Tuesday, June 19, 2001 Lee Davenport's Apartment in Madison, WI I think I skipped yesterday, I rode around Madison a little on my bike, and wrote a lot. Lee and I rode out to Picnic point, which kind of juts out into Lake Menona. One can see the capital, and the University from there. We also had a nice dinner at E'toile. It wasn't as spectacular as Jean Georges, but it was very tasty. Lee get's a 50% discount also, so that was nice. Especially since we drank about 70 dollars worth of liquor. Today I went Strawberry picking. Lee put me to work. On Friday's she works for Home Grown Wisconsin. It's a Cooperative between all of the local Organic Farmers in Madison. They put there product together, and drive down to Chicago on Tuesday and Friday's to deliver all the organically grown produce to the gourmet restaurants in Chicago. Lee worked out an arrangement, where Tuesday's she would work at one of the Farm's (Blue Sky Berry Farm), and Friday's she drives to Chicago. So, today we trekked out to Blue Sky, and picked Strawberries for 2 and ½ hours. It was definitely tough on the back. In the beginning, I tried to stand, and reach over the Strawberries, and step whenever I needed to move. I did that for about an hour, then my back started to hurt. Then I tried squatting over the rows of berries, and that eventually started hurting my ankle. So, the best solution turned out to be sitting down next to the rows of berries, and picking until I had picked all the berries within my reach. Then I would kind of skooch to the right or left a couple feet, and continue that. That eventually degraded into laying on my side, then sitting up, then laying on the other side. When we were finished, I had strawberry butt from sitting in the strawberries that had fallen off the plants between the rows. After a couple hours, my body could definitely feel it. I can't imagine doing that for 8 hours a day. It would be agony. I definitely couldn't be a farmer, but I suppose I can appreciate those people who are. I actually thought of a cool invention. A strawberry lifter / picker helper. It could be a little platform that a person lays on maybe two and ½ feet off the ground. It could have wheels, and be pushed by one's legs, or a motor. This way, you could be laying down, and picking strawberries at the same time. I told it to Lulu, the woman who lived at Blue Sky, and she nodded, and said "Hurt your back huh?" I said "yea, a little." I asked Lulu what she liked most about farming, and she said "I like working with the earth." "And, I like knowing that I grow a quality product, that is safe to eat right off the plants." I respected that, and said "Nice." After we were done, she went to pay me, and I said, "The experience was payment enough." I gave my salary to Lee. She sells each basket of Strawberries for 3 dollars. We picked about 36 baskets in about 2 and ½ hours. She paid us 7.50 cents an hour, for 18.75 total. We picked about 14.4 baskets per hour. So, we generated them approximately 43 dollars an hour minus our wages 7.50 for a net income of 35.5 dollars an hour. I guess that's not too bad. Except when you factor in all the other costs. Weeding, watering, planting, etc. etc. They are probably not making too much. After that, we came back, and went shopping for Lee's dinner party. She was making Pizza, Salad, and Strawberry Shortcake from the fresh strawberries we picked that day. I got some groceries myself. Cold Cuts, mustard, milk, Cliff bars. I got a killer deal for a case of cliff bars for 10 dollars at the Farmers Co op. It was cash only, but a case is like 12 bars. They normally sell at wegmans for like 2.50 a bar, or something. I saved 20 bucks on the case. I also bought a pot to cook stuff in, and my Staple Ramen noodles. So, tomorrow, I go out on the road for the Wisconsin Wyoming leg. It should take me two or three days to get to Yellowstone National Park. Then I am going to spend a couple days there before I head up to Libby Montana to see Kristen. I am kind of nervous, and kind of excited at the same time. It has made me soft, and lazy to stay with people. When we were shopping, we pretended like we were a hick couple in line, with comment's like "I tell you what Lee Ann", and "Roy, I told you not to be telling stories." The woman in front of us in line looked back and had a funny look on her face. I'm not sure if she thought we were serious or not. I wouldn't be surprised if some people in the store actually did speak in that manner. The place definitely was Midwestern. I don't like the term Midwestern to refer to Madison. It's kind of North Mid Western. Mid Western reminds me of Arkansas, or Kentucky or something. The grocery store was called Woodmans, not Wegmans. They took only cash, and not plastic, which I thought was interesting. It was pretty big, maybe the size of a Wegman's but not the same. I didn't see a bulk food section, nor did they have a pharmacy / photo development area / the deli sucked / no movie rental place either. I took several pictures of the checkout guy in line, and made him laugh a little. "I'm not happy to be working today." "I'd rather be home." He said. Some day he will grow up to be something else. We went rock climbing at "Boulder's" rock gym in Madison tonight. It was fun, but I was pretty beat. I am falling asleep now too. Lee and I went with Sonya and Dave (Sonya's boyfriend). He was pretty good. Maybe a little stronger than I. I got zero arm strength, but good balance and finger strength. Sonya gave me the numbers of some of her friends who live in the Fairbanks area. I will call them when I get closer and give them a ring. Lee said she has a friend who lives in Vancouver too. I think she said she would give me her number to give her a ring when I get up there. Lee's roomates, and friends are all very learned. They are either all going to school, or doing research, or finishing there masters degrees. Briana Calore is going back to medical school, and is super smart and quirky. Sonya is also super smart, going to school, and working. Dave is a Chemical Physicist, both of Lee's friends who are both named Amy are in their Ph'd programs in the Medical field. I felt kind of less than intelligent around them. But, I don't really mind too much. Everyone has their specific skills. Briana has a bunny named "Sunshine Garcia", who's birthday is the day Jerry Garcia died. I am going to bed.
