A FINAL LOOP EAST
Somehow time flies, but we assume, all of you know that. Between all the climbing in the USA and an exciting time in Mexico this blog entry almost fell between the cracks. Whatever, here it is. You might remember that we left off at Betty’s and Paul’s ranch in Nebraska to visit friends and family and it was a long and tiring journey back to this pleasant place. We arrived in Denver where we were welcomed by Susi and Andrew late evening and spent the night at the airport to catch our early morning flight to North Platte. There we rented a U-Haul (a moving van and the only option to get one-way to Ainsworth) and drove to the ranch where Mutlu, Bo, Songhee, Betty and Paul were waiting for us.
The next days were filled with unpacking, repairs (we brought loads of stuff for maintenance and minor improvements from Europe), tubing on the Nibrara River and barbecues. The Hermsmeyer’s made it really hard for us to leave - thanks for that - but then it was time and we finally were on the road again. We left the Sandhills behind, travelled south through Colorado, stopped in La Junta (one of the few places in the US with a Unimog repair shop and someone with a Star Diagnosis tool) and then started our long journey east in direction of West Virginia. We discovered the beauty and wilderness of southern Kansas and Missouri. We crossed (and swam in) the Tennessee River and entered Kentucky.
The weather was almost tropical when we reached West Virginia and Fayetteville (officially the coolest small town in the US). We tried our luck for one night near Summersville Lake but got “complemented away” in the morning by a member of the Army Corps of Engineers that run the damn. Luckily he also introduced us to Annie - another member of the Corps - who kindly invited us to stay on their horse pasture just above the cliffs of the famous New River Gorge!
We didn’t knew it at that time but the horse pasture became our home for 6 weeks. We shared it with Annie and Trigg (Annie’s and Ed’s two horses) and enjoyed the company and stories of Annie and Ed who took so well care of us while we climbed the endless cliffs of the New River Gorge, explored the history rich old mining area and tasted the delicious moonshine. We also ran into Anna and Cody again, travelling climbers we had met the fall before in the Red River Gorge, spending many days together climbing on the excellent sandstone of the “New”.
Annie and Trigg became our companions, putting their heads into Rouletout reaching for carrots and apples or just looking for company - even Mutlu got used to these big fellas and the early morning calls of the neighbour’s donkey (which Berna loved to feed with carrots). Only the fact that the weather became cooler reminded us that it was time to move again. Even Rouletout had a hard time leaving and only with the help of Ed’s tractor we made it out of the pasture ;-). Thank you Annie & Ed for having us for such a long time!
Our journey led us through one of the poorest areas of the USA, southwestern West Virginia and neighbouring Kentucky back to the “Red” - world famous climbing area we had visited the year before already. Not much had changed: busy crags, muddy approach trails and unstable weather but awesome climbing! After a week Ken and Bibiana joined us from New York and we moved Rouletout in front of their cabin which also featured a hot-tub - a very welcome luxury in the often cool conditions. We also discovered some for us hitherto unknown aspects of the Red River Gorge: The Blue Grass music, the “untouched” canyons of the area which we were able to explore in an ATV tour that Ken’s landlord invited us to and the many hiking trails.
Four weeks passed quickly and the first snow arrived when we finally decided to head south - very much to the delight of Berna. We stopped in Nashville where we joined another Blue Grass concert in the famous Station Inn and continued west. We made our way into Arkansas and stopped at beautiful Lake Ouachita.
Via Mena and the Talimena Scenic Byway we reached Oklahoma and then entered Texas. We met up with Nurdan and Austin, whom we had met in Alaska, near Dallas and soon thereafter reached Corpus Christi where we again stayed at Janie’s farm (and airport) and with Christine and Hans (Thank You!). Hans had received loads of parcels for us, Rouletout got new tires and stickers and we visited and drove the endless beaches of Padre Island. Soon it was time to say good bye, Mexico was calling again. This time we chose to cross the border in Laredo - but as always, more on that in our next blog entry. It will come sooner, we promise…