The Monkey Tracker

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

All aboard the Steamboat!

First 24 hours in the USA:

We escaped Mexico and got on the plane to the USA. Our firt stop was Dallas Texas. The excessivness of America was clear from the word go when we went to McDonalds. Supersize me! and how. The rumors are true.. we ordered a small combo that equated to a large Australian meal for half the price.

After 5 weeks in Latin America we were very relieved to be in this kingdom of western culture, highly accessible food and services and English speaking people.

We ticked a few of the  classic problems in the first 24 hours. We probably should be ashamed of ourselves...

  • Dunkin Donuts
  • McDonolads
  • McDonolads
  • McDonolads.... yes we went to maccas three times..
  • Burger king
  • Subway
  • Walmart (three star)
  • KFC (10 pieces chicken for 10 dollars)
  • Cheap liquor store (Smirnoff vodkas 6.99 per 6 pack, coronas $1 each)
  • REI

Yes we were excited..

Since then we have enjoyed other must do's such as:
  • Taco bell and KFC combined in the one shop
  • Cold rock and Subway combined in the same shop
  • Wendy's
  • Ace
  • Dollar tree (nothing over a dollar)
  • Safeway
  • City market (two star)

We caught a connecting flight straight to Denver and stayed at the budget Crosslands trucky motel. It was lunch time and we had one sole mission, enjoy the cultural experience of a Walmart. We heard there was one a few miles away. We set of foot to find the holy Walmart. This was highly ambitious given that we were near by hundreds of 4 lane motorways which you can't walk on. I agree with this law as the motorways were certainly dangerous car sewers that were flowing rapidly.

We spent may be 3 hours trying to negotiate our way to this mysterious, illusive Walmart. I might note we had no address just a gut feeling it was this direction. We couldn't find the Walmart but we did find a field of gophers. It was like a timezone game. Hundreds of whole with these cheeky gophers popping in out and out of them and making crazy sounds. The were some sort of genius super gophers, far superior to us and our inferior methods of trying to catch them by hand. When we find Walmart we are getting a gun.  Then we'll see who's the alpha gopher.

The next monumental moment was when we discovered that the service station sells these super snickers bar ice creams. Snickers!!

The next morning we picked up our rental van which we will be using for the next three moths to tour the USA. Our van is nothing short of soccer mum van, Steve is the soccer mum, Beric is the winging are we there yet child and we don't know where Nomad is.

We ventured out and it turns out these madmen drive on the wrong side of the road. We battled with the traffic and backwards driving for many minutes, we were soldiering on and losing all hope and then there it was, like a flash, like a vision, a giant Walmart, the sign over a 100 foot tall. Not just any Walmart, but a SuperWalmart.

We knew we were in for some good people watching when we walked past this car in the carpark.

Check for pictures of us on this website:

Colorado (where we are) people of Walmart:

Seriously look at the website, you wont regret it..

Walmart is full of some full nutcases. More Walmart coverage to come in future blog ;)

It was 3pm and we were nearly ready to go to Steamboat. Steamboat is a world class skiing town in Colorado and we had planned 10 days here. Before departing to Steamboat we concluded it would be a good idea to waste 6 hours walking in circles around the 3 story adventure superstore known as REI. When we finally emerged, several hundred dollars poorer, it was well after dark.

A genius move, given our 180 mile route along a narrow, windy mountain road featuring a snow storm, black ice, and snow plows coming towards us at 60 miles an hour. Obviously our front wheel drive soccer mum van, lacking in high traction snow driving tyres, was a complete death mobile.

Nomad had the pleasure of driving. On the first sharp corner we started drifting on the ice and nearly went off the road. From here on we stuck to 10 miles per hour on this 30 mile stretch of treacherous road. We were relieved to make it into the Steamboat Hotel around midnight.

On our first day skiing we were lucky to have perfect powder snow conditions.

Steamboat is well know for this but unfortunately after the first day the weather warmed up and the rest of our time was spent skiing through ice and slush.

For his first ski lesson, Nomad and Steve dragged Beric all the way to the top of the mountain and then disappeared somewhere off in the distance. Now is a good time to mention that Beric had never skied before, and managed to break his poles while getting off the lift! He made it down eventually, skillfully dodging hundreds of fast paced pro skiiers, most of them under the age of 10. Some of them were cute though we must admit (by the way, now that's a dog!)

The day was spent exploring the green runs, and nomad even managed a few tricks in the terrain parks.

Nomad making his own jumps in backcountry

Nomad carving corners
At night we were entertained by the classic American TV shows Suns of Guns and Southern Fried Stings. Suns of Guns, a reality show about a custom gun workshop, would never be allowed to air in Australia. All these lunatics would come into this shop and request crazy modifications, like converting a huge machine gun to a shoulder fired weapon, or mounting an automatic shotgun to an ATV. They would then show in full graphic detail the use of these crazy weapons while hunting boar and deer.

