living the dream 2009-2016

seven years and at least eight road trips have passed. in the moment of a double take, while i turned, blinked and then quickly looked back, so much time has gone by in those short years. the 3 year old baby is well into his 10th year. the 6 year old big kid is going on 13, a big kid on the slow transformation to an adult. it seems like we were just at the AAA in east liberty, getting the title of the 2001 red vw eurovan weekender transferred into our names. we were giddy with excitement at the road that lay open wide before us with this purchase. a dream all wrapped up in one pop-top van. this vehicle was going to be our only car, our every day transporter to things around the city, and our weekend transporter to our other life, our climbing life. oh the road trips we could take! we had barely owned the van before we began planning life around it. the kids couldn’t wait to romp around the pop up. this eurovan was the perfect purchase for us. absolutely perfect. it was just a vehicle, yes, but it also became our symbol of the good life.

it’s hard to try to sum up these past 7 years. i can list all the big road trips: 2009 denver, colorado; 2010 hueco tanks, el paso, texas; 2011 6 week tour of the u.s. from pittsburgh to hueco to tucson, arizona to santa cruz, california, to salt lake city, utah to denver, colorado and back home; 2012 maple canyon and salt lake city in utah; 2013, steamboat springs, colorado and heuco tanks; 2014, hueco tanks; 2015 hueco tanks. and there were some other trips to connecticut and philadelphia and florida. but what’s hard is conveying in this short post what these trips meant to us. how we were challenged and how we grew as a family. the really amazing take your breath away good moments and the punch you in the gut hard moments when you just wish you were back home. all the stuff we got to see! we had birthdays on the road. the boys lost teeth on the road. we made new friends on the road. we made old friendships better. the van got us to every destination. she only broke down when we were home, around pittsburgh.

we aren’t going to remember only the road trips in the van though. there is also the every day around-home memories too. the van took us to back and forth to the hospital every day for 2 weeks when oren fractured his skull in 2009.  giving friends rides to places around town. moving furniture. sitting in the van for two hours on the coldest night of a very cold winter waiting for a tow on washington blvd the time the alternator belt broke. looking out into a sea of cars in a parking lot and being able to spot the van poking her head up above every other vehicle. driving to the pool in the summer. driving to the ice skating rink in the winter. driving to soccer. piling bikes in with the kids and driving to the bmx track. driving, just driving the van. i loved driving that van.

we had a rough 2015 with the van and as a family. the van started breaking down in small ways a lot. i don’t want to go into the litany of all the things that went wrong. but it was really starting to wear on us, especially brian who was the one to get her to a mechanic and have to figure out how to get to work around it. the last half of 2015, we drove my dad’s jeep about as much as we drove the van. for whatever reason, 2015 was also sadly devoid of camping and climbing–the things that reminded us of why we really loved this vehicle, why we spent so much time fixing it. and things were tense in our family with a tween in the mix. it was like the dream was falling apart.  things just didn’t fit right anymore. it seemed like we were forcing it too much and failing. we didn’t want to admit it, but we were outgrowing the van.

the last trip to hueco we took began to convince us. although the van had a newly rebuilt transmission, it would go into safe mode randomly here and there. this meant that it wouldn’t shift out of second gear and the engine had to be turned off to “cool down.” the first time this happened was in dallas, texas when we were already over a twelve hundred miles away from home. so for the whole trip, in the back of our minds, we were worried we might not get home without some serious trouble and maybe a long distance tow. it was too stressful. it tainted the whole trip. but the last nail in the coffin came back home. it was christmas eve. there had been some noise in the front end for a while, but now it was really, really loud. so loud that people would turn and look and not because the van was so cute. but on our way to church that night it got really, really, really loud. embarrassingly loud, and it seemed like the van was losing power. brian drove the van home that night, but it barely made it. the alternator was broken. and so were we. we had to get rid of it. it was time to buy a new car.

