"I can't believe we missed this huge canyon with a giant pool of water in it," my brilliant husband said to me, "was it just completely dark when we drove through here?"

"No, that's not right. We haven't passed the giant silver sand dunes yet. It was light out when we saw those. Are we lost?"

"How could we be lost?" He asked. "I never saw a place to turn."

"I did." I replied shamefully."We passed an intersection of three different roads. I just assumed you knew which way we were supposed to go."

"I didn't even see them." He replied mournfully. "I definitely think we are lost.."

And so it began. One of the longest adventures of my life. We quickly realized that as simple as everyone had made the directions sound, the three tiny white signs could not hold a candle to the majestic cliffs that had surrounded us. I had assumed he knew where he was going, content to snap pictures and drift aimlessly in the passenger seat. He had not seen them. 

And while I was taking pictures, a niggling suspicion in my mind told me I didn't recognize where we were going. I tramped it down, insisting to myself that sometimes things just look different coming then they do going.

Meanwhile, my husband, so used to my overbearing, eagle-eyed back seat driving assumed that I knew what we were doing.

We had both thought the other one was leading it, and now we were hopelessly lost.

On the edge of a cliff that dropped off endlessly below. It was 102 degrees. Without a working cell phone or map between us.

I tried to zoom in on the google map that lives in my phone. It was hopelessly bereft of detail. It was also turned wrong, something I didn't realize until much later.

Hours later.

I said, "Let's follow the compass. We know we need to go East."

He said, "It's not too late. We can turn around."

I said, "Nah. It'll be an adventure."

Three hours later, it was still nothing but gorgeous, endless canyons. Chairs for gods, chimney rocks of all colors, a rainbow arching across an endless sky.

We saw signs but they just listed the names of national parks we had never heard of. We started counting our gas. Turned off the AC. Started "joking" about the spare food both of us had stashed in the car. Would it be cold beef stew or some kind of gathered wood fire? Could we eat uncooked pasta dipped in cold red sauce?

Still no bars.

"We can turn back," he said. "We've only used a half a tank of gas since that last gas station. So we know we can make it back." He looked sad, embarrassed.  Both of us had begun heaping blame on our selves. I was determined to cheer our way through. "It's an adventure!" I cried. "No turning back!"

I was pot-committed. Refusing to believe that we could have somehow traveled so aimlessly off course that turning back was the only option. Forward, smiling, that has been the motto that got me through cancer. Why wouldn't it work here?

The sun had set. The light had leached away. The bright moon that had foiled all star-gazing was nowhere to be found. It was wrapped in a cocoon of clouds. That same rainbow I had been following all day, certain it was a good omen and would lead us home, was now having a nice big laugh at our little comedy of errors.

A sign appeared.

Road narrows. Paving ends.

The car in front of us, the one we had been hopefully following, pulled off to a view point.

Or so we thought.

Suddenly, in the now turned on beams of our brights, the path in front of us was revealed. We were on a narrow gravel road. It laced it's way like a corset up the side of a giant cliff. We were pointed down at an impossible angle. Nowhere to turn around. Nowhere to go but down.

"I'm actually scared right now." My brave husband said, possibly for the first time ever. "Me too," I said, bracing a hand on each dog to keep them calm as we tipped precariously down the hill.

"I'm not looking over the side." He said.

I nodded. "Don't. You're doing amazing. Better than I could. Slow and steady. We got this."

I longed to reach for his hand but his grip on the steering wheel was our lifeline. Still no bars.

At the bottom, we saw another sign. 45 miles to Bluff. Bluff was on the google map. I sort of knew where we were.

We pulled into the "town" which consisted of what felt like too many gas stations, closed restaurants catering to calorie deprived adventurers, and a few tiny motels with brightly glowing "NO VACANCY" signs.

We bought a roadside almanac. One of those huge laminated books I thought I'd seen the end of with my handy smart phone. With it came provisions - jerky, candy, red bull - neither of us were hungry but who knew when more food would come. As we walked back to the car both of our phones lit up with a startling cacophony of alerts.

We finally had service. Three glowing, glorious "bars" of it. 

I programmed our location and our address in, preparing myself for a few more hours on the road. We were both exhausted. We had left our campsite at 11am, stopping a few times for food and gas, with a long lunch break and nap at around 1:30. It was nearing 11:15pm.

The little wheely bob on my phone spun endlessly.

Your destination is 7 hours and 56 minutes away.

Defeated we arranged ourselves into the car and began driving. My husband worked in the seat next to me until he finally gave into my urgings to sleep.

At 3:30am I couldn't stay awake anymore. I pulled over in a ditch off the highway, put my blinkers on, and all of us fell asleep for a fitful two hours.

We were awakened by a Good Samaritan who knocked on the window to make sure we were ok and didn't need help for our car. Turned out we were just one exit short of a rest stop.

We switched drivers again as the sun crept up above the Rockies. My last view as I fell asleep  in the back a giant orange harvest moon, in a sky bleeding pink and blue into the inky darkness.


If this story isn't a parable I just don't know what is. So what did I learn?

Sometimes in relationships, both people think the other one is leading. Instead, you may end up going the wrong way, losing sight of your goals. The best solution is always to communicate, to never assume, and to lay blame gently but forgiveness lavishly.

It's OK to admit a mistake and turn back. Not all progress needs to be forward.

It's OK to invest a lot of time and energy into something, to have it be magical, and then still admit it's a mistake.

Listen to your gut. If something seems off, ask yourself "why?" And then act on it.

There is stunning beauty in mistakes.

It really does pay off to be prepared for all kinds of things. It will always be the thing you don't prepare for that will stand out, not because you're unprepared, but because the things you have prepared for will go more smoothly.

Never go on a road trip without a map.

Sometimes rainbows lie.

Steve and I can survive anything if we work together.

(P.S. I've got lots more photos on my instagram  @leowithcancer )