Flawrda to Nawlins- From one hurricane to another

We left Florida just in time as tropical storm Debbie sat brooding on the other side of the horizon. Throughout the drive we endured more temperamental southern weather as we marched on towards New Orleans, at times having to slow down below 35 miles an hour due to hydroplaning and poor visibility. We drove through the southern appendages of Mobile, Alabama and Pascagoula, Mississippi all the while making mental notes of the best places to unload that lemonade we had picked up in Tennessee.

At this point our cash was dwindling fast, and so was our dignity. We were beginning to allow certain shady characters into our lives… characters such as Ronald McDonald, the Hamburgler, and worst of all… the Grimace. I say dignity not because we are above fast food, lord knows I love me a nacho cheese chalupa, but I say dignity because at one point we were actually drawn into a gas station that advertised free chicken nuggets with every fill, and fill we did.

Hurricane Debbie is on her way!

As we drove towards Louisiana, our concerns were growing over our funds, our ability to sell lemonade, and about where we were going to sleep in New Orleans. We hadn’t had much time to do proper recon on New Orleans, so we decided our best course of action was to find the nearest Public Library so that we could get a better idea of where to crash etc…

Our first night in New Orleans we did what any rational human beings would do, we set ourselves a limit on how much we would spend on hand-grenades and hurricanes, and we exceeded it with our first stop. At this point, we felt a little disappointed, we debated whether to go back to the car and crash out, or get more money… but there is something about the lights, the sounds and the sights of the French Quarter. We picked up more cash and walked back to a bar that we had noted on our way back to the car.

It was the COOLEST bar I have ever seen in my life. Pat O’Brian’s is one of the birthplaces of hurricane. You walk in, there is no cover charge, there are rooms on either side, to the left is a classy lounge area with dark hardwood ceilings, floor and countertop, to the right is an old timey piano bar. If you walk straight back, you’ll find yourself on the back porch with a lit up fountain, tables and waiters and waitresses making rounds to refresh your drink and keep your spirits high.

We each got our hurricanes from the back porch and made our way over to stand in line for the piano bar. As you wait in line there are posters of old school jazz scene hipsters with slicked back hair wearing casual suits with women sitting on their laps. Nothing like a poster to remind you of how little style you actually have.

Upon entering the piano bar you are blown back by the raucous bacchanalia bursting through the other side of a thick, nearly sound proof wall. People at every table are singing their hearts out as the classy man in tan casual wear tickles the ivories on a big copper piano on the stage up front. The room is entirely overwhelming. Two big pianos stand up front facing each other blasting off covers of Elton John, the Spin Doctors and Gnarls Barkley. Hats are flying, drinks are spilling, and people are shouting their best pickup lines over the cacophony of laughter and music.

It was three to a table so we made a friend at the bar and found a table. The whole night we wrote down song requests on beer soaked napkins and stuffed dollar bills in between the folds and sent them up to the front. We offered to buy our new friend a drink, he ended up buying us more hurricanes than we could handle.

Inevitably we left the bar with our last two hurricanes in hand and stumbled back to the van, lord knows how we found the car that night. At some point we decided we were hungry and so we dug the stove out of the car and got some water boiling. We both fell asleep sitting up in the van until a lady walked by later that night and woke us up and reminded us that our water was still boiling.

A hurricane is an aptly named drink. Over the course of the night we ended up spilling one and leaving a sticky red splotch on the passenger seat.

Beautiful New Orleans

We pulled ourselves together and went to a café where we decided enough was enough and it was time to elevate our standard of living. We set up a couch surfer account and were fortunate enough to find someone to put us up in New Orleans that night provided we would cook for her.

Sensing the opportunity I attempted to edit more footage as Emily got caught up on more blog posting. Long story short, I still have a lot to learn about adobe premier, it’s a bit more technical than iMovie.

The next day was the moment of truth, would selling lemonade in New Orleans prove successful enough to enable us to climb in Colorado. After a long debacle finding parking and dragging our stuff all the way down to the French market we got set up. It was not long before we were shut down by security. However we were very friendly with him and in kind he was very nice to us. He put us in contact with the director of the French market who referred to us as Mr. and Mrs. Lemonade.

“Now I’m not going to tell you how to get around the law,” he said. But the director offered us all kinds of ideas for how: A. we could do this legitimately through the farmers market, and B. We could also just go right “over there” on the other side of the “Welcome to the French Market” sign which was out of his jurisdiction and where the city of New Orleans policy wouldn’t bother us anyways.

Unfortunately, people in New Orleans are far too accustomed to looking the other way at panhandlers and our business was nowhere near as successful as it was in Charleston… damn.

