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.
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, 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.
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.
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!
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!