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Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder

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    Jan. 26 | Well ... that was good ...

    Posted in

    Okay, so after a brief absence from cyberspace, I am back.

    What's that you ask? Why haven't I been supplying you with your regular dose of cynical, indiscrimate, irrevent and unapologetic sarcasm for the past two months? How 'bout I just go ahead and summarize?

    Two continents, six countries, 12 flights, eight airports, an obscene amount of airport security screenings, one thorough pat down, seven customs interrogations, $850 of overweight baggage fees, three lost bags (twice), eight hotels, one burnt carpet, a noticeable amount of burnt hair, one destroyed hair straightener, two launched websites, one rebranded real estate company, two speeches, one existential crisis, one dirndl-wearing, refusing-to-go-to-church Christmas with the in-laws, one subsequent existential crisis, two cases of jet lag, 62 training runs, seven Europa Cup races, one call up to compete in my first Intercontinental Cup circuit race, seven extremely challenging days, an ill-advised amount of alcoholic beverages, and one final existential crisis.

    But mostly, I've just been sitting around watching Brett Michael's Rock of Love and the occasional episode of Tool Academy ...

    On commercial breaks, however, I did manage to accumulate eight trophies, three medals, one second-place overall Europa Cup title, a 31st-place world ranking and a fifth-place Intercontinental Cup debut.

    So, could we maybe call it even?

    Nov. 30 | Ummmm. BEST. IDEA. EVER.

    Posted in

    So, when you saunter into the skeleton world as a newbie you start hearing stories from faraway lands. Stories about the kreisel in Altenberg, where you will probably die on your first run down. Stories about the roman baths where everyone swims naked. Stories about the everflowing fountains of chocolate milk at the Lake Placid training centre. Stories about the outlet mall in Park City. Stories about the schnitzel stands at the bottom of the track in Winterberg and reminders to tuck money into your speedsuit so that you can buy a bratwurst and glüwein after your runs.

    But beyond the horrors of Altenberg kreisel, or of general European public nudity, there is one story that everyone has vaguely heard, but which just seems too good to be true.

    The McDisco.

    Rumours have it that in Königssee, Germany, there is a bar with a McDonald's on top of it. Or a McDonald's with a bar in the basement. Either is a perfectly pleasing scenario.

    After the conclusion of our races on the weekend, we headed out that evening in search of the fabled McDisco.

    And as we drove through the empty streets of Schönau am Königssee, up ahead, through the fog and darkness, we saw it.

    The Golden Arches, glowing in the night, its drive-thru driveway wrapped in perfect symmetry around a stairwell descending into the storied Disco Kaserbar, aka the McDisco.

    mcdisco

    Just to get some of the math out of the way, one glow-in-the-dark gin and tonic + several enthusiastic russian sliders + corresponding amounts of vodka + one junior bacon cheeseburger = all sorts of awesome.

    gnt

    Dear Germany. I'm sorry I made fun of you for being obsessive compulsively efficient and practical. Because, on top of being ridiculously pragmatic, this is officially the Best. Idea. Ever.

    Nov. 29 | Two for two

    Posted in

    We had our first set of circuit races here in Königssee this weekend, and the result was ... well, to be perfectly honest ... it was pretty sweet. I think the brilliance that is my second-place-trophy-slash-candy-dish says it all ...

    top_three

    Actually, I am just stoked that the glare from my trophy is blurring my face and partially concealing the fact that my German competition is, oh I don't know, HALF MY AGE. No. Seriously. When I was busy wearing flannel shirts and ripped jeans to grade 11 math class, these girls were busy BEING BORN. They might as well just hammer a lid on my sled, call it a coffin and when I come up the outrun just shoot me into my grave.

    My McPartner in Crime, Micaela (get it? MIChelle ... and MICaela ... MicPartner ... McPartner ... get it?!?) made her Europa Cup debut with a very respectable sixth place finish ...

    mcmedals

    On day two, race two, riding on a beer bet with Sophia Griebel, who beat me out on the first day (GRRRRRIEBEL!) I managed to move up a spot after run one, but wasn't able to pull ahead of her (GRRRRRIEBEL!) and finished in second place again. But really ... who has space in their luggage for all those giant first-place trophies anyways ... ?

    second

    On the upside, I wasn't forced to fulfill the team agreement of "Win to swim" which would have required me to jump into the freezing cold lake at the bottom of the track. Although, if truth be told, there is a slight possibility that I may have raced wearing my bathing suit underneath my speedsuit ...

    In summary and in conclusion ... I think the German scenary looks MUCH better now ...

    flags

    And yes, in case you were wondering, I did fill both of my trophy-slash-candy-dishes up with an assortment of gummy bears and chocolates. Duh.

    Nov. 23 | Ummm ... are we missing something here?

