Summer Road Trip: Music Students Head West For Rock Climbing Adventures | Life
EASTON – The great American road trip is a cultural right of passage. Listen to tunes with the windows wide open. Find cool local places to eat. Packing sports bags with military precision. And of course, friends and comrades to join on the open road. Getting lost is of course essential.
Everyone from Lewis and Clark to Steinbeck to Tocqueville has taken a measure of our nation through movement. And of course the grandfather of all is the beat writer Jack Kerouac who once said, “My witness is the empty sky.”
A group of music students, including from the shore, gathered to hike across the country. They wanted to leave their instruments behind and find some great climbing spots. Specifically, they were interested in a type of climbing called bouldering. The block does not involve ropes or harnesses. They just climb with a black mattress like a pillow underneath.
All this exercise whets the appetite. They have a propane stove in the back of their aging SUV.
âIt’s a year after the pandemic and things have opened up a bit. People travel, but it’s always difficult to get out of the country. So a lot of people are traveling around the country. So a lot of the parks we tried to get into are pretty busy, âLaurie Alltop said. She’s from Easton.
âIt’s just a summer trip. We left on July 3rd and didn’t complete our loop until the 20th. We all met in Tennessee and had a few days to practice putting the car away, âshe said. They all go to Lee University, a private Christian university in Cleveland, Tennessee.
âI am a major in the flute. We have two majors in music education and a major in worship music. I’m the only major performance, âshe said.
âWe don’t play at all. It’s our summer break. It was strange not to practice, âshe said.
In order to have a transformational journey worthy of Joseph Campbell, you must leave the known behind. Think of Bilbo Baggins and the “Lord of the Rings”
âWe started the third and drove to Kansas. It was like a thirteen hour drive to Wichita. We ended up staying in a church which felt like we were on tour with a band. We didn’t see anyone so we stayed the night and continued on our way. We drove to Denver because someone needed climbing shoes, âshe said.
Seeing the Rockies rise in the west as you cross plains is a thrill. The driving becomes dizzying and twisty very quickly.
âWe rode 70. It was probably one of the coolest rides I’ve ever done. And then we were in Moab. We were going to visit the Arches in Utah, but the parks were full by 9am. So we drove to our next location, which was Joe’s Valley, âshe said.
The Utah Valley is a world-class sandstone boulder site. There are climbs right over a river. Road travelers brought tents and camping gear so they could just set up wherever there was a wild place.
âJoe’s has been one of my favorite places because we were here during the offseason. For the bouldering area, there are not many people. It’s very hot. It’s south of Salt Lake City. We have a two burner stove and then we have all these little back packing dishes. So we ate a lot of ramen. One evening we put in peanut butter, sriracha and pieces of chicken. Astonishing. We eat with our headlamps, âshe said.
And then they went to the holy ground of Hunter S. Thompson – Las Vegas. They only stayed there one night.
âNext we go to Joshua Tree. Then we go up the California coast to Oregon and Washington, âshe said.
The Pacific Coast Highway in California is over 600 miles long and is adjacent to the Pacific Ocean offering many “California Dreaming” views.
And of course, with any trip there is the question of the return. There is a beginning, a middle and an end to everything. You are a new person as you reflect on your way home.
âI am driving home because I want to stay with my vehicle. It is my father’s vehicle that we use. It’s a 2002 Yukon. It’s almost 300,000 miles on it, âshe said.
âThe car is red and it has a car bag on top. There’s a crash pad for the block on top, then all of our gear is on it. The way we packaged it is pretty impressive.
Of the five travelers, she is the only woman. She is 20 years old. The boys have two tents for the four of them and she has her own tent. Her tent looks as comfortable as a daydream of Martha Stewart.
âIt was awesome. It was like a bunch of brothers relaxing, having fun, âshe said.
As you can imagine, five music majors are going to have a great road trip playlist.
âIt’s kind of a mix, but I would say one of my personal favorites is Still Woozy. The boys love Young the Giant and Simon and Garfunkel, âshe said.
The act of blowing out the window as the landscape rolls by is an affirmation of life. Eating and sleeping inexpensively and being with good travel friends makes travel an adventure.
âWe have a lot of really cool things to come,â she said.