So yes, it’s been over three months since the last post. THREE MONTHS! Whatever could we be doing instead of throwing ourselves at real rocks all day, huddling in a minivan every night, and crossing the country in search of the best carousel ride??? Well, that’s a good question…
1) We’ve been living and working in good ole Asheville (“Ashevegas”), the hotspot for local beer, vegan gluten-free restaurants, ridiculously happy well-rounded children, and chakra-opening crystals.
2) We have been climbing as much as possible at Iron Palm Bouldering, our favorite indoor gym in Asheville. We’ve also met some super awesome climber folks who CRUSH and also just happen to love chocolate and puppies as much as I do. Speaking of…
3) We adopted a PUPPY!!!! His name is Rumi. He likes tummy rubs, licking inside of ears, and will trot around the house with his water bowl in his mouth when it is empty. Yes, he is the smartest, cutest, bestest puppy in the whole wide world.
Those are the main points. I won’t bore you with details about all the 7 Wonders games, tea times, dinner parties, hikes on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the day we managed to boil, peel, squeeze and freeze over 50 tomatoes that a farmer gave me after I volunteered with them for a day.
Starting on Monday, Drexel will return to the wonderful, magical vagabond life. I’ll be holding down the fort in Asheville with Rumi and my big-kid job as a family therapist. So dear readers, prepare for a slew of extremely climber-centric posts as rock after rock crumbles beneath Drexel’s large manly phallanges. I apologize to our mothers who probably still think it’s silly to grunt up a rock face when you can just as easily walk around, but I’m sure all of our friends will be full of that dirty P-word.
I’ll be meeting up with Drex in Arkansas around Thanksgiving, and it would be sooo cool to see all of our cross-country friends again at HCR and Cowell. We also look forward to seeing everyone at the upcoming Triple Crown events!!! SIGN UP BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!!!!!
That’s right – a “what we would have done differently (or not)” post. That seems almost criminal after over five months on the road, making mistakes and getting messy and learning from so much trial-and-error. I would have loved to read an article like that before our trip.
To add some incentive, about two months ago (right as our trip ended), we got a comment from the burrow files asking us for a post on lessons learned. So this is for you buddy.
[For those of you just joining us, here's a quickie context: we have just completed a five+ month cross-country rock-climbing road trip while living in a minivan. We started in the Southeast (Rocktown & Stonefort/Little Rock City), then Arkansas (Horseshoe Canyon Ranch & Cowell), Joe's Valley, and finally Lake Tahoe. We spent about a month in each place with small stops in between locations.]
So without further ado, LESSONS LEARNED:
#1 – Choose your vehicle (and interior design) wisely. We picked a minivan for this trip, hoping to find a nice compromise between spaciousness and gas mileage ($$$). Along the way, we saw other minivans, but we were jealous of the gigantic Sprinters. If we were going to live out of a vehicle for the long-long-term, a Sprinter for two people is the way to go. It’s like a studio apartment on wheels. But yeah, they are ridiculously expensive.
We saw people make do in their Subaru Outbacks, which is cramped but certainly livable for one person. This girl [KP] just started her trip, and she got a pop-up tent on top of her car. One couple we met pulled a T@B camper behind their truck. There are lots of possibilities, and I could never provide the full-spectrum of options that you could get by a simple google search. It’s up to you to decide what kind of set-up will fit your budget and specific travel needs.
If you are going to go with a minivan, it’s definitely not a bad choice. It just takes a little bit of remodeling.
WHAT WE DID: We had a Toyota Sienna. We removed all the rear seats and built a futon-style bed frame with three panels. The back panel lifted up to store two crashpads and our cooking equipment. The middle panel lifted up to become the “back” of the futon while the front panel could move forward and back to transform from “couch mode” to “bed mode.” Underneath the frame we could fit five large plastic bins with all of our belongings. This was definitely livable, but poor 6’2″ Drexel was too tall to sit up comfortably on the couch, and our stuff was difficult-to-impossible to retrieve from underneath the frame while in “bed mode.” It was easy for things to become messy. We had built our design around the concept that we needed space for maximum storage, instead of for comfort and ease of use. That was a mistake.
