On Friday, Dave and I drove down to the Outer Banks for a quick vacation before he starts back to work full-time. I had never been there, despite the fact that my grandmother lives nearby in New Bern, and it sounded like a nice place to grab a few days of pure relaxation and easy-going-ness. You can see where this is going, right?

After dinner on Friday, we drove out to Roanoke Island to see the production of The Lost Colony. It was in a beautiful setting and well-produced (if a little hokey for my taste), and it did make me think again about how those settlers disappeared. Plus, it’s always fun to sit out under the stars and actually get a little chilly in the summer.

The show ended, and Dave and I began the trek back through the park to the car. As we got close to the parking lot, I opened my purse to take out Dave’s keys, which he had handed me as we headed to pick up our tickets. I pulled out the set, and there was no car key. Not at all, not in my purse, not in my pocket or Dave’s pockets, not at our seats, not on the walkway, not in the parking lot. Nowhere.

So here we are, in the parking lot of park at 10:30 at night about 250 miles from any other spare key. We are 15-20 miles from our hotel, and we have no way to go anywhere. The crew at the show was great – looking everywhere for the key, opening the box office to see if anyone turned it in, prowling through the trail with us. But still, no key.

AAA to the rescue, thanks to my dad who has, as the AAA rep reminded me, renewed my membership every year since 1995. They sent out the world’s most diligent tow truck driver who stayed on the task despite the special needs of Dave’s Volvo. He broke into the car, got the emergency brake released, helped us get the tow loop from the trunk even though the trunk won’t open without the key, and then carefully managed to get an all-wheel drive car up onto the flatbed of his truck without damaging the transmission. (I learned that all of that was necessary as I watched them work and read the owner’s manual – there is always some reading that can be done in a crisis.)

We had the car towed back to the hotel, just in case someone had found the key and thought coming back for the car later might be a good idea. It’s a hot, blue number, so who could blame them?

While we worked away that night on this problem, I learned a few things.
1. The stars are even beautiful when you lay in a parking lot to gaze at them.
2. It’s so nice to go through a mini-crisis with someone who is calm and reasonable, even when his girlfriend lost the keys to his very nice car.
3. People can be exceedingly kind.
4. These incidents are always good for stories.
5. Not even trouble on the first night can ruin a vacation if you don’t let it.

In the end, it all worked out. Dave had a spare key shipped down to arrive on Monday, which it never did. But the crew at The Lost Colony found his key on Saturday (two walkers found it in the parking lot and turned it in), so we took a cab out to Roanoke Island and back to get the key and spent the rest of the weekend visiting Jockey’s Ridge and lighthouses and isolated beaches. We even flew our kites at the Wright Brothers’ Memorial.

Somehow the loss of a key made the weekend even better since I had more and more reasons to appreciate my time there and the person I was with.

Any great vacation debaucles that turned out well or at least turned into a laugh later.