Archive | May 2015

While We Were Waiting

Treetops

Monday evening, I had car trouble on my way home from work. I was caught off guard and somewhat panicked, thinking I broke something. (For the record, I didn’t.)

As soon as I saw the warning light and heard the complementary ding, I pulled onto a side road where the car then came to a complete stop without my permission.

With a line of cars building up behind me, I tried several times to start the car again, but it wouldn’t budge. I eventually got out and called Pete as cars began driving around me on the one-lane road. (One lady took out a small sapling in the median.)

The remainder of the evening had several downsides:

  • The obvious one: overall inconvenience
  • The 3 hours we waited on a tow truck
  • A growing annoyance with technology following computer and phone issues earlier in the day
  • The dogs eating dinner 3 hours later than normal
  • Getting home after 10, which meant going to bed late—again
  • It was the only evening this week I didn’t have something planned, and the evening was shot

But as we waited, I also started listing the good things in my head:

  • The forecast showed rain, but it wasn’t raining
  • Fortunately, my car warned me of its impending nap just in time for me to get off a busy road
  • 20 or so people stopped to ask if I needed help or had someone to call
  • One guy finally got my car in neutral while another pushed it out of the way in his nice work clothes
  • Because I was on my way home later than usual and parked under a row of trees, it wasn’t hot anymore
  • Pete, who was scheduled for dinner with a friend on the same side of town, was relatively close by
  • With time to kill, the two of us got to eat dinner together, and on top of that, I had a gift card that made dinner free
  • We won’t have to pay anything to get it fixed since it’s under warranty
  • I had good company while the two of us waited
  • I had nowhere to be (besides home, but that’s every day)
  • And with no other demands on my time, I had a chance to roll down the windows in Pete’s car, feel the breeze, listen to crickets and stick my bare feet out the window as the last traces of sun disappeared

lemonadeYes, I got impatient. Yes, I wanted to go home. But I was also grateful. It was one of those “make lemonade” moments, where an annoying inconvenience forced me to stop, take in the beauty around us and appreciate strangers’ willingness to help.

I like to think I’m an optimist, but sometimes seeing the glass half full doesn’t come easily, especially when misfortunes or aggravations come one right after the other. But, as the saying goes, (and this is my last cliché), it could always be worse.

If you look up “gratitude” in the dictionary, you might find this definition:

Grat·i·tude: a feeling of appreciation or thanks

But it’s not just a feeling; it’s also a choice we make. Maybe it’s a choice to look on the bright side or to count your blessings when you don’t feel like it (I lied about the cliché thing). Maybe it’s recalling all the good things in the past instead of dwelling on the negative of the present. Or maybe, for today, it’s a choice to focus more on the rustling trees overhead than on the idle car flashing its emergency lights.

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The Maiden Voyage

Last weekend, Pete and I celebrated our 5-year anniversary with a bike adventure along the Virginia Creeper Trail. Mom gave me her bike a couple years ago, and last year, Dad gave Pete his old bike with one caveat: we take the bikes on a trip and write a 3-5 page report on it. Nothin’s free, you know. Gotta work for these things! Here’s the report I handed in:

The Maiden Voyage

by Peter & Tiffany Jothen
with appearances by Tar Trek & Basket Case

One sunny Saturday, Peter and Tiffany set out for a long-awaited and somewhat mandatory adventure—beginning, as all good adventures do, with a three-hour tour into the wild backwoods of Damascus, Virginia.

IMG_3089Ahead, a long stretch of 485. Behind them, the wind on their backs. (Actually, the A/C doesn’t work, so it got a little musty, but we digress…)

Just a few hours later, they arrived. The pair parked and met Dave, a male version of Mom who offered to drop them off at a good starting point along the Creeper Trail. He talked a lot and told them which restaurants were “on down that way” as the three of them drove through town.

Fifteen minutes and four life stories later, Peter and Tiffany climbed out of Dave’s Subaru and unleashed their companions from the metal prison on the back. Tar Trek and Basket Case were meant for the open road.

With instructions from Dave to “call if anything happens,” the two courageously began their journey with a herd of training wheels hot on their tail.

Tiffany pedaled hard and fast, determined not to let anyone under 12 pass her on the left. Peter was in a glorious daze, meditating on his love for Tiffany.

On they pedaled, over the river and through the woods. They braved narrow wooden bridges and effortlessly navigated uneven gravel trails. They quickly broke a sweat and lamented leaving the Lycra at home. But no matter. The rugged outdoors were calling.

IMG_3090 edit

Soon, it was time for lunch. The lovebirds pulled out their compass and located a picnic table in the clearing. Civilization!

IMG_3094Ever-prepared and germ-conscious, Tiffany dug out the citrus-scented hand sanitizer from her backpack and proudly presented it to Peter. He declined, instead opting to handle his PB&honey sandwich the manly way—with dirty hands blackened by the handlebars.

But Tar Trek and Basket Case didn’t rest long.

With full bellies, Peter and his amazingly awesome wife were stoked to get back on track. No, not even wind resistance or melting sunscreen could break their vicious cycle. Their impeccable form was—as young people might say—“off the chain.”

IMG_3116 editThey wheeled around 90-degree curves, dodged wild cattle and sped through dangerous intersections off the beaten path. Their heads were spinning with the overwhelming grandeur of the great outdoors, right there along Highway 58. Yes, these were the untamed elements that our forefathers spoke of generations ago.

But let’s shift gears for a moment.

As with any form of exercise, people can get tired.… However, that didn’t happen for Peter and Tiffany, who enjoyed uninterrupted endurance thanks to their Superman-like thighs of steel.

Instead, on this adventure, the bikes were the ones that needed breaks.

Being the considerate people they are, Peter and Tiffany decided to acquiesce to their silent request and dismount in front of Old Alvarado Station, the perfect pit stop for experienced cyclists. They bonded with local youth and shared apple slices with a group of unruly cycle thugs, who returned the kindness with matching flame-patterned bandanas.

IMG_3121 editOf course, all good things must come to an end and before long, it was time to put the pedal to the metal.

About four hours later, 20 miles from whence they began, the maiden voyage of Tar Trek and Basket Case drew nigh. Peter and Tiffany took the time to reflect on the afternoon behind them—the good times, the uphill battles, the rough terrain they had conquered together with only one water bottle and two tangerines to keep them going. (Oh, and some nuts. And apples. And sandwiches. And Pete had two cookies.)

Yes, this is the stuff America is made of, folks. Foraging new frontier on twin Schwinns. Braving unknown territory when the GPS loses its signal. Putting our cellphones on vibrate and saying, “No, I won’t take that call! Not until I get back to the car.” Standing up for the freedom to ride.

Bike pics

… Oh shoot, this is four pages. A whole page more than the minimum requirement! Does this count as my conclusion?

The End

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