It Pays to Pay Attention

By | Adventure, Food for thought, Musings | One Comment

Wisdom is everywhere, and what we know is exactly what keeps us from being wise. Ain’t that a paradox! If the goal of learning is knowledge, then how can knowledge prevent us from learning?  I don’t know, but here’s a story. I certify that the events contained herein are true and factual, to the best of my recollection. Although, frankly, one should never let the truth get in the way of a good story. The year was 2011, the address was 1015 Folsom in San Francisco, and the time was approaching midnight. Several folk, myself included, had organized a camp for Burning Man called Camp UP, which included a rather large bouldering wall, and we were caught in the grips of a multi-splendored culture of psychic exploration (read that as you wish). Most of the core group of Camp UP was selflessly partying in the name of raising funds for another Burning Man camp, Opulent Temple. Most nightclub veterans know the importance of staying hydrated, particularly on a hot summer’s night. The hard part can be choosing between dancing and the procurement of the necessary element of water. Savvy partiers that we were, Zack and I had gotten plastic water bottles from the bar earlier in the evening, which of course could be filled from the taps in the restrooms. A brief note on nightclub restroom attendants: They’re almost always there, they’re almost always polite but irritating at the beginning of the night, and they’re almost always among your favorite people…

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Our Latest Release – Pottery?

By | Adventure, Trip Journal | One Comment

If you had shown us this video as we were preparing to go on the road back in 2011, we would be very, very confused. We would have had no reference points for anything contained therein. I don’t think we even knew what “micaceous” meant.* If you told us 6 years ago that we would be the ones to make the video… I’ve pointed out in the past that climbing is a wonderful way to access adventure. I’m trying to sort out how I feel about the fact that climbing in general, and our own climbing in particular, has played a diminishing role in our adventures per se, lately. But that’s for another day’s musings. Today, I want to tell you about the guy in the video, Felipe Ortega. He is: An Apache medicine man Recognized by the Smithsonian Responsible for reviving the Jicarilla Apache tradition of making bean pots from micaceous clay A widely sought-after teacher of said tradition, who charges $1500 for his tutelage A brilliant and wonderfully articulate cultural interpreter (Link is a PDF) Humble, and utterly hilarious, when the mood strikes A cancer patient in a grim situation That last one is pretty significant. Stage IV prostate cancer¹ had him with one foot in the grave, but when we met him in the fall of 2015, he had jumped right back out and was as vigorous as a man 20 years his junior. Since then his condition has oscillated between what might be called “fair,” and…

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Pissed Off

By | Adventure, Food for thought, Musings, Trip Journal | No Comments

I’m pissed, y’all. And I’m trying to process it, so bear with me. The plan, in a nutshell, was to drive around like the heroes of Rampage and climb some rocks. In doing so, we would be diving deep into the beating heart of America with a sturdy American truck, trying to get a read on what makes this country tick. Travel, they say, is a brilliant teacher, and I was eager to learn how well a lifetime of liberal indoctrination had prepared me for getting by in the so-called flyover states. And let me tell you, I wish I could distill the galaxy of lessons learned during our well-nigh 6 years of RV Projecting. It would take volumes…not to mention every wild sunset, the 4AM fuel stops, epic summits, unforgettable successes and failures, friendships of every duration and intensity, gut-dissolving tragedies…aww heck. Look at me. I got to ramblin’ again. Point is, I’ll die one of these days, but with a smile on my face. I won’t feel like the good Lord gypped me. The adventure has been a good one for us, and it’s not what I’m pissed about. See, we returned to my parents’ place in the Bay Area for Thanksgiving and some restful family time. The newspaper comes every morning, which is weird for us…and I’m pretty pissed at what I’m reading. We have a dysfunctional government being run by saboteurs. Public things–lands, services, schools, discourse–are disappearing faster than the coral reefs I used to study….

