Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Wasting away in Margaritaville with Zach's family!

Well I completely dropped the ball on taking pictures of our time in Atlanta with Rachel and Patrick. I guess I was just having too much fun enjoying our friends:) We loved the location and house they live in! We all walked to the little downtown area called Little Five Points. Our first night we spent going out with friends of Patrick and Rachel. They quickly became our friends as well! It was a fun night full of a few awesome dart games which pitted the boys vs the girls. Both teams took turns as the victors and we had to have a rematch before we left. It was a great night!
Sleeping in felt lovely, but as vanventurers, we found when the neighbor starts roofing his house at 7:00 am, its time to wake up. We enjoyed coffee and breakfast with Patrick and Rachel and then let them get some work done for their graduate programs. They work so hard and we are so excited for their next steps in life! Hopefully, we didn't distract them too much.
When Patrick was done with his paper, we went to an urban bouldering area in Atlanta called Boat Rock. It was a sweet area of granite boulders in the middle of a neighborhood. Apparently, the area used to be bigger, but when developers bought the land, they blew up many of the boulders. The Southeastern Climbing Coalition bought part of the area and saved the climbing from destruction. They have areas all over the southeast they have rescued. It is a cool organization!
The climbing was fun, but we were all a little worn out from our late night. We tried quite a few different climbs and Patrick was an excellent guide. It was a pretty area in the middle of the urban sprall, so Zach and I really enjoyed being outside. When we got home, Rachel and I had decided we needed to watch Legally Blonde in honor of Patrick being in law school. It was just as amazing as I remember it being. Zach fell asleep, so he has to watch it again with me sometime, but Rachel, Patrick and I laughed our way through the perils of being a law student. It was fun having Patrick explain what really goes on in law school.
Sunday, we all relaxed. We explored the shops in Little Five Points and hung out at a bar to watch the Broncos play. The boys challenged us to a rematch at darts and then we headed home. It was sad saying goodbye again, but we know we will be back to visit another time. Thanks for spending your weekend with us, Patrick and Rachel! We love you guys and can't wait to come back!!
As we headed out to our next climbing destination in Alabama, we noticed the temperatures dropping a bit. We bundled up and found some trad climbing called Jamestown. The directions were online and described going through some farm land. It had been approved by the landowners, but Zach and I were still a little leery. When we came upon a no trespassing sign, we decided to turn around. Luckily, a couple drove down the driveway on their way out and said it was okay for climbers to go through the gate. I'm glad they did, because we really enjoyed the area. The view from the top of the climbing was amazing! The climbing was fun, but we needed to keep moving because there was no camping allowed in this area.
We found an area up the road called Sand Rock. The town had made this area into a park and offered camping on top of the overlook. It was one of the higher spots in the state of Alabama and had a beautiful view of a lake and the surrounding area. The climbing was really fun and we had a blast doing both trad climbing and sport climbing. It was Veteran's Day so the park was pretty busy for a Tuesday, but it was fun meeting new people. The park also offered amazing shower facilities, so Zach and I got to refresh ourselves and it was wonderful!!
What a cool view!! Sand Rock Park in Alabama

My chef:) I was still under to covers, too cold to get up yet:)


It was cool rock an neat features! We had fun climbing here.
That night, I noticed I had a bit of some kind on my rear end. I was worried it was a spider bite or something. When I finally looked at it, however, I discovered it to be poison ivy! Apparently, on of my outdoor bathroom spots had contained a little enemy and it took the opportunity to strike when I was most vulnerable! It has been quite the experience to have poison ivy in such an awkward place...but I am happy to say it is finally getting better. I also now have a greater appreciation and understanding of the babies I take care of who get diaper rashes! Its not a pleasant place to be irritated!!
When we woke up on Wednesday, the cold temperatures did not encourage an early start. The forecast was not looking good and as we scrolled through the map on the weather app, we noticed the only warm place in the country was going to be Florida. Being that Zach has family down there we wanted to visit, it didn't take long for us to decide to beat feet down south and get out of the crazy cold that was about to embrace the rest of the country. As we headed south, Wasting Away in Margarittaville came on the radio and we felt we were headed in the right direction:)
On the way down through Georgia, we ran across a free air museum with a B1 Bomber sitting out front. I had gotten to sit in one back in Wichita as a middle school student at McConnell Air Force Base. I also remember how the B1B's would fly over church on Sunday mornings usually interrupting Dr. McConnell's sermon. They were an awesome plane to have around Wichita for awhile. We explored the museum and enjoyed seeing unique pieces of history. They had a display of P51 skies developed for winter take off and landings. It was a great place to get out and stretch our legs and continue to learn more about our country's history!
The B1 Bomber!

P-51 Mustang Skis!