WHAT WE SHOULD HAVE DONE: We should have built side panels for storage that would nestle in the rear windows, like so:
One design that could have been a better use of the space is this pull-out slat bed. It would have been very nice to have that empty space during the day just for stretching and breathing, since the inside of the van always felt very cramped no matter what “mode” it was in.
With a sofa bed design like this one, we could have invited friends inside on cold rainy nights instead of feeling claustrophobic cramming people on our bed and bumping heads against the ceiling. During the day, we could have had a place to stretch or sit more comfortably. We could have had room for stackable plastic drawers, to increase the amount of easily-accessed items (e.g. clothes and food). We saw a guy who bungee-corded one of these behind the drivers seat and that seemed pretty smart to us.
That’s all I’ll say about vehicle design. There are plenty of sites with blueprints for building different features into your van or car. It wouldn’t be too difficult to live comfortably and affordably. Just remember that space and comfort are going to be more important than you might initially assume, so plan wisely. Your space should feel like a home, because that’s what it is going to be.
#2 – Bring less stuff. A lot less.
We had five full bins of stuff stored under our bed: one bin each for cloths or personal items, two bins total for food, and a “fun box” with books, art supplies, etc. With proper planning, we could have managed with NO BOXES. We could have used a 4-bin plastic storage tower for clothing and daily food, the side window storage (see photo above) for books, climbing gear, etc, and then the storage inside the bench-bed for food storage and miscellaneous supplies like chalk (since we liked to stock up).
It was just silly how many clothes we brought and never touched since we ended up wearing the same three outfits in rotation (Drexel basically wore the same zion prana pants for the entire five months). When your clothes get too stinky to feel okay about it, there are laundromats everywhere.
We also didn’t need as much back-up food like cans and boxes of easy-mac (some which came on the full trip with us and are still alive to this day!). At no point were we more than an hour or two from a grocery store, and there was absolutely no risk of starving. We had planned for a more extreme form of survival than necessary. If you need anything at all, you can probably find it on the road, so don’t bother packing for all those “just in case” moments. I won’t say more about packing because we wrote an entire blog on “The Must Haves and the Must Have-Nots (Of Packing).”
The bottom line is – pack less stuff than you might originally think you’ll need. You’ll thank yourself for the extra space later.
#3 – Have a fast, convenient way to boil water. Like a tiny tea kettle. Or those JetBoil things. Or anything else that does the trick of boiling water without lugging out all your cooking equipment. All we brought on our trip was a pot (for making pasta or quinoa) and a cast iron skillet for sauteing veggies. With only one big pot to use for everything, all of our oatmeal, tea and coffee had tiny flecks from last night’s dinner floating around. A small tea kettle would be faster and ensure that all we poured would be water. And that all we poured would go into the intended container, instead of splashing everywhere (our pot didn’t have a special lip for pouring ease). Do everything you can to make the morning process easier and calmer. If you can boil water for coffee and oatmeal without having to get out of the van, or even out of bed, you’re probably doing something right.
#4 – Depending on where you want to go on your trip, having AWD could be essential.
We survived on muddy and icy roads, but only sometimes from sheer luck. If we did this trip again, we’d either avoid sketchy roads, or choose a different vehicle. As it was, we slipped into an icy ditch on the way to Rocktown and got stuck in the mud in Arkansas. If you’re road-tripping in the winter and don’t have an AWD, be prepared to change your plans when the weather is feeling mischievous.
#5 – Budget wisely. Life doesn’t have to be expensive. Research ahead of time to find out how much it costs to climb at different places and plan accordingly (e.g. HCR is $5/day while the nearby Cowell is free). Find the cheapest (aka free) camping whenever possible. We made this easier for you with our Low-Down on Climbing and Camping, but you might need more extensive searching depending on where/when you’re going. When saving up money for your trip, just remember that food-wise you will probably spend $200-300/month (if you buy cheap groceries and also eat out a small handful of times). The only other expenditures should be gas (use this easy gas budget tool), climbing gear (e.g. chalk, replacement shoes) and then maybe bills from back home (e.g. cell phone). You might want to allocate a small budget for “fun” stuff, like riding carousels (don’t worry, most are 25¢ or 50¢) or expensive must-sees like the Tennessee Aquarium. Our trip ended when we ran out of money. It was also getting too hot to climb, so it worked out fine, but don’t let money be the sole dictator of your life.
