So the most recent bouldering trip – the same trip where I picked up my swanky new ride – resulted in some seriously sweet climbing at LRC (Little Rock City), sometimes known as Stone Fort, in Chattanooga. What, you don’t believe that we’re capable of sweet climbing? Psh. Even Mark got some gangster shots. Check it out in the swanky jose-sierra-dot-com photo album.
Go be jealous. And then we’ll see you at the next Triple Crown (yep, at LRC).
So we’re back from the Triple Crown. Well, the Hound Ears part of it. What a freakin’ disaster.
First off, lemme just say this: Delta sucks. Lemme say it again, just so I’m clear: Delta sucks. Never, ever, ever, ever use Delta if you have to:
Make it somewhere on time.
Make a connecting flight.
Expect any kind of customer service.
Have any kind of need that goes outside of their very narrow worldview.
No, seriously. Ready for The Saga? Yeah? Well, this was my weekend…
We squeaked into the Lauderdale airport, just barely on time. It took me almost 15 minutes to find a parking spot, Shaunna was inside checking us in, and when I got to her (out of breath from running through the parking garage with backpacks on) she says to me “don’t worry, the plane hasn’t left, it’s an hour behind.” Yeah, when I say we squeaked into the airport, I’m not kidding. It was that kind of tight. Anyway, a thought occurs – one regarding the connecting flight we’re supposed to take from Atlanta to Charlotte. We ask the friendly Delta guy about it, and he says (in a robotic voice) “Don’t worry, all passengers will make their connecting flights.” Phew.
An hour later, we’re herded into the plane (literally! I’ve never seen a plane land and takeoff so quick in my life – it was amazing) and the plane takes off. The pilot is hauling ass. You can tell because the flight attendants are glued to the back wall of the plane, and our lips were doing that jiggly thing that lips do at high speeds. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Lucky you.
We land at 10:48pm. Wow, seriously, I’m glad that they’re holding our flight, because our connection was supposed to leave at 10:48pm. 5 minutes of running through the terminals, and we ought to be just fine.
Oh, but wait, what’s that you say? Our flight left at 10:45? Not only did they not hold the plane, but it left early? I become slightly incensed at this. Shaunna, however, flips her lid. She tells me that she loves me, and there’s plenty of money to pay for bail if necessary, but that only one of us needs to be arrested tonight so the other can pay it. I say “no problem” and release the hounds. Then I sit back and watch Shaunna Do Her Thing.
Here’s a few things I noticed.
Delta has the shittiest customer service I’ve ever encountered. I used to think Dell Computers had bad customer service (rerouting calls to Indian call centers full of completely clueless staff isn’t my idea of good service.) I now believe that Delta has the single worst, least flexible, most infuriating customer service, ever.
The lady that attended us (and there was a line of about 30 people who hadn’t made their connecting flight) didn’t even speak english. I mean, yeah, she spoke a little english – probably enough to get by, I suppose, at a grocery store – but definitely not enough to assuage a small army of very irate customers. She also kept telling us that our only recourse was to stay at the hotel they were telling us to stay at, and that we would be placed on the first flight to Charlotte the next morning at 8:30am. There were two problems with this. The first is that Delta wasn’t paying for the hotel – we were. The second is that we had to be at Triple Crown registration by 8am. Arriving at Charlotte at 9:30, and then driving for two hours to get to Boone would get us to the comp just in time to see who won. Needless to say, an unacceptable situation. Shaunna’s level of frustration escalated, and management was called.
The manager wasn’t a bad guy. I could tell. However, he was definitely in a really terrible situation. Here he was, facing two unbelievably incensed customers, yet he’s a slave to faceless corporate policy. He repeated his mantra of “not gonna happen” so many times I think it just became automatic for him. He tried to explain to us that “weather”, as far as reasons that the flights were delayed, etc, was not the fault of the airline, therefore they aren’t responsible for our plight. Right. So, before Shaunna got arrested for something far more serious than ‘disturbing the peace’, I dragged her away, put corks on her fangs so she wouldn’t hurt herself (or anyone around us) and off we went, to Plan B.
Plan B. Maybe we could drive from Hotlanta to Boone. We hit up the Enterprise Rental kiosk, where a friendly young guy tells us that he can transfer the car rental from Charlotte to Atlanta, and we could get a car. But we’d have to bring it back to Atlanta. Even though our flight home is from Charlotte. Yeah. We asked him why we couldn’t just return the car to Charlotte, and he said “No, that’s a one-way rental – we don’t do that.” So we cancelled that rental and popped over to Avis, who does do one-way rentals. Shaunna’s practically overwhelmed with anger and frustration, and decides that she’s going to go take a walk and set fire to some puppies while I try to handle this. An unbelievably friendly woman at Avis helps me out, and we get a car. We also get direction on how to get to Boone… a mere 6 hours away.
