Eleven months and seven days ago I did something unwise that prevented me from doing what I left “default” life to do. Life in a boot meant time for reflection, and it was fairly easy to assess what went wrong on Saigon Direct that put me on crutches for 6 weeks.
Yesterday I did something that is preventing me from taking advantage of the best conditions we’ve had since we arrived in the south. In fact, the weather is just getting more and more sendy as the days go by, but I’m worried that I won’t be climbing anything for a while.
On Tuesday, Vikki, Niko, Katie, Walker, Hammie, Greg and I all went to the Apartment Boulders so that Niko and I could finish up a cool little compression problem that we’d tried a few days before. Walker was just in town from Sweden, and we hadn’t climbed together in about 6 years. Greg is just another local crusher, the kind you hate because they’re stronger than you and (seemingly) care about half as much. I was psyched. It was cold, the compression thing was going down for sure, and then there was the gorgeous creekside boulder that we were going to finally bring enough pads to try. Read more…
We are back in Santa Barbara (actually, we’re back in Berkeley now, but I began this post in sunny Santa Barbara).
We woke up early enough to catch sunrise in Zion National Park before charging through Arizona and Nevada. California, especially Santa Barbara, was a sight for sore eyes. The cool breeze tinged with sea salt wafted through our rolled down windows. We were definitely ready to be back, which is always refreshing on a road trip. Often you leave a place before you feel ready and that’s always a bit unsettling. It felt really good and really right to be back.
After 1 year, 2 months, and 17 days, our road trip had come full circle- our first stop when hitting the road last year was Santa Barbara.
I was incredibly happy that Spenser agreed to go back to Arches and Canyonlands. It was definitely a bit out of our way from Joe’s Valley to Santa Barbara, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity! I can assume that I will be by these places again later in life, but what if I’m not. Better to not assume, I think. 🙂
Over a year ago when we started this road trip, we had different goals. I think a year ago, we would have argued to pass up these sights just to get to the next climbing destination. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when our road trip mentality changed, but it was likely when both Spenser and I began to ride a getting-hurt see-saw. When you get hurt on the road, either you start to look long term, or you head home.
We started getting hurt, so we finally stopped to smell the roses- mostly to make ourselves feel better. But, it really turned out to be the best medicine. The road trip could not longer be solely about climbing if our spirits were going to stay high.
So what’s the road trip about now?
Amanda Palmer really helped me come up with the answer to this…
Spenser and I spend a lot of time together- you end up running out of conversation. Also, the long open road is more conducive to sleep rather than chatter. To cure the doldrums, we love listening to Podcasts when driving. As we were passing through Nevada, we starting listening to Giving it Away, part of the NPR Ted Talk Radio Hour. The whole hour is a great listen, but Miss Palmer really stood out.
We saw Amanda Palmer perform live at The Crucible Fire Arts Festival in 2009. She was a bad-ass chick with a great voice and interesting sound, but that’s about where the impression ended. Her Ted Talk was something else. Watch:
Amanda’s talk reinforced what was our road was about for me: making connections. What Spenser and I remember is the connections we make with the blokes we meet along the way. We have (surprisingly) recently only realized that this is what our road trip is about.
As Spenser explained in his last post, the greatest challenge of being on the road for us is that we now find ourselves without a home, in the conventional sense. Our home becomes the old friends we visit and the new friends we make along the way. Each person we make a connection with becomes encompassed in our definition of home. We create a home and a family from these people in each place that we visit.
Without these people there would be no family, no home. So, on to Amanda’s other huge point – helping each other. Why are we (people, in general) so ashamed of “hand outs”? We are terrified to ask for something for fear of being rejected, or worse, owing someone something. We have been trained to be independent. Amanda pointed out that people like helping- remember the fuzzy feeling you get when you receive a smile as a thanks for something as simple as holding the door open for a stranger?
I hate asking someone for help. It’s a feeling that I need to overcome, realizing that every family we make along the way wants to help (and be helped). It’s time to follow in Amanda’s footsteps and “ask without shame” and also give without regret. When Amanda’s band’s record sold “only” 25,000 copies, she was dropped from the label. Instead of being distraught, she asked her fans to help pay for the records and it was an immense crowdfunding success. Now that is bad-ass.
How Tao of her…
Now to leave you with a few quote to live by from The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff.
“Things just happen in the right way, at the right time. At least when you let them, when you work with circumstances instead of saying, ‘This isn’t supposed to be happening this way,’ and trying harder to make it happen some other way.”
“You’d be surprised how many people violate this simple principle every day of their lives and try to fit square pegs into round holes, ignoring the clear reality that Things Are As They Are.”
In the next post, Spenser is going to talk about what is what like being back in SB for him and some of the new climbing development going on… Including new routes put up by THIS guy:
Until our last day of climbing in Red Rocks, Las Vegas, I hadn’t bouldered since December 21st. That was the day I somehow fell from the pinch on Saigon Direct, missed the pads, and cracked my heel in two. I wanted to use the forced rest period to address another injury of mine, that being chronic tendonitis of the right elbow, or medial epicondylosis if you’re inclined to use specific terms. Nearly 4 months and hours and hours of physical therapy later and I cannot say that it’s gone. I can say, however, that my condition has improved, and I am now back to trying hard.
