To Hell and Back

I went back under the knife again last night for just about the same reason as last time. Only this time there was a lot more blood involved and the doctor didn’t try making any jokes. I was a little disappointed that there weren’t any jokes, but I still got a kick out of the doctor – he doesn’t wear a white coat or have a stethoscope around his neck or anything. He’s just a normal guy wearing a sweater than happens to be taking a knife to my face.  I hope y’all can enjoy the following retelling of my tale.

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It was an eventful evening. The Great Wizard couldn’t meet me at the convenient Minneapolis location like last time. I had to travel all the way out to Maple Grove for this one. Oh, the terror that is Maple Grove! The vast wasteland of strip malls and parking lots. The Hellmouth of banality more worthy of derision than any location except perhaps Woodbury and Eden Prairie. Behind the facade of lifestyle centers and bustling economic activity lays the beast of urban sprawl that knows no death. Only Hell itself can rival the collective fog of misery that hangs over Maple Grove. But, you know…, the people are nice…

I was lucky enough that my wife was available to pick me up from work and drive me to my appointment. After being satisfactorily butter-burgered, Mel dropped me off at the clinic. Neither of us were entirely sure how much of me would be left after the properly-sweatered Wizard finished his tasks. I thought I saw the corners of her mouth turn upwards as she drove off and I began to wonder how much of me she’d actually like to get back at the end of the evening.

The trip home would be much more treacherous… Armed with nothing more than a sextant, a Google Map, and an iPod full of Mormon Stories episodes, I mounted my 1999 GT Palomar, my weather-worn winter bike, and began the treacherous 24 mile trek home.  This was unfamiliar territory, and I was grateful for the balmy 20-something degree weather, a welcome change after a few weeks of temperatures below zero.  I estimated a 30% increase in my chance of survival due to the uncommon heat wave.

Maple Grove has exactly 3 types of streets: Freeways, off limits to cyclists; looping lolly-pop cul-de-sacs that go nowhere except directly to Your Front Door, and 4-lane divided roadways with speed limits of 40 miles-per-hour or greater.  Hell indeed.  Nowhere are there delightful urban corridors, or charming gathering places – and certainly no people.  This was obviously not an environment fit for people.  All other persons I encountered on my journey through hell had surrounded themselves with two-tons of steel, and judging by their driving, all were determined to be on their way as quickly as possible.

The journey through Hell was easier than I had anticipated.  The steel dragons kept their distance, though they growled and screeched incessantly, belching noxious gases into the air.  The wayfinding was easy as the oracles of Google had endowed me with a degree of knowledge that no average traffic engineer could compete with.  While many of the bike paths were well cared for and navigable, many were not, and I quickly resorted to riding in the streets.  The going was tough, but after nearly an hour and a half of riding the abused but familiar Palomar, I finally arrived at familiar territory – the oasis known as Medicine Lake.  Soon enough I would find safety along the well-worn pathway known as the Luce Line Trail – a passageway safe from the steel dragons.

But what’s this?  What is this bastardization that lay before me?  CURSES!  The dastardly public servants of the Kingdom of Three Rivers and the Golden Valley Realm have failed to reach a plowing agreement!  There, like the gruesome remains of a deer carcass long after losing a battle with the steel dragons, was my salvation laying under 2 feet of snow!  I shouted curses towards the devils in vain, and, after wiping the tears from my eyes, and the blood from my throbbing lip, I continued on my journey.

The story ends well enough.  I arrived safely home, a mere 2.5 hours after beginning my journey.  A little saddle sore, and in need of acetaminophen.  After a shower and a hefty bowl of Thin Mint ice cream, I watched the Biggest Loser, a story of other champions fighting demons and navigating mazes of their own.  I then searched for solace in the loving arms of my wife, eager to unite our souls as one.  Alas, the near epic 84-minute length of an episode of The Biggest Loser was too great for her mortal endurance.  She was already asleep.  Perhaps, I thought, I shall find solace tomorrow night.  May the Gods be so kind…

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