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Oh, the Fun You’ll Have

By | Adventure, Birthday Challenges, Climbing | No Comments

My favorite book is, unquestionably, The Phantom Tollbooth. In it, the Whether Man wisely suggests that Milo “hope for the best, expect the worst, and be unsurprised by anything in between,” or something to that effect. This year, my Birthday Challenge was an absolutely perfect illustration of this. Actually, it wasn’t a proper challenge, just a Birthday Pretty Hard. Life’s been busy and unpredictable enough that I didn’t have the time or inclination to concoct a massive challenge, but I knew I wanted to do something memorable. Since we’re living in Yosemite, doing the Tenaya-Matthes-Cathedral linkup seemed perfect. The day before my birthday, I drove up to check the snow on Tenaya. It looked like the route was still climbable despite two patches sitting on the buttress, but I wasn’t sure, which made me suddenly very anxious. On top of that, I didn’t know who would be joining me for the day, I hadn’t been training much, I hadn’t been living at altitude, and I planned to do the whole day in my approach shoes, and without a rope. A few friends were driving up from the Bay Area, but would be moving more slowly because they weren’t soloing, and it seemed I might be doing most of day by myself. That would’ve been fine, basically a scaled-down version of my challenge last year, the WURL, however I was hoping to be able to share the stoke (and the route-finding) with someone. I’d attempted the linkup 7 years ago or so,…

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The CIA, Affirmative Action, and a #&@% Video Shop

By | Adventure, Film, Musings | No Comments

Back in the late 80’s and early 90’s, there was a video shop in Isla Vista, CA that catered to the students at UC Santa Barbara. It was called @*&# Video Shop and Climbing Boutique, was owned and managed by Steve Edwards, and served as the de facto epicenter of a nascent Santa Barbara climbing community. It was a time before the ubiquity of cameras, which presents a challenge: Steve’s video shop is a central element in the story, but we have almost no footage or photos from the interior. It will be difficult, even with several people’s descriptions, to get the special quirkiness of the place across. In our interviews, several people have mentioned the ads that Steve put in the Daily Nexus, UCSB’s student newspaper. I popped over to the Nexus archives yesterday to look for these ads, of which I found a couple, and I had a somewhat mind-bending experience, leafing through yellowed, ancient copies of a paper that I used to read daily. I found that, in some ways, nothing’s changed. In some ways, the world is a very different place. Mostly, I found that flipping through 8 months of newspaper headlines in 2 hours is a very disorienting experience. This was all before the internet delivered everything. It’s pretty wild to think about the ways in which the classic video shops of the 80s and 90s are obsolete. VHS tapes, the “adult” section behind the curtains, underemployed young people discussing cinema. Instead, we now have streaming…

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Do We Even Climb, Bro?

By | Adventure, Climbing, Trip Journal | No Comments

I could’ve sworn this was going to be a climbing blog… Way back when, it was all we wanted to do. Now it feels like, when we write, it’s about bullshit, injuries, or not climbing in world-class destinations. We still live on the road (mostly) and we still climb, it’s just different now. I’d say we’re transitioning into a more mature relationship with climbing. For one, the injury thing is a big thing. I don’t mind a fun run up an easy route, but I have trouble staying motivated if I’m not feeling continuous improvements in strength or technique. To paraphrase Wolfgang Gullich, the trouble with getting strong is that it’s easy. Getting strong and staying healthy is, as they say in Spain, the dura dura. What this means is, our shoulders are niggling, so I’m taking it back to the basics and doing a round of the Workout From Hell. Vikki’s doing PT, and she wrote a great series of blog posts for Touchstone’s blog detailing her shoulder-journey, soon to be published. We feel much better, although it sucks to think that we’ll always be “injured.” For two, the month of March was total madness. Las Vegas > Bay > Eugene > Portland > Bay > Santa Barbara > Las Vegas > Salt Lake City > Ketchum, ID > Bay > Santa Barbara. All by car (thanks, mom, for letting us borrow the Prius, saving tons of monies! Incidentally, I can’t wait to drive the F-250 right up to the Keystone…