The Famous Cafe Du Monde

Eventually we gave it up and decided that at least the small amount of money we did make was enough to buy us dinner and pay for parking.

We ate some of the most amazing food we have ever had in our lives. Shrimp Po’Boy’s, red beans and rice (nawlins style), jambalaya, beignets and crawfish ettoufe.

After failing at the lemonade business, we decided the next day to just be average tourists.

It was a nice change of pace and a lot less stressful letting go of the idea of selling lemonade. We wouldn’t get to climb in Colorado, so be it. At least we had enjoyed the heck out of Joe’s Valley and Bishop, and now we had a timeline for the rest of our trip. We would spend the next couple days seeing New Orleans and eating beignets and then we would be off, headed back home once again.

Heading west

The South

During our drive to Tennessee, we got our first taste of the South. Neither Austin or I had ever been there and we were both excited to see what it was all about, and most importantly, to try some southern cooking. After Bonnaroo, we decided to drive our friend Rob down to Florida to see his family, and stop at a few places along the way. Here’s a short summary of the adventures that ensued.

Our route

Georgia

We left Bonnaroo with a box of lemons and a car full of dirty laundry and booked it to Marrietta, GA where Allegra, our fellow juice squeezer, graciously invited us to stay. Driving through her hometown I was immediately envious of the old brick buildings that would surely crumble at the slightest twinge of a west coat earthquake. Damn our unruly fault lines and modern, earthquake safe buildings! We were greeted at the front door by her father (southern hospitality is everything they say it is and more!) and shown the way to the shower.

Oh how wonderfully delicious it was having hot water, decent water pressure, and a real sized tub after the cubicle-like showers at Bonarroo about half the size of a port-o-potty (or port-o-john as they say down here in the south). In comparison, Allegra’s shower was like a Calistoga spa, a real “girls bathroom”, with a cute mosaic fish sink and a wall full of more lotions, sprays, body washes, perfumes than I could ever imagine. Forgive me for my girlish rantings, but of all the places we’ve showered at these past three months- aquatic centers, laundromats, the occasional climber bro pad, even the hose outside of a truck stop, this bathroom was luxurious beyond my wildest dreams.

Our lovely Georgia tour guides!

 Even more to our good fortune, Allegra is a culinary student and treated us to a delicious homemade waffle extravaganza the next morning. Then, she took us to see the sights in Atlanta, including the trendy Little Five Points area, which is similar to our Haight Street or Telegraph Ave, where we ran into some fellow Bonnaroovians who are also driving a yellow VW bus. We chatted about our love of VWs, despite the constant breakdowns and bonded over our shared suffering as VW owners. The world is a small place, no matter what community you belong to, you always run into people you have things in common with: climbers, VW owners, Bonnaroovians. After that we stopped for some beers and people watching and headed back to Allegra’s house for yet another display of culinary arts. This time she beat us at our own game: tacos with homemade salsa and guacamole with margaritas. We ate dinner with her family and friends and played the Spirit Animal Game. Basically everyone sits in a circle and chooses a spirit animal that they think matches the person on either side of them. I was declared very specifically as an ocelot, a type of jungle cat, by Allegra’s dad. Austin received very different animals, a chameleon and a bobcat, although I think he’s progressed from looking like the Geico caveman to Jamie Lanister from Game of Thrones and therefore warrants a lion. Rob was sitting next to me and I dubbed him, without a doubt, a polar bear. After two days at Allegra’s we said our goodbyes to her family and started our tour of the South.

Allegra busy in the kitchen

North Carolina

One thing on our road trip bucket list was to see a summer thunderstorm. California gets disappointingly few storms and it was only a matter of time before we got caught in one. While fishing under a bridge in North Carolina, Zeus finally granted us with the biggest thunderstorm I’ve ever seen. After a failed fishing attempt the night before, Austin and Rob found a good place to take a few casts in the shade of a bridge. We had been there for an hour or two before we heard the ominous rumble of an oncoming thunderstorm. Of course it never occurred to us to move. All at once it was upon us as mighty Zeus opened up the sky and unleashed a downpour that sent us scrambling to collect our things. Unable to grab everything, the ranch dressing we’d been eating was sacrificed to the thunder gods as a river of mud developed underneath the bridge we were using for cover. We mourned its loss between lightning flashes. I’ve never been in a thunderstorm as intense this one before. Like in the movies, a bolt of lighting actually hit the power line sending sparks on the side of the river opposite us. A few minutes later two bolts of lightning came down on either side of the bridge. The sound of thunder was deafening. We waited about a half an hour for the storm to pass and found a soggy campsite to spend the night at.