Except for a couple of days of sport climbing, I didn’t climb in Bishop after the foot injury. Three months later, As a reintegration to movement, Evan Ludmer and I did a little bit of trad climbing in Vegas, ticking the incredible classics Epinephrine and Sour Mash. At this point, my elbow wasn’t really hurting, but still made the crepitus-like noise that it has been making all year. I figured that keeping the climbing to a vertical 5.9/5.10 level would be okay, and it was. I decided to try some easy bouldering.
For the purposes of this blog post, I’m using grades to discuss relative strength within one person (me). It is not my intention to use grades as ego markers. They are brought up here only to illustrate a point, and in our idiosyncratic sport, grades are the best approximation we have for a standard rubric.
For the first couple of days back on the little rocks, I set my expectations low. V5 was the limit, but I found myself having trouble with V3’s and V2’s, particularly when smaller holds were involved. Day two of bouldering saw myself at the Monkey Bar boulder, perhaps the most traveled little boulder in all the land of Nevada. I had spent so many days watching people climbing on the numerous classic steep climbs that it was hard to resist trying myself. Suddenly, there I was underneath the starting jugs of Monkey Bars (V2). I began to literally monkey around. The sensation was incredible.
Still, I had a long way to go. That day saw failures on Hyperglide (V4/5) and The Pearl (V5). At my peak, I’d flash them both, but I couldn’t even move past the second hold on The Pearl…in fact I barely latched it in the first place. My elbow felt fine, but my finger strength was not up to the task. Not even close.
No worries, I thought. Joe’s Valley, with its friendly holds, “my style” climbing, and soft grades would surely be the springboard. On our first day of bouldering, I went with Will up the Left Fork to Vikki’s project from last season, Big Cheesy (V5). I remember this one being easy-looking when I filmed her. We both managed to do it first try, but I felt, well, weak. The next day, Poseidon (V8) managed to thwart us both. A move that normally would feel easy – a big sloper slap off a gigantic jug – felt very hard, and I stuck it only once. Then, neither of us could do Frosted Flakes (V5), though I know from previous experience that this is a very hard problem for the grade.
A bit later, we met some new friends at the Food Ranch, Katie and Niko of The Morning Fresh. Niko had just done Resident Evil as his first V10, though immediately one could tell that he’s got a lot more double digit rigs in his future. After managing a quick ascent of Bring the Heatwole (V7), we went to Eden and G2-07, awesome problems that go at V10 and V7 respectively. I knew Eden would shut me down, not only as it was much harder than anything I’d climbed in so long, but because the crux revolves around a small, slopey crimp, which is my exact weakness. I didn’t expect G2-07 to be quite so tough though, and though I managed all the moves, linking felt damn-near-impossible.
Still, I was having fun. And I am, even if the numbers don’t show it. When I was at my peak, I could walk up to most Joe’s Valley V7s and give a good flash burn. I did a few V11’s, some V10’s, and many, many climbs in the lower grades. Now I am struggling to do V7 and V8. The other day I got my ass handed to me by a couple of V6’s.
I’m not frustrated. No matter what, it’s climbing, and even if the climb itself is a no-star breaky turdpile, it can still be fun. Furthermore, I want to emphasize that I don’t really care when I get to XX grade. The biggest reason I want to climb harder things is that cooler climbs tend to be harder. Or maybe I should say: I want to climb everything, and the only way to do that is to get strong enough.
And I almost forgot the silver lining!
The best part of recovery is that one improves very quickly. Remember that, two weeks ago, I was unable to do The Pearl…nay, I was unable to even conceive of doing The Pearl! Now I know I could. Strength returns fairly quickly. Also, given that all expectations are thrown out because I frankly have no idea how hard anything is anymore, I have the chance of surprising myself by doing a move that I didn’t think my out-of-shape self could pull off, or better yet, doing climbs I think are too hard.
Basically, I get to throw out all my old expectations, particularly those revolving around grades. Seriously, not many people get this opportunity.
At the same time, though, I am somewhat concerned. I am old. Earlier this trip, I turned 28. I am no longer a dirtbagging college kid whose spare time went to climbing and whose spare money went to gas, bagels and the $2 per night camping fee. I can no longer eat terribly and feel no ill effects. I can no longer drink hard, sleep little, and still climb hard(ish) in the morning. And when I get hurt, I can no longer think of it as something that will, with just a little bit of time, fix itself. Now, there is no guarantee that I will return stronger than before. Is this a bad thing? Sure, if all I cared about was sending V2^4. But few are the little boys whose dreams of greatness aren’t eventually crushed, and by now I have no illusions of being the world’s best in the little world of climbing (especially after watching Daniel Woods not climb Lucid Dreaming). Instead, I have dreams of once again feeling strong and confident in the moves that I can do, and of climbing as many new, interesting, and beautiful climbs as possible.
