Sunday, January 29, 2017

Snowshoeing is fun, but gravity sucks

Did someone increase the Earth's gravitational pull and not tell me?
Because I did not get the memo.
My query is based on an experience I had on the weekend.
The Missus and I wanted to break free from the cabin fever gripping our souls and venture into the great outdoors where the air is fresh and you can pee on a tree without getting weird looks from your neighbours.
As this is not exactly hiking weather, we got our hands – well, our feet actually – on some snowshoes and headed for the back country to commune with nature and frolic in the woodland realm that is our majestic country.
This was the first time I had donned the large footwear in many years. The last time I ventured onto snow in such a manner was when I was a teenager in the army reserve.
We were on a two-day exercise in the middle of winter several kilometres in the mountains. We were flown in by Chinook helicopter -— those massive double-prop choppers –— and dumped somewhere in the mountains. Exactly where I am not sure, but I did know it had snow, a lot of snow.
So much in fact that when we jumped out of the back of the helicopter, the man in front of me disappeared. I mean one second he was there, the next he was gone.
As soon as I jumped out, I knew why because I sank up to my man nipples in snow and I was 10 inches taller than he was.
We managed to swim through the snow to the tree line where the powder was more manageable. I dug out the snowshoes I was issued and attempted to put them on. These were old-style snowshoe, and by old style I mean pre-Second World War vintage.
The age of the snowshoe was not a problem, but the fact they had no bindings to hold them to my feet made wearing them slightly more challenging.
I dug out some shoelaces from by backpack and fashioned some bindings so I could play soldier for the next 48 hours. Of course, at least half the snowshoes we were issued had no bindings, so everyone was getting creative in holding them to their feet.
We ran up hills, across fields, down hills and up more hills on those rickety old snowshoes, all the while carrying a rifle and a backpack full of stuff.
Now, fast forward 30 or so years and I have a very nice pair of snowshoes with the newest style bindings. They were light weight, stuck to my feet like glue and were easy to manage.
I did not have a backpack or weaponry of any sort, but the first steep hill we encountered nearly gave me a heart attack.
Which brings me to the question of when did Earth's gravitational pull increase so much? What other reason could there be?
I am a little older than the last time I snowshoed, well, OK, a lot older. I am also a little heavier, well, OK, a lot heavier, but still...
I have remained regularly active over the years (no, really, I have) and am not in horrific shape. Sure I am not exactly a mighty athlete (sumo wrestlers are athletes) but I did not think I was that out of shape, so it must be the increase in Earth's gravity that got me.
By the time the outdoor adventure was over, I was sweating like a fat guy in a sauna — or rather, a somewhat round guy on snowshoes.
Despite the challenges, sweat, a sore knee and general complaints from my flabby body, I had a great time and Missus and I plan on going out again.
I just hope Earth's gravity is back to normal by then.


