My Mom has a green thumb. She has her own magic of making sure that the ground is fertile and healthy, helping plants grow to bear fruit and flowers. Although I do not have a thumb as magical as hers, I do share her love for nature and gardens. I thought of her when my Dad, our relatives, and I went to Hakone Gardens in Saratoga Hills in California last July 4, 2017.
A red car drives through the freeway towards the red sandstone outcrops of Valley of Fire.
The Lumineers’ Cleopatra album is on for the whole trip. My friend said that she had the playlist for over a year; I said I did not mind, because I liked the band too. I find traveling more fun when there is music.
No matter how many hours a trip takes, we both liked traveling except for being caught in slow traffic.
On our way, however, to Valley of Fire one summer’s day in Las Vegas, Nevada, there was not much traffic thankfully.
Yet, when the car finally arrived at the entrance to the state park, we spotted a sign which said that there was extreme temperatures today.
When my friend checked in the morning though, it was less than a hundred degrees.
But we were already there, and it’s not every day one gets to hike in the Valley of Fire on noon-time during summer, so we rode on.
It was the 21st of August, 2017.
It was overcast the moment I opened my eyes and gazed at the window. The sky and possibility of rain in the Las Vegas Valley tempted me to stay longer in bed and sleep, but I decided to get up instead.
My cousin Jango stood there in the bathroom, fully clothed as if for a hiking adventure. I did not know that the eclipse would take place at 9:00 AM in our area.
“We’ll be going to Exploration Peak for the eclipse,” he said.
I hurriedly ran back to the room and changed.
Our car fled up the mountain roads with the front windows and one back window open. My cousin did say that it would be cooler up in Spring Mountains (Mt. Charleston) – around 70 degrees. Truly, it was colder compared to the temperature in the flat lands.
When one is out in the sun in Vegas during summer, the sensation is that of opening an oven door to take a peak at a baking dish.
It was in December 2014 that I first visited Mt. Charleston but not for a hike. I had three or four layers of clothing then, while my cousins probably just had two, because winter is nothing to them. The sides of the roads and the peaks were covered in snow.
When we continued our drive up to the area we were going, I found familiarity in the scenery – only it was summer this time.
A few days after my Dad arrived in the US for a short vacation, I lingered on the thought of going as well – not for a vacation but for two reasons: 1) spending time with my Dad and family, and 2) stepping out of my comfort zone again.
Before the flight which we only booked four days before the scheduled departure from the Philippines, I felt so anxious, because I did not want to leave home.
I told my Mom, “I love you, so I should stay.”
But she assured me that just because I will leave for a short while does not mean I did not love her.
Going out of my comfort zone, taking on another international trip by myself for a second time, talking with other people, practicing speaking in English, and standing on my own two feet on this once-in-a-blue-moon chance from God – these are all for love for her and my Dad and the Lord.
Ever since I’ve been working at home since January 2017, I rarely get to do what I used to do when I was still working: reports, submissions, presentations, pitches, and weekly team meetings.
I was worried that I did not know how to converse with others anymore, let alone be street smart, because there was no need to be street smart anymore for I was home.
Likewise, I was afraid that I did not know how to travel by myself anymore, as compared to a few trips I had on our last visit in the US on May 2015. If you knew shy anxious me, you’d know it would take a lot of self-encouragement, prayers, and moments of saying ‘Yes, I’m going,’ and ‘No, I’ll just stay.’
But finally on a Saturday, I decided I will be going again on a flight over the Pacific.
*Featured Photo courtesy of my cousin Jango!
For the first two times we’ve visited Vegas, we were able to go to Mt. Charleston in December 2014 and to Red Rock Canyon in June 2015.
Although we did not climb any trail in Charleston, playing in the snow (my first time!) with my cousins is a memory I will hold dearly in my heart.
Years went by as my cousins from my Mom’s side of the family grew up and made their memories together, while we lived in the Philippines. Any time with them, no matter how short, is not to be taken for granted.
So when we had our first reunion in years (!) with my Mom and I in Vegas, one of my biggest and special dreams (one that is not related to an ideal career or lifestyle) came true.
When I write in my journals, I’d always put where my family and I have eaten. Because when I can remember the place we were in, I’d also recall the environment, the smells, what we did there, and what we talked about during those times.
To record the moments that my Mom and our family spent together around dinner tables and sharing delicious food together, I want to dedicate this post to that purpose. Also, if ever you find yourself in Las Vegas, you can visit these places, have a taste of their specialties, and meet the very hospitable and kind people there.
On our last few days in Nevada, Ouel drove us to see some of the casinos in the Strip. On our way there, we got to see little of old school Las Vegas.
I knew little of Las Vegas… From how it was portrayed in some movies, it’s this place with bright lights, casinos, and partying. It definitely has the bright lights, casinos, and energetic vibes throughout the Strip where most of the big casinos are, but as my Mom and I came to stay there with our relatives for our vacation last December 2014, a different side of Vegas showed itself.
What stuck to me the most is that this is the city where a few of our relatives call home. My Tita Mila’s home is where the family reunions are held, because our relatives from my Mom’s side are in California and Arizona, so Vegas is the midpoint.