Sunday, October 12, 2008
Nine years later
Thanksgiving Day 1999 ... That's when I arrived in Colorado. Fresh out of law school, I had always wanted to give it a go and try to make Colorado my permanent home. Let's back up though:
My entire life has been one giant relocation project. Growing up in a military family and continuing this same nomadic lifestyle, I have lived all over the country, spending time in Arkansas, California (2X), Colorado (3X), Michigan, North Carolina (2X), Ohio and Texas. In 12 days, I will need to add Virginia to the above list, as I will be leaving Colorado for a dream job, one I started thinking about in 1996 as I was finishing up graduate school in Cleveland, applying to law schools and continued to think about and plan for while in law school. The new gig is one that I half-heartedly applied for numerous times over the years since 1998. I say half-heartedly, because - for a devoted climber - living in metropolitan D.C. is far from ideal.
How do I know this? Well, although I've never lived there, for eight years I was a climber in the Eastern time zone. First, between 1989-92, a fledgling chuffer spent 3 years driving from the sandhills of North Carolina to The New River Gorge for climbing adventures. Over the next 5 years in graduate school in Cleveland, I probably spent close to 140 weekends at "The New" making the 5 1/2 hour pilgrimage as often as I possibly could. I never got all that good at sport climbing, as I suffered and still suffer from a lack of slow-twitch muscle fibers that provide the endurance you need to send the long routes at The New. Nevertheless, the friends I climbed with and the adventures we had at The New remain some of the most memorable of my life.
In 1997, I departed Cleveland, intentionally breaking the rear-view mirror off of my truck on the way out of town in a stupid but symbolic gesture about my disatisfaction with relationships gone awry and the positively-shitty 5-day a week grey skies that messed with my psyche. San Diego promptly cooperated with 170 consecutive rain-free days upon my arrival, which is soooooo important when you're too busy to take full advantage of it - ha! I began my love affair with bouldering in California, although I certainly spent more time sport climbing and doing long trad routes, so I never really emerged from gumby status.
Two years later, as I was about to graduate, my options were essentially unlimited. I had no wife, no girlfriend, a nice resume but no job, the product of a military family who could relocate anywhere, make friends, make climbing friends and enjoy life. I had no constraints. Crash!!! It was at this time that two of the best people that ever graced me with their friendship were in a horrific accident heading back to North Carolina from The New. In short, their Ford Explorer hydroplaned, cartwheeled across the interstate and came to rest upside down. They were OK at this point, but they were sitting in the middle of oncoming traffic and promptly hit by a lady going 70 in a 55 MPH zone being chased by her boyfriend. Jay Binder, M.D.'s last words on this Earth were something to the effect of "it's going to be OK Kevin." Kevin Cropp, the intended recipient of those words, spent close to a year recovering from the physical effects of this devastating accident. Twenty-six broken bones, 3 fused vertebrae, too many surgeries to count later, he did recover and climb again ... often doing long approaches in cowboy boots or heavy leather mountaineering boots to the dismay of everyone present.
Those who know me understand what I did next and why. Shortly thereafter, I graduated and promptly moved to Colorado. I wanted to be close to the mountains and the rocks I like to climb. I wanted the weather to be cooperative most of the time. I wanted to work-to-live, not live-to-work. I wanted climbing/hiking/biking to be a part of my daily life, not an escape reserved for weekends at the end of long drives and return trips that nobody enjoys. Colorado has provided that, although less so over the last couple years as the viability of my insurance company went south with the real estate market and I had to work 2 or 3 jobs just to pay the bills. Before that however, I had plenty of time to become an avid and devoted boulderer. Now, I pretty much only pull out a rope and harness when it's time to clean and rehearse a tall boulder problem. In Colorado, I also found a woman that adores me through thick and thin and I have forged dozens of lasting friendships with like-minded folks.
Accepting this new job will be one of the most bittersweet experience in my life. This job has everything you want in a quality-of-life work environment, allowing me to fully use my scientific background, legal education and challenge myself. Time off, decent pay, federal pension, federal benefits, flex schedules, telecommuting, opportunities to advance, financial incentives for quality work and extra work, etc., etc., etc. The list literally goes on and on. That said, I will always think of Colorado as home. I hate sayings, but they say "home is where the heart is." I must have left mine here during one of about a dozen ski vacations my family took here when I was a kid. Without saying anything about the climbing, it was here that I was introduced to the music of John Denver in 1974. In 1976 and 1978, I saw the legendary Olympic Silver Medalist Billy Kid a couple times while skiing down Heavenly Days (at Steamboat), one of the most magical moderate runs in America. Colorado is where I've been awestruck by sunsets on the Western Slope and the Front Range, enjoyed some of the best single-track riding in America (Roaring Fork Valley) and learned to appreciate an occasional quiet walk with my wife (of course with the binoculars and bird identification book handy). It's where I began climbing in 1989 and learned to appreciate the subtle satisfaction and challenges that moving over stone provides. It's where my mind was opened at a Ziggy Marley/Neville Brothers concert at Red Rocks in 1989 and more recently, rewired, leaving the conservative beliefs and opinions of my parents behind. Go Barack!
So after 9 years, I'm relocating to Northern Virginia, a stones throw from the metrorail into D.C. It's gonna be more diverse. It's going to be crowded. There will be nothing even close to Red Rocks Amphitheater for a Widespread show. There won't be any decent rock within 2 hours. I will have to climb in a gym to stay fit. Parking anything anywhere will suck the big one. I will daydream about quick jaunts up to Flag and the Flatirons. I will long for big days at Evans. I will miss the quality of the stone and the independence of the lines in the Poudre, Eldo and Redcliff. But most of all I will miss my friends and our ability to get out and enjoy each other, if only for a few hours or days a year. Although I've always been blessed with great friends regardless where I've lived, my connection with many of you here on the Front Range of Colorado will be a lasting one that I carry with me. I look forward to hooking up with many of you fools soon, whether it's here or back East on some of the less-prestigious but awesome sandstone.
My wife will be here in Colorado for at least 7 more months, so I plan on spending a lot of that time traveling East Coast weekend-warrior style to bouldering destinations in VA, PA, NC, TN, WV and NY ... getting my bearings and soaking up as much beta as I can absorb. Maybe one of these days I'll be able to show you guys the goods at some of the following locales ... Cooper's, Haycock, Rumbling Bald, 221, Asheboro, Grandmother, Lilly, Gunks, etc.
Thanks for your friendships. You know who you are. Your energy, motivation and psyche has helped me weather some tough times over the past couple years. Hope to see you all soon.
Until then, see you on the intardweb.