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A Dispatch From I-15N

By | Adventure, Birthday Challenges, Film, Trip Journal | No Comments

It’s spring, but it feels like summer. I’m in the passenger seat, Vikki’s keeping the white lines on either side of us, Salt Lake City is in the distance and getting closer while Las Vegas recedes in the rearview. I’m thinking about how complex and multifaceted people are, and how simple we are as well. We’re so befuddling that we don’t even really understand ourselves. But on the whole, we are a predictable species with buttons that, when pushed, create pretty standard reactions. When pricked, we bleed. One person who was simply befuddling, was Steve Edwards. The dude’s been on the mind lately. That’s because we’re putting miles on my mom’s Prius, chasing down the last few interviews for the project. At some point, we’re going to have to condense some 40 hours of interviews, plus a mélange of archives and recently produced footage from a couple of Big Days in the Wasatch. When we finish condensing, we should have a portrait of a man who would navigate the line between light and dark like a möbius strip, who traveled through life like it was a bike park. To Steve, pain was something to take pleasure in, failure was to be celebrated, and obstacles like conflict and contradiction were nothing more than enjoyable, technical terrain, more opportunities for fun. Steve simply saw the good in everyone and found enjoyment and humor in any situation. Seems easy, but it ain’t. If it were, we wouldn’t need so many interview subjects. Wicked. And I…

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The Proudest Peaks

By | Adventure, Photo, Trip Journal | 4 Comments

We just got back from Patagonia, where we spent a week trekking around with my rather badass family. The trip actually centered around my dad’s 70th birthday, and it’s fair to say that the hiking docket would be impressive for most people, especially someone who learned how to walk back in the late 1940s. I mean, he’s no Jack Lalanne, although, I suppose he would probably stand a decent chance at doing some part of Jack’s 70th birthday feat. My father’s an obsessed masters swimmer as well. It’s weird that, aside from a few highly scenic, unnamed moderate boulder problems, The RV Project’s first visit to Patagonia didn’t involve any climbing (or climbing photography) to speak of. Also, I’m sure most readers of this blog will relate when I say I chuckled a bit when my mom, during the planning phase, asked if I had ever heard of El Chaltén… “no mum, is that in Spain?” Anyway, I probably don’t have to tell you that the vistas around Torres del Paine and the Fitzroy Massif are incredible. Yosemite has big granite, but it’s also in California. That’s not a knock on California per se (although we could discuss at length the Disneyification of national parks until the walls fall down), except to say that there’s something even more special about a place it takes 36 hours to get to. The final tallies of the trip included roughly 50 miles of hiking, gaining a solid 12,000 feet of elevation. The legendary Patagonian…

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I Don’t Write Enough for Myself And I Bet You Don’t Either

By | Adventure, Film, Musings, Trip Journal | No Comments

One of the RV Project’s favorite people, Flannery Shay-Nemirow, had a blog called Recounted Experience, and she used the following quote from Jean-Paul Sartre as a tagline: “For an occurrence to become an adventure, it is necessary and sufficient for one to recount it.” I liked that quote, although I didn’t think about it much. It just sounded good. The quote reminds me of the famous declaration, attributed to Socrates, that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” This is another series of words that sounds like a truism, though, again, I don’t think I ever knew exactly why it struck a chord. The following quote from an article in The New Philosopher addresses the extreme position Socrates is taking: In a world of abiding uncertainty and complexity one can recognize a certain attraction in not examining too much, for too long in life. Thus the allure of those who offer to provide clear answers, simple directions, precise instructions (whatever) so that you may set aside examination and merely comply, or unthinkingly follow custom and practice – perhaps living a conventionally moral life rather than an examined ethical life. One can easily imagine how pleasant an unexamined life might be. And it is for this reason that I think Socrates makes his claim so uncompromising. Flannery doesn’t update her blog anymore, sadly, but the aforementioned quote often pops into my mind when I feel the need to process some happenings, and recount them properly. Recounting 4 years ago, I put painful abrasions in my armpits by…

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