Driving, Dillydaddling, and Debauchery…the Road to Horse Pens 40
As you have likely already gathered from either our previous blogposts or your own personal experience or research, Hueco Tanks is incredible. We basically had to force ourselves to leave (as many never do), but after almost exactly a month, that day arrived. We were debating about where to go next and and an opportunity that we could not pass by arose – Spenser’s brother, Eliot, would be in New Orleans for the Final Four. After looking at a map, we saw that New Orleans was a great stopping point between Texas and Alabama – it was decided, our next climbing destination was to be Horse Pens 40 and we were incredibly stoked.
We left Hueco on Tuesday, March 27 and continued east across the great state of Texas to Austin. I’ve been to Austin before, so wanted to stop there for at least a day to show the guys the city. We arrived at our very first trailer park, La Hacienda RV Resort, the next morning. Many might imagine an RV park to be a pretty trashy place, but this was nice, you could even call it luxurious compared to what we’ve gotten used to. We were the youngest people we saw there, but many lovely senior citizens were living there for months on end, creating a very comfortable life in the choice Austin trailer park. Many of these seniors were missing their grandchildren and we were happy to fill that void…who can say no to chocolate cake from a nice old lady, right?
Although we had heard about some fun outdoor climbing around Austin, including some deep water soloing, but we were rained out. Instead, we ventured into a climbing gym for the first time in well over a month. We were excited to check out the Austin Rock Gym and see what the rock climbing scene was like. The gym was small but had some solid bouldering walls, including a 13 foot 45 degree overhang, which we played around on until the jug rash was too much to bear.
We were Louisiana-bound on Thursday, March 29 with Spenser manning the wheel yet again, with me as copilot and Byron in the back cramming on his homework. Driving straight through the night, we arrived in Baton Rouge at about 2am after about a 10 hour drive. If you recall, we are over 50 feet long with the truck and trailer so we were nervous about finding a place to park around New Orleans, especially during the Final Four. Luckily, Spenser knew Ryan who, again luckily, has a large dirt lot outside of his house in Baton Rouge. We decided to forgot about climbing for the moment, since there is no rock in Louisiana, and let loose.
Now I must give you to Byronius for his take on the Big Easy:
We arrived early in the afternoon and were immediately lost within the columns and construction riddled streets of downtown New Orleans. We eventually arrived at a parking space and walked to Bourbon st. passing some some Kentucky fans mixed in with locals. Bourbon Street is where we spent most our time on this evening and though I may regret not seeing the more low key side of the city of New Orleans, I made the best of it. From 6-10pm on Bourbon, I walked alone when Vikki and Spenser went to change the truck. At this point I thought of this street as a fantastic place where I could mix with people of all diversities. I shook hands with elderly black locals at a funk bar, talked to a local single mother with pretty eyes, took many expensive shots from beautiful hustling waitresses, and shot it with a local from the Ninth Ward. Dwight was his name, and it was roughly 9:45pm. I spoke to him about the street “Bourbon” and told him how much I liked being able to talk to anyone, to smile and be smiled at, to live as humans without any judgment before a meeting. He smiled at me and explained that I was on Bourbon at the right time of the evening for this form of social pinballing. He then explained that in a couple hours, Bourbon would show its true colors. The colors in question were burly hues of gray, green and brown. Dwight then went on to explain that Bourbon, a stink hole in his opinion was a major support of the entire whole of the Louisiana economy. He explained “Why do you think you can carry that drink, grab a prostitute on the side street, get drugs at every corner.” Vision fogged by my glow I was reluctant to believe this pessimistic babble, so I shook his hand and went to meet Vikki and Spenser. As more drinks were poured in my direction, the colors of Bourbon changed hue. I saw fights, bouncers throwing 86 cards, cops busting a presumed gang member, and general tomfoolery. The smell off the street was not so pleasant and worsened as the night took hold of me. Street performers became ghosts as their street dealer replacements came in, and drinks were spilled on people from every balcony lining Bourbon. I started believing Dwight, but refused to let go of that glow, that mix of people I met at the beginning of the night that were so vivid. But looking around, that had all disappeared, and I thought to myself “What is this place?”
Needless to say, we had a very hot hangover day in New Orleans on April 1st. Spenser and I awoke early in the morning; we slept in the truck and the blazing heat did not allow us to sleep in. Feeling mischievous on April Fools Day, we decided to play a prank on Eliot and Byron, who were still snoozing comfortably in Eliot’s air-conditioned hotel room. After rather convincingly, or so I thought, notifying each of them that Spenser had been arrested, Eliot was not fazed. Byron, on the other hand, jumped into action, only to be stunned when Eliot opened his eyes to our trickery. At least we know Byron is a true blue friend 🙂 A slow day followed, with Eliot joining us on a walk around downtown New Orleans, checking off two major must-haves – oyster po’ boys and beignets.
Another long drive followed our misadventures in New Orleans, 10 hours to Steele, Alabama. We overnighted in a Shell truck stop and drove up to Horse Pens 40 in the morning. After a gorgeous drive surrounded by the brightest green grass I have ever laid eyes on, we entered through the Horse Pens 40 gate onto the Schultz’s property. Again, we quickly saw that it was worth the hype, but we’ll save that for the next post.