today, saturday, april 9, 2016, almost exactly 7 years to the day, the van’s new owner drove her away from our house. it has been months since we have driven her more than a few blocks. she sat out back in the alley, her top peeking over the back fence at us. we sold her on ebay to a man from new york with two boys. he has friends who are vw westy folks, and so the van goes to a good home, to people who appreciate her charm and will care for her well. i am writing this little piece as a sort of eulogy to her–not because the van died. i really thought up to last year that we would drive her into the ground, that we’d be her last owners. but she’s gone on to possibly bigger and better things. this is a eulogy to her, but also to what our life was with her. things are changing for us. our family is changing and our needs are different. the dream has to change too. so i’m saying goodbye to all that for now, at least to how it’s been until now. we aren’t a family of little boys anymore. and it seems we have less time to gallivant around the country to the next climbing destination. it’s not that the dream is over, it’s just changing. now we need to figure out how to live the dream in this new phase of life.  and with a different vehicle set up, one that doesn’t feel so perfect. and it’s hard, for me at least. it’s hard to say goodbye.

there is water running down our street.

when brian and i bought our house in may of 2004, we had a healthy fear of being homeowners, being responsible for an entire, free-standing building with electric, water, sewer and other utilities that were to become OURS. or maybe the fear wasn’t healthy enough. for the past almost 12 years, we have avoided any of the emergencies that we have been afraid of: fire, exploding water heater with lots of water damage, sewer back-ups, freezing or breaking pipes with lots of water damage, and i don’t know what other nightmares danced in our brains when we would contemplate home ownership in the deep dark of the early morning hours. we have had some big things come up like a roof  being replaced, and a bathroom and kitchen being redone, but nothing emergent–nothing completely out of our control. i think we were kind of lulled into a false state of homeowner’s bliss. but this week, we have been properly disillusioned, and it’s possible that we may have truly reached home ownership maturity. this week the water line to our house broke.

sunday morning before church there was  a noise–under the house? out in the street? under someone else’s house?–and the floor in the living room vibrated a little bit. the kids were alarmed. i was sure there was work being done outside somewhere on our street and it was probably nothing to be worried about. until i went in the kitchen to rinse out the smoothie-splattered vitamix carafe. the water didn’t turn on. hmmmm, so maybe the noise was from under our house. nah. probably the water company doing work somewhere in our neighborhood. it’ll be back on by the time we get home from church.

i was soon to learn that any work that involved the water authority is very unlikely to be done on a sunday morning, or maybe at all. but i digress. sunday was a mess of waiting around… for plumbers to diagnose the problem. unfortunately when the plumber who responded to our urgent call went to the basement to see if the problem was at the point where city water comes into the house, he was almost electrocuted because of a faulty neutral electrical line coming into the house.

so sunday became waiting around for duquesne light, our electric company to come fix it. thankfully, DL responded promptly, and the electrician not only fixed the neutral line, but all lines going into our house since they were being held together with electrical tape. (they had been like this for almost 12 years or longer?!?) that done, the plumber returned and tried to find the valve box where you can turn off the water coming in from the city at the street.  the water needed to be turned off in the street so that he could open the pipe in our house to see if it was blocked. if the water wasn’t turned off, it would just spray in all over our basement. well, the valve box was not to be found. and here is when we started to deal with Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority.

so sunday became a day of waiting for PWSA. and monday, and tues, and wednesday, and thursday, and today….. don’t get me wrong. they came. not sunday, but they have been at our house every day this week. they have come long enough to mark where the valve box should be one day. they came another day to fine find the valve box and dig it up. and the other days have been a fiasco of them trying to turn the water off. thursday morning the water started to pour out of the sidewalk and down the street. and so it still is, more than 24 hours later. dom costa (our PA representative)’s office has become a liason for us. and our plumber has a friend at PWSA who is trying to find out their plan.

there is still water running down our street.

meanwhile, i can’t really complain. i mean, i guess i am complaining a little bit. i’m not at home, and i’d really like to be. we are staying at my parents’ house, and while this is the most comfortable place to be if we can’t be in our own home, it is not our own home so we’re not sleeping really well. we’re all feeling a little edgy and frantic. how long can this go on? til a warm day?

and then today i read on the news about a water main break in a different part of the city. cars are under water. there is a big sink hole. hundreds of people are without water too. and maybe tomorrow and who knows for how long. so if that’s where PWSA is right now, if all their workers are trying to put a lid on that problem, i think i can convince myself it’s okay to wait. i can hang out here at my parents’ house for a while longer. and pray that those hundreds of people who are also without water have somewhere just as lovely to go to wait until their water gets turned back on.

