Two months plus change on the road. In some respects, it was about what I expected in my dreams leading up to the momentous change. In a lot of other respects, not at all. So far, I’ve adventured all around the West, mainly sticking to sunny Las Vegas, balmy Southern California, frigid Iowa, and recently snowy Colorado.
Right off the bat in early November, my grand road trip started out from Seattle with being dead in the water: van troubles in the middle of Nowhere, Idaho. Being quite overly proud of my perceived ability to learn anything I want, I had the false impression I could learn to fix anything on the epic ’83 Volkswagon camper bus myself. Well, that idea went downhill quickly when my basic tinkering couldn’t even fix a recurrent coolant light issue. After three mechanics in two separate towns (thankfully not too much cash) and a LOT of hair pulled out, I was back on the road to Vegas, baby!
This four day stint of van troubles gave me an impression of what it feels like to be a battered wife and empathy on why it is so difficult to leave that abusive relationship. Disclaimer: this next portion might offend some, particularly feminists, but I truly mean it in the most emphatic way possible. I feel like my van is my abusive husband. My van/husband would break down, and it is abusing me. During these periods, the stress, the pain, the despair is all consuming. All I can think about is leaving my van/husband and getting a divorce. I hate it/him. Then, it ends. It/he calms down, and everything goes back to normal. I am on edge for a little while, expecting my van/husband to explode again. But then, slowly, I forgive the van/husband, and rationalize in my mind that it/he didn’t mean those actions. The van/my husband is so much fun, so cool, so perfect for everything that I want to do, that I forget about the divorce. I mean, the top pops up, how cool is that?! It/he wouldn’t do that to me again. THEN IT DOES. And the cycle repeats itself over.
Just like we all hope battered women will finally realize their husband’s mistakes and get that divorce, I am in the process of filing for my divorce too. While all the issues have been small little inexpensive fixes, I just need something more reliable. Unfortunately, I am realizing Colorado in the dead of winter is not a good place to sell a summer camper mobile. During the -20 degree spells, things like door handles become super brittle and break off in my dejected hand. So looks like I’ll be stuck with it until I get back out to California to sell it.
But enough about the van. More about the fun! Shortly after that whole fiasco, my vision of what I dreamed about in long days in Afghanistan came true. Not a worry in the world, cruising a straight lonely desert road with mountains rising in the distance, Tom Petty blasting on the ancient sound system, one foot out the window with the sun beating down on me. That image motivated me through many a long day on FOB Masum Ghar in Afghanistan, and now it was a reality. Wheeler Peak in Great Basin National Park, Mount Charleston near Vegas, trail running and rock climbing in Red Rocks, hiking into a remote village and the most amazing blue/green waterfalls at Havasupia Falls, and having an entire hot springs in a canyon to myself next to the Hoover Dam rounded out my Vegas trip. Oh, and let’s not forget ending up with table service next to Floyd Montgomery at a Vegas club and making an idiot of myself. That story needs to stay in Vegas.
My next venture was down to California. I stayed awhile with my climbing mentor, Brian Eagen, and his lovely wife Sarah. I planned out my 2014 race calendar, and really got back into my trail running training regiment. I had fallen off the training mentality quite a bit after my Wonderland circuit and it felt good to get back into it. I explored the Santa Monica Mountains and the San Gabriel Mountains quite a bit, and had a couple of epic failures on Mount Baldy. You can’t win them all. A quick jaunt back to Iowa around Thanksgiving where I picked up my brand new trad climbing rack of gear (EXCITED!!) from my parents house, and I was back out to California again. It was great seeing my nieces back in Des Moines!
Since the van had been treating me so well, I decided to take it to Colorado for the holidays. It was quite the eventful trip with the van deciding that no, in fact I did not want to climb Mount Humphreys, by breaking down five miles from the mountain. Christmas was wonderful and magical with spending it with my sister’s family in Colorado Springs and the two kids. I still don’t know how I can run 100 miles, but a 6 and 4 year old can wear me out.
The next three weeks here in Colorado have been a blur of adventures. A run up Pikes Peak via the Barr Trail in 6 hours, 22 minutes, loads ice climbing in Ouray Ice Park and Rocky Mountain National Park (I took a super awesome fall leading a really hard ice climb!), backcountry skiing fresh powder in too many locations to mention, a bit of resort skiing, an Avalanche Awareness Course (VERY good information, learned I will certainly die of an avalanche!), peak training for my next 100 miler, and of course, beer drinking with some old college buddies. It seems I have hardly taken a moment to stop and rest so far. I am really hitting my stride with my skiing and ice climbing, both decently new to me. While the mountains here might not be as sexy as the Cascades, boy, they sure are fun!
I’m coming in to my taper for the Coldwater 100, which is giving me quite a bit more time to catch up on chores, and plan for the biggest adventure yet, Aconcagua! I’ll cover that in another post here soon. As I sit here in a coffee shop in Denver, hyped up on caffeine, knee deep in planning three different expeditions, rocking out to Five Finger Death Punch, LIFE IS GOOD!