26th Birthday Challenge | How I Climbed 26 Routes in a Day

For a while now, I’ve been wanting to to do a birthday challenge. In the past I’d be confined to the climbing gym on my birthday, relegated to bagging the amount of V Point in boulder routes for the age I was turning. It was fun, but it wasn’t climbing outside. Living on the road this year afforded me the opportunity to do something I’ve never done: have a climbing birthday challenge outside and in a new place to me (Video of the birthday challenge is below!).Justin Fricke The Weekend Warrior on his birthday challenge at Hueco Tanks State Park

Photo: Adam Fricke

What’s a birthday challenge?

The way I interpret it to be is anything you want it to be. Turning 23 and want to climb 23 sport routes in a day? Go for it! Turning 50 and you want to run a 50 mile ultra on, or around, your birthday? Hell yea! That’s what’s fun about the birthday challenge, you turn it into whatever you want and you make the rules. As long as you’re doing what you love with people you like being around, you’re winning.

What was my birthday challenge?

Go to Hueco Tanks State Park in West Texas and climb 26 boulder routes in one day. I wanted to only count climbs with a V2 grade or higher, but my body had other plans for me.

How’d it go?

Terrible, awful, awesome, so much fun, and everything in between. I’ve never been to Hueco Tanks State Park to climb, so Adam and I agreed to hire a climbing guide. That was a key to success. Rather than spending lots of my time looking for boulders in an outdated guide book, our guide was able to show me great routes to climb.

Now I’m not in climbing shape. I’ve only climbed a handful of times since hitting the road two months ago and it showed. After a couple V0’s and a V1, my body told me that anything and everything would count as a climbed route. For some reason I thought it’d be a great idea to try and bag a V4. Don’t get me wrong, Moonshine was awesome. It’s got great flow to it, but that overhanging roof climb killed my arms and core for the rest of the day. After I was done screwing around on Moonshine, I only had 6 climbs under my belt and it was almost noon.

Our group went to a spot that’s tough to get to, but was loaded with Vo’s. Within an hour I had bagged another 7 routes and was halfway to my goal of 26. On our hike to our last spot I was contemplating whether I’d realistically be able to finish my challenge or not. As I was flailing on some V0’s and V1’s, it became a real thing that I’d have to suck up my pride and start repeating some climbs, and that’s what I did.

I think I climbed one route a total of 7 times to get my route count up to 22. Tired, dehydrated, hungry, and ready for the day to be over, we approached our last climbing area for the day. I only needed 4 more climbs and it was a slab wall we came to. I hate climbing slab. It’s my nemesis and ironically what stood between me and finishing up my birthday challenge.

As I pulled the lip on my last climb, I was elated to see the golden hour sun setting over the desert of West Texas. It took 9 hours for me to barely heave my way up 26 boulder routes and almost quit numerous times, but it was all worth it. I got to do something I’ve never done, celebrate my birthday with my brother and new friends in a place unfamiliar to me and learn some things along the way.

Never give up. If something’s worth fighting for, then never quit. I wanted to quit on myself numerous times, but I also hate to quit and lose. That’s half of the fight. The other half is fighting pride. I came in with a way big ego and this birthday challenge crushed me. I never sent a V2 that day and I ended up having to repeat routes in order to bag the 26 I wanted. It’s totally cool to change a strategy to make something work, and I think it’s necessary. It helps to keep things in check and it made me grateful to be doing what I was doing.

In the end, it was the best 26th birthday ever.

Find Your Favorite Office

I’ve had a lot of offices in my career (if you even want to call it a career). When I worked in banking I had a mixture of an open work space, two cubicles, and two offices. Within the past two months of living on the road, I’ve had…we’ll I don’t know how many offices I’ve had. Some offices have had a window, others didn’t have a door, a few have been open air, the worst had terrible wifi, and the best didn’t have any wifi. Each office has been unique, each one is my favorite for various reasons.Favorite Office in Padre Island National Seashore

Here’s how you can find your favorite office:

Know what you want

Do you want an actual office, a cubicle, or an open work space? Knowing which you want is kind of important because you need to actually work in a place or in a field that offers that office you so desire.

