My Small Victory at Goat Rock State Beach

IMG_3084We got a late start, so we didn’t arrive at Goat Rock until around 2:00. God, what a glorious day. Clear blue skies, temps in the high 50s, and calm waters. The hills were that brightest green of grass in a drought-busting rainy season, and so much silt had flushed through the mouth of the Russian River that there was a field of brown murky water extending beyond all the offshore rocks and then some. At the edge where the dirty, brackish water mixed with the clear blue seawater, a white foamy line marked the junction.

The trail was a sloppy mess, with a few side paths trying to avoid the worst of the mud. But the flat area in front of Sunset Boulders was just a bog – no way around, no clean way through. You wanna climb, you’re gonna get muddy.

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Hi, every climber in western Sonoma County!

This fine Sunday afternoon seemed to draw all of western Sonoma’s climbers to the crag. The place was pretty much at capacity, with nearly every anchor and landing area in use. We seldom do anything on weekends, when the rest of the world floods out to recreate, shop, travel, whatever. We have the privilege to be able to do these things during the week, so we might as well spare ourselves the crowds and spare the crowds our presence by staying in on the weekends. But we were in town on our way to a retreat, so it made sense to come check out this spot.

“Orange hat! Hey, orange hat!” A voice rang out from atop The Ram. The voice came from a very outgoing, helmet-wearing climber, who invited Glenn to use his rope to climb up for setting our anchors, thus sparing him soloing the 5.5 R/X that’s the easiest way to the top. He offered to give him a tour once he got up.

“Oh, I don’t mind soloing it, but if I use your rope it’ll make her feel better,” Glenn replied.

“That’s all that matters! If she’s happy, everyone’s happy!” Wise man.

At the top, Glenn asked him if he was a local steward. I missed the rest of their chatter, but there was a lot of it. Later on, when this gent and his group were packing up to leave, he seemed to narrate much of their preparations. He was there with lots of friends, and turns out he’s from Fort Ross, just up the road from Goat Rock. There were some other pairs of climbers there, and some small groups of boulderers. They all left within about 45 minutes of our arrival, and we had the whole place to ourselves until we were doffing our helmets and coiling our rope, when a group of five or six young puffy-clad dudes from Vallejo rolled up as the sun was getting low in the sky.

This is honestly the first time I’ve ever written about a climbing session. What is there to say? The spot is tough to beat on a good weather day. You’re super close to the beach, so you get plenty of spectacular coastal scenery, but high enough up on a grassy perch to feel safe from the sea, unlike climbing at an actual beach crag. The clump of boulders was once a popular spot for wooly mammoths to rub their backs, so you can see some polished surfaces on the overhanging parts of the boulders. There are safe belays, short, easy climbs (with soft grades compared to other spots in the Bay Area), and everything’s at least three stars. It’s a pretty perfect little playground for a half-day outing. There are a couple of 5.8s up crack systems that would make for great early trad leads. One word of caution: there was a fair bit of poison oak among the rocks between the boulders. I don’t think I’m allergic, but Glenn is, so we were both careful to avoid it, and washed the mud off our shoes when we got back to the van. Outdoor shower for the win!

This outing was a small victory for me. I need to climb at a few more crags like this with high-quality rock, highly-rated climbs, and short walls. Here’s the thing, friends: I get scared. It’s hard to call it a fear of heights, but it’s definitely a fear of falling. Or maybe it’s actually just a fear of failure. Whatever it is, it plagues me. Sometimes I find myself thinking, “Why do I even do this? I don’t like this feeling! I just want to get down and go do crossword puzzles.” And then I have to remind myself, “You say this is your favorite thing in the world to do.” And I repeat it like a mantra. I have other self-talk, too. “You climb routes seven grades harder than this in the gym.” “Your legs are stronger than you think.” “So what if there’s no hand when you get there? He’ll catch you.”

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Victory!

