Bringing in the New Year at Rocktown

Last week a giant awesome crew of Booners and Knoxvillians made their way to Rocktown to herald in the new year. For me, it was a vacation! For Drexel, it was just another day in the life. (Sigh.)

Words cannot describe the pure childlike glee of watching people casually crush their long-time projects like it ain’t no thang. Trey (seen below) walked Sherman Photo Roof V7 the way you can brush your teeth with your eyes closed. It takes a lot of confidence and tenacity to come back to a climb that caused so much heartbreak the previous year (he consistently made it to the last move multiple times). By now, he could probably do all the moves in his sleep. I think many people would just throw in the towel and say “F*ck it, I’m never touching this rock again!” But not Mr. Ronald Worley the Third. No, not him. This is a shining example of what a positive attitude can do.

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“My positive attitude is overflowing.”

Another example would be the tall, indescribable Mr. Ryan. He drove all the way to Rocktown, shivered himself to sleep in his tiny car (scientists are puzzled how an 8′ man fits inside a 6′ car), and hiked around in the miserable mistiness. I had assumed everyone who dealt with the elements did so because they were determined to climb. It wasn’t until I had already left that I realized Ryan hadn’t climbed at all! Dealing with a shoulder injury and potentially needing surgery, he came out just because he was psyched to hike around outside and cheer on his friends. He never once mentioned his shoulder. He never complained or seemed disgruntled with his lot in life. So HIGH FIVE Ryan. I know plenty of people, including myself, who have let an injury completely crumple their world. They become angry and embittered, slaughtering gallons of ice cream and muttering curses to the rock gods. Or worse, they try to climb through an injury, realize it hurts or is getting worse (no duh), and throw a temper tantrum. So next time you’re griping about your sore fingers, just think, “What Would Ryan Do?” (WWRD).

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WWRD? Look sensual on a rock.

Another remarkable feat of tenacity was Carson’s return to Big Bad Right V8. Last year he took a bad fall and severely sprained his ankle on this very climb. This year, without even breaking a sweat, he cruised through the powerful moves and did a little dance at the top. Ian, not to be outdone, stole Carson’s beta and sent, riding high on his previous sends of Brown Hole V8 and Triple Threat V9, and then later got way too excited on Price is Right V8. For those of you who haven’t met Ian, he’s one of those annoying guys who can hop off the couch after not climbing for months and then crush your project into tiny little pebbles. He is also really good at dancing with his head pressed against the roof of a car (fun fact of the day!).

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Carson working out the moves of Golden Harvest V10.

My day at Rocktown was a success, despite not sending any new boulders. I was able to stick a difficult move on Sherman Photo that I had never done previous, and I tickled the top of The Tao V8. Since I’m not getting any taller, my only hope is to keep getting stronger. Spending a day climbing outside was an excellent motivation to keep training during the week and trying harder to be a weekend warrior. (Definition: a “weekend warrior” is a person with a big-kid job during the week who only gets to go climbing outside on the weekends. Yay life.) 

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Experimenting with some barely existent intermediates on The Tao V8.

Oh yes! And of course it was great fun to take first-timers to Rocktown and show them all the fun classics! Macee did her FIRST OUTDOOR v3 with the heart-pumping Mario (or is it Luigi?). HURRAY!!!! Rocktown has something for everyone!! (And if you are scoffing at this, please brush up on your invisible ethics of climbing.)

After a hard day of climbing, we were all looking forward to stuffing our faces with Mexican food. Everyone knows one of the best perks of Rocktown is the nearby Los Guerrero’s. Alas, it was closed! As was the Italian place across the street! What were we to do?!?!? In a small town like Lafayette, there’s really not much else except good ole trusty McDonalds. I’m sure locals were confused by the sudden conglomeration of six cars in one tiny empty parking lot. I know I was. Luckily our noses (slash smartphones) led us to a chinese buffet down the street. It wasn’t amazing, but it was food, and they had seating for all 12 of us. And an entire array of American fried foods (with ranch!) right alongside their greasy lo mein and peanut chicken.

