Monday, April 21, 2008

Bonsai + Bee + Booze = Fall Fun Fest

Fall Fun Fest participants=ramshackle group of hooligans

Four Square Team Photo

Urban Lake Kayak Race

Race Champions (James' face is priceless.)

(James...this post is for you my friend.)
"We are contractually obligated to attend Fall Fun Fest," I told Shannon.
Blank stare.
"What I mean by that is,...we should'll be fun."
Blank stare.
"There's going to be kayak races and kick ball."
I knew this was the hook, line, and sinker.
Shannon's eyebrows narrowed and she got that look in her eye. "I'm holding tryouts for my kickball team," she told me. I knew she'd probably make me try out and I also knew that she was 'in'.

Shannon and I were Fall Fun Fest newbies. What is Fall Fun Fest you might ask? After participating in one, I'm still not sure that I can answer that. I think if you could pinpoint Fall Fun Fest on an evolutionary chart it would be somewhere between boxed wine and a bulldozer. Fall Fun Fest is your best friend and your worst enemy (Carrot Top). To the best of my recollection Fall Fun Fest involves a season somewhere between summer and winter, lots of friends, lots of friends drinking, and some activities (all of which do not involve Nathan Todd). Oh, yeah, and there are lots of references to things from North Platte, Nebraska. Okay. That should clear up any confusion about Fall Fun Fest.

Fall Fun Fest was to be held in Oakland California and being hosted by my long time friend James. Fall Fun Fest worked out perfectly for Shannon and I as we had been making our way down the West Coast. Fresh from wandering through the Redwoods and escaping DEA helicopters (another story), we arrived in Oakland greeted by beers, yelling, hugs, and laughing. We fell asleep with visions of an urban lake kayak race dancing in our heads.

The morning of Fall Fun Fest dawned like any other except you could smell the anticipation in the air (and by anticipation I mean booze.) Shannon, new to the phenomenon known as Fall Fun Fest, showed up in true form donning her bumble bee costume. "Yes!" I thought. Then I thought about it some more, recalling previous experiences with Shannon's alter ego 'The Bee.' Then I thought about my previous experiences with this group of friends. I suddenly wished I had a helmet, a saline IV, and a lawyer.

We all made our way to the urban lake where an impromptu game of four-square, a trip through a bonsai garden and an intense kayak race ensued. James and I captured victory in the kayak race (you really can't argue with raw, untapped talent and athletic ability), 2/3rds of us aquired avian bird flu from the lake, and the bonsai trees looked on with disgust. Much to Shannon's dismay, the game of kickball never materialized. Instead, we returned to the apartment where we learned just how many times Bryan Mohr could play the Husker Tunnel Run song before someone ripped their hair out. The rest of the day will forever remain a secret...even to the participants.

The morning after Fall Fun Fest, Shannon and I said our goodbyes and received our "You Survived Your First Fall Fun Fest" merit badges. (Okay, that's not true...but come on about some patches this year!)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Mission Project

We entered our trip into the Mountain Hardware Mission Project contest and won First Prize!! You can read the entry here:

Thanks Mountain Hardwear!!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Demise!

Three things that led to the demise of our blog entries:

1. our computer broke
2. Katy randomly lost all abilities to communicate (don't worry, she is currently being outfitted with a voice box and enrolled in a program which is teaching her to combine fridge magnets to form phrases and sentences that will help her complete daily tasks.)
3. Our trip actually ended....oops, did we forget to mention that?

I don't want anyone to fret about this...our lives will go on post "chix rock climbing tour", well, at least we hope so. In all actuality our trip ended a couple of months ago and we have been in 100% denial...hence complete avoidance of all things that would make the end of our trip, i don't know, a blog site formed around the existence of our trip, for instance.

So, even though our blog entries were the one thing that continued to make our trip tangible; as the end of our trip neared, our money dwindling as we headed west towards the setting sun, we retreated from the computer in attempt to make the trip last longer. I am still not sure I have come to terms with a life that does not revolve around my best friend and the camaraderie that develops between car-mates, climbing partners, and giggle infested tromps through the mud in search of the elusive turtle. But my spirits are high as the daily phone rants between Katy and myself consist only of a road trip east, our reappearance at Sturgis, and a plane ride across the ocean for a climbing/adventure destination not yet known (set to take off in fall of 08').

So, keep checking back (if you haven't already given up) for details about the end of our trip. I can't guarantee they will ever come, as we may choose to live in the everlasting glow of this adventure. But, there will be more adventures to come, outcome sure to be the same (read: too much fun and laughter, ridiculous blog updates and stories, denial towards the inevitable ending, the end, recuperating, then more plans for another trip....and so the cycle repeats).

Until then, friends.

Monday, December 17, 2007

We're not dead!!!!

