Indiana Wendy and Thor Ginger in the Lost Crusade of the Wacky Sister’s Retreat

“This is not right.”

Lost. It’s a lonely word for someone who has come to a sister’s retreat and figures on having lots of conversation.

I sat in my car in the deserted parking lot of the city beach in Sandpoint, Idaho. It was past midnight. I was totally alone.  I discovered that Sandpoint has no beach nightlife in October, so I was fairly safe. I saw no high life, low life, or life at all. I was lost in a town of 8,000 people, most of whom were all in bed, as I tried to find the train station.

I had gone to Sandpoint for a three-day retreat with my two sisters and two nieces where we rented a lovely condo on beautiful Pend Oreille Lake.

Beautiful lake scene from our front window

Wendy came on the train from North Dakota the night before our retreat started, and she asked me to arrive a day early, pick her up from the train station, and stay the night with her. This was because she could find no motel that would provide transportation from the depot to the motel.

I thought that finding the train station in Sandpoint would not be difficult.

Especially since I have GPS on my phone. When I looked, sure enough, there it was, a bright red dot glimmering on the map quite prominently. My husband counseled me to drive downtown early and locate it just so I would know how to get there in the daylight, but I figured how hard can it be? Besides, I was too tired when I arrived to drive the three miles from the motel to downtown Sandpoint.

At 12:05am, Wendy awoke me from a sound sleep to announce that she was about fifteen minutes from town. I dressed hurriedly and, assured by my trusty Google map that it would only take nine minutes to get downtown, I started out, not much concerned.

I arrived downtown in eight minutes flat.

A minute to go, and I would be there. How hard can it be to navigate the streets of a small town?

The illusive train station

I knew the train had arrived. I knew I was only a short distance from the train station, yet I could not find it. I crossed Bridge Street, which was a bridge that connected the city with the beach area, and found myself in the parking lot of the public beach.

The little red dot on my Google map glared at me with contempt.

I was not far from the station, but the only thing I could see was the Best Western motel. From the map, I discovered that the train depot was a right-hand turn as you faced the lake.

I drove back into town. Wrong way. Now I’m way off. I made a u-turn on Main Street, hoping there were no cops around. I drove over Bridge street toward the lake. The train tooted its whistle in preparation for departure, and Wendy called me. “Where are you?”

“I’m here, in Sandpoint, but I’m kind of lost,” I said sheepishly. “I can’t find the station. Hang on. Here’s someone.”

A car approached. I rolled down my window and waved. The car stopped and very cautiously the man lowered his window. “How do you get to the train station?” I asked.

He said, “Go on down this street and turn left. It will be like a ramp. Turn in there.”

“Okay. Thank you.” I drove down the street. Left. A left turn. But…I glanced again at my Google map and saw that I had been looking at it upside-down! Now, looking to my left, I saw no streets or ramps or anything else I could turn into. I was at the Best Western again. They have a 24-hour desk, so I dashed inside.

“Where is the train station?” I breathlessly asked the man.

“Go under the railroad bridge, and turn right.”

“Okay. Thank you.” I drove back toward town, but didn’t see a railroad bridge.

Suddenly I was on the car bridge again. I turned right (no turn signal) just after I crossed it. The street went downhill, not up, and I was at the back of a row of stores. Deserted. Dark. Spooky. When I went to get back on the street, I disobeyed a sign that said, “No entrance.”

“Where are all the cops in this burg?” I muttered to myself as I made another flagrant traffic violation.

I figured if one did appear and pulled me over, I could ask him where the train station was!

I went back over the bridge. Came to the Best Western again. A lady had pulled up to the office and was running something inside. When she re-appeared, I leaned out my window and called to her desperately, “How do I get to the train station?”

Bridge Street

She said, “Go back toward town. Just under the railroad bridge, turn right.”

“Okay,” I said. “Thank you.”

I inched along the street. There, just a few yards from where I had stopped at the Best Western, was a tiny alleyway that led uphill between cement buttresses. It was, truly, like a ramp. I turned and went up. Drove about a hundred yards. Saw the train station and the lonely figure of my sister pacing the walkway in front of it nervously.

I was weak-kneed with relief when we finally greeted one another. We laughed as I recounted my adventures in trying to get her, and she recounted her anxious moments alone on the station’s deck. I realized, as I drove down the ramp-style street, that if it hadn’t been for a row of tall ornamental trees that were planted along the Best Western’s flank, I would have easily seen the station, for I was only a few hundred feet away from it.

Wendy told me she thought she heard me calling her (thinking she was hearing voices in her head), and she looked around several times, saying, “What?”