Bust your butt

Nothing’s going to be handed to you. You have to work for it. If this doesn’t apply to you and you already have the office of your dream, congratulations. Stop reading this, you’re above me and everyone else still reading. I envy you, no really, I do.

Go find your office

We live in a world that’s ever changing. That’s what’s great about today’s modern era. If we don’t like how something’s done, we can change it or go somewhere else where we like how something’s done.

Same idea goes for offices as well. If we don’t like our office, we can work remote. Pack up, take a road trip, and find your favorite office. I take that back, you don’t have to take a road trip to find your office. Your favorite office could be a local coffee shop, park, beach, or in the mountains near you.

Figure out what you want in an office and go find it. Take a look at a postcard, cruise Google, or find an old map and go. Take advantage of today’s modern resources and find the office that you love the most.

Just make sure the boss is cool with you telecommuting. And if you’re your boss, wi-5!

Where’s your favorite office?

The Traveler’s Currency

Wait. What state number is this for you? What’s been your most fun experience on the trip so far? Have you had any close calls? What’s next? How are you and your brother doing?

It’s been exactly a month and a half since setting out on the road and those are some of the questions I get. Most of the time I like to think I have a good story to tell. It really depends on how great my memory’s working that day. Hunkering down for the night at a truck stop in Alabama to wait out a storm that was spewing tornados left and right happened maybe a week or two ago and is a little more fresh on my mind than when my brother crashed and burned, hard, skating down a steep hill in North Carolina.The Traveler's Currency on The Weekend Warrior

Lots of my friends have been very welcoming and have opened their homes to a couple of stinky brothers looking for a fresh shower and a place to do some laundry, and hangout with friends, of course. In this situation I don’t have much to offer in return for their kindness. The most I have to offer are stories and it seems like that’s more than enough.

Stories are the currency of travelers. Almost everyone loves to travel for different reasons: collect things, the thrill of not knowing anyone, seeing different sights, getting away from bosses, learning to put down the phone, reconnect with oneself, etc. That’s a short list of why we travel, but the one thing we want most when we travel is to collect stories.

We love to collect and tell those stories. That’s part of the reason I wanted to do this yearlong road trip. I wasn’t living a great story, in my opinion, and I needed something more. Something had to change in order for me to live a better story. Little did I know that these stories I’m collecting would turn into some form of currency.

Stories, they don’t carry a monetary value. They aren’t much to offer to someone letting me into their home, but I like to think it’s worth something. I like to think that a story is the traveler’s currency.

Fail Creatively

I think we all hate to fail. It sucks, it really does, putting a ton of sweat equity into a project and then it turns out to be a fail. The photos didn’t appease a client, screwing up the budget, the client we wanted decided to go with our competitor, no publisher’s interested in a manuscript we put our soul into, no one wants to see the movie we produced, someone spits out the food we made, not a single song download we created, boss hates the presentation, and nobody wants to buy our art.

It sucks to fail!Adam Fricke filming at Russell Cave National Monument

But failing is a necessary part of life. As we were leaving Nashville, my brother and I had a long conversation about what it means to fail. We both hate failure, I’m sure you do too, but it’s necessary and I think it’s even fun if done right.

How boring life would be if we were perfect, am I right? It’s kind of like a story plot. You start at Point A where nothing’s going on. Something catches your attention, you see something you want or decide you want to do something. Then you go on this journey, but along the way you face some challenges. Two things happen at this point: you’ve experienced this challenge before and know how to overcome it or this is brand new to you and you take your best shot at overcoming the challenge. Now if you’ve experienced this before, you hopefully know the solution right away and know how to get past it, but if it’s your first encounter, chances are you’re going to fail. You don’t know any better and end up in the deep end.

That’s not where the story ends.

