Collingwood Madness (Part 2)

In case you missed Part 1, here it is!

Having completed our snowshoe races, it was time for the main event, as far as spending time together as a family is concerned.  Cross-country skiing!  We’d eaten our lunch in the chalet, and we were hoping our legs (that is, Shark Boy and I’s legs) were well rested.  As I mentioned in the race recap, trails at Scenic Caves start with a climb, so it can be tough going.  The nice part was that they had regroomed the parts of the ski trails that had been traversed by snowshoe racers, so we had a nice track to follow.

We started by following the ‘Easy Peasy’ 2km trail, which links up to the more extensive trail network where you can add mileage as you see fit.  On some ski outings, the Lightning Kid has been a little fussy in the Chariot; he seems to want his mom around which doesn’t work well since I tend to speed ahead while she helps coach Shark Boy on his own skis.  This time, it seemed I was in luck - the race meant getting a late start on skis, so that he was in the Chariot around his midday nap and quickly fell asleep.   Somehow, the camera on my phone wasn’t working and I couldn’t get any pictures, but this blog already has plenty of family cross-country ski photos.   I had made up my mind to tack at least an extra 1.1km on by myself, but I waited by the crucial fork for my wife and Shark Boy to arrive to make sure that they took the right branch to complete Easy Peasy and get back to the chalet.  While there, I had to engage in the usual banter with passers-by who always ask if they can hitch a ride on the Chariot too.  I think the conversation got too loud, or it’s possible that the Lightning Kid’s damp socks were a problem in the cold, but he woke up and started crying, so I took Easy Peasy back as quickly as I could.  I would have liked more mileage that day, but what can you do? He did settle down once I got him inside.

Apparently Shark Boy really struggled to finish the trail with legs that must have been tired from the snowshoe race.  We packed it in, and headed to the Day’s Inn where my wife had booked the last available room earlier in the week.  It has a pool, but we were sorely tempted to check out a water park found in Blue Mountain Village that we’d heard good things about.  It’s called Plunge! and we gave into temptation and took it.  We were a little worried because it seems like the Lightning Kid gets sick every time he goes swimming.  I hoped that he’d spend more time with the splash pads than immersed in deeper water and that it might make the difference.

The boys chilling before we went to the Aquatic Centre

We arrived a little after 4PM, and it turns out that’s a popular time to arrive since families that have since left the ski hills at Blue Mountain are looking for their next activity.  The pool was filled to capacity, but they were expecting some exits soon.  The cashier explained the situation to everyone standing in line and pointed to the expected cutoff, where the wait would be conceivably much longer.  That cutoff point was right behind me. This was to be one of many examples of what some might call a guardian angel looking over us, or having horseshoes where the sun don’t shine, whatever your preference.

Once we were in, I found myself a little disappointed by the size of it, which I had assumed would be much bigger.  Still there was a swimming pool with some splash features and toys like pool noodles, mats, life jackets in addition to a splash pad with a small water slide and some fountains which were loved by the Lightning Kid.  Shark Boy and I went through the pool doorway to the outdoor pools which had additional (and larger) water slides; I didn’t want him getting out of the water in below freezing temperatures, so we headed back inside.  We let them have fun till nearly 5:30 and then decided to get out, change and head to dinner.

Through the Days’ Inn we got a 10% discount at Boston Pizza, and that restaurant was on a short list of places we’d try with the kids; it has a good selection of food (and beer), and is quite kid friendly.  I considered ordering a chicken pecan salad, to try and stay on track nutritionally, but I was simply too hungry so I ended up with a huge bowl of Butter Chicken Linguine (I substituted in their whole wheat linguine for the regular fettuccine at least).  The real highlight of the dinner, though, was seeing a young man named Kevin as part of the staff.  Kevin (like the Lightning Kid) happens to have Down syndrome, and according to his co-workers, is a great, friendly, professional and welcome recent addition to their team.  Apparently this isn't uncommon at Boston Pizza locations...if we liked Boston Pizza before, that sealed the deal for us!

