Jeff McAbee: Speaking ‘Summit County’ |

Jeff McAbee: Speaking ‘Summit County’

Jeff McAbee

Recently, a friend of mine called to invite me on a mountain bike ride that I had not been on before.

“Sounds great,” I said. “What’s it like?”


We agreed on a time and place to meet up. I packed accordingly, cleared my schedule for not only the “epic” ride but also for the recovery time I would require afterward.

It started out as most rides around here start; some moderate climbing through beautiful scenery, first in the forest and then eventually leading us into some more open areas above treeline. After about half an hour, we began to descend a perfectly smooth piece of single track. If this trail would not have been in the National Forest, I would have sworn that little gnomes had been out just before we passed to remove every stray stick and pebble. It was awesome, but as quick as you can say “disc brakes” we were back in the parking lot. Total miles – 7. Total time – 45 minutes including one or two “natural breaks.”

Don’t get me wrong, I am so glad she showed me that trail. The ride was scenic, fun, rolling, and at times even sublime – but epic? Based on this description I imagined something huge and massive, grueling and grinding – like a ride that might be featured in one of those mountain bike magazines. I mean, I brought a lunch.

As it turns out I had just become of a victim of what I have come to call the “Summit County Hyperbole.”

hyperbole – n. exaggerated statements or claims not to be taken literally.

Perhaps it is the altitude. After all, we live in an extreme landscape. Snow measured in feet clings to mountain peaks all around us. The place is humbling in its beauty and astonishing in its size.

Coupled with the Summit County hyperbole, I have noticed strong adverb use. For example, I ask a friend if they want to go out and get a cup of coffee.

“Absolutely,” they reply.

I think “Absolutely?” How can you be so sure? What if the creek rises or something?

“Can I get some ketchup?”

“For sure.”

“Want to go skiing?”


I want to blow my whistle sometimes. Breeep. Excessive adverb use – five yard penalty – repeat second down.

“Want to go skiing tomorrow?”


“Great, then I’ll meet you at 8:30 at the gondola lot?”

“Exactly.” Which would be fine except she doesn’t show up until almost 9 because, and this also seems to be a unique part of living here, she is on “Summit County Time” – that state of being in which – because we live in one of the greatest places in the world and because we are to some greater or lesser extent legendary or epic people who have transcended the bonds of linear time – we arrive whenever it pleases us. This is accepted, even expected, among the gods but confounding to mere mortals who expect your shop to open at the time it says on the door.

Our teenagers own the Summit County hyperbole as well as the excessive adverb use and live on Summit County time. What is not clear is whether we are teaching it to them or they are teaching it to us. In the high school the other day, I was asked by one of our students for permission to go to her car to get a bag. I said that it sounded reasonable to me, but I saw no reason for her two friends to accompany her since there was only the one bag and it weighed less than 100 pounds. A day later the student reminded me that I had “yelled” at her. By this, I think she meant I said “no” to her.

There’s a tardy policy (gasp) at Summit High School. Some of the students as well as some of the parents would have us think we have instituted martial law for suggesting their kids be in class on time.


Then there is the way we measure the closeness of a relationship here.

“Yeah, my buddy won a gold medal in the half pipe at the Vancouver Olympics.”

I’m not sure that riding a chair with someone once elevates that relationship to such an intimate term.

Recently, I overheard a conversation taking place. “Yeah, all of my friends back home are going to the World Series game tonight.”

“All of your friends?”

“Well, three, no two. OK. Two.”

For a person with 600 friends on Facebook, the difference is significant.

These are just some observations that I have made during my attempt to adapt to life at 10,000 feet. They might also serve as a warning to unsuspecting visitors who show up here with the nerve to take us literally. That is, if my very good friends here at the Daily decide to print it. Guys, just pay me what you paid me last time. That was epic.

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