Thursday, June 21, 2001 Some Rest Stop, right over the South Dakota Border from Minnesota. (About 10 miles outside Souix Falls, SD) The sun is setting, NPR is on the radio, I am sitting in the back seat of my 1997 Subaru Legacy Outback, looking at the screen of my Micron Transport NX perched on top of my Coleman plug in cooler in the front seat, and all is right in the world. I had a surprisingly good day. I kind of dreaded leaving Madison, because it is of course scary to go back out in the wild, where you don't know where you are going to sleep. I didn't leave yesterday, because I spent some time on the computer doing things online, and that turned into more time, and then it was 3:30, and Lee got home from work. So, I decided to stay another day in Madison. I reached my goal today though, which was to make it to South Dakota, and Souix Falls. I plan on finishing this journal entry, and heading into town, and hopefully to find a suburb somewhere outside of town, where I can bed down for the night. I just re-packed the car, and put some unnecessaries in my bug splattered car pod. (I am so glad I got this thing. My bike would have been trashed without it. Plus it adds 17 cubic feet of space to my ride. More than adequate me thinks) I got an e-mail from the Mt. Ranier climbing folks on Wednesday. They had an opening on the July 17th 18th summit climb. By the time I called them, it had been taken. ? I gave them all my contact information and such, and told them that if an opening comes up in the future for those dates, just bill me. I don't want to miss out on it again. I am pretty hopeful though, because the reservation chick said that often times, people don't pass the "pre climb", so if I call, maybe I will be able to get in. Plus, there are still a few weeks before that climb. Yesterday, should I talk about that first, or today. I guess chronologically correctness has it's place. So, I woke up with the intention of leaving in the morning, but got stuck with the computer being online, and such, and ended up staying. Lee asked me if I was interested in seeing "Lucinda Williams." I thought it would be a local bar band, because I had never heard of her before, and grunted assertion. It turns out it was a regular concert at the locally restored concert hall on State Street in Madison. Tickets were 27.50 DOS, and the opening act was "Kasey Chambers", another artist whom I had not heard of. First allow me an aside, and mention the word of yesterday. It was estrogen. As in, a little too much of it. Anyway, Lee and I grabbed some sandwiches from the local deli / grill called Radical Rye. I put the order in, while Lee grabbed the tickets. I got a veggie burger. Quite Tasty! Then we walked down to the U of W Madison campus' outstanding eating and gathering establishment, the Terrace. This was a nice open air venue that had various small bands and such playing often. Last night was open mike night, but we missed it because of the concert. I said, "Too Bad." Lee responded, "No, that's good." Apparently the open mikers leave a little to be desired. Then we met and talked with Lee's friend, Molly I believe who is working towards becoming a "Dula." I am not sure about the spelling on this, but I think it's right. A dula is a person who assists in home birthings. A Dula is a person, man or woman who has seen a lot of child births, and helps the midwife with whatever she needs through the ceremony. (I think) She is also there for moral, and breathing support of the expecting mother. Often times, this is unmarried teens. So that was my first womanly experience, listening and learning about what it takes to become a Dula. It was very interesting. Oh, we ate our food on the Terrace which overlooks Lake Monona, and drank some local beer, and then had ice cream. I had Cookies and Cream. Ice cream and beer. Ain't nothin better in the world. Then Molly departed, and Lee and I trekked up to the Orphieum, to check out the show. It was very crowded, and Lee and I ended up sitting high in the balcony next to two very affectionate Lesbians. One of whom I would refer to as good looking. Lee and I had a whole conversation about what the definition of Hot, and Beautiful were. I didn't explain it very well, because I still had a stoopid head from the beer. So, I really liked Kasey Chambers. #1, she was hot, and I'm not sure about beautiful, but I would wager, she is on her way. She was from Austraila, and her mom, father, and brother were all on tour with her, and helped her out in one capacity or another. Mom did the promotional stuff, Dad was in the band, played keyboards, and bass I think. Brother produced the show, and also played guitar. I liked her last song the best. It was called "We're all gonna die someday." "Momma's on the pill, daddy's over the hill, and were all gonna die someday " went the chorus. It was upbeat, and mostly countryish. Both Kasey Chambers, and Lucinda Williams were both kind of Country, and reminded me of what I think a Faith Hill / Lilith Fair concert might be like. I liked Kasey Chambers better, because I think she had more stage presence than Lucinda. She danced around a lot, talked and joked with the audience. She also seemed "fresher", like she wasn't jaded by stardom yet. Kind of like a Division 1 college basketball or football game, where the players cry if they lose, and go nuts if they win. Lucinda, while more popular, and musically a little more seasoned, seemed a little jaded by the stardom thing, even though I really hadn't heard of her. Her stage signature, is her quite folded cowboy hat that she wore low, and over her eyes, so you couldn't really see her face. Plus she was a blonde, while Kasey had short brunette hair, and big cans. Just my type. So, 4 hours later, the concert was over. The two shows, plus the lesbians were my second, third and fourth doses of estrogen. I actually left before the end of her second encore. I was ready to leave before the end of the first set, but grinned and bore as much as I could. And, of course, I got a little lost on the way home, so ended up getting in a little after Lee. Then Sonya and Dave, who had just come back from jogging joined Lee and I in the living room to discuss college and Educational reform. Another sidebar. I friggen love it here. Every one of Lee's roomates is in college, or doing post bachelor's degree work. I love discussing intellectual things, and I really miss college. I must go back. Sonya works in Education Policy research, and is helping student's from other cultures who have a tough time adjusting to the educational methods of the White, Middle Class American post high school education system. Since this is her work, she is quite passionate about it. My, and Dave's point's were that if a student can't hack the grading system, then tough. Kind of a "sink or swim / Social Darwinism" type of idea. Sonya felt strongly that this was alienating members of other cultures, who for cultural and social reasons have a tough time in school. She felt that there should be special means put in place to help these people, or we risk loosing a lot of potentially excellent students. She made an excellent point, and I saw it. She didn't have an answer, nor did I, but I saw where she was coming from. Dave on the other hand, didn't see it as clearly as I did. When Lee noticed that this discussion would continue in a heated manner, she said "I'm going to bed." I stayed for a bit, then worked on the 'pute a bit. Dave and Son adjourned to Sonya's room, for further "discussion". Fifth dose of estrogen. Then of course, while this was going on, Briana was finishing a less than pleasant conversation with her boyfriend. Then while I was computing, she came into the living room, as did Lee who wanted to ask about creating e-mail distribution lists. Lee, Bri, and I kind of talked about her situation. I remembered how to ask open ended questions. It's good to remember skills like that. Anyway, that was the final dose. I went to bed feeling like a woman. So, today. I drove all day. I stopped in Trembleau, WI and went mountain biking for about 6 miles, and grabbed a shower afterwards. It took me slightly off route, but I think things ended up fine. Plus it was great exercise. A couple of the small hills kicked my ass. Not my legs of