Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Cool kids (part 2)

After being cooped up for hours the night before, we were eager to take in the sights at Mount Rushmore. You'd think we'd go right to see the main event, but as any rock climber worth his salt would do, we just HAD to check out the rock scene first! Promising ourselves we'd check out the bright lit up facade afterwards, we set out with mountain project lit up on our phones scouring the landscape for AWL's first lead climb. This was a horrible idea.

For the record, when you don't know the area and you don't navigate well and you aren't experienced at teaching someone how to climb in unknown locations, you should not take an AWL out into the wilderness. He is super excited and quite ignorant to the dangers, and you are quite informed about the dangers and unable to dissuade him. Thank God for bail carabiners! AWL chose a committing climb in unknown territory after he followed me around and pestered me about where we were and what climbs were around us while I tried to get my bearings using mountain project on my little iPhone with little reception. To say the least, I was not at my best tolerance for questions. I said, "fine, just pick a climb that you think looks good since you seem to know where all the climbs are here!"

He geared up and I talked him through how to stay safe and not push too hard if he feels he can't make it without being safe. We talked about what decking was and how you had to pay attention to how far you go without clipping in. So basically I scared the crap out of him. He climbed up to the first bolt, clipped got scared of the committing move above that and came down. I went up and clipped the second and third and then couldn't find the next bolt and bailed.

With our tails firmly between our legs we wandered away from the shiny bail carabiner mocking us from above and wandered around some more only to bump into the best people in the Dakotas! Pinky and Steve!  They had taken out a couple girls from church out for their first experiences climbing. Taylor was kicking butt and crushing her climbs and her fears which I totally love. They were gracious enough to show us their climbing guide and I took pictures of a ton of the pages so we could get our bearings. Luckily Pinky and Steve can smell a gumby a mile away and allowed us to join them for some top roping. AMAZING! On top of it all they were very generous with all of the pictures they took to help us commemorate our journey. Climbing here would have been a THOUSAND times more stressful if it hadn't been for our new buds!

After a hot and sweaty day of climbing we took a dip in the lake down the road, a beautiful way to "clean up" while on the road. We took a little maybe 20-25 foot jump off a cliff into absolute refreshment. If you know AWL at all, you'll know there is SO MUCH MORE to that story that I can cover today. And I will definitely tell you the story of that cliff jump, but for now we were desperately hungry and needed to high-tail it to town for grub before the light show at Mount Rushmore.

The area isn't exactly a riving metropolis of endless restaurants and swanky bars, but we did settle in on a place on the main strip that had a wild west theme and a porch outside with endless amounts of authentic looking barkeeps, excessively tall cowboys, wenches and flies. Our obvious first choice for fine dining. (actually that was sarcasm masked as truth that I just realized was actually truth) As soon as we settled in to our cozy chairs and pint glasses who do we see but our lovely shadows Carly and Daniel! They made it! Mount Rushmore! We chatted for a bit excited to see friendly faces and offered to let them have a seat with us which they politely declined wilst handing us their contact info should we ever happen on each other again. And just like a partly cloudy afternoon our shadows were there, and then gone again in the shadows (obviously seeking food!)

But you have no idea how exhilarating it is to be alone with each other on a continent for days, always the strangers, when you bump into someone you know! The simple pleasures never cease on a trip such as this!

And as AWL shake our heads at the chances that our rest stop buddies followed us to a whole new town two days later, someone comes behind us and says a hearty hello!

We just left the only people we "know" in the state of South Dakota" we collectively thought inside our locked gaze. Who could be saying hello to us? Who could we possibly know?!

We looked up to see some major leather clad biker couple staring back at us with smiling eyes. Neither AWL nor I recognized either of these very happy leathered up people at first, but then we looked up a little past the woman and really looked at the man, and there in the face we saw it. Steve! PINKY! You ride?!

And just like that we were at the cool kids table. It felt like everyone was just stopping by because we were in town. We had dinner with Pinky and Steve sharing drinks, and just because they thought they might pop into us they handed us a flash drive with all of our pictures saved on there. Could life be any better?!

We part ways and exchange hugs and information and all the positive vibes in the world. Up we go to see the lights go on at Mount Rushmore:

Amazing in itself as we settle in on the top viewing area. But more amazing still a young couple walks past us and sits almost next to us. Out of hundreds of people there that night, Don't Daniel and Carly shadow us into the last little bit of our trip in South Dakota! It's good to have friends in all kinds of places!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Cool kids (part 1)

It's hard to tell the story of how after a month or two of dating AWL I decided it was completely normal to drag him (semi-willingly) across this great nation. It's particularly hard when you've been sitting behind your desk, or your students desks or in the front of a projector screen projecting images of mathematically clean and explainable numbers instead of experiencing the chaos of the real world. Its hard to remember the feeling of being out in the middle of nowhere with no plans.

Its even harder to explain how after experiencing the wow of a lake that felt like an ocean, but not quite a real ocean, there was a shadow hanging around us. More like two shadows. Its hard to explain how in the Middle of Nowhere, USA we felt like we were the most popular kids on the block. We knew everyone!