On this day, I needed no mantras, no self-talk at all. I felt fine. Maybe it’s because the routes were all three stars. Routes that flow well just…flow better. The holds present themselves; the moves aren’t any easier, they’re just easier to find. That was fun. And if I’m going to be psyched to climb all summer, I need to know that it’s going to be fun. Fun first! Safety third! I don’t know what’s second, but it’s probably food related.* I may have only gotten in four short climbs, but it was just what I needed. Short climbs give you a sense of accomplishment, and if you can finish a tougher grade than you’re used to, who cares that it was only 30’ tall? For me, that’s enough of a confidence booster to matter. So Goat Rock, my hat’s off to you! Thanks for being just what I needed.

*For the record, safety is always first. Saying “safety third” is a great way to remind people that they suck if they’re not being safe. It’s also apparently a Burning Man meme, and I’m pretty sure it was printed on the tee-shirt worn by some miracle-he’s-lived-this-long climber in Valley Uprising or some Reel Rock film.

——

Routes I climbed (grades according to Bay Area Rock 7th Edition, not Mountain Project):

Summer Climbing Tour 2017

 

IMG_0460No, my kids will not be doing summer camps through Rec & Park this summer. Don’t worry, I think I’ll be able to keep them entertained.

As I’ve mentioned previously, I had an epiphany last summer, and bought myself a van. Technically, it’s a Class B motorhome, but I’m too young to own a motorhome, so I just call it a van. All the cool kids are doing it. Ya know, #vanlife and all that.

The plan was to hit the road this summer for my family reunion in Denver in July. We live in San Francisco, so there’s a…how would you say?…fuck ton of cool shit between us and Denver. Especially for climbers. And then you get there, and there’s even more climbing. And you’re already halfway to all these other remote awesome places, so you might as well just make a summer of it.

Without further ado, it is time to unveil our plan:

  • 14 weeks / 102 Days
  • 6,515 miles + local exploration
  • 10 states + 1 Canadian province
  • >25 climbing areas*
  • 15 National Parks
  • 8 National Monuments, National Conservation Areas, and State/Provincial Parks (probably more, hard to remember what all of these places are, I’ll get back to you)
  • 1 climbing stewardship workshop in Yosemite
  • 1 family reunion
  • (hopefully) some volunteer conservation work
  • 1 week at Burning Man – my first time ever

You can check out our itinerary here, although with the freedom of the van, we will surely deviate from these plans many times. But hopefully we’ll get to climb climb climb!!

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Side note: You should seriously checkout Furkot – it’s the most robust road trip planner I’ve ever imagined! I plugged in our destinations, dates, and durations of stays, and it plotted this route for us. I still need to scrutinize it, to make sure there aren’t any awesome side roads we’d miss with this route, but it sure helps in planning! It will even help you find lodging and activities nearby. Oh, and it will sync with TripIt. I haven’t even scratched the surface on what it can do. Amazing.

The kids will be along about half the time (and no, they’re not coming to Burning Man). I have to share them with their dad, so they’ll be spending a couple of weeks with us at a time. We haven’t made flight arrangements yet, but the plan depends on a combination of:

  • Their dad will fly to where we are and explore the area with them, then return them to us and fly home
  • Their dad will fly to where we are to pick them up/drop them off
  • I will fly to SF to pick them up/drop them off
  • Maybe their dad will even rent a van of his own and do some traveling around

Thankfully, he’s being super supportive of this whole plan, and expressed a interest in exploring these places with the boys this summer even before I told him about our BIG idea.

The kids are excited about going to so many places, camping, and climbing so much. They’re not excited to drive a whole lot. We’re trying to break up the driving as much as possible, keeping it to a couple of hours at a time, but sometimes you just have to go a long way in one day! And hopefully while they’re with us we can stay camped and climb in one area for a few days in a row. I think moving every day would wear us all down, not just the kids.

