We last left each other in this series as Caitlin and I were going down for a quick nap at 5:30 PM that led to us sleeping through the night, waking up the next morning, dazed, a little confused, but pumped to get an early start on the day.
The plan was to head out to the opposite side of the island and hike the Grand Canyon of the Pacific – Waimea Canyon.
The Southwest part of the island seems to have more shipyards and docks. A lot of boat tours are launched from this area. As you move to the West side of the island, you’ll drive through the town of Waimea. Captain Cook landed here and “discovered” Kauai in 1778. The town has a sign and, going from memory, said something around “Kauai’s most historic town.”
Partway through the town of Waimea, you head east towards Waimea Canyon State Park.
I don’t know how to adequately prepare you for what you will see here. I have some pictures, but again, they don’t fully capture what is there.
As you drive through the State Park, there are several scenic overlooks that are literally breathtaking. This canyon is enormous with massive cliffs that fall away at severe angles. If you’re scared of heights as I am, you will get a severe form of butterflies in your stomach, and you’ll be death-gripping any rail nearby to keep you safe.
As mentioned earlier in the series, rain was a part of the previous day so the picture below doesn’t adequately portray this place with the clouds hiding the incredible beauty of this canyon.
We were the first car in the parking lot of the Waipoo Falls trailhead. You do need to pay per car and per person to park/hike here, and you do so at a pay station in the parking lot. I think it was $20 for the car and us two, plus tax, so about $23 and change. The machine prints out a receipt that you put on your dashboard to avoid a ticket or getting towed or something.
This hike is gorgeous. We did it last time we came here and were relatively familiar with where to go. The hike has some pretty slippery spots as it is usually wet and a little muddy. Remember those shoes I had from the last post? They were awesome here.
As you hike through some thick rainforest area, you pop out on a cliff.
Here’s a video of us on said cliff and a full rainbow.
Keep walking a bit further, and you come to a cute little waterfall.
This waterfall goes into a little pond, which leads to a small stream, which leads to this…
It is the nightmare of someone afraid of heights. I mean, you are standing inches away from a slip, slide, fall, die. It’s beautiful. It’s terrifying.
There is a trail visible on the other side of the falls. We later learned that it has been washed out and is no longer “active” due to its dangerous risk, the trail falling away down hundreds of feet cliffs, and flash floods. Not knowing this, we continued on.
We weaved in and out of this jungle-terrain and wandered onto incredible views.
As we were hiking along, it got pretty windy and rainclouds started barreling down on us like a freight train. On the outside, I was cool, calm, and collected… leading Caitlin through this jungle paradise with courage and charisma.
On the inside…
Screaming. I was screaming so loud people. I can barely keep my wits about me and I’m thinking, “I’m gonna die! I’m gonna die! I’m gonna die!”
Luckily, I gather composure and we finally duck into the safety of the mountain. We start wandering away from cliffs and through some super thick plant life. As I mentioned, this isn’t a trail people hike frequently, so my face, and arms, and legs, and hands are getting plastered by all kinds of freaky-deaky spider webs. I can’t see where I’m stepping. Flies and other bugs are welcoming us with open arms. And, I’m pretty sure wild boars and jaguars are stalking us to eat us.
They say jaguars aren’t on Kaua’i, but who are ‘they’?!
The jaguars are ‘they’ and ‘they’ told people that ‘they’ aren’t on Kaua’i so ‘they’ could sneak up on ME and eat ME.
Wandering this trail was actually reasonably pleasant, but pretty long. We happened upon a YMCA camp with some cool cabins that looked like a fun place to stay. There was an odd growth I noticed on a tree. I examined it in further detail after Caitlin had passed it.
It was a gutted pig. Yep. Pig guts all over a tree. I didn’t tell Caitlin because she had expressed her fear of wild hogs about 35 seconds earlier.
We ended up hiking somewhere in area of 7 miles total before we popped out on the main road that winds through Waimea State Park. It also happened to be right where the Kokee Lodge is nestled neatly in a little slice of paradise.
This place had a delicious diner with amazing food and smoothies. They had souvenirs and other knick knacks designed to pull at your sentimental side and take your money.
We were beat, so this place was like a miracle to us.
Here’s the view inside the diner:
There were a gazillion chickens that Caitlin tried to herd. It didn’t work out so well, but it made for some fun memories.
See how the chickens just completely ignore her? Poor Caitlin. Now she knows exactly how I felt in high school as I tried to get girls (including her) to notice me.
We hiked about a mile or so back up the main road. There isn’t a lot of room on the shoulder of the roads so Caitlin would judge drivers and the future of their eternal soul by how considerate they were of us – evidenced by their willingness to move over a bit so as to not kill us with their car.
If they didn’t move: No wave, and eternal damnation If they moved a little: Head nod, but still eternal damnation If they gave us enough room so we didn’t feel the wind against our cheek: Wave, but you’re going to hell. If they were good people and went into oncoming traffic to avoid us: They are headed straight to heaven and, probably more importantly, Caitlin would throw the Shaka sign – the ultimate gift 🤙.
More breathtaking views
We made it back to our car and continued up the road, deeper into Waimea State Park (and back past the Kokee Lodge). At this point, you find yourself coming to the ends of the road.
The first is the Kalalau lookout. Kalalau is where one of the most famous hiking trails in the world, ends. See the Day 5 post for more there.
This Kalalau coast is 4,000 feet below your cute little toesies at this lookout, where you are in the clouds looking down on one of the most magnificent scenes the eye can behold.
Well… 2nd most beautiful…
Here are some more pictures:
The second end of the road is the Pu’u lookout, which makes immature people like myself giggle every time we say it out loud.
Go ahead… Try it. Say Pu’u out loud right now. If you’re human, at minimum you chuckled. Most likely, you snorted out whatever you were drinking while saying Pu’u and reading. If you’re like me, you said it again and laughed again.
Pu’u… is further up the road and I guess it’s technically the only end of the road.
Here is a video from that lookout.
After I picked my jaw up from off the dirt, we headed back to our car.
I think now is as good a time as ever to mention parking. Parking spots on this island are comically small. If you center your car in your stall, and the car next to you does the same, neither one of you can open your doors enough to get out of your car. Trust me. I tried one night. I had to climb through the window to get out, which is stupid, yet impressive that I still have the nimble athleticism to pull off such an advanced maneuver.
Maybe… MAYBE a Smart car would fit in one of these stalls, but the stall would make the Smart car appear like a Hummer.
Speaking of… I saw a few Hummers here and they must’ve taken over 5 spots rather than their usual 3. Not because they are that wide, but because anyone who drives a Hummer is probably a d-bag.
We, not being d-bags, had a Chevy Impala and look at this:
This is an empty parking lot, and these were the widest stalls on the island! The grocery store stalls… nope. Uh uh… don’t park next to someone if you plan on leaving your car at any time, because neither one of y’all are getting out.
Back to it
We drove back and revisited a beach we stopped at some 5 1/2 years ago. It was our first Hawaii beach ever, and it was the place where, an hour into our first trip to Hawaii, with Caitlin’s brand new phone, she got too close to the waves, got smacked with water, and her phone was trashed.
We had a much better experience this time. We wandered around until we got bored and headed back through the area with Da Crack where I could Da Shop for Da Clothes.
A local shop settled a decade-long debate between Caitlin and I on the pronunciation of Teva. You know, the hiking sandals. Let’s just say that the shop owner said he feels both ways are right. Teva like Evan and Teva like Teeva. But the Teva rep says Teeva, which is absurd and I think it is still wrong, and I’m right.
We came across a store called Deja Vu, and this is probably the most dangerous store I’ve ever entered. I felt like I needed, not just wanted, but NEEDED to have every single item they sold in this store.
The shirts were amazing. The hats, the shoes, the belts, the towels… I wanted everything. And then, I look over to Caitlin, and they have the most adorable, comfortable looking girls clothes on the planet! For Caitlin… not me. For some reason, I feel it’s important to clarify that.
We spent too much money buying clothes that were too amazing to leave on the shelves of Deja Vu and not on our bodies. We returned to Deja Vu on Days 6 and 7 as well…
We went back to our hotel and swam for a bit, sat in the hot tub for a bit, laid out for a bit, and then ate a bit at the Lava Lava Club. Caitlin ordered the pineapple chicken, which is chicken, rice, and pineapple… in a freakin’ pineapple! Yes, that’s right, the pineapple carcass is the bowl that holds your meal. Pretty sweet.
We watched the sun set and went back to our room to watch 3rd Rock from the Sun and drift off to sleep.
We needed our rest after hiking more than 9 miles today with the Kalalau Trail along the Na Pali coast waiting for us tomorrow…
Day 3 promised a lot of rain in the forecast, so that made it rather difficult to plan specific activities. As I mentioned in Part 2, shuttle services had canceled their routes for today because of the severe weather headed our way.
We woke up early and Caitlin got in a quick workout on our hotel room porch while I vigorously watched TV.
Caitlin came bouncing into the room, full of excitement as she beckoned me to check out some interesting characters hanging out there with her.
As you can see, these snails are humongous.
If you look closely, you’ll notice two little rascals frolicking there in the background. Caitlin thought they were fighting or wrestling.
She is the cutest person alive, but I had to have the awkward conversation about the birds and bees with my wife of nearly 11 years and mother of our three children. So that was… interesting. And a little unsettling.
Fun fact: these Giant African Land Snails are hermaphrodites so the two in the back getting freaky probably both got pregnant on this magical day. It’s nice to know Caitlin and I got to be a part of such a splendid occasion. Although, homeboy/girl there by Caitlin’s hand wasn’t part of that snail porn we captured in the photo and he/she/they probably felt left out. He/she/they sped over to the sultry affair, knocked one of the snails off the other, and got to enjoy its own impregnation/new pregnancy.
After Caitlin’s workout, she and I decided to go on a morning jog. We took much the same route as our bike ride yesterday and ran along the beach, dodging chickens and sweating buckets in the humidity. We ran about 3.5 miles with occasional walks for me to catch my breath… er… ahem… I mean… admire the beautiful waves.
After the jog, we walked north along the beach to checked out some different hotels, you know, to compare our situation to others to feel better or worse about ourselves.
Actually, Caitlin loves swimming pools so we were scoping out our options. We walked past the Kauai Coast Resort, which looked groovy. Pool wasn’t anything to write a blog post about. We went past the Sheraton Kauai Coconut Beach resort, and this one looked amazing. They had a super cool looking pool with waterfalls, a lazy river, and a gate keeping us out of all the fun.
Quick side note here
The hotel we chose was perfect for what we needed. As we walked by all these resorts, we thought that they kind of defeat the purpose of visiting Kauai. We wanted a place to dump our luggage and have a comfortable night sleep. Not a resort with cool amenities that would keep us at a hotel rather than exploring the beautiful scenery of Kauai.
Just keep that in mind as you book places to stay. If you’re wanting a posh resort that’ll encourage you to lay around and sip drinks by a pool or ocean, there are lots of places not in Hawaii to find that.
There are very few places on earth like Kauai.
Side note complete
As we were checking out the Sheraton resort, it started raining. Like… a lot.
We hid under a balcony and Caitlin called the ATV tour company to see if they had any openings later in the week. We were able to book the last two seats on an ATV tour taking place on Friday (the day we leave) so you’ll hear about that in another post.
The rain settled down and we headed back to our hotel to change out of our sweaty/rain-drenched clothes, shower off, and head out on a new adventure.
We stumbled upon Wailua Falls the last time we were in Kauai, and we just had to go back to see it again. It’s along the east side of the island and not far from our hotel. It’s a short drive through some beautiful country to get to the falls and, much like the Queen’s bath, parking is limited. We had to wait in our car for a couple minutes as people left and a parking spot opened up.
The parking lot sits on top of, and just to the south of the falls. As you walk to the ledge, you are welcomed with this incredible view.
Here is a video of the surrounding area to give you an idea of just how beautiful this place is.
If you notice the birds flying in this video, you’ll realize how truly magnificent and huge this area, the falls, and the surrounding trees really are. My phone camera doesn’t do this place justice.
Most people sit atop these falls where I took the picture and video and, well… take pictures and videos. Caitlin and I, however, wanted to be a bit more adventurous.
If you walk back towards the road you came in on, there is a fence lining the road that tells people how dangerous it is to attempt a climb down, and that you shouldn’t do it. If you read day 1 of this trip, you already know I have a bit of a problem following rules. So, we started the hike down.
The hike is steep, wet, and very slippery. There are certain areas that have ropes to help you down. I highly recommend using these ropes and I found it easiest to walk down the hill backwards, holding onto the ropes in an almost rappelling-esqe manner. Just make sure you’re going down a trail that has ropes at the steep parts and you should be going the right direction.
Now is probably as good a time as ever to bring up the footwear that really saved my trip. Prior to the trip, I spent WAY too much time researching the best types of shoes to take to Hawaii, more specifically, Kauai. The last time we visited, I wore flip flops or running shoes. The first few hikes in flip flops had me fearful of losing my life. My running shoes got destroyed by sand and mud. I don’t know how I did the Wailua Falls trek in flip flops last time and made it out alive. In fact, there was a flip flop graveyard towards the bottom of the hill you climb/fall/slide down to get to the bottom of the falls.
I do not get anything by mentioning these. I bought them with my own money. They were about $40 on Amazon.
They are a mix between the barefoot running shoes, trail running shoes, and water shoes. They were light, grippy, protected my feet from rocks, sticks, coral, you name it, and did a great job in water as we crossed rivers, jumped into waterfalls, and swam in the ocean.
