Monday, August 28, 2006

If I die tomorrow...

That is one of the questions that convinced me to take this trip. If I die tomorrow, am I doing today what I would want to be doing?

Maybe because there are no more mice, or maybe because Megan comes back tomorrow (I am quite excited for her return), or maybe because I have met some incredible people, or maybe because climbing in maple is so damn fun, but I woke up today feeling like I could answer yes to that question. Of course, don't take this too literal, but life is about as good as I can imagine right now. The only thing missing is my community of friends and family. Anyone want to come to maple?

Because I like it so much, I think I'll stay through labor day and then cruise to Boulder after sometime next week. Hopefully by them I can send the 6000 projects that I have at Maple. They are staring to get knocked down slowly, but it could take till next week to do them all.

Some of the people I have hung out with:
Amy and Kyle from Flagstaff. These two were camped across from me and I ended up climbing with them for two days. Amy is freshly pregnant, so she was redpointing on toprope which was driving her nuts, but she was still having a grand old time. Kyle finally did his 13a project in Box canyon and was super stoked. The energy was sarcastic, crass and supportive. Good people.
Dan, Josh and Kat. Josh is the guy who lives in Chiang Mai, Kat is his Thai partner and Dan is Josh's brother. I look forward to working and climbing with Josh and Kat in Thailand. Josh has a really cool approach to tourism and I feel like I can learn a lot about guiding, working with people and developing routes with him. Kat seems really cool and I can't wait to speak Thai so I can communicate with her better (although she speaks english quite well, but I's love to try to speak in Thai with her). Dan is a music producer and fun guy to be around.
Pablo from Provo. Pablo seems like the Provo version of "Coach." For those of you who don't know who coach is, well ask around and find out. Pablo and I shared some Olympia beers last night and chatted about this and that.
4 Mormon girls. These four mormon girls (one from Moroni, the tiny town close to Maple whose economy is strictly driven by turkey farming). They invited me over to their fire for Peach cobbler made in a dutch oven. I thought about bringing my 24 oz. Miller High life over with me, but left it in my van. No reason to make things uncomfortable. I heard some funny stories about growing up in Moroni and working part time in the turkey plant. Did you know that the necks that come with turkeys don't always belong to turkey you are eating? After a neck fight in the plant, they just have to pick up the necks and stuff them into some turkey.

Anyway, life is great. It will be even better tomorrow when Megan comes back, and wish you all were here.


Mice, More Mice, Lots of Mice, No Mice

The final catch was up around 27 mice. I only killed 3 of them.

At the last post I was optimistic that I would be able to get all the mice that night. I had bought some nifty "live mice" traps and was sure I had what it took to eradicate the little guys. The live mice traps worked for crap, and I made some critical miscalculations. The first miscalculation was assuming that VW would make their camper vans mouse proof. Seems like a logical thing, eh? Turns out there are two vents in the back of the car under the bumper that mice can just run right in. VW claims that they are there to create a flow of air through the van, but I just want to say that the van probably has isn't so airtight that they need to put these in. After catching 8 mice, followed by 7 the next night, I figured out the vents and plugged them with a modified beer can (and mormons say that beer isn't good for anything). O.k. That should take care of it. Nope. I still caught 5 more that night. Unfortunately, I used these glue traps which are about the saddest thing you have ever seen. The mice run onto them get completely stuck in the glue and then struggle about getting even more stuck. It broke my heart to see the little guys with their faces and feet plastered to the glue and twitching about. The directions said you can free the mice if you pour oil on the glue and pry them loose. This I did (at 4 in the morning) and it wasn't a lot of fun. I hooked up with a guy, Joe, to climb one day and told him of my saga. He said that the mice were taking advantage of me and probably just running right back into the van (using some other way to get in besides the vents). He suggested keeping them in a container of sorts over night and then releasing them somewhere way far away. Duh! Why didn't I think of that. I caught 4 more that night and took them a few miles from the campground for humane release.
At this point, my miceatarian tendencies were starting to wane and I went and bought some traditional mousetraps. That night I set 4, went over to my neighbors site for dinner and when I came back, I found 2 dead buggers in the traps. I set them all again, went to bed and found one more dead guy in the morning. And guess what, last night I caught no mice! None. It was silent in the car. No more of the haunting scratching sound coming from all angles of the van. No more chewing sounds. No more false sounds of the "live traps" shutting closed. Nothing. So... does this mean the mice are gone? Does this mean that killing a few spread the word that I mean business and that they should stay away? Have I really sealed the van? Are my nights now going to be boring without mice to keep me entertained? Who knows, but I feel like I have learned a lot about mice, trapping mice, and killing mice in the last week.


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Of Mice and Maple

Furry creatures and big falls.