yes, there is water running down our street, but i’ll just sit around here, warm and dry as the snow begins to fall, and be thankful that i’m not stranded out in the cold. and that there are three toilets close by that flush at the mere touch of a handle.

first things at forty

i turned 40 mid-november of last year. just a few weeks ago, really. brian threw me a lovely, low key, small party with a few of my  very loved and close friends from pittsburgh (just so those of you from out of town know you were missed! and if you are here, and didn’t get invited, it’s all brian’s fault). and it was at a wine bar.

this is the first party brian has thrown for me in all my years with him. though, i think once or twice before, he finagled casual gatherings for drinks.

soon after my birthday, we left for hueco tanks to rock climb, which some of you might be sick of hearing about (BUT I’M NOT TIRED OF WRITING ABOUT IT). anyway, while in hueco, i sent my first V8. a stout grade! the hardest i have ever climbed! a first and a best.

another first is happening today, and is truly what prompted me writing this quickie. today, for the first time in my life, i’m making lasagna. i gradually have been coming into a more domestic time in my life, taking on baking and cooking meals with pleasure instead of dread. i usually do a pretty good job following a recipe for the first time, even complicated ones since i like to dabble in grain-free baking. and i make my own yogurt, for crying out loud. i’m not done with the lasagna yet, so i have no idea if it will turn out well. but here is the recipe, and it is not a toy. yum.

so far, 40 is looking just fine.

thoughts at the beginning of a new year

january, a very bleak month indeed, is beginning to wind down. february is lurking somewhere, behind the cloudy, cloudy skies and frigid temps. what it will bring, i don’t know. probably more of the same dreary and cold days with occasional snow. or maybe we’ll be able to sense the days getting longer finally. maybe we’ll have more than one sunny day during the whole of the month.

the winter weather makes me listless, as it does every year–i complain about it like a broken record. the boys and i are back in the swing of school though, catching back up after our long absence. our days are spent huddled with our books in front of the fireplace, reading about cyrus the great or figuring equations or writing down sentences containing the week’s spelling words. we are content with this, mostly. the kids still would rather fill their days just playing. history and science really grab their imaginations, but not enough for them to refuse legos for story of the world. sometimes i wish this would change. but, come to think of it, i’m not always choosing to renew my mind over sitting with the internet in my lap or a show on the t.v. i’m trying to change that about myself, but only because as an adult, i can see how it would benefit my life, make it richer, fulfill a part of me that simply longs to know stuff. the boys will get there.

since our return from hueco, i have also found it very difficult to get back into my uber healthy lifestyle of eating really well, cutting down on sugar and alcohol a lot, and exercising a good many days each week. the holidays, of course, killed the healthy eating/drinking (or not drinking). though i think a person ought to enjoy a short period of gluttony here and there, and i certainly worked for it training from august to november and then being out climbing for almost an entire month, it’s hard to get back on track. i completed a 7 day cleanse that didn’t rid me of my sweet tooth, and i’m still struggling, but i’m back under control.

running has fallen by the wayside this year. i have given it up completely for now. last year at this time brian and i were in the throes of training for a long trail race. we considered doing it again this year, but brian found a new spark for climbing, so we decided to focus any training on that sport. i’m actually relieved. going out for runs had become extraordinarily forced with no feeling of reward at the finish. now i just (silently) mock the people i see out running in the horrible yet classic winter we have been having. suckers. when the weather gets warmer and it doesn’t seem like it’s either dusk or dark all day long, maybe i’ll take it up again.

climbing has even been hard to get back into. there are a few reasonable reasons for this:

one) the aug-nov training period was very intense, and i was doing some sort of workout 5-6 days a week, sometimes 2 times a day (i know, crazy, right? but i can’t say enough how well it worked and got me strong). i think i have it in my head that i have to jump right back into that training mode. which leads me to…

two) the spring climbing season (for outside adventures) is a somewhat far off. realistically, we won’t be climbing outdoors until maybe sometime in april, but more likely may. i just don’t have the motivation (another trip or a climb that i want to do in the area that i need to get strong for) yet. the local climbing gym certainly isn’t inspirational. i need to be content with just normalcy at the moment, a normal amount of climbing.