I absolutely loved these puppies. I put about 40-45 miles on these in the week and they held up wonderfully and were easy to wash off.
Seriously, bring these and flip flops and you’re set. Flip flops for the beach and walking around town. These for everything else.
Caitlin wore Tevas that didn’t have closed toes, which ended up with her blurting out four letter words on multiple occasions. The Tevas didn’t have great grip and resulted in several slips while also rubbing a sore on her ankle where the strap touched her ankle ball. She also had some trail running shoes that ended up muddy and sandy, and had a tough time drying off after getting wet. Remember, the humidity here is 80-100% so drying off clothes or shoes is nearly impossible.
I 100% recommend these shoes or shoes like them. I have the version with the strap.
The bottom of the falls
“Finally, Erik. Just tell us about the bottom of the falls!”
Okay, okay. So, after we rappel/slide/fall down this hill, we end up at the base of these glorious waterfalls. Strangely, there are massive pieces of twisted metal, I’m assuming from large boats or something that have fallen over the falls and settled against the banks of the river. Someone said that the metal used to be in the deeper water at the base of the falls and people cleaned these metal shards out because swimmers were hitting them.
Either way, there are huge metal shards that got there by toppling over the falls. So just be careful doing what we did because a thousand pound metal beam could get pushed over the ledge and land on your noggin. More commonly, rocks of various sizes topple off the waterfall and, if they hit you, you will probably die. I tried to avoid being out in front of the water fall.
Fair warning: I am pasty white and not in good shape, but we snagged a picture and video of us at the base of the water fall.
We swam along the left side of the waterfall (if you’re looking at the waterfall), climbed up some very slippery, moss-covered rocks, saw a beautiful view under the waterfalls and the illusive, backside of water (Jungle Cruise anyone?).
Wailua Falls will always have a special place in our heart and we highly recommend it to anyone visiting Kauai. That hike down is very treacherous and the hike back up is steep and tricky, so if you’re nervous about your health or body or life, enjoy the view from up top.
After Wailua Falls, Caitlin wanted some beach time. Caitlin loves her beach time. Jumping around in waves, laying out in the sand, getting tan… you know, all the things I don’t do (as you can tell from my super-white skin).
We drive down along the south side of the island that leads to Poipu Beach. To get to Poipu, you turn off the highway or state road or just road labelled 50 and onto the one labeled 520. Well, as soon as you turn on the 520, you are greeted with the tree tunnel.
It’s a pretty cool road and after the tree tunnel, you pop out into Jurassic Park territory with sprawling fields of green grass and massive trees.
After about 5-10 minutes, you end up at Poipu Beach.
Poipu Beach is my sister’s favorite. It sits in a little cove and has a reef where a lot of people float and snorkel. In the evenings, you can find sea turtles crawling up the beach. I initially typed that you can see sea turtles, and that made me giggle. Then, I tried to find a way to write see “C” sea turtles just to get ridiculous. But then I deleted those and wrote the above, only to argue with myself and type out this glorious explanation.
Welcome to the inner workings of my brain. You’re welcome.
We got out of our car, hauled our beach gear onto, well… the beach, and the second we spread out our towels, it started pouring rain. A ton. It was windy, and the rain drops were cold, and everything was getting soaked. Caitlin and I ran to our car and after about 2 minutes, it stopped raining and there were blue skies as if it had never rained here since the dawn of man.
We scuttled back out to the beach, I lathered up with sunscreen, and we jumped in the water. This beach has some reef and rocks as you walk out, so it would’ve been a perfect place for my sweet shoes I mentioned earlier, but alas, I was in flip flops, and walking along the the coral was tricky and slightly painful. Once you get out far enough, you throw those goggles on, plunge that snorkel in your mouth, and watch the fish swim around you while you look like a fool.
You know, we all like to look at pictures of the blob fish and laugh at how ugly there are, myself included, but I’m sorry, there is nothing attractive about anyone in snorkel gear.
Your eyes are bugged out from tightening the goggles into your frontal lobe so salt water won’t get in. your nose is squished into this piece of plastic that is as permeable to water as air, meaning it leaks like a siv and is seemingly whatever the opposite of a waterproof is. Your front lip is pulled up by the nose slot. You throw your mouth around the plastic mouthpiece that tastes like a mixture of a biohazard and salt water.
It’s just not pleasant.
Caitlin’s wonderful parents let us borrow their water hammocks, which were pretty cool. Be sure to get the fabric type. We played around with the plastic versions and the colors bleed off into your skin so you have blue or pink strips on your back and neck.
We could throw the floaties under our arms and snorkel to see the fish and then flip over and put our neck on one floaty with our legs over the other and just ride the little waves and soak up the sun.
After a good hour or so of floating around and laying out, the hunger bug hit me. I hadn’t eaten since before our run, meaning we’d done all of the above-mentioned activities without refueling little ol’ Erik. And anyone close to me knows, I tend to get hangry.
I ever-so-politely asked Caitlin if it was okay to go grab something to eat. She kindly obliged and we gathered up our stuff. As we were doing so, clouds magically appeared. We got in our car and another downpour started – good timing Erik. Thanks.
The classic husband-wife conversation began:
Erik: What would you like to eat. Caitlin: I could eat anywhere. Erik: *looks up restaurants in the area* How about this one? Caitlin: Nah, let’s find something else.
We drive around for another 5 minutes. Erik getting more and more hungry.
Erik: Okay, how about this one. Caitlin: Not really feeling that.
Drive around for another 5 minutes.
Caitlin: Let’s go to this one. Hangry Erik: *boiling with rage* Great!
We speed off in the direction Google Maps tells us.
Google says the restaurant opened a half hour ago, and as we pull in the parking lot, there’s a line out the door. This means more waiting. I drop Caitlin off to investigate as I find a parking spot. She isn’t up there long before she is walking away from the line, so I do the gentlemanly thing and pick her up – meaning I drove the car near her general area and made her open the door and get in.
The restaurant isn’t open yet. No one is in there so everyone is just sitting outside.
We drove to another restaurant in a fitness club. Nope.
We drive to a shopping district with several restaurants around. It’s now about 30 minutes since I hit code-red hanger level so Erik is not happy right now. We go to Bubba’s Burgers, which Google also says is open. The building porch is roped off at the end we approach and it says use the other entrance. We walk to the other side of the building. Still roped off. Try the third side. No door.
Interestingly enough, this is one of those four-sided buildings, leaving us with one more option: the fourth side. Also roped off.
Bubba’s Burgers is closed.
In fact, all of the restaurants in this shopping center say they are open, but are really closed.
So, guess where we ended up?
If you guessed the original place that Erik had suggested 45 minutes ago, you’d be correct.
Now, granted, the name of the place was Da Crack, however, Da Crack was da bomb and had very yummy food. I need to take a step back and understand that I was having the meltdown of a 3-year-old, so anything probably would’ve tasted amazing, but we both seemed happy with our meal from Da Crack. It has the highest reviews of any restaurant in the city, by the way.
Ladies: Please, please, please never say you will “eat anywhere,” or “are good with anything,” unless you truly mean that you are 100%, fully willing to eat at Del Taco, or Betos, or La Frontera. Hell, I’ll throw out fine dining establishments like Cafe Rio, Little Caesars, or Arby’s if it means you’ll stick to your word of “being good with whatever.”
Us guys really don’t care where we eat, as long as there is a substantial amount of food from animals that eat the food you choose to eat. If we are famished, suggesting a kale salad or a parfait probably won’t end well for anyone. But literally ANY other suggestion, and we are willing to whisk you away in our metal chariot as fast as the engine will allow to get you exactly the food you want, no matter what the cost.
A quick recap:
I was hangry. I am now full. It is raining rather aggressively.
We head back to our hotel, turn on 3rd Rock from the Sun, and lay down for a quick nap before we plan to experience the happening night life at our hotel pool and restaurant.
We lay down… is it lie down? We collapse onto the bed at 5:30 PM and close our eyes. We wake up and it’s 5:00 AM. Now THAT is a nap!
It wasn’t what we planned, but it felt amazing and we definitely needed it given what was coming up the next day.
A really long PS:
Kauai in general has been hit hard by Covid. Restaurants and the tourism industries have been hit as severely as anywhere else in the world from an economic perspective.
The state of Hawaii kind of just turned on the faucets to tourists all at once, so restaurants are severely understaffed. This is why many of these restaurants are closed on days they would regularly be open. This is why wait times are longer.
Please turn back into a human when visiting restaurants and interacting with your waiter/waitress. They have been through a lot. They are overworked. They are doing the best they can to get you seated and fed as quickly as they can.
Thank you to all of you in the hospitality industries. I can’t imagine what you are going through. Many of my thoughts are satirical and I’ll express moments of frustration, but I always tried to give the people I interacted with the benefit of the doubt, tip them well, and be as polite and nice as my crusty self could muster.
Part 2 of this series is where the magic starts to happen. Waking up in a time zone four hours behind what you’re used to is the first magical part of day 2. After a long travel day (Part 1), a good 8 hours of sleep later and we’re still waking up at 5:00 AM, refreshed and ready to go.
The plan: no plans
We drove up to the North Shore to revisit some of our favorite places from last time. Since last time, there had been a landslide on Hanalei Hill. It happened on April 15th this year and there has been a lot of work to get the road opened up.
However, it is one way with each side taking turns so if you want travel past this point like we did, expect some delays. The road is open during certain hours of the day, closes during the middle of the day, and reopens later in the day.
Luckily for us on this day (Sunday), the road is open all day but still one direction at a time.
Our favorite beach is Ke’e beach, which is where the main road ends, the famous Kalalau trail begins, and you have an epic view of the Na Pali coast.
Well, since the last time we were there, the north part of the island experienced a massive storm that flooded the entire north end of the island and cut off those locals for three months. It washed out a large portion of Ke’e beach. The beach and trail had become so overrun with tourists before the flooding that the state of Hawaii decided to use the reset and rethink this incredible site.
They moved the end of the road away from the beach, set up some agricultural sites, and required a parking pass or shuttle pass to visit the spot, including hiking the Na Pali coast.
This meant that we were only able to drive to a certain point before some park officials turned us around and we headed back to explore other islands until our scheduled hike the next day.
Our first beach
On our way back, we hit up Lumaha’i Beach as our first official beach of the trip. It has the Lumaha’i River running into the ocean. There is a nifty rope swing on the northwest portion of the river’s entry into the ocean that is pretty cool. There are also some rocks you can walk on and see waves splashing against them. Be careful, don’t get too close, don’t die.
We walked along this beach for a while and played around in the sand. There was only one person that we could see on this beach so it felt like our own private area to goof off and watch the waves.
After a while, there was another spot we wanted to go see.
The Queen’s Bath
I didn’t really know what The Queen’s Bath was. All I knew was that several people had recommended it as a must-see.
It is located in Princeville, just north of the Makai Golf Club. There is limited parking at the trailhead and everywhere else you would think to try and park is monitored and will have your car towed if you don’t have a pass.
The good news is that people are coming and going from the trail pretty regularly so we just parked by the trailhead in the neighborhood, stayed in the car, and waited for someone to come out and leave so we could take their spot. We only waited about 5-7 minutes and got our parking spot.
It is a short hike through some beautiful scenery before you are on the rocky ledges of this area. There are lots of little crabs running around and we saw a couple turtle swimming around in the ocean near the ledges.
Turn left once you hit the rocks and you’ll wander into a sinkhole of sorts, filled with crystal clear water and waves splashing against it.
Here’s a video of Caitlin swimming around in The Queen’s Bath
There are a lot of fairly good-sized fish in this pool that you can see swimming around you. Bring some goggles for an even better view of the life that exists in this little area.
There is a ledge that we all jumped off and into the pool. It is salt water, so plug your nose unless you want salt water up in the area that only a Covid test can reach, and this burning lasts longer than the brain-tickle of the Covid test.
Here’s my not-so-epic jump:
Here’s Caitlin’s more-epic jump:
We spent quite a bit of time here, chatting with a cool couple from Florida and floating around. Afterwards, we went hiking further north around the rocky ledges. There are a few other decent-sized pools that you can jump in and play around in. One has some pretty big swells so be careful there.
We hiked around a corner and found a little cove where a sea turtle was swimming and trying to catch food. It was pretty cool and worth the tricky hike in there.
The ledges have areas that are pretty sharp. I got a very small cut on my left thumb and pointer finger. Really, about the size of a paper cut, but boy, when that cut gets into salt water… it stings… so heads up.
After The Queens Bath, we went and checked out Secret Beach, which… spoiler alert, isn’t really secret. It’s real name is Kauapea Beach and plenty of people know about it. You walk down a good-sized hill through the backyards of some homes with spectacular backyards to get down to the beach. It’s a pretty big beach with a nice view of the Kilauea Lighthouse and some cool caves within the ledges.
A storm was heading in so we headed back, but before we did, we saw a fallen coconut and took our shot at getting inside a coconut. It’s quite the challenge, but with the combined strength of Caitlin (super strong) and myself (the strength of an infant) we were able to crack that coconut open. We weren’t brave enough to eat any of it.
Time to eat
We headed back to an area near our hotel and ate at Chicken in a Barrel BBQ. If you like BBQ, this place was yummy with lots of different meat options and fries. Caitlin went with the sweet potato fries, I went with the Sample Plate that has BBQ chicken, steak, ribs, beef, and pork all on top of rice. Chicken in a Barrel has a spicy teriyaki sauce and a sweet sauce. I went with the sweet because that’s just the kind of person I am.
We snagged a massive snow cone from JoJo’s Shaved Ice. Caitlin went with the banana colada, strawberry colada, and pina colada mix. It was refreshing and delightful.
