Experiencing America (3): Q-Time with Family

Written by: Api Sulistyo

What is the real meaning of Q-time? And what does it exactly mean for us? I have heard about this expression for the last few years. As far as I know, Q-time means the quality time that we spend with other people by doing something together such as playing sports, walking, jogging, or having conversation. Many people even feel comfortable being at the same place with other people drinking coffee or reading and do not have to say anything to each other. I found an expression online that relates to Q-time. It says ”No amount of money or success can take place of time spent with your family.” (unknown). I think this expression has some truth in it.

It is indeed hard to find time to be with our family. Some people think it is a waste of time. When our kids were still small we had more opportunities to be at the same place with them. We had meals and played together and went on vacation together more often. When our kids got older and got their driver’s license, they spent more time with their friends and in school activities. They also have their job-related activities.

 Memorable Weekend

Last July I registered for a half marathon race in a small town called Mora, Minnesota, located approximately 100 miles/160 Km from my house. I was expecting that our family members were interested to go with me and enjoy the weekend away from home. There were three reasons why I made the decision to register. First, I enjoy having a trip away from my house to observe American community in a rural area. Second, our family enjoys camping. At least we used to enjoy it, in the summer especially. We do not want to be frozen, camping in the winter time. And the last reason is I like long distance running. However, due to our busy life, only Alex, my youngest son, was available to come with me to Mora. The two of us ended up spending  time together though it was a very short trip.

After we packed all the stuff we needed on Friday the two of us left for Mora, in the north part of Minnesota. The traffic was busy and slow due to many people wanting to spend the weekend out of town. It took us almost two hours to reach the downtown of this small city with 3,571 residents. I needed to pick up my running bib so that I did not have to come very early in the morning the next day.

From downtown, we went to the camping ground, Fish Lake Resort – Bar and Grill, located only 5 miles/8 Km away. The camp reservation was US$50. I think it was way more expensive than the usual rate for a camping ground which is between US$20 – US$30 per night. The sun was still bright and the sunset was spectacular viewed from our tent. Most people had RVs or more comfortable campers, needing electrical and water hook ups, not a regular tent like ours. Therefore, the rent is more expensive for all, yet the location is very convenient with a gorgeous view.

It took us not more than 20 minutes to set up our tent and organize our sleeping bags. We had power/electricity and water so that we were able to set out our light and charge our phones. Toilets and hot showers were also available for campers. Before it got dark we went to a restaurant inside the camp ground around 130 meters away from our tent. I felt a bit awkward because people in the restaurant were looking at us when we came in. No one greeted us. The only waitress looked very busy serving around 30 customers. A few customers were sitting in tall chairs along the bar enjoying their drinks. I cleaned a table and sat there with Alex waiting for the waitress to come.

I needed to consume food with tons of carbohydrates before the running race. Unfortunately, this restaurant did not provide many options. At the end, I had chicken salad and water and Alex had grilled chicken and ice water. To bring excitement in the restaurant, a lady was selling raffle tickets and the winners were determined every five or ten minutes. The prizes were raw beef or pork. “Do you want to buy raffle tickets?” the lady asked me. “No. Thank you,” I replied. I did not know what to do with the meet if I won. An old man is responsible to turn the wheel and shouted out loud the winning number. The people responded with hand clapping, shouting, and a loud noise of excitement from the winner and the rest of the crowd.

After I paid the bill Alex and I walked back to our tent. Other campers were sitting outside their RVs decorated with colorful lights. The lake was basically outside our tent and the water was so calm. Our neighbors were trying to fish in the dark. They did not seem to catch anything. The light inside our tent was bright. Alex and I were chatting and eventually fell asleep. I needed to go to bed early anyway so that I would not be late for the race.

Special Coffee

At 7:00 am, half an hour before the race, Alex and I were already at the start line. This race was not as glamorous or as famous as races I participated in previously. A few hundred runners participated. The registration fee was only USD$40. The average registration fee for a half marathon race is between $50 to $55.

When we were running through a corn field outside of the residential area, there were two huge black cows trying to cross the road. Runners were panicked and confused. The two cows looked scared of us and hesitant to cross the road. We eventually avoided the cows. They crossed the road and disappeared in the corn field. It was weird to meet cows while running a race.

After more than two hours, I crossed the finish line. I saw Alex about 20 meters before the end of the race. I was so pleased to see him there though he could do anything else he wanted. While I was running the race he was walking around the small town. We did not spend much time in Mora. We quickly took down our tent, folded it and started driving back home. As a thank you for his company I invited Alex to have his favorite drink at Caribou Coffee. Using google-map we found a Caribou store in another small town, Cambridge, around 20 miles/32 Km from the camping ground.

I ordered ‘coffee of the day’ with room for cream and sugar. What a boring choice. Alex ordered a much more interesting and typical drink for young people. I realized that Alex was actually a regular customer. He suddenly took out his US$10 from his wallet. “I will get it, Dad,” he told me. I could not believe what I just heard. I wanted to buy the drink to thank him. But, he paid for our drinks instead. Where did he get the money from? He would start working his summer job the next week at the Minnesota State Fair. He looked so cool and confident. It was a really nice surprise.

I still could not believe it that he bought coffee for me. I will remember it for a long time. While enjoying our drinks in the car, we were listening to Alex’ favorite songs. I appreciated the cruise control button in the car so that my tired legs did not have to press the pedal and were able to ‘dance’ more freely. “Can you play songs from Queen?” I requested of him when his song list ended. For the rest of our trip home we were singing out loud the very well-known songs such as Bohemian Rhapsody, Somebody to Love, I want to Break Free, We Are the Champions, etc. And we reached home safe and sound.

It is possible that Alex and I will run a race together in the future. I hope it will really happen, spending more Q-time with him.

Mora Half Marathon website:


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