Riders On The Storm (part 2)

“Crap!” Thelma and Louise exclaimed at the same time. For a moment, they just sat there staring at the gate, willing it to open of its own accord.

“Okay, you stay here and I’ll run up to the park office and see if there’s a code written on the door or the wall or something.” Thelma climbed out of the car, jumped over the metal poles that made up the gate and walked the 50 feet or so to the ranger station. She looked at the various pieces of paper that were stapled and taped across the entrance side of the building, but there was nothing with four digits written on it, other than phone numbers. It was almost 2am, and although being locked out was an inconvenience, it wasn’t life threatening, so she didn’t feel comfortable waking a park host or calling the emergency number.

She walked back to the car, where Louise had turned off the engine and turned on the hazard lights. Louise opened the door and called out, “Any luck?”

“Nope.” Thelma eyed the gate and considered the barriers to either side. Maybe there was a way around the barrier to the right of the car? She walked into the grass, using her phone’s flashlight app to light her way, and hopefully scare off any snakes lurking in the tall grass, or any other animals, for that matter. As she followed along the retaining wall that joined the barrier, she found that it went right up to the tree line. No way around it, and nothing to show for her efforts other than a large gash in her foot where she snagged it against a branch of mesquite on the ground.

Louise looked up expectantly as Thelma came back around, but Thelma just shook her head no. Thelma suggested, “We could just leave the car here and walk the mile in to the campsite,” but Louise pointed to the sign that said, “No Parking Anytime.”

They both stared at the gate again, trying to think of a solution. Normally, they were great problem solvers, but neither of them could see any way through the three locks that held the poles together in the middle.

“When you looked at the office, did you look in the window to see if maybe there was a code behind the register?” Louise questioned Thelma.

“No, I didn’t think of that.”

Louise said, “I’ll go up and take a look around. Maybe you missed something. Use your phone and google to see if anyone might have posted the code online.”

“Great idea! People always post stuff they’re not supposed to,” Thelma agreed. She took out her phone and typed the park name and the parameters “gate lock code.” A few seconds later, the results came back with three links that looked like good possibilities. She clicked on the first one, but it was just a review that mentioned that the gate was locked at 10pm. “No shit,” she mumbled.

Thelma clicked the second link, which was an RV forum. Again, it was just someone complaining that the gate was locked at 10pm, and they refused to stay at that park because it wasn’t worth the danger of not being able to get out if a fire got out of control. “Useless!” She clicked the third link. Finally, she found something useful, but not in a good way.

Louise opened her door and sat back down. “I didn’t see anything. Did you find a code online?”

Thelma relayed the bad news. “No, and it wouldn’t matter if I did.” She handed Louise her phone that showed a review saying that the gate code was changed every few days. Someone had stayed for a week, and was caught out with the wrong code.

They both thought quietly until Thelma grabbed an actual flashlight and a park map that had the address and several different phone numbers on it. She figured it was worth a try to see if maybe the code was the four digit address, or the second part of one of the several phone numbers, or maybe the first or last four digits of the zip code.

Thelma climbed out of the car. “Come on,” she told Louise. I need you to hold the flashlight while I try some of these number combinations. They walked over to the gate and as they started to sit down, Thelma noticed that one of the three locks wasn’t a combo but was actually keyed. She held it up for Louise to see and asked excitedly, “Do you think you can pick it?” Louise was known in high school for opening locked doors and cabinets. Once, a teacher locked himself out of his room and asked her to pick it open for him, which she did quite easily.

She looked at the lock and shook her head no. “Maybe if I had my lock pick set, but all I have are my Leatherman and my Swiss Army knife.”

Thelma asked, “Doesn’t the knife have a toothpick or something?” Louise explained that it takes two tools to open a keyed lock; a pick and a tension wrench. The toothpick was suitable for neither.

Louise looked at the three lock system. Although they were intertwined, if they could open one of the combination locks, the pin would come out enabling them to flip the metal overlap and swing the gate apart. Meanwhile, Thelma winced as she lowered herself down to the concrete that was wet from the night’s earlier rainfall. She began to try different number combinations from the park map.

“Oh look! A little fox!” Louise pointed her flashlight in the fox’s direction, careful not to shine it in his eyes.

“Great.” Thelma shuddered. “So there’s a mile’s worth of foxes, rattlesnakes, and leprosy carrying armadillos between me and my bed.”

“They’re not so bad. They’re really cute. Okay, maybe not the rattlesnakes, but look at how cute the fox is!”

Thelma didn’t look up from the lock, as she systematically worked her way through the map numbers. “We could just start trying each possible combination, one at a time,” Louise suggested. Thelma looked up at her and rolled her eyes.

“Do you have any idea how many permutations that is? Thousands! We’d be here all night.”

“We might be here all night anyway.”

“I hope not. My shorts are wet, I’ve got rocks sticking me in the ass, and I broke a nail. Although, I guess it could be worse. It could be raining.” Both women laughed as a sudden crack of thunder rumbled in the distance.

Louise heard a noise coming closer. It sounded like a car crunching on gravel. “Hey, maybe someone is coming. They might have the code.”

Thelma stopped twirling the numbers and glanced back down the road. No one was coming. She sighed, “We may just have to sleep in the car and wait until 8am when the rangers get here.”

“Let me give it a try,” Louise said as she reached towards the lock. She saw the manufacturer’s name and her face lit up.

