If you ask an eleven year old what the “tweens” are, they will broodingly tell you it is the transition time from being a snot nosed kid to being a proper teenager.
If you ask a redneck what a “taint” is, he will likely put his Bud Light Clamato down long enough to joyfully explain the anatomy of it.
If you ask a football player what a shoulder season is, he will tell you it’s the time you have immediately before your throwing arm goes out and you have to start selling used cars in Albuquerque.
Now, I will tell you the REAL definition of these three words/phrases.
Tweens: modern English – slang. The time between mountain biking season and ski season.
Taint: traditional red-neck – slang. “Taint mountain biking season and ‘taint yet ski season… it’s the wet spot in b’tween”
Shoulder season: proper outdoor speak. Late fall, when there’s snow in the mountains, but the ski areas aren’t open yet and you paid so much for your backcountry skis that you’re not going to go out and trash them on hidden rocks.
In my house it’s easy to tell that the tweens have struck. Usually, the time of the taint is marked by me standing in front of the window trying to force snow out of the clouds with my Jedi mind tricks, or I’m in the garage stroking my skis while whispering, “my preeeecious…”
This weekend I walked around the house in my bike shorts with my ski helmet on, while my kids looked at me with a mix of pity and disappointment. Then, my phone rang and my buddy, Geoff, told me the bike trails weren’t too muddy and we should get one last ride in. I accepted this lie, and ran outside to load my bike in the car.
The trail we picked was in Sage Hills near Wenatchee, WA. It was cold. Dark rain clouds were rolling in. I hadn’t had lunch. We were looking at an hour of hard, steep climbing and my toes were already frozen.
In other words… awesome on a stick.
The ride was fantastic (if you don’t put much stock in numb toes, cold fingers, burning lungs, tired legs, dirt in my eye, soaking wet clothes, and getting snowed and rained on). After the snow started, the trail got a little sloppy and the traction was either fun or scary depending on your point of view. The final descent was bliss with a cherry on top. Neither of us left the bike unintentionally and we both made it to the car with big smiles. It’s hard to beat that on a shoulder season weekend.
On the drive back, Geoff and I faced the fact that we had indeed ridden the last ride of the season; and rode it well, I should add. I hosed off the bike and hung it lovingly in the garage with a little tear forming in my eye (the one with dirt in it). Now the real waiting can begin.
Next weekend the trails will probably be too soft or iced over, and only the guys who like skiing on rocks will be up in the mountains. I’ll just stay here and have a cup of tea with my ski boots on, and try to invent a new sport for the shoulder season. Maybe something involving Yard Darts. I’ve always liked Yard Darts.
Ed: The above lawn dart photo was lifted, by the editor, from THIS blog, where you can go and view it in its natural state, along with some photos of scooters and cool things. It’s a lovely photo, don’t you think?