i have made one big-ish change recently (like, 3 days ago) that i hope will stick and help me out with this discontented preoccupation: getting up earlier (not too early) in the mornings to exercise first thing. i’m hoping this will help me be more consistent–nothing like waiting until 4p to exercise, knowing i have to start making dinner by 5p. i usually just give it up and say i’ll do it tomorrow. then the same cycle begins again. if i get it done in the morning, i won’t be dwelling, scheming, planning the rest of the day to try and get it done. i want exercise and climbing and stuff to be in my life, but i don’t want them to run it. i want to leave room for the renewing of my mind, remember?

i don’t really have a reason for this post except that i wanted to write. so here is a kind of happy-new-year-looking-toward-the-future type of post i guess. happy new year!

 

the christmas tree is lopsided

but what are you going to do when you get home from a long trip in the wee hours of the morning of december 18? it was dec 22 before we went out to get a tree and fancied the house up with the usual decorations and some new lights on the porch. pure white lights. not cool white, which shine purple, or warm, which shine… well, warm, like candles. i like white lights, but i swear there are way too many choices! the pure white is still kind of chilly to me. i’d like to gaze at our house and be wrapped in thoughts of hot chocolate and wood burning in the fireplace, not  shiny icicles. but again, your choices are severely reduced when you hit target for lights less than 2 weeks before christmas. i’ll have to remember that next year.

yes, we have already begun to think about next year. in fact, i was thinking about next year, and another trip to hueco on the drive home. we hadn’t even left the state of texas yet before i was putting together a new tick list for thanksgiving 2014. but before i head in that direction, let’s talk about the end of this trip. if you followed us on instagram, you saw that from dec 9-12 we hung out in tuscon, az, with our friends paul and april. it was good to have a rest after climbing so many days, and hiking and hiking and hiking, and trying to get to the office at the right time in the morning to get our reservations for north mountain or hit the trail to east spur before the crowds started filtering in. we had rest from our vacation right in the middle of our vacation! how often do you get a chance to do that?

thurs, dec 12 (oren’s b’day) we headed back to hueco for 3 last days of climbing. we had some problems we hadn’t ticked off at east spur and on north mountain, and a tour to the main part of east mountain where we hadn’t yet been to. friday morning we headed out on an east spur/east mtn tour so i could finish up that hi pro glow, a burly v6 on the purina wall. we “warmed up” on some freezing bottom-of-the-barrel climbs in the shade where it felt like it was still in the 30s. one was a fun, slightly painful v3 called solitary snake. on to hi pro glow which was also a bit shady. the kids and a couple of the parents could hang out in the sun a ways away while i put my time in in the cold darkness. i was worried at first that i wouldn’t get to the top because i kept falling off the beginning moves. i think my shoe rubber was too cold and wasn’t sticking to anything. but all the trying hard and falling off finally warmed up my muscles, and i topped that climb out. not bad for working on it less than 2 hours total. brian had a bad day since he didn’t have any specific climbs he wanted to get on except jingus bells, a slightly scary v5; but at the end of the day, he pulled out an exciting  flash of belly of the beast v7. and april ALMOST sent super classic better eat your wheaties (so close!) v8, her current proj and one of the coolest climbs in the park. so we could all walk back to the campground in celebration mode, which meant birthday cake (oren turned 8!) and bourbon and maybe some climbing movies.

saturday was our east mountain day. i had high expectations for this tour. maybe i shouldn’t have let it go until so late in the trip. i had a tick list for this area of 3 problems v5-v6-v7. for me to send all these in a day was sort of a pipe dream. but it being so late in the trip and my second day of climbing in a row, it would have taken a miracle for me to do all three. we were getting so tired. needless to say, i didn’t do all 3. hobbit in a blender (v5) took me ALL DAY instead of 1-2 tries like i was envisioning. i got nearly to the top of this tricky rock climb 5 times before i stuck the last big move and finally topped it out. ridiculous. but it was exciting when i did it after so may tries! brian did the other two problems on my tick list without any trouble, back to back, ides of march and hector in a blender. next year…  (now you can see why i’m already projecting to next time, right? things left undone. i hate that.) april also sent hobbit in a blender, and once again, we all walked back to the campground in celebration mode.

