Monday is the fall equinox, meaning autumn is officially here, bringing with it some incontrovertible truths. For the next few weeks I will be freezing in the mornings and sweating by lunchtime. Sundays will be spent sitting on the couch watching men it tights running around a field slapping each other on the backside and dancing more than middle-school cheerleaders. And, if you happen to find yourself 3,000 miles away on the right coast, a lot of people driving at an infuriatingly languorous pace.
That's right, once again it's foliage season in New England, which, for a brief period of time, offers adrenaline-starved tourists the chance to make the colorful countryside rolling by the passenger-side window a destination in and of itself.
Of course, the Wood River Valley is no slouch when its chlorophyll, like Alex Rodriguez and his Yankee teammates, decides it's worked hard enough over the summer and would rather take the remainder of the year off to relax in Florida.
But even the characteristic golden streaks of the aspen can't compare with the deciduous woodlands of the East, which look like something Henri Matisse would have painted if he had spiked his absinthe with LSD.
Thanks to my parents' yet-to-be-returned investment in my higher education, I spent the greater portion of four years in the Berkshire Mountains in western Massachusetts, a mecca for the self-described "leaf peepers" (which, incidentally, may well be an arrestable offence in most Southern states).
However, in the spirit of full disclosure, I must admit that I would become rather frustrated sitting behind an Oldsmobile with out-of-state plates weaving down Route 2 at a quarter of the speed limit while the driver leers at the surroundings like a drunken sailor stumbling through Amsterdam's red light district.
This usually resulted in my crossing a double yellow line around a blind corner to pass with one hand, or, more appropriately one finger, raised in appreciation. Yes, I did learn to drive in Boston.
Of course, my lack of appreciation for nature's perennial preening was easily justified: There was beer to be drunk, dammit!
In hindsight, my impertinence and impatience was lamentable, but also indicative of growing up in a culture in which expediency and immediate gratification are viewed as highly desirable values, along the lines of honesty and hard work.
If New England were somehow relocated to Spain, there would likely be a three-week national holiday declared for the entire country to fully appreciate the beauty.
But instead, the insurmountable beauty is wasted on the likes of myself, rushing past with tunnel vision, fixated solely on the destination, not the journey.
Clearly, after 29 years and 356 days on this planet (yikes!), I like to believe that I've taken to heart all the wisdom I've gleaned from graffiti in bathroom stalls. And now I find myself taking breaks on mountain bike rides, not only to keep myself from vomiting up a lung, but also to look over our valley and comprehend how undeservedly lucky I am to live in a place where I might be eaten by a mountain lion at any point.
And the next time I find myself in New England in autumn, I'll be sure to take my foot off the gas and respond to the blaring car horn with a wave and a knowing smile. After all, there will still be beer in the keg when I arrive.
Jon Duval is a staff writer for the Idaho Mountain Express.