The Day My Spinach Salad Blew Away (Really!)

 Why it’s good to get away…

getaway coneflower

Echinacea or coneflower, one of the beautiful flowers you’ll find in Prescott, Arizona. I would have had a picture of my spinach salad flying away, but I spent too much time explaining what happened that I didn’t think to take a picture. The orange echinacea looks prettier anyway.

“I’m sure I forgot something.” I said to Jerry as we took off for a two-day jaunt in Prescott.  Jerry concentrated on driving.

To see if I could get a reaction, I said, “Oh no! I forgot to pack underwear for you.” He didn’t seem fazed at all. “I didn’t pack any pants for you either.” Still unfazed.

I had no idea of the adventure ahead, that cowboy actors would talk to me from the walls or that my spinach salad would blast into the air and fly away.  My thoughts centered on items I forgot to pack as well as looking forward to visiting my family in Prescott. Plus, and this is a big plus, enjoying the cooler mountain temperatures. Where we live in the desert, it’s a 192-degrees outside. In Prescott, people actually walk around outside in the summer without fainting.

We hum along I-10. At the Daisy Mountain Road exit we pull off for our halfway stop at Starbucks. We order lattes, mine with extra foam and his at 120-degrees. Back on the road, I notice an Oprah quote on the lime green sleeve of my Starbucks cup. “The only courage you ever need is the courage to live the life you want.” I ponder this as our car climbs into the mountains. Saguaros stand like sentries on both sides of the road as if hailing us a welcome to the high country. I go back to thinking about Oprah’s quote. Sure, it takes courage to make the decision to follow your dream. Returning to college means making the sacrifice to give up time with your family to focus on classes and homework. Learning to dance means practice and sore muscles in order to follow your goal of starring as Clara in the Nutcracker. Even selling your house to live somewhere else takes courage to go through the process of pulling up roots. Most often, it takes money to follow your dream. Dance lessons, college courses, a new home, whatever. Did Oprah need courage or money to buy her five homes? I admit, she put herself out there and landed a job at the right time in the right place that has allowed her to live the life she wants.


 “It’s getting cooler,” Jerry announced. I agreed and put on my sweatshirt. After another hour passed, a roadside sign greeted us, “Welcome to Prescott.”

We pulled into Cupper’s Coffee Bistro, the restaurant we planned to meet my sister. I love Cupper’s because it reminds me of a Seattle coffee shop with its homey, quaint atmosphere and baristas sporting nose rings and T-shirts.  The only thing missing from my Seattle analogy were lots of “you betchas” from the baristas.

When my sister Jodee entered, the fun started. We hugged and took a table outside on the patio. Jerry and I adore Jodee. She has our back, she makes us smile. She always makes time for us. Cupper’s coffee makes me smile too. It’s strong and hot and rich as any Seattle brew. You betcha. Thunder rumbled and dark clouds moved in. “It’s the monsoon season,” Jodee said.

 Oh I love this, I thought. The coolness, the conversation, the melody of rain tapping a light symphony on the tarp overhang above us.

After lunch Jerry headed off to Bill’s Trading Post, a favorite haunt of his. Jodee and I hit the resale shops with clever names like “Smart Girls,” “Whatever Was” and “Ooh La La.”

Somewhere on this bridge a snake waits for us.

Somewhere on this bridge a snake waits for us.

Afterward, we drove to a peaceful lake at Fain Park. A group of ducks paddled around together, the cool ducks clique. One had a tattoo and a beak piercing, I think. Picnic tables and rugged rock cliffs edged the lake. The trees with massive trunks and strong branches beckoned us to climb up into their leafy canopy and sit with the birds. Tempting, but we passed on that. A light rain filtered through the leaves, adding to the musical serenity of the picture-perfect scene. We hiked down into a hollow and crossed over a wooden pontoon bridge straddling the lake. We explored the area and turned back. The bridge wobbled as I stepped on it and… “Bronwyn! Watch out!” Jodee called in an alarmed whisper. What? Is the bridge about to fall into the water? Will I have to swim to shore for survival? I braced for the collapse. Jodee pointed to a two-foot long rattlesnake slithering on the bridge. It disappeared through a slit in the wooden slats. We proceeded carefully and quickly, “I’m so glad I noticed it before we stepped on it,” said Jodee.

Walking in the rain at Fain Park had a musical, and cool, serenity.

Walking in the rain at Fain Park had a musical, and cool, serenity. Ahhhhhhh…

Back in the car, (any snakes in the back seat?), we cruised in the direction of the Wild Iris, a charming coffeehouse we hoped would calm us after our near-death snake bite episode. We didn’t see Prozac or Valium on the menu so we fueled up on caffeine. Jodee ordered a huge mug of straight espresso with whipped cream. “I will not be sleeping tonight,” she said as she relished her creamy coffee drink. I had imbibed too much coffee at Cuppers, so more at Wild Iris only would have me bouncing all night. Boing! Boing!

Oh! But who cares about sleep! I love getting away. I don’t think about ordinary, everyday things. I don’t give thought to home repairs, or doctor appointments, or why our kitchen faucet makes a fizzy sound like it’s about to explode. Instead, I enjoy the moments.

