Thursday, July 17, 2008

Would you like a little bit of culture with that climbing?

We arrived tired, worn out, and sick of mosquitos and guerrilla camping. For four nights and three days Brian opened up his Fayetteville house to us. But not only that, he showed us an awesome Arkansas time. We owe him more than we can ever repay.

Sunday morning started lazily
with crepes and a laptop party! Strawberry, raspberry… it all melted (from the crepe) into my face. Yum!

It was half past one when the Nates and Brian dropped me off at “the square” and from there I flew sola through the deserted streets of Fayetteville, peering into darkened store windows. With the sun still very high in the sky, I made my way to the normally hopping Dickson Street. Empty. Sunday afternoon empty.

Two hours later the tired, happy, and hungry guys picked me up and we headed to JJ’s for late lunchtime sandwiches. I take them up on their offer for free smells.

Mmmmm… Delicious sandwiches.

When Nate and I set out on this trip, oh about 17 days ago, it was pretty evident that he wanted to do a lot of climbing. I, on the other hand, wanted to see the country. I wanted to explore the little towns, talk to locals, and see what Middle America was all about. So far… we’ve done a lot of climbing. A lot of climbing. Borderline too much climbing if you ask me. Not enough balance with the other stuff we were going to do. But that night I get some of the culture I’d been waiting for.

Brian drove us down to a bar by the railroad tracks. We sipped beer and grooved to the sounds of a local bluegrass band. “This is the REAL country music,” says Brian. “These guys actually live in the country, not in big mansions.” And they were awesome. The fiddle player’s dredded beard forced him to play from his elbow. The bar was smoky, and the crowd cheered as the banjo player sang about Arkansas. My feet kept the beat as my eyes and ears just took it all in.
Songs were about drinking beer, skirting the law, and things you don't want to tell your kids about (or the people reading your blog about). We had to leave the redneck hippies before they were done playing due to the prospect of an early morning. We were still humming the crazy lyricked tunes when our heads hit the pillow.

5am. The alarm goes off.
The sun isn’t even awake yet. Drive off to Horseshoe Canyon Ranch before the heat sets in. I sleep the whole car ride and miss sunrise. When we hop out of the car, the sun is already beating down on us. After a short hike with our gear we get to the goat rocks, so named because there are goat droppings everywhere. We try and tiptoe around them, but they cover every inch of the ground. Squish. Ugh.

Wham! We knock out an awesome 5.8, a double-crux 5.9+, a painful 5.10a, and a fantastic 5.9+. With three people and two ropes, we use our time efficiently and somehow there is someone climbing at all times. Not bad for a morning, but around 1pm I start getting hungry.

The flies share our pb&j’s on the trading post porch. Most comfortable swinging bench ever!

Back in the car, where the flies have taken over, we squeak away on the rough dirt road to the river. Stretch our legs over the local foliage. Oh no. Wait. Was that poison ivy?! Yup. Good think I’m wearing long pants and closed toe shoes. Whew.

Down by the Buffalo National River, I slipped into the refreshingly chilly water while Nate and Brian tried to set up a slackline from one bank to the other. They gave up and started climbing on a cliff over the water. I swam over and immediately we were ambushed by black flies. We met some locals who were tanning and climbing. Patagonia is NOT in Pakistan! Ugh Americans.

The sun started hiding and goosebumplies started emerging. I climbed up a tree and read my book.

Surprise! Nate wanted to do more climbing. I was tired and wanted to start contemplating dinner options. I even made some ridiculous compromising offers, but he rejected them. His heart was set on climbing. I had no choice but to go along.

I was promised that it would be a “short” bouldering session.
I think Nate and I have different definitions of “short.” We crossed a rickety, swaying, knee-buckling bridge and hiked up a path, which had more poison ivy. We thought nothing of it. Found some boulders. The guys hopped on route after route. I sat with my book, but couldn’t get any reading done because the gnats had come out for dinner. I slapped gnats to pass the time. After one more route after one more route, I finally gave Nate the look. It was time to go.

The sun set as we wound our way back to Fayetteville. Our minds turned to dinner. After entertaining the prospect of a BBQ, we decided that we were too hungry to attempt to cook. We needed food, quick! And in large quantities!
But it was close to 10pm when we got back. It was a Monday night.

We drove around, accompanied by our hungry growling tummies. Nothing was open. We walked around, almost about to give up hope… but there was one pizza place that was still open. Score!
I leave the restaurant feeling slightly too full, but exhausted. Longest day EVER!

In the morning, after a quick load of laundry and shower, we packed up our things. Tiny itchy bumps started adorning our bodies. Were they bug bites? No. They were poison ivy. And they were all over. Oh great. We stopped for some Benadryl and a picture. Look at our sad sad sad itchy faces.

Farmers market. Sweet nectarines and tart blackberries. Friendly vendors. Warm sun.

Back at the apartment, Whoopie Pie got inspired to write another song. So they went at it with the same passion and determination that I set into packing the car. The air was already filled to the brim with heat and I was sweaty and shoving things into the car. With my stellar packing job (if I do say so myself, and I do), for the first time in the history of this trip, we could see out of a sliver of the rear window. The boys finished their song and we were ready to set off.

As we pulled out of the driveway we waved goodbye to Brian and gave a last honk! Arkansas was an awesome stop. Brian went over and beyond what we had hoped for. I could tell that Nate didn’t want to leave, but so a roadtrip goes. Good friends and fun places pass by, but you gotta keep moving.

And keep moving we did.

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