One week in the summer of 2003, Ari and I had become fed up with work, not surprisingly, and so we coordinated some days off for a trip to the Red. We got a Friday and Saturday off, and convinced Dave both that he wanted to go and that he wanted to drive us. So Thursday night I met Dave at his house, we picked up Ari at the Plainfield Galyan's, and thus began one of the more memorable trips I have ever had.
Dave had acquired his BMW not too long before the trip, and naturally we took advantage of its superb speed and handling-passing semis on tight narrow mountain roads-and cruising through the more interesting 30 miles of interstate 75 at a good clip… ok, an excellent clip. (Those speeds should probably never be posted for everyone to see, but if you're curious, ask Dave and he'll probably be glad to tell you.)
Since this trip was almost a year ago, I have no idea what we did that Friday. I think it involved only doing one route, but I don't remember which one it was or why. Something makes me think it was AWOL, sadly enough, but I did climb it twice that day. Anyway, Friday night or Saturday morning Andy and Chili dog and Wes arrived, and of course since it never rains at the Red, it rained some that night. In the morning, after a long discussion and the usual process of indecision, we finally concluded that Purple Valley just might dry out enough so we could get a few routes in up there.
The road out to Purple Valley is a dirt/gravel mix. You get to drive over a couple bridges, a dam, and a sunken something that is really just blocks of cement stuck in the streambed. We all drove over the dam, and then Andy continued in his Jeep across the sunken bridge while Dave parked his car just before it. As we got to the trailhead, it started to rain a bit more, so we delayed our approach even longer. We finally unpacked the vehicles, loaded our packs, and worked our way up the steep and muddy trail. Wes and Andy took off along the crag to check out some routes, and the rest of us dumped our packs and climbed up for a bit of a view. About the time we got to the top we started to hear thunder, and the dark clouds up the valley definitely caught our attention, but since many of us had spent many a weekend waiting out heavy storms that quickly passed our concern was minimal. We all thought it was just another bothersome storm that would be gone in half an hour.
Well "HA!" laughed the weather gods, or perhaps it was revenge of the climbing gods for some mistake or insult one of us had committed, as this was not a normal gone-in-a-half-hour thunderstorm. Oh, no, certainly not. The rain began, lightly at first, and we grabbed our gear and tore along the cliff side until we reached a dihedral with a roof over it, taking our perch there in a semi-sheltered cove. Thirty minutes passed and the storm only grew worse. An hour passed, and still it was raining even harder. Sometime while we were in the cove Wes got the bright idea to step out into the rain and shout "Is that all? Is that all you can give me?!" As if we were in a movie, the thunder rolled in response and the rain came down even harder. We waited… and waited. Some sorts of scuttles took place, as naturally happens when all of us are grouped together in a small area. A waterfall started to form in our dihedral, cutting back on our dry space. After two hours the rain finally appeared to have lightened up enough to allow us to head down to the vehicles. We thought we could go get something to eat, or at the least hang out anywhere besides that little corner of Purple Valley.
The trail had become a running creek, and after hitting the flat meadow at the bottom we trudged through 5 inches of water to reach the road. Andy and Wes threw their stuff in the Jeep while Ari, Dave and I walked down the road to Dave's car. As we came around the corner, I noticed something new. A new noise was tumbling towards us from the direction of Dave's car, still on the other side of that sunken bridge in the little creek. Rounding the corner, the thought crossing my mind became a reality as we stared dumbfounded at what was now a torrent of muddy brown water blocking our easy passage across that creek. The creek was knee-deep and flowing faster than a Russian downs a bottle of vodka, and we feared we would be stuck there for days. Laughing at our predicament, we waited for Andy and Wes to show up, and then all quickly concluded it was not a good idea to drive the jeep through the flood.
After standing around idly for a while, Andy wandered out into the water, challenging Wes that he could not get farther into the creek than Andy could. Wes was hesitant to pick up the bet, but in the end he didn't need to and after a bit of hesitation and a final commitment to go for it, Andy made it across and called back that all of us would be able to do this. So he came back, got his pack, went back across, dropped the pack, and came back. Then Wes ventured into the water with his pack and a pair of trekking poles for balance, and made it safely to the other side. Ari remembered a kayaking rescue technique, which proved useful since Dave would have been carried down the creek and the water was probably over the knees of Ari and myself. We donned our packs, put Dave upstream, all locked arms, and went in a pyramid across the cold, tumbling waters. Andy locked up the Jeep(however much it is possible to do so on a vehicle with no top or doors) and then carried Chili across the creek.
Relieved to not be totally stranded anymore, we all piled into the BMW, breathed a heavy sigh, and headed towards Miguel's. A couple of curves later, I remembered the dam we still had to cross, but no one else seemed too concerned as the creek was much bigger and wider by then, and there had been no water behind the dam on our way in to the crag. Yet something was not on our side that day, and turning the corner, we found a good 8 inches of water rushing across the top of the dam, too much and too fast to drive Dave's low clearance car though. This obstacle was not as difficult to walk across as the creek was, and seeing some people camped on the other side we approached them to get a ride into town to pick up the sleeping gear and some food.