Our only shelter from the storm

 Since it was way too hot to try and climb in the south, we decided to do some sight seeing and let our bodies heal a bit. Our original plan was to sell lemonade in Ashville, NC, but the storm hadn’t fully cleared so we decided to drive straight to Charleston, SC where the weather was warmer and we might be more successful.

Charleston, South Carolina

 Rob, Austin and I had no expectations of Charleston, except that we had been told it was a cool city to visit. What we discovered completely surprised us.  *Historic side note: Originally called Charles Towne after King Charles II, it was founded in 1680 and remains one of South Carolina’s most historic cities. The first shots of the Civil War were fired from Charleston onto Union ships attempting to enter the harbor in 1861.

Historic Charleston

We arrived in the early afternoon so we chose an open space on the sidewalk on an upscale touristy shopping street with plenty of foot traffic to set up our lemonade stand for the first time. It turns out that Charleston is a great place for selling lemonade. People were surprised that we had driven all the way from California and were more than willing to donate money to our cause. Half of them didn’t even want the lemonade, which is too bad because thanks to Josh’s original recipe, our lemonade is better than any other stand out there! We were unsure how this entrepreneurial venture would play out since we were in a nice area without a vendor’s permit or health inspector certificate, but I guess nobody cared since three cops passed us and didn’t even slow down. A few business owners glared at us through the window, but other than that we were left alone. We had one unexpected encounter with an older man who asked us if this was a publicity stunt. Surprised, we told him it wasn’t and then asked why anyone would think that. He told us that the Attorney General Eric Holder put a ban on lemonade stands, bake sales or anything of that nature. I never realized that the fourth grade soccer team trying to pay for their uniforms was such a threat to the national economy!

Cheers to a successful business

We spent the next two days selling lemonade during the day and wandering around Charleston at night. After a pretty successful day of slinging juice, Austin and I decided to finally venture into one of the overpriced tourist bars we’d been avoiding. Lured into one by a $4 margarita sign we made friends with another couple at the bar. After bonding over musical interests they bought us drink after drink and offered to let us crash on the floor of their hotel room when they learned that we were sleeping in a parking lot. It was their one year anniversary and they were willingly spending it with a couple of smelly bedraggled climbers.

 

Georgia, round two

We passed through Georgia a second time on our way to Florida, stopped in the old historic city of Savannah. As the story goes, when General William Sherman captured the city during the Civil War, instead of burning it as he did with others, he offered it to President Lincoln as a Christmas present because of it’s beauty. It’s also the birthplace of the Girl Scouts of America. We stopped at a southern diner that was out of grits- a huge let down because I was looking forward to trying some. We did, however, finally see a peach stand close to the Florida border. The one thing Austin wanted from Georgia was a real Georgia peach and up until that point we hadn’t seen any stands! It must have been early in the season, but we finally got our peaches, and the girls threw in some apple butter as well.

 

Florida

 We got to Florida just in time for Rob’s family’s BBQ. There’s nothing better then ending 8 hours in the car with ribs and baked beans waiting for you. We spent nearly a week at Rob’s uncle’s parents’s condo on the beach. We swam in the Atlantic Ocean and Rob and Austin did some fishing and we all got caught up on Game of Thrones.

Our temporary residence

Even though it was a relief to sleep in a bed and have regular access to outlets and internet, and most importantly a coffee maker, Austin and I were starting to go a little stir crazy. After three weeks of nearly sedentary existence and an overabundance of food, our bodies were feeling the effects so we left Florida with a renewed psyche and impatience to get back outside.

 

 

Bonnaroo!!!!

Being Bonnaroovian for the better part of a week was unlike any other experience I’ve ever had, in terms of festival life or any other. It was different in part because I had never before experienced a festival as a vendor, one of those cool guys sitting behind the counter of brightly colored headbands, boas and glow sticks.

Only Emily and I weren’t one of those cool dudes or dudettes. We were something better… WE were a part of an elite lemon crushing team, dedicated to squeezing the life out of every lemon until they drip their life force into a cool cup of Josh’s Original, Just Squeezed Lemonade.

Ok, all silliness aside we had a great time, most of which we cannot relate on this blog, never the less it was an incredible experience. Josh is an awesome person to work for, Yes yes he puts up quite a tough guy-hardass persona…

well, Josh is like an onion…

Alright alright, you can tell right off the bat when you meet him, Josh is just a great guy and a consummate objective positivist.

Yes, we are at Bonnaroo, we are here to have a great time, just please show up and help out.. and if you get stressed, remember.. your only selling lemonade.

