Living in a Truck: A Manifesto

Meet my tiny universe.

This is where I lived for the summer. Below are 10 of my best tips for living in the back of a truck (or any small space)

#1: Stay Clean(ish)

This applies to your person and to your truck. I make a point of cleaning up the cab a bit every time I refill, and getting my bedroll out requires a certain amount of open space. The entire red mat on the left in the photo must be clear for the bed to unroll. When you’re living in a small space, a small mess can become a big mess quickly. On the upside, even large messes rarely take more than 15 minutes to clean up. Also, these are a great idea, and a good deal.

#2  Have Bins

Or drawers. Or crates. Or shelves. You need something to keep everything in your small space organized and out of the way. In the same token, you don’t want stuff you need every day (like clothes) to be hard to access. If I were going to set up the truck again, I would find somewhere else to store less-used clothes so that the green drawers could be a set of two, and fit standing up.

The organization system I had for the truck worked well. I mostly cooked using the cooler as a counter, and all my food and kitchen related items were easily accessible in the open top crates. The blue bin in the back stored re-fill items, like extra rolls of toilet paper, cans of camp fuel, or packages of baby wipes.

#3 Get Indoors

You might notice that I don’t have the traditional dirtbag truck build. Instead, I use a shelf, an idea I picked up from Steph Davis. The great thing about this for me is that it avoids creating the tunnel like space that most people end up with after building storage underneath a deck. I can even sit up straight inside my truck (with a regular-height Leer cap) because I am so short. It’s win-win.

Taller folks (like my friend Tom, who is 6’4″) would probably need to get a van instead to get sittable-space. I strongly encourage having it if you’re going to live in your vehicle. It means that your vehicle can be a home on four wheels, somewhere you can hang out when you need to, instead of just a bed on four wheels. It also means that if the weather is bad for some reason, you can cook inside your vehicle. In windy conditions, this saves time and fuel, because your food will cook faster. If it’s raining, it means that you don’t have to put up a tarp to stay dry while you cook.

Home on 4 wheels

#4 Actively Avoid Accumulating More Stuff

See #1. Depending on your financial situation and the amount of spending money you have, it can be tempting to buy more stuff. This makes it harder to keep your space clean, and it also makes it harder to stick to your budget. The fewer possessions you have, the better.

#5 Bring Something Homey 

This was important for me, because I was on the road by myself. Most of the time it’s awesome, but sometimes, it’s lonely. I brought my favorite, most comfy, best-blanket-in-the-world and slept with it most nights. Bring something that will make your feel connected and loved, because at some point on the road, you might need it.

#6 Bring Entertainment

You’ll want to be able to entertain yourself, but also other people. If you like reading, a Kindle is a great idea, because it will save you a ton of space in books. If you read all your books, you can explore the large number of books Amazon will sell you for free. Be warned: some are scarily bad! A deck of cards or an easily packable board game are also great to have, in case the weather’s bad or you have to kill time until your climbs come into the shade.

#7 Bring Extra 

… of important but small and easily misplaced items, like head lamps or lighters. In fact, for lighters, you probably want something on the order of 3, not counting the one in your pack. Tie one to the stove, so you won’t lose it. Get a cheap light up key chain and keep it somewhere you can find it easily in the dark, like your glove compartment. Your back-up light can then be used to find your real head lamp.

#8 Get an Inverter

This makes charging your phone, ipod, kindle, etc easy to do if you’re driving around. If you don’t already own them, buy jumper cables at the same time, just in case. I know more than a few folks that have drained their batteries by powering things using their car.

#9 Be Comfy When You Sleep

If this means putting up screening so you can crack a window, do it. My bedding was very simple–the ridged plastic bed liner that came with the truck, covered by the red yoga mat you can see in the picture, on top on top of a 2 inch thick foam pad I got for free from a friend. I sleep deeply and well no matter where I am, so I didn’t need much in the way of creature comforts for my bed. I met people who sleep on mattresses though. Know yourself–you’ll want to be able to get a good night’s sleep.

#10 Be Safe 

Don’t park in sketchy areas. If you have a bad feeling about something, listen to it! I slept in a few rest stops along the way (generally not advisable) and more than a few Wal Marts. My rule was always to never sleep anywhere I didn’t feel safe, and only sleep in places where someone else was already sleeping. This worked out quite well for me, and I never felt threatened by anyone while I was on the road.

Anything I missed? Sound off in the comments!

Maple Canyon Dirtbag Beta

Unfortunately folks, my road trip has reached its end. As I get re-acclimated to civilized life, I’ve finished up the last installment (for now) of the dirtbag beta series. You can see my posts on Ten Sleep and Smith here and here.