    Posted in

    After a nine-hour flight and two-hour drive, we arrived in Königssee, Germany today for the first stop on the Europa Cup circuit. While I do have in my collection a 6th-place trophy on this track from last season, this is actually my first time here, since the stop last year was cancelled because of some complications on the World Cup tour.

    This afternoon we headed over to the track to get a peak at our competition venue and at first glance, there seems to be something missing.

    Like, oh, I don't know ... maybe A SHORT WALL TO KEEP YOU IN THE TRACK?!?

    no wall

    Let me tell you, there is something slightly disconcerting about the idea that there is nothing but common sense seperating me (traveling at 60 or 70 clicks) from the general public.

    Here's to hoping that Germans have sounder judgment than North Americans ...

    Nov. 21 | On the road again ... and why don't we go ahead and talk about something here: Baggage.

    Alright. So. After what has shaped up to be an interesting and unpredictable pre-season, along with a week of fastidious packing, I am ready to leave for Germany this week for my second tour on the Europa Cup circuit.

    shaw

    Now there are many things that, to put it subtly, make me FREAKIN' CRAZY (among them cell phone companies, shoe laces and people in general ... ), but there is one skeleton-related item that hovers up near the top of that list, and that item is traveling with skeleton equipment.

    First of all, space is somewhat limited. My sled takes up one piece of checked luggage. Which means I have one other piece of luggage to fit runners, tools, helmet, race suits, spikes, boots, snowpants, jackets, sneakers and any other personal gear I may want, like say a few pairs of underwear.

    But the kicker for us is really the weight. My sled alone weighs 30 kilograms, which is already 16 pounds past the 50 pound weight limit. Then there are my runners, which weigh four kilograms a set, and I normally travel with three pairs. Add in the critical gear of training spikes, race spikes, two suits and the prerequisite tools and trinkets and I am generally left standing at the check-in counter with two extremely overweight bags, facing one extremely unaccomodating checkin agent.

    And THAT's what makes me crazy. It's not that I can only bring four t-shirts and a single pair of jeans for the next month. It's not that I have to buy shampoo over there to save on weight. It's not that I have to decide on one pair of shoes to bring. It's not that I have to carry on virtually all of my personal gear, making me the person you DON'T want to be stuck behind in the security line (because my 100 ml travel toiletry bottles? They are NOT in a handily accesible clear plastic bag).

    It's the hassling.

    "Ms. Bartleman, your bag seems to be overweight."

    Yeah. You think?

    "Well, can you maybe move some stuff around in your luggage to make it fit within in the weight limit?"

    Yeah. Sure. Do you have a metal cutter behind your little counter there, so that I can hack my sled in two and put a piece in my other ALREADY OVERWEIGHT bag?

    "This second piece of luggage is also overweight."

    Yes. I am aware of this fact. ARE YOU RETARDED? Which part of "I have two overweight bags" didn't you understand when I walked up to the counter and said "I have two overweight bags" ... ? Listen lady, I have to drag this stupid piece of metal up a 20 degree inclined outrun covered in snow, wearing snow-filled spikes and spandex in minus 30 degree weather. I KNOW IT'S HEAVY, OKAY?

    Listen, it's not like I am trying to pass off an 80-pound, table-sized piece of luggage as two ping-pong paddles or a box of packing peanuts. That part where I said "Hey, "I have two overweight bags" ... ? That was me indicating, in good faith, that I KNOW THAT I HAVE TWO OVERWEIGHT BAGS, and that I am planning to pay the appropriate fees to accomodate that fact.

    So, are the disdaining looks and snarky comments REALLY necessary? Do you REALLY think that I packed my bags wondering where I could find some extra pieces of scrap metal to stash in my luggage for the sole purpose of pissing off the checkin agent? Do you think that I love paying hundreds of dollars in overweight baggage charges? Listen lady, if I could do my sport in nothing more than a speedo, I would. But both propriety and sheer common sense prevent me from doing so.

    So, in the name of all that is good and helpful, will you please, PLEASE, just look at your little chart, charge me the overweight baggage fees, print out the "HEAVY" tags so that we are ALL aware of the general nature of my luggage, hand me my boarding pass, smile nicely, and let me be on my way?

    Anyone want to hear what I think about cell phone rates?

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    Track Record

    Total number of runs: 608

    Altenberg, Germany: 12
    Calgary, AB: 314
    Cesana, Italy: 8
    Igls, Austria: 30
    Lake Placid, NY: 29
    Park City, UT: 40
    St. Moritz, Switzerland: 6
    Whistler, BC: 157
    Winterberg, Germany: 12

    Top speed: 136.50 kph

    Log book

    295.5 hours total flight time

    21.2 hours flight instructing time

    Contact ...

    Email me at michelle [at] milomac.com.

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