The line was already standing room only, when I opened the door to the car rental agency. It was Monday morning, the last day of my vacation, and Â I was stuck behind a mob who’s car had either broke down or been in a wreck.
All for this bloody quest! But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s go back 2 days, to where it began.
My son and I were sitting on a ski-lift, high above the beautiful slopes of the Brighton ski-resort in Salt Lake City. Next to my son was Mike. With his spikey hair and upbeat smile, Mike was a surf-wise, Californian. My son adored him and called him, uncle, which is fine, cause in a way, he reminds me of my brother, whom I dearly miss.
And as we rode the lift up the mountains, Mike and my son began to talk about our trip from years before. â€œDo you remember the Chocolate Waffles?â€Â But, I wasnâ€™t really listening. I was busy craning my neck, camera in hand, trying to capture the beauty of the mountains below us. I got some good ones – see for yourself!
When I finally turned back around, I was surprised to learn that Mike and my son had reached a decision. Which is how the Quest for Chocolate Waffles began.
Of course, not even my son could remember where the waffles were from. When we found them last time, it had been by blind luck. All we knew was that somewhere in Utah, there was a tiny shack, just big enough for one-man and 4 waffle irons! Fortunately, the Chocolate Waffles were something of an internet phenom, so 20 seconds later, cell-phone in hand, Mike and Google had found our destination.
Unfortunately, it was in a resort called, The Canyons and we had no way to get there! We had spent the last 3 days hoofing it on the bus, and The Canyons was way outside the city. But, a quest is a quest – and it demands action! So, the next morning, I got up early, went downstairs to the lobby, and asked for some help finding a rental car. The kind man behind the desk just smiled politely, and asked â€œDo you know what day it is?â€ â€¦ I responded with a blank stare. â€œSir, itâ€™s Sunday.â€ Still half-asleep, I replied with a raised eyebrow. Finally, the man spoke slowly and carefully, â€œIt’s Easter Sunday. You’re in Utah.â€
I don’t know how this quest fell upon my shoulders. After all, it was my son and his surfing ‘uncle’ that dreamed it up. But, it was my responsibility now. And like Schwarzenegger, in that goofy Christmas movie, Jingle All The Way, I would not fail. â€œIâ€™ll be back,â€ I said.
The next morning was our final day. My last chance! So, I was dressed and ready, standing in the lobby, long before the others were even out of bed. I called the rental agency, and the man on the phone told me, â€˜Sir, I can’t help you right now. Itâ€™s Monday after Easter. Weâ€™re busy. Call back around noon.â€™
I canâ€™t wait â€˜til noon. Itâ€™ll be too late! So once again, I turned to the kind gentleman for help. Â â€œGo stand there in person,” he advised. So, he dropped me off and, thatâ€™s how I found myself standing in the long-line of would-be renters on the last day of my vacation.
Standing there, I couldn’t help but eavesdrop. Listening to the woes of the others, was humbling. Many of these people had been in wrecks, or their car had broken down at the worst possible moment. One lady, had a bus-load of kids, and a broken down mini-van.
But, as I watched, the man behind the counter handled each of their frustrations, customer after customer. Always calm, and always smiling. So, I just waited patiently. And, when it was my turn, I asked him how he did it. He explained, simply, â€œMondayâ€™s are always like this. Nothing to do but smile.â€ And a few signatures later, he put me in a set of wheels and sent me on my way.
I hurried back to the hotel, and everyone piled in. In moments, we were on our way, headed to the Canyons. Before I knew it, we were standing in the parking lot, looking up at the towering mountains. The quest was nearly complete! I began to relax.
From the back of the car, I hear my son ask, â€˜Whereâ€™s my skiâ€™s? Theyâ€™re not back here.â€™ Naturally, they weren’t in the car, because it’s impossible for something to be in 2 places at the same time. And right now, his ski’s were sitting right where I had left them, in the hotel lobby!
A few obscenities later and we were walking into the local ski shop, renting ski’s for my son. And, so, that is how we arrived, at five minutes to noon, at the top of the mountain. And once there, it was easy to set aside my cares! Warm spring air rushed by and the warmth made the snow luciously soft! The slopes was awesome, the mountain was vast, and there were waffles in my future.Â Delicious!
When it began to rain, a few minutes later, I was not bothered. We got on the lift, bundled our jackets and squished closer together. We looked miserable on that ski-lift and we just laughed anyway.
You know? I’m from the east coast, and we didn’t have mountains like these. The mountains of Utah were mammoths compared to the foothills of the Shanandoah Valley. Out here, even the fastest lifts took almost 10 minutes to get to the top. And, they didn’t just go up. Sometimes, they’d weave sideways across the mountain, in and out of the valleys. And even through the rain, it was impossible not to appreciate the beauty of it all.
I remember, we came out into this one valley and the mountain opened up below us. I could way up this steep, steep slope. It was huge! And, as I looked up, I noticed something odd. Up ahead, where the mountain was steepest, I saw a line cutting straight across the mountain, like an arrow. Below the line was rain, cold and wet, and above the line â€¦
â€œThatâ€™s snow!â€ â€œItâ€™s snow!â€ â€œSnow!â€ we cried at once. Later, I learned it was called a Snow Line, caused by the drastic temperature changes of the steep mountains. But, at that moment, it was magic, pure and simple. The snow fell heavy and thick. My cares forgotten, I shouted for joy, â€œWOOOHOOOOO!â€
â€œLook dad! Iâ€™m covered!â€ In the few minutes it took to reach the top, we were covered head to toe, in fluffy, perfect, Utah snow. When we rode off the lift, we were greeted by the most beautiful sound in the world – the soft grumbling of fresh snow beneath our boards.
Later that afternoon, we worked our way across the mountain, to find that little shack, so we could complete our quest. We ordered up, waited patiently, and cheered as we received our reward. We dove greedily into those Chocolate Waffles; sugar coated goodness with melted Bavarian chocolate, that oozed between our fingers. And as we sat there, we joked â€“ if our quest had been a commercial, it might have gone:
- Waiting in line to rent a car? $100.
- Leaving your skiâ€™s in the hotel lobby? $40.
- Sharing Chocolate Waffles with family and friends? Priceless.
We had completed our quest and claimed our reward! The waffles were more delicious than we remembered. And even so, years from now, what I will treasure most is not the waffles, but the journey itself. A journey that started with a simple plan, hatched by my son and his stand-in uncle. A journey that led me to a man who smiled in spite of everything. A journey that enabled me to witness the wonder of mother natureâ€™s snow-line miracle. Memories I will savor theÂ rest of my life. Priceless.