of that first day, and the rest of the trip. And it turns out to be wonderful, just like the last few days in Aspen; just the 3 of us.