For years I have been the butt of my own personal joke. I have been a proud (?) member of the V.L. club my entire life. At 16 I became Vice President. At 20 I became President, 25, Princess, 30 Queen, 35, Empress and for the last few years it was my goal to spend my 40th birthday in Greece, where I would celebrate my Ascension as Goddess of the V.L. club.
I've seriously been talking about it for years. I even had someone lined up to go with me (which turned out well for her that we didn't go because she managed to snag herself a boyfriend that weekend! Woohoo!). I even took on a second job so that I could earn the money to go. But, as you know, life happened and I wasn't able to make it work.
Sometimes I say that I am part of the best book club in the world. I know you think it's cliche and that everyone says that their book club is the best. But mine actually IS the best. I've been in this book club for four years now. I am a total outsider of the group. Everyone else has a history- either as family, college roommates, old coworkers or ward members. I was invited by Anadine, a friend of a friend from Denver. I don't know what compelled her to invite me to this exclusive (yes, exclusive) book club- but she did... and they let me stay.
At one of the spring book clubs, I mentioned that I was not going to be able to make it on my trip and how sad I was about it. But oh well, life goes on, right? Well, in July, Candi told me to keep the weekend of Sept 29th free. All they would say is that it was a surprise. I had no idea what was going on, but I made sure to ask for it off at work well in advance so I could get it.
Over the next few months I would get random texts asking, "Are you scuba certified?" and "do you have improv theater experience?"
As the weekend approached and I was in the middle of moving I text Candi and we had the following conversation: (Candi, you don't mind that I'm dramatizing the texts do you?)
Me: Soooo.. I'm all for surprises, but I'm packing up my house so I can be out before our adventure. is there anything in particular I should leave unpacked?
C: Ooh, good question. Sleeping bag or other bedding like sheets and blankets that are packable. But if you don't it's not a big deal. Shoes that you can hike in, dressy clothes and casual clothes, mildly athletic clothes, but not crazy. It's not 3 day basketball camp.
Me: Hmmm (emoji)
C: Jacket, but no coat or sweatshirt
Me: Will you judge me if I wear a Twilight sweatshirt?
C: Ha! No more than usual
Me: Hahaha! Gee thanks.
C: Are you going to take it off every 20 minutes, you know, like the werewolf?
So you can see I was thoroughly perplexed. I only saw "hiking" and "sleeping bag" and thought, Oh crap- they're taking me camping. Don't they know me at all?!
We met Friday morning at Candi's house. I was late- but I was still one of the first to arrive. One of the girls in our club, Marie, lives in the D.C. area and skypes in for book club. When I walked in the door and saw her sitting there, I almost burst into tears. She'd come clear across the country for this! I've only met her a few times in person and I literally only know her through skype- but she came. She came for this crazy adventure that was organized for me!
All the others who were close by showed up; Kristen, Megan, Liz, Katie. We were missing two in number. Anadine and Jessica couldn't get away. Sad. But the rest of us piled into two vans and drove down to Saratoga Springs to pick up the remaining members, Natalie and Susan.
Candi mentioned a four hour drive. I started to suspect. But I didn't want to spoil anything. We stopped in Scipio for a potty break and decided to just have lunch while we were there. There was a Dairy Queen in the gas station so we took it outside and ate near the (closed) petting zoo.
As we continued down south, I taught them (and probably annoyed them with) my "Mormon" game that I played with my nieces and nephews this summer. Every time you see an LDS church you shout, "MORMONS!" If you see a temple it's "Moroni Mormon!" and if you see missionaries it's "Mormon Mormon!"
It's a lot more fun to play in Utah and Idaho, that's for sure. But the game originated in Colorado on my summer trip to Mesa Verde with Macy.
Anyway, we got to St George and passed right on through... huh... ok. I thought we were going to St George. We drove in to Ivins- which I'd never even heard of- and stopped at someone's house. I was soooo confused. BUT it turns out that Candi's Grandma-in-law has a house there and is not currently using it so it's kind of the family time-share. That's where we were staying.
Once we were settled in, Candi revealed the secret. We were going to see Mamma Mia! at Tuachan.
Because it's set in Greece.
I was so touched that they remembered that this birthday was supposed to be in Greece. I mean, the trip was nice enough by itself, but to remember that silly little detail... was just so sweet.
We found a place for dinner- some random BBQ place that was inside a gas station. Don't let that sentence deceive you. In my experience, gas station diners in St George are wicked awesome! It was maybe the best pulled pork I'd ever had in my life. While we were eating, my cousin Sharon called me to tell me the drama that was going on with my apartment. I'd moved out just a few days before- but it was still technically my apartment so she was keeping me apprised of what was going on- and really standing up for me in a way I wouldn't have been able to do.
After dinner we headed up to Tuachan. We got there with barely enough time to take a few obligatory pics and get in our seats.
Have you seen Mamma Mia? I'd seen it before- and I love the movie. Who doesn't love the music of ABBA, seriously? As we were sitting there, watching this awesome play, the weather was so perfect, my cousin was taking care of business back home and I was surrounded by this crazy group of ladies who'd organized all of this. For Me.
Right there in the middle of the play, I started to tear up. I was so overwhelmed with how loved I felt. So grateful in that moment for where God has placed me in my life. I have no idea what's going to happen next- but in that moment I felt very, VERY loved. So thank you.
After the play we headed back to the house for bed. Bed. Ha! Yeah right.
Megan made a friend in the garage. He wasn't a prince, but it never hurts to try just in case.
