Downhill From Here
The day after your reply card is in the mail, your phone rings. The clarity of the voice on the other end of the line is astounding, though it is obviously a recording. The owner of the masculine voice, butter-smooth, could easily be leaning over you, whispering in your ear. His pace is measured, his tone encouraging:
"Congratulations on accepting your Discovery Outdoor Adventure. I'm Arum Piper. In the days leading up to your trip, I'd like you to take a few moments to take stock of who you are: your wants, your needs, your strengths, your weaknesses. Then envision the person that you want, and need, to be. Shed old handicaps. Gain new advantages. Take the time seriously. Take yourself seriously.
When you have that picture in mind, your new you, you have your Discovery blueprint! That blueprint and a true dedication to your transformation are all you'll need to make your adventure a success. I look forward to meeting with you."
Suddenly, and oddly, disappointingly, the man is gone. Replaced by a woman. More detached. Less intimate. Even the connection seems to drop in clarity.
"Although the blueprint for a new you is the most important thing you can bring on your Adventure, the following items have proved useful for past Discovery Outdoor Adventurers:"
The following list is recited with an occasional odd inflection, as if items were added and removed over time.
"A sleeping bag or three warm blankets.
Flashlight, with batteries
A hat, bandana, or visor
Sunscreen, and any needed medications
Insect repellant, non-aerosol
A mess kit, or plastic utensils, with dunk bag
A warm sweater, sweatshirt or jacket
One complete change of clothes
A raincoat, or poncho
Sturdy shoes, and socks
Toothbrush and toothpaste
Comb or brush
Washcloth, soap, and towel
And of course, you are welcome to bring a few, small personal items.
Please note, no firearms of any kind are allowed on Discovery Outdoor Adventures.
Best of luck on your journey of Discovery!
Then the woman, too, is gone.
* * * * *
At early evening, the driver leaves you at the condominium check-in center without accepting a tip. "It's been taken care of," he says, to your lack of surprise. You surmised as much when you first noticed him at the airport, his placard shouting your name in bold, dark letters. Unfortunately, he didn't know anything about Discovery Outdoor Adventures, and he never heard of an Arum Piper.
He did know a little about Wintergreen, however, and it seems the man gave the place a fair representation.
"Do you golf?" was the man's first question…and indeed, most of the talk that you hear as you stand in line at the reservation counter revolves around the resorts two golf courses: Devil's Knob and Stoney Creek. The former, a challenging mountain peak course where the atmosphere adds lengths to your drives and angle to your hooks. The latter, a well designed and renowned all-around course, rated one of the best resort links in the country.
But that's the talk. From the center of the resort, it's apparent that Wintergreen takes on its true identity in the winter. Cabins and condos dot the scenery between obvious ski trails and lifts. The 'village center' is perched at the top of the mountains, and as you exited your car you noticed one of the lifts was actually in operation, apparently servicing extreme downhill bikers. Most of the resorts resources, including the adventure camp and lodgings, are down-slope from the village center.
The driver didn't include extreme biking in his list of the other "outdoors stuff" he listed on the car ride: hiking, tennis, swimming, canoeing, equestrian, fishing, and an adventure-sport complex of some kind. That sounded a little more like the outdoor adventure you were expecting.
The small-framed high-voiced woman behind the counter takes your name, and raises her eyebrows at her ledger. "Okay then," she says, "You're with Discovery Outdoor Adventures?" At words or sign to the affirmative, she carefully writes those initials into her book and slides a key across the counter: A real key. Metal, not plastic.
"Okay then," she says, again. "Hope you enjoy it." The comment seems perfectly balanced between hope and doubt.
Walking to the condo, you catch of glimpse of what as known as the "Out of Bounds Adventure Park" through the trees, represented by a twenty-five foot tall rock climbing structure. Crossing Guard-Orange and Lime-Green safety helmets bob and totter their way up the 'stone', the bodies supporting them tethered to the wall, floor, and seemingly the sky itself with bungee cords and line supports. It gives the odd appearance of gum balls being drawn up a spider's web. The most challenging thing about the structure, it seems, is to actually find a way to get off of the thing.
The condos themselves are clean, and relatively new, if a bit plain. Wintergreen's main focus as a skiing resort is quite apparent by the fireplace, slope pictures, wood accents, and ski racks; the latter being built right into the closets. You have been given two-bedroom condos for whatever reason, a kitchen, a bath, and a living area. The bed in the master bedroom has the sheets rolled back. On the bed are swimsuits: three for the men, six for the ladies. The women have their choice of bikinis or one-pieces, two a size in three different sizes…while the men all have trunks of the same size...though some fall higher or lower on the leg. All of the suits, both men and women's, are relatively conservative.
A small handwritten note in neat script lies next to the clothing on the bed:
Gregg and I would like to welcome you to Wintergreen, and congratulate you on accepting your Adventure. Your life will never be the same! Please join us at our home at 8:30 pm, for cocktails, a late light supper, and a dip in our hot tub. The swim is mandatory, no excuses! You need to lose that bad stress before we heap on the good. 'You can't transform if your own ash burdens you!' Use any of the suits that fit, if you didn't think to bring along your own.
We're at 3 Greenway Lane, in the Greenway private homes. Maybe 150 yards from the entrance in your condos, if you walk through the woods. Watch the trails, though. Bikers are zooming through here these days. If you need it, there is a trail map under the coffee table in the living area…but it's really a straight hike from your lot.
See you tonight!
Kelsey & Gregg Prince
PS, I almost forgot. DON'T UNPACK more than you'll need for tonight. You'll be off again early tomorrow, and will just need to pack it all up again.
PSS! If you get here early, feel free to use the fitness center/spa, or grab something to eat."
If the ladies try on the suits, they find that the bikini and the one piece in the smallest size fit, while the others are too large. All of the suits arrayed for the men fit perfectly.
By the time you've settled in, it is nearing 7:15 pm…just over an hour before you are scheduled to meet with the Princes. Not too much time to get much done, but maybe enough time to relax…
For a while, anyway.
At around 8:00 pm a pained-screaming from outside breaks the quiet. Those of you poking your heads out of windows or stepping out of doors see a teen being walk-dragged by two similarly attired others out of the bushes. The kid's biker clothing is torn, and he's clutching what appears to be a horribly broken left arm to his chest.
"Mother @!#$-EEEEEEEERRRRRRR." The kid screams. "Mother @!#$-EEEEEEERRRRRRR!" The last swear syllable receives both an accent and a raise in pitch, so it sounds more like an entreaty than an epithet.
An ambulance arrives to meet the kids in the parking lot, and the boy is swiftly carried off while his companions hop into a car and follow behind. The condos then, are once again quiet, except for the small group of people who stepped out of their condos to observe the events.
Who may or may not be you.
Your Adventure begins.