I’m not exactly sure when I knew that I wanted to marry Sam. I can remember people asking me if that was in the cards early in our relationship and saying things like “if I don’t marry Sam, I’ll never get married.” This was mostly me deflecting a difficult conversation, but it was also my way of saying that Sam was (so far, so good/fingers crossed) the love of my life. I didn’t want to rush things or jinx the engagement by talking about it so I kept my thoughts about marriage to myself.
At some point in 2014 I decided that I was ready and that I wanted to make it official that I would be spending the rest of my life with Sam. Maybe it was overcoming my personal hangups or watching Bryan propose to Brie on Total Divas. Maybe it was the awesome trip we took to New Orleans and knowing that this is the best possible travel partner for me going forward. Or maybe it was just the universe finally telling me not to screw this one up and get to it. The point is I decided that I was going to propose to Sam, but when? And where? And how do I find a ring!?
My first thought was to do it on the Fourth of July. We have some great memories from America’s birthday and we basically started “dating” on the Fourth of July in 2012. I thought the date would be symbolic and be kind of a full circle moment for us. I didn’t have a ring yet, but that stuff would work itself out. I had my mind set on the Fourth of July. USA! USA! USA!
But as the Fourth got closer, I didn’t get any closer. I didn’t find a ring and I couldn’t find a place that was epic enough for such a monumental moment in our lives. I decided to go back to the drawing board. Around this same time I came up with the idea for the Great American Road Trip. We had been thinking about possibly doing Wrestlemania again in the Silicon Valley and I thought we should make a week of it. We could fly into LA, drive to Big Sur, drive to San Francisco and then finish our trip in Santa Clara for our second straight Wrestlemania. I knew that she would think that I wanted to go on this trip strictly for Wrestlemania which made it the perfect cover for my engagement plans.
Sam was on board for the California trip from the get-go and we decided to cut the LA portion out of the trip to focus more on relaxing as opposed to driving a different place every other day. This ended up being the right way to go and another testament to how much smarter she is than me. Christmas came and I asked Sam to send me some pictures of the type of jewelry that she likes. One of the websites she sent me to was a bit out of my price range for a Christmas or birthday gift, but for an engagement ring it was perfect. I’m still not sure if she did this on purpose.
Time flew by after Christmas and the next thing you know we were on a plane to California. I was completely paranoid going through airport security, thinking they’d stop my bags and pull out the engagement ring for inspection thus ruining the surprise. That same sense of paranoia would haunt me for the next few days as I feared Sam could go looking for something in my bag. I spent the first few days of the trip on edge.
We went out to dinner with my family on the first night in San Francisco and planned to head out to Big Sur the next day. Before we left San Fran we drove by the Full House house and then walked down Baker Beach in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge. I had the ring in my pocket the whole time, ready for the right moment, but it didn’t come and it was on to Big Sur.
From the moment we go to Big Sur I knew that I was right for waiting. We did a mini-hike once we got there and again I had the ring in my pocket ready to go. The moment didn’t strike again and I thought that tomorrow would be the day that I popped the question. We did some good hiking that next day and saw some beautiful sites, but every time I though the moment was right some other hikers would walk up to our spot. Can’t you guys see I am trying to propose here? Go hike somewhere else. Or maybe it was just me? Was I scared? At this point I’d been carrying the ring in my pocket for two full days and the anxiety was starting to wash over me. Tomorrow would be the day.
Tomorrow was not the day.
We started out on a hike that would be our most ambitious yet. I can’t remember the exact mileage of the hike, but it was somewhere between 2000 and 50,000 miles. We climbed a mountain and saw some of the most beautiful views of the ocean we’ll ever see in our lives. We were one with nature, away from all the trappings of modern society and there was no better place for me to express my feelings of undying love. There was only one problem: Sam was exhausted and pissed off.
The trail was unmarked so we had no idea how far we were from the end or even if we were going the right way. We were hurting bad, but I had a goal in mind for this day and I tried to make the best of it. I kept trying to soothe her, to get her to relax and live in the moment. I tried to tell her that, although we were both tired and saw no end in sight for this hike, that this would be the stuff that we would remember from the trip. That this would be the most fun we had and the most memorable part of this California experience. I just wanted to tell her to cheer up for five minutes so I could propose to her, but it wasn’t working. She had no idea. The hike was too hard and our bodies were not ready for it. I had the adrenaline from the potential engagement to keep me going, but she didn’t and my dreams of proposing on top of a mountain in Big Sur like Bryan were dashed. We were leaving the next morning for Santa Clara and I was running out of time to propose. I wasn’t going to do it at Wrestlemania like some sad weirdo. It had to be here. It had to be Big Sur.
There are times in a relationship when you have to say what you are doing without any input of the other person. The next morning was one of those times. I said we were stopping at a park on the way out of town and while she was on board, she didn’t really have a choice. We were stopping at that park and I was proposing to her whether she liked it or not.
I had no idea what the park was like, had never seen a picture of it and just followed the trail. The whole time just looking, searching for a place to get it done. There’s a rock formation over there, would that work? How about under this cool looking tree? We kept on the trail and got to the beach. It was very cool with all sorts of giant rocks and cliffs and, most importantly, not a lot of people. We walked down the beach a bit and Sam asked me if we should get going soon. “NO!!!!!” I screamed. “I mean, no. Just a little bit further.”
We got to the spot and I knew it was now or never. I’d like to say our whole relationship flashed before my eyes and I said the most beautiful words a human being has ever spoken, but the truth is I have no idea what I said. My memory was erased by large amounts of stress, anxiety, adrenaline and love feelings entering my brain all at once. I can’t tell you what I said, but I can tell you what she said.