San Luis Obispo

CONTENT WARNING: Amorphous, overextended analogy; weekend-warrior worrying; culture wars

All weekend I debated whether I could live here. On the one hand, I’ve been in love with the place since the first time I saw it. It’s a playpen, like a mountain town without winter (which I don’t like anyway). The street signs are in an idiotic font. Downtown, I saw a sauntering policeman pause on the spotless sidewalk to converse with the owner of a toy store, and when asked, “How’s it going?”, he thew his arms out in an expansive gesture of contentment and announced, “I can’t complain!” I mean, Jesus.


But SLO is, in the end, Southern California—a point I was forced to concede after contesting it all the way down [the] 101. My argument was already straining under the sheer tonnage of eyeliner observed on ponytailed joggers when it collapsed completely in the parking lot of Morro Bay State Park. “Ew,” said a girl displeased with the generous cut of her own tank top, “I look like a hippie.” “That’s ok,” replied her Ken Doll rope-gun as he donned bro-shades and trad rack. “Um,” she countered, “no, it’s not.” And then they set off for the crag in matching Rainbows, leaving me to make fun of this confused bird, instead.

The climbing, too, was sort of absurd. Cabrillo could hardly be more idiot-friendly if the locals installed escalators—which was totally perfect for me because, as I remembered while failing to finish 5.8s on top-rope (…), I am Not A Climber.

  • Rock Land: Kermit Crack (THERE WERE ACTUALLY FROGS IN THIS!), Chimney Crack, Tan Streak, Secret of Foo (not divulged to me, alas)
  • Park Ridge Rock: Tips Ahoy, Red Dawn, Crespi Critter, The Slot
  • El Dorado: Black Gold favorite), Nuggets (haha, nope)

I cannot determine if my horror at the prospect of the sharp end of the rope is innate and irreconcilable or merely a failure of imagination. It exists, I suppose, in the same borderlands as SLO—which itself, before it was either half of California, was Mexico, was Spain, was Chumash in canoes on miles more of that estuary than we see now, singing songs we don’t know and fishing at dawn.

But anyway:



St. Helena

Wingspan envy at the Bubble. Max on the rock, Eric in blue belaying.

I think it was something like:

  • Silverado Squatters
  • Bear Fingers
  • Mark’s Moderate, to Theodore Roosevelt (!)

St. Helena was the first place I ever climbed outside. I was hoping I’d learned a few things since then, but it didn’t feel that way: I fell off almost everything. Way to go, top-rope tough girl.

But I’m improving as a pack-mule, if nothing else. And the relief I felt at the occasional opportunities to jam (fingers, fists, feet … um, elbows) suggests I’m coming around on crack climbing, too—at least as an alternative to hanging off sections of cheese grater.

Speaking of dairy: On the way home, Max shared lessons learned from his stint in industrial farming, milking 300 cows per shift on a desert kibbutz so hot that the cows had a shower room. This was easily the most times I’d ever heard a man say “teat infection.”