My divorce was in process and the house that my wife and I shared for the last eight years was just sold so I found a apartment to start my next chapter of my life. I put all of my stuff in storage and only moved in a few pieces of furniture into the apartment. I felt totally lost. I was a home husband for the last four years raising two baby boys and for the meanwhile the kids were taken away from me until I got reestablished. I have no job and my only job for the last four years was raising my two boys, and now I am totally alone. Totally alone not by choice, but by the way the system works. I was not sure who my friends were and the world began to feel like a scary place. I spent the first night in the apartment staring at the walls in silence and didn’t sleep a wink all night as I pondered what to do in my life. I didn’t have a phone or a bank account. All I had was me and the half of the stuff from my shared house with my wife, and even then those items to me now felt valueless.
The next day I got a bank account and deposited the monies gained from sale of the old house and I withdrew $1700 from the account for what reason, I did not know. I tried to get familiar with my new apartment world and still felt as though I didn’t know where to be in this world. So evening came and I packed my truck with camping gear and headed out to Upper Devils Canyon in Superior AZ. I already camped at Upper Devils Canyon over one hundred times so it felt like a home away from home. I got to my favorite camping spot, set up the tent and started a camp fire and after a hour I was totally restless still not knowing where I was to be. Even Upper Devils Canyon now felt very unfamiliar with me. So I put out the fire and packed the camping gear back into my trunk and headed back to my apartment. I spent a hour at my apartment staring at the blank walls while I contemplated where can I go in this world to find peace. So once again I packed up my truck and headed back to Upper Devils Canyon to camp. So set up the camp again and start a fire and by now it is 3:00am in the morning. A hour later I put out the camp fire and packed up the truck again and pulled out to Highway 60 where I hit the brakes and just stared at the empty freeway that was being lit by the moonlight.
My mind told me to just drive and drive and drive. So I headed West. I figured eventually the ocean in California would stop me and I could just sit on the sand, listen to the ocean waves, and then maybe find direction for my life. So I drove. Once I got to Palm Desert in California for some reason I decided to take a detour and found myself suddenly at Jim Bridwell’s house. I knocked on the door but nobody was home, so I sat there for a few hours and still nobody was home. I then decided to find a movie theater and watch a move to burn away some of the time, and I still can’t remember what movie I went and saw. I don’t think it even mattered since I was only watching the movement on the screen, over enjoying what the movie was about. So afterwards I headed back to the Bridwell estate and still nobody was home.
This was not my first visit to the Bridwell estate as I visited Jim a few times the year previous. While waiting for Jim to get home I went into his back yard and in his storage closet and reorganized his climbing gear. While going through his pile of relics I pulled out a few treasure items to ask him about if he would be interested in selling them to be preserved in my future climbing museum. Still by noon nobody was home so I pulled out a blanket from my truck and fell asleep on his driveway. At 6:00pm I was awakened by Jim as he was kicking me asking me why I was sleeping on his driveway. I explained to him that I had nowhere else to go. For some reason some spiritual force or something directed me to Jim’s house. I was totally lost in life and the Bridwell house was where I needed to visit first before moving on. Jim’s wife Peggy soon after arrived home and was also surprised to see me and then she prepared a meal for everybody.
It was a nice feeling that first I was able to get a few hours of sleep, but then to be welcomed into the Bridwell family house. Layton, Jim and Peggy’s son, also soon after arrived home to the house. After the dinner meal I mentioned to Jim that I reorganized his climbing gear storage closet and showed him a milk crate of trinkets I wanted to ask him about. I brought in the items to the house and Jim first said that he was not interested in selling the items, as Peggy watched. So then I told Jim to reconsider as I started laying out seventeen $100 bills, and on top of these bills I placed a climbing gear item on each and then asked Jim if this would change his mind. At that point Peggy flipped out!
Peggy started questioning me on how I knew to come to their house. I told her again I was lost and had nowhere else to go in life at this time. Something just directed me to be at the Bridwell house. Then Peggy explained that I must be a guardian angel or something since the next day the Bridwell’s car was being repossessed unless they came up with $1700 to make their payment to save their vehicle. They didn’t have any money, they needed $1700, and for some reason I arrived at their house with exactly $1700. Peggy started cheering and dancing around the house with laughter. Jim then put the climbing gear items back into the milk crate and handed them to me saying, “These items are now yours.”
The coincidence was overwhelming as Jim and Peggy both insisted for me to stay with them overnight since it was already getting late. I thanked them both but said I must be moving on. The Bridwell’s enjoyed their cigarette smoking so I was somewhat already being smoked out of the house since I didn’t smoke, plus I really felt like I needed to keep moving. Jim walked me to my truck and started telling me about his character. Jim said that every time he would complete his epic climbing mission, he always felt more at peace not sitting around in celebration, but felt more like he wanted to go home. The mission has been completed so there was no reason to have it continue by sitting around. Jim said that at times he would only drive a few miles and pull to the side of the road to sleep the night, over continuing to stay with his climbing partners and and then leave the next day. There was something about Jim and I that we connected with, and within this connection Jim considered me one of his friends. I proceeded to drive back to my apartment. Once I crossed the Arizona border line, I pulled to the side of the road and slept the night in my truck. My short visit with the Bridwell’s that day helped me find balance again in life.
A few months following my visit with Jim I would see him again at one of the Outdoor Retailer Shows in Salt Lake City Utah. I took photos of Jim’s gear and wrote up authenticity papers for him to sign to show that indeed the gear I have in the Karabin Climbing Museum, is really personally from Jim Bridwell.
Climbing Magazine September 15, 1998, page 76
(signed) photo by: Dean Fidelman