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There and Back Again: A Goober’s Tale

As the river water soaks into my dirtbike boots and capillary actions itself all up into my wool socks, I feel the cold, familiar sting of The Wipeout. Unlike other rides, this is the first get off of the day so my hubris hasn’t been too marred in the wreck. Eli is waiting on the other side, and while trying to follow him across (well, into, upstream against the current, answer three riddles, fail, punch the troll, slight right up the steep loose bank of) the river, I slipped on a turkey-sized river rock. My bike looks pitiful lying in the water, and I’m embarrassed, so I quickly pick it up. Eli has rushed down and is helping me push the bike the rest of the way through the water. The bank encounter will be difficult, I realize, and shoo him away so I can just ride it out. A skeptical look is shot my way, I flop around on my bike looking like a rabid goblin, yank the throttle and make it out of the river alive. We are both impressed at this outcome.

These are the goobs. Photo by Meg Watkins.

One sunny afternoon, two days earlier, three goobs set out in search of the dirtiest, most inefficient way to get from Tumalo to Cultus Lake. On dirtbikes, of course! The GPS trail map we were using was a work of art, but the kind you would send home with a 2-year-old that he made for his mommy. This is usually how we ride, up a cool looking road or trail, find out it’s a dead end, turn around, find the next one. Which, if you think about it, and then think about yourself thinking about that, you will be bummed about how generic the metaphor is.

Look what we found.

We came, we found, we added the sit start.

We rode our KLX250’s and Meg (closest goob to the camera) rode her Kawasaki Super Sherpa. I met Meg at the climbing gym this summer, and after I found out she had a dual-sport got very excited, tried very hard not to be weird at her, and we managed to become friends. Not only do we have an uncanny amount of things in common (climbing, glitter, irrational and debilitating fear of only one species of bug, etc.), but she is also funny, adventurous, and picks things up fast. All-around awesome. On her ride to our place, in fact, she pulled up and slapped some guy’s phone out of his hand after he almost caused an accident while talking on it. So Meg was full of adrenaline and ready to get going.

The first off-road section was through the recent Two Bulls burn area, and the dirt roads had turned into soupy dust rivers. Meg wasn’t feeling confident on her Sherpa, which is much more street-oriented than my KLX, so we traded bikes. I wanted her to have fun, and my bike is THE MOST FUN THING EVER, so it made sense. Something else I thought made sense due to my aforementioned hubris, was that I would somehow be able to ride the Sherpa through whatever we encountered. After trying to stop and change direction quickly in the sand, dropping my friend’s motorcycle, and hurting my back trying to pick it up, it became apparent that this was not entirely true. So, instead of taking the most inefficient route to Cultus, we took the second most inefficient route.  A little later in the ride we found a road with two major water ruts running down it, and those are always a tough lesson in object fixation. The Sherpa slipped into one eventually and I clawed my way back out, but at this point my hubris was tired, and we found pavement again.

Once the campground was near, we traded bikes back and mine felt fast and light. As we arrived, some of our friends were by the road, and I did a spectacular wheelie for them, which nobody saw. Eli made a delicious steak salad for dinner, and we drank whiskey by the fire until the dank nug that had been our consciousness was cashed for the day. Meg had to head home the next day because she couldn’t find anyone to take care of the prehistoric megafauna that lives in her house, but Eli and I stayed one more night and left the next morning.

Since I had my trusty KLX back underneath me, this time we did take the most inefficient way home. The map literally had a spiral in it. We headed out on pavement, but quickly got off the highway and found a 4×4 road that would take us near the Mrazek mountain bike trail system, and to Three Creeks Lake. It was full of tight off-camber turns and high-speed dirt sections full of jumps. I managed to pull off the biggest jump I have ever done on this road (in 4th gear no less!), so I am a fan. The lake was beautiful and there was a whole reality show’s worth of drama happening between the ground squirrels and the trash, so we stopped to eat lunch.

