Monday, February 16, 2009

Recession-proof Adventures

It was only $5. That’s all it would have cost me. Every year at work they do a special deal where you can get a flu shot for just a five spot. Even though I had a couple of weeks notice, however, when the day came I typically had $0 in my wallet, and so missed out on the flu shot. So now I’m paying for it. At least this weekend it has rained continually, so I really haven’t missed much outside, but definitely I would have liked to spend my 3-days off in a little better way than running to the bathroom every half hour or so. Since I’m tethered to within 15 steps of the toilet, I guess that gives me the chance to update this space where I haven't written anything for awhile.

The economy is on everyone’s minds these days and Gina and I are no exceptions. Every year we plan out our vacations, what adventures we’d like to do and specifically mountains we wish to climb. With Gina’s Everest ambitions put on hold until 2010, we needed to come up with something worthy. Early on, a great ambitious plan was hatched. A trip to Bolivia was what we came up with, to climb some of the most beautiful peaks in the world, four of them over 6000 meters. We began crunching the numbers, and totaling up the costs. Funny thing about Bolivia – when you are actually there, the amount of money you spend is very little, but getting there – that’s the expensive part. The trip was going to extend over a 3 week period, and since Gina is self-employed, that means lost wages. Then add in the cost of kenneling the dogs over all that time…. All the expenses started climbing up even higher than the peaks whose summits we hoped to reach. Not that this has ever stopped us before. In the past we would look at the figures and devise a plan to make it work. Regrettably, things are different this year. Or maybe we are just a little more cautious for 2009. So some new, less costly plans needed to be formulated for our adventures of the year. In true Mike and Gina fashion, they are still pretty ambitious. Only this year, they are perhaps a little less hard on our pocketbooks.

The first thing we came up with was something that has been on our mind’s for awhile. Back in 2007, we both had begun training to run the San Francisco Marathon together. That didn’t quite work out. Around five weeks into the training, the pain in my left knee became too severe and I wound up bailing out. (2 months later I found out I had a meniscus tear and would undergo surgery) Gina continued training for the marathon and wound up running it without me. A fantastic accomplishment for her, no doubt, but we always felt like we missed out on an experience we intended to go through together. Since my surgery, I had always followed my doctors advice and not done any running. Then back in November, Gina convinced me to run our local 10K race, the Redding Turkey Trot, which I did. Back up on that horse. Filled with new confidence, the marathon goal has been reborn. So now we find ourselves entering the sixth week of marathon training, which we plan to culminate by running the Rock N Roll Marathon in San Diego on May 31st. I’m quite pleased to report the training is going great (with the exception of this rain and flu-filled weekend) and I have no pain in my knees (fingers crossed). San Diego is just a quick, cheap, Southwest flight away, and a couple of nights hotel plus the marathon fees won’t kill us.

Ah, but what can we do with the big, remaining vacation time. This time must include climbing, because we simply cannot stand to go through a year without climbing something. The last two summers we’ve spent time in Colorado, trying to bag all of the 54 14,000’ peaks that are found there. So far we’ve managed 20 of them, and at the rate of only spending a week or so a year in Colorado, it will still take us some time to get them all. It’s been one of our favorite places to spend time, though, and when we some space to get into our preferred time-share, The Grand Timber Lodge in Breckenridge, we snapped up the opportunity to go and finish the last six peaks we have to do in the Sawatch range. Still this year it will be an out of the ordinary trip, as we plan to drive, rather than fly as we usual do to Colorado. Even with gas at $3 a gallon it will be cheaper than jet travel, more importantly we will not have to rent-a-car, and therefore this one week holiday fits nicely into the budget. We definitely are looking forward to being almost halfway done with the Colorado 14’ers and can focus on another part of the state next time we go.

That left us with 2 weeks of time off left though, and that’s a long time. What could we do in two weeks, that wouldn’t cost a tremendous amount of money? When you are vacationing somewhere, invariably you spend money, even if you aren’t doing anything. Then it came to me. Last spring I had planned a grand backpacking trip, a trip I have desired to do ever since I had heard about it. I even had reserved the hard to get permits last year. Nonetheless, when I started hearing about Gina’s time at Everest Basecamp, I realized I had to do the husbandly thing to do and change those plans, give her a little more comfort when she got home. (We ended up going to Breckenridge, instead) I was under no such obligation this year, however, so I immediately suggested it up and Gina agreed. So this summer we will hike the John Muir Trail, trekking over 200 miles from Yosemite to Mt Whitney over just a little more than two weeks. In addition to our 3rd ascent of Whitney, we hope to add Split Mountain, Mt. Tyndall, and Mt. Muir to our list of California 14’ers – a list we’ve been negligent on the past couple of years while we concentrated on Colorado. If we can summit all those, that will make 6 of the 15 California 14ers, a much smaller and it seems more attainable list than Colorado’s. (Ah, if they were only that easy)

So even in these times, adventure lives on. We had to stay a little closer to home, had to keep things more reasonable. It’s not as exotic, but the journey is still there. We will take this year and tone it down a little, pay off some bills. Running a marathon, climbing 6 peaks in 7 days, and a 2-week crossing of the Sierras, this is how we “tone it down”.