Where are you going to sleep?

There are two options for camping in Maple Canyon, lettered and numbered sites. Lettered sites are better for dirt bags–unlike numbered sites, they can’t be reserved. If you occupy a lettered site, you can be assured that you won’t have to move camp. Lettered sites cost $3 per night. The other option is to stay in an un-reserved or un-occupied numbered site. There are some perks, like proximity to the right fork and left fork trailheads, and a shorter walk to the bathroom. The numbered sites cost $8 a night, and can be reserved online at www.reserveamerica.com

Rest Day Essentials: Snow College

Snow College in Ephraim, UT, can hook you up with showers and internet on your rest day. Showers, in the Rec Center at 350 East Street, are $2 a person. The ladies’ shower has stalls, the mens’ is locker-room style. An extra $1 gets you access to the pool, gym, and courts at the rec center, in case you feel the need to get your blood moving on a rest day.

The library, located nearby, has free wifi. The study rooms on the 3rd floor have big screens that can be hooked up to your computer for watching movies or tv. If you’re a mac person, you might have to bring your own adapter. As a bonus, the latest issue of Climbing Magazine can be found in the magazine racks on the first floor.

Try not to rest on Sunday! Everything will be closed, and there will be nothing for you to do.

Getting Beer

Due to Utah’s 3.2% Law, getting decent beer can be a bit complicated.

Option 1: Bring it with you. This is the best option.

If Option 1 doesn’t work out, because you didn’t plan ahead, or because you drank all your beer too fast, there’s always…

Option 2: Go to a state liquor store. If you are really a beer snob, you might have to go all the way to Provo to find microbrews that pass muster.  I have been to the state liquor store in Ephraim, and was not impressed with the selection, but the selection in Mt. Pleasant or Nephi might be better.

Rest Day Paradise: RV Park in Manti

I have heard that for $4, you can get a shower, sit in a hot tub, surf the internet, and swim in the pool! Laundry machines are also available.

Projecting in Maple

Projecting can be a rocky road, especially if the project in question is close to your limit. I’ve been working lately on 49, a 5.12a on the Minimum Wall here in Maple Canyon. It’s a challenging project for me for a number of reasons–it’s long and sustained, it overhangs, and the bolts are well-spaced. I only have a few days left here in the Canyon and on this trip in general–I really want to pull off a win and send before I leave!

On Ground Work, 5.11c at the Minimum. Erik Jenson photo.

It seems like every time I’m on the route, I make a different mistake. I’ve one-hung it four times now, once even while hanging draws. At the end of my last day working the route, with three one-hangs in a day, I felt tired and beaten. I went back to camp and slept for 11 hours straight, and stayed away from the route on my next day climbing.

I’ve noticed a trend in my first go of the day of a route I’ve been working on–I tend to rush my climbing. By the time I pull on, I’ve been thinking about the route since I woke up, sometimes for the whole day before too. I go over key beta in my head, vizualise a successful send, think about why I failed the last few times, and plan how I’m going to do better. This anticipation creates a sense of urgency that causes me to rush my climbing–more than once, it’s caused me to fail on ‘easy’ or ‘wired’ moves. In my hurry to get the crux and do it right, finally, I’ll skip adjusting a foot lower down, or fail to hold enough tension in my body to execute a move.

My goal for tomorrow is to hop on my project relaxed and unhurried. To be patient with myself and with my body, and to give it all I’ve got. Wish me luck! :)

Hello, Chobblestone

I made it to Maple Canyon! The cobblestone rock here is unlike anything else I’ve ever climbed. It can be incredibly tricky to read–sometimes you wail on a sloper only to realize that there’s a jug six inches to the right.

Lauren on a 5.8 at the Orangutan Wall

I came to Maple to work on a climbing weakness–climbing on overhanging, or steep, rock. I am afraid of climbing on overhangs. This translates to poor climbing–I lose confidence, I overgrip, I make panic clips, and I use ineffective technique. I’ve been working on this weakness lately, first in Ten Sleep, and now here in Maple. I’m trying to get more milage on overhanging routes, and to be more relaxed while climbing them.

On Excavation, 5.11b, at the Pipe Dream.

I’m super stoked to be here, and to be attacking this climbing weakness head-on. It can be scary and nerve-wracking, but it’s ultimately rewarding.

Confidence in your belayer helps too. Thanks, Meg! :D

Credit where credit is due: the title of this post comes from Marshall and Karyn of Georgia, who call the rock at Maple chobblestone: choss + cobblestone = chobblestone. :)

Great Expectations and Letting Go

I recently had a prolonged few days of low climbing psych. I had an unexpected success when I sent my first 12a after only 2 days of effort.