#6 – Be prepared for the season.
We mentioned this in “The Must Haves and the Must Have-Nots (Of Packing)” but know what weather you’re going to be experiencing and make sure you have a warm enough sleeping bag. There were many a night that I did not sleep because I was too busy shivering and whimpering softly. A few months later, we were sweating and getting bitten by mosquitos because we had to crack a window to not suffocate on the humid heat. These problems could have easily been solved by a better sleeping bag and screens over the windows, neither which wouldn’t cost much, but might take a bit of pre-planning. (Worth it.)
#7 – If you’re a girl, you NEED a FUD.
FUD stands for “female urination device.” I recommend the pStyle. Stand and pee. No fuss. ‘Nuff said.
#8 – If you’re driving long distances, get a book on tape.
We didn’t have one when we drove from Chattanooga, TN to Arkansas, and that was a looong car ride, I’ll tell you what.
#9 – Driving, climbing, or hiking, stay very very hydrated.
It’s easy to not drink water when you’re driving, but if you’re intending to climb the next day, you need to drink. We had one of those 5 gallon plastic jugs and were able to refill it everywhere we went (there are spigots everywhere – on the road leading to Rocktown and even out front of the grocery store in Joe’s Valley). Downside was that our water tasted like dirt or plastic sometimes. But no matter what, drink water. Drexel got dehydrated one day and it wasn’t pretty. Andrew drinks ten Nalgenes daily! Don’t be a Drexel, be an Andrew.
#10 – Ten is a nice number to end on. Is there anything else we would have done differently? Sure. But so much of the journey is a process. Try to enjoy it.
Paul Winkler. 29 yo. Earned a BS in Mathematics and MA in Education. Lives in Albuqurque, NM. Originally from Hampton Bays, NY.
THEME SONG: Oh gosh, I don’t know if I have one. If I did it would probably be something by Tribe Called Quest, though.
1) How long have you been climbing and how did you get started?I’ve been climbing for 6.5 years. I got started when I moved out to NM for a job. I was living on the reservation and there was nothing else to do besides run, which I hate, so a friend of mine and I decided to check out a local crag after acquiring some cheap gear. It was sketchy!!
2) What do you enjoy the most about climbing? Bouldering: It’s hard to pick one thing, so I’ll list the many things I enjoy. I love the problem-solving aspect, the idea of pushing myself to my physical limits and the absolutely gorgeous areas you get to go to.
Sport Climbing: It’s much more of a mental game, so I like the idea of resource management. You have to be able to climb sections efficiently and choose when and how long to rest.
3) What are some of your goals in life (climbing and otherwise)?Climbing wise, I’d love to nail down some class V13s and 14a. routes. I have a few in mind, but I need to broaden my horizons a little more to figure out exactly which ones.
Life wise, I want to go back to school and get my PhD and get a job that affords me a comfortable climbing lifestyle.
4) What are your favorite pre-and-post-climbing foods? Before climbing I like to eat something fairly light, like oatmeal, cereal, or a bagel, etc. After climbing the greasier the better. A nice juicy burger, some BBQ, or even some disgusting fast food. I usually don’t each much on a climbing day, so afterward I like to pig out.
5) What are your thoughts on training? It’s a must! I have far too many thoughts on training to share them all, but a nice regimented program can do wonders for your climbing. The best resource you can lay your hands on is The Rock Climber’s Training Manual by the Anderson brothers. That’s the basis for my training program and it’s the best one I’ve come across so far.
6) How, if at all, do you think your climbing has been affected by your gender?
I think the competitive nature of men has had some impact on my compulsion to get stronger. Otherwise I don’t think it’s had a major influence. A man in a male-dominated sport isn’t really anything new, but there is some kind of mentality that goes along with that.
8) What advice would you have for someone trying to get into rock climbing?
