Our pre-game night split into two parties. George, Evan, and Andrew made their way from Tulsa to Amarillo this evening. Apparently some lessons were learned about EV estimated range and charging. I am definitely excited to see how this all works. Whatever it is, it’s likely a longer range than the Renagade.

Meanwhile, I closed up the El Paso office on my hotel’s roof patio by the pool. 68 degrees, brilliant sun, and light wind — I couldn’t stand to be in my room one more minute. After extricating myself from the workday, cousin Kylar (the city’s new Tourism Development Manager!) and Jordan showed me the town. We started with a big walk around downtown that ended in a very art-deco-with-southwestern-flare hotel bar, Paso Del Norte, a hotel which dates back well over 100 years. Our bartender there explained how both the margarita and the burrito originated in this city. … Right.

After an Old Fashioned to ring in the vacation week, we headed east to Los Bandidos de Carlos y Mickey for dinner — a famous Tex-Mex joint which Kylar says his group sends all the visitors to and artfully described as “Well everyone comes here for the margaritas and tolerates the food,” as he ordered a margarita in a fish bowl for himself and one for me.

I dunno, I thought dinner was great, but how should I know? By that point I’d had a margarita in a fish bowl. They told me the restaurant is mostly known for their fajitas — and I’ve leaned to follow locals’ instructions on such matters. After dinner, we took the scenic loop over the southern foothills on the way back to downtown. I had not realized how much of the metro area extends into Ciudad Juarez, so from the mountain looking south over downtown, the whole city seemed to extend endlessly.

We’re playing tomorrow mostly by ear, but the tentative plan is to meet up near Petrified Forest National Park and then head into Flagstaff for the night.

Lunch Break

Warm sun, cool breeze, and 68 degrees. How am I supposed to stay inside on an afternoon like this? So I decided to cash in my lunch break for a run around town.

I knew El Paso was near mountains. Forgot that El Paso is kinda in mountains. My usual neighborhood route is superflat…

A skyscraper and my eardrums almost get split in half by lightning right in front of me on the way out of town. Then sloshed my way through city streets with 4-6 inches of standing water in them. So we’re off to a great start.

But this morning, there is coffee in the stillness of lake mist before work.

Has it been long enough for a Greatest Hits?

I insist we have no official schedule for the Big Trips, but if there was, sometime-in-2021 would have been the season. But used cars are hard to find for cheap at the moment and I wasn’t in the right place to swing a two-week outage this fall anyway. But we wanted to put an adventure together regardless, so we have what Evan has lovingly dubbed a “backtrack.” Of all the ideas we debated on where to go, we decided a “Best of the Southwest Offroadtrip.”

Has this band really been together long enough to cut our first Greatest Hits album?

But how could we not? That trip made me fall in love with the high deserts of the southwest. And thanks to a couple climbing trips, I’ve made several solo trips back to Death Valley since. It really would be fun to go back as a team.

Also, George has started saying worrying things like “Titus Canyon is on the Renegade’s Bucket List.” It’s a 2016, it’s not only the newest of the bunch, it’s brand new. And then there’s the matter of Nutter Twists Road (real name), that obstacle I really thought we were going to die on that probably isn’t as big a deal now that I know how to drive.

We also didn’t get nearly as much time as I wish we’d had in the Grand Canyon area during that trip. And on the way back from Covid Climbsgiving, I drove straight across the top of Arizona and made some notes on places to check out, too.

So we’ve got a little over a week. How much can we do? We’ve got pins on a few fantastic places:

  • Petrified Forest National Park (maybe, it is on the way, ish)
  • Death Valley National Park
  • Valley of Fire [Nevada] State Park
  • Gold Butte National Monument
  • Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument
  • Grand Canyon NP North Rim
  • Vermilion Cliffs – Paria Canyon National Monument
  • Monument Valley
  • Shiprock

With evenings in Flagstaff, the Casino-Hotel-Denny’s at Beatty, Furnace Creek (Death Valley), the CasaBlanca at Mesquite, the covered wagons at Bar 10 Ranch, Page, and Taos.