Some people find mice to be horrifying: Conjuring up images of satan and death. Other find them benign and even somewhat cute. After all, they are nature's vacuum cleaner. Previous to last night, I was always of the mindset of the latter. So they run around you stuff when you camp. So they may even run across my toes when I'm sleeping. Yeah.. they have huanta (sp?) virus, but just don't go sticking your head in mouse's poop and you'll be o.k.. Well, that was before I owned a small r.v. with lots cool places for mice to hide.

Let me go back to the days previous to catch you up on where I am. Skip this part if you don't really care about climbing.
On Saturday, I returned from Sacramento, hopes high that I'll be able to pick up the van and have no more car troubles. The pick up when flawlessly. Rather than go directly down to maple canyon, I decided I could use one more city night before heading off into the land with such names of towns as Mt. Pleasant, Nephi, Moroni, and Manti. I called my friend Dan Morris who is the brother of Josh Morris, the super cool guy who lives in Chiang Mai and has done most of the development of the climbing there. Rather responsibly, I might add, but more on that later.
Dan and I went out to his friend's converted warehouse space to a little party, drank 3.2 beer all night, never really got drunk and talked to some interesting people.
The next day found us in Maple where we climbed for 2 days. We spent the end of the second day at a place called the compound (sure wish I had a photo of it, but that will have to wait until megan returns). We both got worked on a pretty cool 12c called GunTower. It has a meaningful crux right at the end after pulling out what must be a 45 degree overhanging wall for about 8 or 9 bolts. Pretty stout but fun. The second day was spent futzing around on 11's of some sort or another and then ended up at the minimum crag where I got on a 12b called afterburner or something. On my second go, I got to the anchors without falling but then somehow just didn't see the finish jug and ended up pumping myself to oblivion trying to clip the anchors. I even tried grabbing the anchors, but by that point, I was too pumped to hand onto draws. I took the whip, and it was a pretty big one. The last piece was a good 6 feet below my feet. However, the route is long and overhanging, so the fall was fun and squishy. I suppose I could say I redpointed the climb and just decided to take the whip in celebration, but I feel like I'll need to go back and do it again soon.
Well... the night that Dan and Ryan stayed at the campsite, we made a fire, drank thai whiskey and stayed up a little too late. I had spaced out and left the van open for hours and hours while we joked away the evening. Additionally, I had opened the compartment next to the fridge to see into the inner working of the fridge to try to fix the damn thing and left it open. This grants access to any small fury creature to the unmentionable parts of the van. Places where only small critters can go (and perhaps die). I get the bed all ready, climb up and relax for a long peaceful slumber. Then I hear the little fellow (i was naive and thought there was just one). So, I think, I'll lure him out of the van's hiding spots with cheese curds. Then, and this is where the plan seemed to make sense at the time, will wait in the loft and when I see him, I'll throw my flip-flop at him and push him out the open side door and then my troubles will be over. I even brought a couple of flip flops up in the loft with me just in case I missed the first time. So there I am, 3 in the morning, headlamp pointing on the floor, my arm hanging out of the loft and I'm ready as I can be to push that little sucker right out the door. 15 minutes goes by and I finally see the champ, but he won't run over to the open door to get the cheese. 30 minutes in he runs to the cheese but I miss him. 45 minutes in, no sign of a mouse. 60 minutes in, I'm furious and have to finally give up. So, I think, I'll leave the side door open because maybe he'll want to go back to his family in the morning and just leave the van.
the next day dawns, I climb all day, say goodbye to Dan and Ryan and go back to the van to make a delicious meal of sausage, bell pepper and pace picante sauce all reduced and put over pasta. Yummy. It starts to get dark, and then I hear the mouse. He's still in the car, dammit. O.k. I can outsmart the mouse. I set up a large cutting board with the lid of my Dutch oven propped up with a rock attached to a string. I slide some peanut butter under the lid, crawl on the seat with my headlamp on and wait ever so quietly. After about a half hour he pokes his little head out of the refrigerator exit. My adrenaline starts to pump, he slowly makes his way under the lid, my muscles tighten and I pull the rock out swiftly catching the bugger under the lid. I let out a loud "Yes!" and dance a celebratory jig. I take the cutting board and lid, walk down the road some and release my rascally rodent into the wild (presumably to go off and be with his family- cute little guy).
Time for bed. No more mice. Life is good. Then... at about 3 in the morning I am woken to the sound of scratching around the car. There are more! I crawl out of the loft, set up the trap and crawl back up waiting for him to come around. Only five minutes this time and I pull out the rock and catch another one. No sooner do I release this one do I hear another one. O.k.- whatever, there are some mice in my car. The might leave some poop, they may even eat some food, but what happens if they die in the depths of the car, or have babies or never decide to leave. I start to explore various parts of the car and find a nest made of various packagings of my food. I go to the "secure" food compartment and find little holes in all the packaging. I've got to get these guys, no matter how many there are. I set the trap, climb back up and after 45 minutes of staring at the ground, I catch another one. I'm done for the night now. I don't care if there is another mouse, because tomorrow, I'm buying 10 mouse traps and setting them all around the car. I don't care about catching them live anymore. I want them gone!
For the rest of the night, I keep waking up to the sounds of scratching but choose to ignore it. I will kill them all tomorrow. They can only do so much damage in one night. Marshall: 3, Mice: 4 hours of my life.
I get up this morning to poop all around the van and drive to Mt Pleasant to buy mouse traps. However, once I'm at the store, my heart turns soft and I buy live traps. I sure hope they work. Wish me luck!

