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Trip Journal

John Sherman. Midnight Lightning. And me.

Hello Again

By Climbing, Trip JournalNo Comments

I don’t really know what to say here these days. It’s been so long since we regularly updated, and it seems like so much has been happening that even the thought of sitting down to write about it feels like a distraction. I’ve also fallen out of practice when it comes to writing, which makes this here blog editor a downright daunting place. So I’m writing this post for the sake of writing a post, and I don’t really know where I’m headed. When I feel like I’m done writing, I’ll throw a few pictures in or something. Let’s see, I’m back to climbing again. The elbow is still quite limiting, and I have finally made an appointment to have it looked at with imaging and all. While I can climb most things that I could a year ago without really noticing any pain, certain pinches and narrow compression moves can really piss it off. While I’m happy to be climbing again, it’s been a long time since I could train power at 100%, and I’m not really enjoying the long plateau. That said, since we’ve been in the Bay Area for a while now, we have sort of embraced the weekend warrior culture and gone on little weekend jaunts to Yosemite and Kings Canyon. Some cool climbing-related things: Verm was back in the Valley trying Midnight Lightning again, this time coming back from a torn Achilles. It’s impossible to overstate what a dream it is to be invited to…

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Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work they go...

Sloughing the Slumber

By Birthday Challenges, Climbing, Trip JournalNo Comments

It’s July. It was April when we last checked in. How’s it going?  Today is Decaf: Day 2 (or rather, it was when this was originally written), because my birthday challenge this year includes a “dry July” and no caffeine, so I’m a little out of it. Mostly I’m wondering what the hell it is that people do when they get out of bed in the morning, if coffee isn’t part of that routine.  Life took one of those turns for us, and we now are settled in the Bay Area for the rest of the summer. I may get into that story, but it’s a long one, and doesn’t yet have a conclusion. At least things are stable for now, and we’re slowly but surely getting back into the groove. We left Utah at the start of May. A week later, Vikki was flying to South Korea to film for Arc’teryx (film should be complete in the next few weeks, stay tuned folks). At the end of May, I flew to SLC to read a teleprompter for UTopia, and then drove the truck from Castle Dale back to California. The purpose of the trip was to retrieve our hard drives, clothes, climbing gear, and computer. I ended up driving 950+ miles in a 14-hour push, making a slight detour near Ely to check out Lamoille Canyon. The Summer Outlook The first thing you should know is that my elbow is a bit of a mess. I knew that the…

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The Past, Present, and Future of Joe’s Valley and its Bouldering Festival: From the Mouth of Steven Jeffery

By Bouldering, Climbing, Stuff We're Psyched On, Trip Journal2 Comments

Politics. It’s just a word, but these days it’s not a word that is positively associated. Politics have never been pretty, but the 2016 campaign season felt especially traumatic for our country, and no matter how you feel about the outcomes, I think it’s fair to say that the ends (putting a candidate in an office, also known as winning) did not justify the means (amplifying divisions). The seeds of polarization were sown a long, long time ago, but 2016 was when a storm of perverted incentives caused our divisions to shoot skyward and blot out the light. So we reaped.  America the Colosseum, Blue Donkeys vs. Red Elephants, winner take all. No Purple Allowed. One could imagine congressional leaders announcing that “It has become necessary to destroy the US in order to save it.” Polite disagreement and nuanced reasoning were unfashionable. Like stepping into a very loud tavern, my friends and I agreed that sobriety was of no use. If we were going to keep our heads, when all about us were losing theirs, we would need strong drink. A lot of it. A bender, if you will. I do loudly and un-proudly declare that, like many in my cohort, the daily outrages produced and perpetuated by pundits and president alike provided easy excuses for apoplectic paralysis. Hence the aforementioned bender (which, I should mention, is more hyperbolic than alcoholic…don’t try to make me go to rehab. No, no, no!). What to do, then? I’m still drinking (for health…

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Acknowledgement…of Rad and Bad

By Musings, Trip JournalNo Comments

The truck wouldn’t start the other day. I needed to go into town to run errands before picking Vikki up from Riverton. It finally started after a half-hour of coaxing and cursing. The thing about living on the road that you have to watch out for, is that your vehicle is your life. Since we opted for the truck-trailer combo, we do have a little bit of separation, but the truck is still pretty frickin’ important. Thankfully, Bert’s been a rather reliable bloke, and, 6.5 years after the fact, I still marvel at our luck in finding a 7.3l International Powerstroke engine in such good condition. So do most of the mechanics we’ve taken it to. Thing about diesels is, they’ll give you no trouble if you keep them happy, but they do need a little more preventative maintenance than, for example, my old Honda Accord. Diesel engines need to be warmed up before they work properly, so when starting up, there’s a whole system of electronics that heats the engine cylinders before the starter gets them pumping. The glow plugs, as they’re called, aren’t necessary when it’s hot out, but the truck won’t start without them in winter, as Vikki once discovered on a frigid morning in Rocktown, GA. Anyway, the truck had a bad glow plug relay, which is the part that controls the flow of electricity to the plugs themselves. It’s been bad for a while (by the way, I recommend everyone get one of those little…

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The Muddy Waters of Trailer Insurance