For part of the voyage, we have a special guest! Our UTulsa friend Andrew will be joining. In a very new, very interesting, very electrified vehicle. The Rivian R1T, an all-electric 4×4 pickup, which I am incredibly excited to see in person. I passed one on the highway back in Colorado but that was definitely pre-production. Andrew works in cybersecurity there — and thanks to his referral, I nearly did, too! Although they and I both ended up going in different directions, I really enjoyed every conversation along the way and met some awesome people. So I’m pumped for them that they launched the R1T and for Andrew that he scored one so soon — the 19th produced for public sale.

And he’s bringing it with us.

Borrowing the Office Supplies

As was alluded to at the end of the last little loop, I’ve started a new job! And we make some pretty cool internet technology. So between wanting to test-drive some of our platform and knowing that this particular engine was overdue for a rebuild anyway, I’ve rearchitected the blog. Again.

The WordPress part is largely unchanged except that I’ve replaced the Mapbox library with one that’s actually still supported. And much better! But the entire delivery infrastructure and location reporting stack is totally new. I wrote about it over on the work blog.

The Grand Finish

After WaKeeney, I hunkered down with the boys in Tulsa for the next week and a half, ish.

The first evening there, George took me to one of the Starlight Concerts performances in the Guthrie Green. I think that’s the first public performance I’ve been to since covid started. Aside from that, it was mostly our usual routine of small gatherings of friends, big meals, many video games, pondering about roadtrips yet to come, and work.

For the final stop on this walkabout, I made my way back out to West Virginia to chase my last day of work with a few days in the New. You see, when this trip started way back in Marble Falls, which feels like forever ago, I turned in my notice.

The “retracing of steps” felt like a rewind of what started after the Coronaroadtrip last September. In that light, I think the climbing trip can be best summed up in the victory of a single moment, among the many adventures: I nailed a move on what has become one of my favorite routes out there.

I struggled with that climb and ultimately bailed on it last time, feeling rather deflated because of how much I’d hyped it up. It felt good to put up a win.

Work usually escapes mention on this blog, but it is relevant in one key aspect: the new job, which starts in just under a month, features a physical office. I haven’t darkened the door of an office at all since early 2016, and haven’t been full-time in an office since 2013. And that flexibility has given rise to these many adventures.

The new company is still considering what its post-covid life may look like. And with the delta variant spreading rapidly, I expect that may be further pushed back regardless. The general sentiment I was able to extract during interviews seems to be that “everyone really liked the flexibility and no one wants to spend their life commuting” (is this news?) but that no solid decisions have been made yet.

However, if I’m honest, there’s something to be said for a measure of in-person future. Austin is an exceptionally good market in which to do what I do, but from a certain point of view: I’ve never really worked here. An Austin climber recently looked at me, dead serious, and said, “Explain to me why you do not live in a van.” There’s something enticing about that thought, too. But moving on to a new company, and hopefully one day putting covid behind us, part of me is excited to see what life is like downtown in daylight.

So my hope is that there’s a middle-ground to find.

The Perils of WaKeeney

Today’s itinerary was simple: wake up in Nowheresville, Colorado near the Kansas border. Drive in mostly straight lines through cornfields. Dinner in Tulsa with Evan. George was leaving Denver this morning bound for Tulsa, too, but I was several hours ahead of him.

Things were going well, until I made my first gas stop of the day in the settlement of WaKeeney at seemingly the only truck stop for miles. Lines at every pump. Commotion everywhere. And then, as it was my turn to get out of the way, an entire failure.

Somehow, this battery went from hero to zero at this station. No indication of any kind of previous trouble ,despite all the altitude, cold, and frequent stops of last week. But turning the key produced no sign of life at all. I had to wander around the gas station looking moderately disheveled and ask people for help. We’ve all seen that guy before. No one wants to talk to that guy.

Thankfully a kind gentleman in his bro-dozer had just filled up and was willing to help. Turns out he wasn’t alone, nor had he owned this car for more than a couple days. As I helped him figure out how to open his hood latch, a passel of young children materialized with the sugary treasures of the convenience store. Suddenly, I was on a deadline. And Xterra the Younger could not be coaxed to life for several tries, but finally the roar of life. Now to figure out how many miles I might be from the nearest AutoZone.

