“It’s Fine”: Winter Lessons on Cars & Skis

A lone speck of white in a tunnel of darkness, Fiatra sped through the night.  She was my first car, a Fiat 500 coupe, which I’d purchased at 24.  It was love at first sight: a car to match my own personality.  She was cute but feisty, always up for an adventure.  I was tricked into believing she was low-maintenance, but in reality she required constant love and attention.

It was Thanksgiving Break, 2018.  My boyfriend Ethan and I were road tripping Fiatra from Texas to Colorado.  We joked around and argued over podcasts, taking for granted that we were safe from the burgeoning snow storm outside.  Little did we know that Jack Frost watched from just beyond our window, mischievously pressing together his long blue fingers.  Icy spider webs slowly stretched across the windshield, until the view was completely obscured.

“Something’s wrong with the defrost,” I said to Ethan.  He leaned forward and placed his hand over the vent.  The air was ice cold.  

We pulled over and scraped the ice off the windshield, then continued driving.  But with the snow falling around us, the ice built back up in no time and windshield visibility diminished to 0.  We resorted to the only possible solution: bundling up and driving down the highway with our heads out the window.

We arrived in Colorado Springs cold and exhausted, but alive.

The following day we had plans to head up to Arapahoe Basin for a ski trip, and Fiatra was clearly in no shape to venture into the mountains.  My dad offered to let me take his Chevy Volt, promising that it did “real well” on mountain roads. 

As we were leaving, he cheerfully advised, “Be careful with it – I don’t have insurance!”

We stopped at an outdoors store in South Denver to get Ethan some rental equipment.  As I was pulling into the parking lot, I ran over a curb.  The Volt had some nasty blind spots… and as it turns out, it’s also freakishly heavy and rides low to the ground. This is a disastrous combination when it comes to curbs, and in no time at all, we had a flat tire.

We were young and naive, and neither one of us had ever changed a flat.  But I was resourceful, if nothing else. “It’s fine,” I said, and pulled open a YouTube video with instructions.  Step 1: get the spare tire out of the trunk.  

Unfortunately, the Volt does not come with a spare tire, so we had no choice but to call a tow truck.  A few minutes later, a friendly guy rolled up in a big truck and hitched up the Volt.  But as soon as he started pulling the car up the incline, we realized it rode too low to the ground.  It was un-towable. 

The tow truck driver recommended we remove the wheel and take it to the tire shop.  He offered to give us a ride there but said we’d need to catch an Uber back and put the wheel back on the car ourselves.  He showed us how and sold us his toolset for $10 so we’d have what we needed.  He really went above and beyond, for which we repaid him by buying him a 6-pack of beer.  We also bought ourselves one, which we enjoyed while we waited for the tire shop to put a new tire on the wheel.  

Once the wheel was dressed in its beautiful new tire, we transported it back to the ski store where the Volt sat waiting.  Ethan was able to successfully get the wheel back on the car, and we made it the rest of the way to A-Basin without a hitch.

What I’ve neglected to mention up to this point is that this was Ethan’s first time in Colorado.  He’d obviously heard plenty about the wildlife and scenic views… but now he was also getting first-hand experience with the difficulties of life out here!  

He’d never been skiing before, so I put him in ski school for the morning, thinking he’d learn better from the pros than he would from me.  I’m not the best skier in the world, and it had been a couple years since I’d gone.  I went off on my own for a couple hours, leisurely enjoying the empty mid-week slopes.  It was a beautiful sunny day, and there was actually pretty decent natural snow, considering it was November.

A couple hours later, I returned to ski school to pick up Ethan.

“How’d it go?” I asked.  

“We haven’t even made it to the bunny hill,” he responded, irritated.  “There weren’t any other adults taking classes today, so they put me in with the kids class.”  They’d spent the entire two hours shuffling around on flat ground.  

“Oh my gosh,” I replied.  “Just ditch this class and come with me.  I’ll try to teach you.”  

I explained how to get on and off the ski lift.  Of course, Ethan fell while trying to dismount, and the operator had to stop the lift.  Ethan was mad and embarrassed.  

“It’s fine,” I replied.  “That happens to all the beginners.  You just have to try it a few times and you’ll get the hang of it.”

I meant to take him to the bunny hill, but we got on the wrong lift and ended up on a green.  

“I can’t do this one,” he whined.

“Yes you can, it’s fine.  It’s barely harder than the bunny hill.”  I showed him how to pizza and turn, but my explanations were awkward.  I had never taken ski lessons myself, so I wasn’t very good at describing the motions.  When I was a kid, my parents took me out there and said “go”, and I figured it out for myself.  Over the years I’d had various mishaps and injuries, which is how I learned what not to do.  Admittedly, the trial & error strategy works much better for children than for adults with brittle bones.

Ethan fell… many times.  Each time I repeated, “It’s fine.  Just get up and try again.”  

After one fall, he lost his temper.  “Stop saying ‘it’s fine!’” he yelled.  “That’s not helpful!” 

I burst out laughing.  I hadn’t realized how much I’d been repeating the phrase.  Ethan started laughing too, and it became an inside joke – since then we both constantly repeat “It’s fine!” whenever anything goes wrong.

But everything was fine!  By the end of the day, Ethan was skiing almost as well as me. He had loads of fun and avoided any injuries other than minor bruises.  He couldn’t wait to go out again the next day.  

Garden of the Gods, on my last drive with Fiatra

Anyway, back to Fiatra… it was determined that fixing her would cost more than she was worth. At this point she had well over 100,000 miles; which honestly is pretty impressive for a car that cost $16K brand new.  I took her on one last scenic drive to say goodbye… then on Black Friday I tearfully traded her in.  I will never forget that cute little car and all the good times we shared.

That Thanksgiving was a rollercoaster of mishaps and emotions. But in the end, everything was fine.

R.I.P. Fiatra

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