Southern Fried Stings involved a bunch of redneck private investigators solving mysteries like the gorilla breaking into the toystore. In one case a disgruntled employee would repeatedly break into the lunch room and urinate in the iced tea. In all cases the investigators would eventually crash tackle the criminal, break everything in the room and generally create chaos until the police arrived.

Following a few days off skiing and some local advice, Beric went into a ski shop to hire a helmet and somehow emerged with two days of free ski lessons. After this proper training, his chances of survival on the mountain were greatly improved and we spent a few days cruising down intermediates and even a few black diamonds.
Beric and Rafiki dominating on one of their first Black Diamonds ever

Steve on a super steep slope, the photo doesn't do it justice..
Despite being in a fancy ski town full of rich tourists and fancy resorts, we were determined to live the life of bums. We braved the freezing cold of the carpark to cook our 20 cents worth of Raymen noodles on our Walmart stove. One night we even cooked some steak inside the van because it was snowing outside. The smell lingered for days.

 On a rest day we encountered a local in a supermarket who was dressed in a crazy fur coat made from some sort of animal.

 Upon talking to this nutcase we discovered he had shot this creature, eaten it and made clothing from its fur. Beric tried to negotiate to buy this coat but it wasn´t in the budget. After telling him that people in Australia wouldn´t stand for it if you pranced around in a supermarket wearing an animal, he proceeded to rant. "I´m standing here and they´re standing there. Those people can stay where they are. I eat what I kill and I wear it." He really seemed like our kind of lunatic and Beric even tried to offer our services on his next hunting trip but apparently the season hadn´t started yet.

Rest days were filled with all kinds of surreal encounters, like the famous Fuzziwigs Candy Store mission. No one can really be sure if Fuzziwigs even exists.

Much time was spent at the legendary Space Gas Station:

This clothes shopping adventure never occurred for the record:

The only evidence to suggest it did is the 3 crazy shirts that Nomad splurged on. Beric never bought anything, he is still living in super stingy bum mode.. in fact he hasn't had a pillow for 2 months now and refuses to buy cutlery. He has been getting buy just fine with this broken spoon:

And as with any bum you have to have an icicle beard, its essential:

 We did receive a few packages of climbing gear which our Parents posted from Australia to ourselves at Steamboat one morning. This was like Christmas! Christmas I tells ya!

Thanks parents!!! Love you
thanks Fish! your new gear kicks ass

This extra gear was required for the big walls we are planning to climb in the coming months including El Captain (3000 feet) at Yosemite and Moonlight Buttress at Zion National Park (Utah).

For our last day of skiing we checked out the budget option of Howelson Hill. This was the original Steamboat ski field from the 1930s, which is now mostly used for training and competitions. At this field we encountered our first pommel lift. Basically a bunch of handles would fly past and you would grab one. Then you would be dragged up a steep solid ice slope in a line with other skiers closely following behind. Upon catching the lift, the ski operator said if you could get up this lift, you could use any lift in the world. Interesting..

A few hundred metres up the slope Beric wasn´t paying attention and managed to cross his skis in a large rut. In a tangled mess of skis, poles and handles he went flying face first down the slope straight towards towards Nomad. It was too late to move and a helpless nomad was also taken out and began tumbling down the slope. Beric was trying to guide himself on his chest down the slope Super Mario style, but it was far less graceful as his skis stayed in their bindings somehow. Eventually nomad made contact with a water hydrant and the two came to a stop.

Steve had the pleasure of watching this comical mess from a distance, along with all the pro skier kids who found it quite amusing. After Nomad and Beric regained their composure all they had to do was negotiate a nasty steep black diamond slope consisting of more solid ice to get back down to the lift.

On our final afternoon in Steamboat we decided to relax our muscles and venture up to the famous steam boat hot springs. There was a sign advising that you must have snow tyres or chains in order to make it up the icey dirt mountain road to the springs..

but we showed them! 

The hot springs were truly amazing. Several natural rock pools in amongst a freezing river. 

The temperature of the water in the rock`pools increased the higher up the hill you walked and got to the point where it was unbearably hot. After relaxing for 10 minutes it was time to do some conditioning and training for Antarctica. Antarctica is the only continent we are not visiting this year, but don't worry, that's the plan for 2012. After climbing for weeks straight in Mexico our finger tips and hands had toughed up significantly and formed awesome calluses. Unfortunately going straight to skiing for 10 days and then super warm water for a couple of hours undid all this goodness and hard work.

So anyway, we jumped out of the boiling hot springs straight into the freezing cold river. For Steve and Beric the blood rushed to their organs and then their bodies went numb and everything was pleasant. However Nomad wasn't hanging around for the numbness to to help him...

Following this Beric and Steve decided to implement some Bear Grylls knowledge. According to Grylls if you fall into freezing water your best chance of survival is to get dry by rolling around in snow. ingenious. There was no time to waste. We think this theory is true but unfortunately the pile of snow we chose turned out to be an ice slab, real painful and hard like..

Our next mission: find a dead moose, cut it open and crawl inside to keep warm.

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