In May, I received the following e-mail from some friends who were doing a driving tour of Israel: “We are thinking about going to the Timna Valley tomorrow to look at the Neolithic copper mines. Totally not sure about it — 100-plus degree heat, potentially getting lost in the desert — but it could be something fun to tell the grandkids about at Thanksgiving dinner over the years.”
I immediately e-mailed back. Go, or don’t go, but not for the grandkids. No idea where this myth started. I guarantee that every time you start to tell the story, one of them will whine, “Not the Neolithic copper mine story again, grandma! We, like, DON’T FRIGGIN’ CARE!”
Olof and I heard this “something to tell your grandchildren” line a lot from American friends we met during our two-year work assignment in Europe a few years ago. Many of them were coaxing us to join them on a post-Christmas excursion to the Arctic Circle to stay in the Ice Hotel in combination with a dogsledding trip. When they came back, stories of misery and injury abounded.
Spending a night in the Ice Hotel is apparently on a famous list of 100 Things You Have to Do Before You Die. I can only wonder: do the other 99 require this much suffering? As its name implies, the Ice Hotel is built yearly entirely out of ice, including the beds. Sleeping on a block of ice in a 23-degree room is apparently just as comfortable as it sounds. Our friends Laurel and Greg reported there were definitely not enough reindeer skins (used for padding) on theirs. Mostly you lie on your block of ice in your claustrophobic full body sleeping bag counting the hours until you can get up and leave. The bathroom and dining facilities, for obvious reasons, are in another building — OUTSIDE of yours, which means leaving the relative warmth of your 23-degree room and traipsing out into the minus-15 below (or colder) temperatures. The price tag for this misery: $500 a night.
Immediately after telling you that it was positively the worst night they ever spent, childbirth was more fun, the next words out of their mouths were invariably, “But you have to go!”
“Um,” we said, “didn’t you just say ...” “Oh, yes,” they continue, “it was absolutely horrible. But you’ll be able to tell your grandchildren.”
As for the dogsledding part of the trip, everyone agreed on one thing: Do the Ice Hotel on the first night, so that you have a warm comfy place for your broken dogsled body to sleep on the second night. On Laurel’s dog sled tour, each person had to drive his or her own four-dog sled team — over very uneven terrain. Laurel said the balance was really tricky: you stood on a board on the back of the dogsled, your soon-paralyzed arms in a death grip on the hand rail in minus-22 degree temperatures. The dogs wanted to go a lot faster than Laurel wanted to go and the tour guide had to finally admonish her to stop riding the brake; it was annoying the dogs. Laurel kept losing her balance on the curves and falling off the sled into the snow. She reported amazing bruises, including one on her rear, which she said was an exact replica of Abraham Lincoln. She hoped to eventually regain full use of her shoulders.
Unlike Laurel, Janice and her husband were the only two passengers on a six-person 12-dog sled driven by a professional dog sled driver. However, from time to time (like every two minutes) the sled would go over some truly treacherous topography and they would barely escape being thrown from the sled.
Eventually, they hit a mogul so deep that Janice was ejected out of the sled and landed head first in a snow bank. Boding ill for her marriage, her husband thought it was the highlight of the trip. If only he had caught this on tape, he said, they would have been a lock for the $10,000 grand prize on “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” If you want my guess for someone who didn’t get any for a long time after, this was the guy. From there, they checked into the Ice Hotel for a night of sleepless frozen pain. Worst night she ever spent, said Janice. But, she insisted, Olof and I just had to go. The tell-your-grandchildren thing again. We were already clear “grandchildren” was a code word for “abject misery.”
Our friends did go to the Neolithic copper mines, didn’t get lost in the desert, and loved every minute of it except for the blistering 110-degree heat. But they’ve decided not to share it with the grandkids. Didn’t sound nearly miserable enough to qualify anyway.
— Look for La Jolla resident Inga’s lighthearted looks at life in La Jolla Light. Reach her at email@example.com