course, but my wind. I don't have any. I have been a slug for too long. Hopefully not by the end of summer though. I figured out the gas mileage. I never knew how to do it before. I always thought people estimated how much gas they put in there tanks, and figured it out that way. It never occurred to me to look at the gas tank, and see from that how much I was putting in. My gas mileage really varies with the driving conditions. The leg from Chicago to Wisconsin I was getting about 29 miles / gallon (I was driving about 73 / 75 mph.) This was outstanding, and definitely the best mileage I was getting. Today though, the Minnesota leg was horrible. The speed limit is 70, so I was going about 78, and the wind was heavy, so I was getting about 21 mpg. Both better than the 17 mpg I thought I was getting before. So, I am happy about that. Anyway, I drove for most of the day. I didn't really get too sick of it. I went to one of the best rest stops I have ever been to. It was green plush grass, and away from the highway. I walked around, and spent about 20 minutes breathing and stretching on the lawn. It was called the Des Moines River Rest Area in Minnesota. It definitely got high rankings, because it had three recycle bins too. I took a picture. My first stop was Sparta, WI (The bike trails capital of the world.) That's where I got the info about the park that I mountain biked near Trembleau. I took some pictures of this old biker statue. A guy named Mark took one of me also, and I returned the favor for him and his family who wanted there Christmass picture done using the big biker as a backdrop. I talked with them for a while. They were there biking with there two children. Mark was thrilled about my camera, when I showed him you could review the pictures as you took them. I also showed him how to load 35mm film in his camera. He said "I'm not too mechanically inclined." I believed it. He seemed so excited to meet someone who had a camera, let alone someone who knew a little about photography. I wonder what his job was. His wife Becky was nice too, and so where their kids. A couple last things then I will say goodbye. Caroll O'connor from "All in the family" and blues legened John Lee Hooker both died today. Sad. Mileage of the car passing the Minnesota state line from Illionos was 94311, and passing the South Dakota state line from Minnesota was 94578. Last thing. I mentioned to Sonya earlier in the day yesterday another thought I had. Well, as many of you know, animals in the wild are most often times on the brink of starvation. This makes them hungry for life, and always trying to take advantage of every opportunity that life affords them, so that they can stay alive. Whereas a housepet, like a cat can get fat, lazy, and passive. A wild cat, could not afford to be this way. 1, because there is not a bountiful supply of food in the wild, and 2, because if it had to survive on it's own, it would most likely be eaten by a member of another species higher in the food chain if it was fat or slow. I equate this to being out on the road. When I am staying with someone, I get lazy, and used to things such as showers, beds, internet access, and television. On the road, I am a little closer to the things that are more important such as food clothing, and shelter. I like this. I think another step in this direction would be to try and live on your own in the wild for a while. This might be a little too much for me, but you never know. Anyway, enough for the ramblings of Ryan. Off to find somewhere to sleep.
Friday June 22nd Somewhere beyond boundaries of Badlands national Park, in my tent. (Copied from written journal on July 2nd. Believe it or not I am writing with pen and paper. I will transcribe this bad boy later. Backcountry camping in Badlands consists of Nothing. All you have to do is go ½ mile off the road so nobody can see you. You can park anywhere and do this. Very Cool. So, I left my car at the Ranger Station and started hiking. I came to the boundary of the park (marked by a barbed wire fence) + continued on for about ½ mile. There are crickets chirping everwhere and it sounds wonderful. Today I woke up in the rest stop, stopped in the town with the "Corn Palace", (Mitchell South Dakota) and took some video. I met Paul and Christopher who I talked with later at a Rest Stop. Paul was driving to Boulder with hie son to enter a Frisbee competition. There were 7 events Distance, Accuracy, Disc Golf, "Disc Tennis", an obstacle course, and a couple other I can't recall. I talked with them at a rest stop that was also a stop for Lewis and Clark on their little trip. They had a bunch of very vegetableish food. Tofu, BBQ Hommus, and a bunch of other veggies. I don't know if they chose to be vegeteraians or not. From the looks of there diet, they could have been. They were from Rochester. I also met Jonothan Williams who recommended a bunch of books and authors for me. He worked in a bookstore in Geneseo. Funny huh? The corn palace was interesting. So was the town of Mitchell! It had a bunch of large plastic figures throughout the town. I videod them while driving through. I also became fanatical about taking pictures of the "Wall Drug" signs all throughout South Dakota. There were litterally hundreds of them for the entire state of South Dakota, and possibly into Minnesota. I took a nature "Praire hike" with one of the Park Rangers. She and three other touristy people took the hike. The one younger girl found a really cool fossil. I wanted to pick it up, but couldn't because the Ranger was there. We also ate Scarlett Maglabelows or something. They tasted and had a consistency of chewing gum. It is incredible out here. I have no fly on the tent, so I hope it doesn't get too cold tonight. I am trying to ween myself off the tent, and just lay on the ground, I also have the doors open, so I can fee the breeze. I love the sounds, they are awesome. -- That was all I wrote when I was in the tent. Another thing that was interesting was when I was hiking through the Badlands to get to this place, all of the sudden I looked up and three large mammals were coming right for me. I believe it was an antelope, with it's two young. The adult, saw me, as I stood solid on the ground, and went around me. The two calves hopped within about two feet of me, and kept on going. They made neat sounds when they went. Hop, Hop, Hop Also, the smell of the Praire was incredible. The feeling I had sleeping in the tent that night was incredible. It was perhaps the best feeling I have had on this trip so far. Totally alone, but surrounded by life, stars, wind, and earth. I could get used to that.