You problem solve and figure out a way to get past this hurdle. That’s the climax of this story of your life. You figure it out and it’s all downhill from there. You come out with more knowledge and are, later on, able to help others get through the same challenge you faced.

Climbers, and other outdoorsy people for that matter, are some of the best failures I know. They’ll devote their lives to memorizing a sequence to a route so they can get past one part, the crux, in one push. They’ll fail hundred of times, falling on the same move, before finally sticking the move and being able to send the problem.

Why do they drive themselves nuts trying to conquer that one move? The outcome is the greatest reward out there. Knowing that they tried so hard for so long, gave it their all, and then actually bagging the send is one of the best feelings in the world and that’s what makes failing worth the pain.

When we choose to not put ourselves out there or give up, we rob ourselves of happiness. We can come up with a great idea, create a beautiful piece of art, or try something new, but it’s not worth it if we give up when the going gets tough. Not putting our work out there because we’re afraid of what haters will say, giving up because we think it’s too hard, or just not starting because we’re afraid to fail is when we lose the spark in our life. I solely believe that in order to be happy we have to fail because overcoming failure is one of the greatest forms of payment.

Now get out there and fail happy.

Haters Are Going to Hate

For the past month I’ve been on the road with my brother, living in our Sprinter Van, traipsing about the southeast exploring cities, hiking trails, climbing rocks, and surfing cold waves. It’s been a lot of fun, despite the challenges, and we’ve even got some press for what we’ve been doing. We made the front page of The Orlando Sentinel, GrindTV loves our van build, and our alma mater featured us in their newspaper. You’d think all that press would be great, and in the form of website views, subscriber count on the website and YouTube Channel, and social media following, it is.Haters are Going to Hate

Being in the public eye though, that makes you a number one target for anyone looking to spread a little hate. When the writer at these news sources would shoot us the link, my eyes would go to the comment section after reading the article. I’ve noticed a trend in the comment section of every article. They start out super positive, strangers tagging their friends saying “Let’s do this” and “Inspiration for what we’re doing” along with a little “Way cool guys, keep it up!” Those comments get me feeling all warm inside until one person comes along to spread a little hate. It hurts, it gets to me when haters degrade what my brother and I are doing; saying it’s stupid and worthless or that the Sprinter Van we worked so hard to buy with cash and spent two months building out looks terrible. The one that hits home the most is when people say that we’re spoiled kids who mooched off their parents and that we’re just a couple of deadbeats.

Haters are going to hate…

Here are some things I’ve learned about haters that maybe you should know as well:

Haters are bullies

Just like in school. We gave them a new name.

What haters say, doesn’t matter

They spread hate to spread hate. Their words hurt, I know, trust me I know, but they don’t control you.

Haters are jealous

Often times they try and bring you down because they want what you have. They can have what you have by busting their butts for it (like you have), but they feel it’s easier to pull you down to their level and try to take what you have.

Haters are afraid of you

Since you’re doing awesome things, they feel they’re going to get lost in the mix and the best way to avoid that is to pull you down.

They don’t know your struggles

You’ve struggled and fought to get where you are. Haters only see where you are now and equate your success and happiness to luck and their misfortune.

…Creators are going to create

No matter what you do, you’re always going to have a hater. That really irks me because haters don’t see what we creators go through to do what we do and get where we are. While we’re working really hard, pulling all nighters, and breaking our backs to do what we love with only the hope that others will enjoy and be inspired by what we create, haters are out there spreading hate by typing mean comments, trying to degrade on our hard work. Just know that their pain is their life. Haters spread hate because they want you to feel the pain they feel.

