Saturday, October 17, 2009

Journey Boy Checks In

Happy dreary Saturday, friends!

Once again, I'm looking around my fair Southern city and my cheerful, busy neighborhood today and wondering when we all got picked up Dorothy-style and dropped over the rainbow into the Pacific Northwest.  It is raw, wet, and unseasonably cold -- again -- and there are no bikes, trikes, Big Wheels or skateboards afoot outside.  We're all hunkered down.

It's been like this now for weeks with few breaks, and I find myself (a) sending big mental hugs to my JCA friends who really ARE in the Pacific Northwest -- and other areas where this is ordinary October weather -- and (b) having to search harder and harder for mood pick-me-uppers. But today I got a great one when I logged into my e-mail with my first cup of coffee:  an e-mail (the first of the trip) from our wonderful DS#1, a/k/a Journey Boy, with pictures!

If you don't know who and what I'm talking about, before you read on I suggest you peek back at my post from mid-September about my son's then-impending departure on his dream trip.  He's a month in, with about six weeks to go, and he's as happy as a pig in the mud, I'm tellin' ya. Today's e-mail was brisk and jaunty, and his pictures reflect that same delighted attitude.  He and his traveling buddy "Moose" (the non-dredlocked guy in the blue shirt in the first picture below -- Moose is so nicknamed because he was born in Canada) are loving what Journey Boy calls "life in the Champagne Beauty" --- their name for the champagne-colored 2007 Dodge Grand Caravan that they're calling home. In the first month of their trip they've camped, climbed, hiked, visited friends and family and generally cavorted their genial way thru the Carolinas, the Virginias, New Jersey and New York, Kentucky, the Badlands and Black Hills of South Dakota, Grand Tetons National Park, Nevada (with a stop in Reno to mail home a box of clothes that, although fresh from the laundromat, smelled magically like my boy!), Salt Lake City, and parts of California, where last week they met up with two other buddies who will be with them for the remainder of their trip.

 Journey Boy (left) and Moose.

Journey Boy in his climbing harness.

The Badlands in South Dakota.

Sunrise, somewhere early in their trip -- this one wasn't labeled.  But wow.

Moose (left) and JB.  With George Washington. (Mount Rushmore -- look carefully at the background.  This is your "Where's Waldo?" picture of the day. )

  I can't look at this picture without grinning and without thinking about Willie Nelson's classic lyrics:

On the road again, 
Goin’ places that I’ve never been. 
Seein’ things that I may never see again,
And I can’t wait to get on the road again.
On the road again,
Like a band of gypsies we go down the highway. 
We’re the best of friends,
Insisting that the world keep turning our way.
And our way is
On the road again.

JB does his bouldering thing.

The Black Hills of South Dakota.  D'ya see those granite peaks (probably "the Needles" but we're not certain) in the background?  I'm betting that my son did a bit of dangling there.

Here's my boy in the burgundy sweatshirt, just getting started on the ascent of a bouldering "problem" (that's kinda like "route" or "as-yet unconquered piece of giant rockface" to the rest of us non-climbers).  He's standing in front of Moose and I think that's their other two pals Nate and Tommy who are watching.

As his brother would say, Sweeeeeet.

I can't say that the worry and anxiety I wore so heavily when I wrote that September post have miraculously vanished, girls.  They're still there and I think about my dear faraway child constantly.  But I've managed with surprising success to back-burner almost all thoughts of him dangling 40 feet up, driving at 2:00 a.m., camping with nearby bears (and without what I would personally consider adequately waterproof boots, but then I'm kinda wussy about that kind of thing).

And the reason I'm able to back-burner these scary, worrisome visions is really simple: There is not a doubt in my mind that he has never been quite so contented -- and he's generally a contented person, so I'm saying a lot here. Last week he called for a quick chat while he stood outside a laundromat waiting for his clothes to dry.  He told me that one night, after a nice day hike, he and Moose had camped on the shore of a lake in Grand Tetons National Park.  He had woken up at dawn feeling really cold and unable to go back to sleep.  So he'd opened the tent flap, intending to make a fire and start some coffee, and he'd discovered an overnight snowfall.  Instead of making the fire right away, he bundled up, tiptoed out of the tent and sat, alone, on the shore watching the sun come up over the mountains, listening to the trickle of water and the sounds of birds and little woodland creatures awakening.  Later in the morning he and Moose hiked back out thru all that fresh fluffy stuff.  A few pictures from that lovely day:

Moose, enjoying the same view his traveling pal had enjoyed earlier in the morning.

