ST. GEORGE, Utah — “Where’s the soap?”
“You don’t need it,” I was told. “Just wipe yourself with that mitt.”
“The one with mustard on it?”
“It’s not mustard, it’s a mixture of ash, rainwater, sand and juniper berry extracts.”
“OK. Where’s the towel?”
“You don’t need one.”
“But when I finish showering?”
“Dry yourself with the other mitt.”
“The one with ketchup on it?”
“It’s not ketchup, it’s moisturizer made with olive oil, gardenias and grapefruit.”
“Oh . . . that mitt.”
As you can tell, I am not your typical spa candidate. When I hear the word
“spa” I think 20 minutes on the StairMaster and two hours in the hot tub. So when I decided to revisit my friends at the Vic Braden Tennis College in Green Valley, Utah — where, as readers may recall, I once tried to learn the whole of tennis in three days — and they said, “This time, you should also try our spa, it’s world-class,” I said to myself, sure, why not, I like hot tubs.
Of course, I also like towels.
I could find no towels at the Green Valley Spa baths — but that was all that was missing. I found people to massage my feet, pour hot oil in my hair, pack me in mud, walk me through mountains, and dip my palms in hot wax.
That’s right, buddy. I said hot wax.
Wanna make somethin’ of it?
Forgive me, my macho is a little on edge. It is not often that sports writers do anything with oils except change them in their cars. But I was determined to get into the spa just as, last time, I was determined to learn tennis in a blistering 72 hours, if by “blistering” we mean blisters on my feet.
Some of you may recall that adventure, where two slim, rugged tennis whizzes named Dave Nostrant and Mark Jacques endured me with patience and good humor, meaning they smiled when I hit the ball over the fence.
You’ll be happy to know both men are still here, a little older, just as rugged, and still smiling. In fact, sometimes they start laughing as soon as they see me. I think, over the years, I have become a private camp joke. Somewhere in this place, my picture is hanging with the captions scribbled underneath, “What a dork!”
Anyhow, here, amidst the red-rocked desert, and the star- studded sky, I discovered serenity. I discovered gentle baths.
I discovered hot wax — on my feet.
That’s right, pal. You got somethin’ to say?
Now, I should mention that out in Utah, they take life a little slower — and a lot earlier. These people were up before sunrise, organizing hikes in the canyons.
“It’s a brisk little walk,” the guide said.
He was right, except for the brisk part, the little part, and the walk part. I was sucking wind by the first cliff. Each morning there was another breathtaking climb, meaning you climb up high, gaze into the beautiful valley, and try to breathe.
This was followed by workout classes, cardio-boxing, circuit training, horseback riding, yoga, and my personal favorite, mountain biking. I was turned over to a young MTV-like stud and his attractive woman friend, who wore enough gear to take us to the Sea Of Tranquillity.
“Ever mountain-biked before?” he asked.
“Heck yeah,” I said, looking to spit.
This, of course, was a lie. I do the Lifecycle at a gym. Same thing, right?
Wrong. An hour later, I was flying down a huge, rocky hill, hanging onto the bike the way Bud used to hang onto Flipper.
When I got back, I had a massage, a shower with mitts and my feet packed in hot wax.
Don’t even think about candle jokes, pal.
Sixths were too much
Did I mention the food? It was all healthy, all low-fat, no- salt, nothing fried, no caffeine — and, amazingly, it still had taste. More important, if you asked for seconds, they happily gave you some. Same goes for thirds, fourths and fifths. I never got to sixths.
Oh, yes. The tennis. I played hours each day, with instruction and private lanes, and I improved to the level that, were I to face a tough opponent in a company tournament, I would be fully able to keep score.
Also I gave the instructors a good laugh.
Did I mention Rudy?
Rudy was the deep-tissue masseuse. At the end of every grueling day, Rudy was there, ready to soothe. Rudy is from Czechoslovakia, and all I can say is, I’m not surprised the Czechs got their independence.
Between Rudy, the tennis, the azure sky, the desert song, the Ben-Gay, and the fifth helping of dinner, I was completely relaxed by the third day, and I recommend this place to anyone with stress (Green Valley Spa & Tennis Resort, 1-800-237-1068).
Also, now that I am at a safe distance, I can say this. When I got out of the shower? I dried myself with a T-shirt. Sue me.
Mitch Albom’s radio show, “Albom in the Afternoon,” airs weekdays, 4-6 p.m. on WJR, 760-AM. Guests this week include Stephen King and Jamie Lee Curtis.