Josh- What a badass

Next to the great management, vendors like Just Squeezed come with a core group of awesome festival going and fun loving types. I’m never going to a festival again by any other means, volunteering is the way to go. Plain and simple going to festivals is a great way to meet cool people. However working as a vendor really sets up the experience in a way that going with a big group of friends, who you already know, just can’t.

Don’t get me wrong, going with friends is great, a good friend of ours came out from the Bay Area to join us which made the festival experience that much more awesome! However, the problem of going with a big group of friends is that its too easy to rely on your friends for your only social interaction. Its hard to explain, but everybody who is there as a vendor is in the same boat, you may have a couple of people there who you knew from before, however your always surrounded by new people who are sharing that same collective struggle of missing some bands that you really wanted to see, but doing it in order to gain your entry into the festival.

As soon as your shift is over, you’re making plans with new friends to go see sets after work with some extra beer money in your pocket. – Just don’t expect to find any sleep…

Another fun fact! As a vendor you also get to watch all the general admissions role in like the first wave of zombie apocalypse and battle it out with each other for the best camping spots, its pretty hilarious…

Sparing you the details of which bands were awesome and who didn’t show up to play, I’ll tell you that we saw some sweet shows! Being that it was a music festival in the south, we found some really awesome bluegrass and R&B bands that we are excited about. There was also plenty of electronic, alternative, hip hop and rock for those less interested in banjo music.

Bonnaroo was like a water-park by day, carnival by night. There were adult-sized mega slip-n-slides, ferris wheels, biergartens and a silent disco – which was a lot of fun to watch.

Then, just like the ornate and unique snowflake that Bonnaroo is, it melted away.. and it was over.

On our final day after all the festival goers had come and gone, we awoke to torrential down poor. Instant flash flooding of biblical proportions which made the tent city, kneeling in dereliction and utterly vacant, look all the more apocalyptic. Just the kind of chaos that opportunists thrive upon!

Bonnaroo send-off

We scored new camp chairs, a new cooler, unopened jars of peanut butter and nutella, boxes of baby wipes, etc…

Re-upped on supplies, we went to find Josh and others to say our good byes.

Did I mention before that Josh is just an awesome dude? We had told him about our road trip, and our whole idea of trying to sell tacos out of our van. He recommended that we sell lemonade! He told us about a couple of his friends who had done similar things before and had been pretty successful. We told him that we would love to give it a try and so he offered to give us a juice squeezer, a box of lemons and a sign to get us started!

We left Bonnaroo that day feeling much like the weather, cloudy and rainy, with the threat of great experiences on the horizon.

Status – DIRE

We will be getting back to Bonnaroo through Florida as soon as we get a chance, however there is a terrible truth which must be confessed to those who follow our blog…

We are flat broke… and stuck in New Orleans…

We are facing a major crossroads in our journey that will require drastic measures on our part. If you’ve been keeping up with this blog, then you are aware of several breakdowns that we have endured along the way. Those breakdowns have set us behind in our funds substantially, likewise we haven’t had much luck finding temporary work thus far and our cash is dwindling fast.

We are doing everything that we can at this point to put together some more funds in order to keep traveling and climbing, however it is looking grim… We are currently selling lemonade on the street corner in an effort to survive on this journey.

If this works out, it will be the greatest fourth quarter turn around since the Niners in superbowl XXIII

Our other major issue(for those who speak car)… our fuel injectors are thirty years old and are on the verge of pooping out all together. If the fuel injectors are a cars aorta, our car is passing clots daily.

Its like that elf lady told Frodo in the Fellowship of the Ring, “your quest stands upon the edge of a knife, teeter but a little, and it will fail!”

Please wish us luck if your superstitious! Keep us in your prayers if your religious! Look for a good sign if your into astrology, or do nothing at all if your a nihilist! It’s been fun so far and we are going to need every ounce of good fortune to keep the good times rolling!

From Arizona to another dimension!

We’ve lost ourselves again, this time in a rift somewhere between x – time and y – space…

And now we are in Florida???

Waaa????

Ok, rewind, where was it that we left off?? Ahhh yes, final days in Arizona and then onward to Bonnaroo!

Arizona

Let me first extend a major debt of gratitude to those we stayed with in Arizona, first and foremost to maester Sean for inviting us and keeping us in good health via Strength in Yoga, Depth of Wisdom, and Gluttony x Beer.

But also to Gil for showing us around Kelly’s Canyon in Flagstaff, sorry we aren’t there to eat your food anymore! Also, finally a big thanks to Rico for hooking us up with some helpful tips and some new editing software! Rico just recently left Arizona to live on the road and film climbing all over California and up the coast! follow along with Rico at Sendaholic films on vimeo!

