Sunday, January 25, 2015

What Happens In Vegas...

After our rock climbing venture, Leo and I headed back towards Sin City. No, we did not get married by a preacher who looked like Elvis, though we may have joked about taking a picture portraying just that. Alas, there was no time for such shenanigans. Upon our arrival, we found our hotel, the Excalibur, which looks like a Disney castle and the guys started arguing over who was going to sleep in the Cinderella bed and who was going to get to sleep in the Belle bed. Once we finally got to our rooms, they were all quite upset to find only normal beds, and Leo immediately tried to open our 22nd story window so that he could rappel down the side of the building. Thankfully, it was sealed pretty well and he was one drink past putting real effort into opening it completely. 
I got to meet the Blackside Concepts crew that Leo works with, and needless to say, it was a sausage fest of Rangers. While they were all really cool and complete gentlemen, I honestly couldn't have been much happier when they said they were leaving to have a business meeting. Leo is great and all, but man I love my alone time! And after not having had any for almost a week of living in the van with him, I was quite content to walk the strip alone and then take a nap for a while. 
The next few days basically consisted of us all attending a few parties. First was the article 15 party at the house they rented. It was a rather nice place with enough whiskey to drown a dozen camels and plenty of beer. Leo and JT wound up serenading everyone at the party for a short time, signaling for a few fellas to strip down to ranger panties and jump in the hot tub.
JT and Leo serenading everyone
 For everyone's sake, I'll not show a picture of the fellas in their ranger panties. A few beers into the night I got dared by Tawny (aka @tacticalbikini of instagram) to punch Mat Best. For some reason, I thought this was a wonderful idea. I didn't hit him hard, and he took it like a champ, imploring me to box with him, to which I was obligated to oblige. He feeds pads (or palms, whatever) quite different than what I'm used to, so I kept throwing the wrong jab, but it was actually quite fun. Also, they introduced everyone to their new "Lead Slinger's Whiskey." I have to say, I hate whiskey. I can't shoot it, and I can't really mix it either because I'm a total bitch when it comes to alcohol. Honestly though, that shit is smooth. If I have to drink any kind of whiskey, it's going to be Lead Slingers. If it's stout enough for a bunch of rangers like the art 15 boys, and smooth enough for a bitch like myself, it's good shit.
Boxing with Mat Best

The next night Leo had a black and tan party to attend that was for members of the 75th Ranger battalion. It was on the 57th floor in a pent house in the Palms. The view was spectacular, but unfortunately, I don't have a photo. Immediately afterwards, we headed for the Ranger Up party at the Chateau night club in the Paris. Despite my failure to remember my ID, the door man was easily convinced that it had simply fallen out of my bra in the bathroom, and I was in fact old enough to get into the party. Win for this girl. A few folks from the black and tan party were there, and we had full access to the VIP lounge. I also got to meet Tim Kennedy, the SOFREP founders, and several other interesting folks. It would appear that Leo knows just about everybody. I was doing quite well with my alcohol consumption until the end of the night. Leo had just bought me a drink when the lights came on. Being someone that's not from Vegas, I took this as an indication that I needed to chug my drink before exiting the building. That was a horrible idea. I won't say that I would have fallen over had I not been holding onto Leo's arm, but he definitely provided me with a good bit of welcome stability.
The following day I woke up still drunk with a sinus infection and a low grade fever. The perfect way to fly home. Thankfully, Leo had given me a pink beanie earlier in the week that provided me with just enough darkness to try and sleep on the plane. Since my return, my pursuit of all things Europe has begun. I've sold several of my big ticket items, and only have a few more to go. Next I have to file my taxes, quit my job, and sell my car. Then I'll be on a one-way flight to Europe!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Pulling On Rocks

