haven’t written a lot in a while because there hasn’t been a ton going on. That is about to change, however, so here I am, writing. The last major post from me was written while I was in the New River Gorge. We spent a total of 7 weeks in the NRG, and had the time of our lives! It is undoubtedly one of the best climbing destinations on the East coast, and, in my opinion, one of the best in the world. In the 7 weeks we spent there, we made lifelong friends, became known as “The Soylent Guys,” and dramatically improved our climbing. One of the reasons I didn’t write a lot is because we were climbing 5-6 days a week on average, and it’s not the most interesting thing in the world to read about. An average day looked like this: woke up, went climbing, sat around the campfire, went to bed. In the time I was in the NRG I progressed from climbing comfortably in the 5.10 range, to successfully sending a 5.12b (Bullet the New Sky)! I actually achieved this goal on the last day of climbing at the NRG, which was a wonderful accomplishment.
During our last 2-3 weeks at the NRG, our wonderful friends who we met at the AAC, Monica and Stella, invited us to crash on the floor of the house they were renting in order to get us out of the cold. This was a dream come true because it kept us from shivering all night, and meant we were able to spend lots of quality time with Monica, Stella, and their friends, Matt and Jeff! We spent many nights of those few weeks cooking, playing card games, watching movies, sharing music, and having fun birthday parties! On my birthday we spent all day cooking and invited lots of climbers from the local community over to enjoy food and games! I made cornbread chicken casserole (delicious), pumpkin pies (delectable), and rum infused spiced apple cider (delightful)! Everyone had a wonderful time, and I was happy to be able to celebrate my birthday with good food and better friends.
After a teary-eyed departure from the NRG (we will return), we headed into Kentucky to catch a flight to Beloit, Wisconsin where we would be spending time with Dimitri’s family for Thanksgiving. They were generous hosts and fed us great meals every day until we could no longer move. After spending a week enjoying their company, we headed back to Kentucky, excited to climb at the Red River Gorge. When we arrived in Slade, Kentucky, we were not greeted very kindly by the people at Miguel’s. The employees were generally rude or unwelcoming, and really didn’t make the place feel very welcoming. In addition, the weather apparently didn’t want us around either. We were there for 2-3 days, and all of them were cloudy, cold, and drizzly. We got a little bit of climbing in, then decided to move on to Tennessee to attempt to get out of the cold. As we were leaving Kentucky, we stopped at Mammoth cave to take a tour, and it was awesome! Our tour guide was really eccentric, and has been a guide for over 40 years! The best part of his tour was when he turned all the lights off and we stood in the cave in complete darkness and utter silence, it was very eerie.
We continued into Tennessee, and were greeted with more terrible weather. We hung out in Nashville with our friend Kelsey, and got to visit some of the musically themed bars, as well as the parthenon which was enormous and quite impressive. Due to inclement weather in Tennessee, we didn’t do any climbing and continued to move on to Arkansas. In Arkansas, we visited with some of Dimitri’s family, and went on a really interesting hike where we got to see a natural feature known as indian rock house. It’s a giant natural cave that was used as shelter thousands of years ago. The next day, we headed on to a privately owned climbing location at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch. It’s a beautiful canyon that is surrounded by striking cliff lines that have tons of sport climbing routes on them. There is a yearly endurance climbing event hosted there that I would like to attend known as the 24 hours of horseshoe hell! The ranch was pretty much empty when we were there, but I imagine that it would be a fun and active spot during the proper season, and I hope to return someday.
On our way our of Arkansas, we stopped at Hot Springs national park. We arrived in the evening and parked Boosa (our van) in a national parks parking lot. Not long after I cut the engine, some police rolled up and pointed their spotlight at us. I opened my door to and was immediately greeted with an aggressive voice inquiring what I was doing. After we explained that we were traveling climbers who were just trying to sleep, they relaxed and started trying to give us directions to the hot springs. I’ve noticed in my travels that some cops seem to have 2 modes. When they first approach you, they seem to assume you are doing something wrong, and they enter aggressive kill mode. This is when they adopt a commanding tone, and tend to have their hand hovering near their weapon. Once you give them a smile and a handshake, and explain that you have no nefarious intentions, they tend to get really confused because they no longer have anything to do other than to tell you to move your car. This is when they enter their second mode where they try to give you directions. This experience is always entertaining, as their aggressive tone changes to one that is a bit more confused, and they attempt to verbally give you directions to wherever you are going, which is completely unnecessary because not only do you not have a pen and paper ready, but you also have a smart phone that can handle any navigation related task much easier and more completely than any human. Rendezvous with the police are always interesting, but I would personally much prefer if they made their first approach in a calmer and more understanding manner. Not only would this put both parties at ease, it would most likely result in less violence, and better relations between police and their communities. The next day we went into downtown Hot Springs, Arkansas, and toured an old bath house. Honestly, the whole place was kinda boring, so it’s not really worth describing. We left Hot Springs, and continued on to Austin, Texas!
Austin, Texas has been the best town we have visited so far! I have two friends in Austin: Katy, my old roommate from when I lived in Vienna, Virginia, and Zach, an old classmate from Middle and High school. We arrived in Austin and visited with both of them and their friends and roommates for two weeks and had a blast! Some of the highlights include free art Friday, a weekly event where local artists hide free art around the city and enthusiasts seek it out for keeps, and the tacos. Tacos in Austin are a big deal. Throw out any ideas you have of small and impotent tacos. The tacos you get in austin are big, packed with flavor, and overflowing with toppings. Torchy’s Tacos are some of my favorite, and I believe I ate there almost every day. We mostly spent our time in Austin exploring the city on our road bikes during the day, and hanging out with friends in the city, and around the local parks.
After 2 weeks in Austin, I flew back to Fairfax, VA to spend time with my friends and family. I didn’t get to see everyone I would have liked to see, but it was a wonderful stop home regardless. I then flew back to Austin to begin packing for my 2 month excursion to Mexico! We plan to go to El Potrero Chico to climb (expect amazing pictures) and then down to the Yucatan to enjoy some wonderful tropical beaches! Expect to hear from us and see some wonderful scenery in the near future!