Next, we jumped in our hotel pool and splashed around a bit. I worked on my freestyle stroke and dolphin kick while Caitlin got more tan.
Quick bike ride
Our hotel offered free bike rentals to guests as long as you had the bikes back by 6 PM. We took off around 5:15 PM after signing a waiver stating that if we damaged the bike, we were responsible to replace it at a cost of something like $750 for the bike.
In the nicest way I can muster, those bikes weren’t worth $750. They weren’t worth $100… super old, super rusty… although, maybe I’m just not up with the bike trends. I guess if it is “in” to have an old, paint-chipped, rusty, falling apart bike, then yes, these are worth a ton. Or if you can recycle scrap metal at $25 per pound, then we’re getting closer.
We rode from our hotel, across the Kuhio Highway that spans the Wailua Beach, Wailua Beach Park, and the Wailua River. We saw decent sized waves crashing, some locals fishing, and some people surfing a bit further out.
Our ride took us to Hikinaakala Heiau, which are the foundation ruins of an ancient temple, so that’s pretty cool. We wound our way around Lydgate Beach Park and watched some families playing in the park and a graduation luau taking place in the park pavilion.
On our way out of Lydgate park, my bike chain popped off and I had to throw that back on there with fears that this rusty old thing was going to now cost me $750, we’d be late for the 6 PM bike curfew, and I’d get tetanus from the rust getting in the cuts in my hand. Luckily, it went back on fine and made it back to the hotel in time without further incident. To my knowledge, I don’t have tetanus.
Here’s a video of Caitlin dancing around on the bike and nearly lopping off her head via tree.
Doesn’t she look so happy?!
Pretty proud of my filming while riding talent so if any Hollywood directors need such skill, my price isn’t high.
After our bike ride, we went to the grocery store to get some water and snacks for our upcoming hike of the Na Pali coast the next day. After we got back to our hotel, we got the news that the shuttle service to take us to the hike was cancelled all shuttles for the next day because of severe weather in that area the next day, so we had to reschedule our hike to Wednesday, two days after our plan. Didn’t end up being a problem and everything worked out well.
Continued our 3rd Rock from the Sun episodes before bed and we were out.
Ready to read about the adventures of Part 3? Sexy snails. Wailua Falls. Hangry Erik…
Caitlin and I just returned from our week-long trip to Kaua’i. It was magical.
Kaua’i has the most beautiful scenery that I have ever seen and during this trip, Caitlin and I saw the island in a much different way than we did 5 1/2 years ago on our last trip here.
So, with that, here is part 1 of the Kaua’i trip series. Each day will be a different part so… buckle up.
Day 1 – Travel Day
Day 1 really starts 3 days before travel day. There is very little that is pleasant to me leading up to and during this day. I despise travel days, so this first post will be mostly negative news, but it is probably the most helpful post in making your Hawaii travel plans as I will show you how to avoid our mistakes.
Covid-19 and travel to Hawaii is an absolute nightmare. The state of Hawaii is extra cautious about letting travelers in. I understand and get that. Requiring travelers to have a negative Covid test and/or vaccination cards, especially during a time when cases continue to grow, makes sense to me.
Here’s where things stop making sense. The whole mentality around Covid – and not just in Hawaii – is guilty until proven innocent… and then still guilty.
In order to travel to Hawaii and avoid a 10-day quarantine, you must do several important things within a specific time frame. I was not reading very closely and almost messed up our vacation.
If you plan on taking a trip to Hawaii, here are the things you have to do (as of August 29th, 2021).
Set up an account on the Safe Travels site You’ll need to go to https://travel.hawaii.gov/ and create an account. I used my email and a password. There are other options for you, but you need to have an account to finish up the next few steps.
Add your trip Within your Safe Travels account, you’ll need to put in your trip details. Things like: • Travel dates • Travel locations (which islands) • Purpose for travel (business, pleasure, honeymoon, etc.) • Airline & flight number It is important to note that each traveler will need his or her own Safe Travels account. For example, I had mine, Caitlin had her own. Each of us had to do each of these steps individually.
Apply for exemption/exception from quarantine You can find the rules here: Quarantine exceptions This is where things get fishy for me. The gist of it is you need to upload either:
Your Covid Vaccination Card Your vaccination card showing you are fully vaccinated and (this is important) your last vaccination dose must have been received at least 15 days before you begin your trip, will get you an exception.
We received our 2nd dose 3 days before our trip, so our vaccination card didn’t “count” as a valid exception to avoid the 10-day quarantine.
This isn’t my gripe with the system. We weren’t trying to sneak in with a last-minute vaccination card, it just happened to fall too soon to have that count. Which left us with option 2.
Covid NAAT/PCR Test Exception This would entail getting a negative Covid test within very particular parameters – and this is where my gripe begins.
You see, Hawaii only accepts a negative PCR test (which is fine) that has been administered within 72 hours of the last leg of your flight into Hawaii.
Let me try and clarify that a bit for those like me who didn’t read carefully enough.
We flew from Salt Lake to LA at 11:40 AM. We then had a few hours to spend in LAX before we took off for Hawaii at 3:54 PM (4:54 PM in MST where we originated… time zones are important).
This means that the tests Caitlin and I got at 3:00 PM, 3 days before our flight, would not have counted. We must have had the test administered after 4:54 PM our time, 3-days or fewer before our flight. Seems simple enough. Well, it kind of isn’t.
Caitlin and I got tested at one of the testing sites here in Salt Lake. It is an approved site for the State of Utah – having the Utah Department of Health stamped on the results, and you have your results turned around in less than 24 hours. It’s beautiful. It also doesn’t count.
Hawaii only accepts tests administered by a select few entities across the country. Of those entities, only three exist in Utah:
Walgreens This is nice because it is “free,” meaning your insurance will pay for it, which means you’ll eventually pay for it with premiums, but I digress… the problem with the Walgreens options is that each and every person I have spoken with that has traveled to Hawaii and tried to schedule with Walgreens have run into a couple problems.
The first is getting a time that falls within the window they need for the PCR test. The second, is getting the results back in time.
My sample size is small, roughly 15 people, but all 15 of them had issues scheduling a time within the 72 hour window. One was even willing to drive 3.5 hours to a location in a different state because that was the only location with an available time.
Also, all 15 people who took the Walgreens test, didn’t get results back in time as more than 72 hours had passed, meaning that they didn’t have the results by the time their flight took off. You see, once you get results back, you have to upload them to your Safe Travels account by the time you try to leave the airport in Hawaii (more on this later). Two people NEVER got results back from the Walgreens test. So that’s fun.
And that’s why the Walgreens test doesn’t really help.
CVS – Self Pay Your other option in Utah is the CVS Self Pay option. They make this very clear on the Safe Travels website around the CVS option: “ONLY www.cvs.com/selfpaytesting, not a different CVS website or walk-in.”
These tests are $140 per person and results are “typically 1-2 days.” Keep in mind that results seem to be delayed on weekends, so if you plan on traveling near a weekend like we did, you may run into longer results times.
We didn’t go for this option because we were sure we could get away with the “free” option.
XpresCheck This is the even more expensive ($200 per person) test administered in a handful of airports around the country. Luckily, the Salt Lake Airport has one of these. https://www.xprescheck.com/
Your $200 gets you results in about 30 minutes. Magic.
I feel like I’m taking crazy pills here.
So, to get an exception, you have to prove you don’t have Covid (fine) but you can only use tests from a couple (massive) companies.
One probably won’t work because of scheduling and result turn-around time. One costs you $140 per person and may get you results in time. The last costs $200 per person at the last possible minute in an airport (because they know the other two options probably won’t work) and you can magically get you results in 3o minutes, rather than 3 – never days.
Why aren’t they all the 30-minute turnaround time?
So, you’ve shelved out $200 per person and have your Covid results (yay!).
Upload results into Safe Travels The next thing you need to do is upload those results into your Safe Travels account.
Just taking a picture won’t cut it because, well, that would be the easy thing to do. To upload into the Safe Travels website, you can only upload a PDF – not a regular image.
Both phone systems allow you to get a picture into a PDF with a few extra steps. iPhone instructions Android instructions:
Select photos on Photo Gallary.
Click on the dots to open a menu, and tap on “Print”.
Choose “Save as PDF”.
Edit the PDF settings including paper size, letter, orientation, color, etc.
Choose a location from your phone to store this converted PDF.
Pre-screening Alright! You’ve made it this far! You’ll wander to your gate that departs to Hawaii and notice another long line of people getting wrist bands. If you’re like me, you’ll ask someone in line what the line is for. They will tell you, “I don’t know, just seemed like the line I was supposed to be in.”
You’ll nod, confused, and meander towards the front of the line and ask someone up there.
This person will roll his eyes and say, “It’s where you complete your pre-screening,” and turn his back to you. You’ll politely ask if they can help you understand what that means and they will say, “if you don’t know by now, you’re already screwed.”
Just what you wanted to hear.
You’ll ask a third person, because all worthwhile things come in threes, and that person will finally explain that after you have jumped through all these hoops and uploaded your documentation (as a PDF!), you now need a QR code to complete your attempt to prove you don’t have Covid.
Within your Safe Travels account, you will need to fill out a health questionnaire where you will answer questions that basically ask if you have Covid. Upon completion, you will get a QR code emailed to you from your Safe Travels account. This super long line in front of your gate is a pre-screening where, if you can make it through the line to the front, you will get a wristband allowing you to bypass this same process in Hawaii.
But, of course, if you’re like me, you won’t make it to the front of the line before your plane leaves and you will do this same thing in the airport in Hawaii.
I have heard that the wait time can be hours at the airports on Oahu, Maui, and the Big Island. Our wait time on Kauai was only about 20 – 30 minutes.
So, as with seemingly all-things Covid related these days, just remember: You are guilty unless you can prove you are innocent. And then you are still considered guilty.
But, at least you can fly to Hawaii and avoid the 10-day quarantine.
Salt Lake to LA
The Salt Lake Airport is beautiful, and my appreciation for the airport grew on this trip after seeing LA and Lihue. The Salt Lake airport is remarkably clean, efficient, and lots of nice restaurants and stores. It his huge and there is walking involved, but everything went smooth for us.
I grabbed a breakfast burrito from Cafe Rio and we ran into our neighbor/pilot/friend Mike Best while waiting at our gate.
We flew Delta and our flight from Salt Lake to LA was fine. The plane seemed like it was in good shape and the entertainment screen on the back of the seat in front of me was everything I needed.
I chose to play some games and watch an episode of Billions.
We had a 3.5 hour layover in the LA airport and had to switch terminals on a bus. Not bad and went fine. Caitlin and I grabbed a bite to eat at the Border Grill in Terminal B, Caitlin took a little nap, and we watched the diverse people traveling through LAX.
It was here that I had the 3-person dialogue at the gate to figure out what the long line was about with the whole pre-screening thing.
LA to Lihue
Caitlin and I both felt that the 6 hour flight from LA to Lihue should be a better plane experience than the hour and a half flight from Salt Lake to LA.
Delta does not feel the same way.
It felt like the leg room was less, the entertainment screen was falling out of the seat and didn’t have nearly the same selection of movies/shows, and Caitlin’s headphone jack didn’t work. Caitlin was left to read a book while I watched S5:E2 of Billions because it only had the first 2 episodes (flight to LA had first 5 episodes). I also watched Inception, which blew my mind again.
My legs were cramped and my butt fell asleep, but the flight itself was fine. No real crazy turbulence or out-of-line passengers and we landed without dying. Always my top criteria for judging a plane ride.
We made it to Kauai
We step off the plane into the warm, humid Lihue airport.
Those who had the wristbands from the pre-screening headed on out to their rental cars while Caitlin and I spent 20-30 minutes scanning our QR code showing we had the vaccine, tested negative (3 times in 3 days), and filled out the health questionnaire. We were allowed to explore Kauai.
The shuttle to our rental car was quick and easy. The driver thanked us for traveling there because that island’s economy is centered around travel. I’ll talk more on that in later posts, but from every native I spoke to, they are glad travel is back on.
We had 2 cars to choose from (rental cars are hard to come by) and got the Chevy Impala.
My dad has always said – referring to people – it’s not the years, it’s the miles. Well, this applied to this car. Only 14,000 miles on the odometer, but on the inside, this puppy looked and sounded like it had seen 140,000 miles.
The outside looked fine as you’ll see from my video walk-around. The tires were nearly bald, but looks zippy from the outside.
It got us where we needed over the course of the next week and I am grateful for it.
To check in, we again had to show our Safe Travels account QR code proving we were innocent (again). I kept thinking, “we wouldn’t be standing in front of the counter if we hadn’t already passed this portion of the test, right?”
We found our room, dumped our luggage, and went for a bite to eat at the onsite restaurant: Lava Lava Beach Club
Caitlin had the sweet potato fries and I got the pepperoni pizza. The food was good and the scenery was great. The restaurant has indoor/outdoor seating, a nice bar, and the ocean about 30 yards away so you can hear the waves crash and see the moon rise across the ocean while eating your meal. Live music is playing and a pool is nearby with a bunch of people swimming, drinking, and hanging out.
Here is a video of the beach just off the restaurant and the super-bright moon.
After a long day, we went to our room, watched an episode of 3rd Rock from the Sun, and went to bed around 10 PM (2 AM Utah time). This 4 hour difference is awesome traveling backwards. Not so much traveling forward home.
There’s day 1 for you. Days 2 – 7 will be much more eventful with better stories and pictures.
