Thursday, March 22, 2007

Moving to Colorado - Neveda, Utah, Wyoming, & Colorado

Somewhere in Nevada

Mountain View, CA - Back again in Mountain View. We flew in from Denver late Tuesday evening and were quite exhausted on arrival. When we got to Eng-Shien's house we tried the electronic keypad at the garage, but we couldn't seem to get the code right. We unlocked the front door, took off our shoes and flipped the light switch. Then we hauled all our gear up the stairs and flipped the switch in the hall. Then we stumbled into the spare room, hit the switch and dumped our bags on the floor. At that point we realized we were still standing in the dark. Suwei asked if I would please turn on the lights, so I hit the switch again. Still darkness. Then we remembered the tag we picked off the front door on entering. It wasn't actually a Chinese menu as originally thought, but a notice from PG&E that they had shut the power off the day before. As Suwei got the power people on line, I hunted the house for a the source of a maddening beeping. Once Suwei confirmed that the power would be back on the next day and I found the offending carbon monoxide sensor, it took maybe 5 minutes to fall asleep.

So, the power's back on and I'm back to posting. This time to put up some pictures of our move to Colorado. Not much to write about as most of it was spent sitting in a truck buzzing along at 80 mph across the deserts of Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming.

We did stop short of Truckee to see where Suwei's friend, Moki is now working for the forest service at Big Bend. We were lucky enough to be able to drag her into town for a spot of brunch at the Squeeze In.

However, we were not awake or together enough to remember to take any pictures of Moki or her new place of work. Maybe the call of the road was just too strong to lallygag?

Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah

Suwei loading the cab with Cokes for the Road / Rest stop somewhere in the mountains of Utah

Entering Wyoming

I did like one sign we saw welcoming folks to Elko, NV or maybe it was Wells, NV. It advertised that the town was "Halfway to Everywhere," which I felt was a very upbeat way of being in the middle of nowhere.

We ended our first day at Wendover on the Neveda/Utah boarder. The next morning we took advantage of the one hour time change and headed out early to catch the sunrise at the Bonneville Salt Flats. I figured it would be worth a look see (remembering many a fantastic sunrise in the Black Rock Desert at Burning Man.) Well this was truly fantastic. If any of you are not familiar with the Bonneville Salt Flats, you should check out the film "The World's Fastest Indian." It's a great flick, hell, check it out even if you are familiar with Bonneville. It's about New Zealander Burt Munro, who spent years building a 1920 Indian motorcycle -- a bike which helped him set the land-speed world record at the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1967. While you're at it check out "The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension." It's about adventurer/surgeon/rock musician Buckaroo Banzai who invents a way to travel through the 8th dimension while conducting a speed test at Bonneville.

Anyway, The Bonneville Salt Flats are where you can find the Bonneville Speedway, which is essentially a drag strip 10 miles long on one of the flattest surfaces on the Earth. When we arrived on Friday morning, however, the flats were still very much covered with water. The smooth surface of this very shallow lake made for one hell of a sunrise.

The Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah

Nothing much to tell from there. We zipped through Salt Lake City jonesing for bagels but settling on Egg McMuffin's. Stopped just before Park City for coffee and bagels (to quench our craving). Stopped for gas, bathrooms or both every few hours until we got to Cheyenne, Wyoming, where a quick cruise through town seemed to prove that Outback was the most popular spot to grab a steak.

Downtown Cheyenne, Wyoming

Once in Colorado we went about filling Suwei's parent's garage with a truckload of stuff, meeting up with friends, Tanya, Glen, Jackie & Lisa, at the Southern Sun for dinner and drinks (I don't recommend the Chocolate and Mint Stout - everything else was tasty), hiking up to Royal Arch above Boulder, shopping for more stuff to put in our backpacks for China, dining with Jen in Denver, running on one of Suwei's favorite running trails, meeting up with Pat for brunch at Lucille's, napping and then catching a flight home, searching for a flash light etc, etc, etc...

The Royal Arch - Boulder, Colorado

More photos of our moving adventure here:

Moving to Colorado

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Climbing at Red Rocks National Conservation Area - Las Vegas, NV

Mountain View, CA - Suwei and I are now back in the Bay Area. She's back at work for a few days and I've been running around getting ready for our drive out to Colorado. But first, let's talk about Vegas.

Our original plan was to have Red Rocks and Vegas be the kick off to our big trip. We we going to use all of March to travel and climb in select spots all over the west. Well, that plan was altered when Suwei was asked to work through the end of March and start her leave of absence on April's Fools Day. Thus we were left with only the Red Rocks portion of this climbing month. So, we worked at maxing out the week.