First things first you should decide as early as possible if it’s something you’re only ever going to do casually or if you’re going to want to keep improving. If you decide it’s the latter, then you need to find a mentor. The best ones are not only the ones who have been climbing a long time, but those who also climb hard and are still trying to improve themselves. Find someone who climbs 5.13 or V9-10 on a regular basis. I promise you will be much less likely to stagnate because you’ll have someone to look to for motivation to improve. A little competition is good, just don’t get TOO competitive with your friends.
9) What are your hobbies/interests outside of climbing? Even though I can’t do it anymore I still love surfing. I also love to play board games, frisbee, slack-lining.
10) If you were given the choice of never petting any cute animals again, or never rock climbing again, which would you choose? I would definitely give up on petting animals rather than climb. That’s a pretty easy choice.
With just three ingredients, you too can create your very own delicious and healthy pre-or-post climbing snack.
I’ll make this real easy, since I know you’re getting antsy just thinking of being in a kitchen.
2 ripe bananas (ideally, but mine were still a bit green and that was a-okay)
1/2 cup rolled oats
That’s it. You can add more stuff and it should be fine. Throw in a dash of cinnamon, maybe a scoop of protein powder, splash of orange juice, some blueberries or strawberries. Heck, you could probably get away with a handful of kale in there. Go crazy. Just the three above ingredients will make 8-10 crepes/pancakes, so more ingredients = MOAR CREPES! And that’s always a good thing.
1. Throw everything in one big bowl [see above photo if you don't fully understand this step]. Mash the nanners with a fork. As you press down, focus on good wrist technique. (If your wrist gets sore, you can give in and use a blender, but we’ll judge you brah.)
2. Drop a nice dollop onto a hot, greased skillet. I used coconut oil and it was tasty, but other oils or butter would be fine. Cook until each side is lightly browned.
3. Make a big fat stack and eat it just like that, or cover it will all sorts of yumminess, like maple syrup, honey, yogurt, peanut butter, nutella, fresh fruit, etc.
NUTRITION: If you made 10 pancakes and only used the ingredients of 4 eggs, 2 bananas, and 1/2 cup oats, then each tiny crepe would have about:
82 calories, 4g protein, 1.5g fiber, and good doses of vitamins A/B/C, iron, magnesium, potassium, and calcium
Add a cup of greek yogurt on top, and that’s an additional 20g protein! Plus calcium.
Rocks For Research is an amazingly fun and interesting rock climbing festival put on to raise money for the Type I diabetes through the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Last year, the event raised $10,000 for diabetes research! (YAY!)
The volunteering day started out by casually eating lunch right next to Jimmy Webb and Daniel Woods (yeah, no big deal…). Once we were assigned to a volunteering shift, we were free to explore the event and climb to our heart’s content (again, alongside folks like the above mentioned, and also Lisa Rands, Kai, Matt Bosley, Courtney Woods… maybe you’ve heard of them?).
Alexa, Rose and I were are scheduled to help belay in the “Try Climbing” area for first-timers. Most attendees of this event were experienced climbers, so we spent a good portion of our time improving our headstands, but there were a handful of kids who were really psyched on scaling the wall! I’m not usually a softie for these kinds of things, but I definitely felt my heart clench when one boy looked up at me with these big brown eyes and told me proudly that he had Type I diabetes and how excited he was to be at this event with his friends.
Alexa got a good work-out from belaying one boy who inexhaustibly begged to climb “just one more time” over twenty times! Seriously. I guess kids don’t build up lactic acid(?) or something, because he was INSANELY PSYCHED.
At one point I brought this group of boys to the Evolv table, where Melise and Carter were super helpful sorting through their demo shoes to find pairs small enough for the boys to try on. I could tell the boys were really excited to wear “real climbing shoes” instead of the sneakers and crocs they had on.
Finally came the moment we had all been waiting for: the Climbing Showcase. All the pro climbers and a group of local climbers (“Pros and Joes”) teamed up to see who could get the most points by completing the hardest climbs. It was so incredible to be able to see our climbing heroes working out boulder problems right in front of our eyes. It was interesting noticing that all these strong climbers had distinctly different methods and styles for sending a problem. Jimmy and Daniel are very different sizes, so Daniel was more dynamic and had to rely more on finger strength, while Jimmy had “more raw power than anyone I’ve ever seen” (says Drexel). And I would have no idea that Kai, climbing alongside these guys and crushing a v10, was only 14 years old.