Some of my loyal readers recall my post a few months back that documented the emasculating purchase of a minivan. The van-buying experience was miserable because, well, I was buying a van… but most importantly because the dealership was a nightmare to work with.
Well, 8 months after that experience and 8 years of driving my super cute, super economical, super intimidating Hyundai Accent, I decided to make a change and go car shopping again.
Now, you may be asking yourself, “Why would anyone want anything other than the classy Hyundai Accent?”
That is probably the smartest question you could have ever pondered. The Accent is a hell of a machine.
Mine had no power locks and the key hole was only on the driver’s side so I haven’t opened the door for Caitlin in years. Her fault… not mine. She doesn’t have the patience for me to unlock the doors from the driver’s side, run around to her side, albeit at the speed of the Flash, and open her door. She just opens her door when the locks click open.
She’s so independent. I love it when she takes charge.
Anyway, my Accent also lacked power seats, went 0-60 in… well… I don’t know that I ever made it to 60 mph, and was a stick (manual for the purists). The fact that it was a stick meant that it had the best Millennial anti-theft system on the planet.
Caitlin (a millennial) doesn’t know how to drive a stick, which was a blessing and a curse. She couldn’t drive my car and crash it into light poles, but at the same time, we could never switch cars when I wanted to cruise around town looking cool in her van… I mean… when I HAD to drive her van for manly things like going to Home Depot and buying big tools or wood or whatever is it that real men buy.
Recent events have led to me making the decision to buy a truck. What’s more manly than a truck, right?
Quick aside: I’m noticing how often I’m referring to manly things. Due to the current cancel-culture of planet earth, please recognize that many of my posts have satire and sarcasm. Moving on…
So I want a truck. My heart was set on a Toyota Tacoma because I think they look amazing and I don’t want a big truck. I want a truck that drives more like a van SUV and can still fit in my garage.
A midsize pickup truck is all I need. I’m not into those massive trucks with monster tires, 9″ lifts, and stickers of a kid urinating on other truck brands. I’m not going to tow much of anything, I don’t need to haul large boulders, and I don’t feel the need to overcompensate for, well… you know. At least not in my vehicle choice.
Based on my previous buying experience, I was dreading the whole process. So this time, I brought my 5-year-old boy with me so I could blame us leaving a dealership without buying on the fact that it was past his bedtime. Can you think of any better way to show how secure you are with yourself and your feelings than relying on your child as a way to tell someone no?
Jared and I went to the Toyota dealership first. We walked/skipped up to the front doors with confidence and enthusiasm. We approached the first person we saw and asked if they had any Tacomas we could test drive.
Response: “It’s my first day so… I don’t know. Let me check.”
Hmm… interesting start.
Another employee comes over and informs the new guy what he should do and escorts us into the building. There was a little tension there. Almost like an older brother/younger brother thing, but that’s beside the point.
They asked a few questions to see if I could afford a bicycle, let alone a Tacoma (I was in crummy clothes at the time). After they came to the conclusion that I was harmless, they pulled around a couple used Tacomas for us to check out. Everything looked great on the outside and Jared and I were ready to go on a test drive.
As we pulled out of the parking lot, I noticed that something was tickling my head. That something was the roof.
You see, for those who don’t know me, I’m 6’4″ when I stand up straight. I slouch a bit, but even so, the top of my head was touching the roof of the Tacoma. The seat wouldn’t adjust up and down, only forwards and backwards along with the seat tilt, so I could feel the roof during the entire drive. The only way to alleviate this issue was to scoot my seat way forward and lay the seat way back. It wasn’t comfortable and, if I’m honest, it was a deal breaker for me.
Another thing that ground my gears was how the Tacoma’s gears seemed to grind. I don’t mean there was a grinding sound, just that the transition between gears didn’t feel super smooth whenever I went to accelerate quickly (think freeway onramp). We used to have another Toyota that had the same issue.
Finally, two of the three seat belts in the back were buried under the seat so Jared couldn’t get buckled. Not a Tacoma issue, but still… strike 3.
I was devastated. My heart was set on a Tacoma, but the tickling was lame and heaven forbid I got in an accident and my noggin got lopped off, which would be less than desirable for me.
So… Jared and I moved onto the next option.
Right across the street from the Toyota dealership was the Ford dealership. Jared and I went over there and took a look at the Ford Ranger. The sales person was super nice and very helpful. We looked at the different packages they had a lot to offer. Jared and I liked the Ranger FX4 Lariat.
Me: Because my head fit. Jared: Because it was a truck.
Oh, to be 5 again…
The Ranger’s headroom and lack of strange transmission transitions put this out in front of the Tacoma.
The downside was that I didn’t particularly love the look compared to the Tacoma and others I’ll mention. Even so, I could fit comfortably inside without having a cowlick on the top of my head and it drove nicely on the short test drive.
Jared and I were leaning toward this truck but we decided to try a couple more the next day.
Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon
The last on my list to test was the Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon. These are essentially the same truck, just with different branding badges and located at the same dealership.
We continued our quest to this dealership the next day after Jared’s baseball practice.
The Sales Guy
Pulling onto the Chevy lot, we were excited. There was a line of trucks at the entrance to the dealership and Jared’s pumped seeing all these big, fancy vehicles. As we parked, a tall, skinny guy (relevant later) came out of the dealership and welcomed us. He asked the standard questions to me and then asked Jared if he likes sports. Jared, decked out in baseball clothes, told him he just came from football practice.
Dana wasn’t so sure that sentence was accurate based on the baseball uniform, and I realized that I have failed to properly teach my boy the difference between baseball and football.
I’m embarrassed, Jared is on cloud 9, Dana is confused, and we’re all headed to the part of the lot where the Colorados and Canyons live, facing the main road like a litter of puppies in a pet store window hoping people notice them as they pass by.
I told Dana where we were at on our noble journey and why I was bummed about the Tacoma. He could relate. He sized me up and asked if I was 6’4″ like him. We did the only thing two grown men can do when asked about their height. We both stood back to back, as straight as we could, and adjusted our hands on top of our heads to show that we were taller than the other, all while asking Jared to tell us who was taller.
Okay, it didn’t quite happen like that. It was more along the lines of us standing up as straight as we could, gazing into each other’s eyes, and realizing that we were, in fact, the same height. He empathized with my headroom issue because in one of his past professions, he drove a company truck (Tacoma) and his hair was constantly rubbing against the roof.
This guy gets me.
I liked the Colorado/Chevy looks more than the Canyon/GMC and told Dana that it’s time to test drive this puppy. Dana ran (literally) and got us the keys so we could take it for a spin.
The Test Drive
As we started driving, the first thing I noticed was that I fit comfortably inside with plenty of head room. Big plus.
It was cold that night so we were all shivering for a bit as we started driving. We turned on the heater to warm us up and Dana mentioned that his hands get sore and stiff when it’s cold.
I’m like, “Hey, me too! I’ve always had poor circulation in my hands.” Then, Dana pointed out a button on the steering wheel that is, in my opinion, one of the top 3 inventions of all time.
The steering wheel warmer
I don’t know if that’s the official name for it, but the steering wheel warms up, much like a bum warmer – what we like to call the seat warmers. This is huge because when it gets cold outside, my hands become pretty useless. But, armed with a steering wheel warmer, I feel like I have essentially become invincible. I pop that button on and the steering wheel warms right up. It’s brilliant.
The interior was leather and super nice. Given the car I was used to, I felt like I was in a luxurious space ship, and it was awesome. Big plus.
The infotainment system was fantastic and had everything I could ever want and more.
The truck accelerated nicely, brakes worked, and Jared was happy as a clam. Dana did a great job of answering all my questions and not judging my parking job as I tried to put the truck back where I found it, just at a strange angle that would make Pythagoras roll in his grave.
We looked at a brand new Colorado on the showroom floor with fancy wheels and a few upgrades. I informed Dana that I planned on being back the next day to continue the conversation around the new one, or the one we test drove.
The next day
I’d made up my mind that I wanted a Colorado. I was impressed and it checked all the boxes of what I was looking for. Now, I just had to go through that whole car-buying process at a dealership again.
I was not looking forward to that. In fact, I sent Dana the article I wrote on the van experience and asked him if this is what I had to look forward to, because if so, I wasn’t going to go through that again. He assured me it wouldn’t be like that.
So, after all that back story, here’s a quick review based on my experience of Riverton Chevrolet:
Sales Person: Dana has been mentioned throughout this article. He was fantastic and very helpful. I feel like a good car salesperson’s job is to just be your friend more than anything. He asked questions to better understand what I was looking for. He showed me different truck options that would meet the things I was looking for, plus some extra features and recommendations. We had a lot of similarities in body dimensions.
That sounds weird as I read it back in my head. We’ll try again…
We’re both tall and skinny. We both understand how the world is not built for people our size and he knew about how our impairments are alleviated with this truck.
He did a great job of helping me understand the next step of the process as I moved closer to the purchase and he didn’t bombard me with messages like some clingy girlfriend who asks if you’re breaking up if you don’t respond to her text after like 4.5 seconds. I appreciated that.
When I went back the next day, he had read my other article and even had a “no recording devices” sign propped up on his desk as a joke. It was fantastic and he did say, “Hey, feel free to record this because it’ll be the best testimonial we could get.”
I didn’t record the process, but he’s right, it would’ve been a great testimonial.
Even though the whole process took a long time (more on that later), Dana respected my time and would literally run back and forth to get keys, paperwork, approvals, and signatures. His hustle was legendary.
Sales Manager: I think that was Scott’s role. He came around once price talks started happening. The person in this role at the dealership where I bought the van last year really caused things to go south and I was pretty clear to both Scott and Dana about my apprehension during this step. I kept thinking that Scott was going to slip something in that I hadn’t agree to, or tell me that some mysterious fee was required. Thankfully, that never came. Scott was great and everything he said and promised turned out exactly the way he said it would.
And that’s all I really ask for from anyone in this world.
Finance Manager: In my van experience, this was the worst step of the purchasing process. At a different dealership, the finance manager made me say ‘no’ to an extended warranty 20-30 times. He insulted me. He went back on all previous promises made by others in the process. He refused to let me make a down payment until a manager got involved. He tried to force me to accept a rate 3 times higher than the rate my credit union pre-approved (who they claimed to work with). He told me certain fees were legally required when they weren’t.
At this present-day dealership, Ben was the exact opposite of all that.
Ben told me about the extended warranty they offered in a matter of seconds.
I said, “no thanks.”
He said, “no problem.”
And we moved on.
I was in shock. I thought it was some sort of tricky tactic and the warranty would come up later. I was bracing myself for the barrage of insults that never came. That was the last we spoke about extended warrantees.
I had been pre-approved by my credit union for a super-low rate. Ben said they were currently a point higher but he sent a message to the credit union based on what I said and got back a message back from the branch that we were good to go on the lower rate. It was awesome.
He said, “It looks like you wanted to make a down payment, how do you want to make that?” We made it happen.
The whole process with Ben felt like it took maybe 10 minutes to sign what I needed to sign, print off documents, and head out to my shiny new truck.
Ben – seriously, thank you. That was awesome.
Trade in Two days prior, when I was test driving the Ford Ranger, that dealership checked out my car and put up an offer for a trade-in should I move forward with the Ford.
Riverton Chevrolet offered double what the Ford dealership offered.
Negotiation process The whole negotiation process wasn’t bad. They came down a little and it wasn’t this hour long back and forth with the mysterious managers in the back.
Scott showed the price of the car along with an itemized list of all taxes and fees associated with the price he was showing me (I never got that after 4 hours with the other dealership).
He told me which fees were required. Given that my stepmom works for a dealership, I knew which fees are negotiable and which were not. Scott presented only one fee that wasn’t required but is standard across all dealerships and that is the Data Dots or Vehicle Theft Registration fee. He and I broke that one down and figured it out together.
There wasn’t high pressure, however, once they had made the concessions they could and agreed to what I asked, they kept my decision process moving forward rather than stalling. Basically, they took away all my barriers to buying to where I didn’t have any anymore. All there was left to do was sign.
Advertised prices In my experience, this happens with 99% of dealerships. The internet price is designed to get you to the lot and looking at cars, but it’s not the price their going to give you to start.
This happened with the new truck I was wanting to get. The online price was at $42k-ish. Once we started talking, it jumped up to $50k.
Similar thing happened on the truck I ended up purchasing. Online, it was shown about $5k less than where our negotiation conversation started.
I’m not a big fan of this tactic. My ‘real job’ is in marketing, so I get the demand-gen idea, but I’m still not a fan. As I mentioned earlier, a rule of thumb I try and live by is if I tell you how something will go, or be priced, or will work, then it better go, be priced, or work that way.
In my experience, this was the only thing at this dealership that wasn’t as advertised as they say.
Time From letting them know I wanted to buy the truck to when I left the dealership was about 3 hours. Now, there are a few factors that were a part of that, including some computers and printers going down, preventing anything from moving forward for a bit, but that felt like a long time.
Do I expect to be in and out in 15 minutes? No. An hour? Maybe…? 3 hours? That felt too long. Especially since I wasn’t my usual chatty, friendly self given the car-buying PTSD I was experiencing from other experiences.
Dana did his best trying to cheer me up in my moody, anxious state, but even my favorite comedian would struggle keeping me entertained for that long.
Also, this was March 31st and I had 3 epic April Fool’s pranks planned that I had to get to. It was nice to get this done that night though, because I needed the truck to haul 10,400 ball pit balls to the office for this prank: Office ball pit prank
Follow-up The morning after the test drive, I had scheduled a time with Dana to come back and buy. After that happened, I got a call and voicemail from someone at the dealership stating we needed to talk ASAP. I got a text from them as well. I called back and they asked if I planned on coming back in to look at the truck. I informed them that I had already scheduled a time with my sales guy.