Oh good. An eleven hour walk to Hays, KS. Assuming I do not stop, that should be a doable drive. Unfortunately, although my superpower in this situation is that I can do a roll-start, good luck finding a hill to park on in Kansas. Guess the Diet Coke and bathroom break I needed will have to wait.

I do not know how that battery got so gross, but I probably should have taken it as a warning. Also an entire gallon of bug cleaner was desperately needed. Armed with a pair of Leathermans, I got the battery replaced while wondering why I seem to have misplaced the wrenches from my tool roll.

Shortly after I got back on the road, I whined about my struggles to the boys and George responded with this:

And NO I ABSOLUTELY DID NOT RUN OUT OF GAS FIFTY YARDS FROM A GAS STATION. And anyone trying to tell you otherwise is a filthy liar.

Now I know I can’t trust my gas gauge under a quarter tank…

Armed for light offroading, George had his usual container of roof gas, which he used to get to that service station behind him. Which was, in total seriousness, the same place that ate my battery in WaKeeney.

Perhaps it is time to get off the road a while. A week or so in Tulsa sounds pleasant. And despite our delays, I made it in time for a late dinner, and George joined for the nightcap.

Fourth of July in the Shoshone

I headed out from Pinedale this morning, intent to return again one day and stay longer. But I picked up coffee, a mug, and a glorious breakfast from Pine Coffee Supply on the way out.

Somewhere between a donut and a waffle with a glaze that’s kinda crunchy.

I split off from the highway back to Rock Springs to hit the southern edge of the Wind River Range and the Shoshone National Forest. On the way to the park, I made a quick detour drive-through of a couple interesting neighboring mining towns, Atlantic City and South Pass City, simply because of all the signs.

Situated some 27 miles south of Lander, Wyoming lies the once prosperous gold mining camp of Atlantic City. One of several gold camps that were outgrowths of nearby South Pass City, prospectors discovered gold near Rock Creek in the summer of 1868. The mineral-rich quartz vein, they called the Atlantic Ledge due to its location on the east side of the Continental Divide, was several feet thick and thousands of feet long.

[…] In 1884, in came a French engineer named Emil Granier, with investment capital to begin a hydraulic mining project. Hiring some 300 men, he began to build a 25 sluiceway to provide water to his claims east of Atlantic City down from Christina Lake, high in the Wind River Range. The ditch, that passed through miles of hard rock before snaking its way to Atlantic City, was finally completed in 1888. But, Granier’s dream would be foiled when it was found that the ditch had been built with too much slope and when the water rushed through it, many of the sluices were destroyed, spilling water and gold along the way. Small miners then rushed in and used the water for panning in the numerous gullies, many of whom were successful. By 1893, Granier’s company was bankrupt, and the defeated man returned to France to explain the project’s failure and request additional financing. Instead, he was jailed, tried, and sentenced to life in prison, where he died a few years later.

Atlantic City, Wyoming – Booming & Busting For Over 100 Years, Legends of America

Atlantic City’s general store still operates, the old hotel now operates as a B&B. South Pass City is almost entirely a ghost town preserved as a state park, with one or two residences remaining nearby. The state purchased the land as a 75th Birthday gift for its citizens.

I turned up the road into Shoshone National Forest headed toward Lander. The forest was filled with RVs camping out for the holiday, but the drive was nonetheless lovely. I stopped rather abruptly when I noticed a sign for a lookout. Those never disappoint.

I wasn’t able to find much information on this lookout other than that it was built in 1938. It’s near the Continental Divide on the southern end of the Wind River Range at 10,000 feet.

Continuing on, shortly after rejoining paved road, I found my planned hike for the day, the Popo Agie Falls Trail, a short hike along the Popo Agie river. It was by far the most crowded hike I’ve done in a while, but I had the overlook at the falls all to myself for picnic lunch.

After the hike, it was time to make haste to Tulsa. Or at least more-than-half way. Wyoming was a dream, yet again, and even after I ran out of mountains, the beauty remained. Sunset came and went as I crossed the border back into Colorado.

As I sped through Denver on I-25 headed toward 70, the city and all its sprawl erupted in a rainbow of fireworks in all directions. Happy Fourth of July.