June 23rd 9:23, Mountain Time, Frank's Rock Climbing Gym near Devil's Tower Wyoming. Again, exhausted. I did a lot today. I woke up in the Badlands, and had a wonderful rest in the praire. I can understand how cowboy's and others get used to sleeping out underneath the starts with no tent and such. It is quite nice on the praire. My sleep wasn't really disturbed at all. The wind didn't really bother me, in fact, I liked it a lot. It was cool, sweet, and nice. I woke up around 5:30AM or so, broke down camp, and headed back to my car. On the way back, I past another guy who was camping out in the wilderness. I spent about an hour or so eating breakfast and re-organizing the car, and then was on my way. I stopped by some of the other touristy vista sites in Badlands, but the most fun was the "Big Pig Dig." This was an Archeological dig that has been going on since 1993. There were four people who were digging, and a park ranger who was running interference with the tourists. Some of the folks who were doing the dig were volunteers, and some of them were Palentologists. One was a cute girl who was jaded by the tourists, and I could tell wasn't too psyched to be there. Then I ate lunch, and headed to wall to visit the famous Wall Drug, whose advertisiments are all over the state of South Dakota. The place was a glorified tourist trap. It did have a Tyrannasaurus Rex though. I got a lemonade for 1.19$ It was pretty good. Then I drove to Sturgis, and to the Harley Davidson for some souviners. I bought a couple stickers, and a tee shirt. I'm not sure who I bought the tee shirt for, but what the hell. After Sturgis, and a long car drive, I finally made it to Devils Tower National Monument. I hooked up with a couple guys who were climbing, and asked them what there recommendations about guided tours were. They happened to be driving to a guides house (Frank) which is where I am now. Frank's not here, he is in some town somewhere playing piano. The people who were at Frank's house which is a cabin which has an incredible view of the tower, were Gene, Yob (from Holland, 6'5", he didn't remind me of the Dutch people we met in Aruba), Kristen, and Chuck. I ate some of the beef stew that they had, since Chuck offered it too me. It was tasty. Then we all sat down and watched Pulp Fiction. I kind of should have been typing while this was going on, but I kind of felt like they were letting me stay, I should at least kind of hang out, and socialize a little bit. Anyway, Frank is going to get home in about a half hour, and I will go in to meet him. He will decide who climbs tomorrow, and who leads, etc. Hopefully, he end's up taking someone to the top. Including me. Oh, I left Lee and company a thank you note at there house. It read: Lee, thanks for the bed space. Of course for letting me crash at her house. Bri, thanks for the desk space. Of course for letting me use her desk. Son + Dave, thanks for the wall space. For taking me climbing. Bob, thanks for the floor space. For letting me keep my cooler in the kitchen.
June 24th(25th) 2001, Devils Tower Lodge Climbing Gym. Sorry Mom. CLIMBERS PAY ATTENTION TO THIS ONE!! Well, on Saturday during the day, I called a couple people while I was in places that had cell coverage. Aside, Verizon says they have coverage nationally. Nobody has coverage nationally, except for maybe one of those satellite phones. There have been several places out west. Yes, I am out west now, maybe not pacific time zone, but I feel like I am out west. The people feel like it, and it smells very much like it. Woodsy, kind of pine treeish. It makes me nostalgic for the Pacific Northwest. I can't believe that smell can bring back such a feeling, such a sense of connectedness, that it really makes you smile for no reason at all. Well, the woods around here do it for me. I love the smell, and I love the feeling that comes along with it. Anyway, I was talking with Mom, and I was mentioning to her that I was going to try and get in with a group while in Seattle, and try to climb Mount Rainer. Earlier in the conversation, I had mentioned that I was on my way to Devil's Tower. She said "Your not going to climb that are you?" I said, "Oh no, of course not." At the time, it never occurred to me that people climb Devil's tower, nor did I think about climbing it myself, so when I said what I said, I had no intention of climbing it. However, her mentioning it, kind of put the thought in my head, and as luck would have it, I got the opportunity to climb it. Here is the story. As I was driving to the Monument, I passed a place that advertised guided climbs to the top of the tower. I thought about stopping, and felt a tug, but I think it was an internal tug, not an external tug. Some of you may be familiar with my philosophies on those. I passed by, and continued on down towards the monument. So, I pulled into the front gate of the National Monument, these are much like National Parks, in fact, I think treated identically. Maybe they are the red headed stepchild of the Department of Agriculture. No, that would be Buearu of Land Management, or National Forest, maybe "Army Corps of engineers" landmark. Who knows. Anyway, I saw Devils Tower in the distance, and I was very impressed. This was definitely something that looked odd, but was comprehendible. Some of you know my theory on perspective, and frame of reference for looking at beautiful things. Since I had purchased a 50 dollar National Park pass at Badlands N.P. I showed my card, and drove on into the park. I took the windy 3 mile or so unpaved road to the visitors center. They were doing construction on the road most of the way up, and there were several delays. The closer I got, the bigger and bigger the tower was. Eventually I got to the visitor center, where there was a path up to the tower. It was huge! The tower was certainly neat, and very large. It looked much bigger the closer and closer I got. Another thought crossed my mind. I remembered something the Park Ranger in Badlands N.P. said to me, when I mentioned that I was going to Devil's Tower. She said "That's cool, they interpret Rock Climbing there." "Interpret?" I asked. She said "Kind of like presenting the subject to the common person." She had just interpreted the Praire, on the Prarie walk, and at Devil's Tower, they interpret Rock Climbing. As I parked the car, my main focus was on finding out about Back Country passes, for a free night's sleep. The Ranger in the Information Center, although very smily, and of pleasant demeanor. I actually think he was a Native Lakota Indian. Didn't know, he said something like "I'm not educated in that area." "Who would I talk with that would know more about that?" "The Park Security Ranger, would know more about that, and he is out on the veranda." I walked outside, and looked for him. He wasn't in my field of vision, so I started walking towards the tower. As I passed one of the typical National Park Kiosk's, I noticed that one had pictures of a climber, and the history of climbing around the tower. It said something like "Climbing is an important part of the history of the tower." It kind of sat in my head, but in the back somewhere, like something you see in your peripheral vision. It registers, but not with the part that put's it in your main train of thought. I was still thinking about finding the Security Ranger, and I couldn't find him, so I walked up to the tower, and decided to take the 1.3 mile hike around it. I went swiftly as I usually do on these sort of hikes. I feel like I kind of have an agenda, to get to the end. When it's a hike for a considerable distance, this is different, because I know that the journey is half the fun. But when the journey is short as it was on this hike, then I just want to get to the end. Halfway around the loop, I looked up at one section of the tower, that a bunch of people were pointing at, and noticed a couple small "Flowers" that seemed to be moving up the side of the large formation of igneous rock. These were climbers. As I finished