Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Second Case of the Missing Purple Bag

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

Starring: James (the Long, Dark, and Handsome Buick), Joann, and Ruth

If you didn’t read the First Case of the Missing Purple Bag (which took place in 2010), you might want to read it before reading this story.

Fast forward two years to 2012. After recovering the missing purple (and pink!) picnic bag, we continued to use it, in spite of its worn-out condition. As we planned our annual spring vacation in 2012, we talked about the condition of the bag and decided that it would hold up for one more trip.

When we got to Ohio, we decided to spend the first few days using Zanesville as our home base. Each morning, we would pack the car with what we needed for the day, and then take off. Since we would be staying at the same motel, we didn’t need to pack up our clothes bags each day. We took the picnic bag, the camera gear, and the cooler, and hit the road.

One day we circled to the north and ended up back in Zanesville for the evening. Another day, we circled to the south, and then turned north again to stay another night at the motel in Zanesville.

On the third morning, we decided that we would spend the morning photographing around town, catching everything we hadn’t managed to catch on our first trip to the area in 2009, or on the first couple of days of this trip.

Since we would be around town, we decided that we would just get up in time to catch the dawn light, and then once the sun came up, we would return to the motel to pack up what we needed for the day.

Zanesville is a very historic town and we visited a lot of sites around town. Then we went back to the motel to grab the rest of the things we needed for the day before heading out of town.

As we left the motel parking lot, Joann turned right on the one-way street in front of the motel, moved over into the left-hand lane, and turned left at the first stoplight. We then crossed a busy three-lane street and, as we started up a small hill, Joann asked what the noise was. She said one of the doors must be open because she could hear the wind and traffic.

Then she glanced in the rearview mirror. There certainly was wind and traffic noise – the liftgate was open! And James, who should have been dinging his silly head off, wasn’t! James had been on the job for only a couple of months, and both of us were surprised (and annoyed) by all the seemingly ridiculous reasons he found to ding his bells. Sometimes, for no reason at all, you might get continuous dinging when you turn off the car, but that’s just James.

Note to selves, when you leave the most important door of the car open, you get one little ding and then a silent notice on the dashboard (which you can’t see because of the placement of the steering wheel). Can you tell that we are about to blame James for something more than just the open liftgate?

Well, Joann got out and went to shut the back of the car. But there was an empty space where there should have been a purple picnic bag. She then returned to the front seat and looked at me with a stunned look on her face as she told me that the picnic bag was gone.

We decided that a purple bag laying in the road was going to be pretty easy to find, so we turned around and went back. We couldn’t exactly retrace our route since some of the roads are one-way near the motel. So we made our way back to the scene of the crime (the motel parking lot) to hunt for our purple picnic bag. We pulled up to our parking space, anxiously scanning the ground. No purple bag.

We left the parking lot again, scanning the road, the sidewalk, the bushes, thinking that if someone had found the purple bag in the street, they would have either thrown it onto the sidewalk or possibly kicked it into the bushes. We had only been gone for FIVE minutes! When we got back to the same spot where we had noticed the back was open, we decided to try one more time.

Back to the motel we went. This time, Joann pulled up to our room so we could look around again. We checked our room and then she ran in to the office to see if someone had turned in our missing purple bag. No luck.

Once again, a right out of the parking lot scanning every inch for the bag. We figured it would have fallen out of the back as soon as Joann pulled out of the parking space, or more likely as soon as we left the parking lot, since there was sort of a large bump as you turned out. Still no bag.

When we ended up at the spot where we realized the liftgate was open and the bag was gone, we decided to go around one more time. Where could a purple (and pink!) bag be hiding?

After this fourth try with no luck finding the missing purple bag, we decided that we would go for the day and then check at the office again at the end of the day. When we returned that night, there was still no bag, so we made a trip to the store for some food items we needed and some picnic supplies for the rest of our trip.

In spite of the fact that we are officially blaming James for not doing a better job of warning us that the liftgate was open, we still swore each other to secrecy about this embarrassing situation. However, after we had time to reflect on why this happened, we decided that this was the Universe putting its foot down: “If you won’t get rid of that worn-out old bag, I’ll have to do it for you!” We also wondered what someone must have thought when they found it and opened it hoping for something expensive. Instead, all they found was a bunch of paper plates, napkins, bowls, and plastic silverware.

We have since purchased a similar black (and red) picnic bag. How long do you suppose it will be before we have the first case of the missing black picnic bag? We’re hoping it will be many, many years, or never!

Happy Shunpiking!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Ask and You Shall Receive

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

In the fall of 2011, on the third day of a three-day trip to the southwest corner of Minnesota, Ruth and I had covered a lot of ground by 9:00 a.m., but we still hadn’t taken the time to eat breakfast. Usually, we look for a peaceful place to enjoy our first meal of the day, which is always eaten out of the back of the car. So Ruth navigated us towards the Wilmington Lutheran Church, which is set in the countryside.

As we traveled down a gravel road toward the church, we crossed an intersection on a hill and the church came into view at the bottom of the hill. I stopped the car just past the intersection to take in the view and to capture some images of the church and the autumn color.

Then we drove down the hill, turned into the cemetery, took a few more photos of the church, and ate our breakfast. When we had finished eating, we pulled up in front of the church and parked the car.

The church is a red brick building with a beautiful steeple. I walked around to the front of the church and tried the door, as I always do, but it was locked. I then walked down the sidewalk leading towards the road and descended the set of steps near the road. As I was setting up my tripod to capture the many steps leading to the church, I was thinking, “I wish someone would come and open the door so I could see the inside of the church.”

No sooner had I thought this when a truck came roaring down the gravel road and pulled up next to our car. A man got out, walked over to me, and said, “Would you like to see the inside?” All I could think of at that moment was, “Ask and you shall receive!”

The church was absolutely beautiful on the inside, with what appeared to be the original sanctuary and pews made out of gorgeous wood.

The man who so kindly let me inside went about some “church business,” leaving me to take whatever photographs I wanted to take. So I climbed the stairs to the choir loft to capture the view from up there.

I now wish I had asked him more questions because I came up empty-handed when I searched online for the history of the church. Note that, after posting this story, one of our readers, Lori Campbell, directed us to a book published in 1882 and entitled, “History of Houston County,” which contained a small paragraph about the “Norwegian Lutheran Church.”

According to this book, the Norwegians in this area were devout Christians and were members of this congregation, which met in the 1850s at various houses. After the completion of a schoolhouse, service was held occasionally in the schoolhouse. In 1868, the church was erected near the schoolhouse.

I finished taking my interior shots as quickly as possible because I knew this kind gentleman had come to work on the church grounds. I am convinced, however, that the timing of his arrival was orchestrated by the heavens.

Happy Shunpiking!

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Sunday, May 5, 2013

The First Case of the Missing Purple Bag

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”!

Happy Shunpiking!