Sick grill marks, bro.

Sick grill marks, bro.

Leaving the lake area, the ride took a serious turn towards the unpredictable. We found a forest service road that we could take, but that quickly turned into a dry riverbed full of giant, bare river rocks. Riding on the very edge of the half-pipe that this had become was the best line, but you had to bash through all the burned-down trees on the bank, and my bike came out of this looking kind of flame-broiled. This turned back into a road, and then back into a treacherous dry riverbed a number of times until we found some better trails. After zig-zagging around and the GPS finding us many dead ends and expired trails, we ended up crossing the river twice, which brings us back to where this story began, and almost to the end all at once.

“But Nacho Claws, what about the spiral?!”

Dear reader, that was insane. It was a very rocky hill climb that we both almost crashed on, and it led to the peak where the featured photo at the top of this post was taken. Obviously, it was beautiful at the top, and you could see the whole burn area, as well as 3 mountains, and a ton of wild forest, but what you can’t see is that it was essentially the middle of nowhere. 44.151598, -121.576675 are the coordinates if you want to look at the Google satellite image. Somehow there were still broken beer bottles all over it, so someone would have found us and gotten us drunk eventually. We rode back down the spiral and found a faint singletrack trail back through the Two Bulls burn. By this time we had been riding all kinds of weird terrain for 6 hours. My body was tired and being lazy about coordinating all of the muscles I was requesting. The tight sand turns were made even more difficult because of this, and I was relieved to find a sign to Tumalo Falls and return home on the last little bit of pavement. My bike ran out of gas at this point, and I had to hit reserve, which was very validating to my tired body. Stinky, helmet-haired, and exhausted, we drank a beer and I talked excitedly at Eli about everything that we had just done until we both passed out.

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Having A Bad Day?

Taco salad is a load of crap and if this were a decent world, when you ordered it what you would receive are Nachos.

There are no first ascents left in the world. Lizards have already done them all, and we are slime.

All photos that aren’t of you are just blank selfies!

If you poop in the woods, and no one is there to hear it, why did you even go to all the trouble?

Sharknado would have been slightly less unrealistic if it had been Crocnado instead, but it’s too late for that. Your happiness is your own responsibility, and the ever-dark lord has given you Sharknado 2.

So this place is a crappy earth and you should be having a bad day.

You know what though? At least crocodiles do beat sharks in fights sometimes, and there are many other taco-flavored things that won’t betray you. So pull yourself together and STAY POOPIN.

Using one thousand intermediates. Photo by Swiss Williamson, www.swisswilliamson.com

Burning Hammer Time

Photo by Swiss Williamson, www.swisswilliamson.com

Despite the fact that real life is actually a video game, there are no cheat codes in rock climbing. OH, except one: Dynoing from the bottom to the top! Inside of any climb, you may use whatever beta suits you, and this is true at competitions, outdoors, everywhere. If you are short, you may have to use intermediate holds (like I am doing above) which adds extra moves, or resort to doing the standard moves which could be immeasurably harder for you. This is the situation I frequently find myself in, and it is not only not-cheating, but maybe more along the lines of playing Cruis’n World on the infamous “drunk as Hell in the arcade” difficulty setting.

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Self-esteem gets the burning hammer today.

While it may sound frustrating to the mostly sober eye, much like drunk driving a supercar, it’s actually very fun.*  The challenge to be creative and find unique beta is one of the reasons I love to climb. My latest sneaky idea is to get really good at dynos. Dynos aren’t actually easy, especially not on the level of cheating, and as the terrible Process of Learning inevitably piledrive-life-smash-burning-hammers my self-esteem in front of the crowd, I have to constantly make the decision to try harder. It isn’t the failure that hurts, it is how dumb I look when trying to dyno. I don’t have a video to show you, but I watched a kid fall into a dishwasher the other day and suffice it to say, I know how he felt.