I said, “You did hear me, Wendy. I was right over there, yelling at people and asking them where the train station was!”

The next morning, it was time to get into our condo. Renting a condo from an owner who is not present is different from a motel where you get the key to your room at a front desk. For a condo, you have to get inside the building, find a hidden key, unlock the door, then return the key to its hiding place.

We approached this task with trepidation, yet I had a list of instructions, and we figured how hard can it be? We are two fairly smart women who’s been about in the world. We can get in.

The first obstacle was the front door keypad to the block of apartments.

The lockbox

I read aloud the owner’s instructions. “Scroll down to my name, then punch in this combination.” We scrolled down, found his name, and attempted to punch in the numbers. It didn’t work. Over and over again, we tried. Nope. Wouldn’t work.

I think we would still be standing there if someone hadn’t come along to help us. We finally got into the building, then went to our apartment where we were faced with another challenge. The dreaded lockbox.

There was a cedar chest type of wooden box in the foyer. On the side of that, near the floor, was a lockbox with a key pad on it. I had the combination, so we set about getting it open. We tried over and over again. Nope. Wouldn’t work.

She took over the task of unlocking the stubborn box while I held my phone for light, since there was no light and we were working in almost total darkness, bending over almost to our toes.

Finally, it popped open.

She leaned forward to get the key and was bombarded by a rain of things on her head. We were both alarmed and surprised. I thought that opening the lock box released some sort of trap door above our heads like in an Indiana Jones movie, and I looked up, expecting to see the trap door. Then we realized that she was wearing her backpack and had forgotten to zip the top pocket shut completely. All the little things in it (shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, etc.) had fallen out onto her head when she leaned sharply over to get the key!

We laughed until our sides ached and admitted ruefully that we weren’t nearly as smart or as clever as we thought. But we are funny!

Then came the episode with the fob key.

You might think me uninformed, but I did not know what a fob key is. The owner, in his instructions, spelled it FOB key, so I thought it was an anagram. We retrieved our door keys, and sure enough, there was a funny-looking grey thing on the key chain. Wendy said it was like the keys you push to electronically open the car door, but there wasn’t a button to push on this. It was just a solid grey thing on the key chain.

A FOB key

We struggled with the key pad combination on the front door every time we entered the building after being out, and got help from various kindly people on how to stand, how to hold your breath, where not to stand so the electronic eye did not see you, and other interesting details about this lock.

One night, Wendy and I went to investigate the hot tub, which was located down from our building about a block away. We entered what we discovered was the main lobby and talked to a man who said he was the manager of the complex. We explained to him the difficulty we were having with the front door keypad.

He said, “You can use your fob key on it. You can also use your fob key to get into the hot tub and swimming pool area.”

“Fob key?” I looked at him, puzzled. “What does that stand for?” (Still thinking it was an anagram.)

“It doesn’t stand for anything,” he said, giving me a look of utter disbelief at my stupidity. “It’s a fob key. You pass it over a black box with a blue light on it, and it opens the door.”

I had one, so I gave it to him, and he demonstrated. After we exclaimed over it with great joy, he walked away, shaking his head. (“Where do they get these people?” he was probably thinking.)

We enjoyed using our fob key on about everything from that moment on.

It was a lovely time, even though the weather did not allow us to enjoy the lake.

We shopped, explored a ski resort on the mountain, ate out, ate in, watched movies, and slept.

And, yes, I was Thor. Very thor from thrying to unlock those thupid locks.

Ginger, Evelyn, Wendy

What are some lessons I took home from this?

  1. I’m not nearly as clever or smart as I thought I was. It helps to ask for help, listen to advice (your husband is  occasionally right!), and yell loudly when you can’t find someone. Maybe they will reply, and it won’t be a voice in your head.
  2.  Why spend money to go to one of those Hidden Key Escape game places? You can rent a condo and do the puzzle on a Hidden Key Enter game. I highly recommend it for a challenge. For laughs. For bonding with your sister.
  3. God is with me wherever I go. He is the best and first place to seek help. Yes, I will look at my Google map, but I’ll make sure I’m holding it right side up!
  4. Trust God with all the puzzling situations of my life. He has it all in His hand and He will see me through. Believe me. I know. I proved it on the streets in downtown Sandpoint, Idaho at midnight.

There you have it. Indiana Wendy and Thor Ginger made their way home to re-tell their stories to husbands who rolled their eyes and thought, “I let those two out alone, together?”

Contact me if you like my story and share it with anyone you think needs a laugh.

At a book signing/reading at the Chewelah Public Library

God bless you.


Virginia Ann Work