 

Routine is the Enemy of Creativity

 I bet you have your daily routine dialed in: wake up, get ready for the day, have some coffee, go to work/school, come home from work/school, do something rad in the evening, maybe have a drink, and repeat Monday through Friday. If that’s your routine, we’re a lot alike, or at least we were. I don’t know about you, but I hated my routine. It felt like I was just going through the motions and not doing anything meaningful. It’s been a little over a week since I hit the road with my brother and within days I found myself missing my routine I had so carefully dialed in over the years.Routine is the Enemy of Creativity

Photo: Adam Fricke

We look for patterns in our daily lives. We’re taught from a young age to find patterns and utilize them to get things accomplished quicker, better, faster. It’s a wonder I was missing my routine. Since as long as I can remember I’ve been carefully trained to find routine and use it to my advantage and poof gone.

Finding routine on the road’s tough. So far we’ve been in virtually a different city everyday and come up with our plan for the day, if you can even call it a plan, in the morning when we get up or right as we’re getting ready to turn in for the night. For someone who has lived by a routine for years, it’s rough.

Living a life of routine kills creativity. 10 days in and it’s gotten easier. The initial shock of living in a van and always being on the move has subsided and it’s easier for me to appreciate the lack of routine. Without routine things look different, sound different, they are different. Everything stands out because our perception changes. Don’t believe me? Take a look at this.

We read left to right and when we scan across the ocean, for instance, we look left to right. When we do that we miss certain things because we expect to see what’s next rather than actually seeing what’s in front of us. When a good filmmaker is shooting a scene and the camera pans across an open area, it’s generally from right to left. It’s more dramatic for their audience since our routine’s to look from left to right. Search and rescue teams are trained to search from right to left so they break their routine and they have a better chance of seeing what they’re searching for.

Don’t go off berating me just yet. Some routine’s good, don’t get me wrong. Dental hygiene, wearing clean underwear, washing hands, those are all great routines to keep up with. You and anyone that comes near you will thank you. The same route you take to and from work/school, change it up! Take another route and keep an eye out for something new.

You’ll never find that golden nugget that’ll turn your day around if you keep doing what you’ve been doing.

What You Can Learn From Building Out a Sprinter Van

There’s a lot that can be learned from building out a Sprinter Van. You can actually learn more than just carpentry skills. Life skills are also taught when you’re walking in and out of a Sprinter Van all day, cutting pieces of wood to specific dimensions, and assembling everything, only to disassemble part of it because your plan didn’t quite work out how you had originally intended.What You Can Learn From Building Out a Sprinter Van

Photo: Adam Fricke

If you’ve never had the chance to build out a Sprinter Van (or some other vehicle), I’d highly recommend it. It’s a lot of fun, extremely frustrating, and everything in between with lots of life lessons. These are some of the life lessons you can expect to learn, should you decide to build out a Sprinter Van or the vehicle of your choice at some point of your existence.

Art Class > Geometry

Math is not a strong suit for my brother, parents, or me. You’d think that you’d have to be great at geometry to properly build out a Sprinter Van, but you don’t. Geometry skills certainly help, but as long as you’re able to add, subtract, multiply, divide, and can make a stencil out of cardboard, you’ll be just fine. Turns out art skills trump geometry. In our case at least.

Communication Skills

Countless times I’ve wanted to shake Adam silly to let him know that his idea sucks and my idea’s the best idea. Good thing I haven’t done that yet because it turns out he has some great ideas and my way isn’t always the best way. Learning how to communicate effectively with whoever you’re working with saves you tons of time spent fighting and allows you to have effective dynamic discussions that result in forward progress.

Maybe if our world leaders and politicians would build out a Sprinter Van together they’d all learn how to communicate and actually get sh*t done. What do you think?

Problem Solving

All you need is a general idea. Simply an idea of the layout you want. As long as you’re good at problem solving and have some time to sit, stare, and ponder, you’ll be able to build out a Sprinter Van. Eventually you’ll begin to realize that one of your greatest strengths in life is your ability to problem solve.