A 2009 International Vacation Study commissioned by Expedia (I assure you I didn’t make this up), discovered that 30 percent of Americans don’t use all their vacation days.

Why? Taking a vacation, even for a few days, contributes to higher positive emotional levels. And who can’t use that?

After saying good-bye to Jodee, I met up with Jerry at our mid-economy motel. The kind of motel that provides a cushy comforter and soft pillows but very scratchy toilet paper. “Oh no! I forgot my glasses!” By this time of the day,  my contacts felt like sandpaper glued to my eyeballs. “I knew I’d forget something,” I said as I took my contacts out. I had to feel my way around the room. I wish I had remembered my glasses and forgot Jerry’s underwear instead.

I drifted off to sleep. “AAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR,” an overhead air conditioner blared like a roaring lion with indigestion. I couldn’t see it or reach it. Plus I didn’t want to wake Jerry.  I knew he’d tell me the room might get too stuffy with it off. I put the pillows over my ears. I fell back asleep when it quieted down. “AAAAARRRRRRR,” it blasted on again. It turned on and off all night.

“Did you sleep well last night?” Jerry asked the next morning. Obviously he slept wonderfully. He flashed a refreshed smile of early morning joy. “NO!” I hollered. “NO I DIDN’T.”

Jerry raced out the door to check out the motel’s complimentary continental breakfast buffet.

Upon his return I tried to be more civil and asked as kindly as I could, “What’s the breakfast buffet like?” Jerry said, “Really good if you like rubber scrambled eggs and bread that was toasted over a year ago and set on a plate.”

“Let’s go out,” I suggested. After checking out, I asked the lady at the front desk if she could recommend a good place to have breakfast, adding, “I’m not up to the continental buffet.” Her return smile told me she understood. “Go to Zeke’s. They have great food and serve you a ton of it. It’s where the locals go.” She gave directions and we were off to Zeke’s.

Zeke's welcomed us twangy country tunes.
Twangy cowboy tunes welcomed us at Zeke’s. 

Zeke’s welcomed us with twangy cowboy tunes, “get that foot stompin’ honky tonkin’ feelin’…” and a gum-chewing waitress that plopped us at a table by the window. “What’ll ya have to drink?” she asked, smacking and popping her gum with such intensity I thought she might take it out and slap us with it if we didn’t answer quickly.

“Coffee,” we said as she disappeared. We waited and waited. Framed photos of famous actors in cowboy hats covered the walls. James Dean gazed at me with eyes of desire (that’s how I saw it, anyway). He seemed to be saying, “You’re fabulous, Bronwyn. You’re one hot mama!” Oh James! (blush) Then John Wayne, in the picture next to James, whispered in his raspy drawl, “Get out of here before the breakfast arrives.”

Oh James! (blush)

Oh James! (blush)

Around noon, the waitress finally returned with two mugs of coffee.

More waiting and at last our waitress sashayed back to our table with my vegetarian omelet. My omelet reminded me of the plastic vomit gag toy I remember seeing as a kid. It made people think you have a terrible flu. You bought plastic vomit at the same place you purchased your plastic ice cubes with spiders frozen inside. Ordinarily I’d complain. About the omelet, that is. But I didn’t have much sleep and I didn’t feel up to it. We paid the bill and left. The Duke called out from his picture frame, “I tried to warn ya, Darlin’!”

We drove to my brother’s place. I had a wonderful chat with him. We then killed time seeing the sights, taking pictures.  We roamed among flowers at a nearby nursery. “Could I grow this coneflower in a pot at my home in the Phoenix area?” I asked the nurseryman. “Nope, it would cook and die.” I pointed to the yellow Pineapple Popsicle Poker. “What about that plant?” He shook his head, “Dead.” Any plants here I can grow in Phoenix? “All dead,” he said. “Except we have lantana, you can grow that.” Naturally that’s the one plant I didn’t want.

Echinacea purpurea or coneflower will not survive the summer in Phoenix.

Echinacea purpurea or coneflower will not survive the summer in Phoenix.

Staring bug-eyed at beautiful flowers I couldn’t grow at home made me hungry. Jerry and I returned to Cupper’s, ordered lunch and sat outside on the patio where the wind whipped up a breeze that felt wonderfully cool as we ate. Then a gust, a mini-tornado, blasted my spinach salad off the plate sending spinach leaves and slivered almonds into a chaotic flutter, landing on the patio floor in a scattered array. “Oh, I didn’t make this mess,” I informed people strolling onto the patio. “It was the wind,” I said. They looked at me suspiciously as they gently stepped around the spinach leaves. The wind had gone as fast as it came. I could tell they felt sorry I had to make up a wild story about a strong wind to cover for my messy ways.

Oh, but it’s good to get away. Everyone needs to renew, refresh, recharge, and…

“The heat is back,” Jerry announced as we descended the mountains and entered Phoenix.

I took my sweatshirt off.

Renew, refresh, recharge. It's good to get away. Because you never know when your salad will fly away, famous actors will talk to you from the wall or a snake will appear at your feet.

Renew, refresh, recharge. It’s good to get away. Because you never know when your salad will fly away, famous actors will talk to you from the wall or a snake will surprise you on a bridge.

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