It’s 1am at this point. Boone is (approximately) 6 hours away. That puts us there at 7am, after having driven through the night. I’m really looking forward to the comp now, because I just know I’m gonna put out a really amazing performance. I’m just about overwhelmed myself as I go find Shaunna.
Shaunna had taken a short walk and she’d had a very good idea: she was going to get our baggage (which included, among other things, our gear, our tent, our sleeping bags, our clothes, and our crash pad.) When I found Shaunna, I’d just passed a lady in a Delta uniform talking to another man in a Delta uniform about contacting the police because of an unmanageable customer. I rounded the corner, and Shaunna was just in the middle of telling a Delta employee where he could shove his policy. It took me another minute to find out why she was (again) so angry.
Apparently our baggage had been transferred to a plane. Namely, the plane that would be leaving tomorrow at 8:30am and arriving in Charlotte at 9:30am. And there’s no way we could get our stuff off that plane. Seriously.
So let’s review. At this point, we’ve got no baggage, no gear, no clothes, no tent, no crash pad, nothing. We do, thankfully, now have a car to get to Boone, which we need to in exactly 6 hours or miss registration for a comp that we would be attending on zero sleep and with zero gear. Okay, it could be worse.
I pile Shaunna into the car, and we head to Boone. Contact with Suze and Brad is established, and we get accurate directions to Boone. We take shifts and, sure enough, at 7:00am, we roll into a field full of tents. I turn the car off, push the seat back, and pass out for 30 minutes. I wake up with a start, shake Shaunna (who growls at me and rolls over) and run off to register us. Groggy and staggering, I get all the necessary paperwork and shwag, fill out what I gotta, get Shaunna to do the same, and then we’re piling into a bus that takes us to Hound Ears. Shaunna had enough sense to keep our climbin’ shoes in her carry-on, so at least we had shoes at this point. Things were definitely looking up.
Hound Ears, by the way, is a pretty well-to-do neighborho
od/community. I now understand why the area is only open to climbers once a year, and why they don’t want hundreds of dirtbag climbers tromping through their backyards year-round. That being said, the area is freakin’ amazing. Boulder problems of all shapes and sizes, just incredible stuff of nearly every difficulty, all within easy walking distance of each other. Maybe not as large as Rocktown, but with a very similar variety. Very stokeworthy.
So we climbed. We warmed up on the zeros and the ones, started pushing into the twos and threes. Honestly, all of these were within easy reach. I only started having serious trouble when I was pushing into the V4/V5 range (which is what I estimated my upper limit at anyway), and that’s exactly where I decided it’d be a good idea to go ahead and bust my ankle. Satan’s Cookie (V4 on the Caffeine Wall) spit me off in the dirtiest manner imaginable, and I slid down an ill-positioned crashpad to land between a rock and a pad. There went my ankle.
This was at about 1pm. So I spent the next 4 hours crawling around with a wrapped ankle and icepacks, watching some sick climbers tear up some sick routes and checking out my peeps pulling hard. I have lots of photos. Fa-real.
So after the comp, we decided to eat a delicious dinner (we hadn’t eaten anything in about 24 hours at this point, which probably contributed in no small part to our lackluster performance at the comp) and plopped our carcasses at Ruby Tuesday, where we devoured (that’s right – devoured) some serious burgers and salads and pretty much anything that got in the way, including some lady’s small dog. Things were looking up.
Oh, but wait, I don’t want to forget the douchebag that kept saying “Triple Croooown” like some kind of backwoods redneck over and over and over and over and over and over again, ad nauseaum. Holy cow, this guy needs to get new material. Screw it, he needs to get material, period – he just kept talking for the sake of making noise, and saying the stupidest shit I’ve ever heard (outside of John Madden – but at least Madden gets paid mad loot to say dumb shit). At first it was amusing, and the guy was charmingly dumb… after an hour of hearing him say “Triple Crooooown!” every three seconds, I was just like “Bro, get off the meth.” The people around me were borderline homicidal. After an hour and a half, I was right there with them. Someone needs to tell this guy that a couple of times really is enough. And for the love of God, stop making useless noise. He was polluting my brain with his verbal refuse. Bleagh.