After a number of lines like "well, you have to ask that person" (we had already asked that person) or "we don't have room" (in their big van) or "we have a flat tire" (they obviously didn't), we gave up and continued on to the next campsite. Here we found a yellow dome Wal-Mart tent, a smoldering fire, and a truly hick-country couple, the guy even completing the outfit with the cheap can of beer in his hand. This was our introduction to Tim and Anna Good. Tim agreed to give us a ride to Miguel's, though after a bit of questioning he admitted he was drunk already (it was about 4 pm). So, Anna drove me to town so I could both call work to tell them I would probably be late the next day, and to pick up Andy and Wes' sleeping gear. Now you would think the story would basically end here, but really it's only beginning.
Anna dropped me off at Miguels, where I picked up the needed gear, found Ben and Roman from Climb Time, told them our story and they gave me a ride back out to the campsite. When we arrived, we found the truck, Tim, Andy, and Dave gone. A beer run was the excuse, so we waited eagerly for their return, and Ben and Roman stayed to hang out for a while. As it was still raining lightly, Anna became very concerned about the condition of the fire and wanted to construct some sort of cover to keep the rain from putting it out. We sort of figured that if it had managed to survive the flood-rain, it surely would be ok in the light sprinkle. But none of our reasoning had any effect, and Anna constructed a plan to cut out the bottom of their tent (since it was broken and every few years when a tent breaks they just burn it and buy a new one anyway) and string the bottom of the tent over the fire to act as a cover. As we had nothing better to do, we began the project and eventually got a decent cover strung between a tree and a stick stuck in a stump. Of course after not too long an edge fell too close to the flames and the cover began to disintegrate, but it did the job for the time being.
As darkness descended, we began to wonder just where in the world the beer guys had taken off to. Although the situation seemed a bit odd, I took no huge notice of it, but just tried to keep dry and warm, made some dinner, and relaxed on the crash pad, wondering what the response of my coworkers would be when I finally made it back.
Four hours after their departure, Andy, Dave, and Tim made it back to the campsite with some Guinness, some cheap beer, and some even cheaper whiskey. As Tim and Anna immediately began arguing, Andy gave me a look saying "You will NOT believe what happened." From what I know, they got a tour of the mountains of Kentucky, or at least took some pretty big circles of the area, often returning to right where they started. They made it to the beer trailer well enough, but then Tim apparently wanted to go to another one or something. Andy was driving, but Tim gave directions. Eventually they ended up at Tim's apartment, where Andy and Dave had the honor of meeting some other characters. They also went to a drive up liquor store. Finally Andy insisted that he knew how to get back to the campsite and simply drove, ignoring Tim. During the ride, they listened to the same CD several times over, and Tim's new favorite song (keep reading below) even more times.
Andy's story of the beer run:
On the beer run we first went to the beer trailer where Dave and I got beer and Tim was talking about going to Mt Sterling to get his whisky. When he was outside relieving himself Dave and I decided that the best thing to do was to go to Mt Sterling. Tim had a short cut and was going to tell me how to get there.
We headed out on Mt Parkway taking and exit that was almost to 64 were we got on Kentucky 11 and took it all the way back to Slade. There Tim instructed me to get back on Mt Parkway take the same exit then and left turn instead of a right. During this trip it became apparent that Tim had more than weed and beer in him. My thoughts were that his guy was on acid.
We only had about 10 conversations that whole time, but we had them a couple hundred times. Each time I responded in the exact same way as before. Some of the conversations were about if Wes would have sex with Tim's wife while they were back at the campsite, "because she was horny". We learned how he makes break pads for NASCAR, how his son had stolen his car, his concerns that we were going to kill him and take his truck, how his son was being released from prison soon, and several other stories.
Of course we played only one song almost the entire time. The only conversation we only had once was how his son had a child with their cousin. The child has only three fingers on one hand and is cross-eyed. Tim became our best friend when I offered to pay for gas and then wanted to show us off to all his friends and kin. I managed to avoid this by reminding him that we had to return to the others.
And back to the rest of the story:
At this point, the drama truly began. As the rest of the night is somewhat of a surreal blur, I am not sure where to begin. The scene was something like this: Wes set up his ground pad and leaned up against a rock. Tim sat next to him, chugging the whiskey from the bottle. Set back a bit from the fire, Andy and I sat on the crash pad, occasionally adding a comment but mostly just absorbing the scene. Dave was next to us, seemingly lost in a mission for the evening, and determined to win. Ari sat precariously between Dave and Anna, taking the role of peacemaker trying to make sure no one actually got hurt that evening as any good health and safety consultant should do. That evening she even got to try to control some of the mental health problems we unearthed around that fire. In the background, just out of the light of the campfire rested Chili, content for the most part to remain out of the action.