The point of this post isn’t to build up the journey and conclude by instructing you all how to dyno properly, because I still have no idea. In fact, while trying to compile “advice” or “lessons I’ve learned” I came up with such gems as: don’t think so much, and try smaller dynos. So I’m not going to be helpful on that front, but what I am hoping you will get from this is the motivation to practice the thing you want to be able to do, even if practicing is kind of humiliating. The bottom line is that I want to be good at dynos, and there is literally no other way to get better. So, I have to swallow my pride and flail in front of whoever happens to be standing around thinking about how embarrassed they would be if they were me. Occasionally, I actually succeed at a dyno and then I get to make a self-indulgent video and go find a bigger dishwasher to fall into.

The real lesson I’ve taken from all of this is that if you record things in slow-motion they look cooler and you don’t have to be as good at them.

*Nacho Claws does not endorse drunk driving or supercars or arcades or making yourself shorter or any combination of any kinds of things at all. So sit still ok, and don’t touch anything to anything else.

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Poppin’ Wheelies & Burning Down the Woods – Ladies Adventure Ride 2014

Photo by Staci Beach

Who wants a hot one?

After a long weekend of drinking hot beer and accidentally mashing a chocolate muffin all over my chicken nuggets, I remembered that I don’t totally love camping. What I do love is riding dirtbikes with 14 other women through the back roads of Central Oregon. I’ll put up with night-peeing in the cold and fighting my way out of sweaty pants inside my tent forever to go ride with these amazing people.

Learning to ride my dirtbike has been an intense journey frought with heat exhaustion and wipeouts. I’ve had a lot of street bikes over the years, and have always loved the freedom that comes with riding and maintaining my own motorcycle. Who doesn’t? So when I started dating Eli, who prefers riding off-road, I got my first dirtbike. It was a 1993 KDX250 which was too tall for me, had a 2-stroke motor that needed a new top-end, and the white hand of Saruman slapped on the rear fender. He would just take me riding wherever he wanted to go, figuring that I would pick it up quick and be able to keep up, because I am one of the Uruk-hai. So I would try with all my might to follow him and keep up, because I am one of the Uruk-hai, and supposedly a tough girl. Instead, I would do things like run into trees, burn myself on my exhaust header, fall entirely off of the trail and get stuck under a tree root, drop my bike 13 times in a row in the sand, get overheated, cry, try to take a G.D. break for one fucking second, lean my bike up against the Brown’s Camp sign but then tragically drop it and injure my shoulder somehow. Every ride was an incredibly physical battle, and I couldn’t understand how everyone else was so much better at it.

Finally having fun.

The day I finally got it. It’s type 1 fun now!

Finally, one day I followed him up a chunky rocky hill, bike bouncing all over the place, and I didn’t wipe out. This had happened before, miraculously, but this time I knew I was going to make it up the hill without crashing. Suddenly, dirtbiking was fun, instead of just the faint promise of future fun. We went to a cool dirtbike rally in a ghost town in Nevada, we joined local dirtbiking forums and made new riding friends, but I had still never ridden with another girl. Apparently, not a whole lot of women ride dirtbikes (I have my own theory as to why, and it’s not because girls are wusses who hate adventure and dirt). I would have dreams that I met a new dirtbike girl and she became my best friend and we would go find cool jumps together, and most importantly, she wouldn’t say I was pretty good at riding, for a girl. She would know that I’m pretty bad at riding, for anyone.

Last year was the first Ladies Adventure Ride that I attended, and it changed my life. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to keep up, or would crash, get brain damage, go berserk, turn violent, and they would have to finish me off, carry my body out in pieces, and tell Eli and my mom the bad news. None of that happened, of course. Everyone was so wonderful, and I found out that not only do other women ride dirtbikes, but they are not all like me! I don’t know how to explain why that fact was such a relief to me, but it was. Some of them were old, some were my age, some had discovered it on their own, some started riding with their husbands or boyfriends, some were girly, some weren’t, some were confident, some were afraid. All of them were inspiring to me.

