|Linda's slippers, so cute.|
|Us and the Storey's!|
There isn't a greater authenticity of hospitality but that which flows the farthest from home. It was so great meeting you Dave and Linda! We thought Tuscan beautiful; the city is surrounded by rugged mountains in all directions.
After saying our goodbye's we were on the road again. Vicious headwinds became an official adversary just West of Phoenix. For three hours I had the drivers wheel cranked to 3 o'clock. Our path rarely deviated from absolute straight. Dust storms also raged in all directions, though, we avoided them for the most part. Vision remained good for the rest of our drive into Palm Springs. Normally a benefit, the Vansion's high profile makes driving in significant gales trying to say the least.
Official "Dust/Wind Storm" warning signs were all ablaze as we crossed the California border. Thankfully. the warnings never led to anything significant. But, we did hear about 5 big rig semi's that were knocked over by the wind later the next day. The news didn't report any Sprinter debacles to our knowledge.
With weeks of living in the New Mexican desert comes lethargy. And, what van dwellers need every blue moon is a little vacation away from their vacation. Enter Palm Springs! Tiff's grandparents John and Pat purchased a quiet condo in the oasis of Rancho Mirage back in the late 80's. And, it was our good fortune that they just happened to be visiting. During the next five days we had the pleasure of their fine company, excellent cuisine, and comfort of hot tub living. Our last two days spiked into the low 80's and we had some nice lounging by the pool and bronzing our spirits.
Tiff completed many tasks and requirements for her new job as well. She had blood draws, x-rays, Oncology exams, and other multitudinous and laborious paperwork to complete.
One day we spent at Joshua Tree. This place is extra special for me. During my college years I spent many days cutting my teeth out at Joshua Tree National (Monument as it was then) Park. Learning the ropes at Joshua Tree meant slab climbing! Oh yes, I had ample opportunity to develop my nose over toes climbing; and to find calm in the face of nerve wracking runouts (this is where ones gear recedes so far into the background that ones legs start to shake and look much like Elvis on stage), and to plummet on my first lead falls. Mitch "don't pitch" Golden was my mentor at this time; and being back in the park brought back many a memory from the day.
|Mitigating the reachy crux with patina intermediates on Gunsmoke|
Having thoroughly worked my nerves but not my forearms, we sauntered out to the Gunsmoke Traverse at Barker Dam. 8 laps later I was cooked, and the skin on my fingertips was absolute hamburger.
|A lovely evening at Palm Springs Elephant Bar.|
Feeling refreshed from our stay in Palm Springs, we cast off for the Eastside of the Sierra. Here we lingered for a week climbing some at the Owen's River Gorge and skiing for one day at the Mammoth Ski Area.
Ten years ago I spent three inglorious days as a Mammoth Ski Patrol after three weeks in training. My reasons for quitting the patrol were manifold and I've always had a bitter taste in my mouth when thinking about this area; which must surely be one of the most beautiful ski areas in the world (at least I think). Spending the day on the
mountain quelled many of those latent memories.
And, I can frankly say I harbor no ill will anymore. For Tiff it was her first day skiing on the mountain, and for both of us it was our first day skiing in over a year. The tickets there are ludicrously expensive, but for one exceptionally sunny day of primo groomers, we felt satisfied. Skiing is fun!! Some pics from our day:
Secondly, don't fall in any tree wells. Because, Mammoth is on the edge of an ancient volcanic caldera and the site of toxic gases that issue from different vents on the mountain. These gases don't pose a serious concern for most skiiers; but, dangerous levels of gas do exist in certain low points, like tree wells. We are pretty sure there should be a run named "fart alley".
|Just another day in the "office".|
The other sweet thing about the Eastside is Hot Springs. There are at least 7 that I've heard of. They are free, hot, and the perfect ending to any day. Some smell like rotten eggs, but that is just part of the fun. And, if one really has a case of the farts, no one will ever know.
Another climbing friend, Patrick O'Donnell moved down to Bishop this last September. And, we had the privilege of hanging out with him one evening at his "man cave", eating pizza, and sharing a brew. He was also kind enough to let us shower. Big thanks Patrick!
And, on our last day at the Owen's he joined us in the Gorge. I repeated a new 12b extension he put up on the Great Wall of China. Excellent stuff!
But, notwithstanding the plentitude of routes, I wasn't really feeling motivated; and try as I might, I didn't finish even two of the five 13's that I had purposed to finish. One route called Fight Club caught my interest, but the chipped holds and lack of feet, and extremely reachy moves reminded me of why I don't like manufactured routes. Sure, sometimes they are good fun. But, I really seem to like natural routes that don't climb like gym routes; which are mostly created with only one body type in mind (ahem, the route setters). Still, I did enjoy spending some serious time soaking in the sun, and shredding my post Palm Springs tips. My favorite routes were definitely the 5.10's. The Owen's has perhaps the most fun 5.10 sport climbing I've ever been on. The routes are long and classic!
|Patrick O'Donnell bouldering at the Sad Boulders.|
The other three pools are situated just down the hillside at the base of a spectacular Tufa like structure, cut down the middle by a two inch limestone funnel that drops steaming hot water into the upper pool. The breathtaking backdrop of the Sierra make this place extra special. We soaked for several hours this morning before vacating.
That's all for now! Hope you enjoyed the photos.