sunday was our last day of climbing. we would be leaving in the afternoon to start our long drive back to the burgh. i had one problem on north mountain that i had tried earlier in the trip and hadn’t sent yet. mexican chicken v6: a roof problem with a spicy finish. this climb is not at all my style, and the ending is the kind of ending i typically have trouble with: pulling a roof and making a long move with my foot super high. awkward. i was hopeful because the second day i worked on it, i was able put it all together except the last two moves. i thought that after a nice long rest in tuscon, i would come back fresh and ready and strong. (too bad resting in tuscon had a lot to do with eating birthday cake, chocolate and drinking wine.) i didn’t intend to save it until my 3rd day on of climbing though. i got to the end and into the last moves of mexican chicken 3 times, but i just couldn’t pull it off. my hands were like claws… claws that didn’t really open or close anymore, useless, useless claws. time to go home. a bitter sweet ending to our trip. things left undone. i hate that! no i don’t. i love it– i’m saving it til next time. (brian had a good last day with a send of mcbain v8 and a crazy looking v5 that i can’t remember the name of. i think we even got video of both.)

so here is my tick list for hueco 2013 (i am forgetting a couple of the not-so-memorable climbs):

  • v2 ostracizer
  • v3 el burro
  • v3 solitary snake
  • v3 skimmer
  • v4 b flat
  • v5 hobbit in a blender
  • v5 meat maker
  • v6 that hi pro glow
  • v6 see sharp
  • v6 see spot run
  • v8 s.a.d.

not a bad list! i wasn’t expecting one so long. i definitely wasn’t expecting to send s.a.d. or see spot! my training certainly paid off.

2014’s tick list is a little longer and has some stout problems on it, some of which are “in my dreams” kind of climbs. for what it’s worth, here’s the list (it’s what is going to motivate me and focus my training all year):

  • v3 squeeze me tender
  • v4 bloody flapper
  • v4 t-bone shuffle
  • v4 the fin
  • v4 try hard
  • v5 jingus bells
  • v5 animal acts
  • v6 mexican chicken
  • v6 ides of march
  • v7 belly of the beast
  • v7 big iron on his hip
  • v7 hector in a blender
  • v7 new religion
  • v8 better eat your wheaties
  • v8 mr. serious

and so, we may end up with a crooked tree again this coming christmas if we make this trek to hueco again in december. it’s so very much worth it though. happy 2014!

(we do intend to put some pics of the trip, and maybe some videos up on the main page soon.)

what do you do…

when the sun won’t come out, the wind is blowing, the temps are in the 30s and the campground electricity and water go out? go climbing until your kids can’t feel their toes, huddle in the van with the engine idling, cook out in the cold, eat with 9 other people in your friends’ van, try to sleep with the whole family on the bottom bed because you can’t keep the pop-top up, wake up to sunshine in the morning, turn the van back on, hike around to find the closest pit toilet, gather your kids and your things, and go out climbing again.

then get out of there and go somewhere else! tucson, here we come!

see spot run

so far this trip, we have experienced the gamut of weather. cold. snow. clouds. sun. heat. we were hoping to avoid the really wild windy days that we have been in on our spring trips. alas, it was not to be. wednesday, dec 4, a cold front began it’s approach and with it came wind. gusts up to 50 mph. in the desert, when there is wind, there is dust. it didn’t turn into a full blown dust storm, but it was close.

on wednesday, we climbed up on north mountain in the sun and the wind. you might think that these days are a deterrent to the climber carrying, essentially, a big sail (the crash pad) on his or her back. perhaps it should be. at least twice i felt the wind trying to man-handle me as we hiked along the slabs between climbs. we have climbed on windy days before–i have had at least one good send in 50 mph winds and a dust storm. i wasn’t about to let it keep me from my choice climb of the day…

see spot run, classic high ball v6, with an end move that packs a punch. i admit, i was a little freaked out (read: terrified) that the wind would blow me right off this high steep face. in fact, i was just terrified of the climb all the way around. see spot run is roughly 30 feet tall. three years ago when we came to hueco for the first time, i tried this rock climb. after a couple of tries through the first, hardest moves, i found myself at the top before the final big move. and i panicked, down-climbed and jumped off. the fall from that 15 foot height was jarring and scary. two years ago, the second time we came to hueco, i tried it again. i didn’t get as high before i fell and torqued my ankle a little bit. enough to keep me from trying the route again. i don’t think i was ready to commit to it yet. going into this trip i told brian i wasn’t going to get on it at all, i didn’t write it down on my tick list–at first. the more i kept thinking about it, i decided that i would get back on it, but with one caveat: i was only allowed to try it once. so for the past 10 days since we have been here, i have been thinking about this climb in the dark of night, hands and feet sweating like i was actually on the thing.