the loop, I happened on two obvious climbers who were hiking back to their car. "I missed that one section, because I think it was a lie back, and I tried to muscle straight up it." Said one to the other. I followed them pretty close, and finally found an opportunity to butt into their conversation. "Did you guys make it to the top?" I asked. "No, we were just play climbing today" went the response. "I was wondering about climbing it, and I saw one of those guide places on the road in, do you guys know anything about them?" I questioned. "You want a guide?" was there mutual response. "We are going to see one right now." This started a long string of events that eventually took me to the top of Devils Tower. Ralph and Joe, I think were there names. We exchanged pleasantries, and I explained that if possible, I would like to climb the tower. They told me that the Tower is a Religious symbol for the Lakota Indians, and the month of June has been established as a holy month for the Lakota because of the Summer Solstice. Because of this, the park recommends that people don't climb the tower during the month of June. This is of course voluntary, and not a law. I would have much rather climbed the tower during a month that wasn't sacred to the Lakota, or another Native American tribe, but it wasn't in the cards. They said to follow them, to Frank's lodge, "His backyard has a view of the Tower" they explained. They had a green Subaru Outback, and I followed them in my White Outback to Frank's place. In order to get to his House / Lodge / Climbing Gym / Retreat / Whatever, you have to drive into the park. Even though his property is not on the park boundaries. Weird huh? Anyway, I followed them down the access road a bit, and then we took a right turn and another right, and pulled up to a cabin whose backyard had a wonderful view of Devil's Tower. It turns out that these guys were personal friends of Frank Sherman, who had been climbing this tower since the 1970's. He was a Park Ranger at Devils Tower for about 10 years also. Frank was now in his 50's, but still a very impressive climber. I didn't actually meet him until after I climbed the tower. Anyway, Frank started a guide service last year called Devil's Tower Lodge. They tell me that they have a web site if anyone is interested. www.devilstowerlodge.com Frank had another guide working for him by the name of Gene. Gene answered the door and greeted Ralph and Joe. They talked for a while, then went into the living room to talk with Jaap, Chuck, and Katie who were watching Pulp Fiction. I then talked with Gene a little while, and explained to him what I wanted to do. I said "I would basically like to summit the tower tomorrow if possible, however, I could be tempted to wait until Monday if necessary." It was about 6:00PM Saturday at this time. He didn't seem too confident, and said "We are really busy lately. I just took two women up the tower today, and I am big time whooped." I was empathetic, he looked a little whooped. But after that, he said "We'll work something out." I said "Cool!" Then he asked, "where are you staying?" "Actually, I was going to ask you where some good spot's on national forest land that I could stay for free?" I questioned. He asked, "Are you camping?" I said "Yup". "You can tent on the front lawn No actually I got something better. I'll show you." he said. I followed him down the driveway a little, and he showed me there own personal Rock Gym. "This is awesome!" I said. He was like "Yea, isn't it cool!" Hell yea, it is " I said. The walls were gritty with texture, and had sparse, but well placed features. Two of the walls were straight up and down, and the third was about a 15% overhang. There was gear strewn throughout the place, and several plastic cups in strategically placed areas that were doubling as spittoons or ash trays. Gene did both. The other walls were large full length mirrors. There was also, a treadmill, and several free weights. This place doubled as a training facility for the client's of Devils Tower Lodge, and it became my bed for the next two days. I went back inside with Gene, where he fed me a hearty bean / beef / vegetable stew. I then met the rest of the folks that were there, and hung out with the gang for a bit. Chuck was a ranger, who also climbed with them quite often. Katie was chuck's girlfriend who was getting her Masters Degree, and who, like Chuck, had been sick with the flu for the last couple weeks, and hadn't been climbing recently. Then there was Jaap Pierse from Holland. Jaap spoke pretty good English, and was on his 60 day vacation or the summer. I'm not sure if many of you are aware, but it is standard for folks in many parts of Europe to have 30 to 60 days off paid per year. Jaap was taking advantage of his by staying with Frank, and climbing Devil's Tower, in Missoula, in the Black Hills, and other places around the area. We all kind of hung out, and watched Pulp Fiction. I kind of felt awkward, not knowing these people, and not really having a good venue to talk with them. It's tough when you hang out with new people, and you end up doing something that doesn't really promote conversation, like watching a flick. But, there were parts of the movie where I talked with them a little bit, and said, "I love this part", and "Did you notice Marcells Wallace's Band Aid on the back of his head. I heard there are things in the Bible about if you sell your soul to the Devil, he takes it from the base of your neck." This is all stuff I had heard while in college, when the movie was so popular. So, we talked for a bit, and eventually, exhausted I went to bed. It was about 9:00PM, and Gene said that Frank was going to be back around 10:30PM. I wanted to meet him, and agreed that I would come in around that time to see if he came back. He was at a local bar playing the Piano. I struggled to write a journal for an hour and ½, but didn't get very far. I looked at some pictures instead. Around 10:30, I went back inside, Gene wasn't there, and neither was Frank. Jaap was up watching another movie. I jawed with him a bit, and went to bed. The next morning, Gene came in around 5:30AM, and said. "Would you be interested in going to the top of Devil's Tower today with another woman who want's to climb it?" he said. I asked "How much would that cost?" "I would only charge you $150." I thought that sounded reasonable, and agreed. We talked a little about how it would work, and he said, "Whenever you are ready, we have oatmeal inside. " It ended up that Myself, Jaap, Emily, and Gene would ascend the tower together. We were going to take the route called "Durance" up to the top of the tower." Durance was only rated a 5.6 5.7, but Emily was not that experienced, and she was the principal customer. So, I ate breakfast, and got my gear together. It ended up that I wouldn't need any of my pro, quick draw's or slings, because Gene had pretty much everything we needed, but I brought some of it anyway. Another kind of bummer about the climb was that, each of us was hard tied in, and we kind of had to stay in that order going up the wall. So, I didn't get to lead any of the pitches, even though I certainly could have. I was top belayed for each pitch, and it was kind of boring after a while. In some sections, I went off route, to try and make the climb more