Monday, August 13, 2012

Out of True

I had to hold back tears of frustration. 

Mark and I have been training for months for our cycling trip which we leave for two weeks. It's getting close to crunch time, and I’ve started experiencing problems with my bike.  Last week, we decided I probably had a cracked front wheel and that it should be replaced.  Which also means replacing the back one. Which isn’t cheap. 

In the meantime, we borrowed a couple of wheels from one of Mark's colleagues.  I put one on Saturday evening and had a devil of a time getting it centered between the front brakes. I don’t know all that much about bicycles, however, and I assumed the problem would sort itself out.

As we got ready to leave yesterday morning for a ride up Little Cottonwood Canyon, then up Big Cottonwood, I noticed the front wheel was rubbing up – hard – against the right front brake pad.  I tried again to center it, then took off.

It wasn’t until we stopped at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon - ten miles later - that I noticed that the wheel was once again rubbing the brake.  That explained why the two large hills on the route to the mouth of the canyon had seemed more difficult than usual.  Once again, I loosened the front wheel and tried to center it.  At Mark's suggestion, I also opened the brake calipers, thinking that would help.

As we started up the canyon, I kept watching the front wheel.  After a while, I stopped.  Rubbing again.  Adjust.  Start again.  Go for a while, then stop and check.  Again rubbing. 

By now, I was so frustrated I felt like kicking my bike.  Here we are, a few weeks before our big trip, I need to be getting in some good miles, and my frigging bike is not cooperating.

Mark commented that the wheel we had borrowed must be out of true.  We ultimately decided that he should continue on up the canyon alone while I road home, took the front wheel off, take the tire and tube off it, then put them on the other wheel we had borrowed.  I obviously couldn’t continue up the canyon with the wheel rubbing like that.  Then, with any luck, I could then meet him later at the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon.

As I rode down Little Cottonwood, I actually did shed a few tears of frustration, of stress, of anxiety.  Then, it occurred to me what a perfect metaphor my wheel experience was of my life, when I tried to be a perfect heterosexual Mormon husband, father and priesthood holder.

I was like that wheel, constantly rubbing up against the brake while trying to climb the canyon of straight Mormon life.  I wanted to do the right thing, I kept trying to do the right thing; I wanted to run “true.” 

I periodically tried to adjust myself and keep going up that canyon, but the constant rubbing against the brakes wore me down.  And no matter how many times I adjusted, it wasn’t long before I was rubbing again, making that ascent up the canyon many times more difficult. 

And why?  Because I was “out of true.”  I was a gay man trying desperately to live a straight life, and no amount of adjustment or peddling harder up that canyon could change that or compensate for that.  Eventually, I exhausted myself; the constant rubbing, heating up the rim and stressing the inner tube, finally wore me down.  I reached a point where I couldn’t go on.  And so I quit trying to be something I wasn’t and am not.  I took off the out-of-true wheel and put one on that ran like a dream.

Furthermore, I realized that - just as I was ignorant of how a wheel on a bike had to be "true" and couldn't figure out what was wrong until someone else (in this case, my partner) told me - many Mormon men (whether as young gay men trying to find their way, or older men who entered into marriages, hoping for the best) really had/have no conscious notion of what is causing the strain.  We just feel the resistance.

These realizations provided some degree of solace as I road home in the valley’s heat, took off the bum wheel and put on the other one.  It seemed to work just fine.  I threw the bike in the back of the truck, drove up to the mouth of Big Cottonwood, met Mark and proceeded up Big Cottonwood.  This time, there was no rubbing.  It was a hard slog in spots, but my wheel was true, and I made it.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Our Yellowstone Trip - Heading Home

Last Tuesday, we tidied and cleaned up the cabin, then headed for our last visit to Yellowstone Park.  This day, we would take a different route and see more of the east side of the park.  Along the way, we saw lots of bison lounging beside the road as well as further afield.  

The highlight of the drive for me was seeing Yellowstone Lake, which was absolutely gorgeous.  We drove alongside it for a good 15-20 miles or so, and just when I thought it couldn't be more beautiful, we came around a curve and saw another vista which was stunning.

That afternoon, we drove by another stunningly beautiful lake:  Jackson Lake at the foot of the Tetons.  The whole panorama was simply breathtaking.

It was also around this point that the kids were really getting to each other (and to us).  We had planned to stay at a motel in Jackson, Wyoming that evening that had a pool, and we were looking forward to letting them exude some of their pent-up energy.  But as we drove south, the skies looked increasingly ominous, and - sure enough - just as we approached Jackson, the skies opened up.  