You might have heard rumors such as "hey didn't those nebraska chix get eaten by velociraptors?" or "did you hear that those nebraska chix joined the witness protection program," or the ever-popular "hey! those nebraska chix spontaneously combusted, right?" None of these rumors are true...well...okay...we did get chased by a velociraptor in Northern California but luckily Shannon had her blow darts and blow gun and she tranquilized it before it could do any damage.

Please check back...we will soon divulge the last (but not final) chapter in this adventure.


p.s.--sorry for the delay...

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Bee-cuzzz it's been too long...

"Hey, Archie, nice up-down smile."

Top of Pingora Peak (11,884 feet)

Shannon on unicorn patrol. Cirque of the Towers, WY.

Bitchin'. Pingora Peak summit.

Is this diving board Olympic regulation? Or what?

Devil's Tower- we think? or stunt double?

Sinks Canyon Posse in full effect.

Shannon and Katy, we do climb!

Bee Town, salute that flag homeboy.

"Have fun at your first day of school, and don't
worry, you're not that different."

Another day at work.

"You've been naughty!"

Katy didn't sit for a week.

Last day, closing up shop!

Katy, Shannon, and Rattatouie.

Bringin' Bitchin' Back

"You've been bad!" I heard myself yell. My voice carried through the packed bar and more heads turned. Shannon had that crazy look in her eyes and a spanking paddle cocked back ready for contact. The recipient of Shannon's wrath was a 40-something bleach blond who'd had more botox injections than I've had bruises. "You've been naughty!" I yelled again laughing and then Shannon let her have it. The noise of a paddle spanking an ass rang out in the dusty bar. Shannon laughed, bikers yelled, and $5 was deposited into our tip jar.

Our spanking paddle was a cutting board we'd found our first day of work. It hung from a hook next to a sign that teasingly read "Have You Been Naughty?" This was but one sign we'd made for the coffee/cigar bar that we were running for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Our coffee was bitchin'...according to our sign anyway...and we didn't have any complaints as we doled out caffeine and nicotine to our tattooed, leather-clad clients.

The Broken Spoke, "the world's largest biker bar," was our home for the week. We rode our bikes (the ones with pedals...not motors...pretty sweet) there every morning at 9am and usually arrived back at camp around 2am...our voices becoming progressively more raspy each night as we layed in the jeep laughing with craziness from lack of sleep.

We'd acquired our biker names the first day at the campground from our camp neighbors. Shannon was "Delicious", I was "Yummy." At that point I knew it would be an eventful week. This thought was reinforced as we cut apart a bag full of Goodwill clothes to make our work "uniforms." "I've never gone to work in my underwear," Shannon giggled as she tied the strands of a ripped AC/DC t-shirt around my torso. "What are we doing?" I asked through ridiculous laughter.

I didn't even have time to answer myself. Our two weeks in Sturgis went by in an incredibly entertaining and exhausting blur. Cigars were cut and lit, pot after pot of coffee was brewed, the espresso machine hummed, butts were spanked, rock 'n' roll blared, beers disappeared and all of a sudden Shannon and I were cleaning up and breathing sighs of relief with our new found family at The Broken Spoke.

Our time at "The Spoke" came to a fitting end. With the coffee/cigar bar shut down, we sat at a nearby table. Soon dollar beers lined up in front of us. Shannon had a trained white rat in her overalls pocket and I was smoking a cigar. We looked at each other and laughed. I traded her the cigar for the white rat. "What just happened?" she asked me in her raspy, slightly buzzed voice. We looked like crazy people. "I don't know...but I like it," I replied. We raised our beers to a cheers with a table of new found friends and finally relaxed. The following morning we were headed west to Wyoming, our biker days behind us, Devil's Tower looming on the horizon.

Even through the day's dying light and the haze brought on by fires burning out west we could make out the shape of Devil's Tower edged on the horizon more than forty miles away. As the jeep quietly (thanks Bill the mechanic for fixing my muffler) steered its way through the hills of Eastern Wyoming the true power, beauty, and magnitude of the Tower became apparent.

As legend has it the cracks and gashes that characterize the face of Devil's Tower were created by a giant bear in pursuit of natives. The natives, seeking protection from the bear, climbed atop a giant rock as it made its way towards the heavens. The bear was left defeated, tearing at the sides of the protrusion with his powerful claws.

As Katy and I stood at the base of Devil's Tower, jaws dropped and eyes wide, we tried to figure out which claw mark amongst the seemingly identical scars would be our home for the day. "I hate this f#$*ing guide book!" Katy proclaimed, "Why didn't they include a picture of the route?" I sighed, sharing in her frustration and continued hiking. After more frustrated searching and a few more swear words we found just where we wanted to be- at the base of a climb known as 'Tad'.