 

Maximizing Strengths & Minimizing Weaknesses

There are some things Adam’s better at than me and vice versa. Take a look at our vlogs and you’re going to see more of Adam smoothing out the edges with a sander, getting proper measurements, and tracing out those measurements. You’ll probably see me using the power tools most of the time. We do that for a reason. Adam’s OCD kicks in and the kid’s able to get perfect measurements and I’m more comfortable, and faster, with the power tools. Playing to each other’s strengths allows us to get things done much faster with fewer headaches.

 

Discipline

Working on a Sprinter Van’s fun, but it also gets tedious when it starts to consume your life and it looks like no end is in sight. If you can find the discipline to get up every day and work on your Sprinter Van, you’ll feel like you can conquer the world.

Teamwork

Screwing a wood screw into some wood’s a pretty simple task. Now dress it up a bit and try to hang something that weighs 5 pounds on your own. There’s your problem. Having an extra set of hands is essential and you’ve never realized the importance of teamwork until you started building out a Sprinter Van.

Asking for Help

The Beatles said it best “I get by with a little help from my friends.” We can accomplish a lot on our own and Adam and I get an awesome feeling of accomplishment when all goes according to plan. There are some other small projects that if need to be done right, requires help from a friend. We’ve had to call on friends from time-to-time in order to get something done right like running the wiring or welding a patch in the floor. Asking for help is something the stubborn hate to do and when done right is a lot of fun to get a community to lend a helping hand.

There’s No Such Thing As Luck

Ever since Adam and I made our Bro’d Trip plans known to the world a few weeks ago we’ve had a lot of people tell us how lucky we are that we get to take a year off to visit all 50 states by van. To be honest with you, it’s kind of irritating to me when I hear that I’m lucky to be taking a year off. We both busted our butts to be able to live this dream of ours and we’re doing anything, but “taking a year off,” but that’s another story for another day.There's No Such Thing As Luck

Luck is when success, or failure, just happens out of thin air. With luck there’s no work involved. The best way I can illustrate luck is when you stumble upon a lamp and a big blue magic genie that sounds like Robin Williams appears out of the lamp to grant you three wishes. That’s some luck and if it’s happened to you, I hope you used one wish to wish for an endless supply of wishes.

Rather than realizing it took a lot of hard work to see that someone got to where they are now, we just see where they are and associate it with luck.

Waiting on luck to happen isn’t going to get you anywhere; however, preparation will get you somwhere. Sitting around watching daytime TV in your free time, waiting for opportunity to come knocking at your front door’s not going to get you anywhere. Trust me. I’ve done that before and it got me nowhere. I wouldn’t recommend trying it either. It gets kind of depressing and lonely.

What I’ve found is that preparation tends to be met with opportunity. Almost every person that’s now living the life we wish we were living spent years preparing for where they are now. Preparation is practice for future success. It’s a lot easier to fall flat on your face when only a couple of people are watching. Falling flat on your face in front of a bunch of people sucks and really kills the self-esteem.

Adam and I could have left two years ago on The Bro’d Trip, and to be honest, I’m glad we didn’t. We’ve learned a lot over the past couple years. Working my day job has taught me some invaluable business skills: like being diligent about following up and making a phone call over sending an email when something needs to get done. Our photography and video skills have drastically improved and while you’re preparing, people eventually notice.

I think you know you’re doing something right, or you’re on to something, when preparation meets opportunity. Long hours and late nights tend to feel worthless until you catch a break and get noticed. And that’s what happened with us. We wanted to make The Bro’d Trip great, but we knew it could be even better with some help and low and behold, a couple companies noticed us and offered to lend us a helping hand to make this great.

To say someone’s lucky to be doing what they’re doing belittles all their hard work and preparation that it took for them to get where they are now. Maybe you know the feeling. You bust your butt to get the opportunity you want or to do something you’ve been wanting to do for what seems like an eternity and someone just diminishes all your hard work be equating it to chance, luck. Saying someone’s doing something special, outrageous, or something you want to do one day, now those are words that could be used instead of luck. Let’s be real, we can do anything with some hard work, dedication, preparation, and a little help from others in the form of an opportunity.

Luck has got nothing to do with it.