Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Holes, Ska and Summits

It was a clear and sunny Wednesday morning and I had made big plans to summit Arizona's roof with Senor Giles. I awoke with a dry mouth and a dull ache from the Tuesday night fiesta that comes with the college kids moving back into town only to find a sketchy roommate who bailed on an epic to go play bikes with some new roadie companion... can't hate on a man for wanting new friends but give a fool some warning.

Regardless I hit Matt's phone and said "Pit, today is the day 5.12 onsight." He said cool, packed his gear and called me back 15 minutes later. "Uhh, my truck has a broken out window. I can't climb." I didn't understand the correlation between the two. I climb when I'm frustrated, ecstatic or ambivalent... but he needed to console his truck or something so he bailed and left me with my day off to ponder what the bejeezus I can do with my day off work flying solo.

As I was driving aimlessly around town I came across the city limits. There was a sign that said "Grand Canyon: North Rim 124 miles." I took a quick inventory of the party wagon (gas, water, phone, boots, ipod). Cranked the Johnny Cash and blazed a trail down old Route 66 to witness the grandness of this hole for myself. I blew past the national park (by accident not purpose) and continued to the north rim proper, what awaited me was a giant desert filled with nothing and a big hole in the middle. Not a soul was in sight and as I parked my car and wandered off through the dust. I realized that not many people have the opportunity to see the Canyon proper, alone, surrounded by absolutely nobody. I spent a good hour and a half wandering around until I found a good boulder overlooking the canyon that looked like a proper sittin' spot. From there I watched the sun slowly fade behind the sandstone towers that surround the hole and let the dust of the desert settle into my bones before returning to town feeling fulfilled and refreshed.

Stolen pic but it looked like this, minus the rainbow, plus my presence.

Thursday and Friday were pretty much a wash, I'm sure I did some drinkin' or something but nothing worth bragging about.

Saturday night however... I slung the lattes until close and booked it out of the shop at the speed of sound. One of my favorite bands of my youth was playing a free show on campus and be damned if I missed it. I've seen Less Than Jake no less than 3 times as memory serves and every show has been memorable to say the least (that's where that story stops). Regardless this washed up late 90s ska band played a set that was almost identical to the last time I saw them at 15 years old, right down to their two encore songs. Classic and made me feel right back in jr. high, even though I was surrounded by 18 year olds who were solely at the show because they hadn't found enough friends at freshman orientation to know where the booze is at.

This dude has literally looked like this since I saw him at Warped Tour 2000. Something about my childhood likes that.

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday: I once again made plans with John boy to hit the roof of Arizona and be damned if I was going to let him bail again. I was awake at 8 and ready to go. The weather was gusty and abnormally cool to say the least. I started texting John at 9 telling him to get up and get to the mt. Fast forward 2 hours and somehow John managed to get out of bed and I harassed, threatened to do the hike solo and lied long enough about the 70% chance of t-storms that we were bound for the trailhead. Finally got to hiking around 11:15, with my stomach churning with excitement and fear knowing that we might break treeline in the middle of a wicked storm.

Broke treeline around 1:45. Not many people were summiting Humphrey's that day which I thought seemed odd as it's a pretty moderate, albeit time consuming, 10 mile hike and we somehow managed to stay out of the wet. Figured it out once we got up there though. It seemed that with every 100 feet of elevation and exposure we gained above treeline the wind would crank it up another 10mph. We went from steady 60mph hurt on the first false summit, to steady 75mph on the second and finally got stuck with 95mph gusts making the final steep 100 meter push vertical to the summit. It was cold and miserable up there but the experience was soooo worth it. Most guide books warn that any weekend you will be battling up to 100 other people getting to the top, we had the summit to ourselves the entire 30 minutes we were there. Not too shabby at all.

So here's to great holes, great heights and washed up musicians who still make me smile.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Racin' Bikes

I has no pickthures, sorry.

I raced a bike today, first time racing a mtb since RIM last summer. The Absolute Bikes Classic MTB Race up on the snowbowl mountain, I was amped. I've dropped 10 lbs since I've moved here, held onto the fast group rides, ridden harder than I have for a long time and felt prepared.