We tried to be positive, however.  We arrived at the motel and the rain was slacking up, so Mark took the kids down to the pool while I took Nathan back into town to get him (and me) a T-shirt.  When we got back to the motel, Mark was herding the kids up to change.  We had debated going out to eat somewhere, but neither Mark nor I were particularly keen on going back out into the traffic, setting the kids down at a table, etc.  So we ordered pizza, which we ate at a table down by the pool.

By the time we finished dinner, the skies were clearing and the sun came out.  So the kids went back up and got their swim suits back on and proceeded to have a ball for the next hour or so.

After a while, another little girl came down to the pool with her mother.  Annie immediately hit it off with her, and they started playing together.  Before long, we noticed that the mother was calling her daughter "Annie," and we told her that our little girl was also named "Annie."  What a coincidence!

Annie and Annie
Later, the father of the "other Annie" joined his wife poolside.  It was Mark who noticed that the man was speaking to their little girl in Russian, and he walked over and asked the man if that was indeed what he was doing.   The man explained that their Annie had been adopted from Russia (!).  

At this point, Mark called me over, and to make a long story short, it turns out that they (from Boston) had adopted their Annie from St. Petersburg the year after we adopted our Annie from Vladivostok, though both Annies were approximately the same age.  We all marveled at what a remarkable coincidence it was to run into each other at a motel in Jackson, Wyoming, both having adopted from Russia, both having named our daughters Annie - and they were the same age.  Remarkable.

We eventually called the kids out of the pool and had them go upstairs and get changed into the PJs, and this is when we had our little birthday party for Mark.  I had ordered a carrot cake from a bakery in Jackson, which we had picked up on our way in, and we all had carrot cake and ice cream after Mark opened his presents.  He said that he had never liked celebrating his birthday after moving to Utah, because it and Pioneer Day (big Mormon-related holiday) were the same day.  He quipped that perhaps he should plan to spend his birthday out of the state from now on.

A picture Mark took that night when both of the girls were asleep.  They are each holding the stuffed
animal that they picked out as a souvenir of the trip.
The next morning, we packed up and headed for home, dropping the kids off in Bountiful as we came in.  It had been a fun trip - a few stressful moments, yes, but overall a lot of fun.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Our Yellowstone Trip - Swimming in Firehole River

On Monday morning of our trip (i.e., July 23rd), we headed into Yellowstone National Park again.  Our  destination was a swimming spot on the Firehole River that a friend had told us about.  As was the case with the previous day's swimming, this was a big hit with the kids.

In the above picture, you can just barely see (upper left) the cars parked up on the one-way road.  From the road, one took some stairs down to an overlook, then a sort of trail on down to the water.  The area right at the base was fairly shallow; there was a rock shelf that the kids could safely walk out on and then jump into the river without getting into the main current of the river.

I initially declined to don my swim suit, so Mark was in the water with the kids while I was on shore taking pictures.  Eventually, however, I went back up to the car and changed into my trunks and headed back down.  Mark took the following picture of Levi and me after he (Levi) had swam out to me.  Levi's picture is adorable; mine not so much.

All in all, I believe Mark is much more photogenic than am I.

And as for the kids, they're just plain adorable.

After we had been there quite a while, Levi and I discovered another little "cove" in the river and went down to explore.  On the way down (after I had gotten after him several times for trying to climb up the rocks on the other side of the outcropping that led down to our "beach"), Levi told me to be sure and be careful.  "I don't want you to die, 'cause you're my dad," he said.  My heart melted.

Then Aaron joined us in our secret spot while Levi chased a squirrel.

After spending a couple of hours at the river, we headed back into West Yellowstone for some snacks and some browsing through souvenir shops.  I, of course, bought an ornament as a souvenir of our trip, and I also found a couple of small birch bark boxes, handmade in Russia, as stocking stuffers for Esther and Annie.  I had seen these in Russia when we adopted both of them and Aaron, but this was the first time I had seen them in a shop here in the States (very reasonably priced to boot).  

After our snacks and browsing, we headed back to the cabin for lunch/dinner, then relaxed while we watched "Mall Cop" (which I think Mark enjoyed as much as the kids).

Later in the afternoon, we headed back into West Yellowstone to see "Annie Get Your Gun," which was being performed at the Playmill Theatre.  Prior to going into the theatre, however, we visited a candy shop that had been recommended by a friend.  We gave each of the kids $3 and sent them in with Nathan (who was a good sport) while we waited outside.

The kids all seemed to enjoy "Annie," which, I believe, is the first time they (at least the Quads) have seen a live musical production.  I wish I could have filmed all the looks on Levi's face (who was sitting next to me) as he watched the show.  I strongly suspect he will like musicals.  ;-)

Thus ended our last day in Yellowstone.  The next morning, we would drive through the Park, then on to Jackson, Wyoming, where we would spend the last night of our trip.