Once again yesterday, Leo and I woke up in the van to a rather nice Arizona sunrise. Our initial plan for the day had been to go to Havasu Falls and swim, no matter the temperature of the water. But after hiking Brighg Angel the day before, I was quite frankly over hiking and there was no way I was hiking 8 miles in to swim for an hour and hike 8 miles back. It just wasn't happening. Since the Bright Angel had been my idea, it was Leo's turn to pick an activity. It took all of two seconds for him to decide that we should go rock climbing and even less time for me to jump on board. He navigated (I think?) for a bit trying to find a place near our route to climb, and we backtracked a little ways to find it. By "find it" I mean that we drove around for a couple of hours trying to follow shitty directions which didn't take you anywhere near where we should have been, and the GPS coordinates given for the climb were literally in the middle of fucking nowhere. Once we finally decided we had found the right place we parked (whether or not our parking spot choice was legal is questionable at best) and set out on a hike. A burrow nearly attacked us, but we like to live dangerously. The hike that we took wound up 1) Being on a game trail rather than the actual hiking trail 2) Not taking us anywhere near where the routes were set. We did find some cool caves though. In a last ditch effort to find the fabled prebolted sport route the website spoke of, we made our way back towards the van, bush-whacking it along the cliff face. About half way back we heard voices, and Lo and behold we found climbers on the sport route we had been looking for. They were super chill and immediately invited us to climb with them, to which we obviously obliged. There was a 5.7, a 5.8, and a 5.10 all right in the same spot. Leo hadn't climbed outdoors in a good 5 years and I've only ever even climbed outdoors once back in high school. To be honest, I don't even remember if I made it up the wall I had tried back then, so these climbs were perfect. Once Timmy (one of the climbers we met) set up the top rope on the 5.7 and 5.8 (they could both be done from the same top rope position), Frank (another of the climbers) ascended, then Leo. Oz was the next one up, and it was his first time pulling rocks and swinging on ropes. Despite the fact that he was baked and a little tipsy, he was literally shaking with fear when he was getting tied up. You could tell he wasn't really hearing much of the instructions Timmy was giving him, but he got on the rock anyway. Honestly, I don't know if he would have gotten on it if he had been sober. It took him a while to get up, and he almost gave up, but Timmy and Frank had convinced him that he literally couldn't come down until he reached the top because the equipment just wouldn't work like that. He got to the top and they made him kiss the caribeaner before he could sit back and begin his descent. He was shaking worse than someone in the final stages of Parkinson's. It was fucking hilarious. When he finally made it down, I honestly though he was going to vomit all over the place. Instead, he just kissed the ground repeatedly while we all laughed. He was a good sport about it all though. Next was my turn. While I haven't been on belay in I don't even know how long, I do have a knack for climbing things, and any time I go hiking I climb basically anything and everything I can just for the hell of it. I made it up and back down the 5.7 pretty quickly. Leo then gave me a crash course on how to belay him which consisted of him telling me that my right hand was the break hand and he was tying me to a bolt in the ground so I didn't fly up the wall if he fell. Honestly, I probably wouldn't have trusted me to belay me, seeing as how I had next to no clue what was going on. Once Leo was on the wall, Timmy came over and gave me a little more detailed job description of a belayer. Which is probably a good thing cause I won't say that I was getting it right. At all. I got my ascent on the 5.8 while Timmy and Frank played on the 5.10. Leo took a day and a half to go up the 5.10, but that was fine because it was just at sunset and some of the pictures I got of him kicked a whole lot of ass. 
After we finished climbing and packed up all the gear, we followed our new friends down the actual trail to the van and then to a local brewery in Kingman called Black Bridge Brewery. I'm not a fan of any type of beer, but they had a raspberry wheat beer that I could drink all day every day. That shit was on point. Also, there's a couple different restaurants that deliver to the bar and the bartenders will call in your order for you. We choked down on some of the most kick ass pizza I've had in a while, then made our way across the street to a wine bar. I'm not sure what else they have there, but the moscato was quite delectable. Eventually, they turned out the lights and we had to say goodbye to our new friends. All in all, it was a pretty kick ass day, and I'm definitely going to have to get into climbing now. Leo suggested that I take my harness, shoes, ATC, and figure 8 to Europe with me and meet up with climbers on my trip around the world. A suggestion I fully intend on fulfilling. 

