It’s time for new adventures and new acquaintances. No more early starts, though I will miss my morning crew. Fall is full-on, though the weather has been holding up, and the sun is moving further south making mornings later and nights earlier. Here in the NW, Smith is the new destination but I will not partake in these excursions. My fall adventures take me once again Southeast to the Red River Gorge in Ky.
It’s been a long process getting to Ky but I am excited to finally be in my new digs. The community of Beattyville, Ky has taken really good care of me and set me up in a home not far from many climbers. This should give me enough space to work but still network and stay connected with the climbing scene. It will be great to be staying closer to the climbing unlike one other year when I stayed in Lexington and commuted down to climb. That drive was horrendous and I don’t recommend it, if you can help it! This year, I’m working with the local High School and will appreciate being in the heart of things.
One observation I have made along my way here is that either I have been time warped into a parallel universe or I’ve been blind to the hospitality of people here. Everyone I have met, strangers, have been super nice to me. I like it, but I feel a bit taken aback by it all…has Seattle lost it’s charm? Is Las Vegas really that abrasive? Have I been suppressed for so long that I have been unable to see this before?
I want to share more about these people because I feel that each incident is unique in its interaction, but situationally, it’s not that interesting. Therefore, I’ll try to capture the essence with two brief tales. The first one takes place in Avon, Ohio (just west of Cleveland). The other takes place in Stanton, Ky (just north of the Red River Gorge).
I’m back in my hometown, briefly, to pick up my van and drive South. During my stay, I managed to chew up my tire in an accidental altercation with some cinder blocks on a curb I was trying to negotiate. The spare is 15″ but the tires are 16″, therefore, I am waiting for a tow to move the vehicle someplace where a new tire will be installed.
The tow truck driver arrives and jokes about how I couldn’t have picked a better time to change a tire (it was pouring rain when he arrived to load the van). On my way to meet the tow truck at the tire company, I stop at Home Depot. I need to build a new stick clip for rock climbing (an apparatus that will allow me to clip fixed gear that is high up and out of reach from the ground, thereby protecting the climber until that fixed piece). I am sorting through all of the items that could possibly make for a decent stick clip when I am approached by a random guy.
Later I noticed this gentleman was wearing a Patagonia T-shirt, which I found humor in since he had no idea I was a climber and that Patagonia would mean something to me. For him, it was probably just a shirt.
He started talking about the ‘painting’ work I had in front of me, but then after some conversation, realized my specialized need. He became curious and proceeded to insist on aiding me in my selection. This took some effort on my part as I tried my best to describe the intention for this apparatus.
After a little while, I insisted what I wanted wasn’t there and attempted to leave the store only to be caught by an actual Home Depot employee. After kindly describing what I was looking for, the employee took me back to the department I was just in and recommended something I had overlooked when I was there moments earlier and walked me through the check out to ensure I paid a meager $4 for the stick (it was used and broken but suitable for me in that state). The previous gentleman who was ‘helping’ me was still there and with an ear to our conversation, took note that I was going to purchase the overlooked item and proceeded to engage me in conversation while I attempted to offload the item at the car. At first, I want to be polite and kind, but now, I’m wondering if I should start to curtail the conversation with the hopes that he will leave me alone. Fortunately, that was the last I saw of him, but both of these gentlemen sure stood out!
Once in Ky, I had some errands to run and laundry to tend to. Therefore, one of my first stops (or last of the day) was to the Laundromat in Stanton, Ky (just north of the Red River Gorge). While there, another fellow came in to do laundry. Not long after, he struck up a conversation with me even while I was on my computer trying to write up this blog entry. In the 46 minutes I waited for my laundry to finish, this guy (John) told me his life story, including showing me his scar from a brain surgery he’d had in 1968. Fascinated at times with his story, I couldn’t help but encourage him with a nod, grunt or acknowledgement that I was listening.
As I left for the Red River Gorge, I was reflecting on all of the people I had met leading up to that point. Every person I encountered was above the bar with kindness, receptivity and general friendliness. It felt surreal, to say the least, though I’m not certain what I was expecting from people in these parts. Working with the School and getting to know some locals, I have experienced deep generosity. Look for more information on my first few days here in the Red and my first day of school. J