Once up close, the rock looked slightly less intimidating (slightly being the key word here). I watched as Katy struggled her way up the first pitch- announcing she felt like she hadn't climbed in over a month. "Don't do that like I did," Katy hollered between grunts as she inched her way through the dreaded offwidth- a crack characteristic we have both come to loathe. In no time we were face to face, re-racking our gear so i could lead the next section. Then, I took my turn grunting up the sustained crack system, resulting in a large family of bruises residing between my shoulder and knee on the right side of my body as i continually jammed anything possible into the crack for support.

After a few nasty, frustrating pitches and a 300 foot scramble to a meadow we were greeted by a breathtaking panoramic of the Eastern Wyoming Black Hills. We sat in silence, catching our breath and basking in the late afternoon rays. Looking out at the horizon it was hard not to imagine all the people who had come before us. The Native Americans, the ranchers and farmers, the miners, the tourists, and other climbers- all attracted to the legend, the mystique, the spiritual power of the Tower. For that moment in time, perched high above the valley, surveying the land, we were a part of it all.

Before leaving I twisted off the metal cap to to a pipe containing the registry for all to sign as the reach the top of the tower. I quickly inscribed a note to Katy, "Happy four month anniversary, Sweetheart!!!" and laughed at the absurdity of our trip thus far as I secured the cap safely in its place. Then I went to find Katy so we could rappel back down to "reality".
Possible List of Things "B-Town" Could Stand For
1. Bee Bee Town, Iowa (My future home)
2. Boulder, Colorado (what? it's a town.)
3. A town shaped like the letter 'B'
4. A town where only people with a name started with 'B' are allowed
5. Katy's really good friend from Custer State Park, Brian, aka "B-Town"

B-Town lives in Sinks Canyon near Lander, Wyoming and works as a backcountry ranger for the Forest Service. He was a generous host for Katy and me, along with two friends of ours who had met up with us on our travels. Sinks Canyon climbing was reminiscent of Shelf Road, where we began our trip over four months ago. The limestone cliffs lined the canyon and provided a multitude of one pitch sport routes for us to test our growing strength and confindence in a relaxing, non-stressful environment.

Our days at B-Town's were spent climbing, reorganizing our "home", taking turns wearing the bee costume and posing for compromising photos, listening to Cal jam on his banjo while drinking PBR's, playing "dog xylophone" (the newest member of our travelling menogerie, consider him a shelter rescue, complete with dog bone striking wand), and mourning the loss of my cell phone, who was in an automobile accident (i.e.- run over by a car and smashed to smitherines). After much laughter, much reminiscing, many beers, and many hugs we pushed westward to a little secret B-Town let us in on- Cirque of the Towers.

"How's it goin'?" I asked the gentleman as we passed ways on the trail that led to the Cirque of the Towers in the Wind River range of Wyoming. "I'm 80 years old," was his reply. I patted him on the shoulder, "you're doin' awesome." He was my hero for the day. I could only hope that at 80 I would be out hiking somewhere high in the mountains. He was on his way down so I didn't worry about him.

We hiked on, gusts of wind catching my pack and throwing me off balance. We passed under a granite giant, the wind ceased and the sun warmed our faces. I felt the presence of something greater, something powerful...and we stood humbly, necks craned, admiring nature's igneous masterpiece. Soon we'd hiked over the climber's trail and stood facing the Cirque of the Towers.

Clouds skirted over the jagged granite protrusions as if on a mission...not in a hurry...just on a mission. High mountain sun warmed my back and gave contrast to the cracks, corners, ledges, and roofs that made up the rock-laden landscape. Never before had I seen so much granite. The peaks pierced the sky, majestic and strong with perfect posture. "On belay" we heard filtering down the cirque. Shannon pointed out the figures on the distant ridge line delicately making their way up the harsh terrain.

We set up camp high above Lonesome Lake with a perfect view of Pingora Peak rising to the North. We smiled as we scoped out the object of our climbing desire...the south buttress...and went to sleep with bellies full of tortellini. After a rest day of snacks, Yatzee, and Pocket Farkel (thanks mom for the new dice game and NOT thanks Shannon for continually beating me at my own dice games) we awoke well rested and anxious.

We left in a dense mist. It was cool on my face. We made our way up the terraced south shoulder of Pingora Peak. It was like a dreamscape. I pinched myself. "I wouldn't even blink if I saw a unicorn fly by," Shannon admitted. "I would just say, 'yep...this is the place unicorns live.'" We roped up in the sun-illuminated fog. The peak itself emerged still partially cloaked in the moisture laden air. Slowly the other jagged summits of the cirque peaked out...glowing orange...basking in the morning sun as they woke up and poked their heads from the clouds. As we climbed, the fog burned away. The sun was cozy, the alpine air crisp in our lungs.

I shot up a crack system. The granite was solid, the laybacks smooth and liberating. Shannon gracefully led up the spine of a K shaped crack. She made it look effortless. She let our a triumphant yell at the top and I soon joined her, smiling. We scrambled the final 200 feet to the summit of Pingora Peak, laughed, smiled, hugged and soaked in the scenery.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007


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