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Do you see Ian massaging his meat down there?
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Kyle getting down and dirty with some noodles.
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“MMM! CHEEEKAN!” (Name that movie for a free block of chalk!)

When we couldn’t fit any more fried donuts and ice cream in our bellies, we lined up at the register to pay. They must have miscounted our party number, because when the last person was lined up they demanded payment for two. Flustered and unsure of themselves, the person said, “Oh, there’s someone still in the bathroom” and quickly beelined for the door. And as the last car squealed out from the parking lot, a little Chinese lady ran after them, screaming and waving her hands in the air.

Happy 2015.

Melise Edwards Hits the South

Drexel here, I just finished up this video of my good friend and fellow crusher Melise, climbing in Boone and Tennessee. Enjoy!

After finishing school, Evolv athlete Melise Edwards hit the road with the intention of climbing in all the best areas the South East has to offer. After a very successful stint in Boone, NC, Melise visited some Tennessee sandstone at LRC, Dayton Pocket, and Rocktown. She had a blast and looks forward to the next opportunity to explore more fantastic bouldering spots. In this video she climbs Klamper V8, Changing Lanes V9, and Portobello V9, in Boone, NC. She also quickly puts together River Dance V9, one of the most beautiful and classic boulder problems the South has to offer.

Keep up with Melise on her blog: itsajurg.blogspot.com/

Oh, oh, oh oh stayin’ alive!

I suppose I’ll keep the blog ball rolling! YEEHAW. (Please feel free to comment below with encouraging words for Drexel to write a blog entry. If we get at least 5 comments, I bet he will write something about how he lives in his van and climb rocks.)

Normally I’m not doing anything noteworthy that is climbing-related. But. This past weekend I took the long-but-not-too-awful drive to Chattanooga to hang out and climb with Drexel and Melise! (Yay!)

Saturday was kind of grey and gross, but we got out for a nice hike with the pupsy to look at the surprisingly impressive and proximal Apartment Boulders. I won’t tell you where they are (just in case this is supposed to be a local’s only secret) but I bet you could find out if you were persistent. It’s crazy to see boulders so close to civilization, until you stop and remember that the boulders were here first, so it’s less “Whoa, how did those boulders get here!?” and more “Whoa! Why did someone build apartments so close to large rocks?!”

Sunday was ROCKTOWN!!! I haven’t been back there since the good ole days of our road trip. Besides one chuffery (can that be an adjective?) day at Blowing Rock, I haven’t touched real rock since… a long enough time that I don’t have the patience to calculate it. So it’s been a while. Words cannot describe the rock star exhilaration I felt walking up to the Hueco warm-up area and finally touching sweet sweet sandstone. (Mmm.) Maybe a picture can do it justice?

The face says it all.
The face really says it all.

The only thing more fun than exploring Rocktown is sharing Rocktown with a climber who is there for their first time. — I still fondly remember Zach S. hiking into Rocktown for his first time and getting psyched to throw his pad down at all the chossy stuff we passed on the way to actually climbable rock. We had to promise him that there was more, so much more to come if you keep walking five more minutes! — There is a strange satisfying joy that comes from showing someone all your favorite climbs. And even moreso, seeing someone flash the pants off of all your favorite climbs. Because honestly, that’s what happened when Melise met Mr. Rocktown. By the end of the day, Melise was victorious, and Mr. Rocktown had no pants on.

One by one, they fell before her – Hueco Simulator V-scary, Nose Candy V6, Sherman Photo V7, Helicopter v6, Standard Deviation V6, Golden Showers V5 (second-go, the only non-flash send of the day)… It was INSANE!

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A photo of the Photo Roof V7.
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Golden Showers v5 but I think it should be called Golden Hugz.