after warming my fingers up on some easier climbs outside the martini roof and also small potatoes, my friends (who took the time to come up on their rest day to offer much encouragement and padding) arranged a jigsaw puzzle of pads. i wasted no time in pulling on, figuring that the least amount of time looking up at the high moves, the better. i quickly remembered the moves, the movement at the bottom easy to get caught up in. soon i found myself at the move to the smile crimper where i fell two years ago. the flow of the moves before that stopped abruptly, and i felt my left elbow pointing up and out at an angle like a chicken wing, a sure sign of imminent failure. something was off. something felt wrong. i had to let go. falling on the crash pads felt fine this time. i didn’t land funny, it didn’t feel that far. “warm up go,” i said, a common phrase between us during this trip because sometimes you have to try a rock climb a couple of times before it feels like your moving well on it. i had one more go since i didn’t fall due to lack of commitment. i was going to sit and think for a bit and figure out why it had felt so weird up there, so hard.

thankfully a group came by wanting to try the climb out. i watched three guys do the climb, varying in height and weight, and was able to see some different ideas for what feet i could use at the smile move where i fell. i was pretty sure i had my feet to high, it was just a matter of choosing which lower feet to use. one thing i love about hueco is that you usually have your pick of feet to use.

once there was a lull in activity at the base of the climb, i was ready. i shed my down jacket and sweater and sat to put my shoes back on. again, the beginning of the climb flowed well. when i got to the move up to the smile, i set my left foot in a lower foot hold, my right stayed where it was for the move before, and made the move no problem. now i was at the final deadpoint to the good holds at the top of the face. my left hand was seizing up since i had been holding crimps for all the moves before this one, so i quickly shook it out to help it relax. then i hiked my right foot up high and checked out the hold where i was going. it was one big fluid move: pull in my weight over my foot and at the same time move my right hand up fast to the end of my reach. bam! got it! and i think i had my eyes closed. when i opened them, i just had to look around for feet and climb a few more moves and i was on the top of the boulder. done!

a proud send in anyone’s book. probably one of the best rock climbs i have ever done in my life. now see spot run isn’t going to keep me up nights, and i won’t get butterflies in my stomach every time i walk by it. it’s kind of sad. that anticipation of sending a climb is almost the best part of the game. i’ll have to find a new climb to grab my imagination. hmmmm, what’ll it be?

in el paso doing laundry

we have been on the road 10 days now, and today (the first day of december!) i’m taking advantage of our rest day to do laundry. we have a lot, even though i limited the number of clothing items we all brought. we have had to double-wear some things, but that’s okay. part of being on a climbing trip is being dirty. at least the van doesn’t smell… yet.

the past week has been lovely after the rough start we got on the weekend. we only lost one climbing day because of the terrible weather. we had planned to rest on monday after climbing saturday and sunday. but since we were stuck in a hotel room both weekend days, we climbed a little bit on north mountain on monday. it was still pretty cold and even a few snow flakes fell, but by mid afternoon the sun burned off the clouds and the temps got to nearly 50! each day since, the weather has gotten warmer. yesterday (saturday) was a pleasant 68 degrees–hot in the the sun. we were climbing in t-shirts, and the boys didn’t have to wear 2-3 layers of clothes including long johns.

daily, we have been like lizards, soaking up rays in sunny spots between climbs, as my friend april describes it. once the sun goes down, we scurry back to camp to make dinner in the dark and cold, and huddle in our heated van. paul and april have this down to a science, since they climb here every other weekend during the chilly season. their van is a bit bigger than ours, so our boys watch a movie with their babes while we cook in the cold. then we hang out and eat together, all crammed in. they made it festive for the holidays with colored christmas lights strung along their windows. looking from the outside in, through fogged up windows, the effect is more than cozy. then it’s bedtime, and we crank the heater for a while and snuggle down deep in our sleeping bags for the night. a few of the nights have been really cold. we wake up and put the heater on for a little bit again just to take the edge off. in the mornings water we left out on the picnic table is frozen.