An hour or so after I had purchased the truck and was cruising around town in it, I got another call and voicemail asking if I wanted to come check out the truck I was now driving.
In the grand scheme of things, not a big deal. Just a CRM tweak to make sure the people calling me know that the car is sold… to me… and I won’t be coming back to buy the car I have already bought.
All in all, I am very satisfied with my car-buying experience here and the people I got to work with. I love my truck. My kids love the truck. When they first saw it, they were squealing with happiness and they ask me every day if we can go for a ride in the truck.
My boss jokes with me about how he finally feels comfortable sending me to meet clients now that I drive something that isn’t what I was driving.
A couple friends have mentioned that a midsize truck isn’t “really” a truck and that I should’ve gone with a full-size version, but that’s just not me and it’s not what I need.
Caitlin thinks it’s perfect, but what else is she going to say?
So… I feel like that man-card that was ripped into a thousand pieces and thrown into the wind after the van purchase – has been found.
Well, about 2/3rds of those thousands of pieces have been found and reassembled and taped back together, meaning I now have 2/3rds of my man-card back.
Good job, Erik.
Hope you enjoyed my story. I write on the random things in life that make me think, laugh, cry, or that I find entertaining. If you liked reading this or some of my other stuff, subscribe to get notified when I post something new.
It’s April 1st, 2008. I’m on an airplane, flying from Germany to Russia.
Rostov-na-Donu, Russia to be more specific. I’ve spent the past 3 months in the Missionary Training Center (MTC), a 39-acre campus owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints located in Provo, Utah.
It’s where newly-called missionaries spend between 2-12 weeks learning more about the church and how to do missionary work, among other things.
One of those other things is learning the language of the country to which you’re assigned and, if you’ve paid attention so far, you could guess which language I’ve been studying for three months.
Russian is not an easy language to learn for us English speakers. It uses a different alphabet with several sounds that our mouths struggle to produce. The average English word has 1.3 syllables. The average Russian word has 3.1. Much of that three months in the MTC involves my mouth and tongue muscles cramping while trying to make these ungodly sounds. Single words seem like paragraphs. I have a pounding headache most days from trying to remember vocabulary words and grammar rules.
There are entire days where we’re supposed to “SYL” – Speak Your Language. This means you try to spend the entire day speaking only Russian in my case, and no English. At the mature age of 19, after three months learning from Russian-speaking Americans and conversing exclusively with your fellow missionaries who speak just as poorly as you, I am ready to fly to Russia and talk about Jesus to the people of the country that produced the likes of Pushkin, Tolstoy, Mendeleev, Kasparov, and Anna Kournikova.
Piece of cake.
I feel confident. Why wouldn’t I? We all understood each other perfectly well in the MTC as we struggled through memorized phrases like:
“Hello, my name is Elder Soderborg.” “What time is it?” “How many people do you have in your family?” “Chapstick.”
Chapstick? Why chapstick?
Well, the course that taught us this wonderful word translates it as – гигиеническая помада – in English letters – gigienicheskaya pomada…
English – Chapstick… 2 syllables. Russian… see above… 10 syllables.
Remember how I told you Russian is rough. There you go.
But hey, surely people in Russia speak SOME English, so if I struggle with chapstick or any other Russian phrase, I can just explain it with really basic English said slowly and loudly topped off with elaborate hand gestures and they’ll get it. We’ll be fine.
Everything… will… be fine.
Speaking to my first Russian
So that brings me to April 1st, 2008. I’m on a plane from Germany to Rostov-na-Donu, Russia and I’m sitting next to my first real-life, genuine Russian.
I can tell he’s Russian. He looks different. He acts different. He smells different. And he’s definitely not speaking English to his wife sitting next to him. It must be some weird dialect of Russian. I can pick out a word here and there, but not much. He must not speak Russian very well…
I don’t remember his name. We’ll call him Boris, and after several minutes of me mouthing one of those memorized phrases I’ve learned over and over, I muster up the courage to speak Boris – a supposed Russian who speaks very poor Russian in my opinion – for the first time. I lean over to him and nervously force out (in flawless Russian) “What time is it?”
Boris: “Что?!” Me: “What?” Boris: “Что ты сказал?!” Me: Uh oh… he sounds angry… “Uh… What time is it?” – Again, in flawless Russian with a hint of doubt sprinkled in my tone. Boris: “асдфчаодичфаоисдйф” – At least, that’s what it sounded like to me. Me: … Boris: … Me: *confused look Boris: “You are American, yes?” (in English with a heavily Russian accent) Me: “Yes. How did you know?”
He sounds just like the bad guy in pretty much every movie you’ve ever seen. He goes on to tell me that I speak Russian very poorly and he can’t understand me. He tells me that he realized I was asking what time it was, but I asked incorrectly.
“We don’t usually ask the time like that anymore. We ask it another way.”
I was asking the English equivalent of, “Of which hour do you have?” instead of “What time is it?”
He goes on to ask what I’m doing in Russia (all of this still in broken English still by the way. In fact, he and I struggle through our conversation entirely in English from here on out). I tell him that I’m on a church service mission and I’ll be there for about 21 months. He grunts and tells me I’m going to have a very difficult time because I don’t speak well at all.
“Not a lot of Russians speak English, and they won’t waste time trying to figure out your poor Russian. You must learn to speak better.”
I’m not so confident anymore.
We spend the rest of the flight in silence as I try and cope with this man’s complete disregard for my feelings. Surely he understood my first question. Can’t he at least acknowledge that I was doing my best? Maybe mention that I sound alright for only three months of practice? Did he have to use the words “very bad” when describing my speaking ability? That wasn’t very nice.
This was probably just an elaborate April Fools joke he was playing on me. That’s got to be it. Maybe someone was filming this.
Wait, do they have April Fools in Russia? (No, they do not)
Russians must not have a refined sense of humor like myself.
Russians are blunt
Your perception of Russians may be different than mine was before I went there. I thought that they were all angry, rude, stubborn, and drunk. Always.
Are there some that match that criteria? Sure. Are there people in every country that match that criteria? Sure.
What separates Russians in my opinion is that they are unapologetically and brutally honest. They are blunt. They will tell you how they feel about you, your actions, your appearance, and your beliefs.
Marry or Murder?
Most of the conversations over the next three months follow the same pattern. I try saying something, I get head tilts, raised hands interrupting me, and the subsequent, “I have no clue what you are saying. You speak Russian very poorly, and I don’t want to talk to you anymore.”
I am completely dependent on an older missionary who speaks and understands the language better. 99 out of 100 Russians in this area don’t speak any English. As in, they don’t know a single word of English. I quickly learn that my charades ability is nowhere near as good as I thought it was.
Imagine being surrounded by people who you want to find a way to help, who you want to speak with and get to know, yet you can’t express a single thought. You struggle pronouncing any word correctly, let alone stringing a sentence together. You feel completely isolated, despite being surrounded by millions of people.
No one understands you. No one wants to understand you. You can’t understand a lick of what anyone else is saying. You can’t tell a taxi how to get you home. You can’t order food at a restaurant. You can’t tell if the lady in front of you wants to marry you or murder you… but from her tone… you’re pretty sure it’s the murder one.
I check with the other missionary:
Me: I think I’m following along and I’m understanding most of what she’s saying… but I just want to make sure with you… did she just say that she wants to marry me or murder me? Him: Neither. She said your neck is bleeding from when you cut yourself shaving. Me: Oh good. I thought she wanted to murder me. Sorry for interrupting. Carry on. I’ll be over here.
It gets better with time After about three months in Russia, I started understanding the language better. I started speaking better. The headaches weren’t as common and I was becoming much more comfortable.
The missionary that trained me was at the end of his mission and went home. He was German and there were cultural differences that added friction to my already-rough acclimation.
My new partner happened to be a childhood friend, and he made everyday life much easier to handle. We had the same humor, we knew the same people back home, we both enjoyed the same topics like music, movies, sports, and the craziness of our circumstances. He spoke marginally better than I did to start, which forced us both to have to learn even quicker.
The biggest change that happened was that I slowly started to appreciate the Russian straight-shooter mindset. Sure, it wasn’t pleasant to be told that your tie looked ugly or that Americans are uneducated, fat, and lazy, but at least you knew what that person was thinking. I don’t remember backbiting or gossiping about someone behind their back because they’d say it straight to your face. If someone had a problem with you, they’d tell you, and you could tell them how you felt as well.
Is it all rude?
At the end of my two years, I feel like I spoke Russian reasonably well. Maybe my Russian mission president will comment on this and say otherwise, but I felt very comfortable conversing on just about anything. The reason I felt that way is because, just as they will tell you if you speak “very bad,” they will also tell you directly if you speak well.
Compliments in Russia are genuine. They aren’t forced out of someone in hopes of padding your ego. They aren’t thrown in as an afterthought to break an awkward silence. Russians are absolute masters at paying genuine, thoughtful, blunt, open-hearted, unapologetic, specific compliments.
I need to include people from Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and other Eastern-European countries in this as well. They have this ability to be direct, both with good news as well as bad news.
And, may I be blunt?
I miss it.
The Invention of Lying
The Invention of Lying, starring Ricky Gervais and Jennifer Garner had recently come out around the time I was headed home. It was one of the movies I saw on the 10.5-hour flight from Moscow to New York. The premise of the movie is a world where nobody lies. Everyone is 100% honest. They don’t know what lying is.
Well, the character played by Gervais tells the first lie and things spiral out of control from there.
I love this movie. The thought experiment is interesting and fun and unsettling for me, and it reminds me of Russia.
“Now hold on Erik, are you saying that people in Russia don’t lie?!”
No. I am not saying that. They lie just like all of us. But in their conversations, they worry less about hurt feelings and more about getting to their truth and expressing what needs to be communicated.
It can come across as having a lack of tact. It can come across as rude.
American food has a lot of sugar
When I returned home to America, I experienced a culture shock once again, this time with food. Food here is incredibly sweet. Everything seems to be pumped full of sugars and artificial sweeteners. And I think that is a fitting connection to make. After being away for two years, I noticed that many of the interactions I had with Americans involved a ton of artificial sweetener pumped into every dialogue.
We have those knee-jerk phrases exchanged each and every day. It’s like a dance that we all know the steps to and have to stay in line.
“How are you?” “Good, how are you?” “Oh, we’re great!”
Meanwhile, they’re in the middle of a divorce, their dad just got diagnosed with cancer, and their dog died. But hey, everything is awesome! And when this person’s health deteriorates and their job performance suffers and they lose their job as a result…
“Hey, are you okay?” “Oh yeah! I’m great! Hahaha! How are you?!”
That’s not healthy.
It’s a two way street
The problem in my little brain doesn’t sit solely with the respondent. I am guilty of asking ‘how are you’ without really caring to know the answer – keep reading for an example of when that went wrong. The asker and the askee both fall into this mold and mode of conversation, doing and saying what they are ”supposed to.’
Heaven forbid someone admit that they aren’t doing well emotionally. They don’t want to look crazy. And when you run into someone who breaks the script, it can be unsettling, abrasive, or sound like they are just being dramatic. And if this is how I react to a genuine, honest answer, why did I even ask?
For the first little while after I returned home, I was told on more than one occasion that I was rude. When asked if I wanted to go out with a certain group, I’d say, “No, I don’t want to spend time with that person.” When asked if I liked a certain meal or outfit, I’d share my honest thoughts. Certain former romantic relationships I had before the mission that I didn’t wish to pursue were handled poorly on my end based on the culture in which I now found myself. To be frank, I probably handled them poorly according to any culture’s standards.
I had to reacclimatize to the artificially sweetened mode of communication. I wasn’t intentionally trying to hurt anyone’s feelings, I had just become more blunt than normal. I could never attain Russian-bluntness-status, but I had to become “nicer.”
I think I did. Too much so, in fact.
But now, as I think about it and go back to my time in Russia, which is better? Being brutally honest – or being nice?
And really think about that for a second.
Would you want your spouse, friend, coworker, or server at a restaurant to feel comfortable telling you how they really feel? Or, would you prefer that they wrap their real feelings in sprinkles, glitter, and rainbows to the point that you never really know what they’re thinking?
Would you rather feel comfortable and safe to express your feelings and opinions more openly to these same people – your spouse, your boss, your in-laws – or walking on egg shells hoping that your beliefs on politics, religion, raising kids, or life choices don’t set someone off, get you fired, or get you cancelled?
You don’t know me, you don’t care, don’t ask
Come back with me to Russia, the city of Stavropol this time. I’m walking around on the streets with my missionary companion and I see a babushka shuffling along. She passes by and I stop and ask her how she’s doing. She stops. She looks at the two of us. She asks, “Do I know you?”
“No, you don’t.” “Then why do you care how I’m doing? I don’t know you. You don’t know me. You don’t really care how I’m doing. You must not be from around here. Don’t ask strangers how they are doing. It’s not your business and you have no reason to care.”
She shuffles away.
That didn’t go how it was supposed to… she went off script. She was supposed to say, “I am good! What are you two handsome boys doing? We should talk about Jesus.”
Turns out, my script was not even close to the final version everyone else was using.
There were countless other times where I’d ask a stranger or acquaintance how they are doing.
“My life is bad. I’m in the middle of a divorce, my dad just got diagnosed with cancer, and my dog died.”
Oh… okay. That explains the sadness. That may explain the smoking habit. That may explain the drinking, the depression, the acting out, the poor job performance.