And I'm pretty sure I was. The race was two 10 mile laps, 6 miles up, 2 miles flat, 2 miles descending. And I felt great on everything that wasn't riding straight up a wall. Once we got the steep part of the climb settled I started railing past people in the tech corners and flying through the short downhill sections. And then the big downhill started. Somehow I had ridden into the pro/expert women's race and was cruising with a Luna racer on the downhill trading 30mph bombs as we could sneak past each other in the corners. One of us missed a turn and neither realized it until we ended up on a dirt road that was definitely not part of the course. There were two beginner riders standing in the middle of the road, scratching their heads and wondering how they got there as well...

Needless to say I was beyond furious, a 4 mile detour left me well out of contention for that top 10 spot (out of a giant 60 man field) that I put myself in the pain locker for just moments before. I rolled back into the start area with my timing chip already in my hand and just tossed it at the course timer uttering the words, "Fuck this race." I don't think I have ever been more furious in a race situation in my life, I tried to hunt down the promoter to express to him how much of a worthless hack he was for not being able to tape a course (among other qualms I held with the unorganized cluster). But he must have been hiding behind his douche bush somewhere because he was nowhere to be found.

I wanted to yell and scream and scream and punch, but I'm glad there was no one to be found to take that out on. The best description of the cat who was promoting this race was a Jeremy Haynes with absolutely none of the wit/tact or talent and who I have no affiliation with. He was trying so hard to be old school and put on an old school mtb race, but this was a 300 rider race and it ended up just being a waste of my money. And just to clarify, I know Jeremy doesn't read this blog (so I'm safe), and I have known that asshat way too long to dislike him, but those of you who haven't may relate to the sentiment.

Anyways, I'm glad I couldn't find anyone to scream at. Because Flagstaff is a tiny town and even though the bike community is big, I still have no business burning bridges quite yet.

Regardless, I went to work after the race for 9 hours and calmed down. I came home and opened a beer and watched 180 South. I would highly recommend all of my adventuring buddies to check this flick out, it put me in a better mood. It really expressed adventure in the purest way possible through conservation, surfing and climbing. Made me happy and reminded me why I still play in the woods after such a bust of a day.

Anyways, I'm back to the normal tipsy, happy, blogging Slater. I'm going to the Pit tomorrow to burn off any left over resentment on the limsetsone and life is still good in the lodgepole pines.

So here's to now.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Work Hard Play Hard

WOOOHOOOOO! I got off work at 5pm today, out the door while the suns still shining! I was that stoked for about 2.7 seconds before I realized how hard I have been on my body in the last few weeks. Time for a rest night.
But y'all get a quick recap of the week anyways...

I've been gettin' after it like it's made to be got after since the last update. Most everyday I have had to work a 12-9 or some variation ending well past 9 since the service industry rarely is telling of actual scheduling. But the late wake-ups mean I can pump out a quick 7-8 on the feet or a nice road ride before work, accompanied by 2 hangboard workouts a day in my never ending quest to send those 5.12s and running around my coffee shop like a madman...

Those things are only the beginning to the end of this story though, the real detriment to the temple of Slater began Wednesday afternoon. I got hooked up rather well and was scheduled a nice short, non-closing shift at work followed by a Thursday off. Well... the Wednesdays in Flagstaff are the Thursdays in Lawrence, the two bars that are dirty enough to still get a loyal college kid following (tourist free) in the summer run .25 cent drink specials and throw raging parties. So we raged, it's pretty rad that I've met enough people already that I am already running into/garnishing a crew of nightlifers and like minded individuals into my life.

Long story short, the limit ordering at the bar is "3 drinks" per person and the .25 special at the Greenroom runs from 8-10pm and then starts again at 11, so every time one ventures to the bar they are "forced" to order a double and a beer, just in case they can't get a drink again before the specials end... And since I'm a pirate of a goat and know a little bit about math, I have determined that for that one $6 bottle or Barton's gin that serves 16 drinks I am officially dominating their rent check for that bar since there is no way I will let them ever make money off of me... if I drink it all fast enough and boogie down to the 80's jams pumping in the backgound.

So Happy to be on something less runout finally.