By the end of our stay in Arizona, we felt truly recharged and ready for more, until our last night when we witnessed the sunrise and watched a pair of owls cleaning their feathers atop a palm tree in Sean’s back yard.

From there we endured a thirty-plus hour hangover drive through the hottest part of the country, all the while with the heater blasting in our van in order to keep from damaging the engine. We stopped over night at a gas station just outside of El Paso, slept for about 3 hours and continued on to Arkansas, stopping only once for a bit of southern BBQ and a quick tour of the University of Texas in Austin.

Good god, there were a lot of trees in Arkansas, then we passed through Memphis and entered Tennessee. Against the better portion of my childhood education we decided to  pick up a hitchhiker between Memphis and Nashville and had a grand old time. I’ll admit, he almost had us convinced to give it a try ourselves.  He was on his way to a Rainbow Gathering council meeting. Every year since the 1970s members of the Rainbow family have gathered in different national parks around the country to express ideals founded in the counter-culture movement of the 60s. The location is decided by the council elders who our new friend comically described as ornery and indecisive. We spent the majority of the drive listening to stories of his misadventures- he was 15 when he left his house to build a hut in the woods to live in and has been bumming around ever since. This might not come as a surprise but we learned a lot of great tips for traveling cheap, everything from how to make wine in your car to ways to get a free meal when you really need it. Several hours later, we left him in much the same condition as we found him; on the side of the freeway in Tennessee.

The beautiful Blue Ridge mountains

It was late by the time we reached Manchester. We weren’t scheduled to check in at Bonnaroo (more to come on that later) until the next morning and the rest stop we planned on staying at turned out to not be a rest stop at all. Tired, dirty, and at a loss for where to stay we drove to the nearby Walmart. There in the parking lot were the tell-tale signs of a festival: hippies armored in tie-dye wandering around barefoot, playing guitars, and checking out each others vegetable oil powered school busses. A group of people were pitching tents in the grass covered median in the middle of the parking lot and receiving disapproving scowls from the poor landscaper who would surely have to repair the lawn at a later date. We joined them, cooked up a couple of quesadillas on our camp stove and went to bed.

More on our Bonnaroo experience with Josh at Just Squeezed to come!

But for now we have to hit the road again! We promise to update our blog as often as we can, thanks for reading!

Utah recap – Wisdom from Winslow – Arizona Reprieve

Where to start? Where to begin? So much time, and so little to say…

We are currently in Arizona, somewhere just outside of Phoenix, getting some much needed R&R. I know you climbers are wondering, what in the name of Sharma are you doing in Phoenix in the middle of summer? Staying indoors for the first time in two months, thats what!

A friend who we had met in Bishop was kind enough to offer us a place to crash in AZ, some two months ago. Being somewhat more wise than we look, we had sensed that after a couple of months on the road we might be looking forward to a full week of showers, laundry, running water, hot tub, civilization, etc…

Our stay here has been even more divine than I could ever have imagined. But more on that later, first we must get caught up.

Utah – Joe’s

I am keenly aware of a lull in our posting habits during our final week or two in Utah. However, I do promise the reader that this time was not wasted. We had spent the aforementioned time trotting along after a group of climbers who’s unfathomable psyche and strength could only be matched by their generosity and the good times spent in their company.

Where Bishop had left us with a void, fast friendships were forged in Utah. Not only leaving us with the best footage we have taken to date, but also with friends who we look forward to seeing again in another time and place.

Jon, Chris, Courtney, Eric and Jen await their pie on pizza night

Courtney, Eric, Chris, Anthony, Jon, Jen, you guys are freaking awesome! Thank you so much for inviting us to kick it and climb with you! Jorge, Chris the second, Alex, Natalie, Mike, Nick, it’s definitely a bummer that we didn’t get more time to kick it, but fortunately the climbing world is small and local seasons are relatively short, see you guys around the next bloc!

These dudes seriously helped to beef up our footage from Joe’s. especially Eric and Anthony who level of psyche is utterly inspirational. Watching Anthony crush Black Dahlia and run laps on Worm Turns has got to be one the most impressive displays of climbing strength I have ever personally witnessed. And Eric, who would put up 60 V-points in a single day with a humble smile and a shrug will undoubtedly change how I climb forever.

I have never seen two people with so much energy and enthusiasm for bouldering. Any time I caught myself about to complain about the pain in my fingertips or begrudgingly trudge up a loose gravely hillside, being in their presence reminded me that these things, these simple mental aspects to the sport, make you a far stronger climber.

