Friday, July 08, 2005

Holiday weekend

I spent the weekend of the Fourth with my in-laws, lovely people who live way out at the western edge of Minnesota, two exits from South Dakota. Just outside of their little town is a nifty little state park called Blue Mounds, which is about the only interesting thing around for a hundred miles or so (unless you think Sioux Falls, SD is an interesting thing).

In the twelve or so years I've been making the trip out there, I've always looked forward to going out to the Mounds for a tramp or drive-through or whatever. In an area where it seems like every last acre is either cultivated or shat on by pigs, the Mounds are an oasis of trees and rocks and water and critters of various kinds. It used to be we'd go for a long walk: hopping from rock to rock in the valley where the stream widens out, swatting flies near the little lake, spying patches of cannabis growing on the hillside. The walks have gotten shorter in the last few years, maybe a chilly loop through the campground after Thanksgiving dinner.

This past weekend, the weather out there was drop-dead gorgeous. 82 degrees, sunny, no humidity, cool at night. I slept well, caught up on rest after a few weeks of extended work hours. I was feeling just good enough to do something stupid, like take the dog for a walk at the Mounds in the blazing sun.

I only went about 300 yards from the parking lot. Just after crossing the dyke at the end of the lake, there's a nice little bench, which is where I decided to turn around. By then, though, I was teetering pretty good. I'd dunked a white tee in the lake and put it back on, and wrapped a towel around my head. But by the time I got to crossing the dam on the way back, I worried that I might somehow slip and fall down the side.

There were some kids on the beach back by the parking lot, and I thought for sure they must have been watching me, thinking me a drunk or a lunatic. Crossing the dyke, I had to stop a few times in the course of about fifty yards, kneeling on the hot concrete next to my dog. She was looking anxious and confused, and I was getting worried and embarrassed. Would I need to call out for help?

After I made it across the dyke, I still had to go another hundred yards or so down the asphalt nature trail back to the car. My left leg had all but quit on me. This last bit took me maybe a half hour. I'd walk ten steps, and then stumble forward onto my hands on the hot asphalt. After a couple times, I started trying to cushion myself with the towel, which quickly got all full of gravel. I was afraid I would fall on top of the dog.

As I got closer, inching up an incline in the path, I could hear the people at the beach, kids and adults. I thought I heard them talking about me: What the hell's the deal with that guy? I had to pee, and took a leak in the middle of the nature trail, wizzing all over myself in the process. I got bit by several mosquitos.

When I finally made it to a patch of shady grass at the edge of the parking lot, I laid down on my back and stroked the dog. The car was all of 20 feet away, but after ten steps, I dropped to the ground again. Finally I made it to the car, propped myself against the tailgate, while and fished out my keys. I got the door open, but my arthritic dog wouldn't jump into the car. I sat back down on the ground. The dog laid down. After a rest, I tried, as gently as I could, to boost her into the back, and hobbled to the front seat. I turned on the car, and blasted the A/C.

The next day, I didn't feel too bad, but the following day (yesterday) and today I've been feeling pretty craptacular. When I get burnt out on my feet, I start using my back to hoist my legs along, so my lower back is angry with me. My shins are quite sore, too. Again, some kind of weird body mechanics that engage when I'm pooped. This is a familiar cycle for me: feeling better and then doing something that makes me feel like crap again.

When we left the in-laws, I grabbed the crude walking-stick-shaped gizmo I found in the garage. My father-in-law used to use it to prop up the tailgate on his minivan after the air-spring thing gave out. Now, it's in my living room. I grabbed it on my way out the door to let the dogs out this morning. Am I going to be taking it (or something slightly more refined) to work with me soon?

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