When the climbing was over, there were some raffle prizes handed out, goodies were thrown into our awaiting hands (we all got some new Giddy chapsticks!), silent auction winners were finalized, and then we all settled in to watch each of the pro climbers give a presentation that included some never-before-seen video footage and a short interview with a local radio personality (who had clearly never heard of rock climbing, but he got an A for effort). I especially loved the documentary about Kai’s life and the entertaining slideshow narration by Lisa Rands.
Our day ended long after the sun had gone down. It was a full and wonderful day. We can’t wait to volunteer again next year and hope to see all of your beautiful shining faces!
Somewhere between the bottom of the climb and the summit is the answer to the mystery why we climb. -Greg Child
Have you ever been climbing outside when a group of tourists hike by and say, “You know, there’s an easier way up that rock around the back?”
While you might shake your head at their silly ignorance, those folks raise a really good point: Why are you sweating and grunting your way up a rock using the most difficult route possible, when your eventual goal is to get to the top?
Here’s where it might be important to take a minute to contemplate your goals and values of rock climbing.
A goal is something that can be achieved, finished, completed. If your goal is to eat an 8 oz. chocolate bar, then you can buy one and stuff the whole thing in your mouth. Tada, done.
Values are never completely accomplished. If you value consuming sugar, it’s not like you can cross this off your list after you demolish an ice cream sundae or snack on a snickers. After you finish your goal of a chocolate bar, there will always be more sugar to consume.
So as you might be coming to understand, values are a direction, not a destination, and therefore are always available to you. At any point in your life, like right NOW, you can stop and answer the question “Am I headed in my valued direction?” even if you are not yet at your final destination.
Take a moment to consider: What ARE your values when it comes to climbing? To be physically fit? To connect with friends? To seek inner peace? To be out in nature? There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to values.
Goals, unlike values, frequently involve planning and waiting. Let’s talk about Fred. While Fred’s value might be to be physically fit, his goal might be to climb a certain v10. Within this goal, there might be several steps such as working out each individual move or designating specific days of the week to working on the problem or drinking two full Nalgenes of water every morning. Several steps (or goals) might take place before the larger goal is met. However, all these goals are driven by the same value: physical fitness, which is a continuous direction. Every day that Fred reached for a goal, whether or not he reached it, he was living his values.
I think this concept is important to gain perspective in climbing. I see people getting lost in their goals without ever finding a sense of accomplishment. Frustration builds up until the joy of climbing has worn thin or actions begin to run contrary to initial underlying values. (e.g. The person who climbs to find inner peace is freaking out about falling off a seemingly easy move or because they tweaked a pulley or didn’t place well in a competition.)
So returning to the earlier example of people asking why you’re trying to climb a rock when there’s an easy hike around the back — If the goal was to get to the top of the rock, why would any of us climb? Although one is working to get to the top of the rock, the goal in climbing must be about the experience of climbing: feeling the wind in your face, laughing with friends, noticing the pleasurable strength of your body as you use it, and being in touch with the rock.
If being a climber is what you care about and it’s about that very experience—falling off a climb and throwing a wobbler or finally sending a big project after months of hard work, then embrace the process. All of it, the good and the bad. As most of us know from experience, larger goals may not actually occur right away. All kinds of things can get in the way. The point is, by walking through the different steps along the way, you are participating in “value-driven” behavior, even if the “outcome” is not what we thought it would be.
While participating in value-driven behavior does not guarantee outcomes, you are much more likely to reach your goals when behaving in valued ways. If I continue climbing for fun, I will probably eventually get closer to my goal of sending such-and-such a problem. Also, by engaging in various value-driven actions you can learn more about what you want in a valued domain. The ultimate question becomes, “What do you want your life to be about?”
Feel free to share your values and goals in the comment section below.
Following the adventures of two rock climbers and their minivan