Anyway, we still had to drive back to Charlotte to drop off the car before 11:54pm on Saturday night, and our flight wasn’t until 10:30am the next morning. Tasty. We stuck around as long as possible, and then high-tailed it to Charlotte through two hours of dark, narrow, contruction-equipment-laden twisty mountain roads, and puttered into Avis at exactly 11:54, dropped off the ride and rolled into the terminal to grab our gear (which should’ve been waiting for us at the airport). We poked around and found the room where our gear was, and we could even see the gear there… taunting us through the locked doors. I could practically feel the warmth of the sleeping bags in the inhumanly cold airport terminal, and was finally looking forward to a little bit of solid shuteye. Thing is, the room was locked, and there wouldn’t be anyone around to unlock it until 5am.
Seriously, I was starting to feel a lot of negative feelings for Delta. This ‘comedy of errors’ was quickly turning into a tragedy. We hunkered down in a corner and tried to stay warm with our sweatshirts and whatever else we could wrap around us, and tried to catch at least a few winks. Exhausted, we passed out.
5am, almost on the dot, I popped out of my frigid sleep and realized that there were people everywhere. Lots and lots of people. Who the hell flies at 5am? I grabbed the first Delta uniform I could find, explained the situation, and he (the only kind Delta employee so far) didn’t ask for any explanations – he just took us down to the room, made sure our credentials were in order, and handed us our gear. Groggy still, we then proceeded to check in our gear at the gate and get our boarding passes. Then we realized that we still had another 5 hours to go before our flight, and the terminal was still ice-box cold.
Nothing even remotely interesting happens for those five hours, so I’ll fast forward to the three hour layover in Hotlanta where we had a very pleasant afternoon and cursed Delta and everything related to it. By the time we got home, we just wanted to curl up on the couch and call it a weekend. Holy crap, what a ridiculous series of stupid situations. It very much felt like Delta was actively acting against us at every turn. Their policies are idiotic and counter-intuitive. I don’t think there’s anything we can do about it, though, except tell the world: Screw Delta. They pretty much ruined our trip, our comp, and our health, all in one weekend.
I can’t wait for the next Triple Crown event, though! Very stoked to put up a much more interesting performance at that one. And in between there the ABS9 comp in Tampa, also stoke-worthy! Now I just have to make sure this ankle heals up enough to get me on my feet (literally).
By the way, if you made it through that whole story, kudos to you! I should end it with the classic “and then I found five dollars.”
So I’m in. Registered. Committed. I will be at the Triple Crown this year, pitting myself against some of the hardest boulderers around.
Okay, not really ‘pitting’ myself directly, that’s just overdramatic bs. But I will be there, I will be competing, and my score will likely be compared to some much harder climbers than I. It’s a little daunting, not gonna lie.
On the plus side, I’m gonna get to climb at three of the Southeast’s finest bouldering destinations (outside climbing rules!) First destination is Hound Ears, in North Carolina. Apparently it’s only open to climbing during the comp. This is something that appeals to me, as one of the biggest (whiny) complaints I’ve heard about the Triple Crown is that “locals have a big advantage because they get to climb there.” That’s probably very true – but it also makes a victory that much sweeter when you’re topping out the locals.
Second spot, HP40 (that’s Horse Pens 40) in Alabama. Known for being slopey as hell and graded way hard, it’s supposed to blur that fine line between ‘fun’ and ‘painful’. I’m looking forward to it in one of those finger-shredding, joint-locking ways. Shaunna and I were supposed to hit up HP40 during our last trip, but opted instead to remain in the Chattanooga area (a decision which I have zero regrets over). Looks like I’ll get my chance to leave skin at HP40 after all. Nice.
Finally, the third jewel in the “triple” crown (hence the name): Stone Fort (a.k.a. Little Rock City, a.k.a. LRC). Located just outside of Chattanooga, Tennessee, this is actually a fairly small and out of the way locale for bouldering. While we were tromping ’round Foster Falls and spending lots of time in Chattanooga, we didn’t actually realize that LRC was right down the street until the last day. We didn’t make it there during that trip, and so I’m happy that we’ll have an opportunity to get there now. I think we’d have eventually made it there anyway, but the proximity to Foster Falls means there’s always that temptation to skip LRC completely and go hop on some seriously badassed climbing at the Falls.
I don’t have any expectations of ‘winning’ anything at this comp. I’m going in as an intermediate even though I’m definitely on the lower end of that scale (hardest boulder problem I’ve ever completed is a V4/5 at Rocktown), and I’ve no illusions. But it’ll be great fun, and I know Shaunna will compete at the higher levels (and potentially do very well!) so it’s exciting. I’ll take lots of pictures, don’t worry. Not that you are.