Friday, January 16, 2015


Yesterday, Leo and I woke up to this view just outside of Page, AZ.  Pretty fucking awesome for camping off a random side road. While Leo made breakfast, I entertained my inner child and climbed on some nearby rock formations. Afterwards, we headed for the Lower Antelope Canyon, which one of Leo's friends had suggested. We weren't disappointed. I won't fill up the blog with a ton of unnecessary pictures. If you google antelope canyon you'll get enough pictures to almost make you sick of the place. None of them do it justice though. Go. You have to go with a tour guide, but it's less than $30/person. Our tour guide was super cool too. He knew plenty about the canyon and enough about photography show Leo how to get some really cool pictures utilizing all the neat features on his fancy camera.
Right after our tour we made a B line for the Grand Canyon. We started to use old hwy 89, but it was closed due to a big landslide a couple years ago, and because I'm a horrible navigator, I didn't realize that there's an alternate hwy 89 that would have been super short for us to detour to. Instead we went back up into Utah. But hey, along the way we found a nice boulder to climb around on. So that's a plus. On the flip side, Leo is currently driving to I don't even know where, using his GPS as his only navigation. 
We finally made it to the Grand Canyon national park last night and got a room so we could clean up. Camping is awesome, but I fucking love showers. Hot showers. Long, hot showers. Our plan this morning was to step onto Bright Angel Trail by 8, but sleeping in was just too tempting. We made it to the trail and caught a glimpse of this sign. 
Immediately after seeing it, we both said something along the lines of, "Fuck that sign! We got this shit!" We made it to the Colorado river by 1140 (we started at 0850), and took a 30 minute break to have lunch and chill out. Btw, the water in the Colorado River is fucking cold. We started our trek back up the mountain and made it to the Indian Garden (3 miles from the river) in just over an hour. We picked up the pace a little after that and made the next three miles right at an hour. As we got higher up the light was better for pictures (the shade on the way down in the early morning wasn't the least bit conducive to our efforts at photography) so we slowed down and took in some kick ass views.  The closer we got to the top the colder it got. Apparently, in the 75th Ranger regiment they have a saying that says, "travel light, freeze at night" so Leo basically only carried a light jacket, water, and sandwiches. Well let me tell you something, I'm a fucking civilian and I hate being cold more than terrorism. I wore a Patagonia base layer, a t-shirt, a Nike pullover, and a hoodie. On my torso. I shed all but the t-shirt by the time we got to the bottom, but I put my Nike pullover back on on the way up. And my gloves. I would have donned my beanie and hoodie as well, but my fingers quit working and I couldn't open my bag, and Leo had already gotten out my gloves for me. I suffered through the rest of the way to the top. And there was snow. Fucking snow.  I hate snow. If I'm not snowboarding in it, I don't want anything to do with it. But shortly thereafter, we made it back to the top, coming in at just under seven hours. Of course, this was necessary.  We were both soaked with sweat. Freezing sweat. It's been almost 3 hours since we finished and my fair weather ass is just now beginning to warm up. Ridiculous. I'm really not sure where we're going tomorrow, but I'm sure it'll be a kick ass time! I'll let you know how this mystery venture goes when I get the chance. Until then..

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Angel's Landing

What I feel like is the rest of my life started yesterday. I say it's the rest of my life because I've come to the conclusion that I'm going to quit life, sell pretty much everything I own, and travel. Yesterday, that journey began. I flew into Las Vegas where Leo picked me up and we headed straight for Utah's Zion National Park. After we grabbed some firewood and food, we set out for the Watchman campground near the south entrance. Since we're sleeping in Leo's van on this trip (which is outfitted with the worlds most comfortable bed, a stove, and all the comforts of home), we didn't have to suffer the cold in order to put up a tent. Thank God. 

Since we got to Zion after dark last night, I had little idea about what it looked like until this morning when I woke up and saw this. 

