Starring: Good Car (gone but not forgotten), Joann, and Ruth
By Ruth A. Ringelstetter
Our first picnic bag was a white nylon tote. It served its purpose, but it wasn’t always the most convenient. The top was open, and the sides weren’t sturdy. It never stood up and often things spilled out.
Then Joann discovered she had an unused sports bag that would work perfectly. It was purple…and pink! But it had different compartments and a zipper to keep it closed. It also had sturdy sides so it would stand up in the back of the car when it was loaded down with all of our picnic and other travel supplies.
We had been using the purple bag for years when we started to pack for our trip to North Carolina in 2010. By this time, it was starting to fray around the zipper and the seams. Joann had done extensive searching online and around town to find another bag of almost the exact size, but she came up empty-handed. Because they were so hard to find, we decided to use the purple bag until something happened to it so we couldn’t use it anymore.
We were in North Carolina the first time the purple picnic bag went missing. This was in the days of Good Car, and sadly, we have to admit, Good Car was not at fault. Usually we have a morning routine of getting the car packed to hit the road. We both work on taking items out to the car. When I think everything but the last little bit is in the car, I climb in and get Irwin, our trusty GPS, fired up and our starting location keyed in. Meanwhile, Joann does a once-over of the room, locks the motel room door, closes the back of the car, and off we go.
On the morning of day nine of our 14-day trip, something went awry, yet we didn't notice for hours. We had gotten up early, packed the car, and headed off in the darkness. Our first stop was an old general store. It was vine-covered with a faded sign and old rusty Coca Cola signs.
Several hours later, we stopped at an old mill. A couple of dogs came running down from the house up on the hill. They were bringing me sticks to throw while Joann headed off to photograph. She asked me to get breakfast ready because it was a peaceful place to enjoy our morning meal. After playing with the dogs for a while, I washed my hands, opened the back of Good Car, and got our fruit and yogurt parfaits ready to eat.
When Joann returned from photographing the dam behind the mill, we enjoyed our breakfast as we listened to the sound of the water rushing over the dam. When we were done with breakfast, we put our bowls in the dirty dishes bag, closed the back of the car, climbed in, and headed on.
Several more hours passed as we worked our way north. At lunchtime, we located a park where we could eat our lunch, found a picnic table, and parked the car. Then we opened the back and started to get out the things we would need for lunch.
After getting what we needed from the cooler, Joann looked around for the picnic bag. It was NOT in the back of the car! Did we leave it sitting on the ground when we ate breakfast? No, we used bowls that were not in the picnic bag, so we hadn’t even noticed it was missing. Joann couldn’t believe she had somehow overlooked a bright purple and pink bag when we packed the car early that morning.
We managed to eat our lunch with what we could find in the car and while we ate, we debated what to do. It was quite a ways back to the motel, and Joann suggested that we leave the picnic bag there and stop and buy what we needed. I was torn.
There was an old general store in the area of the motel that we had wanted to photograph. It was down a long driveway with a gate, and the gate was closed when we had passed by earlier. We still had several days of our trip left, so we would have to take the time to go shopping to replace everything in the bag.
Should we go shopping to replace everything, or should we call the motel and go back for the bag if they have it? After much discussion, we called the motel and found out that they had the purple bag. We decided to return to pick it up, which would allow us to stop at the general store for some photos.
That purple (and pink!) bag had been all around Wisconsin and had traveled with us to many other states. It was a vital piece of our travel gear and it felt so good to get it back. The first case of the missing purple bag was unsettling, but easily solved. We tried to be much more careful from then on.
Stay tuned for the second disappearing act and, once the weather is warm enough, have a picnic, but keep your eyes on your “purple bag”!