Friday, September 24, 2010

The Mountain Life Proper

I've been waiting a while for a week like the past, one that really embodies the spirit of the mountain. A stellar realization of what one can truly accomplish and be at elevation if you will, and I think the last week finally made the good stuff rain hard. Not to downplay the epic tales of mountaindom that have precluded this, but they really can't touch what has been happening these last 7 days. So sit back, crack a cold one and enjoy the yarns that I intend to spin.

So I went to work at Babbitt's Backcountry last week. It's the "Sunflower" of Flagstaff minus the bikes. I'm back to doing what I love and working with like minded pirates. Mind you it's no career but careers seldom come with this many accounts to pro-deal. So I can deal for now.

Over the weekend I worked the three day long Flagstaff bluegrass festival "Pickin' in the Pines" at my coffee shops vendor booth. It was a solid 12 hour day everyday. And by solid 12 hour day I mean I hung out, sold food, drank a lot on the job, and got to party down in the outdoor amphitheatre proper when the good music was playing. I raged to Nolan McKelvey with my white boy dancing and led a charge up to the stage for some dancing with the Seldom Scene. Every night that I left the amphitheatre I wandered back downtown to find out what band was playing a side gig where and explore the bluegrass bar scene. Not a lot of sleep but soooo good.

Regardless of the whole sleep situation I took Monday and Tuesday off to go climbing in Paradise Forks. I got hooked up with this old school trad climber named Stan and I was beyond stoked to start trad-climbing again. Paradise Forks is one of the most gorgeous places I have ever seen and the whole canyon was empty except for some Europeans who had traveled specifically to climb the stellar hand-cracks. Nobody around Flagstaff trad-climbs and it's kind of an anomile. This town is surrounded by old school trad areas that are beyond amazing, but all the kids my age want nothing to do with anything that isn't 5.13 sport climbing or V8 bouldering... or approaches longer than 5 minutes.

I'm not much of a crack climber, and by not much I mean I have no crack climbing form. I was desperate for a micro-crimp or an edge to pull on but all these cracks had to offer was jams upon jams. It was described by everyone as "Indian Creek without proper ratings." You see back in the day the rating system stopped at 5.9. So anything that was hard was just called 5.9+... and we climbed a lot of 5.9+. I spent a solid two days after that excursion not being able to lift my hands above shoulder height, my feet were bloody from attempting to jam my tiny sport shoes sideways into cracks and I was mentally exhausted. But G-Dang I had more fun craggin' at the Forks than I have had since I started climbing. I know where my future in this sport is and it lies in tiny finger cracks and TCU's.

Our Austrian climbing associate sending hard on the stellar Paradise Forks hand cracks.

So that's how you live the mountain life. You shuck and jive as a North Face shill, sling the lattes at bluegrass festivals, party hard with the band whence the festival comes to a stop, and crag at the most scenic old school canyon in the southwest. Now you'll have to excuse me, I have to go sort gear for another day of redpointing 5.11 at Jack's Canyon.

So here's to livin' the life proper.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Climbing Bum's Tales

Who wants to know about the last week of my life? Because I want to tell you about it.

So the last word from me was that I was jobless and restless. So I took my restless nature and went climbing. Here's the rundown (just of the fun things, not the endless job hunt).

I hit the pit headfirst on Wednesday with a climbing fervor reserved for the young and frustrated. I got a handful of onsights and killed a project of mine with aplomb. It was a good day. I won't go on since everyone has already heard about the pit.
Thursday and Friday I got out on the bike hard. Rode myself into the ground both on the road and mountain respectively but nothing too epic to report besides I rode fast and hard and all day.

View from the anchors at Slide Rock Canyon

Saturday: I heard tell of some bolted rock down in Sedona at Slide Rock state park. So I dragged Matt out to check it out. We had little info besides, "bolted rock, up on the hill, above the creek." But oh my goodness, once we found the rock it was good. The lines were bold, 90 foot sandstone overlooking a 400 foot drop into a canyon, spires coming out of the side of the desert floor and more exposure than I have seen in a while. It was a true day of onsight climbing. We literally had no idea what any of the climbs went at, they all felt 5.10ish (but everything feels 5.10ish to me since I could honestly care less what a rock goes at). All of the climbs went clean and all of them were absolutely gorgeous. It was my first visit south to Sedona and I can see why it is such a tourist trap, it is literally one of the most gorgeous towns I have ever seen in my life. Everyone should make a pilgrimage just to see this tiny mountain town, that good...

True onsights go without beta, I don't care what the rest of the sport climbers say.

Saturday night I raged too hard with John boy so I'll skip Sunday altogether. But Monday I met up with some kids from Phoenix down at Jack's Canyon to climb. Jack's is about 30 miles south of Winslow, of Eagles fame, and is a sport climber resort. Hundreds of bolted lines in a pretty small canyon to tear up. It just so happened that my partner for the day was just beginning to push into 5.13s, while I myself had never even seen anyone climb 5.13. We spent the morning with me projecting 5.12 and him cleaning up whatever wouldn't go for me. It was a damn hard day on the rock and it felt sooo good to start climbing at or beyond my limit again. We climbed for a total of 10 hours and 12 routes, all were good, most went clean, life was good.

Tuesday I got a call from that job that I thought I lost/quit. They wanted me to come work for the day. I'm broke so I said "sure why not." Well, 1 day turned into 2 days turned into me working their booth at the local bluegrass festival all weekend. Add onto that and the local downtown gear dispensery called to hire me this morning. So I went from jobless climbing bum to double job/52 hr a week working employed person in less than 24 hours. I guess it cuts into the freewheeling climbing bum life that I was so fond of but at least I can pay some bills this month.