So I got a bit big-headed.

I started expecting that every route I got on would feel great. That 11s would feel easy. That I would be able to onsight all the time. After all, I had just climbed a 12! It was a whole new level, right?

Right?

But of course, that wasn’t the way it went. One of the great things about being on the road is that you can progress relatively quickly. I climbed my first 11 less than 2 months ago. The downside of the rapid progress is that your base doesn’t catch up, which leads to inconsistent performance.

Which is how I ended up in the doldrums, crying on a 5.11 that was supposed to be fun. Somewhere in the rush of sending a hard route, I misplaced my love of climbing and started worrying about how well I was performing. I was focused more on how hard I was sending than I was on having fun.

It took me a few long days to figure out what was happening. I spent most of my next climbing day on 10s and easy 11s, trying to get my feet back under me. Trying to get my head on straight. And it worked (sort of). I cut myself a break, and started having fun again. I sent the warm-up, on my second go. And I didn’t blame myself  for not getting it the first time.

Clowning around on rap in Ten Sleep Canyon. Photo credit: @Baodehui

I have always had high expectations for myself. I can’t seem to help it. But in the last week, those expectations got in the way of my enjoyment of a sport I adore, preventing me from having fun in a certifiable rock climbing paradise.

As all climbers know–sometimes you can’t hold on any more. You just have to let go. I’m trying–this week–to focus on my love of being alive, being outdoors, being able healthy and able to climb. And to let go of my expectations, until they don’t throttle me anymore.

Continue reading

First Projects: Redux

Fair warning: This post is a monster. tl;dr–just read ‘Lessons Learned’

1st Project: Magic Light, 5.11a, Smith Rock

Magic Light is a Smith classic, located on the Overboard wall. I first tried the route on top-rope. At the time, I had just redpointed my first 5.10c, and I was beginning to consider the possibility of climbing harder. I fell head over heels in love with Magic Light. The bottom crux involves technical moves on some small crimps to a good hold, and the upper crux is sustained, involving movement on rails and slopers.

The first time I tried Magic Light on lead, I got totally shut down. I went basically bolt-to-bolt, and didn’t make it to the chains. The next time was not much better, although I did make the chains. At the suggestion of one of my climbing partners, I tried the upper crux a few times before I lowered off, discovering an intermediate hold that made a reachy move easier. Before the second time I climbed, the route had seemed possible, do-able, and I still got totally shut down.

After a rest day, I tried the route first thing in the morning. My climbing partner took one for the team and warmed up on the route, pre-hanging the draws for me. I warmed up quickly, then, as the shade receded, hopped on the route. The intermediate crux hold turned out to be crucial, and I sent my first try! I was completely pumped out of my mind by the time I clipped the chains, but I managed to pull it off and send.

Lessons Learned 

  1. Pre-hung draws can make a big difference, especially when there are tough clips on the route
  2. Test out beta on top-rope on the way down. Check for useful holds you might have missed, and try out a few different ways to climb challenging sections.
  3. Don’t stress about falling, or stress about clipping. Let go of all your nerves and fears before you pull on.
  4. Set impossible-seeming goals. You might surprise yourself.

Sunset after another perfect day climbing at Smith, June, 2012

2nd Project: Vomit Launch, 5.11b, Smith Rock

Vomit Launch is a great climb in a terrible location. To get to it, you have to shimmy up a chimney in between some boulders, using a fixed rope for assistance. It’s a major pain in the butt to get up to the gully. In my last week at Smith, I went up there five times in a row.

Unlike Magic Light, I never top-roped Vomit Launch. The first time I tried the climb, I cruised through the bottom section to a jug to clip the fifth bolt, then went bolt-to-bolt in the top section, getting totally pumped silly. There is a decent rest at the 6th bolt, and there are a couple places in the upper, pumpy section where you can grab a shake.

Unlike my first project, I never sent Vomit Launch. On my best go, I made it to the 6th bolt rest pumped, but not too pumped. I was able to recover fairly well before attempting to finish the climb. Unfortunately, on the sloper-jug right before the crack, I matched instead of crossing, and popped right off. I tried the climb one last time on my final day at Smith, but didn’t manage to put it together.  Comparing my last attempt with my best attempt, I realized that on my best attempt, I used efficient beta in the lower crux, arriving at the rest much less pumped, which allowed me to recover better.

Lessons Learned 

  1. Beyond a certain level of pump, I can’t recover very well with weight on my arms. Beyond this level, resting just maintains the pump, making it neither better nor worse.
  2. How you climb the non-crux parts of the climb can be important too.
  3. Sometimes you just need to rest. Sometimes it doesn’t work out. You can learn even from failures though–every climb is an opportunity to get better.