The cards were on the table. The good, the bad, the ugly, it was all out there and now both sides are making informed decisions about how to proceed with the relationship.
There are moments where I wish I could return to a more blunt culture. It isn’t bliss by any means. It’s uncomfortable and hard, but I still miss it.
Opinions are just that – opinions
We all know that person who walks around being a complete tool shed. You know the kind, insulting as many people as possible and offering their contrarian opinion on just about every topic, most of which they know absolutely nothing. Not to mention the fact that nobody asked for their opinion… and then they say,
“Hey, I’m just being honest.” “I’m just speaking my truth.” “I’m just being blunt, did you want me to lie?!”
No. Stop it. You’re just being a jerk. There’s a difference.
It’s important to understand that while a Russian may disagree with you, he or she understands that it is his or her opinion. Just because you hold an opposing opinion doesn’t mean you’re bad person. Just because that person doesn’t like your outfit doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t like your outfit, or that it’s bad, or that you have an irredeemable character flaw that will send you to hell. Opinions are just that – opinions.
Most of the time (not always), their opinions came because you asked for them. Russia isn’t a land where everyone is riding around on bears and insulting each other about clothing choices. For the most part, they are reserved and keep to themselves (Russians… not the bears… do not feed the bears). But if you open the conversation and want to know what they think, be prepared to find out exactly that. No sugar-coating.
Honesty is kindness
I have a goal to be more blunt. I want to be able to express opinions and beliefs in an open, honest way. This has become most apparent to me in a work setting. As I work with vendors, colleagues, or clients, there can be important information that falls through the cracks because I’m trying not to hurt feelings rather than say what I’m thinking.
I have lucked into a company and culture where everyone has the ability to be open, honest, and blunt about topics while still staying polite and kind. In fact, I appreciate the fact that if there is a concern, it’s laid out on the table immediately rather than sweeping under a rug to fester and grow bigger than it needs to be.
I think that bluntness is kindness, as long as everyone is playing by the same set of rules, the opinions are applicable to the situation, and egos are set aside.
Remember Boris? The guy on the flight to Russia who told me I didn’t speak well? As I think back to that conversation, I realize that he was extraordinarily kind to me. Rather than dismissing me and swearing at me under his breath, he took the time to teach me how to ask people what time it is. He gave me a heads up around the pounding headaches I would end up getting. He warned me that people wouldn’t want to talk to me, or give me the time of day, or respect my opinions if I couldn’t express them clearly. It was the kindest thing he could’ve done for me under the circumstances.
Thank you Boris.
Easier said than done
Watch, I’ve just opened myself to criticism by proclaiming to the world, “Just give it to me straight!” and then, as soon as a comment comes back saying, “I really don’t care for your writing,” I’ll huff and puff and write a blog post about it.
I’ve asked for feedback before and been hurt when it wasn’t what I expected. I’ve been asked to give feedback and hurt others when it wasn’t what they expected.
“Sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same.” -The Fray
I guess what I’m getting at is that I’m making a concerted effort to tell people what I think when appropriate. I’m going on a no-sugar diet. Not real sugar… it’s the metaphor from earlier… Remember? Artificial sweetener = dishonesty… never mind. Just know that I ate an entire sleeve of E.L. Fudge cookies last night so a real-life no-sugar diet isn’t looking too realistic. But a metaphorical sugar-free diet when it comes to how I communicate… I’m working on that.
Maybe not sugar free… maybe just a reduced sugar diet.
We’ll see how it goes and how many people I offend.
If you don’t hear back from me, well… don’t follow my lead.
PS – Have you had similar thoughts? I’d love to hear your story.
I need to warn you though, and this serves as the most epic spoiler alert ever imaginable, so stop now if you want to hold onto any hope you may still have.
You’re still reading?! Okay, I warned you.
The characters in every real story, every last one of them, no matter how good or bad, no matter how noble or vile, no matter how attractive or grotesque… they all… die.
Bummer isn’t it? We were all hoping for the happily ever after.
Now, your favorite book or movie may end before the chapter describing this final event is ever released, but nobody escapes this most-predictable of endings.
We all inherently know this. We all know that everyone dies, eventually. But we spend as much of our lives as possible trying to push that thought into the deepest, darkest, most remote recesses of our consciousness, hoping to bury the thought until reality reminds us that we can’t avoid it forever, no matter how badly we want to, or how much we exercise, or how much we pray, or how much hair dye and surgery we get.
So what’s the point in caring so much about the story when we all know how it ends?
From birth to death, there is this interesting gap. We casually refer to this gap as ‘Life,’ and Life offers different things for each person.
For some, Life is full of fame, riches, and glory, opulence, gluttony, and luxury. Others are damned to poverty, disease, and tragedy, injustice, sacrifice, and pain.
Most, however, are somewhere in between, experiencing a little bit of everything. Life is as diverse as you can imagine, and a wise, fictional character who won over our hearts hit it on the head when he likened life to a box of chocolates. “You never know what you gonna get.”
We are so invested in this Life because, as far as we know, it’s the only one we get. Maybe reincarnation is a thing. If so, I hope to come back as one of my dogs. They have the life. Seriously, they eat all they want, the world is their toilet, endless love, affection, and table scraps from little kids dropping buckets of food on the ground, and the naps. Oh, the naps. But animals don’t treat it the same as we do as far as science can tell. 99.9% of living things simply eat, reproduce, and die. But we humans do more than just eat, reproduce, and die, right?
Our brains have evolved to plan for the future, postulate about a meaning to life, try to explore the stars, and search for answers to nature’s most difficult questions. We have Google and smart devices and YouTube celebrities… surely there’s a meaning to all of this. What is the point to all of the good and bad that happens around us?
Life’s ups and downs
Take the story of an expectant mother, for instance, who literally cried tears of joy in her bathroom after the brilliant piece of technology in the form of a little plastic device she peed on confirmed what she already felt to be true. She waited until her husband came home from work before she ran and jumped into his arms, and squealed in that high-pitched voice she does when she’s excited, talking so fast that no one can understand what she’s saying because 2, 3, 4 words are blending into one, and she shows him the the two parallel lines.
Phone calls, text messages, and social media posts avalanche from their phones to spread the good news. They have tried so hard, for so long for this day to arrive. Finally.
A few sick mornings later and the ultrasound pictures hang on their fridge with a recording of the heartbeat saved on a thumb drive. Later, a gender reveal celebration happens with blue everything – glitter, balloons, napkins. Congratulations and hugs and new ultrasound pictures with an appendage circled circulate among family and friends.
It takes days, no weeks for her and her husband to agree on the perfect name for their soon-to-be miracle. The classes, the showers, the clothes. The numerous close calls when she almost pees her pants because a baby is resting on her bladder 24/7 (only happened twice).
The restless nights because a baby is pressed against her spine. The super sense of smell and random cravings for dirtiest Mexican food her husband can find at 11 PM. The go-bag, ready to be thrown into the car at any hour of the night once her water breaks.
The frantic drive to the hospital, the monitors and the beeping, the hand-holding, and the sweat, and the pushing (thank God for epidurals).
And then… Life begins – with a single, soft, almost inaudible puff of breath.
And then… time slows to a crawl. The seconds start to feel like hours. Her husband looks worried. Why does her husband look worried?! Why are the doctors and nurses crowded around her baby?! What’s wrong?!
She’s screaming, “What is happening?! Where is my baby?!”
Then complete and utter silence.
She is numb, both physically from the epidural and emotionally because it can’t be real.
She now travels through the darkest, most depressing black hole of despair and pain imaginable. It will follow her for hours, days, weeks, months, and years after she holds the now-lifeless miracle that was destined for something special. He was supposed to learn to walk, go potty by himself, go to school, get acne, learn to drive, have a first kiss, get a job, find love, get married, have kids… he was supposed to have a Life.
But this time, Life only lasted for one, single, short breath.
And now, every year, this mother visits a patch of ground with a polished granite stone inscribed with the perfect name for her perfect little miracle who at one point brought eternal joy and hope and tears of joy. But tears of joy are hard to come by these days. And the cold stone reminds her of the eternal sorrow experienced on that dreadful day.
How is that fair, or just? How is that part of some eternal plan? “How come it had to happen to me?!” If she had a dollar for every time she asked that question, she’d be the richest person alive.
But she (and we) goes on searching for meaning in that death because there HAS to be meaning, right?!
God? Helloooo? Are you there?!
What’s your secret?!
Then there’s the centenarian.
The groovy gal who just celebrated her 104th year of Life. She survived women’s suffrage, a world war, polio, civil rights, and climate change. Those major events were a struggle to deal with, but they were a walk in the park compared to watching cancer overcome her husband of 50 years. The chaos of the world is simple compared to the loneliness of living without him for the past 34 years.
She’s also outlived three of her five children, watching powerlessly as they lost battles with time and fought through varying degrees of physical suffering. She’s outlived four of her grandchildren, taken in a variety of ways at various points of their lives.
But now the local news station wants to crowd into her tiny nursing home room and interview her on her birthday. They bring balloons and cameras and enormous, bright lights. Goodness those are warm!
A 20-something year-old reporter throws a microphone into our 104 year old’s face.
The contrast is striking.
This girl, with perfect, smooth, tan skin, and perky assets that seem to defy gravity, and curves in all the right places, and bleached-white teeth, and a $300 haircut, and the scent of perfume engineered to arouse desire, and the eyes of every male (and some females) glued to her as she saunters by. This girl hopes to advance her career by nailing this interview, and asks our frail, wrinkly, saggy, stinky 104 year-old friend: “How are you so lucky?!” “What’s your secret?”
“Lucky?! What secret?”
She lives alone, and has for as long as some of you reading this have been alive. She has watched every friend she ever had pass away. Her best friend in elementary school, who would walk with her to school each day (uphill both ways) died 40 years ago of breast cancer. Her first date, who took her to get an ice cream cone and was too afraid to hold her hand until 2-weeks later, died in a car crash when he was in his 20’s (80 years ago). Her coworkers at the job from which she retired 50 years ago are all gone.
She needs help changing her clothes and going to the bathroom. The food she chokes down every day would make you gag. Her only human interaction is with the nurse making the rounds and checking off the boxes so she can move onto the next room where the guy who “sees things” stays.
She has almost forgotten what her husband’s laugh sounded like. All she has wanted for 34 years is to see his smile again, or smell his aftershave, or hold any one of her three lost kids on her on her lap and hug them, squeeze them, and reassure them that everything is going to be alright.
She has been ready to experience that final chapter of Life for a long time, but it taunts her menacingly by being close enough to touch, but never close enough grab ahold.
God? You are there, right?! You’ve got to be there.
My experience with death
Admittedly, I’v been sheltered from death up to this point of my life when it comes to family and close friends. The closest experience I have with death is when my dog died suddenly while I was in high school. One minute, I was rubbing her head and telling her goodbye as I headed to school. The next, she couldn’t move, the whites of her eyes were yellow, and my parents took her to the vet to put her out of her misery before I got home. When my dad picked me up from school, he asked if I felt anything in particular throughout the day.
“No, why?” “We put Kenzie down. She was in a lot of pain and we couldn’t wait.”
I cried for 2 days straight.
Outside of that, I still have both parents, both in-laws, I have my wife, three kids, and two dogs. Not a day goes by that at some random moment, the thought flutters into my mind of – What if?
What if I get the call informing me that there’s been an accident. What if that most recent hug I gave someone really was the last? What if I don’t get a chance to say goodbye?
I’ve had friends and family receive that call. Their lives shattered in an instant. It happened this past year to my stepmom.
“Julie, there has been an accident. Your son didn’t make it.”
He was 27. He had 2 young kids.
It was a car crash. Four other people were in the car. Everyone else in the car survived. He was in the back seat and didn’t have his seatbelt on because he was helping his friend buckle her seatbelt first as the car was speeding out of control down the road.
Click. She’s safe. Crash. He’s gone. It happened more quickly than it took you to read this sentence.
No goodbyes to parents, kids, and friends.
How is it fair?
Why have I been kept from such heartache while others have had to live through suffering, disease, children who have taken their own life, or other renditions of their very worst nightmare?
I don’t have an answer here.
Life isn’t fair.
It never has been.
What happens after we die?
I remember as a kid being scared to death when my dad went out late at night for his work. I was worried that he wouldn’t make it home. I’d stay up into the wee-hours of the morning, waiting for him to come home, certain that something bad had happened.
About two weeks ago, he and I went to lunch where we ate the most deliciously bad Mexican food. Remember the kind? The same Mexican food our pregnant mother loved for 3 months?
My dad and I reminisced about life and the memories we’ve built together.
While trying to fall asleep later that night, that same old thought that I had as a child slipped back into my mind:
“What if dad dies?”
This thought kept my mind racing again into the early morning hours. When he goes, where does he go? What if it really is just lights out, and all those memories, and the plans we’ve made, and the dreams and hopes and understanding of the universe just dies with us?
I’ve had a knee-jerk reaction to the question of ‘what happens when we die’ my whole life based on the religious system in which I was raised.
“They’re going to a better place.” “They don’t feel pain.” “They are happy, and cheering for you, and running around with your dog.”
Since I’ve been quite sheltered from death throughout my life, I hadn’t really thought about it that much.
Until I did.
And it unsettled me. And it got scary. And even with a belief or a hope in something after death, it made me nervous.
Beliefs around death
I went on a quest of sorts, researching what I could about death. I read several books and stumbled across a docu-series on Netflix called Surviving Death, which was fascinating and raised even more questions. Disney put out a cute little movie called Soul that addressed the topic. By the way, how can a light-hearted cartoon get me thinking so deeply?