Ice Cave?!

Ice Cave?!

Who got this sappy windbag started, sheesh. Anyway, the year is 2014. We drink cheap beer and whiskey every night, and go on adventure rides during the day. The first day we left with 8 riders, headed for the glory that is the South Ice Cave. While I was hoping to see something along the lines of Elsa’s ice palace from Frozen, I am never disappointed by a dry volcanic cave. The one I have been climbing in all summer is full of broken glass, graffiti, many

Photo by Juanita Wilber

Ice cave.

species of turds, and an eternal dust cloud, so by my standards this cave was tall and beautiful.

After looking at the last map that we hadn’t burned in our drunken heathen sacrifices the night before, we headed towards our lunch stop. Unfortunately our leader’s bike had other plans, and those were to dump all of its oil in the road and then die. We couldn’t leave her behind because we weren’t even in a war, and soldiers risk being shot at all the time to retrieve their dying friends. She was very bummed out, so I thought it might be helpful to take the focus off of her recent tragedy and do some wheelie practice. April on the KTM did some rad wheelies, and I tried real

Photo by Angela Vanderpool

Brrraaaap

hard. Eventually Staci’s husband arrived and swept her and her broken bike away, and the rest of us headed to lunch, where I picked my dirt-filled nose the whole time and drank a well-deserved beer after all that hard wheelie-ing. We rode to the obsidian flow after lunch, which is less shiny and flowy than I imagined, once again, but still looks like space terrain so I was satisfied.

Back at camp, our group had doubled in size and Staci returned triumphantly with her sick van and her mysteriously street-legal KDX220. Our friend from the previous Ladies Ride, Kathleen, had shown up and the three of us went on a dangerous grocery mission. To the store. My duties were to acquire mustard packets, and advise the other two on what kind of shitty food and drinks we would need for the weekend. We settled on Cheladas and Cheetos, along with candy and pre-cooked Cheddarpeno sausages.

Photo by Cathy AKA Skippette

All burned down.

Saturday was the big day. 15 girls on thumpers headed out towards Waldo Lake. We took mostly gravel and pavement to get to Little Cultus Lake, and from there we rode to Waldo Lake by way of a surreal road through a hollowed out forest that had been ravaged by the Taylor Burn about a hundred years earlier. The road itself was so much fun that I was doing as many jumps as possible and feeling like I actually knew how to turn on a motorcycle. Staci went ahead and hid behind a rock garden to take pictures of everyone. I went first, and tried to do a cool jump off the top of the rocks. I might have

Photo by Angela Vanderpool

Staci ripping it up.

caught air, but I definitely whacked my skidplate on the rocks when my rear suspension compressed. Didn’t think anything of it, and thoroughly enjoyed myself drifting around sandy corners and bouncing up rocky hills until the forest became alive again, and then I gunned it through a giant mud puddle for the grand finale of this awesome trail. I stopped on the pavement, noticed my bike was dripping some brown liquid and freaked out that I was leaking oil. Luckily, April pointed out to my dumb ass that I had literally just gone through a huge mud puddle and it was probably water. Angela crouched at the end of the mud puddle and took rad pictures of everyone’s water crossing.

"Beautiful Babes Sunbathing by the Lake" AKA "Drunk at Lunch"

“Beautiful Babes Sunbathing by the Beach” AKA “Drunk at Lunch”

Everyone was together again and we stopped for a swim and picnic at Waldo Lake. Seeing 15 bikes all owned by women lined up next to the clear lake on a sunny day was inspiring and the psyche was high. Most of us got in the water; I actually jumped in, which is a once-a-year occurrence that only happens at the Ladies Ride, and I hit the bottom. Got a booboo on my foot. Waah. It was too cold so I also panicked and got out to eat a sandwich. Everyone else wasn’t a wuss and swam out a little further to find a nice sand bar to stand on. Soon we were all eating lunch in the sun on the dock, and passing around the Canadian Hunter. Leaving Waldo, I did what may have been the best wheelie of my life, and then I had a ton of fun going back through the Burn road towards Little Cultus Lake.