Not to be outdone, Drexel sent Triple Threat V9, one of the few remaining Rocktown climbs on his ticklist. I had so much faith in his sending powers that I videotaped it with my dinky-yet-sturdy Lumix (a camera I highly recommend for a roughing-it-road trip), so stay tuned for that lil thang. Please let me know if you have song suggestions!!!! Right now I’m thinking Beyonce

Fancy schmancy bat hanging trickery on Triple Threat V9.
Fancy schmancy bat hanging trickery on Triple Threat V9.

I had no impressive sends for the day. In fact, I couldn’t even re-send some of my easy climbs from last year. And… I think that’s okay. It’s humbling, but it’s nothing to beat myself up about. Still recovering from a bad ankle injury and a lack of any serious climbing/training, my goal for the day was just to regain my confidence and psyche climbing outside on real rocks and re-learning how to find feet without neon tape. And I did that, so I guess my day was a success. (Confidence tip: Set the bar suuuppper low and then exceed expectations no matter what you do!)

My other goal for the day was to teach Rumi how to be a good crag dog. Except for that one time that something snapped in his little furry brain and he went into crazy run-in-circles-as-fast-as-possible-omg-run-run-run, he was pretty good at staying off pads and playing well with others.

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Rumi and his new palz. I think the little one is a bit of a creeper.

Overall, a great day. We had been planning to hit up the Hot Chocolatier in the evening, and Melise had even racked up 50+ V-points, earning herself AT LEAST THREE liquid truffle drinks, but the shop was closed on Sundays. I don’t understand why, except maybe there was a petition by local churches to close the shop and improve service attendance? Is it blasphemous to worship chocolate?!? I say NO WAY. But put away those sympathy notes — we were sneaky and managed to create our own truffley-fudgey-deliciousness back home. Crisis averted.

Until next time,
M&D

selfie
Warning: Don’t steal my camera to take selfies unless you want them posted on our blog. 🙂

Drexel’s Time in Boone (and my time with chocolate)

New video out. Thanks to Organic for the support, and all the wonderful Booners. http://vimeo.com/113348945 Drexel is having a blast climbing in Chattanooga on the daily, kicking it with Mike and a chiweenie. I’m jealous (about both those things), but too busy coloring feelings with adorable little demon children and their families (yay “real” jobs). This upcoming winter break should see an increase in climbing, psyche, and trips with all our friends to Rocktown, LRC and maybe even Rumbling Bald (Dec. 13th Triple Crown!).

chiweenie
Chihuahua + weiner dog = chiweenie!?

p.s. Good news for all you Asheville climbers: The new Chocolate Lounge just opened, and it’s easy jogging distance from Climbmax downtown. So set yourself a goal of climbing all the v3s — I mean 3 stars — er, I mean dots? Yes. Dots. Climb all the dots, and then get yourself a hot cup of salted caramel liquid truffle. (Or just skip the climbing and go straight to the chocolate – teehee!) … (You know who you are.)

truffle
Mmm, every little spoonful from that little baby spoon was like a majestic swirling field of flowers and unicorns dancing and hugging my mouth.

Triple Crown – Hound Ears

This weekend marked the beginning of the 2014 Triple Crown Bouldering competition series, and also the first weekend that was super friggin cold! It feels like one of those middle school nights where first you soak in a hot tub, then plunge into a frigid swimming pool while shrieking with delight, and then pop back in the hot tub and do this over and over again. Except that the hot tub just closed for six months and you have to stay in the pool until then. Yes, winter has arrived this weekend and it’s here to stay, so you better learn to enjoy it.

(If you didn’t do that hottub/pool thing in middle school, sorry, but you missed out big time.)

We were both psyched to help out during Hound Ears as judges, arriving at the campground at 6:45am on the day of the comp, only to wait around for a couple extra hours for the morning drizzle to dry off the rocks. Thea from Footsloggers provided free coffee for the masses (thanks!), and after five cups it was time for me to do… something! Anything! So I very excitedly helped herd people onto shuttle busses and made awkward caffeine-fueled conversation with folks as I collected their waivers, and despite a bus break-down, all 400ish people finally made it up to the boulder field!!!