I started asking people around me how their perspective on death has changed throughout their lives. Some have suffered tragedies. Some have experienced the routine loss of loved ones who just grew old. Some, like me, haven’t had anyone super close to them pass away. Others care for patients of all sorts at a hospital or medical facility.
Some hold deep religious beliefs that shape their perspective on death. Others take a more agnostic approach and believe that this life is it, so don’t plan for life after death, live in the now.
While the mode of death is different for everybody, the eventuality of it is the same. While the beliefs in what comes next are different for everybody, none of us can ever be certain that ours is correct.
What if none of them are? Or what if they all are in some way?
Not one of us really knows what happens after death, so I try not to attribute certainty to any of this, but there have been those that have died, according to a clinical definition of both heart and brain activity stopping, and come back. What do they have to say?
There are several books and movies about this and I’m not going to recount it all here. There are even studies where researchers have travelled all over the world, into different societies and customs, to document the experiences of those who have survived near-death experiences. There are remarkable similarities in these experiences.
Communication with thought rather than words. Separation from the body and viewing a different dimension of sorts. Time distortion. Warmth. Calm. The feeling of love and the presence of other beings who care about you.
I’ve written about my mom’s experience with cancer and gall stones in a previous post, and when she was in surgery having a gall stone removed that had split in two with one section lodging in her pancreas and the other in her liver, she had a remarkable experience that she has shared with me.
I won’t share it here, but it was eerily similar to many other near-death experiences. After the surgery, she asked the doctor if something had happened. The doctor looked surprised and a little uncomfortable.
“Did someone tell you something? Who told you? Yes, actually. We lost you for a minute and had to bring you back. We thought you were gone for good.”
Is there something outside of our understanding of consciousness and Life as we know it? I think so.
I hope so.
So, what’s your purpose?
Where am I going with this?
I haven’t got a clue.
But, whether you have a few breaths left or decades, what is your reason for living? To quote 22 in the movie Soul, “Is all this living really worth dying for?” Remember, most of what you do while alive will be completely and utterly forgotten in 100 years (or less). Yes, even by your posterity. That’s kind of depressing, isn’t it?
Some people seem to have found their calling in life. Their spark (again from Soul), their purpose, their reason for existing. They move through life with this laser-like focus and they stiff arm distractions like Derrick Henry running through defensive backs.
But what if you haven’t found that calling yet? What are you supposed to do with the time you have left?
I’ve been struggling with this quite a bit recently. Every morning, in my drive to work, I speak to a being that I hope is real and I hope can hear me because I say it out loud,
“God, what am I doing here? What should I be doing with this life I have?”
Some ass-hat is honking at me as the light turns green and interrupts my conversation this time. But the response is the same every morning.
The main character in Soul had a similar thought:
“I’m just afraid that if I died today, my life would have amounted to nothing.”
I have no idea what my purpose in life is. I feel like I should be doing something meaningful for the world, even though I don’t know what meaningful really means. I chuckle as I write this, but maybe it was because my mom always told me I was meant for something special, which begs the question, is marketing insurance special? What about writing a blog that only a handful of people read? Or making seemingly every possible mistake trying to raise my kids? Is this considered meaningful?
I’m still working through this.
If you are too… you are not alone.
Maybe I think too much
Maybe I shouldn’t worry about any of this. After all, we don’t officially know. Even science works on faith sometimes.
Us humans like to find predictable results from “If/Then equations.”
If I ______, then _______ will happen.
The trouble with life is that we just don’t have very many predictable if/then truths that happen 100% of the time.
Take a seemingly easy one: If you eat healthy foods, then you will live longer. Well… not necessarily.
If you smoke, you will get lung cancer. Nope, not always.
If you pray, you will get an answer. Doesn’t always work out that way.
If you are the good guy, then you will beat the bad guy. Sorry, not true.
If I die, then… what?
So why even try?
Good question. Your answer will be different than mine, and that’s okay. I find hope in the happiness and joy I get from wrestling my kids and making Caitlin laugh until she cries (happy cry), or hearing that someone read what I wrote and had the same questions. Of seeing my friends after weeks, months, and years and picking up right where we left off.
In 100 years, the name Erik Soderborg will likely be long-since-forgotten, and it’s not up to me to control that. There is only so much time I have in this life so rather than spend it worrying about things outside of my control, I’ll try focusing on what I can.
How I treat other people. How I talk about other people. How I treat myself. What I believe in and what I hope for. What I write and leave behind for my kids.
I hope that there is a higher power waiting for us on the other side with a super high-resolution TV and a killer PowerPoint that outlines this extraordinarily beautiful plan, which, when we finally come to see it, will leave us going, “Ooooooh… okay… yeah, that makes more sense. I was WAY off, hehe.”
I hope that all the injustices and examples where Life just isn’t “fair” are put into context and we can see the beauty of it all.
Here’s the response from one of my closest friends when I asked him how his perspective on death has changed throughout his life. He is in his residency as a doctor (interventional radiology), a Christian, and one of the most humble and genuine people I know.
“Hey man, it’s interesting timing that you ask. I’m on pediatric surgery and had a particularly bad day on Sunday. We had a newborn born with a giant tumor that needed emergent resection, and she died on the table.
Another kid came in after a car accident and was taken for emergent surgery and died right after we finished. Three other kids came in from car accidents with relatively minor injuries, but had at least one parent die in the accident. It was a lot of sadness in one day, hard to see kids die, but probably harder to tell a mother her son died or watch a 14 year-old realize she’s an orphan.
It’s odd seeing so much death when the majority of my day is spent trying to prevent it.
It does, however, put into perspective the knowledge and power of God. I love biblical accounts of Christ healing because to me it just shows a perfect understanding of the pathophysiology of the human body He created.
I think if you spoke with most doctors, they’d reiterate how little we truly know about the body and disease. Yet we can make blind men see. We can make a dead man’s heart beat again. We can control some aspects of mental illness. If we, with our admittedly limited understanding can perform so called “miracles,” is it of any surprise that our Creator can do the same but on a much larger scale? That He can devise a way to make that same body in the Resurrection but devise a way for it to be free of disease and immortal?
I am in no way comparing a doctor to God or Christ, but if we are expected to become Gods ourselves and create life, at some point in our eternal progression, we will need to obtain the same knowledge God has about life, physiology, and death. It’s cool that I can start down that path, albeit at a snail’s pace, during this life.
Essentially, our inability to fully control death and disease in this life is a reminder to me of how impressive the knowledge and power of God is. I have become more confident in the reality of a Resurrection because I know it is possible.”
How’s that for perspective?
Those nightmarish scenes described by my friend may have played out in your life or in the lives of someone close to you. The weight of an experience like this is unimaginable and our healthcare workers are on the front lines of all of it.
The doctors like my friend who work 100 hour weeks trying to prevent these losses, but have to deliver the awful news to the families of those that don’t make it. Then, minutes later, try to put the sadness behind them and literally run to help another person whose life is on the line. Helping most and losing some, our first responders, doctors, nurses, and frontline healthcare workers see these tragedies each and everyday.
So thank you.
World(s) caving in
What I find troubling is that, in the case of my friend, in a matter of hours there were at least five families who, on that day had their worlds shattered. Their lives caved in on themselves as they lost one or several loved ones in tragic accidents. And scenes like these are playing themselves out every minute of every day across the world.
In fact, I’d be willing to bet that if a tragic loss isn’t occurring in your life this month (which I sincerely hope it isn’t), there is someone that you will interact with this week that is going through something unimaginable. They may not tell you, but inside, their soul is aching beyond belief. The thoughts and hopes and fears we’ve been talking about have crashed through their front door and made themselves at home in every room, every picture, every song, and every thought of the person or persons that have been left behind with sudden, unexpected, tragic, or untimely loss of the person who meant more than anyone else in the world to them.
Keep these people in your prayers or thoughts or whatever you believe brings hope and comfort and peace.
Death is still scary
Death still scares me. I am less afraid of the event of death itself (unless snakes are involved… because snakes are messed up), and more afraid of losing out on the time I would have with the people I care about. Should I die, I feel bad that my kids wouldn’t have their dad around and that Caitlin would have a period of time alone, left to deal with the fallout, and never being able to enjoy my sexual prowess ever again.
“Oh, come on Erik! That was a touching moment you just totally ruined! Gosh!”
Moving on… I guess the point is: focus on what you can control. And, unfortunately, odds are, we won’t be able to control how or when we end this Life, so use your time wisely… you never know how much you gonna get.
Speaking of which, it’s time for me to stop writing and go wrestle my kids.
If any of you have found the answers for yourself, share them for the rest of us. Remember, just because something works for you, doesn’t mean it works for everyone.
And that’s okay.
I like to write. Some of it makes sense, most of it doesn’t, but if you’re into that kind of thing, subscribe and you’ll get notified when I post something new.
I had a goal of completing 2 books per week throughout the course of 2020, finishing 104 books if my math is right.
We hit the goal. In fact, we snuck in a few more, finishing 116 books (43,080 pages). I say we because it took a lot of help, encouragement, recommendations, and tips from Caitlin, friends, and you reading.
At this moment, I don’t have time to give a review, but I listed the date finished, title, author, and a rating from 1-5 based on how they impacted me at the point in my life when I read the book. I also put the books with a 5 rating in bold for quick reference.
There are several on here that my readers listed as life-changing books that I may have rated lower than life-changing for me. That doesn’t mean they weren’t great books, just the wrong timing for me. There are books I read for the 2nd (or 3rd) time that used to be 5’s but are now lower.
Hopefully you enjoy and can grab a few to put on your to-read list.
Fooled by Randomness
Richard Thaler & Cass Sunstein
Drew Eric Whitman
This Won’t Scale
Drift Marketing Team
The Ultimate Sales Letter
The Price We Pay
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
The No Asshole Rule
The Future of Humanity
Jason Segel & Kirsten Miller
Jason Segel & Kirsten Miller
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Seven Brief Lessons on Physics
Jason Segel & Kirsten Miller
Something Deeply Hidden
Jeanne Marie Laskas
A Short History of Nearly Everything
Physics of the Impossible
Small Great Things
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
The Count of Monte Cristo
Blockchain: The Next Everything
Stephen P. Williams
What Matters Most
One Second After
Adventures Beyond the Body
One Year After
What Every BODY is Saying
Treating People Well
Lea Berman & Jeremy Bernard
The Final Day
Fear: Trump in the White House
Face to Face
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
How Money Became Dangerous
Larry H. Miller
Economics in One Lesson
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
5-Minute Spider-Man Stories
Good to Great
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Stephen R. Cover
The Power of Habit
The $100 Startup
Talking to Strangers
5-Minute Marvel Stories
Getting Things Done
Start With Why
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
The Sleep Revolution
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Born to Run
I Am Pilgrim
Will it Fly?
Growth Hacker Marketing
Stillness is the Key
Enemy at the Gates
The Logical Leap
The Bitcoin Standard
Your Money or Your Life
12 Rules for Life
This is Marketing
Ernie Johnson Jr.
The Spy and the Traitor
How Will You Measure Your Life?
Clayton M Christensen
The Undoing Project
The Year of Less
David and Goliath
The Book of Mormon
Never Split the Difference
Trillion Dollar Coach
The House of Morgan
Love and Other Ways of Dying
Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage
When Breath Becomes Air
The Boys in the Boat
Daniel James Brown
Yuval Noah Harari
Leadership and Self Deception
The Arbinger Institute
The Day the World Came to Town
Think Like a Monk
2020 Book List
There you have it.
2020 gave me a lot to think about, learn, and try to improve upon, and for that I am grateful.
I witnessed something amazing today, and I’ll do my best to describe what happened in hopes that you find it equally amazing. The lengths that we humans go in order to save face are incredible and fascinating.
So there I was… …sitting at the stoplight on the south end of the Shops at South Town in Sandy, Utah. You know the light, right? By Starbucks and headed toward Costco.
It’s a crisp winter day with the sun shining. Some snow had fallen earlier in the morning leaving puddles in the road that reflect sunlight into your eyes, forcing you to squint through the brightness, constantly debating with yourself over whether the effort to reach down, grab your sunglasses, and put them on is worth it when you know they will be slightly smudged and you’ll need to wipe them on your shirt but never REALLY get them to the point where you aren’t convinced you may have astigmatism or glaucoma or something because it’s still blurry. Plus, you know that as soon as you go in for the second attempt at wiping them off that the light will turn green and you’ll hesitate for a half second causing the line of cars behind you to lay on their horns and remind you how horrible a person you are for holding up the world. So, you just squint and deal with the retina-burning sunlight.
You know… just your typical day.
I’m on my way to lunch to meet with a good friend, and I’m a bit anxious because the light is taking what feels like forever. It’s 11:58 and we agreed on lunch at noon. I’m still at least 3 minutes away and I don’t want him to think less of me for being a couple minutes late. Not that he’s that kind of person, he’s literally the nicest, least judgmental person I know, I’m just saying I don’t want to be late so if this light could move things along, that would be appreciated.
Anyway, I’m planning on going straight through this light and, to my right, is a big red truck. Now, this big truck is turning right and, as we all know, Utah drivers believe you can turn right at a red light as long as you have come to a rolling stop and traffic is such that you don’t cause an accident coupled with your or someone else’s death, yet you’d somehow still be able to find a way to blame it on oncoming traffic. Utah… amiright?
Come to think of it, most of us in Utah figure a red light is just a green light if we’re turning right. Stopping is optional.
Well, not to big truck guy. He is fully stopped at this light, following laws and waiting patiently.
