Hey, even Mother Nature sweats occasionally
Seeing how Jim quickly stepped backward after I hugged him, I guess I probably did smell bad. Synthetic bike clothes, bad coffee and the steep Juniata trail were all to blame. Oh well. I’m not the huggy type either; I pedaled away a little embarrassed.
For the most part I think I smell pretty good. I take a hot shower every day. I launder my bike clothes after one good sweat session ” although my gloves, which I rarely wash, do get a bit rank by September.
I always pay close attention to the armpits ” even before I head out for a ride I’ll let the soap sit under there for a few minutes, before applying my fancy Wild Yam deodorant. (It smells a lot better than it sounds.)
Women are not supposed to smell. And today’s women are faced with even greater beauty pressure: sunspots should be bleached, wrinkles botoxed, spider veins lasered, eyebrows shaped and colored, and, other than the hair on your head, wax it all off.
Thank God I am going on vacation. For the next month, my husband Jeffrey and I will be traveling in our little pop-up camper, following the fall colors of southern Colorado and then backtracking to the Dakotas where we hear the mountain biking is awesome.
We have one tiny mirror. No shower, no toilet, and a sink that always clogs. Our daily cleaning regime consists of a cooking pot of hot water and a packet of wet wipes. Washing my hair is a pain, but that’s where bandannas and hats come in handy.
Plus, we mountain women have always felt that once in a while, letting your hair get really greasy is good for the scalp. We could always hit the occasional KOA campground which charges $5 for a shower.
Since we travel during the colder months (May and October), we don’t feel nearly as dirty as we would in warmer weather. And because we know we are roughing it, we tend to go overboard focusing on our hygiene. Jeffrey insists on bringing a dozen or so washclothes, even though at home he uses the same dingy towel for months.
I wash my face more when I’m camping, mostly because I have time and it feels so good. You’d be surprised how one quart of hot water is perfectly adequate for a head-to-toe scrub, compared to the gallons you go through languishing in the shower.
In 1983, when I was 18, I signed up for a trip with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), backpacking for a month in the Wind Rivers of Wyoming. Back then NOLS’ philosophy was to teach us how to survive in the mountains, with as little as possible.
We had only one change of clothes. We had no toilet paper, certainly no wet wipes, and a small container of the harsh Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap. We were instructed that instead of toilet paper, to use pine cones, leaves or if possible ” and by far the best ” snow.
We were young and I don’t remember any of the instructors emphasizing the importance of hygiene, which was unfortunate because after a couple of weeks our collective stench was scaring wildlife, and the women were a lot worse than the men.
I don’t know if today NOLS allows toilet paper, but hopefully they do a better job at enforcing cleanliness.
I’ve learned a lot since then. It does take a little effort to light the stove and heat up the water, but what else is there to do?
A month of car camping simplifies things. It is just Jeffrey and I riding bikes in the woods, taking the dog for a walk, and reading books until we fall asleep. No movies, no friends, no phone.
Twenty years of biking and skiing under Colorado’s dangerous blue sky days has left me with a face filled with freckles, and the wrinkles are coming. The thought of lasering, waxing, botoxing or bleaching all sounds exhausting to me, although I can’t say I would never consider any of them.
For now, I will promise to keep using my deodorant and throw those nasty bike gloves in the next wash load. Just forgive me for taking a break this winter from shaving my thighs ” added insulation under the ski pants is pretty darn important.
Ellen Hollinshead lives in Breckenridge and writes a biweekly column on the outdoors. She will be on vacation until the first week of November.
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