For several months in 2016 & 2017, Tad Elliott lived with us. I remember it as a particularly idyllic time. I’ve assumed that’s because I was high as a kite on narcotic painkillers for most of it, having broken my leg. But Amy and Gunnar both remember it fondly as well, and we still call the guest-room “Tad’s room”. It turns out that Tad has also found good things to remember about those months living and training in the East. Here’s his latest rumination:
I miss Vermont. I miss how nothing is ever dry, especially my towel. You wake up sticky. Move too quickly; you’re sweaty. Go outside; instantly soggy.
I miss those cute furry green things you call mountains. I like how you can climb the fire towers on top. I don’t know what genius arsonist people are worried about. Starting a fire here seems like a valuable skill, not a concern.
I miss whatever fly season it currently is; black, deer, or fruit. I miss not being able to tell if I am being messed-with or given valuable advice:
“Black flies can only bite as adults, the babies haven’t grown their teeth yet.”
“Hey, wear this tape on the back of your head to catch the deer flies.” Um… is that tape how you spot/make fun of westerners?
I miss strong conversations. The first time I was in one I got frustrated and said I was done getting yelled at. The man looked back at me and said “Oh, I thought we were just talking.”
I miss a good wintry mix and the accompanying assurance that, “this is base builder” and, “It’s -1 degree C from being really good skiing.”
I miss the arrogance of locals. Everything is better here. If I close my eyes it sounds like I am home, but people keep saying Vermont instead of Colorado.
I miss how driving 30 minutes for groceries is standard, but two and a half hours in a car is a hike. More than five hours is an all-day affair; sure seems that way when you pass through 4 different states.
I miss walking into a store and having zero people acknowledge my existence, it feels like I just stepped into a scene from ghost. That man that resembles the Grim Reaper’s truck driving brother just looked right through me. I miss how that same man pulled over to the side of the road, unloaded an impressive amount of tools and fixed my car. He was soft-spoken, caring, and didn’t expect anything in return. I never learned his name.
I miss the drive down 89 from Burlington to Putney in the fall, and being shocked and calmed by its beauty. I miss General Stores. A real mom and pop operation where you can order lunch while picking up an axe, a prescription, milk, cheese, a wedding dress, and maple syrup.
I miss dirt roads. I miss driving them in an El Camino, and the sounds; low exhaust, rumble of the tires and listening to Patsy Cline. I miss my copilot, Gunnar, and the comments we would get. My favorite came from a young man closer to Gunnar’s age than mine: “Cool, my girlfriend’s ex-fiancé used to drive an El Camino.”
I miss farm stands on the side of the road, and how you leave cash for what you take. I miss Mary’s bread and John’s homebrew. I miss John’s excitement in the spring, and touring all the sugaring operations when the sap runs.
I miss how tough Vermonters are. I hear the weather makes them that way.
I miss skiing in self-groomed backyards, woodlots, hayfields, and sugarbushes. I miss the difficult terrain and narrow trails; being scared the downhills. I miss classic-only trails. I miss small Nordic centers, still heated by a woodstove. You leave the trail fee in a coffee can, or you hand it to the owner. I miss how if you want a grooming report you call, Oz, Ian or Pete. I miss living at Caldwell Sport and having perfect coffee and skis every morning before training. Most of all I miss my friends.