First off we rented a house up near Summerlin, which is far from the strip, but very close to Red Rocks. Then we invited all of our climbing buddies. Then half of our climbing buddies bailed either due to work, more work or travels of their own. In the end we were Seven in the house (Karl, Suwei, Jen, Kent, Bill, Tanya & Glen). Our goal was to climb. Climb a lot. Which we did. We were usually out of the house somewhere between 8 & 10 (depending on what time we passed out the night before) and returned well after dark. There were plenty of good intentions of going out, hitting the town, even visiting the strip. However, after plodding our way back to the cars in the dark on the verge of starvation, grabbing a quick bite to eat on the way back to the house, then taking a hot shower, the best laid plans usually morphed into passing out in front of the TV with a beer.

Here is what Suwei and I did each day:

Day 1 - Monday 3/5 - Hiked into Pine Creek Canyon. Climbed Cat in the Hat (5 Pitch, 5.6) with Kent & Jen.

Jen on the top of the 4th pitch, Cat in the Hat

Day 2 - Tuesday 3/6 - Hiked into Ice Box Canyon and went cragging. Suwei lead a 5.7 of which I have forgotten the name. Then we top roped a 5.9 (name also forgotten). I then lead another 5.7 (you guessed it... name forgotten). And finally Suwei lead a 5.8 named Cold September Corner. I remember the name of this one, because we felt the need to tell the others about it. It had a huge roof for a 5.8 which proved to be a challenge to protect on lead (good job Suwei!).

Suwei at the roof of Cold September Corner

Day 3 - Wednesday 3/7 - Hiked out toward Willow Springs from the White Rock parking area. Climbed Purblind (6 pitch, 5.8). The only really tricky part of this climb was when it started raining on the 3rd pitch. Suwei was leading and found a nice belay spot below a good sized overhang. I lead the 4th pitch, but as I worked my way out of our grotto it seemed the rain was not going to let up. Suwei had actually spotted snow coming down. The rock was we and a bit slippery, but I was doing OK until I reached a very wide, very wet, and very slick crack. I took a few timid attempts at it, but decided to go back down, dry off under the roof, and wait for the weather to pass. While eating our lunch we realized we still had cell service. So we gave Kent a call (he was taking an off day) to get the latest weather report. Although the service predicted a 0% chance of rain, the radar showed the light sprinkles that were currently wetting our route. Kent predicted that they would move on quickly, and that more may follow if we didn't get a move on. So, after an hour of watching the dripping rock we decided to press on. When I got back up to the wide crack it was still wet, but the drizzle was now replaced by sun. I took another shot at it and felt like a complete wimp for letting it shut me down the first time. It was a piece of cake and as we moved on to the rest of the climb we found the other pitches already dry. Our 1 hour wait did result in a long walk off in the dark, but we were still able to pick Bill up at the airport by 8:00 pm. We asked him to pardon our stank and went out for hole in the wall Indian food before picking Tanya and Glen from the airport at 10:30. Overall a full day.

Suwei on the 3rd pitch of Purblind

Day 4 - Thursday 3/8 - Hiked out to Oak Creek Canyon. Climbed Johnny Vegas (4 pitch, 5.6) with Tanya & Glen. This was supposed to be an easy day, but I suppose Suwei and I were pretty tired from the day before. We climbed, we enjoyed it, and we were tired.

Suwei & Karl, Tanya & Glen at the top of Johnny Vegas

Day 5 - Friday 3/9 - Hike out to Pine Creek Canyon. Tanya and Glen wanted to do Cat in the Hat. Since we had just done it on Monday, Suwei and I climbed Cookie Monster (3 pitch, 5.7) which meets up with Cat in the Hat at the top of pitch 3. After rapping down Cat in the Hat I walked back to the base of Cookie Monster to retrieve our extra gear. While pulling our pack out from its hiding place, I dislodged a good size boulder, which promptly came to an abrupt stop on the big toe of my left foot. If there was a squish to be heard, I missed it due to my uttering of a lengthy string of swear words or maybe it was muffled by the blood. For those of you keeping track.... yes this is right next to the toe the foot doctor is trying to fix. So, I taped it up to keep it clean and hobbled back to the car.