With a King size bed and a pull-out couch, and two boys who roll all around their beds at night, we opted to put the Lightning Kid on couch cushions on the floor, while my wife slept next to him on the pull-out couch.  Shark Boy and I shared the King size bed where I could plug in my CPAP machine.  Around midnight, the Lightning Kid woke up with very wheezy breathing.  Having dealt with bronchiolitis and pneumonia in the past, we opted to take him to the hospital to get his oxygen levels checked (N.B. I deal with plenty of armchair diagnosis in real life and on Facebook, so I don’t want to get into those kinds of discussions in this space).  I stayed at the hotel with Shark Boy, though of course I couldn't sleep (though I did whine about it on Facebook).  We must have found more horseshoes, since the problems were limited to his upper respiratory tract; the doctor figured it might be from dust in the room - I blame the couch cushions.  I switched to the pull-out (no more CPAP) and my wife had to share the King size with both boys - resulting in sleeping perched on the edge of the bed.  Still, it did improve the Lightning Kid’s breathing and he was well enough to ski the next day.

We had a delicious breakfast at the Westside Diner, and returned to the hotel to pack up and check out.  Then it was over to Blue Mountain to try and get the kids to find their ski legs.  I generally find Blue Mountain over-priced and over-crowded, but I have to say, guest services hooked us up with the minimum price of tickets we needed to get the kids on the magic carpet (and down the bunny hill).  A beginner ticket for me, a free pedestrian ticket for my wife (she didn't put on equipment, just stayed on foot for coaching), and free kids tickets.  Shark Boy seemed to remember enough from last year to ride the magic carpet up without a problem, and he needed very little intervention after the first couple of runs where he fell a few times.  The Lightning Kid was eager to ride up, but a little fussy about riding down.  A few times we got him to take a few steps independently, and I tried holding him between my knees with a ski pole acting as a kind of safety bar.  Frankly, it was a bit of a struggle for me - he’s so small I found it awkward to bend down enough.  I did get a couple of short bursts where he’d sort of stride and flap his feet like a walk or strut as we slid down the bunny hill.  The problem was when he’d cross his skis I’d have to lift him up in the air long enough to uncross them.  One time I pulled up on my ski pole and ended up giving him a fat lip.  He screamed and cried, but somehow I talked him into one more run (if only for the chance to go up the magic carpet again).  This time we both managed to get good bent knees with low centres of gravity and we zoomed down the hill... to the squeals of delight of my wife.  Being able to ski as a family seemed doubtful when we first got his diagnosis, even though we’d skied with kids with special needs when we used to volunteer with the Ontario Track 3 Ski Program.

It was only few runs, but we called it a victory before my wife took him inside to warm up.  Shark Boy and I continued a few runs where I gave him a turning exercise by planting a ski pole in front of him (ambush!).  I find I’m never dressed warm enough for the outdoors when I’m with the kids; it’s a slower activity than I plan for so I get cold.  We did 3 more runs and re-joined the rest of our family for lunch.

After lunch it was time to head home.  Shark Boy wanted to know what else was on tap for the day!  I guess, it’s just never enough.  Or rather, it is, because the cranky attitude was reflective of the fatigue.  He fell asleep in about 2 minutes of driving, which meant he missed another example of our horseshoe angels’ help.  I must not have tightened the ski rack enough before leaving, and it opened on the country road heading from the ski hill into Collingwood proper.  My wife and I’s cross-country skis and poles flew off the car and landed on the road behind us! The downhill skis were heavier and stayed put.  What could have been a disaster ended up being a shining example of how generous people can be.  Cars behind us stopped (without running our equipment over) and even helped me get everything off the road so we could all get moving again as quickly as possible.  The skis didn't take any significant damage (a few nicks and scuffs), and I tightened and locked the rack as best as I could.

The snow continued to fall, as it had all day, so I was extremely nervous about the drive home.  Luckily, although it was slow going, visibility was good enough and everyone seemed to be driving sensibly, so we got home safe and sound, had dinner as a family, put the kids to bed, and unpacked.  By the time we crawled into bed, my wife and I could do nothing but smile at each other, both awed by all the craziness we’d experienced in 48 hours, and proud of our accomplishments.

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