Whew, not a short story at all. BUT Thursday was my day off of work so I had to do something with it. Took the Dudesons back to the Pit after a quick cancellation (due to massive hangovers ) of the Southwest's destination sport climbing crag of Jack's Canyon. Climbing is pretty rad right now because I get to pick out lines, lead them, set up a top rope and then just sit back and tan while the other dudesons give it a shot and try to work out the kinks.

Yup, I live here.

I had a full day scheduled and 4 5.10D routes that I wanted to run down. 5.10D proved to be about the edge of my sanity for the day and I got scaredddddddd on a 20 foot runout under a ledge that I could not see the next bolt from. Regardless I was the only one who could lead that day so I kept setting up ropes and slowly unraveling until I called it quits for my own mental health.

Woke up today and headed out for work, thinking that I was closing the place down. Negative once again, only had to work until five. I'm pretty sure that mindset works well as long as I know when to show up. So I was stoked that I would be off of work in time to catch the Yonder Mountain String Band jammin out at the amphitheatre up the street. But 6 tacos and a handful of Dale's later and I was just quite motivated enough to walk out on my porch to see if I could hear anything, alas all I could hear was awkward reverb and too much traffic trying to get to my side of the mountain. A noble attem

Tomorrow is attempt #3 of hanging with John Boy's new roadie team in the hammerfest Saturday ride, hopefully no rain so I can actually show up this week. I think it's gonna be good, regardless of how it turns out. I obtained phone numbers of the other cyclists pre-ride tonight so we could meet up, toast and talk about how slow I am tomorrow night.

So here's to pushing the body until it needs an ice bath, hating on it some more, numbing the pain, and then hurting it again.

P.S. Happy Bachelor Party Bundy, sorry I couldn't be there bud.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Life As It Should Be Lived

Warning: This is the true story of my weekend. Reading these tales or any following this may cause jealousy, envy or the insatiable urge to move west. Read at your own risk.

Saturday: Started rather uneventfully. I drank too much wine with my neighbor during a thunderstorm that knocked out our cable and provided a light show big enough to make the mountain smell like burnt ozone the night before. So I was plenty relieved when I awoke to go hammer with the locals on the Saturday morning road ride and I found nothing but more rain that didn't look like it would let up anytime soon. Back to bed I went until it was time to sling the lattes at noon.

I slung the lattes until about nine o'clock and hustled home to change out of clothes that smell of burnt espresso beans and hop on the cross bike to cruise downtown. Met up with Senor Giles and our new bud Jason at the Rendezvous. Jason seems like the man to know in the bike world here, he runs one of the largest bike teams in Phoenix and seems to know who's who and what's what.

When I entered the Rendezvous martini bar I encountered the same phenomena that I seem to encounter every time I enter a martini bar... they can't remember what an actual martini looks like. It's an interesting conundrum that I have encountered more than a few times in my life. They have a shiny menu full of drinks that taste like chocolate, or lemons or apples but when walking to the bar and uttering the words, "martini, dirty, Gordons" the bartender returns a blank stare and runs to find whoever is in charge of the joint. Regardless I got a drink and spent a few of the strong ones flowing prose with Jason and Johnny about bikes, motorcycles, cars and life.
The Piano Room's logo. A small door off an alleyway is the only entrance, and inside looks just as much like a 1940's speakeasy as their logo gives away.

Afterwards we stumbled to the billards room so my compatriots could experience a joint cutthroat schooling. And then quickly headed back to the street and ended up in the piano bar. Piano bar made me feel like Dean Martin, it was old school and too classy for a boy like me. They served infused alcohol and their bar didn't have a bottom shelf, no tourists and the bartender knows your first name without having ever been introduced... too good. What's a boy to do but take on the Habanero infused tequila challenge. It was harsh, hot and oh so complex. Felt like a king for the return voyage home.

