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Caroline George Rolls with her Family on a Classic Rock ‘N’ Road Trip
Posted on July 22, 2015

Couple's time in Tuolumne Meadows

Whether she is climbing a very serious WI6 ice line, guiding a north face in the Alps, or just making it back in time for daycare pick-up after a steep skiing mission in Chamonix, we are constantly inspired by the force that is Caroline George. But on a content team of active folks with parental responsibilities, her story of a classic American climbing Rock ‘N’ Road trip with her husband, her young daughter and their big, rambling black Dodge cargo van wins the family camping trophy in our book. It’s inspired us so much that the family van life seems like something we should all try for a few months, if we could only cash in that sick time and hit the open road to the next crag. —LYA Editor

Family time on Bath Rock summit

Words and Images by Caroline George

When I first moved to the US, I imagined that the ultimate American experience was road tripping in a Chevrolet convertible, hair flying in the wind, Thelma and Louise style. My car was a far cry from a convertible and it was winter, so the windows were shut and the heat was cranking, but I still remember the feeling of driving alone from Salt Lake City to Ouray, Colorado, to compete in the Ouray Ice Festival. Driving through wide-open landscape—transforming from wide plains, to high passes, to deep canyons, to the desert and finally to the mountains —like those in Westerns, passing and getting passed by trucks that I had seen in Sylvester Stallone’s Over the Top movie, desolate gas stations popping up on the side of the road just when you thought you might run out of gas, wildlife spotting…it was everything I had dreamt it would be. With the immensity of the surroundings came a deep, deep sense of freedom that I would forever associate with road tripping across the US, a feeling that anything and everything is possible.


Before Olivia starts school, we wanted to experience this with her. Our home base in the US is a black Dodge van, so it was easy to make it happen. With Olivia being three years old now, we thought it was time to take her climbing and discover the country we had lived in before she was born. We also wanted to take advantage of being there to climb for ourselves too, so Adam came up with the perfect plan: We would fly to Salt Lake City, where our mobile home was waiting for us, climb around Salt Lake City, head up to City of Rocks, and come back to Salt Lake City. Then Adam would fly to New Hampshire so Olivia could spend time with her grandparents. I would stay in Salt Lake City to climb for a few days, and then drive to Reno to pick Adam up and embark on a road trip—just the two of us—for a week. After that, he would meet a friend to climb with while I flew back to New Hampshire for a few days before heading home. The logistics of combining life as a parent and as passionate climbers looks just like that. But in the end, it’s all worth it!

And this plan worked out perfectly. Olivia loved playing with sticks and dirt and sand at the base of the climbs in Maple Canyon and City of Rocks. We met up with lots of friends with kids, so she could have playmates. We took her to the top of her first little summit at City of Rocks—Bath Rock—and having another friend along really motivated her to get to the top without fighting us.


It was amazing to see how she was just as much at home in the van as in her real home. She slept on a crash pad and loved snuggling into her sleeping bag with her bunnies. She knew where everything was, ate pancakes with smiley faces made of blueberries, would climb to the top of the little rock next to our campsite to watch the sun rise and set., She enjoyed exploring and being mesmerized by the wilderness around her. At home, it’s so easy to resort to electronics so we can all go on with our lives, but there, we all thrived on the daily tasks of life: waking up, drinking tea (for me), having breakfast, enjoying the silence of nature, reading guidebooks, packing the car, heading out to climb, having lunch in the dirt, exploring, climbing, going back to our campsite, unpacking, hanging out, drawing, reading, cooking dinner, washing our faces and brushing our teeth before bed, and enjoying long nights of sleep in the van, using the light of day as our alarm clock.

This simplicity and sharing every minute of the day together out on the road make for unique memories and bonds that can be harder to create at home. Somehow everything flows, because we just do what feels right and necessary. There are no bills to pay, no emails to reply to, no house to clean. We can just be a family on the wide-open road, where the options are endless and the sense of freedom is ever-present.


Author: - Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015

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