And who knows. If I take care of this issue now and start training hard, I just might see myself at the top of some lifetime projects. The Shield: I’m looking at you.
As soon as I walked into the Food Ranch this morning, I realized I had made a mistake. Since popping a pulley, I’m keeping my hands off the boulders for the next couple weeks. I tagged along yesterday and snapped some photos while the gang went bouldering, so I thought I would go do some work on the computer today.
Now, I’m alone upstairs at the Food Ranch and it’s really depressing. I should be outside. Why am I not outside? I made that mistake again. When given the choice between hanging indoors versus outdoors for the day, I chose indoors.
Oof, what a fool.
So today, I challenge everyone to learn from my mistake. If you have the chance to be outside, take it. If you don’t think you have the time, make it!! I’ll leave you with the lovely musings of John Pels from Timothy McSweeney’s Internet Tendency (click on the link to be able to read it a bit easier on the site).
Spenser just called and is coming to save me from my Food Ranch prison! Yes, going outside! …Might tweet about it 😉
Last week, we met Katie and Niko at the local Joe’s Valley watering hole, The Food Ranch. The similarities were pretty conspicuous from the get-go: another couple on a year-long road trip, blogging and videoing their way through the experience. The main difference is that they are 2 months in, while we’re on year 2. We immediately got along great and became fast climbing partners and even (gasp) friends. As the amiable couple left to Moab for the week, Spenser and I mulled over a large realization they had brought to our attention: we’ve been on the road for almost 14 months!
This awareness was a bit shocking to both Spenser and I. The year-mark came and went, without the least bit of recognition.
It was an organic occurrence for us, it didn’t mean nothing to us, but it didn’t exactly mean anything either. Why didn’t we celebrate? Wait, celebrate what? “Congratulations on living your life,” seems very silly to me. I should mention I’m also not much for celebrating birthdays. Celebrating a year of being on the road is along the same vein.
At least now I know why Spenser and I have been having such a difficult time answering people when they keep asking us how much longer we’ll be on the road for. The short answer is, we don’t know. We can’t really think about it. This is our life. We’re happy, much happier than we were in the Bay Area. We still enjoy gong back to the other ‘real world’ for once in a while, but always end up wanting to leave. It’s not our world, it’s theirs.
…Now I’m just going to get philosophical on y’all for one second. At the ripe age of 26, I think I’m finally starting to understand how individual each person’s reality truly is. The way every single moment is perceived is particular to the individual, even with Spenser and I who spend almost every moment together. How we experience each step of this road trip is is a completely separate reality. Neither of our experiences is more or less real, but it certainly helps to be cognizant of how differently we can comprehent the same moment [this tactic is particularly useful in assuaging variances in opinion that occur…daily ;)].
Disparate experiences aside, life on the road is our current reality and neither Spenser nor I want it to change. Spending time with Katie and Niko, remembering how we felt when we started this crazy trip, reinvigorated us and reaffirmed that this is the life we want.
This post was supposed to be about a fresh start for our second year. It still will be, just not in the way I’ve been brewing it up in my head the past couple days while we’ve been out of internet contact at the campsite.
I was planning on writing about The RV Project’s new training plan. Since Spenser is just getting back into the bouldering game after a long siesta, we have been projecting many of the same lines (a silver lining to having Spenser injured). Wanting to milk what’s left of the cool temps, we came up with a training plan for the rest of our time in Joe’s; a two-day on, one-day off routine: a try-hard day, followed by a conditioning day, and then a rest day.
Yesterday was a try-hard day and I decided to get back on an old nemesis rig from our last trip to Joe’s, Kill by Numbers. I was inspired by Katie’s ambitious send of the climb about a week ago. Kill by Numbers has been especially frustrating for me, being the only climb that I’ve worked on repeatedly and am still trying to refine my beta on. I was feeling good at the end of the day as we hiked up the small hill that leads to the Kill by Numbers cave. I’ll admit, I didn’t feel strong on the moves, but I thought I could push through. The problem is right-hand sloper intensive (not my strong suit) and my right hand was getting pumped quickly. After my second-to-last go, I felt a slight pain in my left middle finger, but ignored it and pressed on. I pulled hard on the left-hand roof crimp and then pop.
Although this has never happened to me, I knew exactly what just occurred: I’ve read this story many times before. So, that’s that. My original training plan is out the window. We’ll see how the finger feels in the coming days, but for now…no climbing. Making the most of the lousy situation, Spenser and I went on our first icing date last night at the river- I held my hand in the ice-cold water, while he his elbow. Cute, right? 😉
Our second year is not starting off how I imagined it. The single most important thing I’ve learned on this road trip still rings true: plans change [see: our very first blog post]. Nonetheless, this second year I’m really excited about. Before year 1, I was incredibly nervous. Not anymore. We’re pros. We’ve got this. I mean we still have stuff to learn, always. What were pros at is rolling with the punches.
Although you won’t see a video of me sending Kill by Numbers anytime soon, here’s a vid that Katie & Niko’s friend Angus made of his trip here. It includes Katie sending the rig!