The picture my cousin Michelle sent us when we were heading down to Florida:)
We enjoyed celebrating this holiday in Florida!
We enjoyed the drive, but were happy to get to King's Gate Club in Nokomis, FL. The warm temperatures and salty sea smell were a big change from our cold, crisp air further north. It was so wonderful to meet Zach's grandma, Vivian Wahrer, and his aunt and uncle, Mel and Dan. They are such great people who welcomed us into their home and community. That afternoon, we got to go see the ocean and enjoy a sunset. It was a lot cooler with the sea breeze, but there were still quite a few people swimming. It reminded me of a family vaction we had taken when I was younger to California. It was my sisters and I's first time seeing the ocean so despite the cooler temperatures, we spent time swimming in the ocean and had to defrost afterwards:)
On the beach at sunset.
The following day, we got to do some exploring with Dan and Mel after and amazing breakfast from our own personal chef, Mel! We saw a world record setting 3D chalk art drawing at the Nokomis airport, but were disappointed because it cost $5.00 a person to go up a ladder and see the 3D affect. We ended up just looking at it from the ground, which was a little distorted.
Our view of the 3D chalk art...
The best part of our day was sailing along the Intercoastal Waterway on Dan and Mel's boat. It was so fun to be out on the water. Dan showed Zach and I how to steer while under sail power. We both had a blast and even caught a glimpse of a dolphin! We were all pretty tired by the time we got home, but we enjoyed pizza with Grandma and had fun hearing her stories of traveling around the world. Zach and I have decided adventuring must run in our blood because both of our grandparents have done awesome things!
Getting ready to board the S2.

Lots of pelicans hanging out as we passed by.

The bridge opening after Mel called and requested.
The operator remembered her from bringing cookies to the operators:)

Our relaxed pilot.

Enjoying time with Dan and Mel.

My turn to drive:)

Some rowing teams practicing.

I love hearing and watching the sail go up!

The sun setting on our awesome day!

Tying the boat back in for the night.

Such a calm and lovely place to be.
In the morning, we enjoyed another Mel breakfast with egg sandwiches and monkey bread before heading out to Zach's unlce Paul's house. We had to say goodbye to Grandma because she was going to relax at home. I'm so glad we got to spend time with her and get to know her better. You are such a neat person and we can't wait to come visit again!
At Paul's house, we enjoyed a grilled steak dinner and relaxing on the patio in the sun. I was trying to soak up all I could before we headed back up north! Paul had gotten us all tickets to the Ribfest in St. Petersburg. The big act that night was going to be Lynard Skynard! We scored a lucky parking spot right up front thanks to Dan noticing a lady backing out! Paul expertly paralell parked in a small spot and we only had to walk a block to the enterance! The Ribfest was fun. We found a place to put our lawn chairs and had fun singing along with Sweet Home, Alabama and Free Bird. Zach and I also spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out which members were original. Their slogan was "Rocking for over 40 years" so we decided most of them didn't look old enough. They finally introduced everybody and only one guy was original. We had guessed he was the one:)
It was a fun night and we had a great time with everybody! Thanks for letting us be a part of your festivities!! We are constantly amazed at the generosity and love we feel from our friends and family on the road! We love you guys!
Leaving southern Florida was hard for a few reasons, the people and the warm temperatures! But we really wanted to see Zach's sister Melinda and her family. They live up near Pensacola, FL and have not been spared from the cold weather. It was a beautiful drive up the gulf coast to their house and we enjoyed a wonderful dinner with Melinda, her husband Billy, and Zach's niece and nephew, Lauren and Adrian. We loved our evening with them and had fun getting to know each other! Thank you guys so much for letting us come by on such short notice! We don't plan ahead very well on the road.
In the morning, we waited out a pretty intense thunderstorm and then headed to the Pensacola Naval Air Museum. It was another awesome museum. We even saw the Blue Angels fly overhead on a practice run! Then it was time to head north. Armed with our audio books and snacks, we started the long trek towards Kansas.
The drive ended up being a lot of fun and went by faster then expected. We pulled into my parents house on Tuesday afternoon. The snow on the ground allowed for a snowball fight to break out and we each got nailed by a snowball or two:) It was fun, but we quickly retreated to the warm house! Megan came out for dinner and it felt so good to be with everybody again! I've missed being with my family and I'm excited for these next few weeks! It will be great to hang out with everybody!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Still trying to find warm weather

During our rest day in Chattanooga, Zach and I found a music store! It took us a few tries to locate the elusive store because it had changed locations, but once inside, we found it! A cheap, decent looking mandolin. For only fifty dollars, we added another member to our vanventure. I have never played a musical instrument, so we thought it would be fun to learn together and have another evening/rainy day activity. I traded my Chaco sandals that I so far haven't worn much for this opportunity and I am pretty happy with the trade:)
Chattanooga was such a fun city to explore. The climbing is abundant and we were lucky enough to have some good weather days to enjoy the rock. We did traditional climbing on the Tennessee Wall which overlooks the Tennessee River. It was a beautiful day and the climbing was just awesome. Becca, Zach and I all took turns leading the routes and placing our own gear in the cracks. I didn't make it to the top of my climb on lead, but i did take a few falls on my gear and got to feel more confidence in my trad climbing abilities;) Zach lead a finger crack called Finger Lockin' Good (10b/c) and Becca and I both had an awesome time top roping it. Becca took on a 5.9 In Pursuit of Excellence that was so fun! My climb was a 5.8 called Passages, that was fun, but also a little scary on lead. All in all it was such a fun day and we got a lot of great climbs in!
Our crew at Tennessee Wall

View from the top of the climb!