challenging. The established route that Gene set, mostly followed the cracks between the Igneous spikes that jutted out of the ground. Those were the easiest, and the routes that all of the other's took. There were approximately 10 total pitches up the 875 foot climb. To make things a little faster, and more efficient, Gene ran together some of the pitches. He ran out the first two, then the next three, then the next two, couldn't run out the third because of rope drag, so did that pitch alone, then ran together the last two. The first two pitches were the most difficult, and I was actually breathing pretty hard when, I got to the top. There were many factors causing this, the main being that each time I climb outdoors for the first time, I get a little edgy about not wanting to take a fall, plus I didn't really know these guys too well, and didn't want to test there belay skills. Emily had taken a couple falls on the second pitch, and they held her fine. I guess just nerves. Anyway, I definitely wasn't breathing correctly, and being efficient with my movements. The two pitches together were about 140 feet or so, so it was a long sustained climb. The first was like a 5.7, and the second was a long 5.8. When I got to the top of the small ledge, and looked to my left I was a little concerned about the height. Even though I anchored in, as soon as I got to the top, before I was off belay, I kept going back to test it, and touching the anchor to make sure it was in place. I said to myself, "I am anchored in. I am anchored in." It kind of became a mantra, until I got used to the height. Since we had kind of done a grade 5 "scamper", as Bob Hograff likes to call it, up to the base, we had gone several hundred feet up the boulder field next to the start of our climb. Next to the field on the side that we were now adjacent to, there was a much smaller boulder field, and it stopped 100 feet or so before the one that we ascended to get to our base for our first tie in. So, at this point, I was sitting on a ledge that was about 320 feet straight down. "I am anchored in, I am anchored in " I kept looking at the anchor, and making sure my carbiner was locked. I touched it repeatedly, and followed the anchor from the peton in the side of the wall to my harness. Over and over I traced the anchor, and touched the "doubled back" sides of my harness, as I had done 100's of times prior to belaying someone, or being belayed in the gym or outside. It kind of becomes habit. I was now retracing these steps as I had done several times before. Doubled back, Doubled Back, locked off, tied in. Doubled Back, Doubled Back, locked off, tied in. "I am anchored in, I am anchored in." I think another thing that kind of helped me get over the first woosy feeling that I had on the ledge, was that I was so out of breath from the second pitch, that I didn't really have any energy to devote to being scared. So, I just kind of said "I am anchored in", a bunch more times, and eventually got over it, and started to enjoy the view. About that time, it was my turn to head up the third, fourth, and fifth pitches. These were infinitely easier, and I remembered all the things that I forgot on the first two pitches, and made it up to the rest of the group very quickly, without breaking a sweat. That's when I started to be a little bored. But, being as how I was now 500 feet off the ground, I found that the view was incredible, and really enjoyed it. Jaap and Emily were good company. Emily was a bus driver in Portland Oregon. She was doing all the things she wanted to do as a kid now as an adult. She was an avid skydiver, and enjoyed competing in Marathon's where she walked instead of ran. Jaap was a Rock Climbing instructor / and driving instructor in Holland. So, he had many interesting stories. He was a little difficult to understand at times, and I agreed with him on occasion to make him feel good even though I didn't understand him. Gene was up the next pitch as soon as I made it up the previous, so I didn't really talk with him that much, until we got to the top. The third and fourth sections, were a breeze, and these are the spots where I started "face climbing" to try and make the routes more difficult. Each time I did the face climb's I took things slow and steady, and probably made the routes into strong 5.8's at least. Then before I knew it, we were at the summit. We had started climbing up the boulder field around 8:00AM, and we summited around 3:00PM. The rock was hot to the touch most of the way up, but on top, it was scorching. Since the top of the tower faces directly into the sun 80% of the day, most of the rocks usually get baked pretty well done. I couldn't sit on them without putting something down that I brought with me. The temperature at the base when we left was about 90, and was supposed to get into the 100's. It was a good thing that it didn't, otherwise we would have been much more scorched than we were. I wore my camelback for the climb. I carried a jacket, two bananas, a pbj sandwich, a couple cliff bars, sunscreen, and my camera, plus a gallon of water. It turns out that I really didn't need the jacket, but the weather man said there was a chance of showers, and had it started raining, I really would have needed it. We hung out on the top for about 30 minutes, and signed the "Summit Log". There is a leather bound notebook that was inside of a metal canister, that contained notes from everyone who recently summited the Tower. It was fun to read everyone elses entries, but much more fun to write my own. We were the only group that made it up the tower on Sunday, and the only 4 people to sign the book that day. It was quite a thrill. On top, you could see for ever. In the distance, things just became hazy. For the descent down, Jaap rappeled down first, followed by me, then Emily. Rappeling down the face of an 875 foot cliff is quite another thrill. Because of the lengths that we were rappeling, we tied two ropes together to make a figure 8 follow through, and took those down in four separate sections. I used my ATC for a rappel device, so I didn't go super fast, but I was much more secure than if I had used one length of rope, instead of two. At the end of the first rappel, after I anchored in at the ledge, I went to unhook my ATC from the rope, and it accidentally touched the inside of my arm. I got a first degree burn for my carelessness. I was much more careful after that when removing my ATC from the rope after each rappel. For the last rappel past the base where we started from, the rope was not long enough to rappel all the way to the bottom. We had to stop short about 10 feet, and down climb the rest of it. It wasn't a big deal, but after all day on the Tower, we were all spent, so this is when accidents happen, and it is important to be very alert. I was, and nothing happened bad to me or anyone else. We brought about 4 gallons of water with us, and went through it all. There was a little sip left in a pack that Jaap left at base camp which he retrieved before heading to the bottom. I had a little sip of it, and it was hot. Yumm! Not. We hiked back to our cars, and of course were heros for every tourist that we saw. "You guys made it to the top?" "What's it like up there?" I told them that "They just opened a MacDonalds on top, and we all had Strawberry