Last Tuesday I decided to take my pen pal, Colleen, who was visiting from Oregon, to Castle in the Clouds in Moultonboro. I truly believe the view from the castle is one of the most spectacular in the state.
The sky was overcast when we left, but the farther we went, the clearer it became. By the time we arrived at the castle, the sun was shining. Yes, I thought, it was going to be a perfect day.
If there’s one thing I should have learned by now, living in my body for as many years as I have, it’s that the word ‘perfect’ does not exist in my vocabulary.
The man at the entrance to the castle drive greeted us cheerfully and gave us brochures. He emphasized that we should be sure to stop at the Falls of Song and the scenic overhang on our drive up to the castle.
The road was very narrow and winding as we drove up the trail. We came to a small waterfall that seemed pretty average to me. “Ooooh!” I joked, making Colleen laugh. “It’s even better than Niagara Falls!”
Shortly after that, however, was a parking lot with a sign that pointed toward a footpath to the Falls of Song. I parked the car and grabbed my purse and camera.
I was just about to close and lock the car door when I hesitated. “I don’t think we’ll need our purses, do you?” I said to Colleen. “Maybe we should just take our cameras, seeing we’ll have to hike to the waterfall.”
She agreed. We hid our purses in the car, locked the doors and began our hike.
The falls turned out to be worth the walk. They were tall, surrounded by colorful foliage, and tumbled down into a postcard-perfect babbling brook. We snapped photos for a few minutes, then decided to head up to the castle. By then, it was already after noon.
I searched my jacket pockets for my car keys as we approached the car. The pockets contained nothing but an old, wadded-up tissue. My heart flew up to my throat. Every time I take the keys out of the ignition, I immediately shove them into the front compartment of my purse.
“Oh, great!” I practically shouted. “My car keys are in my purse in the car…and so is my cell phone!”
Colleen stopped walking and stared wide-eyed at me. “My phone is in the car, too!”
“And my AAA card!”
The two of us stood there, wondering what to do next. Walking back down the narrow, winding road to the entrance booth all but guaranteed we’d be flattened by a truck.
A car from Connecticut, filled with tourists, suddenly approached. The minute the people stepped out of the car, I practically charged at them and asked if they might have a cell phone I could borrow. One of the women checked her phone and said she couldn’t get a signal. Another man checked his and had one. He handed the phone to me.
“Um…do any of you have AAA?” I asked, knowing I probably was pushing my luck. “My card is in my purse – in the locked car, so I don’t know the phone number.” One woman said she had a card. She dug it out of her purse and handed it to me.
As I dialed AAA, I had visions of poor Colleen spending her first full day of touring in New Hampshire standing by my car and waiting for AAA to arrive. On our drive over, we hadn’t seen a gas station for what seemed like 25 miles. I was pretty sure it would be dark out by the time help arrived, so we’d end up having paid $15 each to see just the waterfalls.
The woman who answered at AAA was very sympathetic and understanding. She took down all of my information and then asked for the make and model of my car. When I told her, she said, “Isn’t that a hatchback?” When I said it was, she added, “Is the hatchback locked?”
I walked over to the hatchback and tried it. It popped right open. I felt like the world’s biggest idiot. “Okay – never mind,” I said to the AAA woman. My car is unlocked.”
She started to laugh. The man whose phone minutes I’d just wasted, however, didn’t look quite as amused. I thanked him profusely. He grabbed his phone and walked off.
Colleen and I got back into the car and cracked up laughing. I grabbed my purse and reached into the front compartment for my keys so we finally could head up to the castle. They weren’t in there. Frantically, I took everything out of my purse until nothing was in there but the lining. Still, there was no sign of my keys.
“This can’t be happening,” I groaned.
“Yes, it can,” Colleen said. “Anything can happen to you!”
I sat there, wondering what to do next. That’s when I realized I wasn’t comfortable in my seat. There was some kind of hard lump right underneath my butt. I reached into the back pocket of my jeans. There were my car keys.
When I pulled them out of my pocket and just stared at them, Colleen dissolved into fits of laughter. I have never felt so dumb in my life. Pretty soon, I was laughing, too, until tears rolled down my cheeks.
I spent the rest of the day trying to avoid the group of tourists from Connecticut. I was much too embarrassed to face them.
“It’s bad enough the car was unlocked,” Colleen giggled, “but imagine if they found out your keys were in your back pocket the whole time!”
The spectacular views from the castle were worth all of the trouble we’d gone through to get there, however. I think Colleen and I broke a world’s record for “oohing” and “aahing.”
That night, she and I told my husband about our day. I knew he’d never let me live down the key incident…and I was right. He had a real field day razzing me about it.
“I wish I’d have pushed the mileage-counter button in my car so I could tell how many miles we went today,” I said, desperately trying to change the subject.
“Oh, I pushed it when we picked up Colleen at the airport,” he said, “and that’s only about 20 miles, so you should still have a good idea of how far you went.”
The reading was 612 miles. Even if we’d gone to the castle by way of Canada, there was no way we could have racked up that many miles.
That’s when I realized that when we’d picked up Colleen at the airport, we were in my husband’s van, not my car, so he’d pushed his own mileage button, not mine. My mileage had been accumulating since the last time I’d pushed the button about two months before.
And I couldn’t wait to razz him about it.