Showing off my awesome finger locking moves:)

Zach leading Finger Lockin' Good Time.

Searching for the right gear to place.

Becca getting her trad climbing on!

On a walk in Chattanooga.
We did some rainy day bouldering with Becca at Little Rock City (LRC or Stone Fort as some people call it). This is off a golf course and very funny to see the combanation of rock climbers and golfers in the parking lot. It works out pretty well and we had fun climbing there on Halloween. Becca and I even took a shower in the club house. Apparently, in the men's bathroom, they had turned the shower into a bathroom stall so Zach was surprised to find a man behind the curtain when he headed in to take his shower...
A few climbers wore costumes for the holiday. One was and elf and one was a sumo wrestler. Their costumes only sometimes got in the way of their climbing. Our group dressed up like rock climbers, some of us cleaner then others:),  and enjoyed trying hard on different boulder problems around the area.
The weather got worse Saturday and so we decided to take another rest day. We said goodbye to Becca and went to watch the Head of the Hooch Regatta (boat race) along the Tennessee River. Apparently, the weather has to be better for the boats to get into the water, so it ended up being a bust. Zach and I had fun wandering around though and trying to stay warm. We tried to memorize information on climbing areas in the outdoor gear store, but eventually called it day and headed out to find a campsite. 
Trying to stay warm (and psyched) for the regatta.
We found an area in the Cherokee National Forest called Starr Mountain with some traditional climbs on it. The cracks were not very tall, but they were supposed to be in the sun. Camping was also free, so we were pretty happy with it. There was a State Park near the mountain as well and Zach finally got a shower. I was too cold to want to have wet hair all day, but I had commandeered a shower at the golf course a few days before. I finally got brave enough to lead the full length of a 5.8 trad climb and placed all my own gear! It was a short route, but I made it to the top without falling and I was pretty stoked! Zach lead the harder climbs and we enjoyed most of them. There were a lot of hikers walking along the path above us, so we eventually left because we were worried about rocks getting knocked down from above. It was still a fun day along another beautiful river. 
It was finally time to say goodbye to Chattanooga. Leaving the lovely state of Tennessee, we ventured into Georgia and found another awesome climbing area called Rocktown. It is a large number of boulders up on a plateau. We had snuck a picture of the guidebook map of the area, so we had better idea of where the different boulder problems were. This place is so packed full of awesome boulder problems! It was so fun exploring. We also made friends with a few other people on the road like us and they were kind enough to give us some info from their guidebooks. I started working a problem called The Belly Button (V3) and it was a blast. It had this little dish on a bulge in the rock that looked like a giant's belly button. I couldn't get all the moves the first day, but the second day we went back, I got it! It was a fun one to have worked on and gotten all the moves. 
I made it too the top!

Belly Buton!
The second day we were in Rocktown, we happened upon our now good friend Becca! It was fun seeing her again and the entire day, we spent running around together. We added two more climbers, Nick and Aaron, and had a great day working moves and hanging out. That evening, we all combined efforts in building a campfire and watched a climbing moving called The Sharp End on Zach's laptop. It was such a fun experience, we even popped popcorn! I love having these moments on the trip and getting to share them with such awesome people! Thanks for hanging out with us!!

Just hanging out.

Becca climbing on The Orb.

Getting ready to project Iron Claw (V6)

Our bouldering crew at Rocktown (Becca, Aaron, Nick, Zach and Me:)
After Rocktown, we headed back to South Carolina to spend some time with Zach's mom, Stephanie, before we head South and West on our road trip. It was great to see her again. We did a fun hike at a National Park near Abbeville, SC. The trail took us around a really pretty lake and up to a fire tower built in 1935. The trail was full of beautiful fall trees and even a few wildflowers left over. Despite the rain trying to turn us around, we a great time and all pretty tired when we got back to the car. 
Back at her house, Stephanie mended my favorite sweatshirt which had a giant hole in the back. It looks so much better now and I really like the patch:) Thanks for saving my favorite shirt!! We also made dinner and cookies and just enjoyed getting to spend time together. It was a lovely visit. 
The marsh the trail took us straight through:)
Beautiful fall colors and giant trees along our hike.
We made it to the fire tower!
Zach and his mom:)
Reading our "map" that did not have all the trails on it.

What a cutie:)

We are now settled in Atlanta, GA for the weekend with our good friends, Patrick and Rachel, from Colorado Springs. We are already loving where they live and are excited for the weekend with them!! I love getting to see people I miss and hang out:) 
Next up, we are trying to follow good weather through the South and make our way back to Kansas for Thanksgiving. It looks like a cold snap might be hitting this area, so we shall see what activities we end up doing:)