I’m planning on making some improvements to the van before we go. I want to replace the flooring, get a new stereo (the one in there now doesn’t have bluetooth audio, and I’m basically dependent on that technology to function as a driver), have the original decals removed, and get a custom skin put on the lower panel of the outside (here’s an example of what I’m talking about, but we’d have a different pattern). I also need to track down the perfect hitch-mounted cargo box. We’ve been discussing these plans for some time, and now it’s only 50 days away. FIFTY DAYS?! WHAT?! Guys, I gotta go.

HELP!

One more quick thing – HELP ME! If you have suggestions for any of the following, please comment!

  • Places we should see
  • Places we should climb
  • Secret dispersed camping spots
  • Kid-friendly activities/attractions
  • Apple Play car stereos
  • Hitch-mounted cargo boxes (so far I’m into this one by Rola)
  • Road trip essential tips/tricks/gadgets

Related post: The Van


*For the climbers out there, here are the climbing areas we plan to visit:

If you have any favorite crags or routes in these areas, let us know! Bonus points for kid-friendly stuff.

And yes, I know it will be too hot to do much (if anything) in some of these areas, but we’re going to do our best to get in some early morning or late evening climbs at least.

Blue-Green Hawaii – Part 2, the Helicopter Tour

Motion sickness for the privileged few!

How the Hell We Ended Up Doing This

Planning our trip to Hawaii was an interesting challenge. It would be my boyfriend’s first real family vacation with my kids and my mom. I wanted to make sure he and I got some time away from the family, and it was also his first time in Hawaii, so I wanted to make sure he got to do some cool stuff.

I guess I was feeling particularly flush, because one activity I offered to take everyone on was a helicopter ride. This has been on my annual list of things to do (I don’t do resolutions anymore, I only do lists of cool experiences I want to prioritize for the year) for the past 3 years, so I felt like it was time. Let me describe for you the options I was offered by our concierge, all with Blue Hawaiian Helicopters:

  • Option 1: Expensive. 50 minutes. Leave from Hilo (1h 45m drive from our rental house).
  • Option 2: Very expensive. 1 hour 45 minutes. Leave from Waikoloa (40 min drive from our rental house).

When going over the options with everyone, I said that we could all do Option 1, or Glenn and I could do Option 2. Well, the kids did not like the idea of driving three and a half hours round-trip to do the 50 minute flight. I can’t blame them. I didn’t really want to do that drive either. But I’m not sure they realized what they were passing up…

Pre-flight

Bonus: you get to wear these cool personal flotation devices around your waist!

So, I booked just the two of us on the longer flight, and even paid for the special upgraded helicopter (bigger helicopter, individual seats vs. bench, floor-to-ceiling windows which increase viewing by 50%). And so, on day 3 of our vacation, we said goodbye to the family after lunch and headed up to the Waikoloa Heliport.

Just before we left, Rowan begged me to come along. I felt so guilty leaving him behind, but stuck to my guns. There was no way I’d be bringing a 7-year old along on that expensive of a flight. Sorry, kiddo.

Regarding Air-Sickness

In retrospect, eating a light lunch and then snacking on day-old malasadas in the parking lot was not a good idea. Donuts always upset my stomach (not cool, universe!), and I usually feel more nauseous the emptier my stomach is. And I didn’t bring the Sea-bands I bought on the snorkel cruise, which was a huge mistake. Pro tips #1-3: Eat a decent-sized meal about an hour before your flight, and maybe munch some saltines just before takeoff. Don’t drink a ton of fluid, or anything caffeinated – two hours in the air is longer than you think. Wear your Sea-bands.

Turns out, this particular helicopter tour was voted #1 by The Travel Channel as the “World’s Best Helicopter Thrill.” In thinking about this tour, the term “thrill” hadn’t really entered my mind. I just envisioned sweeping aerial views of volcanic eruptions, lush canyons, and towering waterfalls. You know, an awe-inspiring perspective on nature’s marvels.