 Brrr. But again, wow.

No matter how cold your face may be, you just cannot contain a grin that comes all the way up from your frozen toes.

I listened to the joy in his voice as he shared this experience so vividly with me, and I wanted to cheer and cry all at the same time.  And I asked him if he was reaping from this trip everything he'd hoped he'd discover and gain. This was his answer:  "Well, Mom, you know, I'd say yeah, actually.  I would say I definitely feel.... (long pause as he pondered the right word choice) ... Expanded. Know what I mean?"

I sure do.  Awesome.


  1. This is just the sweetest post. How lucky of your son to have such a supportive family behind his dreams (many people would not understand or be so encouraging!), and how fortunate for you to have a son who is so happy and content where he is! Sure sounds like he is having fun and learning a lot!

  2. Awesome it right! I got chills reading your post! You are a good, good Mom.

  3. So fun! I met my husband while on a bouldering trip with some of my friends - so bouldering pictures always make me smile. He looks like he's having a great time! My husband and I just had our first child, so we'll have to put our climbing trips on hold for a while (which makes looking at your son's pictures even more bittersweet). I hope your son has gotten out to Hueco Tanks for bouldering - it's the best in the country!!!

  4. Great report! I'm glad he's safe and having a good time. Sounds absolutely beautiful.

  5. AppGal, Kathy, Lauren -- After I posted this I wondered if I should have moved this whole story over to my other blog -- it's so totally OT and I haven't blogged about clothes in days! But I left it here since I'd already introduced you all to Journey Boy last month, and so I'm very glad and touched that you all enjoyed reading this. And thanks VERY much for complimenting me as a mom. I like to think I'm a really good mom generally, but in this situation I can't take too much credit, I must say. He's almost 23 years old and he is paying for this junket himself, so my choices were limited to (1) be supportive and stay as positive as possible so that he'll call and write and talk to me or (2) surrender to how worrisome and scary his trip is and let him see that -- in which case he'd have gone anyway, but he'd have kept his communication with home to a minimum and probably would have been pretty superficial in those occasional chats with home. My choice was a no-brainer!

    Lauren, congratulations to you and your husband for that first baby -- in my book NOTHING is as much fun as that!!! You'll be bouldering again in no time at all, and teaching your little one, I'm sure! Journey Boy and his friends have Hueco Tanks on their on-the-way-back-East itinerary for certain. It's in Texas, right? If you have any tips for him about that spot or any other, e-mail me and I'll be happy to forward your e-mail to him. He and I would appreciate it! JB has told me and his repeatedly, by the way, that this sport -- of the many that he plays and does -- is the one he knows he'll do his whole life -- or, as he says, for as long as he can chalk up and hold on. :-)

  6. What a great post about your handsome son. I can imagine how much worry you felt, but hearing how happy he is must give the greatest feeling -- as you described. My parents encouraged me to venture out, which I think is huge for a girl. And let me tell you, that support made me able to enjoy my adventures that much more. The encouragement you give your children is truly a gift.

  7. Wonderful story. So glad to hear he is doing so well...and that you are, too. It definitely speaks volumes to your mothering. :)

  8. Yes indeed, Hueco Tanks is in West Texas (right outside of El Paso). It is an amazing place and he will definitely love it (especially since it will be a little cooler this time of year - we typically went in summer and spring and it was HOT!). I tried to email you all of this but my mail program isn't working for some dang reason.

    Here are my suggestions for Journey Boy:

    1. Stay at the Hueco Rock Ranch. It is owned by a climber and you can camp there for $5 or so a night (prices might have gone up, it's been 4 years since I've stayed there and it has changed ownership). It's great to stay with other climbers and I've met some great characters there over the years. Their # is (915) 855-0142

    2. Make sure to go to North Mountain - most of my favorite problems are there! (My husband suggests a back-country tour to East Spur Maze and the Gunks. You have to get a guide for back-country tours, you can typically get on at the Rock Ranch). Try to borrow a guidebook from someone at the ranch since there are over 1000 problems at the Tanks!

    3. Make reservations for the park ahead of time (probablly not as big a deal this time of year, but you want to make sure you get in!).

    Enjoy it! I miss the Tanks so much!!!!


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