Ordering the 12th thing on the menu.
Recently, I participated in 24 hour adventure race called Questival sponsored by the outdoor brand, Cotopaxi, with four of my friends in Portland. The premise is this: grab 2-6 of your adventurous friends to register as a team, meet up in Portland in Sellwood Park, get a totem (a small flag) and then head out to adventure. Teams use the app to complete various challenges and upload photos or videos (while being sure to include the totem as evidence) to complete as many as they can for points in a 24 hour period.
The challenges ranged from silly (sing a rap song by a campfire), to adventurous (go under a waterfall with your clothes on), to community service/kindness (such as give flowers to a stranger). It was a “choose your own adventure” and my group tended to focus on mostly the adventurous ones while fitting in some social media posts and silly fun things along the way.
When the challenges were posted the night before in order to start planning our strategy, one of the things we all got excited about…were the ones involving food. A team has to eat, right? One of the challenges in particular we knew we would need to do: “Go to a roadside diner and order the 12th thing on the menu.” The next day, as we drove east from Portland after the check-in party ended and the 24 hour clock started, we tried to be on the lookout for our roadside diner. Meanwhile, we perused the internet to find out how to legally camp without a campsite in the Mt. Hood National Forest. After all, it was the 4th of July weekend and we hadn’t booked a site yet there were a lot of challenges that would need to be completed by a campfire in the dark. While driving through the small town of Boring, Oregon, we saw a small diner and recognized it might be one of our last chances before we camped to do the challenge.
It wasn’t as much of a diner as it was the townie American/Chinese/dive bar restaurant, but at that point in the night, we were going to make it work. When we entered the restaurant, it seemed like everyone turned around and looked at us, a group of 20 and 30 year olds in a place where the median age seemed to be around 55. Sitting in our booth, looking at a huge menu, we decided to start the count with the soup/salads, landing on a pork chop dinner for the 12th thing. Our teammate, Kameron, was glad to eat it, while the rest of us decided it would be fine to just have him in the photo as we ordered the item we actually wanted to eat. Challenge completed. Looking back, I think we all should have just ordered the pork chop dinner. Was it the best thing on the menu? No. Wasn’t it even that good? Probably not. But even if we wouldn’t remember it because it tasted good, we’d remember it as a shared experience.
The next 24 hours were a lot of fun, laughter, and good times. We camped off of a forest service road trying not to disturb the layers of Oregon Grape and ferns while we did the video challenges. After a mere 5 hours of sleep, we set off to do a boulder problem on slab by the Salmon River (my personal favorite), catch fish (Kameron’s favorite), drive to the Gorge for a waterfall to go in, and then back to Portland to go to many sites I hadn’t been to since my time in Americorps over ten years ago.
Sometimes, all it takes is a random challenge to force you to try new things or silly things, or things that seemingly have no purpose (does it matter if we walk across the street as if we are walking on the moon and videotape it??) but these things make you feel alive. Friendships grow stronger through challenge. People become stronger through challenge.
We soon realized at Questival that we weren’t going to win. And it didn’t matter at all. We kept trying to do as many challenges as we could until we were too tired to go on.
Life will give you plenty of hard challenges to overcome. Why not create some fun challenges of your own to motivate you and make an ordinary day different and fun? Whether it is trying out a new hobby, hiking a new trail, camping solo, or ordering the 12th thing on the menu at a roadside diner, challenge is what makes life fresh, exciting, and worthwhile. Get out there and adventure.