So… you know how when you’re flying over the Grand Canyon in a passenger plane, the only people on the plane who can see it are the ones on *that* side of the plane, and only in the window or middle seats? Go figure, turns out that’s true on helicopters as well. You can’t see shit out the opposite side of the helicopter, and if you’re in back, you can’t see shit out the front. And apparently what people want more than anything is to come away with cool photos and videos, so the pilots are all about getting your window facing the action. Think about that. How do you get EVERY window to face the action? YOU SWOOP.

Not only do you swoop. You swoop in figure-eights. We’re talking G-forces, people. Varying speeds, dips, climbs, swerves left and right, all at the same time. Total disorientation relative to the horizon. Oh, and it’s hot. Pro tip #4: Even if you get cold with the A/C vent blowing on you during the boring 15-20 minute ride from the heliport to the volcano, DO NOT close your vent. I did. I regretted it. Being cold is vastly superior to being hot when you’re motion-sick. Go with cold.

The Flight

First we went to the main cauldron of the Kilauea volcano, which has been erupting continuously – without pause – since 1983. Apparently, this is actually Madam Pele’s home. The Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park headquarters is situated at the lip of the Kilauea Caldera, which seems like a truly terrible idea. On a previous trip there, the fumes were so noxious, and the wind was blowing in such a way, that they told visitors not to be outside for more than a few minutes. From above, you wonder what genius put the visitor center right there, and if it was the same genius who thought it was smart to build a golf course and town just beyond.

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The town of Volcano

Anyway, there it was. Inside the caldera was the gray, cracked Halema’uma’u Crater. Within that, you could see a black crescent where the newest flowing lava had hardened. At the center of that crescent was a round collapsed crust, steaming and sinister, with a glowing red arc on the outermost edge. Later, zooming in on my photos, I could perceive glowing orange hairline fissures throughout the crater. Apparently this glowing arc is considered a lava lake. So it’s probably much bigger than it seemed from above. The helicopters have to say pretty high above the craters, presumably so they don’t get…ya know…erupted onto?

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Halema’uma’u Crater erupting

To show us all of this, the pilot cruised by with the crater on one side of the helicopter, then swooped around and back across so that the other side could see, then back again, making figure-eight patterns across the sky, each time climbing to the apex of our arc, then diving, turning, climbing, swooping, and generally – diabolically – trying to make us all vomit.

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Before takeoff, before green

Oh! And the music! Something you would never have even thought about! You know how they give you those cool headphones for hearing protection? Well not only can the pilot and passengers communicate through those, but they can also pipe in music to enhance your experience. On the way over to Kilauea, we listened to chill Hawaiian-esque grooves from Jack Johnson and the like. But once we got to the crater, the DJ spun up something that sounded like the score of a Bond movie. The music got your adrenaline up. It was exciting! It was sickening…

 

After the Halema’uma’u crater, we cruised a bit further over recent lava flows of various ages – distinguishable by whether / how much new vegetation had begun to grow – to the Puʻu ʻŌʻō vent. This one was spectacular. Three areas of spewing lava, which looked like caves to me, tucked under the ledge of this crater. We swooped some more, and some more, and…you get the idea. This is when I realized I was nauseous. I searched for the horizon, tried to lean into the turns like I was riding a motorcycle, and took deep breaths.

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Puʻu ʻŌʻō Vent erupting

The final area of volcanic activity was at Kamokuna, where the lava flow was entering the ocean. You can actually walk out to this point, but I doubt you’d actually see much from on land. Even from the helicopter, out over the ocean looking back toward land, we couldn’t see the lava. Just a lot of steam. And the strange murky waters surrounding what’s apparently a new peninsula growing where a 26-acre chunk of land recently broke off into the sea. This is when I realized I should re-open my A/C vent.