We left Chicago, IL with full tummies and our sights set on Mount Rushmore! That was the only thing on my check list to go see on this trip, and we were off to see it and anything in between we so desired! Yes! FREEDOM! And also we had to pee! And so our shadows emerged....and bumped into Leon at a truck stop bathroom. The cutest couple that side of the Mississippi!

A very tall very happy looking shadow named Daniel with his other wonderfully cheerful half, Carly then meandered around stretching their legs and as it happens so were we. Without knowing we'd see them again, we helped them collect some memories and snapped a picture of them in front of a welcome sign on their journey back to Colorado.

And just like that we were all gone again. On our separate playing the "throw the combos across the car" game and searching for the corn palace like any mature adult would do. Just before dark we stopped for dinner

 (where we found Big Jake's doppleganger!)

 and some Badlands. Man we need to get back there to get the full effect. The sun was just setting as we got there:

 The dark and lateness drew us quiet and then we approached the goal:

The approach:

And we made our camp at possibly our favorite campsite on the trip! If I could only wake up everyday in a place like this:

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Well didn't I get busy...

I love you blog. Don't listen to all those people. I meant to visit you and nurture you all through the summer. The thing about writing about wanderlust is that often your subject takes you away from your work. I have wandered. I have been happy doing so, and I have not touched a computer in quite a few months. You must have thought I disappeared, just as my mother so often thinks. I am here. I have gone out to Peru and I have gone back to Yosemite (3 summers and going!) and I have come back to work here in the city teaching the future of America (which my dad likes to remind me is a very scary thought. Psssshhhhh).

The saddest thing about this life is that time waits for no one. And time has slipped by me this year already. I have so many people to see and talk to and I am always running behind on those sorts of things. So, if like my blog, I have neglected you or we aren't speaking as often as we should. I'm sorry. I'm trying. And I'm still alive.

For those of you who think my head is in the clouds. It's not. As you can see from the picture it is ABOVE the clouds. (In Peru no less!) Hugs to all.

Friday, January 9, 2015

AWL left me for bears

Whelp: Found a post from November that I completely neglected to post:

As I sit on this Sunday afternoon in my jammies, I have to jump ahead in our grand adventures of the summer to recall the bears of the west. You see, AWL has left me for a week. He is on his own big man adventure. It's opening weekend for bear here in hokey ole PA. Leon has never killed a bear in his entire life, but he goes every year hoping to bag an adorably massive Baloo. I imagine him talking the poor thing to death with overly exaggerated stories about his life. Possibly having the bear choke on his own spit laughing at the now famous Fireworks story or the time we jumped off a small cliff and there was a weird anatomical phenomenon (all of which you shall hear in good time). Luring the poor animal in with his strange South African accent he acquired in Shillington, Pa. After all, East coast bears are nothing like west coast bears.

You see, here on the East coast, we have civilized our bears. (Actually, I believe the West coast mentality is making its way back. Be careful especially on the Appalachian Trail. There have been relatively recent bear related deaths on there. While I joke about it, Black Bears are predators just like grizzlies!)

We take for granted just putting up a tent and camping out. Our wilderness is basically an extended version of our backyard here in Pennsylvania. Once we left the Midwest, the idea of bears in cute Disney movies like the Jungle Book faded into a frightening slasher movie. In fact, all of the cute cuddly mammals of the wilderness started to morph into our minds as dark creatures with glowing red and green eyes in the massive darkness.

Our plan was to camp out as much as possible in order to reduce costs during our trip. And anyway, what is better than being out in the great wide open of the Rocky mountains?!

Our naive little east coast minds began to question that freedom first on a short walk to see if that gritty white patch really was snow....we got out of the car and AWL and I trotted a few hundred yards out into a meadow and proceeded to stomp on snow to make sure it was real. (all the way UP the Rocky mountain pass one imagines mystical driving tunes and endless giggling and awe as we careen through a car commercial for an SUV to the top elevation of almost 12,000 feet. However, our imaginings would be absolutely incorrect. We did careen, though, which means I was white knuckling the "Oh Crap!" handle as I stared wide-eyed down into the abyss that the sheer cliff allowed me to see. All of this, while constantly arguing with AWL that YES I'M SURE! IT'S SNOW! I KNOW IT'S SUMMER...IT'S SNOW!)

We finally reached a spot where we could pull over that included things like dirt instead of just plain old thin air. It was good to stretch our legs after all....and pry my fingers off of the handles in the car.

Frolicking....I'm pretty sure that's what you call it:


LIONS AND TIGERS AND BEARS....OH MY! (Actually we decided it's a wolf print.)

I didn't get video of either one of us high tailing it back to the car in a rushed..."be cool be cool" Shuffling walk while sweeping the surroundings for ominous silhouettes, then power walking as the idea of being hunted pushed us into an all out sprint to the car, yanking on the handles and slamming the doors while we simultaneously slammed ourselves in the seats. The idea of the wild shifted as we caught our breath.

We were not reassured as we continued our drive and spotted several of the prey animals startling close to the roads looking as wide eyed as we had just been. We were one of them not a few minutes ago. The wild is wilder the "wester" we go!