this is climbing in the desert in the winter ( nope, i guess technically it is still fall). we complain a little bit. we compare it to when we come here in the spring–april-ish. in april it’s hot in the day, and hiking and climbing, very sweaty. but the sun stays up into the evening. we cook in comfort, and we can all eat together outside and sleep with the windows in the van open. there are also very few people here climbing since it is considered the off season for climbers. it’s almost worth it though, trading creature comforts like warmth at dinner time for climbing in lower temps during the day. the rock is chilly and crisp, and our fingers stick to it like velcro. who knows which is better. we will probably just have to keep coming back to figure that out…. a life long endeavor probably. no complaints about that.

bored…

out of our skulls. my dad always told me as a kid that boredom is a state of mind. if we’re bored it’s just because we’re not creative enough (read: too stupid) to come up with something to do. and then he or my mom would threaten us with dreaded chores like cleaning out the laundry room. i sometimes tell my kids the same thing these days. but, there is a limit to a person’s motivation and ingenuity i think. and we have been pushed over the line. we’ve played games and gone to museums and gone shopping and watched movies and read and played on our iwhatevers and had plank contests and played games and…..

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yesterday was supposed to be our first climbing day on north mountain at hueco. such high hopes and excitement have been carrying us through almost this entire past year thinking about it. such a list of problems to start working! instead we have been stuck in el paso, in horribly cold weather (for climbing) waiting for the heavens to spew forth its frozen havoc and shut everything down. the heavens remain heavy and gray but dry and silent; and if this was our only worry, i probably wouldn’t feel so beat down right now. i wouldn’t feel beat down right now because we would be putting our stuff back in the van to spend a chilly day at hueco and camping in the van tonight. finally using our heater. finally surrounded by rocks and not strip malls. finally doing what we drove all this way to do. it’s not just the weather though. we’re all in various stages of a nasty cold. oren has had it since before we left. seb contracted it within the first day or two in the van. and now i feel it coming on, crouching in the back of my throat.

today was to be our second day on. a day when we would start feeling really good and rejuvenated from the rest we took last week. going back to climbs we started working on yesterday and maybe ticking them off. instead, we’re stuck in el paso, stuck in our room trying to give the poor sick people a good solid rest today in hopes that we’ll wake up tomorrow ready to bound out the door and go climbing. stuck and bored out of our skulls.

the only thing keeping me from curling up in a fetal position and weeping is this: monday, november 25, sunny, high of 49. one more day in limbo, and it almost seems to good to be true.

safe…

and sound tonight at the microtel el paso east. the wind is beating at the window, but we are warm an cozy inside again tonight.

after going to bed last night in dallas with temps in the 70s, this morning we awoke to mid-30s with a windchill in the low 20s. and it didn’t get better. the first couple of hours of the drive were windy with some scattered rain/freezing rain, but after fort worth somewhere, it got bad for what seemed like an hour. the scattered showers turned into steady freezing rain and sleet. thankfully, the roads out here are mostly flat, and the ground had yet to get frozen itself, so nothing stayed icy for long. except for the bridges. every time we hit one (oh, every couple miles or so?) the van would shift and wobble until the tires grabbed the pavement on the other side of it again. i know i’m from the northeast, but i will never really enjoy driving in terrible weather like this.

those conditions didn’t last too long, and it was smooth sailing until the other side of midland, texas. i think it was right after we merged from i-20 to i-10. then the freezing rain began to fall in ernest. with the windchill, the van had already been accumulating ice, especially the windshield wipers. we couldn’t keep those cleared off and working well for more than a few minutes. pretty soon, there was only one clear spot to see through, and brian was craning his neck to use it. the grasses and shrubs along the roadside were white with ice. after a couple of treacherous patches, it finally stopped. the last 100 miles to el paso were dry.

so thankful to not be in the car and not to have to be in the car all day again til we are on our way home in a few weeks. so thankful that there was a restaurant nearby so we could chow on gluten free pizza. now if only we could get the much anticipated climbing into this mix! a winter storm warning remains in effect here in el paso through sunday afternoon, so here’s to hoping that the sun will come out (…tomorrow…) monday.