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Kamokuna flow entering the sea

The pilot then said, “I bet you could all stand to fly straight and level for a while now.” Um, yes, please. So, north we flew, past Hilo, whereabouts I realized I also had to pee really bad. But who am I to ask for a pit stop? So we kept flying, with Mauna Kea and her observatory to our left, onward to the Hamakua Coast. Here in the Waipi’o and Waimanu Valleys, we got to see waterfalls as tall as 2,600 feet, impossibly steep cliffs covered in vegetation, and deep canyons that were beyond mysterious and verging on menacing. It was windy here, so there was some turbulence. Thanks, nature.

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Mauna Kea, home to a super-bad-ass observatory which I will visit someday

The waterfalls were of course spectacular. But damn if the pilot didn’t swoop right at them! And up and down them! More than once I thought we might fly right into the cliff just so my side of the helicopter could see the falls. Dude, I’m good – just don’t kill us!

As you can tell, by this point I was growing weary of the swooping, of the whole thing, honestly. But at least I kept it together. The lady in the front seat asked for an “aloha bag.” Suddenly the cabin filled with a strong lemony scent, and the pilot opened his window. Then I looked forward and saw her bring the bag to her face. I looked out at the falls and thanked the universe that it was too noisy for me to hear what came next. The pilot got us out of the canyon, leveled off, and gently turned north again.

Here only Glenn and I could see the towering coastal cliffs, and the needle-thin waterfalls cascading down to the sea. The folks on the other side just got to look at the ocean. Sorry (not sorry) guys, no more swooping. Here we were treated to the music of Lindsey Stirling, which made me laugh. I began to picture her as Zelda, dancing through the Hawaiian jungle below.

There were some cool rocky beaches, some bizarre little settlements, a road with a 30% grade down into a canyon, and then the cliffs softened into rolling hills as we turned southwest to return to Waikoloa.

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Awww, a cloud-bow!

Cattle ranches and rainbows were visible beneath us, up here in paniolo country. I couldn’t wait to get back to the heliport, and go track down some ginger ale and saltines. Soon we were making the actually-quite-exciting landing, and feeling like we accomplished something meaningful.

Reflection

Speaking for myself at least, it was a mission accomplished. I don’t think I ever need to do another helicopter flight, but maybe in a decade or so I’d consider it. I texted my mom immediately to have her tell Rowan that he should be glad he didn’t come – he would’ve gotten SO SICK! Bye bye, guilt.


Bonus! Lessons Learned Regarding Photography and Videography

Turns out I was operating my camera incorrectly the entire time, so all of the thrilling video I thought I was shooting was nothing more than me toggling between viewfinder and display screen. Oops. Pro tip #5: Before you bring your nice-but-seldom-used camera on the expensive sightseeing flight with the upgraded helicopter for greater visibility, make sure you know how to operate the damn thing.

Pro tip #6: If you are not seated near a window, you might be screwed when it comes to videography. Glenn’s GoPro footage was pretty garbage, thanks to the difference in lighting from his seat in the middle of the cabin compared to the brightness outside. He got some good shots of us mugging for the camera, but when he aimed it outside, it just turned white. And you don’t get to choose your seat – they assign you a seat based on optimal weight distribution. Sorry, Charlie.

Pro tip #7: The helicopter company will happily sell you an HD video (Blu-Ray disc or USB stick) of your actual flight – including edits of video from inside the cabin, and all the chatter on your headsets – for only $40. Yeah…we opted to do this.

Related: Blue-Green Hawaii – Part 1, the Snorkel Cruise

Blue-Green Hawaii – Part 1, the Snorkel Cruise

One dollar off all blue drinks! And sea-sickness for free!

Day 1 of our family vacation on the Big Island, I treated everyone to a trip out with Body Glove Cruises, on their 4.5 hour Snorkel & Dolphin Adventure. Let me start by saying that this was one of the best snorkel cruises I’ve ever done. The boat was ship-shape, the crew was incredibly attentive,  and the owner of the company was on board and all about making sure we had a great time. We got to cruise past scores of Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins, along the Kona coast, and down to some place called Red Hill, which I can’t find on any map, but I think is part of the Kona Coast Fishery Management Area.