Waiting for the rest of the group to join us at Little Cultus, we learned that Krista had had a spectacular get-off at the rock garden, and were hoping she took pictures. Her bike flooded and the battery died while they were trying to get it started. By the grace of whatever the heck, a mechanic rode by and helped her get it going again, and we all headed back towards camp. Grilling, drinking, campfiring, and enjoying our last night, I fell asleep sitting up because I didn’t want it to be over.

Photo by Angela Vanderpool

JUST MARRIED

Sunday morning we would ride to Paulina Peak. Staci didn’t want to take the KDX on another pavement ride, and we had just been married according to our campground check-in sheet, so we tied a bunch of cans to my bike and rode 2-up. The hairpin turns on washboard gravel near the peak were pretty crazy since neither of us could stand up. So I jostled the both of us pretty good and she hitched a different ride on the way down. From the top you can see two different lakes, smoke from California fires covering the mountains, and the obsidian flow. It was a lovely way to end the weekend, but I had even more fun when we all got back to camp hungry and still tired from the day before and had a communal lunch of Hamms, Cheetos, and Buddigs before we had to say goodbye. Then I went to the gym, climbed like crap and fell asleep at 9pm with a beer in my hand while watching 450 Moto 1 from Indiana. Best weekend ever.

"Would you like some cheese or bread?" -Me "I don't need any, the Buddig stands on its own two legs." -Crunchy Sue

“Would you like some cheese too?” -Me “I don’t need any, the Buddig stands on its own two legs.” -Crunchy Sue

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Ay Yo, Fuck Reality!

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This is the difference.

Over the winter I got really good at cramming dildos onto overly full shelves, determining which Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figures had battle shells, and falling off of the last move of Seven Spanish Angels. It’s strange to think that after I stopped working in the Amazon warehouse that my tasks became MORE repetitive. Obviously I am exaggerating… of course I crammed more than 75 dildos onto a shelf, I’m a professional.

What happens to your mind after you have fallen off of the same thing 75 times though? What is the timeline of this failure? Is it longer than I will live?! Is it longer than I will be in Bishop for, anyway?

Reality doesn’t give a shit about your questions or your self-doubt or your relationship with this godforsaken rock climb. There is no timeline to your failure. Not yet, anyway. As much metal as you strap to yourself and as many lightning storms as you drunkenly lumber out into screaming at god about vengeance and Seven Spanish Angels, you haven’t fallen off it again, yet. The human brain finds patterns (and faces!) in things, and it’s hard to continue to believe that you can do something (or that nobody’s face is right there?) after failing so many times. What you have to remember is that much stronger climbers have fallen off of much harder climbs for a much longer period of time. Basically, you are not pathetic, and you can keep trying without being embarrassed that you think you can do this. Of course you could before, but now I’ve given you this convenient way to rationalize it.

Most recently, Angie Payne sent Freaks of the Industry, a 4-year project she had declared her nemesis 2 years ago! After reading that, I realized that for the first 3 years of her projecting that climb,  I could have been saying, “Well Angie Payne can’t do it, so neither can I.” Which, of course, is a terrible attitude, but go with me here. What’s so amazing about reality, is that regardless of the fact that v13 is more than twice the numerical value of  (and infinitely harder than) my normal redpoint grade, at least I can’t say, “Well Angie Payne can’t do it, so neither can I,” anymore. She changed reality by sending that climb, and inspired countless people to instead say things like, “I want to be as strong as Angie Payne someday.”