milkshakes. We then signed out, drove back to Frank's lodge, then to the only place nearby that actually had real milkshakes. The small lodge on the outside of the park. They were yummy. I had a ½ chocolate chip, ½ chocolate shake. Gene said the line from Pulp Fiction as he was eating his "MMMM, I don't know if this is worth 5 dollars, but it's pretty f**king good." We all had a good laugh. Then we went back to Frank's place, and I got to meet him. He was an extremely energetic 50ish guy with crazy long white hair, and a very outgoing personality. Everything was "Great", or "Outstanding" to him, and he was "Esctatic" that I was able to accompany Gene, Jaap and Emily to the top of the tower. He kind of reminded me of a nutty professor. Always head down, and thinking great thoughts, but kind of absent minded about what was going on right in front of him. I was impressed very much by one of the pictures on his wall. It was him crossing the finish line at a Marathon in under 3 hours. The time was 2:59:54, and the look on his face was incredible. His arms were in the air, and he was psyched beyond belief. I asked him about the photo, and he still seemed nostalgic about it. Kind of like it just happened yesterday, when in fact it happened more than 20 years earlier. That night it thunderstormed, and I tried to get a shot of lightning hitting the tower. I wasn't able to, but we saw some spectacular displays. I went out on the porch, and watched the tower as lightning struck around it, and the storm moved past us. It was a nice cleansing. They fed me again which I was very greatful for. Chicken Onions, and String Beans, leftover stew, hotdogs, and muffins. It was very tasty. I showed everyone the pictures I had taken on the mountain. I didn't get any action ones of anyone else, and I kind of felt a little selfish later. I didn't get any of me either, so, I guess what comes around goes around. I was very greatful to everyone, and wrote Frank a note. I assured him that I would put the pic's up on the web when I got a chance. (I had shown them a little slideshow on the laptop. ) I wanted badly to take a shower, but felt kind of awkward about it, since that usually equates to 85 dollars a night for him. I asked Gene in an offhanded way, and he mentioned it to Frank. I didn't push it, because I was really getting a free stay in there place anyway. So, I went without. It was my 5th day without, and as you can imagine, I was ripe, after climbing the tower. Next day, I felt fine though. But I definitely watched the dirt come off when I finally got my shower at the KOA. It was gross. So, that was that. My first "Big Wall" climb. Oh, I have to mention, that most of the pro that Gene set was already bolted, I think he only set maybe a dozen or so pieces that weren't peton's or some other type of permant fixture in the wall. His rack consisted mostly of friends, and camelots. I wasn't too impressed. He was a seasoned climber. He had made upwards of 30 ascents of Devil's Tower, and was very careful, and cautious about many things on the way up and down. I wasn't impressed by the lack of backups though. Bob and Mark have engrained super cautiousness in me, and I am greatful for it. Several times on the way up, Gene only used the one, two, or three anchors that were in the side of the wall. I believe that Bob and Mark would usually go for at least 3 bomber pieces of pro, for anchors when doing a climb of this caliber. Thanks guys, it's good to see that these habit's are good ones, - Oh, Mom, I wore a helmet all day long.
Monday June 25th, 2001 K.O.A., Cody, Wyoming When is camping not "Kamping"? It's when you are at the KOA. I can't believe this place. This is of course my first KOA experience, but let me enlighten you. 1. Basketball courts 2. Swimming Pool / Hot Tub / Wading Pool 3. Place's to wash your dishes 4. Convience store 5. Video Game Room 6. 29.95 a night tent sites 7. "Kabins" 8. Free Pancake Breakfast 9. Nice staff. And the number one reason camping out at a KOA is not camping out 10. Internet access. Yes, my friends, I am sitting at a picnic bench outside the convience store, next to the b ball court, where two kids are going head to head, and I am dialed in, and getting my e-mail. Ahh, roughing it is so tough I will come back later, I am going to go through my e-mail - It's taking a while, someone must have sent an attachment. Today, I drove from Devil's Tower in Wyoming, where I stayed in a Rock Climbing Gym last night, Frank + Judy's "Devil's Tower Lodge." I drove most of the day, and arrived in Cody around 5:00PM. I went straight to the Chamber of commerce, which was closed. My plan was to drive through Cody, and into the National Forest that lay between it and Yellowstone, where I was going to spend the night at least 800 feet off the main road for free in the woods. However things didn't work out that way. Most of the day driving, kind of took a little toll on me. Actually the driving didn't take a toll on me, it was the "not seeing a town / or other people most of the day" that took the toll. The woman who was standing outside of the Chamber of commerce, said "That's Wyoming for you", in response to my "Cody's the biggest thing I have seen in the last 4 hours." I guess that might have been a little fib, because I did stop in some town . You guys, these kids playing hoops are cracking me up. This one little 9 year old, I know he is 9 because he announced it, he just said "I'm a freight train baby!" Kid's are great; especially prematurely cockey ones who don't really have a clue. OK, another funny aside. My e-mail finally downloaded, and my Dad sent me a forward. No offense dad / others. But, most of the time when I get forwards from people who didn't go to college when e-mail was around; who, didn't go through the whole "30 forwards in per day, ranging from the top ten drunk sayings at
to this is totally true, if you send this to 20 people now, you will get a personal check from Bill Gates for 100 dollars" phase, the stuff that those folks send now, has been around several times, and I have usually seen it before. That said, this one that Dad sent was a big winner. It's attached below. It's probably been around before, and I doubt it's true, but I was laughing out loud for about 2 minutes after I read the whole thing. It's similar to the Darwin Award's stuff, enjoy. >Dear Sir : > >"I am writing in response to your request for additional information in >Block 3 of the accident report form. I put "poor planning" as the cause of >my accident. You asked for a fuller explanation and I trust the following >details will be sufficient. > > > > I am a bricklayer by trade. On the day of the accident, I was working >alone on the roof of a new six story building. When I completed my work, I >found that I had some bricks left over which, when weighed later were found >to be slightly in excess of 500 lbs. Rather than carry the bricks down by >hand, I decided to lower them in a barrel by using a pulley, which was >attached to the side of the building on the sixth floor. Securing the rope >at ground level, I went up to the roof, swung the barrel out and loaded the >bricks into it. Then I went down and untied the rope, holding it tightly to >ensure a slow descent of the bricks. > >You will note in Block 11 of the accident report form that I weigh 135lbs. > >Due