“We didn’t realize we were making memories.
We just knew we were having fun.”
Winnie the Pooh
Overlooking Bryce Canyon in southern Utah, Sam and I sat on a large rock creating art. With colored pencils strewn about, we soaked in the scenery, capturing our own feelings of the canyon on paper. I was definitely enjoying doing art, but what I valued even more was the time together with Sam and seeing the excitement in her eyes as she added more color to her artwork.
At one point, Sam ran back to the car to get some more colors. While she was gone, a man with a large camera around his neck stopped to chat. He appeared to be in his 70’s.
“I remember doing art with my mom. Sitting with her and drawing together.” He paused. “She was a painter,” he added.
We continued to talk. He reminisced about how, when he got older, he would take pictures and his mom would create paintings using his pictures. As he continued to tell his story, I noticed a small smile emerge. His mind was traveling back to the past. Before he walked away he said, “Thank you for the memory you gave me today.”
Memories add richness to life. This past week, my family made many memories, created through a wide variety of experiences. From a night in the quiet starlit Mojave Desert to a night on the bright, loud Las Vegas strip. From a bike ride along Lake Mead through old railroad tunnels to a steep canyon hike in Zion National Park requiring a tight grip on metal chains secured in the rocks to prevent tumbling over the edge. From a picnic dinner with a few dozen big horn sheep to a food first (keep reading). From 102 degree heat requiring some cold beers and ice cream sandwiches to cool off to a day of constant rain requiring hot coffee and many hours in Big Blue to stay warm and dry. From education lessons on geology and Indian history to lessons on the history of gambling. From greeting the day by watching the sunrise over Bryce canyon to sitting in a meadow and watching daylight fade as the evening primrose magically came to life. From viewing stunning black and white photos of life in Boulder City during the great depression which revealed the hard work, sacrifice and dedication of the men who built the Hoover Dam to the bight colored photos revealing the colorful past of sin city. From a very windy knee-wobbling bridge walk 886 feet high above the Colorado River to a sensory overloaded walk down Fremont Street.
Amongst the many memories of the week, a food incident comes to mind. It was late Sunday morning and I found myself standing in the aisle of a gas station trying desperately in my mind to prepare a meal for my family. What should I buy? We were hungry. We had not yet eaten, and it was approaching noon. A $3.00 can of tuna? Ramen noodles? A $4.00 bag of dried pasta? Nothing sounded appetizing or easy on the pocket book. We were out in the middle of nowhere, running out of food and heading into the middle of nowhere. This gas station was our best option for groceries for the next few days. I was reminded of a TV show a few years back in which contestants competed to prepare the best meal using only ingredients purchased at a gas station. I definitely would have lost. As a health conscious consumer concerned about what I serve my family, I was out of my element. Gas stations are for gas and not for groceries. So I thought. Feeding my family real nutritious food has been a priority for me since my daughter was born. Real was always the key, and we had a home-cooked dinner every night. As the months have passed by on the road however, my view of food has not surprisingly changed. A bit.
Road Rule #19: When it comes to food, make the best choice possible with what you have available.
We have had odd looking meals that I would not have even considered before this adventure. Sam will tell you we eat a lot, a very lot, of bagged spinach, often to her vocal disapproval. Dressing is no longer needed. You can get used to almost anything. Hardboiled eggs and peanut butter sandwiches are often on the menu. I put my creative chef hat on and do my best. Thankfully my family is usually very accepting.
I continued to walk up and down the aisle in the gas station as if expecting the selection to change. Nothing green. Nothing that was once living. Nothing that didn’t have a shelf life less than five years. The selection was grim. I settled on a can of soup, package of noodles, a bag of ice and a few gallons of water. This could be a meal. On the way into the gas station, I noticed a sign advertising “2 Big Macs for $5.00”. I did the math. From a financial perspective, a McDonald's meal would provide us more calories per dollar than any gas station meal I could come up with. A McDonald's meal would prolong the need for our next meal and buy us some time. However, from a stomach perspective, Nick and I had not eaten at McDonald's in over six years, and we rarely eat beef. The possible outcome was questionable. Sam had never eaten a McDonald’s meal. We simply never had a need. But now as I stood in the parking lot, I deferred to Road Rule #19 and decided that McDonald's was the best choice available. Sam was thrilled.
After much anticipation, Sam’s happy meal arrived. She unwrapped the cheeseburger and lifted the top bun to peer inside. “I was hoping for some spinach,” she said with a straight face. Really? Yes. Overtime anyone, even Sam, can get used to anything. Even spinach can become a welcomed sight. Sam is definitely my daughter. After finishing our burgers, leaving the toy on the table, and being less than thrilled with our McDonald's experience, we returned to Big Blue. Thankfully our stomachs did not rebel as we vowed to stock up on food whenever possible to prevent being stuck at a gas station in the middle of nowhere with hungry stomachs and very little options.
Being flexible on the road, not only in regards to food but in every aspect as well, has allowed us to create many unexpected memories, not only this week, but over the past six months. As our adventure continues, we hope that Sam will have many memories of our journey. As parents, we know we will. Just like the stranger I met on the overlook, I too have fond memories of creating art with my mom both as a child and as an adult. I hold these memories close to my heart. Perhaps someday, Sam will remember sitting on a rock overlooking Bryce Canyon and creating art with her mom too.