Tim did most of the talking. Or shouting rather. His favorite song (of which he had just purchased the CD) was "she fucking hates me" which he was happy to sing to us at least 300 times that night, particularly when Anna was mad at him for something, but sometimes just because a rare moment of silence had descended upon the circle. First Anna was upset at how long the beer run had taken, and eventually this continued into how much she hates Tim or how much Tim hates her, with intermittent confessions of how much she loves Tim. Wes coolly played along with everything, agreeing with everything Tim would say so as to not anger him further. Ari took the role of consoling Anna, though the whole matter was complicated by the increasing inebriation of the group. Dave stirred up controversy when Tim broke out the weed, though we finally managed to convince him to shut up. And through it all, we got the whole story of the history of Tim and Anna, their old marriages, children, and adventures.
Tim and Anna Good had been together, well I don't remember exactly, but a long time, and only married for 4 years I think. Anna was 40 years old, a grandmother, and looked about 60. Tim had at least one son, who was in trouble in some way or another, whether it was with the law or just with Tim I am not sure. Anyways, Tim described to us how he had chased his son across 3 states, and "the bastard still got away, even though he was on foot and I had my truck." In the discussion of children, Anna became very emotional, probably due to the alcohol and arguing with Tim, not to mention continued repeats of "she fuckin hates me." As Ari tried to calm Anna down, suddenly Anna realized that Ari was the nicest girl in the world, much sweeter than her own daughter, and now Ari was adopted as Anna's daughter. The rest of the night Anna referred to Ari as "my daughter."
Tim seemed to like us well enough, even though we were "Yankees." In fact, he insisted that he was a Yankee himself, having come originally from Ohio. Passing around the bottle of whiskey, he assured us he was not a red neck, not a hillbilly, and not a hick. "Ain't no hill-billy shit going on here" was another favorite line of his. He did however, tell us about how he burned down someone's trailer house. But he did it the "right way," waiting until no one was home so no one would get hurt. All of this because the person shot Tim's dog, but didn't finish the job, leaving the dog half alive.
We also came to learn that the previous night, Tim dragged Anna across the campsite by her hair. At some point that night Tim also fell into the fire.
Chili occasionally would take interest in our group and come out of the shadows. Tim of course forgot there was a dog with us as well, jumped, and starting yelling that there was a coyote there, and threatening to shoot it or attack it with the hatchet. We managed to calm him down enough to not attack, reminding him it was only Andy's dog. However a while later, the exact same thing happened again and Tim forgot again that it was a dog. Eventually after a few too many threats involving the hatchet Ari had the wisdom to throw it into the woods. This didn't help the fact that they still apparently had a gun in their truck though.
Many more events continued as the night progressed, though I can not recall most of them. To me the whole evening is blurred into one surreal and totally unbelievable event. As Anna became more drunk, any self control she had disappeared. As most of us started to drift off to sleep, she suddenly decided her shoes would be better placed in the fire than on her feet. Throwing one shoe in the fire, it showered sparks all over Tim and Wes and consequently Wes' ground pad. This caused a bit of a scene, but Ari once again came to the rescue and calmed Anna down, convincing her to go for a walk. After the walk, Anna's condition still went downhill, and she eventually tried to stand up, but instead fell in the fire. She did not really realize it though, and it was a good while before she realized her clothes were on fire. By this point Tim had calmed down and perhaps sobered up a bit, and was repeating his song lyrics less often, and even seemed to care a little about Anna. So finally, after Anna managed to get her burning clothes off, she went in her underwear with Tim to the truck, where they eventually passed out around three in the morning.
In the meantime, Dave and Ari had gone for a walk, and Dave took my headlamp. I was resting under Wes' emergency blanket, waiting for Dave to come back so I could get my sleeping bag out of the car, still on the other side of the dam. Dave never came back though, and after about two hours of sleep I woke to a bit of light and more light rain. Deciding it would be a good idea to check the water level and get across it before it could start raining and the water level could rise again. I found only an inch or two of water going over the dam, and rushed across it, where I found Dave and Ari asleep in the car, Dave using my sleeping bag. I woke them in the rudest manner I could think of at the moment, opening the door and yelling at them for leaving me without a light or a sleeping bag. So we packed up, drove across the creek, got the rest of our stuff, and left Andy and Wes to sleep. By six we were on the highway, and by eleven I was home. Since I was supposed to be at work at 11, I quickly showered and headed off, arriving only an hour late. Fortunately, everyone found the story very entertaining, if somewhat odd.
After we left, Andy and Wes decided to cut their losses and go home. No climbing was accomplished that weekend. They did however get Tim's phone number, and an invite to come party with him some weekend.