Monday, January 25, 2016

I just try to make the best of it

Jilda made reservations for my birthday getaway just after New Years, and we’d been looking forward to a few days by the shore, but life is funny, and sometimes things fall short of your expectations. At that point, you have two choices — you can whine and get all “foldy-army”, or you can laugh, learn the lessons the situation has to offer and move on. This past weekend, we chose door number two.

The rain was falling as we loaded the car on Friday, and I expected to see snow flurries at any time, but that didn’t happen. We fed the chickens, the dogs, and the wild birds before buckling in for the ride to the beach.

We stopped at a restaurant in Prattville to grab a bite of lunch and hit the bathrooms. Aging has taught me that I’m like a dog in that I never pass up a chance to use the bathroom…maybe that’s a little too much information, but I don’t think I’m alone here.

South of Montgomery, the Spanish moss began to make the oak and hickory look like grey-bearded sentinels. The rain turned into a mist, which made the windshield wipers squeak like sneakers on a gym floor.

Finally, the sun burned through the clouds, and I switched off the wipers and put a Road Song “mixtape” I’d compiled for times we’re traveling.

My stress level dropped as the roads dried. Stopping in Greenville, we got a coffee drink and inspected the plumbing.

We arrived in Gulf Shores at 4:30 p.m. and checked into the hotel. After unpacking, I looked at the weather app on my phone and found that sunset was at 5:12.

Grabbing our jackets, we headed out to get some sand in our shoes and listen to the sound of the surf as we watched one of the most beautiful events on earth – sunset at the beach.

Sandpipers skittered around at our feet looking for supper in the surf. We sat on the trunk of a palm tree that had washed up on the shore and watched in silence as the sun inched down toward the water.

After a long while, we headed back. Stopping to stomp the sand off our shoes, we stepped into the lobby. Jilda stopped at the desk and asked the clerk for a recommendation for dinner. She suggested a place nearby that was “popular with the tourists.”

“Where do you go when you want seafood?” The clerk smiled and said that most of the locals went to Desoto Seafood Kitchen in Gulf Shores. That’s where we went, and it was great.

Once back at the hotel, Jilda asked me to grab several bottles of water from the case in the back floorboard. The plastic wrap, which is used to secure the bottles, is curiously strong, so I took the point of my key to poke a hole in the plastic so that I could pull some bottles free. Just then, the key snapped in two. The metal end ricocheted around the floorboard and disappeared.

I looked up at Jilda and asked if she brought her keys. I knew the answer before I heard it. She’d left her key ring at home so her brother could use our truck while we were gone.

Putting a smile on my face, I told her we’d worry about it in the morning though I knew sleep would be fitful.

The next morning I went down, and with a tiny flashlight searched for the broken key. I found it lodged halfway under the front seat on one of the metal rails.

Sliding into the driver’s seat, I fitted the metal part of the key into the switch and cranked the car. Relief swept over me for a moment, but when I tried putting the car in gear, a little key light began flashing on the console, and it wouldn’t go into gear. DANG (my words were much worse.)

Back upstairs, I gave Jilda the bad news. As we tried to figure out which relative would drive five hours to bring us the spare key, an idea occurred to me. When I fitted the broken pieces together, the car cranked and went into gear, but then the end fell off, and the light began to blink again. A quick call to the local Honda dealership was no help because they couldn’t replace the key until after the weekend.

After a few more attempts, we got the key parts together. Rather than be stranded at the beach, we decided to cut our vacation short and head home. Once on the road, we didn’t turn the engine off until we pulled into our driveway.

People assumed we’d be disappointed by the experience, but we weren’t. I learned I should never substitute car keys for pocketknives. We learned ALWAYS to have a spare key. Also, we learned that a beautiful sunset, the sound of the ocean and an excellent seafood meal are enough to make a trip worthwhile.


  1. Oh. My. Goodness.
    I've been waiting for the story of what happened, but I NEVER expected this outcome!
    When you put the 'tease' up earlier, I envisioned all kinds of things happening....but this one "Takes the Cake."
    I know that it was a major inconvenience for you both, but I want to tell you, I admire your calm resolute manner of handling the situation.
    First of all: this ole gurl wouldn't have slept a lick. Not a wink. I would've been all over that car looking for that key.
    Next: Did I mention that I wouldn't have slept a bit?
    I admire you, Rick. I admire Jilda, too.
    You are both top notch in my book.
    And....that is one fantastic photograph. I've told you before, but it bears repeating.
    That is one fantastic photograph!

  2. ah, a sad story but it had a happy ending. Great lessons for us all.ll.

  3. ah, a sad story but it had a happy ending. Great lessons for us all.ll.

  4. Talk about an adventure! I can just hear my hubby who would not take this in stride. It shows to always have a spare key. I am so glad you went where the locals go. I like that too because they know good food for a good price. When I was in Salzburg, my then hubby and I went walking and saw all these places that were so expensive and I just couldn't agree to spend that many dollars. We walked back towards our hotel and found a small restaurant that only the locals were in and one businessman from England. The smell of fresh bread still lingers in my memories. This was the place we went to every evening. I love this sunset picture

  5. I apologize for laughing my ass off, but I can so see this happening to me. The key must have been a bit damaged before you broke it.

    And now I will always travel with a spare key.

    Re the TMI, I am right with you there, I never pass up an opportunity.


  6. Anything that makes a good story, is never a 'fail'. Of course I like the attitude, we always have that attitude (maybe not a soon as you all, LOL)
    Really, I do like your attitude, and of course the story sounds better LATER. But shucks, YOU all DONE GOOD!

    Not always, but where the tourists eat is at times the pits. Just done that down at Tarpon Springs 5 days ago! Son picked the place. OUCH!
    Pretty cool though, being able to put humpty dumpty back together until you got home...

  7. I'm thinking your and Jilda's attitudes should be a testament to the 'right' way of reacting when life 'happens.' Can't say I'd have done the same under similar circumstances ... but boy, you spin an entertaining tale!

    PS - Gulf Shores looks amazing!

  8. I love your positive attitude over what others might have blown a gasket over.

  9. Good things come in small packages and that sounds like your birthday trip! A good meal, a beautiful sunset with your beautiful wife, and all that knowledge...priceless! Your story brought to mind an experience we had on a trip out west that involved keys left in the ignition..learned a few lessons ourselves on that trip! Hope your week is a good one!

  10. You had an adventure! It was even a bit harrowing. Not only did it make a great story but it is a memory. You will not forget this birthday celebration.

  11. Anonymous10:04 PM

    I love your attitude--& your photo!!

  12. I'm thankful that you made it home safely, that's a blessing. You do have a good attitude!

  13. For want of a spare key, a newspaper column was born. At least the money you'll get for the column can pay for several spare keys and pay for another vacation. It was not the floorboard situation I had envisioned but who can top this story? Thanks for sharing.
    Having a spare key is paramount especially when you're far from home.
    Have a great day.

  14. I've been wondering why your trip was cut short (from a previous post). Sounds like you did a good job with your attitude and resourceful plan. I would have had to call a locksmith and go broke.


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