“Mom, I’ll work on this. Check on YouTube for any videos on how to pick a Master 175 lock. There might be a default code or something.”

Thelma, ever impressed by her daughter, walked back to the car and gingerly placed her wet bottom on the dry seat. She opened her phone and typed in, “pick master 175 combo” and waited. There were thousands of results, but she knew from experience that only the first page would likely have videos pertaining to her search parameters. She clicked on the first link, and suddenly felt a stab of hope. She stood up and joined Louise on the concrete. “How’s it going?”

“Honestly? I’m counting down the hours until we’re arrested.”

Thelma smiled and said, “Honey, we’re really going to break some laws now.” She turned the phone towards Louise and pressed the play button.

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Riders On The Storm (part 1)

The following is work of fiction. Resemblances to any person, real or imagined, alive or dead, is pure coincidence.

Thelma and her daughter, Louise, decided to take a couple of days off and hit the road. They made reservations at a park along the way, with plans to take lots of pictures and spend a little time in the cool outdoors.

Because they’d had a bit of a late start, they got to the park half an hour after the office closed. Fortunately, there was a park ranger outside the office, and he helped them do the after-hours check in, gave them a temporary parking pass, and told them to come back up the office early the next morning to pay all the entrance fees and get a regular parking pass.

After Louise pitched the tent with just a smidge of help from Thelma, it started to drizzle. They’d driven through some rain at the edge of town, and it looked like it was about to turn into a real storm. They decided to go get some dinner instead of being stuck in the tent all night. Before they left, they blew up their air mattresses, ran their electricity, and got their sleeping bags ready for the night.

During a delicious dinner of hot wings and fries, Louise expressed a wish to find a karaoke place that would let her in, since most of them are in bars, and Louise was only 19. Thelma, ever resourceful, whipped out her trusty internet enabled smart phone and searched for karaoke bars in the town. She was happy to find one that was actually a restaurant, which meant they would let minors in. However, due to a stupid corporate policy, minors were not allowed after 11pm, even if they were with their parent. Since karaoke started at 10pm, Thelma figured they could go for an hour and then head back to their tent and comfy mattresses and sleeping bags.

It was only 8pm, and they had an hour and 45 minutes to kill, so they went into the biggest Target they’d ever seen. Louise wanted a travel steamer because she and her mother were going to a concert the next night, and Louise knew her dress would be slightly wrinkled from being packed in a tiny bag for hours. Thelma and Louise found the steamer, then wandered around the store for a while. At 9pm, they checked out and went out to their car.

Louise was wearing a pair of jeans and a ratty t-shirt; without any makeup, she looked 12 years old. Thelma suggested she change shirts, brush her hair, and throw on some makeup. They went back in to the giant Target, as Louise needed the bathroom to wash her face and use the mirror for putting on her makeup. It took her longer than any human should require to do those things, and when she was done, it was 9:40pm.

The restaurant was just across the parking lot from the Target, so they walked across, sat down, and ordered iced tea, chips, and salsa. The karaoke guy was already set up and had his books out for easy song selection. Louise started flipping through the huge selection, and found several songs that she wanted to sing. The karaoke guy was really friendly, and told them that since there weren’t many people there, Louise would be able to sing plenty of times.

At around 10:15pm, the karaoke guy got the night started by being the first singer. Louise was second, and it looked like it was going to be just the two of them taking turns. Louise was deceptively quiet, and no one expected such a tiny girl to belt it the way she did. Once karaoke guy heard her sing, he was impressed, and wanted her to stay and sing some more, even though it was going to soon be 11pm, and time for Louise to turn into a figurative pumpkin. Karaoke guy did what any smart businessman would do in such a situation…he vouched for Louise and said he knew her and she was 21. Because Thelma and Louise were only drinking iced tea, no one bothered them as the night crept on.

However, disaster loomed when a bartender appeared at their table around 12:15am, and produced two giant margaritas. Thelma and Louise were surprised, as they had not ordered the drinks, but Thelma figured since it was perfectly legal for Louise to drink as long as she was within Thelma’s sight, she’d pay for the margaritas. Unfortunately, the bartender thought Louise looked suspiciously young and decided  to ask for her identification. Louise, ever the consummate actress/spy, coolly removed her id from her wallet and handed it over without a blink. The bartender glanced at it, said thanks, handed it back, and walked off.

Thelma and Louise thought they were in the clear, but a few minutes later, the bartender reappeared and informed them of the corporate policy of no minors after 11pm. She agreed to allow Thelma time to finish her margarita, but removed the drink from in front of Louise. Thelma commenced drinking her margarita veerrrrry slowly.  Louise sang a few more songs before the bartender caught on, and came back to the table to throw them out. Since it was already after 1am, and both Thelma and Louise needed to be up early the next day, they were ready to go, and left without a fuss.

They were only ten minutes away from the area where they were camping, and as they drove towards their waiting tent and mattresses, they saw an amazing lightning storm off in the distance.  A few minutes later, they pulled into the park driveway only to discover the gates were locked at 10pm. Thelma knew from experience that overnight campers were given a gate code in case they came back late, so she grabbed all the papers the park ranger had given them earlier that afternoon and started to flip through them. It was only a few seconds before she realized they didn’t have a gate code.

They were locked out and the storm was coming.