Saturday at Monmouth

he said she said……rumbles along the black ice jungle telegraph….she being Karen, he being Lee….and before long a picture of glorious black ice appeared on this site….and it was a forgone conclusion that many ice hounds, hungry from lean weeks of gnashing teeth over misses and maybes, would head for Lake Conchnewagon in downtown Monmouth.

I myself was held up by a deep and lifelong comittment to procrastination: the very best time, the natural organic time, to check out the snowblower, or put snow tires on the car, is the minimum possible number of hours before the first blizzard….alas, my mate doesn’t share this commitment. She’s committed to Christmas Craft Fairs, so, following orders, I slaved away in the driveway and only managed to appear in Monmouth at 11AM, proud to have snow tires on the two right wheels….

Enroute, I was dismayed that every body of water was blanketed with snow. Could it have snowed since that picture was taken? And seeing the lake for the first time was also disappointing: a few shiny black patches of ice in the offing, while snow predominated at the launch area.

But many of the die-hards were there: Lloyd, setting up his new ‘cheapskate’; Bill, setting up his Wizz for the first time this season; Dave Fortier and Jim Gagnon in DN’s; Karen and Lee on skates, with their Gambit set up nearby; “Wolfie” on skates, who was away last year; and our frequent nordic skater buddy, Marty. I put on skates and headed for the first black ice patch; then proceeded South following leads of grey snow ice…..until…..until…there it was: a 1.2 X 0.3 mile plate of perfect black ice.

Each season, one has to experience this miracle anew. The panic of skating off the cliff of white ice, into the miraculous, supspended-in-space, panic of a clear, shiny, green-black mirror of the sun and sky. Surely, this cannot be safe! And yet the occasional subsurface cracks, 3″ or so thick, keep reminding you that it’s safe to keep going.

Alas, in the great roulette game, wind was largely missing. There were little glides here and there, but the day’s glory was just being on the ice itself.

Lloyd was able to set up Cheapskate, a boat which uses a sunfish sail, can be made at home, and may make our sport more affordable.

Bill assembled the gang:

(cheapskate, Dave Fortier’s beauty, Northern Light, and Jim Gagnon’s just purchased DN)

Although the lack of wind punished the sailors, it favored the skaters; with a day which will be long remembered. Skating the circle of the black ice plate was perhaps 2 miles, and each lap seem to call for a sequel. You followed the black ice-white ice junction, finding that sustainable pace, bringing those summer-atrophied muscles back into harness, and watching the sun’s path move across endless varieties of ice. Finally, after almost three hours of skating, stoned with happy fatigue, it was time to socialize as we decommissioned, and head for home.

Three mighty cheers for Karen and Lee for making this amazing day possible. And thanks to the rest of us for keeping faith, and giving us all the safety, the community, as we risk early-season ice.

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