Anthony on “White Walkers”

Anthony, who has put in more than his fair share of time and effort into developing the sport of bouldering in places like Black Mountain and Tramway, has shown me what it truly takes to push the development of the sport. He’s taught me a much greater respect for those who hike crash pads, rope bags, rotor hammers, aid gear and stick brushes for hours on end with tireless energy for the pursuit of new climbs. We are deeply fortunate to have spent an afternoon with him, hiking around and exploring new boulders in Joe’s, looking for potential new areas to climb and scouting lines for future projects. This was way more than we could ever have asked for in one month of Joe’s bouldering.

Did I mention he cooks too? After graduating from culinary school, he decided to take a couple of months to travel and climb. Fortunately, he ended up in Joe’s Valley, same time as us. After a days worth of hard climbing and calorie burning hikes, we would all circle in the vanagons and make gourmet food over propane stoves and a campfire. Potato gnocchi with a balsamic reduction drizzled over it, a side of crispy drumsticks, sauteed asparagus for our appetizer and candied brussels sprouts for desert. Homemade pizza’s baked in a dutch oven with a delicious red sauce loaded with garlic and a splash of white wine. The coup de-freaking awesome? one very delicious bacon, ricotta and sauteed fig pizza to end the night and stuff our bellies. It all could not have been better after a couple cheap boxes of wine had been passed around the campfire throughout the course of the night.

Inspired by these climbers, and well fed by their culinary talents, Emily and I pushed our own climbing to a new limit. Each taking our own “last day” in Joe’s, Emily crushed her first V7! Shortly thereafter, she sent an awesome V6 with a tough lower section and a very intimidating highball top out which took 8 minutes for her to negotiate! The next morning, feeling the psyche of our very last day in Joe’s, I had my best ever day of climbing, sending two V7’s and my first V9! Neither of us could have imagined a better way to end a trip, which had already far surpassed our expectations.

The Drive to Arizona

We arrived in Moab with a screeching halt! If you read our previous post, no the screeching was not our brakes, it was me! I imagine my face looked something like that Edvard Munch painting. Anyways, our brakes have since been fixed, and we were sent on our merry way.

Later on, a bit farther down the road that very same day, we smelt something burning… you could imagine our surprise..

The plot thickens…

We immediately pulled over, and checked our owners manual which confirmed what we already knew. The check-battery light was on, we smelled burning rubber in our vents. Prior to this our car had started up each morning with an audible screeching sound, it could only be one thing… we called our insurance company and attempted to explain where we were. Being as there were no structures in sight and no road signs, we had a difficult time doing so, we hung up the phone, deciding our best course of action was to locate the nearest mile marker. Marooned in the middle of no where, like Jim Morrison out of the dream sequence in Wayne’s World, we wandered the northern Arizona desert, fearing the worst.

Fortunately it wasn’t long until a trucker, freighting a load of hay northbound towards Kayenta, pulled to the shoulder and offered us a lift. I’ll be damned if a big rig is not a comfortable ride! The trucker was very friendly, he told us of his feed business and we told him of our road trip. We talked about the internet, facebook, instant communication and how it is changing the world before our very eyes and then we were there. We thanked him for his kindness and set about locating a tow company.

Fortunately our insurance policy offered one free tow to the nearest (VW) dealership. They negotiated a deal with the local Kayenta tow business and we set out to retrieve our vehicle. Seeing as it was getting late, the tow company would not be able to tow us the three and a half hours to Flagstaff that night. So we popped our pop top in a motel parking lot in Kayenta, Navajo country, for the night.

It was to be a very uncomfortable night. The barking of abandoned dogs, the rapping of homeless on our windows asking for food and water and promising to fix our car for $10-$15. It was a night we would sooner forget.

In the morning, we pulled the junk from the back our car to see if we could locate the source of the burning smell. Sure enough, just as we had expected, the alternator belt had been torn to shreds. Actually there was no sign of it at all, it appeared to have vanished all together.. I took one quick look at the situation, and decided it was far too difficult to replace myself, damn these efficiently compartmentalized motors! Later the VW mechanics would jest at the whole process, calling it “one heck of a science project”. During my own inspection however, we noted one positive sign, the alternator pulley was still spinning freely, “Thank god,” we thought, “this might not be the end of our trip!”

But what kind of a story would this be if there were not more drama? We received a call from our insurance carrier later that morning. A different agent than the one we had spoken to the night before… Something wasn’t right.