I was really looking forward to running around climbing at Hound Ears with my friends. That was the game plan at least. Then last weekend, after getting my ankle kicked out during a soccer game, plans changed and my  new goal became walking slowly, cheering my friends on and having as much fun as possible signing other peoples’ scorecards with a big red J for Judge.

Olivia’s recent blogposts have been super inspirational about having a positive attitude while injured.  It also helps that the world is a beautiful place (especially in the fall) so my view of people climbing looked like this:

Hound Ears
Not a bad view of fall foliage… and Julie really got to get up close and personal with nature as she ascended this sketchy v3 into lichen, moss, trees and leaves.

More photos? Okay!! Excuse the iPhone crappy quality… and the sparsity – it was so cold all I wanted to do was keep my fingers in my pockets. I DO have a couple videos of Jephree cheering in that really intense special way that he does – if anyone asks, I will post. If not, enjoy the few pics I managed to capture:

Hound Ears
With Brennen Bull star-chasing all over the place, we saw a lot of this view. It all paid off, because Brennen and his bright blue pants went home as winners!
Hound Ears Blade Julie
Julie Hwang and her crazy strong fingers on the classic Blade V6.
Hound Ears Blade Lisa
Lisa Hummel slicing her way through the Blade V6. (Like buttuh.)
Hailey racking up some points with Woody’s v3 (a V5 with a misleading name).
Hound Ears
Dan Horne wanted to be cool like Hailey, so he hopped on Woody’s v3 and crushed the pants off of it.
IMG_0158
The Clawwwwwww V4. (It’s hard to say the name of this problem without thinking of Toy Story.)
Hound Ears Julie
Julie was chosen to ascend The Claw V4. (Oooooooohhh.)
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Ian Rogers having a power struggle with The Controller V6.
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Cold widdle Rumi made a new friend and crawled inside Al’s puffy jacket. So crazy to bump into a dude we met in Arkansas back on our road trip!

People turned in their scorecards and meandered back to the campground to eat some subpar chili. Slowly but surely, the sky darkened and things got more interesting. There was a pad-stacking contest, winners were announces, and some numbered balls were thrown into the audience. I was busy cuddling with a shivering puppy in the minivan, but Drexel and his brother Carson caught ALL THE BALLS and won some legit stuff, like a new chalk pot, down jacket, and framepack. These are not your average door prizes…

Looking forward to Stone Fort at the end of this month, and crossing my fingers that my sprained ankle will be healed up by then, or I might just have to cut it off and nub my way up I Think I Can V9. Cutting off an appendage is the best way to drop some quick poundage, right?

I realized while posting photos that I never put up any photos from Locals Day at Hound Ears back in June 2014. So keep your eyes peeled for epic photos of dynos, ninjas, and crate stacking. (Spoiler alert: Thor wins.)

Recap!

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.

The cutest
“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.” -Rumi

 

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.

(Yes. Psyched.)

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!!!!!

  • October 4: Hound Ears
  • October 25: Stone Fort
  • November 22: Horse Pens 40
  • December 13: Rumbling Bald

Lessons Learned

You know what we still haven’t gotten around to?

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.]

Our route (more-or-less)
Our route (more-or-less)

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.

In "futon mode"
In “couch mode.”
Rear
Rear view, while in “couch mode.” This back panel could pull out half-way to provide a table of sorts for cooking, but it wasn’t built sturdy enough and broke half-way through the trip.

 

WHAT WE SHOULD HAVE DONE:  We should have built side panels for storage that would nestle in the rear windows, like so:

Minivan Conversion
Photo credit: The Grove Guy

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.

These slats pull straight out to form a bed.
These slats pull straight out to form a bed, but when not in use, take up much less space and are also useful for storage.

 

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.

plastic storage tower
So much good space in a plastic storage tower!

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.

frizzle

Following the adventures of two rock climbers and their minivan