Sunday: WOOOOOHOOOOO, day off work. God bless the Christians who run my coffee bar for shutting the place down one day a week. I guzzled water, coffee and bread with a vengance to quell the remaining tequila and headed to the the Pit to climb. My goal for the day was to finally climb 5.11 in style in this state. Didn't happen. Hopped on 5.10D Popeye and got a very solid and clean redpoint. Returned to the dirt and got sketched out by the starting moves on the .11c I had been scoping since the belay station was only big enough to hold a belayer and a fall from the first bolt would result in both of us tumbling a solid 40 feet. So I moved a little farther over and attempted to lead a very stout overhung 5.10D, felt good until the top and could not figure out what to do. I had no beta on this route, didn't know the rating and couldn't figure out the final five foot sequence to get to the bolts. So I scooted over and climbed the chimney adjacent, set up an anchor and gave it a top rope rehearsal. Solid, the sequence that I had a go at on lead were solid 5.11+ moves, rapping off of it showed me a neat little sidepull that turned it back into 5.10d. Sent it clean but it took forrrreeevvvver.

Top-rope master Johnny trying to work .10d. He's making progress and has learned to give a solid lead belay.

After the few solid burns we got we decided to quit fighting the trafiic circus that is The Pit on the weekends and go ride bikes. But by the time we hiked out of the canyon and back to the car it was decided that we were too tired, hungry and sunburnt to ride. So downtown we headed. Scooped up some grub on the patio of local badass burrito eatery The Black Bean and listened to the live bluegrass tunes coming from the stage not 20 foot ahead of us.

I think the overall moral of the story that I told myself this afternoon went something like this, "Here I am, sitting at a delicious local eatery (as a new local), 7000ft in the air, listening to live tunes, watching the old hippies dance and drink, with chalk still on my hands from the absolutely gorgeous limestone burn I just sent less than an hour ago. This is about as good as life gets."

So here's to solid rock, good buds, good booze, good food, good music and the sweet mountain air.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Good Life

So I have promised a few people that I would finish a bottle of wine and have at this blog with the fervor and wit reserved the days of yore. Well... I didn't. And quite honestly, I find it rather unmanly to finish a bottle of California's finest/cheapest merlot at home when one lives with another dudeson, so I really don't see that situation occuring anytime soon.

Regardless I feel the need to regale the readership with tales of my current mountain town.

I've been here for almost three solid weeks. I'm doing what I love to bring home the bacon (slinging lattes where lattes need to be slunged) and the cool mountain air is as amazing to live in as I always envisioned.

THE RIDING: To start, our nearest singletrack is less than 1 mile away via the cities ultra-expansive multi-use trail. 42 miles of ultra-drainable desert dirt/gravel line all of the streets to make this the most impressive bike city I have ever encountered. And only 1 mile to the right of my doorstep drops me off in front of the cities after work superflowy loop. 10ish miles of singletrack provide everything from bomber 40 mph doubletrack to a technical loop that rivals Clintion's white trail. The best part though... it is never, ever, ever muddy. We have had days with flash flood warnings in the last week. And instead of turning the trails into mush, it turns into velcro infused hardpack.

Aside from the super close riding, the rest of the riding resides between 3 and 7 miles away and has proven to blow the mind on the decents (the ascents are less mind blowing but I'm sure once my elevation lungs are about me they will be equally glorious.)

Don't let the Goats hear me say this but the road riding here is equally amazing. Once outside of the city limits you can climb and climb and climb until you are done. And then bomb back down. Climbing 2o miles uphill to be rewarded with 60mph downhills can be quite entertaining to say the least.

THE CLIMBING: It's here, it's all here. My first few weeks were spent traveling around solo with a pack filled with shoes and chalk, freesoloing whatever looked freesoloable. I met some cool locals who threw a harness at me during my first visit to "Petit Verdon" and let me use their rope while I was eyeballing a 70 foot line that I was looking at just hanging out ropeless. Very chill people up in the thin mountain air, giving some stranger a belay on their gear.

Last weekend I taught our next door neighbor how to use all of his gym climbing gear to get out in the wilderness and found an even better belay buddy. And tomorrow, hoping the weather holds, Johnny will be learning his first outdoor on rope commands.

THE PEOPLE: They're all like me (or us). Everyone rides a mountain bike, everyone climbs, everyone drinks good beer with a pirate like thirst. I've sat outside the locals spots and listened to the hardmen spin yarns of epics on El Cap, Mt. Whitney or that last gnarly local race. The outdoorsmen run this town, and in a town this size that is a refreshing feeling.

So here's to the blog, the town and having life at your fingertips.