Rain at the end of the day in Ten Sleep Canyon.

3rd Project: The Dope Shinto, 5.12a, Ten Sleep

The Dope Shinto is a 12a in the FCR area at Ten Sleep with two distinct cruxes. The first four bolts consist of long(ish) moves on thin holds: crimps and 2-finger or fewer pockets. The moves get steadily harder off the ground to the 4th bolt, then ease up for 2-4 bolts of mellow, 11- climbing, followed by an upper crux. The upper crux involves a move from a mediocre crimp to a 3 finger pocket on delicate feet, then pulling over a bulge onto slab on decent handholds and marginal feet.

I tried the climb twice, sussed out all the crux beta, rested, and then came back and sent it. It went down surprisingly easily for the grade, but the climb was very much my style. I was surprisingly stressed during the hike up to the climb–I had been obsessing about the climb for the entirety of the rest day. I had put a lot of pressure on myself. I joked around with my belayer before starting the climb, and managed to release some of the tension, which helped a lot. By the time I pulled on, I was relaxed, focused, and ready to go for it.

Lessons Learned

  1. Visualization is good, stress is bad.
  2. Harder routes that are ‘your style’ might be done more easily,  but might not feel as satisfying. I still feel like I ‘cheated’ by projecting a route that was my style.
  3. Hold on. It matters.
  4. Confidence in your belayer is a must.

Anyone have good posts about your projects? Hit me up with links in the comments! :)

 

 

Ten Sleep Dirtbag Beta

In a follow up to my Smith Beta post, here’s some dirtbag beta for Ten Sleep Canyon! Ten Sleep is much more of an insider’s town: here are all my best tips!

Where to Camp

You can camp for free anywhere along the Old Road. The Old Road is labeled as WY435 lower in the canyon, and as road number 18 higher up in the National Forest.  There are many sites, both in the lower part of the canyon and in the upper part of the canyon. The upper entrance to the Old Road is currently hard to find due to construction–take a right just after the road becomes dirt. The upper canyon is closer to the climbing areas Mondo Beyondo, Vallhalla, Superratic, and FCR.

Where to get _________ without leaving Ten Sleep:

Where to get beer: Any of the bars in town will sell you a ‘package’ of cheap beer or a six-pack of nicer beer. It’s expected that you still tip the bartender, even if you don’t plan to hang in the bar.

Where to get groceries:  Don’t expect to find fresh fruit or vegetables in town. The Pony Express at the gas station sells eggs, bread, milk, and a few other food items. See the section on Worland for info on grocery stores.

Where to get clean clothes: The Ten Broek RV park has laundry machines available. Washers are $1.50, and dryers are $1.25. Detergent can be bought in the RV store for $0.50, and the RV park has free wifi.

Where to get your fix: The 2nd Street Coffee Shop and Bakery frequently has a contingent of climbers staring at screens inside, or on the porch outside. Please support the bakery by buying coffee, breakfast, or baked goods when they are open (6am – 2pm, Tues-Sat). The free wifi stays up when the bakery is closed, but the family prefers that you stay on the front porch off-hours. All the baked goods sold at the bakery are made on the premises, and all are delicious! You can also purchase copies of the 2011 guidebook in the coffee shop. I cannot emphasize enough how awesome and climber-friendly this business is. Please support them!!

Where to get yourself a treat: The ice cream cones at Dirty Sally’s are a meal unto themselves. The waffle cones are home-made and impossible to resist!

Where to get chalk: The country gifts store at the eastern end of town sells blocks and loose chalk, both Metolius brand. Early afternoon seems to be the best bet for finding the store open. Look for the ‘Troutfitter’s’ sign, near the shaved ice stand.

Where to get down to business: For evenings, days when the coffee shop is closed, or when you just need a brew, the Ten Sleep Saloon also has available wifi. You can print or make copies at the library for $0.25 a page, and faxes can be sent from the bank for $2.00 a page.

Up-canyon Honorable Mention: The Deer Haven Lodge is located a short drive from most of the upper-canyon camping on the old road. Turn right at the intersection of the old road and US 16. The lodge will be on your left. You can buy a beer at  the bar, stock up on some ice, use the free wifi to check your email, or pay to take a shower.

Worland 

Worland is a 20-30 minute drive west of Ten Sleep on 16, depending on how fast you drive. According to locals, speed enforcement on this particular stretch of highway is high.  Worland is a larger town with more businesses and services.

There are two grocery stores in town, an I.G.A. and a Blair’s. Both are going to be more pricey than your average city or suburban grocery store, both sell beer in separate stores attached to the main buildings.