According to their policies, they allowed for one free tow, which according to them we had used it last night being towed to Kayenta. Attempting to remain as calm as I could, I explained to them that we had been miss-lead by the agent, who had been the one to work out the deal with the Kayenta towers. Our insurance carrier, being that they had no contracted towers in the area, had no way of paying the tow company. Being that I am extremely naive and believe in the good in others, offered to pick up the tab, provided that we would be reimbursed, the agent jumped on this deal. Now we were being told that because we had to be towed in the opposite direction of our final destination the night before, we would have to cover one leg of the operation without being reimbursed. Those SWINE! Somehow I knew it would come to this…

We did our best to make our case. We told them of our situation… The tow company had refused to go to Flagstaff that night, the agent was the one who set up the deal, we had offered to compensate for the insurance company’s lack of coverage in that area by picking up the tab to begin with, we felt that the agent had misrepresented the facts, etc…

The new agent told me that she would call me back once she had reviewed the phone conversation from the night before… Meanwhile Emily and I scrambled to figure out how on earth to get out of here without having to pay out of the rear. Then the agent called back… Just as I thought… We won! THERES NO WAY THEY COULD MAKE US COVER THE PAYMENT!!!! Haha! Sweet Victory, the agent told us that we could be covered all the way to Flagstaff, and was very clear on reminding us, that in the future, they would only cover one tow per breakdown!

We were to be picked up by a new towing company and were to ride in luxury all the way to Flagstaff.

The only catch? We would have to wait five hours for the tow to arrive out of Winslow Arizona. Still fearing the worst for our car, we felt in need of comfort food and so we sought out the nearest diner for our final supper and gorged.

Before we knew it, our tow had arrived. Dave, our tow truck driver, was surprisingly chipper after having driven five hours to Kayenta to pick up some random, and likely unappreciative stranded tourists. The ride was one of the most enjoyable drives we’ve had. Dave informed us that he runs a “different” type of tow service. We could pull over whenever we liked to use the restroom, get some food, a book from the car etc… We began to talk about things, life things, we ended up having one of the most interesting conversations with one of the happiest, most interesting people we have ever met. “Everything happens for a reason,” he said, “Don’t get me wrong, I’m not exactly religious, but I am spiritual, you just have to find the good in any situation.” The good? I left that truck feeling more inspired than I have felt in a long time. He dropped us off at the dealership, we shook hands as he thanked us for the good company, and I thanked him for getting me thinking again on some things that I had not thought on for a long time.

Emily and I entered the dealership, feeling hopeful yet braced for the worst. We told the mechanics of our issues, and it wasn’t long before we had a diagnosis. It was just the belt! No other damage had been done and we would be on our way soon! We sat in the dealership a mere half an hour, drinking the free coffee and conversing with the parts specialist, a fellow climber who had picked us out either by the smattering of dirt on our clothes and faces, Emily’s hulking muscles, or the crash pads extracted from our car to clear room for work.

A half an hour later our car was fixed and we were on the road again.

Arizona proper

And here we are, sleeping indoors for the first time in over two months. Running water is something I will never take for granted again. Our host, Sean, has been extremely gracious and we have been having an awesome time meeting his friends and crashing at his place, a climbers abode. Here you will find a hang board, a hot tub, running water, a yoga instructor (Sean) and a projector on which to watch your favorite climbing movies. Coincidently, his roommate, Rico has some experience filming and editing climbing videos and is about to strike out on the road for a bit of dirtbagging, so we swapped some knowledge.

Sean, fellow daywalker, squinting in the sunlight. Did I mention he is also a photography/health guru?

Last saturday was Rico’s going away party, Sean set up a projector to screen Rico’s short film, introducing the trip on which he is about to embark and his future project, Diaries of a Sendaholic.

The party was awesome! Sean helped to set up a dirtbagger fund for Rico and for us! WE SET UP OUR TACO STAND!! It was quite a success, we made delicious sopes and earned some bucks!

The day before, Sean, who is also the manager of a climbing gym down here in Arizona, found us some yardwork and we made some more bucks!

Yesterday his other roommate, Gill, brought us climbing and showed us some really awesome sandstone crags near Flagstaff.

And finally, today, we found some time to write a blog post and edit some footage!

Onward!

We leave Arizona in a couple of days, bound for Tennessee!! While in Utah, Eric hooked us up with an awesome volunteering opportunity at Bonnaroo! A massive music festival in Manchester where good times surely await! We are stoked to be meeting up with a good friend from home, Rob, who is also going to be working with us at the Roo!

Cant wait!!

