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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Summer (the season) (07/09/09)

TITLE: Adventure in the Night
By Karlene Jacobsen


Sheets of rain bathed the van. Windshield wipers chased each other back and forth across the window in a hypnotizing rhythm. The kids complained when I turned up the air conditioner to help revive me.

I moaned. This is supposed to be an adventure! Cold, rainy weather in August is WRONG! Hrmph…Gotta love Michigan!

A midnight express across southern Michigan was not part of our plan. We should have reached Sheboygan, WI by now; our tent erected and a campfire ablaze to warm us. Aren’t vacations a time for relaxation? What did we know? This was our first family camp trip—ever!

Saturday, while inspecting the van, Dan noticed our license plate—EXPIRED.

Someone told us of a 24-hour automated machine at the Secretary of State (SOS). “Just go there, it’ll spit out a tag for you,” they said.

We found the nearest location. It rejected our card, saying, “System error--” We found another location. The machine offered the same hopeless message. We drove to another location then another … until we had covered most of the 24-hour machines in the metropolitan area—no luck!

Our next option: drive through the night, Sunday—tonight—for Benton Harbor. There we would wait for the SOS to open and get the tags before crossing into Indiana.

So there we were at three a.m., hoping to use the cloak of night to cover the offensive plate. The rain helped that; but lulled my eyelids into a state of heaviness.

I glanced over at my husband. “Dan…wake up! You promised to help me stay awake!”

He snored. I reached for the CD case, fumbling through a mountain of chips, cookies, candy, and water, until my hand made contact. Eureka! I tugged on the case, creating a landslide of snacks across Dan’s feet. Serves him right!

I pulled a CD from the case and plugged it in. Some fire-breathing preacher I liked bellowed through the speakers. I fidgeted with the knobs, need more volume!

He failed to boost my energy level. “No sleep—not now!”
Then I saw them—my orange and white friends—the Barrels. Summer time in our fair state brings out the whole family. Some had reflectors, while others carried signs.

“Hi guys!” I waved. “How’re ya doing? Where are your umbrellas?” The most thankless job in the state and no one even offers them shelter in the rain.

“Oh no!” Bo-Barrel was lying on the side of the highway—crushed. “Looks like they left you there to die ol’ boy.” I had a moment of silence for my dear friend. There was no chance of survival—he had been pretzelled!

I nudged my sleeping husband, “Hey, meet my new friends.”

He said nothing, but that didn’t stop me. The signs say, “Kill or injure a worker, blah—blah—blah-- and a fine.” What about these guys?

Soon we were through the construction zone and I saw the signs for Benton Harbor. Aaaah nearly time to rest! I felt such relief!

I found the next rest area, parked the van, jarring the family awake. “Mommy, I need to go to the bathroom.” Ugh, figures! I waited, hoping the rain would let up, but it poured harder; more like an army of fire hoses aimed directly at me.

I hurried the boys across the parking lot and back. Impressively, I was able to keep them dry while I returned soggy, with no way of reaching dry clothes.

Wet, chilled, and unable to sleep, I sat behind the steering wheel listened as my family, snug in warm blankets, settled back into their blissful slumber. The dashboard clock counted away the minutes, finally welcoming sunrise. Eight o’clock arrived. I shifted into reverse, and backed out of the parking spot and aimed west, towards I-94.

I parked in front of the SOS office at eight-thirty. I prayed hard as police toured the parking lot, Please God, I’ve made it this far. Hide that plate from them.

The lineup began at the doors; I jumped out of the van to stake my spot. A lady came, unlocked the door then we rushed the desk.

Within minutes a current sticker was affixed to the license plate and I was back in the van, ready to continue our journey around Lake Michigan into the Upper Peninsula.

Dan stirred, opened his eyes, and smiled at me. “Good morning honey. Are we almost to Benton Harbor so we can begin our adventure?”

I chuckled. “I’ve already had mine.”

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Member Comments
Member Date
Seema Bagai 07/16/09
Aaahhh...road trips. Such wonderful memories. Good writing in this piece.
Christina Banks 07/17/09
And what an adventure it was! :)
Dolores Stohler07/18/09
Great story! I can relate, having just completed a long road trip, much of it in the rain. I sat beside my granddaughter who scattered food all over the back seat and wanted to go the potty every hour or so. Arem't vacations fun?
Dolores Stohler07/18/09
Oh, by the way, I love the 2nd line. Good writing!
Stephanie Craig07/20/09
You captured the lonely, late night/early morning driver perfectly. I also like how you used SOS to save words.
Carol Slider 07/20/09
It's so easy to relate to this... vacations always bring unexpected "adventures." Fortunately, it's generally the "good parts" we always remember!
Virgil Youngblood 07/20/09
So, who's cooking breakfast? A fun read.
Jackie Wilson07/20/09
I, too, have been abandoned by fellow travelers and had to keep myself awake by any means possible. Most of those remedies were familiar -- next time I'll try talking to the construction barrels!
Mariane Holbrook 07/20/09
A great read! Vacations require a rest period when they're finished, don't they? I enjoyed this entry!!! Kudos!
Patricia Turner07/20/09
Very entertaining! I had a similar overnight adventure, but that will have to wait until the winter topic. I could visualize the whole trip so well. Great writing.
Chely Roach07/20/09
This was so entertaining and yet exhausting to read! I loved the dialogue with the barrels...lol. Good stuff. :)
Pamela Kliewer07/21/09
I laughed out loud at the dialog with the barrels! This was a fun piece! Well done.
Diana Dart 07/22/09
Perfect voice - sharp, snarly yet oh so lovable. The barrels had me howling!!! I'll never look at one the same again ;-) I loved the short, crisp descriptions and random thoughts, they perfectly fit the situation. At least once she was wet, sleep would stay away!
Patricia Herchenroether07/22/09
This was so much fun to read. Loved the barrel thing. You took a dreary experience and turned it into a work of art.
Steve Fitschen 07/22/09
Ths story reminds me of the James Thurber quote: "Humor is emotional chaos remembered in tranquility."

You squeezed a lot of story into the word limit--good job.
Joy Faire Stewart07/22/09
Written with such clarity, you can fell the anxiety and the humor. Love Dan's response at the end.
Sara Harricharan 07/22/09
LOL! I can definitely relate to this kind of a road trip/vacation. Very creative and I love the part about "Bo-barrel" This was hilarious! In spite of the whole serious driving in the night thing, you sprinkled real-life humor throughout adn made this a good read! Nicely done!
Jan Ackerson 10/31/09
Karlene, I'm going to feature this charming story for the Front Page Showcase for the week of November 2. Look for it on the FaithWriters home page--and congratulations!
PamFord Davis 11/06/09
I'm a seasoned traveler and really relate to your story and the frustrations! Glad you made the front page!
Beth LaBuff 11/06/09
It's great to see you as the featured author, Karlene! :)