Saturday, July 2, 2011

Road/Climbing Trip 2011: Prelude to Granite

After approximately 36 hours in Austin following my New York trip, I set off Thursday, June 30, for the next phase of my sabbatical. The main time constraint was that I had to be in Cody, WY on July 2 for some climbing training prior to the start of the actual Granite Peak climb on the 3rd. Since the direct route would have gotten me into Cody slightly earlier than necessary, I decided to make the route a bit more circuitous and tour a few State Capitols that I had previously only breezed by, stopping long enough for a picture with my bike.

The first day's drive was from Austin to Lincoln, Nebraska, via Oklahoma City and Topeka, Kansas. The driving was pretty uneventful, all highway miles. By leaving at 5:20 am, I pretty much avoided Austin traffic, but ran smack into Ft. Worth traffic at 8:20. It wasn't really bad, considering, but it was a nuisance. The Oklahoma Capitol was pretty typical, but well done. They even had some nice artwork scattered arena the building. Kansas's Capitol is of a typical design as well, but unfortunately, the dome was being restored, and there was scaffolding on the exterior, and the interior was blocked off with temporary walls. I did finally find a section of plexiglas which allowed something of a view of the inside of the dome, but it did not make for good photography. Other things I liked about the Kansas Capitol were the old cage elevator (not operating) and the lettering on the office doors. I got to Lincoln before the sun set, but well after it had closed to visitors for the day.

I went over to the Nebraska Capitol at 8 when it opened again, and wandered around. Nebraska is probably most unique for having a unicameral legislature, but the building itself is also unusual. The design of the building is more like a cathedral than a typical capitol: The ground floor is all support and vaulting, giving a very "basement" feel; the main floor has very high, vaulted ceiling, and has something of a cross layout, except with a second cross member. The building does have a rotunda, if not a proper dome, within a 14-story tower, which they thankfully allow access to. Other than some bird parts, the view from the top of the tower was very nice, and it had a nice breeze blowing. I decided to stick around for the tour at 9, where the guide gave some information about the building, described some of the artwork, and took us into the chamber of the Supreme Court. We were not able, however, to go onto the floor of the legislature, nor its gallery. From there it was a long, boring drive across Nebraska to Wyoming. I hadn't really planned on it, but when I realized I would pass within 20 miles of the Nebraska highpoint, I had to make a detour (I had already visited on a previous trip). When I got to the little single-lane road leading to the highpoint, I thought I was going to have to walk the rest of the way, since the cattle guards were ripped out and the road blocked. Then I realized they had left the fence open next to the grate, and the grass was pretty well trampled, and headed for Panorama Point. The dirt road might have messed my car up getting high centered on the rutted road, but so far at least it seems to have come through okay. I didn't stay more than a couple of minutes at the highpoint as the horse flies were out and pretty bitey. It wasn't long from there to the Wyoming Capitol, probably one of the smallest in the US. I toured around and took pictures for a bit, then talked with a state trooper whose son lives in Austin. It was something of a shock when he told me it was still 6 hours to Cody, but I probably knew that somewhere in my mind. The drive wasn't too bad, certainly no worse than Nebraska. However, on the stretch from Casper to Thermopolis, around dusk, I ran into thousands of bugs. I had to stop, even though I didn't really need gas at that point, to scrape the guts off the windshield so I could actually see.

I didn't get anywhere near as much sleep last night as I really needed (nor the previous two nights, for that matter) and woke up around 5:30. I had a hearty breakfast at the place next door before going over to an outfitter shop to meet the guide for the trip (Kenny), and the other client (Pete). We caravanned to a spot in the nearby canyon apparently pretty popular with rock climbers (there are quite a few bolts in the granite). We went over some basic short roping technique, then got into the actual rock climbing. I didn't have any trouble with the initial route, which was not really that technically difficult, but Pete was a little skittish, probably a touch of acrophobia and inexperience. We rappelled down a pretty vertical face of "the island," and then since we still had time, I climbed back up that face. There was one pretty tricky section which required a bit of spotting from the guide, but I made it. Since Pete hadn't had a chance to belay yet, I started back up that face on a different route. I made it maybe half way before it got too technical for me, and I started slipping off the face. Pete and I had lunch together in town, where Hulk Hogan happened to be dining as well. I went back to my motel to gather a few more things (trying not to fall asleep) before gear check at 2. I was lacking just a few things, which I picked up at the climbing shop we were set up in. I tried to take a nap back at the motel, but had too much on my mind. I went out to have some dinner and to watch some of the Tour de France, and now I'm just trying to stay awake long enough so that I don't wake up too long before our 5:30 am departure.

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