Copyright 2017, Darren Handschuh

Friday, January 20, 2017

I'm a weather wussy and I admit it

Dear Old Man Winter: Stop it.
I readily admit I am a weather wussy.
I am not a fan of snow, nor cold and when you put them both together as this fine nation does every year...well, let's just say a hacienda in Mexico sounds better every day.
My dislike of winter weather begins long before the snow flies. It actually starts when the frost begins.
You know those frigid morning where you haven't adjusted your schedule to accommodate the time you need to scrape off the diamond-hard layer of frozen water on your windshield.
And then there is the frost on the inside of the window. As the car is warming up and you have take a credit card out of your wallet and scrape the interior of your car windows, sending those little white snow-like bits of frost all over the dash.
And now you are late for work so, with the heater on full blast, you gingerly make your way out of your driveway while scrunching down to look through the tiny spot at the bottom of the windshield that the heater has managed to melt.
When you get to work, the windshield is clear and your car is toasty warm – just in time to park it for eight hours so it can return to being a car-sicle for you warm up again so you can go home.
At least you don't have to shovel frost, but you know when the frost comes, the white frozen water that falls from the sky is not that far behind.
One thing I do find very amusing about snow is all the people who say it caught them by surprise.
How does an entire season catch anyone by surprise. Unless you just moved here from that hacienda I was talking about, you know snow will eventually find its way to your doorstep.
It's too bad there was not some sort of warning the snow was coming. Perhaps a device with numbers, days of the week and months on it that would indicate what season it is.
I do not know what to call this device, but it sure would come in handy to help people figure out roughly when winter is going to make an appearance. We could even hang it on the wall where it would be easy to see.
Perhaps the old timers, which is pretty much anyone over two years old, could tell those drivers that every year, winter happens in Canada.
That way, they will not be caught by surprise.
When the first snow hits, local tire shops are swamped with surprised who people who thought maybe this year there would be no snow and are stunned to find out that there is.
Imagine that, snow in Canada in the wintertime.
The first snowfall of the year also brings with it accidents as all those surprised people forget that snow is not only cold, it is slippery.
Every year the RCMP issue an official warning, urging people to slow down and drive carefully.
That is right up there with the warning on a hair dryer that it is not to be used in the shower.
Do we really need an official warning to figure these things out?
I guess we do, actually, because there they are.
I do admit the first snow fall of the year (you know, the one that catches everyone by surprise) is usually the toughest one to drive in because you have to re-learn how a car handles in the snow.
But if you ease up on the gas pedal and remember that tip about snow being slippery, you should be just fine.
We still have a few more weeks of winter ahead of us so remember drive safe, defrost your windows and dream of that hacienda where the coldest thing you will have to worry about is the ice in your drink.

Copyright 2017, Darren Handschuh

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Happy New Year, from Fatso

The New Year is almost a week old and area gyms are busier than they have been since last January.
Because for some reason people think the changing of the calendar will provide the motivation they need to lose weight, exercise more, spend less money, quit smoking, help others, blah, blah, blah.
If someone is not able to do these things in say, July, what makes them think changing the last two digits of the year will help them succeed.
You are still you no matter the date and if you are going to do something in January, why can't you do it at any other point in the year?
Losing weight and improving one's self are the most popular resolutions.
But according to an online survey, a mere eight per cent manage to keep their New Year's resolution.
That means a whopping 92 per cent did just as poorly this year as they did last.
I am proud to say I fall into the eight per cent category.
That's right, I actually kept a resolution that I made many years ago.
In fact, it is one I keep to this very day.
I remember the night well – sort of. I was with a bunch of friends and we were celebrating the changing of the year with copious amounts of liquid refreshments.
For some reason, getting plastered was mandatory for ringing in the new year. At least it was with the people I hung out with.
As the evening wore on and beer-infused bravado grew to the point of boisterous bellowing, the inevitable question of New Year's resolutions came up.
Many went the I-need-to-lose-weight route and other such standard plans. Some said they wanted to drink less – as they cracked open another bevvy – noting they would start cutting back tomorrow.
I thought about a resolution I could make and then it hit me. The grandest resolution of them all.
My resolution on that fateful New Year's eve was to never again make a New Year's resolution.
And I am happy to say I nailed it. I have kept that resolution ever since.
I have basically quit drinking. I do enjoy the occasional social adult recreational beverage, but I no longer drink so much I can't find my shoes even if I'm wearing them.
I quit smoking many years ago and I am trying to lose weight. OK, I want to lose weight.
I did make myself a promise I would lose 15 pounds and I am happy to say I only have 22 more to go.
Um, moving on, none of those achievements were the result of Jan. 1 promises to myself. Hmm, but now that I think about it, had I made a resolution to gain weight I would have been kicking butt on that one as well.
I realized many years ago that if I was going to do something to improve myself, there was no magical day that would give me the motivation to do it.
The changing of the calendar would not suddenly give me the energy to do sit ups, push ups and pull ups until I threw up.
Motivation comes from within and no one day will change that.
Actually, that is not entirely true. There is one day that can change your life: today.
One of my favourite sayings is "You can't start any sooner than today."
So starting today, I think I will go for a run, or perhaps a walk, or maybe a stroll is more my speed, after all Rome wasn't built in a day.

Copyright 2016, Darren Handschuh