Thursday, December 15, 2005

It's Christmas to me

Well, I tore into the Christmas care package my parents sent me today. For the record, I let it sit almost 18 hours before I finally thought to myself - I'm 26 years old and I'm spending the holidays 3,000 miles from home. I'll open my Christmas gift whenever I want.

On top of a generous helping of calorie and nostalgia-laden peanut butter balls was a pair of CZIP Gloves. They were a cool surprise because they actually are so perfect for my two favorite winter sports - ice biking and snowboarding. Plus, they are unforgettably linked to my long past of physical limitations and subsequent accomplishments.

See, the gloves were designed, patented and are now being marketed by my playground nemesis, Eric Vaughn. I went to kindergarten with this guy, as well as every grade thereafter. And before my childhood experiences faded into the gloss and glamour of memory, he held a special, cold place in my heart.

I was always the kid who was bad at sports - threw the baseball in the dirt five feet in front of me; couldn't launch a kickball to save my life. He used to tease me for it. That's all, really, but these things tend to stick to impressionable minds. I once owned a notebook with at least five pages full of the repeated sentence: "I hate Eric Vaughn."

Eric, of course, grew up to be a athletic, charming, good-looking guy. I didn't play sports in high school, but I started long-distance hiking. I took up snowboarding. I never played kickball again, and I got over it.

In October 2004, my dad and I were planning a trek across the Grand Canyon. We latched on to the annual excursion of the Vaughn clan, including - (cue obvious plot twist) - Eric Vaughn. Hiking the Grand Canyon from rim to rim isn't exactly a Sunday stroll. It's about 26 miles long, with an elevation drop (and subsequent gain) of 6,000 feet. October temperatures at the rim can hover just above freezing. Temperatures can also climb to 100 degrees at the river - during the same day. It's a tough hike. Some might say a physical accomplishment. And there I was, 24 years old and and hiking with the kid who teased me for planting baseballs when I was 6. So, needless to say, I was feeling pretty competitive. I decided that day, no matter what, I was finishing that hike. I wasn't going to let any donkey drag me out of there - not unless I was fully and irrevocably unconscious.

And I think I did pretty well, all said and done. With a relaxed pace, we finished in about 11 hours, including breaks and time spent waiting for people who had to drag a little more. I felt energized when it was done. And, with Eric pulling just ahead of me - a little bit redeemed.

Now he's a big-time outdoor merchandising entrepreneur. And, I gotta say, he designed a really good pair of gloves. The upper glove is attached to a zipper so you can free your fingers without removing the glove - perfect for quick flat tire changes or stuffing down a Powerbar. With a thin pair of neoprene liners, they may be perfect for the Susitna 100 - if for nothing else, to remind me that I gotta keep plugging away. Lest I want to go back to being that picked-on kid, staring at a baseball in the dirt and wondering if it will ever go any further.


  1. It's a shame that our ball-crazy society focuses kids on "conventional" talents — throwing a ball accurately, kicking a ball hard, running faster than our peers — while the greatest talents of the majority of kids go unnoticed.

    Too many people feel like clutzes until they grow up and try new things. All of a sudden, they realize the body that wasn't suited for football or baseball is exceptional at long-distance skiing, climbing a rock face, pedaling up a mountain, or swinging a golf club or tennis racket.

    You'll have the last laugh when you go to a high-school reunion and your old classmates (most of whom will have gained a couple of dozen pounds or more) seem amazed at what you do for kicks.

  2. Jill - I apologize for my son - I didn't know he was so relentless with his teasing! You've proven yourself many times over with your athletic ability AND you are an amazing writer!! Thanks for the glove plug! By the way - we do have liners! Eric's web site is which will link you to his e-mail for more info.
    Good Luck! Debbie Vaughn

  3. What a break Jill -

    Eric's mommy just apologized for him in front of God and everyone.

    Now YOU can tease HIM relentlessly!

    Woo hoo!

  4. I'm amazed by how common that story is among cyclists. It seems that there were an awful lot of future endurance athletes hidden among those "unathletic" kids that were always picked last in gym class. I was one of 'em for sure. I liked softball because I could always volunteer for deep right and everyone would be relieved, and then I could wander around looking for four-leaf clovers and the ball would never come my way. And yes, T, I am very much looking forward to my class reunion.

  5. I was going to try to be nice and not visit his site to look at the gloves fro my boyfriend, who bikes to work in Fairbanks winters. Then I thought, "If she put a link, she must want me to go."

    Alas, I don't have Flash, so I can't see the site.

  6. Wow, you really are a great writer! And that was a fun hike down at the Grand Canyon. I must confess that Jill was unfortunately a recipient of bad treatment when I was in elementary school. When I reflect back to that my head lowers in shame. In fact, once I went on to middle school, I had a change in my life. I finally saw how being a jerk was hurting other people. From that time on, I have been very sensitive to other's feelings and have always felt bad about anyone I had mistreated. I don't specifically remember making fun of a baseball not being thrown far enough, but I am sure that it happened. And for that, and everything else I did to the girl who lived just down the street, I am sorry... and my mom is sorry, as she has already commented =D. They didn't raise me that way, so I am glad I made that change back in middle school.

    Seeing Jill down at the Grand Canyon, I already knew she had been going on extremely long bike rides, hiking across the world and the other outdoor adventures I would hear about through my parents or hers. Jill and I obviously share a love for the outdoors, hiking, SNOWBOARDING, running, jumping, playing... I am still a kid. I am super happy for you, Jill, and hope you can forgive me for being the jerk that I was.

  7. Wow ... I sort of forget what a public forum a blog can be and I didn't realize it would get back to the Vaughns. :-) I, of course, have long since forgiven Eric. We were 6 years old for crying out loud. And he is a really nice guy these days. His whole family is a blast to spend time with, and we've had a lot of fun on our past two Grand Canyon trips. I wanted to say that if you're interested in those gloves but can't open the Web site (as I can't at work, with my iMac), you can e-mail me directly at, and I will refer you to Vaughn Outdoor so they can send you some more information.

  8. Thanks for the wonderful story, and I love the followups from the parties involved!!!

    I lacked coordination (and still do), though I lettered in track and cross country in high school and had a college cross country scholarship. I hiked the Grand Canyon during Spring Break in 1986.


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