We also know that if the traffic going ahead of you from your right to the left has a left-hand turn light blazing, you are good to go ahead and turn right as long as that left hand turn traffic isn’t pulling a U-turn.
Are you still with me here? Writing about traffic is fun.
Now, on the sidewalk next to big truck is one of those people holding a sign asking for help. Spare change, dollar bills, a job, etc. In our story, they are asking for change. Well, big truck guy is trying his hardest to avoid eye contact with this man with a sign and is fully enveloped in whatever is playing on his phone and whether or not his left-side mirror is positioned correctly.
It is at this moment that the left hand turn signal goes green for the other direction of traffic, opening a window for big truck guy to now turn right as oncoming, perpendicular traffic coming from his left is stopped to allow for the left hand turn signal traffic.
Who knew describing traffic patterns was so hard?! Here are some pictures.
Now, the impatient driver behind big truck notices that big truck should be moving and turning right as there is no traffic to hinder his turn, but for some reason, the big truck isn’t. So, impatient driver gives a little courtesy honk.
By the way, the man with the sign is past the big truck and is now side by side with impatient driver’s front bumper.
Big truck guy doesn’t hear or notice the courtesy honk and continues to hold his position (staring at his phone), so impatient driver gives a longer, more aggressive, double honk: honk hooooonk.
I have a view over to big truck driver’s window where he looks up from his phone, into the rear view mirror, forward to the red light, and displays a combination of bewilderment and frustration on his face as the light is CLEARLY still red (like his truck).
In what takes a microsecond, big truck driver realizes his egregious error that has cost the world 3 seconds of its time and left the impatient driver behind him questioning big truck driver’s humanity, but at this point the turn signal has ended and oncoming traffic resumes, making it unwise for him to turn right at this point unless he wants a hefty insurance claim and bill (not to mention protecting his pretty truck).
What is the big truck driver to do? He clearly made a boo boo and tiny driving errors like these are something that no one should make, especially not a manly man driving a big truck… You know what they say about those guys…
So, he digs in his car for a second, rolls down his back, passenger-side window, and calls the man with the sign back over to him. Big truck guy drops a few coins into the man’s cup and poof, no more egg on his face.
Phew, crises averted! Big truck guy has saved face.
Well wait just one minute my loyal reader, what about the impatient driver? Now he looks like a real tool for honking at and trying to prevent the charitable transaction between a kind, thoughtful, big truck driver and a man who needs help.
I shift my attention over to the impatient honker… … sorry, when I skimmed that last line, a word looked like a different word and I had to re-read it to make sure I wasn’t getting inappropriate… Let me rephrase…
When my attention goes to the impatient driver, I realize that he couldn’t see that big truck driver was distracted on his phone, although he assumed it was the case, and now he sees that big truck driver’s lack of situational awareness is actually due to big truck driver’s charitable nature and Christmas spirit. I mean, he just gave the beggar some money despite being the target of honking and future protesters flipping his truck.
I imagine that the impatient driver thinks to himself, “Wow, I was wrong and completely out of line. Now I look like a real jerk to that handsome man in that little Hyundai Accent staring at all of us, watching what really happened.”
Then, he seemingly repents to his higher power, reaches around in his car, and slips a couple coins out his window into the beggar’s cup!
Isn’t this amazing?!
I’ve been wondering if the beggar saw everything go down the same way I did. And if so, I wonder how much more he could earn each day if he could somehow recreate this scene over and over again in a predictable way.
Could he somehow distract the front, right-turning driver to miss his or her initial turn opportunity and cause a line of angry tailgaters (not the football kind) to honk honk at the first position vehicle. Then, collect a copious bounty from people by helping all these well-meaning people save face for missing turn opportunities and honking at the charitable cars in front of them. Does anyone else see a Monty Python skit happening around this? Do they still do skits?
I don’t know if I have any deep, philosophical wisdom to share on this post. Maybe it’s that we humans hate to feel embarrassed about minor mistakes. Maybe we don’t have to be. We all make them and, in our attempt to cover them up, we could be making other people feel insecure about their own minor mistakes, causing a chain reaction that could end up as a lunch-time conversation and blog post.
There you have it… #deepthoughts
Hey, guess what? I try to post something ever so often. Some things are what I would consider witty (hopefully you do too), others are deep dives into the world around us, and still others are book reviews. If you’re into that kind of thing, consider subscribing. The only emails you’ll get are when I post a new story so yay! No spam!
No, this isn’t some script to a creepy horror movie about an evil mother. As a matter of fact, it’s like… the exact opposite of that.
Let’s start with tragedy
“Geez Erik, way to pull us down.” Well, we need to go here to appreciate what comes next.
My dad doesn’t remember a time when his mother wasn’t sick. She was diagnosed with cancer when he was young and his earliest memories are of her confined to her bed and him driving little toy cars over the mounds her legs made in the covers. He remembers her being weak and frail. The simplest of tasks would wipe out her energy for days.
This story (one I’ve shared in a previous post) is the most vivid memory he has of his mom.
His father (my grandpa) built a series of reflecting pools that fell into one another. These pools were filled with small, shiny pebbles and the water was pulled from a creek that ran through his back yard. There was a five foot drop from the second pool to the last pool.
One day, my dad was playing in the empty pools that had been drained for who knows what reason and he fell from the second pool to the last pool. He landed flat on his back, embedding dozens of these small pebbles into his soft flesh. The fall knocked the wind out of him, and once he could breathe again, he started screaming.
He remembers seeing his frail mother in her white pajamas shuffling toward him and, despite being a 5′ tall woman who had lost most of her muscle mass and body weight to the tortures of 1950’s cancer treatment with near-zero energy levels, scoop him up with unseen, superhuman strength, lift her injured boy and carry him back across the yard to the house. She laid him in bed and plucked each stone out of his back.
This physical exertion wiped out his mother’s strength and my dad doesn’t remember her ever recovering.
On November 18th, 1960, David’s mommy died. He was 7 years old. He was the youngest of 7 children and his older sister once told me, “When mom died, you could see the light just disappear from his eyes.”
How does a parent explain this to a 7 year old?
I spoke to him this past Wednesday at lunch. It has been 60 years since she died and he still struggles to talk about his mom without getting emotional.
28 years to the day after she died, on November 18th, 1988, his youngest son (me) was born. My recent birthday is bittersweet for him.
For those who have met my mom, I don’t need to say much. For those who haven’t, let’s just say she marches to the beat of her own drum. No one, and I mean no one, tells her what to do or what to think. Her Dutch pride and stubbornness were most definitely passed on to my siblings but somehow must have skipped me…
She protects her family like a ferocious mama-bear, willing to fight an actual bear if her kids (and now grandkids) are threatened. She likes to tell the story of my oldest brother in elementary school getting picked on by a couple older boys. My brother came home crying and spilled the beans on what had happened. My mom tracked those two bullies down and, in what would probably get you and I arrested these days, not-so-gently showed these kids what happens when you pick on one of Barb’s kids.
She is one tough cookie who could probably still kick the crap out of me (if she could catch me).
Unfortunately, she and my dad had a rocky marriage. I love them both to death but they spent nearly two decades in an unhappy marriage… for me.
A Crazy Time
The spring of 1996 was a whirlwind. I was in 1st grade and love was in the air. I had just developed my first crush on a girl and, looking back on it, did not handle this crush well. I spent the next 5 years shying away from talking to her, saying a total of probably 10 words to her over that time. However, I did later name one of our dogs after her so you can’t say I’m not romantic (and a bit creepy).
Back to the story… in April 1996, my mom and dad got some heavy news and had to explain something that I wouldn’t fully understand until later.
“Punkin (what my mom still calls me), your mommy has cancer.”
If you’ve been paying attention to dates, you’ll now realize that my 7th birthday was 7 months away. Once I connected the dots, I started crying uncontrollably. She grabbed me, sat me on her lap, and held me while trying to console her bawling son. She asked what was wrong, because surely a 6 year old couldn’t know what that all entailed.
I forced out one word at a time between gasps of breath and sniffling my nose. “I… don’t wanna… be… like… dad! Buwaaah!”
My mom, slightly confused, assured me that she didn’t want me to be like my dad either. “Oh Erik, I don’t want you to be like him either! He’s a strange, lazy man with no real ambition and you don’t have to be like him.”
Now I’m confused… (Still sniffling and struggling to breathe) “No mom… I don’t… want… my mommy… to die… when I’m 7… like his mom… died… when he was 7!”
Mom: Oh, yeah… that too…
My mom’s biggest fears were not seeing me grow up and not being able to know her grandkids. She was on the phone with her best friend at the time and expressed these fears to her friend with my older sister sitting next to her. When she hung up, my sister told my mom that she was pregnant with what would be my mom’s first grandchild.
The next year was packed with hospital visits. In May, my mom started chemo. For that summer after chemo, my parents and I traveled the state because Utah had a little county passport you could get stamped by visiting each county. The county I remember the most was Kanab because my mom spent a few years as a kid living there. She showed me where her elementary school was. I didn’t realize it then, but my parents were trying to spend as much time together and with me in the event things didn’t turn out well.
The chemo caused her to lose her hair. Her hair would start growing back and I remember running my little hand over her head and thinking it was the coolest feeling in the world. But then her hair would fall out again with another treatment and she would have me pluck the little puffs of hair out of her head.
In September the stem-cell rescue (bone-marrow transplant) began. She had no immune system to fight anything and the slightest cold would have killed her so she had to be isolated in the hospital for a month. I could see her occasionally, but we had daily phone calls during the TV show Wishbone where she and I would sing the theme song together and talk about that day’s episode.
October: My mom’s first grandchild is born. She lived to see it. November: Radiation and my 7th birthday. December: On Christmas Eve in 1996, she graduated from radiation and went into remission.
In April, my mom wasn’t feeling well. She went to the hospital and it turned out that she had a gall stone that was causing serious damage. The stone split in two with one half lodging itself in her liver and the other half in her pancreas.
She was put into an induced coma as they operated on her. They cut her open from her sternum to her belly button and later she learned that they had lost her for a full minute before bringing her back to life. The doctor told her later that he had operated on the exact same situation 2 weeks before, but that girl didn’t make it. My mom was lucky to be alive.
Can we get back to normal?
In May of 1997, my mom went back to work. Let me remind you that this is a month after dying and coming back to life. My mom is amazing.
And life was getting back to “normal.”
In August, just 9 months into remission, the cancer came back, this time in her hip. To make matters more uncomfortable, because of her compromised immune system, she got chicken pox again.
After another round of radiation, she was back in remission.
My mom was put in a support group of 10 other women going through a similar thing at the time. My mom was the 2nd oldest of the group at 43. They were all given 5 years to live.
This group would meet occasionally to go to lunch and provide support. They discontinued these get-togethers because one by one, others in the group would deteriorate and pass away.
At the end of 5 years, only my mom and one other lady were left. 80% mortality rate.
It’s estimated that 253,450 women will die this year from cancer. That is 253,450 baby girls whose parents have to watch their daughter wither away and die. That is made up of wives whose husbands are now left without the love of their life. That is made up of young mothers whose kids will be raised without a mom. That is made up of soon-to-be grandma’s who won’t get to see their first-born grandchild.
5 months from now marks the 25th year that my mom has survived cancer. Using that 253,450 number per year, 6,082,800 women have died from cancer since my mom was diagnosed. The number is likely more than that given our cancer treatments and survivability rates have improved over the last 25 years.
Why was I so lucky?
Grateful that I’m not like my dad
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been told that I’m just like my dad. Some say I look like him, others that we share the same humor outlook on life. My mom, whenever I did something that ticked her off would yell, “Ew! You’re just like your dad!”
I love my dad. He is my hero, but I am grateful that I didn’t share the same fate as him in relation to my mom.
My mom lived, and is still alive. She got to see her first granddaughter come into the world, and 14 more grandkids since. She retired from work after a long career and now takes care of a bunch of dogs, goats, chickens, and bunnies doing whatever the hell she wants in retirement. Things turned out pretty good.
My mom – the teacher In contrast to the millions who aren’t lucky enough to be raised by their mom, I was.
And she taught me how to love. Not just how to love, but to express that love with words, and hugs, and gifts, and time. She taught me to defend those we love at the sacrifice of our own well-being.
She taught me about the power of self-belief. She looks back on that time with cancer and tells me how she would not allow herself to die and leave me alone. She would visualize the chemo fighting the cancer in her body. She would visualize her body’s cells destroying the cancer and telling her body to do what it needed to do so she could raise her punkin’.
She taught me empathy. I am a religious person and genuinely believe that the only reason she survived when others didn’t was her Dutch stubbornness…
I joke. I believe there was divine help. I feel fortunate that technology had progressed as far as it had between my grandmother and my mom in the treatment of cancer. I am grateful for the friends, family, and neighbors for the cards, meals, prayers, and countless acts of service for my family during that time and since.
When I think about God and miracles and the spiritual aspects of this story I struggle. In my mom’s case, there were 9 other women in her group whose families were praying and pleading with God to spare them with against-all-odds miracles. Blessings were given. Deathbed bargains were made with God in hopes of saving them, yet 8 out of the 10 didn’t get what they were hoping and praying and pleading for.
There is so much hate and negativity and sorrow and pain and tragedy in the world each and every day. The people that we meet and with whom we interact are going through unimaginable trials. Countless people are praying and hoping that they or their loved one will make it, only to learn that they didn’t. My mom taught me to be grateful for what we have, but be sensitive to the others who don’t.
I hope we can appreciate what we have, because in the blink of an eye, what we have and hold dear and cherish, could disappear.