By Food for thought, Trip Journal3 Comments

We haven’t been able to leave Berkeley yet, solely because we don’t have our trailer insured yet. Since we’ve run into significantly more trouble than we imagined trying to get our trailer insured, I figured I’d write down what we’ve learned so other people might avoid the same pitfalls in the future. The details: We now have a converted cargo trailer. The trailer is a 2002 Pace American cargo trailer  (14-feet total in length, including the nose, and 8-feet wide). Although it was already converted into a livable space before we bought it, we completely gutted it to fit our needs. What’s the problem, you ask? AAA: we went to AAA first because we’ve been with them for years. Since we had an itemized spreadsheet of everything we bought for the trailer – they said they could insure it, if it was stationary at our home address for over half the year. Well, that’s not going to happen. Next… Progressive: they are the #1 major RV insurance company, but a converted cargo trailer is a dealbreaker for them. At this point we asked — who should we call next?! Farmer’s Insurance: a quick no – because it’s a converted cargo trailer. The problem, it turns out, is these major companies will happily insure a travel trailer that you have customized – but it has to have started as a travel trailer. The fact that our trailer was a cargo/utility trailer in a previous life does not jive with their policies….

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Renovations

By Trip JournalOne Comment

When I was in high school, I got my driver’s license in secret. After I passed my driver’s test, I went over to my friend Ari’s house, where we’d often gather to beat each other’s egos senseless at the foosball table. I’ll never forget the joy of being able to smugly suggest that we drive down to 7-11, at which my friends’ faces became a hilarious melange of excitement and indignant frustration that I’d managed to keep a secret for 6 months. The thing about talking too much about plans is, you lose lots of time and energy building a castle in the sky, instead of just building the damn castle. As Reinhold Messner famously* stated, “Every word a castle builder speaks is a brick that could have been laid.” Anyway, remember when products would come to market, instead of half-baked ideas coming to Kickstarter? I’m a little hesitant to talk about our latest mini-proj, the build-out of the new trailer, but I saw something awesome today that I wanted to share in the form of a blog post, and I can’t really give an update without mentioning it. We’re building out the new trailer. If you follow our pictures instead of our blogwords, then you already knew that. 400 amp-hours, y’all! Anyway, the awesome thing I saw was on 8a.nu this morning. A Japanese competition climber, who started climbing on real rocks only a few months ago, just did an 8C/V15 in Japan. He says he trains very intuitively:…

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Our Latest Release – Pottery?

By Adventure, Trip Journal3 Comments

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 JournalNo 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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The 3rd Annual JVBF, and Why We Are Really Proud Of It

By Climbing, Stuff We're Psyched On, Trip JournalOne Comment

I’ll always remember our first trip to Joe’s Valley. We were young, fit, and couldn’t wait to get our hands on that dyno-happy, skin-friendly, streaked, pocketed sandstone. It was even better than we anticipated. We climbed and camped and ate giant steaks and drank palatable whiskey and burned firewood. We stayed for a month, loved every minute, and were back the next spring. It was a mostly-off-grid existence punctuated by trips into town for fuel and sundries. Now, in a big city like San Francisco, even the loudest personalities can disappear into anonymity, but when the town doesn’t even list its population on the “Welcome” sign, new faces are hard to ignore. We were anxious about how the locals might react to our puffy-coated presences. We needn’t have been. Our California license plates drew comments, yes, but only about how clean their coal-burning power plant is, and that, without it, we’d be left praying for wind and sun 24 hours a day. We had no particular reply, and some subsequent not-quite-light reading was enough to tell us the picture is more complicated than any one person or interest group is willing to admit. In any case, it was very difficult to imagine something positive resulting from making our objections to carbon dioxide emissions an issue. One fateful rest day, after seeing a sign on a bulletin board at the Food Ranch, Vikki and I and two other couples volunteered for a town clean-up in Orangeville. All 6 of us had…

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Yosemite’s Newest Climbing Stewards

By Ethics, Trip JournalNo Comments

Greetings from the village formerly known as Curry in the majestic Yosemite Valley (not to be confused with the Majestic Yosemite Hotel©, which in turn is often confused with the Yosemite Valley Lodge©). The signs now say Half Dome Village, though I’ve yet to meet a park resident who calls it anything but Curry. Why am I here? I’m tempted to answer in glib, flippant, twisted Cartesian logic–because I think I’m here–but the informative answer is that we are Yosemite’s newest Climbing Stewards, volunteers working as para-rangers under the tutelage and supervision of the unsung granite ninja, Eric Bissell. We’re 3 weeks into a 15-week stint in the Park. Bridge shifts are our main responsibility. Every day from 12:30-4:30pm, we set up telescopes and informational boards at the El Capitan Bridge, and invite tourists to “Ask a Climber.” Truth is, I enjoy these shifts. We stand in the shade and talk about our favorite activity, punctuated by dips in the Merced river. Sometimes, climbing celebrities show up, or climbers who’ve just returned from a big wall. The other day I watched someone lead the Great Roof through a telescope. We naturally get the same several questions several times a day – How long does it take? Do you need a permit? Is this the one that free climber did in 4 hours? How do I get back to my car? – and trying to describe where on the wall the telescope is actually pointed can get tiresome, but these are the only…

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