Love, Marshall

Friday, August 18, 2006

Plan C implemented

Megan and I spent the entire day in Orem (just outside of Provo- the most conservative city in the US- literally- 80% of provo voted for Bush). We walked around through many parking lots and 60s housing. We did manage to find a health food store and felt like we had found an oasis of non-mormons. Still couldn't find any coffee though. We went and saw "some pirate movie" as the woman at the ticket counter described Pirates of the Caribbean 2 at this funky community theater.
After the movie, we walked back to the dealership where they informed us that they had ordered the wrong part and that the van wasn't going to be done that day. Oh well. Time to implement plan C. I called my friend Heath in Salt Lake, he came and picked us up and we stayed at his place. I took megan to the airport this morning with heath's truck and then he took me to the airport on his lunch break. I think that Heath is one of the nicest people in the world. He really got us out of this bind.

So here I am in Sacramento, CA enduring a little heat and getting ready to do my last bit of work for quite a while. I fly back to Salt Lake tomorrow, go back to lovely Orem (I am missing it already), and then cruise to Maple for a week and a half of climbing adventures. Yippee.

In the future, I will post pictures, but Megan took the camera back east with her and we never got around to dumping the photos to my computer.


The First Post- VW adventures

Aug 17, 2006- A bad day

Despite Dan being laid off from his job we had some bad news from our front, which makes Aug 17 a bad day:

So some news from our trip. The climbing was fun in maple and I am starting to feel strong again after only climbing for 3 days there. The plan was to to take Megan to the airport on wednesday night but as we were driving up to Salt Lake, I noticed the A/C in Marge (the van) wasn't working. I checked the fuses and sure enough, the fuse was out but when I tried to replace it, it just blew again. Oh well, I though, don't really need the A/C right now so we jumped back on the freeway and started driving. After about 15 minutes we heard a snap and then smelled burning rubber. The battery light came on and I pulled off the freeway instantly. I managed to drive the Van into an apartment complex parking lot (the power steering wasn't working). And turned it off. Upon inspection I was managed to pull the A/C, powersteering, alternator belt right out. It had snapped. What surprised my was how far we could drive the van on just the battery with no alternator. After some discussion Megan, we decided that this could be an epic fix on the van and megan called to reschedule her flight rather than leave me in Provo by myself with a broken car. I felt bad making her postpone her trip, but I kind of didn't want to be left alone out here in the heart of mormon country.
We grabbed a phone book and looked up foreign garages around where we were and saw that there is actually a volkswagon dealer about a mile from where we were parked. We decided to spend the night in the parking lot and then attempt to drive the van on the battery from where we were to the dealer. Kind of a sleepless night as I was running through all the scenarios in my mind as to what we would do if the battery ran out half way to the dealer on the busy street. "There is an extra battery in the back" I thought, "I could pull it out and use it to finish the voyage." Half way through the night, I heard a car pull up and park in front of our van. Then I saw a flashlight. I looked out through the window and saw a guy with a clamp about the clamp our tire. After I knocked on the window he told me I had to move my car because this lot is for tenants only (the lot was mostly empty). I told him the car was broken down and that we planned to move it in the morning, but he told me to move it now or it would be towed. So we got up and pushed the van to a safer spot. I was afraid to turn it on for fear of running the battery down and didn't want to commit to the trip to the dealer in the middle of the night just in case we couldn't make it. I figured it would be easier to tow the van in the morning rather than at 3 in the morning. So there was megan pushing the van across an empty parking lot to spot we were aloud to park in the middle of the night.
Finally morning came and it was time to drive the thing. We were both glued to the windshield, hearts pumping as we drove as quickly as possible and at as low as rpms as possible (so as not to use to many sparks), to the dealership up the road. We didn't say a word as we cruised up the road and then spotted the dealer. Without incident, we pulled into the dealer parking lot and breathed a sigh of relief at not having to wave down traffic while waiting for a tow truck.

So here we are at the VW dealer and I just got the estimate for the belt and the AC compressor (the compressor was seized up)- $1000. That sucks! We could maybe call around and see if we can get it done elsewhere, but here we are and so it goes.

Anyway, hopefully we can get the job done today so megan can make her 8 am flight tomorrow. If not, we'll come up with a plan C.