It’s a beautiful ride, and I love getting out on the water whenever I travel, so this seemed like a no-brainer. Plus, this boat is equipped with a 20-foot waterslide and a 15-foot diving platform, “more noodles than Olive Garden,” tubes, a huge raft for floating, view boards, snorkel gear, and scuba gear (for extra). Included are free reef-safe sunscreen, breakfast, lunch, and soft drinks, and there is a full cash bar if you want something to really get you into vacation mode starting at 8:30 AM.

Now, I’ve never been on a snorkel cruise that allowed you to drink BEFORE snorkeling. Usually they give – or sell – you the drinks AFTER you get out of the water for the day. But not so on Body Glove’s Kanoa II. I’m not sure if you can buy drinks the very minute you board, but I’m guessing the answer is yes. Yours truly did not partake, I swear. I had a sensible plate of goodies from the breakfast buffet, and a cup of coffee. We cast off and started our cruise, and all was well.

Cue the dolphins! These spinner dolphins are beyond charming. All dolphins are great, but these guys go beyond swimming apace with your boat and doing the usual breach, jump, or flip. They go full triple-axel – IN THEIR SLEEP. Apparently, they’re nocturnal, and are only in this close to shore because they’re resting, which means half their brain is asleep for 20 minutes while the other half is still controlling all their normal functions, including play. Then they switch sides, and back and forth, until they’ve gotten all the sleep they need.

I didn’t have any luck capturing their spins on video, but there are some solid videos on YouTube of this. (Let’s pause for a minute and acknowledge the achievements of all the folks who’ve posted thrilling videos of dolphins leaping and spinning. Where would we be without your videos and the music you carefully selected to showcase these majestic and playful creatures?) But it was fun trying to catch pictures and videos of them, and oohing and aahing and checking to see if my kids saw what I saw. They loved it.

Soon it was time to pick up speed and head to the snorkel spot. This was around the time I started to turn green. Looking at the horizon and taking deep breaths didn’t seem to help much. I’m not sure if it was a particularly big swell that day, but it sure felt like it to me. I bought some Sea-bands from the barman (ha!) and hoped that when I got in the water I’d start to feel better.

Well… upon arrival, we got a very thorough safety presentation, and were let loose into the ocean. The kids rushed to get noodles and hop onto the “relaxation stations.” I went with them, while Gram and Glenn headed off to do some real snorkeling. So there we were, clinging to noodles, splashing around in goggles and flippers, grabbing onto tubes and floating mats all strung up behind the boat, me turning greener by the minute.

Declan decided he wanted to try the “view board” – a boogie board with a porthole in it so you can see below the surface. I swam over to the boat to ask one of the crew to pass me one, but he wanted to give it to Declan directly. Crew guy slid the board into the water just as Declan was arriving near the boat, and – zoop! – it slid and smacked right into his mouth! Poor kid had a split lip, but it barely fazed him. He climbed aboard and started happily paddling around.

A few more minutes of bobbing up and down in the swell was enough for me. Rather than chum the waters, I figured I should get back on board and have some ginger chews and ginger ale. The kids reluctantly agreed to get out of the water with me. It wasn’t long before Glenn and Gram returned and could take the kids back out to play. But for me, that was it. The rest of the cruise was spent trying not to puke. Oh joy.

Pity party time: I didn’t even get to go on the water slide or use a snorkel! Not once! And I didn’t get to drink a single Mai Tai! Waaaaaaah!

Okay, that was fun. Hey, at least the kids and Glenn got to slide.

They also used the stand up paddle board (SUP) both for Glenn to patrol while the kids slid and slid and slid, and also to go exploring closer in toward the reef, since the kids don’t have a huge swimming range.