to my surprise at being jerked off the ground so suddenly, I lost my >presence of mind and forgot to let go of the rope. Needless to say, I >proceeded at a rapid rate up the side of the building. In the vicinity of >the third floor, I met the barrel which was now proceeding downward at an >equal, impressive speed. This explained the fractured skull, minor abrasions >and the broken collar bone,as listed in section 3 of the accident report >form. Slowed only slightly, I continued my rapid ascent, not stopping until >the fingers of my right hand were two knuckles deep into the pulley. > >Fortunately by this time I had regained my presence of mind and was able to >hold tightly to the rope, in spite of beginning to experience severe pain. >At approximately the same time, however, the barrel of bricks hit the ground >and the bottom fell out of the barrel. > >Now devoid of the weight of the bricks, that barrel weighed approximately 50 >lbs. I refer you again to my weight. > >As you can imagine, I began a rapid descent, down the side of the building. >In the vicinity of the third floor, I met the barrel coming up. This >accounts for the two fractured ankles, broken tooth and several lacerations >of my legs and lower body. Here my luck began to change slightly. The >encounter with the barrel seemed to slow me enough to lessen my injuries >when I fell into the pile of bricks and fortunately only three vertebrae >were cracked. > >I am sorry to report, however, as I lay there on the pile of bricks, in >pain, unable to move, I again lost my composure and presence of mind and let >go of the rope and I lay there watching the empty barrel begin its journey. OK, a couple other things to mention today . I saw my first snowcapped mountains today. Very exciting. ? I stopped in some ho bunk town on the way to Cody, and walked around. Something told me to walk into city hall so I did, people asked me if I needed help, and I said, "No, something just told me to stop by city hall." Then I proceeded on, and a thought came into my head. "I need my axe sharpened. " So, I stopped by a sporting goods store. Of course the woman came right up to me, and asked "Can I help you" She totally thought I was going to steal something. I could feel her gaze the entire time I was in the store. It made me want to leave much earlier than I would have otherwise. I wonder if she knew that she was making me feel that way. I wonder if she makes other customers feel that way. I bet minorities feel type of thing much more than whites. Kind of sucks. Anyway, she didn't have a knife / axe sharpening kit for me, so I walked on down the street, and into an Ace Hardware store. The guy there didn't have one either, and even though I asked kind of rudely, he pointed me in the direction of a place that hooked me up. Down the street, was a place called Kraft Specialty Services. It was basically an auto body place. They did however, have a wet sander. If you ever do your own body work, use sandpaper dipped in water. It works awesome. So, I said to the kid behind the counter. "You guy's got a belt sander here?" "Yup", he responded. "I was talking with a guy at Ace Hardware who said that he used to work here, and said that you guys might be able to help me out." I said. "OK", was his response. I told him my problem, "I have this hatchet", I had brought it in, "and it's dull. Do you think you may be able to sharpen it up a little?". He took, it and kind of nodded assent. He walked over to his boss, and asked if he could sharpen it up on the sander. His boss mentioned something along the lines of "Sure". Then I heard the sound that I had heard dozens of times as a child, in my basement where my Dad was sanding, sharpening, or shaping something. The kid was sanding away at my little hatchet. I think he was around 16 or 17, that age when a teenagers voice changes, and he starts being much more concerned about women, and being cool. Well, he was pretty cool to me, because when he returned wiping my hatchet clean with his cloth, and grease, and dirt all over him, he looked proud as hell. Like a skilled craftsman, after months fashioning a samurai sword, bringing the final masterpiece to the owner and commissioner of the piece. When I took the hatchet, it was cool to the touch, a side affect of the wet sander, and definitely sharper than I had given it to him. I said "Wow, looks great! What do I owe you?" "Nothing." He said. Another young worked stood next to him. "Really?" I exclaimed. "Yea, It was just sharpening an axe", he self deprecatingly said. "Thanks a lot I said." I could tell that he and his friend wanted to talk and ask me questions, but with their youth, they didn't feel comfortable, and manly enough to ask this weirdo with orange tinted glasses, and a bandana on his head what the hell he was doing in bo bunk Wyoming. I said "I quit my job, and am driving to Alaska, so I need an axe." was the only thing I could muster up. I guess it's not only youth that causes us to be lacking in eloquence when placed in a semi-awkward situation. Anyway, they both grinned, and laughed a little, as I walked out the door. I thought for a while as I was driving out of town, what a thrill for them it might be if I had told them my story. I was disappointed in myself that I didn't. The funny thing about traveling alone, is that there is a lot more opportunities to take little risks with life and confrontations. Those are the things I love when I do take those risks, because things ALWAYS work out in a good way. Those are the things that people should do all the time. But 9 times out of 10 for one reason or another, they don't. Well, I am trying. So, in Cody, the woman that was sitting outside the closed chamber of commerce, and her friend convinced me to stay the night -Primarily to check out the Buffalo Bill museum. I also wanted to get my oil changed. Which I did. Fairly reasonable price too. I went to "Majestic Lube" in downtown Cody. Sound's like a competitor for K-Y Jelly. Anyway, they did perhaps the fastest oil change that I have ever had. I almost thought it was too fast. But, I trust them, and I could tell, from the way that the Outback started up, and pulled out of the station that there was a fresh 4.7 quarts of Synthetic in her. Gas Mileage has been ok, I was surprised to get 120 miles out of a ½ tank in the hills coming from another po dunk town in Wyoming. I also went grocery shopping today, and got some more supplies. I still don't know if I like the cooler. It doesn't keep things too cold, and I am beginning to think that the pain of having ice is worth the luxury of having stuff cold when you want it cold. Beautiful scenery coming from Devil's Tower. Many beautiful vistas, and Red / Yellow / Green colored rocks and such. I went to the Buffalo Bill Museum for about 45 minutes tonight. My admission is good for two days, so I thought I would get an early start. The part I chose to check out tonight was the "Gun Museum." Kind of interesting, but I guess since I am not super excited about guns, it wasn't a thriller. It is an extensive collection though. The one thing that interested me is the trophy head's and such. I was amazed that there is actually a national ranking of the impressiveness of the trophy heads. It seems so, foreign to me. Kind of like another race / culture, that I have no clue about.