Everyone knows that the more times you fail at something, the sweeter the victory is, but realizing that the world is actually different because of it is the ninja-flipping-pancake-ruining beauty of reality. Women are sending v14 left and right, which douchebags all over the world said was impossible.* The climbing world is different now, and dorks like me have that many more reasons to believe we can send Seven Spanish Angels. And hey, I did do that. I decided that was the next level, I was going to that level, and so I found some kind of different shaped part of a stupid boulder to hold onto to help drag myself on top of it. You can do it too.

Do what now?

Enjoy this video, and project the ever-loving frikk out of some stuff.

 

*Source: my butt. It’s possible that no one ever said this because nobody could be that much of a douchebag.

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Left Fork Pool Boyz

One of the underbosses throwing the LF by the pool.

One of the underbosses throwing the LF by the pool.

This is the tale of my initiation and rise to the top of the Left Fork Pool Boyz gang.  POOL BOYYYZ!

It all began on a rest day in Joe’s Valley. I was sitting by the river thinking about how shitty and ugly this slow-moving section was, when three big scary dudes walked up and started rearranging it with their fists. MAKE A POOL HERE. I joined in; a lot of gangs initiate you by beating you up, but we just spent almost an entire day moving one giant log. It was an initiation of will.  The Pool Boyz became my family, and we had each other’s backs. Live by the pool, die by the pool.

Soon, I was taking care of business. Protecting our turf by yelling “POOL BOYZ” out of the truck on the way to the Food Ranch, yelling “POOL BOYZ” at the pool itself, putting up first ascents, naming them after the LFPB and yelling “POOL BOYZ” from the top.  It didn’t take long until you could hear “POOL BOYZ” echoing endlessly off of the valley walls. Everyone knew Left Fork was ours, we were the kings of the streets, Highways 29 and 57.

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Myself and two Pool Boyz showing a party pizza whose party it was at.

These were the golden days of the LFPB. We were patrolling Joe’s Valley, sending hard problems left and right. On hot days we would enjoy our sparkling pool, and on every day we would crush. One day we all amassed over 30 V-points.

The other members started to respect and fear me. Every morning I would shoot a mouse, just to see what it looked like on the inside because everyday I forgot, just like I would forget someone’s name who I just met, because no one else is important. At the height of my cruelty, I yanked a guy down off of a climb by the shorts and yelled “POOL BOYZ” right in his shiny little face, then pushed him into the pool. This kind of violence was a part of the game, and if you couldn’t handle it, I would rule you.

Eventually, I was running the Left Fork Pool Boyz, arranging whose beds horse heads would show up in, interrogating rats, snitches, and tattle-tales, collecting protection money from the Right Fork and New Joe’s suckaz. You name it, I was in control. And I still am. POOL BOYZ!!

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Forever Butthurt

“Why didn’t you just walk up the other side?” -Most reasonable people

What is she even doing up there?

What is she even doing up there?

Well, I sure don’t know! It is hard to explain, or even justify bouldering as a sport, much less something to dedicate your life to. Somewhere, in every climber brain, there is a rationalization for the obsession, and it’s just hanging out at a party, talking about postmodernism, and not caring if you care. This rationalization lives in the corner of the mind where good things happen to good people, polar bears are soft, and the internet wants you to win free laptops. It doesn’t need you, but it knows you need it.

Would you like to hear my rationalization?

Oh, it’s healthy! Bouldering is puzzle-solving that connects both mind and body in a unique exercise. It takes me to weird places in nature, and helps me meet new friends. Other, more famous climbers have given even sappier explanations. Sure, ascending the rock is a spiritual journey, if that’s even a thing. I totally connect with nature too, we’re BFFs, we have a secret language so mom can’t understand what we’re talking about on the phone. Seriously though, the truth is I just like it. It’s fun. Which is good, because bouldering is dumb.

You don’t think so? Put a donut on top of your boulder when you are about to send it and see what happens.

Did a dog eat it? Yes, a dog did eat it.

This climb was originally called Anorexic Sacrifice, which has nothing to do with why I didn’t eat that donut. Pretty butthurt over here, guys.