Before we get into this inaugural entry, I want to make sure that you, dear reader, know that this is a blog about a climbing trip, and will primarily revolve around climbing. We’re getting to that, we promise. But this is also a blog about a road trip, and sometimes things don’t go according to plan. Read on.
Today is Friday, February 24th. Earlier this afternoon we were sitting at the New Clock Restaurant in some suburb of El Paso, TX. There is a sign out front advertising “$1.99 Breakfast”. We’re awaiting our food, and digesting the important lesson that this trip will not be easy.
Let me back up a little bit. The reason that we’re sitting in this dining establishment, which I’ll describe as Mexican-inspired diner fare, is that it’s close to the Enterprise Rent-a-Car. The Enterprise outpost in question is two blocks from Superior Transmission, which is where our truck, Bert, is currently having his transmission gutted.
This wasn’t part of the plan. We had reservations for climbing and camping in Hueco Tanks on February 21, giving us plenty of time to set up our trailer home, figure out the Hueco lifestyle, and then pick up our friends Zack, Matt and Neal who are flying into El Paso tonight.
The plans all started to go to hell when Vikki got sick last week. She went to the ER, and they told her she had the flu. She woke up the next day with white pustules on the back of her throat, and a trip to urgent care revealed what we suspected all along: strep. So with one third of our crew out of commission and another third driving her around, the packing of the trailer got delayed. No big deal, we rolled with the punches and changed our plans. We pushed back our start date by four days.
We left the Bay Area on Monday, February 20th and drove to Santa Barbara. We had planned to take care of a couple of things and leave on Wednesday for Texas, giving us two days to get there and get set up before picking our friends up at the airport on Friday. On said Wednesday, we were pulling out of Goleta when the “Check Engine” gremlin decided to turn the light on. We dropped the trailer in a back alley and took Bert to a garage, where he spent three hours getting a new glow plug relay. So instead of driving down south and beating LA traffic, we were stuck in old town Goleta. What did we do with our time? We got Mexican food and made up a new plan.
By the time the truck was ready, it was nearly rush hour. Instead of driving south through LA at 5:30pm, we decided to go bouldering. We drove up to the Brickyard and revisited old classics while the sun went down. 9pm came and went and we never saw another climber, though we did catch an incredible sunset. We drove back into Goleta, picked up the trailer and headed south.
We ended up at a rest stop in Cabazon, waking up to a robotic dinosaur museum (thank you America), and shortly thereafter, a new check engine light. So we changed our plans again to include a detour to Palm Springs. I’ve always wanted to see downtown Palm Springs.
A friendly old mechanic named Jim informed us that the light was no big deal, and with lighter hearts, we headed out on Interstate 10 towards Phoenix.
The drive to Phoenix was uneventful, except for the truck stop where we met a trucker who’d been stuck for three hours with a broken down rig, and had to wait another three hours for another truck to arrive. It made our troubles seem trivial, and it also drove home the point that we really are on our own out here.
We pulled into Phoenix around 7:30pm, and our dear friend Anna Ward had taken some time out of her busy medical student life to cook us an amazing feast of taco salad. She also allowed three dirty travelers to shower in her absurdly adorable “little cottage.” I can’t begin to explain how crucial the meal and bodily cleanliness were to our well-being, and we left for Texas with full bellies and good cheer.
At this point in the story, it’s Thursday night at 10pm. We are 400 miles away from Hueco Tanks. We have 22 hours to get there, check in to the campground, take care of some errands in town, and pick up our friends at the airport. Our new plan would work, albeit with little margin for error. The plan—and you’re never going to believe this—had to change.
We pulled into El Paso on a cold and windy Friday morning after driving through the night, and I noticed Bert was slipping a bit when accelerating from a stop. Shortly thereafter, the “O/D OFF” light started blinking, which is the same thing that happened two weeks ago right before the transmission committed hari kari and left 3 quarts of fluid in my parents’ driveway. I didn’t think we’d be able to make the last leg out to Hueco Tanks, and either way it would need mechanical attention, so we decided to stay in town. So at 6:30am with our brains deep-fried, we limped onto a small side street and passed out in the trailer, with a new plan: Fix the truck.
After a few hours of sleep, we took Bert to Superior Transmission. This shop is located right by Enterprise Rent-a-Car, which in turn is located right next to the New Clock Restaurant. I ordered the Chile Relleno breakfast plate. And now we’re all caught up.
The new plan, as of now, is to rent a car, do our errands, pick up our friends, and get a hotel room. Bert should be road-ready tomorrow at the earliest, and Monday evening at the latest, but either way we’ll have the ability to get to Hueco Tanks. The trailer is still in suburbia. Vikki has to work tonight from 8pm to 8am, by the way. Tomorrow morning Daniel arrives at the airport, and everyone want to go climbing. We, as of yet, have no idea what will happen, but we won’t be planning anything for now. Because one thing we’ve learned is that if you get attached to a plan, you will only get your heart broken.
The rental car, yes, the RENTAL car started smoking from the hood after two miles, and we had to get picked up and given a different car. Pick Enterprise. We’ll Pick You Up After We Give You A Shitty Car And You Need A New One.