Tanya & Glen rapping off Cat in the Hat

Day 6 - Saturday 3/10 - I stayed home and stayed off my feet. Suwei climbed Black Magic, a 3 pitch 5.8 near A Lot of Balls Wall with Kent, Jen & Bill. Tanya and Glen brought pizza back early and we all rested up for our last night out. That night we actually made it out to the Strip to see Zumanity, the Cirque du Soleil show at New York, New York. After the show Tanya prepped for the remainder of her Vegas tour by purchasing a slightly smaller than actual size Statue of Liberty glass full of Margarita. We then set out in search of a roulette table at which Tanya fulfilled a co-worker's request to place $20 on black and let it ride 3 times. It stayed for two rolls.

Suwei on Black Magic & Tanya hitting the tables in Paris

Day 7 - Sunday 3/11 - Had breakfast for the third time of the week at the Original Pancake House where the chocolate crepes I ate provided me with enough sugar to walk back to the bay area if the need arose. Luckily we drove so it just went to my gut.

Which brings us back here to Eng-Shien's house. So, today I had another appointment with the foot doctor. He explained what he learned from the MRI images (that the toe is still firmly attached but very inflamed), then I explained why my big toe was squished and purplish. He decided to give me a shot of cortisone in the pre-dislocating toe to hopefully control the inflammation, and then drilled two holes in my big toe to relieve the pressure under the blackening nail. I'm just crossing my fingers that all this will work and that I'll have a relatively pain free summer of hiking.

Oh... sorry... I wanted to stick in one more photo I found funny:

This cracked us up! In Las Vegas a cell tower disguised as a pine tree stands out much more that a cell tower disguised as... say... a cell tower.

So there are more photos from the climbing trip here:

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, NV
If the captions do not show up in the slide show, hit "show captions" once or twice and that should get them rolling.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Red Rocks State Park & Death Valley National Park, CA

Las Vegas, NV - Suwei and I left for Las Vegas last Friday with her parents in tow. The plan was to take the long route through Death Valley, in order to cross out another item on her California "To Do" list. We had hoped to cross off "Yosemite in the Winter", but instead managed to get an appointment for the MRI. That meant two hours of laying inside a very loud, buzzing magnet and a very late, no Yosemite. And, since we were now going directly to the desert instead of to the snow, Suwei's parents decided to join us.

About 11:00pm we pulled into Red Rocks State Park about 40 minutes north of Mohave. We camped there, took a couple of photos and then continued on to Death Valley.

It was a perfect weekend for a visit to Death Valley. Cool in the morning, hot (but not too hot) in the afternoon. We dropped into the valley via hwy 190, had lunch at Stovepipe Wells, climbed the sand dunes there, snagged one of the last campsites in Furnace Creeks, then hit the Devil's Golf Course and Badwater (the lowest point in the United States at 282 feet below sea level) just before the sun set for the evening. It was all quite beautiful.

The next day we got up and learned about Borax, alluvial fans & ancient lake beds as we walked a few interpretive hikes. Feeling like quite the tourists, we also checked out the natural bridge and an abandoned mill before leaving the park and having lunch in Shoshone. After lunch Suwei's parents headed back to the bay area and Suwei and I continued on to Las Vegas.

For more pictures go here:

Red Rocks State Park & Death Valley National Park, CA

For a map of Death Valley go here:

Friday, March 2, 2007

Packed, Stacked, & Ready to Roll - ish

Mountain View, CA - Two years worth of accumulation has now been either gifted, donated, tossed or boxed, stacked and stored in Eng-Shien's garage. My back feels like everything is stacked on top of it.

I think the scariest part of the move was when Suwei's parents were helping me get the BBQ off the back of the truck. We were just about to place it on the garage floor when Suwei's father doubles over in pain grabbing his back. I was panic stricken until I heard his groans of pain slowly turned into a sort of snicker. He totally faked me out.

Last night we moved the very last of it filling every spare inch of space in my truck, Suwei's wagon, and her parent's van. Suwei and I had a short, bitter sweat moment as we took one last look at the empty apartment and left our key's on the counter. We spent the rest of the night sorting thing into 3 overlapping piles: things going to Vegas, things going to Colorado, and things staying in Mountain View for pick up in the fall.

So, today...we packed the car for Vegas, Suwei is off getting a haircut, and I'm waiting for a phone call about getting an MRI for my foot. It seems my second toe is slowly dislocating and causing a very sharp pain in the ball of my foot. I just went back to the foot doctor on Tuesday and although he has x-rays of the toe, he wants to see what's happening with the stuff holding the toe bones on. He hopes the MRI will help us decide what happens next (either surgery, cortisone shots, orthopedics, or a combination of said items). The long and short of it is, I'm hoping to get the toe as fixed as possible before I leave.

As soon as all that happens we're leaving for Death Valley.