The fact that this view was so unexpected just multiplied the awesomeness of it all, and this iPhone picture certainly doesn't do it justice. While Leo cooked breakfast, I employed my thumbs to search for where the trailhead was, since neither of us had bothered to find out beforehand. Thankfully, it wasn't far from our campground. Everything I've seen so far on the Internet says the hike to the top of Angel's landing and back should take about 5 hours. It took Leo and I about 3 hours to ascend the 1,800 ft to the top, chill out for half an hour, eat some granola bars, take some pictures, then get back to the van. The fact that Leo hikes uphill at what most people would consider a brisk walk had nothing to do with it, I'm sure. 
I've never been afraid of heights, and I still won't say that I am, because I'll walk right up to any cliff edge and have a seat with my feet dangling. I will say this though, I was happy to have the chains to hold onto, and if I ever hike that trail again, I'll do it in something with better treads than Nike frees. To say the view from the top was spectacular would be the understatement of the year (thus far). 
Again, iPhone pictures don't do good justice to this view, you'll have to go see it for yourself sometime. Of course, no pier of rocks 1,800 ft above the ground is complete without pistol squats. 
 Or funky looking hand stands.. 
 Life is no fun until you get close to the edge anyway. 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Year, New Nothing.

I hate New Years. That's a lie. I hate New Years resolutions. Anyone who waits until they have to buy a new calendar to set a goal for themselves is not only lazy, but not going to achieve jack shit. Goals are meant to be set, pursued, and achieved on a continuing basis; not professed right after a new years kiss, pursued for a month, then forgotten, only to have the same process with the same goal repeated 365 days later.
I do, however, find New Years to be a good time of reflection. The holidays are finally over, some people are about to return to the black hole of intelligence that is commonly referred to as school or college (NOT THIS GIRL, MOTHER FUCKERS!!!), and most of us are planning to attend some type of party. Or working. I'd just like to give a quick shout out to all the emergency services personnel and military members working on New Years. It is the most dangerous day of the year for the boys in blue, and I'm beyond ecstatic that this year it falls on my regularly scheduled weekend and I won't be at work. Anyway. Back to reflection. After the last two months of suffering through an overdose of family time and wading through finals I utilized some of this free time which I have yet to grow accustomed to think about the things I learned in 2014. Here's the list I came up with:

1) College is a lie.
2) Enjoy being single. Few men are worth a power-walk.
3) Free time. It's a rare commodity. Use it. Love it.
4) Some things are better with a buzz.
5) Regular adventures are important to your overall happiness.
6) Having a purpose is equally important.

#1 - A lot of the world probably disagrees with me on this one (except for graduating high-schoolers arguing with their parents, using Bill Gates as their examples as why they don't need to receive any form of higher education), but I don't really give a shit. College has its merits, particularly for those who wouldn't figure out how to grow up and move out otherwise, but a degree is not what's going to get you a big bank roll. Everyone and their dog has a degree these days, and a lot of them are unemployed or not working in their field of study. Professionalism and valuable, relative experience can start to get you a job, but I've discovered that a lot of what it comes down to is not even who you know, but rather, who knows you. I've met the CEO of Tyson a handful of times, but I can't say that I really know him very well. In fact, I can't even remember his first name right now. But his family and mine have been friends for years. His kids are the same age as some of my older siblings, my mom is friends with his wife, and he employs my sister. This caused him to hire me to house sit for them at one of their lake houses over Christmas a few years ago. On top of my regular pay, they gave me a hefty Christmas bonus, something I certainly didn't deserve since I'd only house sat for them twice that year, but he knew me. He knew I was trying to move, that I was going to have some extra expenses, and gave me an extra check. The point is, I don't know this man. This wealthy, generous, humble man whose name I can't even remember gave me a job opportunity and some much needed extra income because he knew my name and my reputation; not because I met him at a party once.

#2 - This is simply my personal experience with my ex. Honestly though, if you're the woman in the relationship and you call him "your drama mamma," that should be a sign to run, not walk, to the nearest exit. I relearned my lesson though, I guess. Being single is a ton of fun, and it can be lonely, but it's not as lonely has having a boyfriend who breaks every promise he makes. Don't waste your time. Instead, focus on just doing you. Have fun with your friends, go on adventures, learn a new skill, and just chill the fuck out. If somebody worth having comes along, then fine, but make sure he's worth having before you dive into that. But don't chase. Take Mat Best's wise T-shirt advice and just power-walk.. Preferably after one with a beard and tattoos. And if you don't get that reference, you need to get your life right and become an American. Here's how.