I haven’t spent much time in Worland, so I don’t have much more advice on what’s around and available. Have any advice for fellow dirtbags? Sound off in the comments.

Comparative Shower Pricing 2012 

RV Park in Ten Sleep – $8

RV Park in Worland – $5

Deer Haven Lodge – $5.50

Buffalo YMCA – $2

Buffalo Pool – free? (this one is unconfirmed)

Ten Sleep Creek – free! Best accessed via the lower entrance to the Old Road.

Have any Ten Sleep tips or tricks? Sound off in the comments!

Nervous Leading 101

Are you (or have you been) a nervous leader?

I am.

Recently, I was sitting at a bolt on Cocaine Rodeo, a 12a at the Valhalla wall here in Ten Sleep. The route was the first of the grade I’d tried, and I was slogging up it bolt-by-bolt. While I was waiting for my arms to de-pump, I called down to my belayer, “I have got to stop clipping from crap holds.” To which another friend replied, deadpan, “Don’t get nervous, and you won’t clip from crap.”

And he was right. I started paying attention to my own nervousness while climbing, and I noticed some negative effects of nervous leading.

  1. You get pumped quickly. Nervous climbing leads to overgripping, which pumps your arms. If you’re deathgripping huge jugs, you’re using more energy than you need to stay on the wall.
  2. You climb sloppily. When I’m nervous, I don’t do my best work reading a route. I tend to let my feet get stuck down low, and throw my hands up ever higher.
  3. Panic Clips. One of the most distinctive features of (my) nervous leading is to clip a bolt or hang a draw as soon as possible, from whatever hold is at hand at the time, rather than from the best hold. While strenuous clips are sometimes unavoidable, it doesn’t make sense to clip from a sloping pocket if the next hold up is a huge jug!

How do you change an instinctive reaction? Form a new habit, one climb at a time.

On top of the ‘Ciagar’ at the Downtown area in the canyon. Shimmy shimmy!

Here are the strategies I’m using to try and control my nervousness and climb more confidently:

  1. Read Ahead. Before you start climbing, look for obvious rests and good clipping holds. If you spy blank-looking sections on the wall, try  to plan a clipping stance ahead of time by identifying a good hold or foot.
  2. Re-set Your Mind. No bad habit changes overnight. Don’t let one panicked clip on a route or a tough move throw you off. Find a good rest, take, or get determined and keep it moving.
  3. Look for Good Feet. My foot-work is generally the first thing to go when I start to get pumped. Getting my feet back on the best holds and planning where they’re going to go next helps me get my technique back on track.
  4. Puppies and Candy Canes! Another piece of climbing wisdom from a friend: “In through the nose, out through the mouth. Just think about puppies and candy canes.” When you get nervous, concentrate on your breathing and relax your grip. Puppies and candy canes!

Over the last week, I’ve been working on reducing nervous leading every day I climb. It’s working out well–I recently managed to pull off an onsight of a Ten Sleep classic–Bikini Girls with Machine Guns, 11a. I used all 4 strategies, kept it together, and made it to the chains!

4th of July in Ten Sleep!

The 4th was awesome! I hope everyone enjoys the photos. We went to the rodeo, the street dance, and the climber’s party, and did a lot of climbing to boot. It was a great week.

Great form from a cowboy on a bucking bronco. I think this gentleman won.

Watching the action from a fence near the chutes.

A cowboy in the process of getting thrown. No one managed to stay on a bull for the full 8 seconds. The crew on the ground did a great job of keeping the guys safe!

Liftoff!

At the climbers’ party on the 4th. Keg provided by the American Alpine Club–sweet! It was incredibly frothy, but there was a lot of keg-side bonding over foam-reduction strategies! :)

Aaron Huey’s incredibly rockin’ pink boom box.

A proclamation from on high: In the beginning, there were no bolts, and the earth was dark. On the 8th day, God created Bighorn Dolomite and expansion bolts, and the heavens rejoiced! He shaped a hammer drill from clay and said, “Behold the Bosch. Redeemer of man!” (Proclamation (c) Aaron Huey)

Dispatch from Ten Sleep, WY

Along 16 West, in Ten Sleep Canyon (not my photo)

After a few days of rest in Montana, I’ve landed in Ten Sleep, WY. It’s hot here! Today’s high is 93, and the next 10 days are supposed to be hot as well. I’ve met up with some other friends from the road, and we went out climbing yesterday. The rock here is amazing! We went to the French Cattle Ranch area yesterday, and are resting today. It’s easy not to complain about all the resting–the heat is making me lazy.