Ultimate Road Trip

Life is like a Box of Chocolates

Wednesday was a productive work day. It was a cool, misty morning in the Poudre that turned to sun by midday. Ryan received word that his watch was un-fixable, so we returned to town at the end of the day to retrieve it. It would just be a couple months watch-less — not a big deal, in the grand scheme of things. Before returning to the Poudre, we went for a short jog around Fort Collins and visited one of our favorite spots — the shipping container eateries in Old Town. We had a healthy meal of a burger, beer, and ice cream, and had thoughtful discussions about work and life.

Sunrise above the Poudre
Two monitor set-up

It was dark as we drove back to camp, so we were unaware of anything ominous coming our way. We’d never actually experienced the rooftop tent in the rain — it’s just been too hot and dry the last couple months. But when we rolled into a camp spot, the rain started. It was a casual rain at first. We were brushing our teeth under the tent when it began to pick up, and FAST. I was preparing to scramble up into the tent, when Ryan asked, politely but knowingly, “Do you have a plan for how you’re going to do this? Maybe you get your shoes untied first?” (One of the greatest differences between Ryan and me is our finesse. He has all of it, I have none.) I nodded wordlessly and steeled myself before haphazardly rushing into the tent. Ryan joined not long after, and the rain kept battering down. Exhausted, I fell hard asleep, (snoring so loudly that I lulled myself to sleep, thinking it was white noise?) only to wake up in one of the gnarliest thunderstorms I’ve ever witnessed. Lightning would flash followed by a long, rolling, loud thunder just a second later. I became a little scared, honestly, but I couldn’t really pinpoint what I was afraid would happen. The storm must have eventually calmed enough for me to fall back asleep and force Ryan to keep kicking me for my snoring.

We got up at 6 to roll out, and I assumed we’d be underwater. It was certainly wet outside, but didn’t seem nearly wet enough given the storm we experienced. What was really miraculous was that our shoes were dry. The tent has these little bags hanging off it to deposit your shoes before entry, and though they seem water-resistant, I was skeptical to call them water-proof. I was dumbfounded to pull out my sneakers, not at all damp, after the beating of that storm. We were out of camp at 6:15.

Back in Fort Collins, we worked all day from Ginger & Baker, a modern and somewhat bougie cafe, restaurant, and event space. I was on calls nearly all day, only taking a 30 minute lunch to go run one of the greenway trails nearby. It felt good to take a computer break and run fast, something I haven’t done in a couple weeks.

While I had my last couple meetings, Ryan worked heavily on the logistical front, virtually planning out the entire next week. He determined that we should head to Green River that evening, where we could camp and climb after work the following day. Then head to Jackson and the Tetons on Saturday. I was game for anything and appreciative of him figuring out a plan, my brain fried.

We had just started driving when I saw my mom calling. Devastating news — Chowder had taken a turn for the worse, there was little chance of recovery, and so, she and my dad had put him to sleep. It’s hard to express how painful it is to lose a family pet, especially when you live so far from your family. Chowder was my favorite person — not dog, person, I told everyone. I am broken up over losing him, but I am relieved he’s not in pain and was calm and in the presence of my parents when he took his last breath. I know I will write about him separately, when I’ve had time to process my grief and talk about what he meant to me.

Being real on the way to Green River

God bless Ryan, he has sat in the car with me while I’ve cried so many times. When I got laid off from Clif Bar, he started playing “The Start of Something New” from High School Musical in the car, absolutely belting the lyrics. I couldn’t help but laugh and cry harder, just so grateful to have someone who knows how to make me smile even when I’m crushed. As we drove toward Wyoming, he remained his goofy self and played 2000s throwbacks to cheer me up.

Pain and joy don’t need to be mutually exclusive; you can feel deep pain but also smile and laugh in this life. I found myself crying happy tears, feeling really lucky for this life I have, despite just experiencing a great loss.

We made it halfway to Green River and stopped for a classy dinner of pretzel thins and Taco Bell. Ryan is a veritable connoisseur of T-Bells, the way I consider myself a Dunkin’ expert. He assessed this T-Bell as high quality, and I had to agree.

As we approached Green River, our ETA jumped up wildly. There was some inexplicable traffic. “Look for a side road I could take,” Ryan asked. I found one that seemed like it could deposit us back onto I-80 and miss all the traffic, so I directed him to it. It was a dirt road, which didn’t bother us so much until it turned into mud. Ryan ended up huffing it up several hills to keep us from getting stuck, and we fishtailed repeatedly in the muck before deciding we’d get back on the highway, the opposite direction. We needed gas and to find a new place to camp. Neither were eventful, but at least we got to sleep by 10.

Mud caked on the Subie

Friday in Rock Springs, we worked all morning in a Starbucks. I tried to bury myself in work to distract myself from the grief, without much success. I held it together (kind of) until the end of my last meeting, after which I stepped out on the curb to cry. Once more, I felt so indebted to Ryan, who had done some research on where we could camp the next two nights, an Airbnb we could stay starting on Sunday, and the climbing area we could hit that afternoon. Bolstered by the plans, I went back into the coffee shop and finished off the emails and items I had.

One highlight of the day was going to Smith’s for groceries. Ryan and I both have a fondness not only for grocery shopping, but also Kroger stores. (In fact, one of the personal joys of my job is that I get to work on tasks related to Kroger.) We get high satisfaction from clipping all the digital coupon deals and we also have a rule to leave the store with one new item every time. This trip, we left with several, including toffee Oreos (one employee: “They’re so good with coffee!” Ryan: “But have you had the golden ones with coffee?” Employee: “YES!”).

After work, we made our way to the crag, where Ryan had found several quality sport routes, all around 5.10+. The first was called “Box of Chocolates,” and Ryan noted, “Isn’t that kind of fitting?” It was. This week was proof that in this life, you never know what you’re gonna get.

We did three pitches, all with interesting movement. The second route was called “Bloody Good,” a 10d with a burly looking roof section. Determined to have a win, I started putting it up, only to get flummoxed and frustrated by the roof and having to take multiple times. I was just so spent from the week, I wanted climbing to be a release, not a point of further tension. Ryan hopped on it and managed to make it through the roof with effort, at least.

The final route was a 10+ called Bullet Holes, a fun, meandering route with two cruxes, including a mini dyno. Ryan absolutely sailed up it. I enjoyed it too, except for the wind gusts that picked up at the end, blowing chalk into my eyes and making cleaning the route somewhat unpleasant.

View of the crag from the car

Leaving the crag, we went back into town and ran a speedy couple miles along the river on the beautiful river walk. It once again felt very good to exert ourselves and release the set backs of the week. We then spent some time washing up in the river, really embracing our granola side.

I was too intrigued not to stop in the liquor store nearby, called “Mansface.” It had a drive up window and a sign for “The Coldest Beer in Town.” Inside, there were several old guys seated around the cash register drinking Modelos, as if it were a bar. One was named Bones. Ryan found a sign that said “Hippies use side door,” and inquired if we should be let out that direction, to the chuckle of all those inside. We got a citrus wheat made by a Wyoming brewery and left cheerfully.

Camp was right outside town and stellar. We had a gorgeous sunset and felt so at peace, eating taco bowls and listening to music. By 9 we were ready to turn in, watching a couple TV shows by the green light of Ryan’s headlamp with fruit snacks. “It’s like we’re at the movies!”

I’m finishing writing this at camp, where we are sipping coffee and Ryan is reading me excerpts from The Hobbit. We will be making moves to Jackson Hole for the weekend, hoping to play a bit in the Tetons. Send your recommendations if you have them!

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