#3 - Oh my God, free time! For basically the last six years, I've been too busy with work and school to even have a glimpse at what the fabled "free time" was. Until this past summer. I was only working one full-time job, and I didn't have any summer classes. Honestly, I've never had so much fun in just a few months. I went on road trips, I had adventure Tuesdays, went kayaking, skydiving, running, mountain biking, hiking, boating, bowling, swimming, and whatever the fuck else I felt like doing. God it was glorious. Then school started back up. Now that I'm done with college forever, I don't know what to do with my free time. I know I want to chill out for a couple months before I dive into my career (whenever I figure out what the next step is going to be), but I'm having a hard time figuring out how to chill again. I'm a fair weather girl, and dead trees are just fucking ugly. So things like kayaking and hiking have lost their allure for the time being. I'll get it figured out though. I'm not so easily deterred.

#4 - Do I even need to explain this? I'm not saying you need to get hammered to have a good time, but a good buzz can exponentially increase the hilarity of a lot of situations. Also, if tequila even touches my tongue I can go from being the wort person to be around to the happiest mother fucker on planet earth.

#5 - Two words: Adventure Tuesdays (probably Saturdays for all you fuckers with an 8-5. Lucky bastards) I guess I discovered this over this last summer when I was finding out what free time was and how it's best utilized. I'd had no idea how miserable I was in school until summer was coming to an end and I crammed in a road trip to Houston/Galveston/San Antonio and a camping trip in one week. #4 also played a big role in that week, and by the end of it I had jumped off a cliff, gotten a sunburn that would make the devil himself jealous, taught myself to surf, vomited uncontrollably in the woods, and I suspect I was nearly eaten by a mountain lion. I regret nothing.

#6 - As alluring as it sounds to just have life be one big party and adventure all the time, you need a purpose. Or at least I do. I guess I've always known that I needed a purpose, and I've desperately searched for one that fits me, one that I can enjoy and make a career out of, but it never hit as hard as it did these last couple of weeks since graduating. Nothing hits you in the face like someone saying, "Oh, you graduated college, where are you working now?" I know I'm very fortunate to have a good paying, full-time job and no college loans to be paying off, but there's nothing I hate more than answering that question right now because the answer is "the same fucking thing I've been doing for the last three years." I love my job, really I do, but it's nothing I want to make a career out of. It was purely meant to get me through college and no further. I'm the kind of person that's always had the next ten steps figured out. Honestly, for a while I did have the next several steps figured out, but not anymore. Life is funny like that. I heard somewhere that life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans, and that's definitely what's happened. The simple fact that I haven't gotten it figured out yet is driving my type A personality up a wall. I do have an alter ego though, my type B side. My type B side is just enjoying the free time.

While I find reflection to be one of the more valuable things about new years, and I hate the "new year, new me" bullshit everyone tries to sell on their facebook posts, I maintain that reflection can go both ways. Resolutions are a good idea, people just don't know how to execute them. Resolutions aren't meant to come around every 365 days, they're meant to come around whenever you discover the need for improvement or change. If it's November, or June or February and you decide shit needs to happen, make that shit happen. Fuck resolutions day. I will, however, concede to the fact that in order to propel yourself forward in life, it's important to set goals for yourself (constantly, not yearly) and while the new year is a convenient time to do that, it shouldn't be the only time you do it.

No attempt at philosophy would be complete without some hippocracy, so here's my goals for 2015.
1) Fist fight a shark.
2) Eat something spicy without crying.
3) Get fired from a trebuchet.
4) Hail a cab (preferably in a foreign country where you're scared for your life as you weave in and out of traffic at neck-breaking speeds).
5) Execute Ayman Al Zawahiri - MERICA.

Set a goal. Work towards it. Achieve it. Learn from it. Up the ante and repeat.