So here's to the life, making the dollas rain when you need it and big money sendin'

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Labor Day Bundy Wedding Weekend

Early wake up call Friday morning as I packed the rest of my belongings and headed the 1.5 miles to the Flagstaff airport to shuttle a rickety old jet to the Phoenix airport for a rather eventful wedding weekend back in the old KS. I'm a rather inept airport patron and was worried that I would get utterly lost once descending upon PHX. But everything went off without a hitch and I was ahead of schedule arriving at MCI. There was a lovely young Neta awaiting me at the gate who rushed me straight off to Topeka so I could obtain a tux and do some damage to ol' T-Town.

After the tux was obtained I donned my classy wedding rehearsal getup of jeans, flip-flops and polo only to become the most under dressed rehearsal attendee. Felt a bit awkward until we got to the dinner and began drinking copious amounts of Blind Tiger's delicious American Pale. From then on the party raged in preparation for the next days festivities.

I won the game of "who knows Bundy and Kristen the best." Partly from my own knowledge
and partly because Kelsey screamed out all of her answers.

Wedding day: I awoke and scrambled downstairs only to find a car full of waiting groomsmen and their groom who apparently rebounded faster than me... or were just more used to an early wake up call than me. Regardless they wanted to get hiking and I volunteered to be the guide for the morning at the Topeka Governer's Mansion Trails. I might add that I volunteered my services as guide the night before while imbibing copiously only because the proposed morning destination of Perry Lake sounded utterly miserable to drive out to. I have no business guiding at or even riding this clusterfrag of trails by myself seeing as I have only ridden there twice. But as a verbose young outdoorsman will tell anyone after a few, "sure I can get us there and back." Regardless, we got back somehow and all was good.

That afternoon was a blur of business. I showed up to meet everyone for pictures missing my studs and suspenders and wearing the wrong shoes. Fixed the aforementioned problems and started bombing through wedding procedures. Once I stepped onto the stage (or whatever they call the thing at the front of a church...alter?) the proceeding was a blur. Kristen and Bundy were there and I could look out into the crowd and see every one of my best friends placed in the back where those damn miscreants belong. The whole thing went off without a hitch, Kristen looked absolutely enamored with her groom and although I couldn't see Mr. Bundy's face from my top-step I'm sure the emotion was the same. Kelsey Miller Fink was an amazing better half of my march out of the church and then things got wild.

We had fun and looked damn good.

Reception: My boat of flatland pirates were ready to rage. I got announced like royalty to the reception hall and took my place at the head table. After nabbing a quick scotch and heading back to the table with beer in hand (making a quick stop to adorn Neta with girly red booze) the feast was presented upon us. I leaned over to the dj and said "classy, jazz, Dean Martin, make it rain" and so was done. After dinner was done I made quick rounds and went to meet my table of fellow friends. We quickly turned the 8 person table into a 20 person, and mind you they happened to pick the table closest to the open bar. After things got wild and we danced and partied and danced some more we somehow ended up just being a large group of people standing next to the open bar for the rest of the night. We don't need a full bar, just a man with a stand and we can pretend.

Sunday: I somehow managed to make it downstairs in time to hand my tux off to Kristen's parents, gave the new Bundy family a quick hug and started shoving everything I owned into a bag so Neta and I could check out in time.

As I was driving home that morning I received a text from my boss at the coffee shop. It said "Your schedule has changed, call me as soon as you can." I procrastinated a while since I had to go see my parents and still was in no shape to talk to an employer of mine. Eventually I called him back and received some pretty lame news. Apparently the coffeeshop/restaurant was no longer serving dinner and they were cutting hours. By the time I called him back he had already laid off two cooks, a barista and slashed everyone's hours in half. He sounded frazzled and mystified how they were losing money and obviously felt bad. Half of me was prepared for it, but the other half wanted to scream and yell at him for his poor business model of serving lobster tail in a coffee shop but only between the hours of 4pm and 8pm... you didn't realize you were bleeding money sooner? Because we all did.

Regardless I had been thinking about this moment a lot lately, and wasn't really heartbroken and almost felt relieved. When he told me that he could probably work me 10-15 hours that week I chuckled over the phone, thanked him and then told him that I would only be coming into work that week to be collecting my check. Maybe it was pride, maybe it was foolishness, maybe it was just plain naivety but I didn't feel the need to work for a business who didn't have the foresight to give employees more than 12 hours notice that they would lose their income.

Regardless I went in today to collect my check and ex boss-man started talking at me just as much as he normally did. I listened for a minute but didn't let him finish his ramblings for once, just politely cut him off and said "Thank you for the job. I have a college degree and this awesome resume to go pass around." Shook his hand and went home and hit the job trail. I'm rather resolute to not get back in the coffee business right now, I'm rather sure I could land another coffee shop gig tomorrow but I have also been thinking a lot lately that working in a coffee shop after graduating college with nothing but coffee shop experience out of my 20s is only going to pigeon hole me into a field that has no income or long term stability.

Regardless I had an awesome weekend seeing two of the greatest people I have ever known get hitched. Followed by a hard realization that I am on the hunt for a real career and a life. Not just a job and a lot of playing. I foresee a lot of PBR and grilled cheese in this future job hunt...

So here's to celebrating two of my favorite people, my other favorite people who celebrated with me, cheap beer and hard roads.