In this house there were three bedrooms. One with a king size bed, one with a queen and one with a twin/trundle. There was also a futon and Megan brought a blow up mattress. (I chose the futon. Never EVER choose the futon- there was a bar down the middle of it and when I rolled to the edge to avoid the bar, the bed flipped and threw me against the wall. hahahahaha! I spent the rest of the night on one of the little love seats- sitting up)
I'm getting ahead of myself. We got home and somehow all congregated into the room with the king size bed. If you're wondering if the workmanship of that bed was high quality? Yes. It held all nine of us!
We stayed up till past 2am talking, giggling and just all sorts of silly merriment. Megen, Katie and I are the only single ones in the group, so we had to update them all on our oh-so-exciting dating (or in my case, non-dating) exploits. It's always my favorite part of book club- and usually I don't have anything to contribute, but thanks to the creepy courier at work, I had a story to tell. Ok, and other stuff too- but what happens at book club- stays at book club, mmkay?
The next day we all prepared to go on a hike. Katie is an avid hiker- like, she spends more time in the mountains than she does at home. First we headed into St George for breakfast. I didn't even have to tell them how much I love the Bear Paw Diner- apparently the secret is out that it's the best breakfast in Southern Utah!
Once we are all stuffed to the gills with this amazing food, we went for a hike.
(PSA: don't hike when you're so full of biscuits and gravy that you can hardly walk)
We drove to Snow Canyon and hiked, looking for petroglyphs. In keeping with the Grecian theme, it was the closest we could get to ancient ruins.
This is us before the hike- notice we're still smiling and happy?
The trail wasn't so bad. It was fairly flat at first. But I have never hiked in sand before. It's HARD! We had to stop every few hundred yards to empty the sand out of our shoes.
The trail wasn't super clearly marked so there were a few times where some of us would chill for a bit while Katie and a few others would scout on ahead to make sure we were headed in the right direction.
After a mile or so we lost the sand and were on slick rock- which meant some rock climbing. That was fine. But can I just say that up is a heck of a lot easier than down!?
We followed trail markers and the advice of some other hikers we'd met coming back. We found the first hidden slot and made our way through the crevice.
Here we found petroglyphs. I've never seen them in person before. It was so awesome! I just can't imagine why someone was down there carving these into the wall... and how the heck did someone find them? Honestly, if someone had not pointed them out to me I would not have noticed them. They show up a lot better in photographs- in person they're really hard to see.
There was a couple down in the slot before we got there. We'd already be hiking for hours and they said it took them five minutes to get there. They cut across private property. We'd seen that trail, but we're rule followers. But, they were kind enough to take a picture of all of us.
We headed out of the slot... some of us easier than others. I got caught in the tree that stands guard over the ancient carvings.
Kristen had to help untangle me.
By this time in the hike some were starting to get tired. Kristen was taking care of me and asked several times if I wanted to stop- that we could go back to the car and be done. No. They organized this adventure for me and I was not about to wimp out. But I was grateful that she offered. There was a lot more climbing, and hiking and resting and sand removal.
It was honestly so beautiful out there!
We were looking for the Newspaper rock. Some other hikers we'd met told us it wasn't far so we kept going... but once again, we just could not find the proper trail. Now people were starting to run out of water- and it was hot. Not like, vultures were circling us hot- but warm enough that you didn't want to run out of water. Katie kept trying to find the trail, but she could sense a mutiny was mounting, so we went back to the slot. From there we could either hike the two or so miles back the way we came- or take the short cut across private property. Remember how I said we are rule followers?
Yeah, I lied. We totally took the shortcut. It literally took us 15 minutes to get back to the car.
Look really closely... you can see us in the distance
I am SO glad we did it. No seriously, it was awesome. Now that I know what to expect, I could probably do that hike again. I probably *won't*, but I *could*.
We were all bedraggled and covered in red sand, but you can see from the smiles on our faces that we all enjoyed it. We emptied our shoes one last time and headed back to town.
My van stopped at a gas station to get ice, and I stood there and drank two bottles of water and drank the third one on the way home.
We took turns getting cleaned up and showered. I thought for sure I would be beat- but I felt totally energized after that. We had made reservations at a Hawaiian restaurant. After that morning's breakfast I didn't think I would ever eat again. I still wasn't very hungry. I said all I wanted was a bathtub filled with ice water and a straw. But when we sat down and ordered, I was suddenly ravenous and the food tasted so incredible!
That evening we were just going to hang out at the house. I knew they'd brought a cake for my birthday, so one car headed home, and the one I was in headed to the store for more munchies. I didn't suspect the following:
When my van got back home and we walked in... those who had gotten there before us were dressed...
Oh. My. Gosh!
That's why Candi had said to bring sheets! Of course, not realizing that, the sheets that I brought were bright, BRIGHT pink. They fitted me up with my toga and put some laurel leaves in my hair and we sat around and had a toga party. Hahaha!
We made sure to take pictures of us trying to be Grecian statues...
We played a silly getting to know you type game, and they sang to me and and we had cake. It was just the funnest night!
At bedtime I opted for couch cushions on the floor rather than the futon. Some adventures are only meant to be had once.
The next day we cleaned up the house and hit the road. We stopped in Beaver for a picnic lunch. It was meant to be had on the hike, but it didn't happen- so we had all this lovely picnic food.
So you see when I say that my book club is better than yours, I'm not kidding. They planned his whole crazy weekend just for me. I will never be able to express how grateful I am to them for this thoughtful gesture. I had no idea they liked me so very much. But I sure felt loved after that.
Thanks ladies, I believe my coronation to Goddess of the V.L. club was a smashing success!
40, here I come!
Afterthought- At a later time, Katie added our two missing members to a couple of the group photos- this is the whole book club!