Monday, September 13, 2010

Fat Lady on a Treadmill - This Isn't the Pocono's Toto

Today was the day I pledged to get back into my routine. That means a bit of breakfast, and then off to the pit. The drive alone was reason enough to stay at home, but I put on my brave face and took the urban assault vehicle (UAV) on the road. In this town, if you drive anything smaller than a tank you’re a Lilliputian in the land of Gulliver’s. I prefer being a Gulliver.

It turns out that my recent trips to The Big Apple also served to keep my driving skills honed. I arrived at the pit without incident, only to find the parking lot completely full – of Trophy Wife vehicles. You know the ones. They’re new, mostly foreign, except for the Escalades, and there isn’t a subtle thing about them. Chrome wheels, sun-roofs, leather seats, onboard computers that do everything but order for you at the drive-thru. I spotted a few with those cute little leaping kitty hood ornaments too. They have regular appointments at the auto-spa so the sweet young thing driving them won’t be embarrassed by a speck of dust on her transportation when she pulls up in front of the brow bar or tanning salon. They wouldn’t be caught dead with a petrified French fry under the passenger seat.

I’m not sure whose idea it was to open the largest pit in the state of California (not kidding, it’s a fact) in a small strip mall with a limited number of parking spots, but I can’t imagine they thought it through. I circled the lot once, just to make sure I hadn’t missed something. I hadn’t.

Hubby and daughter #1 have been to this pit since it became a monster and swallowed up a couple of adjoining businesses, but clearly, they haven’t been in the morning. I don’t care how nice the new machines are, or how many of them they’ve crammed into the space. I’m not going to hang around in the parking lot until someone gets tired of posing and decides to go home, or realizes she’s going to be late for her bikini waxing. I’m pretty certain I was over dressed for the place anyway. I’d actually covered my cleavage. I’m not sure they would have let me past the front desk.

I steered my UAV out to the eight-lane divided, wanna-be-freeway and headed across the valley to the other pit, the step-child pit, the one they didn’t remodel while I was away. Traffic was lighter on the other side of the valley and it wasn’t necessary to use my aggressive driving skills. A few minutes later I turned into the parking lot of the regular-people pit, and had my choice of several spots. I spotted a few Bro-trucks, but they were outnumbered by the mini-vans and aging sedans. The UAV fit right in with its layer of dust and crumpled straw wrappers in the center console. A couple of C+20 women wearing flood pants and Velcro shoes winched themselves out of a Chevy a few rows over. I’d found my people.

This was confirmed when I sailed past check-in without raising suspicion. I’d been there many times before, but it was still a bit overwhelming. The entire Pocono Pit would have fit inside the Spinning classroom with room to spare. There were more machines to choose from than I’d seen in months. Just deciding where to start was a challenge. Since it had been a long while since I’d done my usual routine, and clearly that needed to change given my expanded options, I decided to keep my first day back simple.

Memory kicked in and I found the locker room, right where it had been the last time I was there. Since the Pocono Pit had cubbies, not locker room, even this was going to take some getting used to. I won’t go into details, but I will mention one word, one very important word. Towels.

I hurried out to the floor, found a half-rack on the second floor and programmed it to the –kill me now- setting. While the machine proceeded to do as asked, I checked out the place. The ratio of men to women was somewhere around 2:1. I was okay with that. Especially since the majority of the men weren’t half bad to look at. I looked my fill, at least until my eyesight began to blur. The place began to empty out. I wondered if I was emitting an offensive odor or perhaps they knew something I didn’t, like the place was about to be invaded by Trophy Wives. I decided there wasn’t anything I could do about either one, so I finished the programmed workout.

I thought about spending a few minutes with the resistance equipment. None of it was seeing a lot of use, but it had already been a long day. I made a mental note of where my favorites were and headed for the locker room. On the way, I went past the Spin class. That answered the question as to where everyone had gone. I made note of the time so I could show up tomorrow after the class began. It would be almost like being back at the Pocono Pit where I had the place more or less to myself.

In the locker room, I extracted the scrap of paper with my combination on it from my clever hiding place behind the music storage device strapped to my arm. Unfortunately, the two C+20’s were still there. They’d traded their flood pants for towels, on their way to swimsuits, I think. I don’t really want to know. I checked the time. Maybe I should push my arrival back a few more minutes tomorrow, just to be safe.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Fat Lady on a Treadmill - End of Summer

It’s time to head west before the leaves and snow start falling around here. It’s been an interesting few months of solitude interspersed with periods of chaos. There have been times of great joy and pride as well as times of great sadness. I’ve been to a class reunion and a graduation. I’ve moved both daughters to their respective grad schools, attended RWA ’10 in Orlando, hosted friends and relatives, buried a family member, finished a manuscript, and sold my first book. And that’s just the big stuff.

Since March I’ve been in thirteen states, most of them more than once. I’ve driven up Mt. Washington, toured two Civil War battlegrounds, Jefferson’s Poplar Forest, the NASCAR Hall of Fame, the Statue of Liberty, and a major Florida amusement park. I even managed to squeeze in a Broadway show. The one thing I haven’t done is let moss grow under my feet!

Fall is approaching. I see it in the playful deer in my yard, the crisp morning air, and the softening mid-day light. Then of course there are the leaves beginning to blanket the driveway and floating like an interactive art exhibit on the surface of the pool.

Later this week I’ll rejoin hubby in SoCal, where the temperature still hovers over the century mark, and the seasons consist of Hot and Hotter.

I’m going to miss a lot of things about the East Coast. One of those will be my Pocono Pit. I’ll miss being greeted by name even before I swipe my membership card. I’ll miss Friday mornings when I have the place all to myself. I’m going to miss the ever changing view from the window- the steady stream of vehicles on the busy street as well as pulling through burger joint across the way. I’ll miss seeing the guy in the school bus yellow Mustang convertible who buzzes through the drive-thru every morning. I’m going to miss watching the fat families sitting in their mini-vans stuffing their faces with paper wrapped hunks of fat and cholesterol.

I’m going to miss the Pocono Pony, the local bus service, with their trolley style busses filled with curious, gawking passengers. I’ll miss the tourists with their kayaks and SUV’s piled high with outdoor gear. Life won’t be the same without the guys working out in their jeans and work boots or the bevy of regulars I’ve come to recognize as kindred spirits. I’ll miss the juvenile joke of the day posted at the check-in counter. I’ll even miss the smell of chicken and potatoes frying at the Cluck U next door.

I hope to return in a few months to the Pocono Pit. It’s been good to me. I haven’t lost any pounds, but I have rearranged a few things. Thanks to the resistance routine I adopted there I can buy my jeans a size smaller than I did last spring.

I’ve worked through dozens of plot problems while climbing virtual hills on the rack and people watching out the small bank of windows. The way the white clapboard houses on the hill behind the burger joint pop against the steel-gray of a brewing summer storm will be with me for a long time.

What I’m going to miss most is the daily drive to the pit. My trek takes me through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, twice. It’s a lovely, winding road that follows the route the river has carved out of the tree covered granite mountains. It’s so lovely it’s easy to forget you’re on an Interstate Highway. If I’m in the mood to see more, there’s always my Plan B route that follows the river for several miles through the dense hardwood forest. It’s a nice way to start each day and reason in itself to go to the pit.