For one last touch of color, on the way back to the pier, the bar announced a drink special: $1 off all blue drinks! They’d even just turn something blue for you that isn’t normally blue. Apparently they had some excess blue curaçao or food coloring to use up. (Fun fact about blue drinks I just learned. There’s a natural ingredient called butterfly pea flower that can color beverages blue. I had it in a special-for-Holi cocktail at my friend’s Indian restaurant in San Francisco. So beautiful!)

On the trip home, I just wanted to sit and snuggle my kiddos. Rowan fell asleep leaning against me, then Declan, and then I dozed a little.

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I know I look like I’m posing, but I was actually sleeping like this

The sea-sickness subsided. The trade-off was some sunburn, but nobody gets off scott-free in these stories, okay?! I’m happy to report that I never did throw up.

Related: Blue-Green Hawaii – Part 2, the Helicopter Tour

Aloha in the Air

Flying to Hawaii is unlike flying anywhere else. The flight most similar that I’ve ever been on was the one to Fiji. But flights to Fiji still have a fair number of practical people on them. There are actual Fijians – citizens of a very very remote island nation, who seem a little bummed to be leaving the US to go back into exile. Or they’re business travelers, doing the ho-hum 11-hour flight over, knowing they’ll barely be able to enjoy the islands while they’re there.

But oh, Hawaii. Sure, sure, there are Hawaiian residents (some of them actual Hawaiians!) returning home; and of course there are business travelers. But us vacationers don’t care! We’re psyched to be going to paradise! We’re psyched to get a free Mai Tai on the second half of the flight! There’s also something to be said for knowing that you’re almost all going to the same small island for roughly the same amount of time (the paltry American week-long vacation, if you’re lucky). There are lots of smiles, and a Hukilau-esque camaraderie to the whole thing.

Flying with my kids, my partner, and my mom is amazing. It’s a bit complicated trying to get five people through the airport, fed and watered, but at least the adults outnumber the kids. Someone is always on hand to watch the carry-ons while someone else takes the kids to the bathroom, or to watch the kids while someone runs off to get food or coffee.

img_2867.jpgOn the actual plane, things get interesting. It’s sometimes hard to get five seats together. And even then…who gets to sit next to Mommy? My partner would like to. Both of my kids would also like to. But there are only two seats adjacent to Mommy!

This time around, we had a row of three at the front of the plane, thanks to my status on
Virgin America,
which transferred over to Alaska in that heartbreaking acquisition. But Gram booked two of the seats so she could use her free companion fare, and those seats were at the back of the bus.

IMG_2868Thankfully, the kids have iPhones to keep them distracted. They barely noticed when we split them up – one with Gram in the back, and one with Mommy and Glenn in the front. Heck yeah, I took the front! We’re talking extra legroom and free drinks! Can you say Mimosa made with Pass-o-Guava nectar???

Of course, you do have to fill out the form from the State of Hawaii which tells you that if you bring any fruits, nuts, seeds, plants, or basically anything living other than yourselves into their state, you will be sent to Molokai with the lepers. This precipitates the mad rush to eat the Cuties and Cripps Pink apples I packed for snacks, even though I knew full well I was going to buy that “cheese plate” snack box anyway.

Here’s my question – what do they do with the apple core and the mandarin peels? Or what if I don’t even eat the offending foods, and throw them away whole? Aren’t they still arriving on the island like so many wee biological invaders? Isn’t the hypothetical damage done? And what of the almonds in the freebie snack box they passed out? And the Craisins? Sigh. More Mai Tais please!

One final note on flying to Hawaii: five hours is sooooo long! I know us west coasters have it easy, and that some folks fly five hours from New York and then another five hours to Hawaii. But still, five hours is sooooo long when you’re ready to get off the plane in Kona, go to Costco, go to Safeway, and then realize that you’re still in America after all, and life for the next week might not be as exotic as you’d been building it up in your mind for the last three months after all.

Except – in Hawaii, Costco has palettes full of Spam and macadamia nuts, and leis in the fresh flower section. And that can make all the difference in the world.