Trials and Tribulations- The VW Experience

The plan was to leave Joe’s Valley on Friday, spend the night in Moab taking a day to see the sights, and then head down to Arizona. But living on the road/fellow bloggers at thervproj.com have taught us, don’t get too attached to the plan! As we were searching for a campsite Austin made one of those “uh oh” noises that makes your stomach drop to the floor and your heart skip a beat because you know something is really wrong. His foot was on the brake pedal and the brake pedal was on the floor, but the van wasn’t stopping! We slowly rolled over to the side of the road and I was terrified that we were going to roll right into the Colorado River. (We didn’t). After some deliberation we decided to backtrack a quarter mile up the road to the nearest campsite to ask for help. There was enough resistance on the brake pedal to make it if we drove really slowly. We putted into the campsite past the sign that read “Campsite Full” to talk to the camp host. He was understanding despite the fact that we had no cash to pay for a site and no way to drive the 10 miles back to town on a Friday evening to get any.  He told us we could stay the night in the overflow lot across the street, which we did.

I found myself surprisingly upbeat about the whole experience. We’ve had this van for seven months and brake downs no longer phase us since they happen about once a month. Of all the places to brake down, the middle of the road in Moab, UT with a campsite on one side and the bouldering area on the other, we weren’t terribly upset. We took it as a sign from above that we were meant to stay and climb in Moab. The most logical thing to do was check out the boulders with the remaining sunlight. The climbing here is phenomenally unique and beautiful. For all you fellow boulderers out there, while the bouldering scene in Moab is small, the problems are fun and the landings are perfect. It’s like someone plopped down a climbing gym on the side of the road. The problems are either stout, techy slab climbs with slick feet, or relentless power-endurance jug hauls, a perfect training ground.

We hadn’t originally planed on climbing in Moab. Both Austin and I have mild injuries, the kind where if you had the self control to take a week off they would heal and never bother you again, but if you continue to climb on them you risk something more serious. Of course we have no self control and after climbing for two months straight, we were looking forward to hanging out in Arizona doing some healing and catching up on blogging and video editing. Don’t get too attached to the plan!

That night we experienced something strange. While checking out the boulders we ran into several groups of climbers, but what’s this…? No pads, no spotting… We offered to grab our pads from the car and throw them down.

The next day we hitched a ride into town to buy some brake fluid, thinking there might be a leak. As soon as we stepped out onto the road we were immediately picked up by a middle-aged mountain biking couple who hadn’t abandoned their hippie roots and chatted with us about how difficult it was to get Burning Man tickets this year. They were going the opposite direction so they dropped us at the crossroads and we walked the remaining 3 miles into town. We stopped at an amazing vegan friendly, local products type of restaurant, gorged ourselves on huevos rancheros and salmon scramble (it’s probably the most food we’ve eaten in one sitting in a very long time) and then unable to walk further, proceeded to take a nap in the grass on account of our full stomachs. The restaurant is called Eklecticafe, for anyone planning a trip to Moab I highly recommend it. After deciding we had digested enough we bought the brake fluid and tried to get a ride back to the campsite.

A little night climbing to avoid the heat

It was much harder to catch a ride back. Downtown Moab is surprisingly touristy, something we hadn’t expected when we arrived. The town makes its money catering to adventurers of all types, not just climbers. Though, we were probably the dirtiest and most ragged looking pair there. Some people stared, some people ignored us, but eventually we got a ride from a guy towing a bunch of ATVs. I think he worked for one of the tour companies. He told us that there are around 9 fatalities a year, mostly mountain bikers who tend to ride off the edge of a particular cliff. He dropped us back at the crossroads where we got another ride from a girl from Salt Lake City who was coincidentally moving to Oakland. We talked about the differences between Utah cities and cities in the Pacific Northwest/Bay Area, (she’s originally from Seattle) about Bible salesmen, and the fact that there are hardly any coffee shops in Utah. Did you know that they have Bible dispensers here? Like newspaper stands, but for Bibles.  She said she gets heckled in Salt Lake because she has shorted dyed black hair and facial piercings. We told her she wouldn’t have a problem in Oakland.

To wrap things up, we made it back to the campsite with our brake fluid thinking maybe there’s a leak and if we top the reservoir off we might make it to an auto shop without having to call a tow truck. That wasn’t the problem, the reservoir was full which means the problem is more serious. We should have known, it’s a 1980 Volkswagen, the problem is always more serious. We drove very slowly to the auto shop and were informed that the 30-year-old brake master cylinder (what the hell is that!?) was bad and it would be $500 to replace since there was only two places in the US (Detroit and Philidelphia) that remanufactures them and they would have it ship it in. Oh yeah, did I mention they charge $75 and hour for labor and it would be a 2.5 hour procedure! !$#@@%&$!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anyway, we’ll been chilling in Moab until Tuesday waiting for the part, trying to stay out of the heat and climbing at night. After we pick up the van we are driving though Arches National Park and then on down to Arizona.

Wish us luck!