Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Arizona Mule Sweat

Son Number One and I are in Arizona, getting ready to ride mules down a skinny little trail on the wall of the Grand Canyon. It was only 99 degrees a few days ago when we arrived, but that “nice weather,” as the Phoenix meteorologist called it, is over. Now it’s about 200 degrees in the shade. I’m not 100% sure why people live in Arizona. Or how. Everything here is designed to kill you. The weather, the plants, the hot sauce at that burrito place. Everything.

The heat wave may be a good thing, though, because I think I need to sweat off about ten pounds in the next four days. The mule ride company has a very strict policy of no rider over 200 pounds, which unfortunately conflicted with my very strict policy of drinking beer and eating bratwurst when summer starts. Or winter. Any season, really. When it comes to me on a mule, I’m afraid the trail is the only skinny thing in the equation.

I arrived at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport a little over the weight limit, I’m sure. Actually, I’m not really sure, because I have no way of weighing myself accurately. The only scale that matters regarding how much I weigh is the one at the mule ride company’s headquarters on the south rim of the Grand Canyon. I won’t be near that scale until the night before we’re supposed to ride.

I have no idea if they have one of those good doctor’s office/gym scales with the sliding weights, or if they have a bathroom scale like I do. Bathroom scales are crap. No two home scales will give you the same number when you weigh yourself. Our scale at home is three pounds light, I think. I’m basing that on some really scientific comparison weighing of myself in other people’s bathrooms, and then trying to do math based on if I peed before getting home, how much water I may have drank on the car ride home, and whether or not I was holding a beer when I weighed myself.

But can I trust that I’m really three pounds heavier than what my scale is telling me? No. Because I step on it and get a number. I step off, step back on, get a different number. I try a third time and get the first number again. How much do I really weigh? I have no idea.

What if the mule company has a crappy scale like mine? What if theirs is three pounds heavy? I’m going to weigh in six pounds heavier than at home, and I’m quite sure they won’t just accept my argument that “my scale at home says everything is OK, so let’s mount up.”

I thought about mailing something to them so they could weigh it and I could compare the numbers, but it really needed to be something close to 200 pounds to be accurate, and that postage would have cost me as much as the mule ride itself. When I called them to ask if they would go weigh themselves in someone else’s bathroom, they hung up on me.

And what time of day this weighing takes place is a huge factor. In the morning, wearing my boxer shorts, I’m much lighter than I am at three in the afternoon with all my clothes on. None of this would really be a problem if I wasn’t going to be so close to the limit, but like I said, beer and bratwurst. Policies are policies.

I always figured that I would give it my best shot to lose the weight and be mule-approved, but then if the beer and brats won the battle, I could always walk down behind the mule train. Besides the obvious dust and mule-pie landmine considerations, it shouldn’t be all that bad, since the mules aren’t going to go any faster than a crawl anyway. (Please, God!)

But I’m a lot more worried about my backup plan after talking with a mule expert the other day. We had a fun day trip out to a family friend’s farm, and one of the horse and mule owners was excited to hear about our trip, because she’d just read a book about all the different ways people have died at the Grand Canyon.

Oh, great! said my wife’s grimace.

“No, no, no, they’re going to be fine,” she backpedaled.

She assured us that we were going to be totally safe, because hundreds and hundreds of hikers have expired over the years, but no one has ever died on a mule.

Well, that’s just fantastic news! I’m safe if I’m on a mule, but if I’m just another fat-ass, beer and bratwurst-sucking hiker, I’m screwed.

I mean, I sincerely hope I’m not the first guy in history to die on a mule, but if I was, at least I could blame the mule. And I’d be marginally famous for a little while until mule death number two occurred. If I hike down behind the mules, the odds are infinitely higher that I’ll die somehow, and if I do, there’ll be no one to blame but me and Safeway.

So, I’m more determined than ever to make it under the weight limit now, and I have four days left to lose an undetermined amount of weight. I think I’ll go for a nice jog, followed by a nice cold glass of nothing.

If I can keep my shoes from melting.

If I avoid ending up as another Arizona jogging statistic and I can manage to pull it off, I have a feeling I’ll be squeaking it in just under the wire. So, I still might make history.

Clothes are heavy, so I might be the first guy to ever ride a mule down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon wearing only boxer shorts and a gallon of sunscreen.

Or maybe only a half-gallon. That stuff’s pretty heavy, you know.

Stay thirsty, my friends,


Copyright © 2016 Marc Schmatjen

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  1. Ha! Have fun and stay safe please!

  2. As long as none of us get a suicidal mule (which, as I have stated before, would be a great name for a rock band), we should be OK!