Hello World

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Bula! It’s Fijian for Aloha.

Hey world. Say hello to Hello to Adventure.

It’s been a loooooong time since I regularly wrote a blog. I first blogged in 2002, before blogs were a thing. They existed, they just didn’t really have a name yet. “Weblog” became the word eventually, but I had a LiveJournal. Yeah, it was THAT long ago.

That was 14 years ago (!), when I traveled the US in a van for 6 months researching my dad’s life. Now I’m about to start a 3 month trip in my (much better) van, rock climbing all over the West. So here we go again!

I also lead a sort of generally crazy life. I’m a mom. I travel a lot. I climb. I own a camper van. I’m on the board of the Bay Area Climbers Coalition and the San Francisco Youth Baseball League. I’m a 13-year subscriber to the San Francisco Ballet and a 4-ish-year season ticket sharer for the San Francisco Giants. I obsess over things like Game of Thrones, tiki cocktails, bourbon-wait-rum-wait-bourbon-no-rum, baking, and music. I go to a lot of concerts… I dunno, people tell me they can’t keep up with all of my adventures. Maybe I just post to Facebook too much.

I’m hoping to backfill this blog with some posts about past travels, climbing trips, van stuff, and other “lifestyle” content, plus get you all ready for this epic summer road trip.

These are my adventures, and I invite you share them with me.

“Life is either a great adventure or nothing.”

-Helen Keller

The Van

People were surprised when I bought my van. Everyone except my boyfriend Glenn and my friend Jen.

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The boys meeting the van for the first time

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Breakfast

My boyfriend Glenn is an outdoor guide, and is no stranger to van life. Camping in his van was routine for him, and was a fun adventure for me when we first started traveling together. When we met, I was already planning a climbing trip to Iceland, and I pretty quickly decided he should come with me. We rented a converted Land Rover Defender and drove all around the country, camping, climbing, and rumbling over the F-roads in the highlands. In Iceland, you can’t get to the interior without a 4×4, and we had one. Combine that feeling of invincibility with the freedom to stop and camp wherever, whenever we chose, and you get a heady mix that’s hard to leave behind at the airport gate.

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Not helpful. Not at all.

My friend Jen and I had taken my sons and her nephew camping mid-summer at our favorite spot. It was my second camping trip of the year with my kids, and once again I was working a ton and relaxing very little. Let’s face it – an 8-year old and a 6-year old aren’t that helpful at a campsite. I wouldn’t shut up about how great it was in Iceland with that Defender. Then a converted Nissan Quest rolled into our lakeside campground, and I wouldn’t shut up about that. My mind was made up – I would get a van before next summer.

 

Why next summer? Because a family reunion in Denver would give me the perfect tentpole (no pun intended) to build around for a summer of adventure. Get a van, drive around all summer while the kids are out of school, camp, climb, explore the national parks. And better get the van soon, so we have time to get used to it, learn its quirks, fix it up a bit, and be ready to hit the road come summer.

I became obsessed. Would I buy a cargo van and convert it myself? The DIY blogs are innumerable, so this was an enticing project. I’m crafty, but impatient. No DIY. Would I have a custom conversion done? Nobody could fit everything in that I wanted. I was determined that the van should fit in my driveway, which means I’m restricted to only the short Sprinter vans, at 19.5 feet long. That doesn’t leave a whole lot of room to build. Custom conversions are expensive, you make lots of compromises, and they take months. No custom conversion. That left buying a Class-B motorhome; a pre-built conversion I could just go buy and start enjoying.

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Signed and paid for!

So, I shopped around and discovered the Roadtrek SS Agile, which checked all my boxes. I found a five-year-old unit (waaaaay more affordable than new) in Florida (waaaaay more affordable than in California), flew out there to check it out, signed and paid, then flew home. A couple of days later, my boyfriend flew to Jacksonville, picked it up, and drove it across the country for me. He had the time and I didn’t. Gotta love that guy!