Happiness Highlights: Trapped on Kelleys Island

Emma, these ferry tickets cost $150. No one pays $150 to die – we’ll be fine.”

I played my own words back again in my head as I dug my fingernails deep into Jared’s forearm and swallowed hard in an effort not to throw up. I could see the gray water of Lake Erie in front of me over the sidewall of the ferry, a view that was only possible because the boat we were on was more perpendicular than parallel. The cost of the ferry tickets had been covered by the Lake Erie Shores and Islands‘ tourism marketing department, and it occurred to me that maybe that’s how the Universe would get around me sinking to the bottom of Lake Erie with my family, SUV, and pull-behind RV.

Of course, I didn’t die on the ferry to Kelleys Island, Ohio, but it was an ominous start to the week just the same.

After making our way safely to land and driving the five short miles across the island to our campground in the mostly deserted state park, we discovered we had no cell or Internet service on our iPhones. The wind and rain that had plagued our water crossing continued, leaving us trapped in the RV. It looked like it was going to be a long three days on a remote island in the middle of a Great Lake. I reminded myself (and my family) repeatedly that we weren’t paying for our lodging for the duration of the three days and that someone had gone through a lot of work to make this quick visit fun, even if Mother Nature had other ideas. We would be grateful, damn it.

We made s’mores that first night over the open flame of our camper’s gas stove and giggled endlessly at the sweet, sticky messes running down one another’s chins.

The next morning we woke to more rain and puddles that threatened to overtake the island. We laughed a little at the irony considering we’d evacuated a campground just a few short weeks earlier in an effort to avoid an onslaught of water. I walked through the wet wind to a spot with cell service and canceled the ferry ride and attraction visit we’d had planned for the day. The island, it seemed, was determined to hold onto us. We drove around looking for wifi and got busy with school and work.

A few hours later, just as we were shutting down the laptops and preparing to make our way back to the RV for a day of hibernation, we noticed the rain had stopped and the wind had calmed. We spotted small specks of blue in the sky and felt a bit of sun on our faces. We made a mad dash back to the campsite, determined to make use of the reprieve.

And oh, what a glorious afternoon we had.


We biked and we climbed and we hung upside down from monkey bars at a playground. We ran from snakes and tip toed around fresh bird poop. We found fossils and read about glacial grooves and walked backwards on a curved balance beam.

We played. We played hard for as long as we could, because we had no idea how long our moment in the sun would last.

There was still no internet or cell service and the wind and rain came back with a vengeance in the middle of our second night, but the joy of our afternoon spent frolicking – and there is no more perfect word to describe how we spent the day – sustained us when the weather turned cold and wet again.

This week my happiness was found in seizing the day and in remembering that both day and night, rain and shine, are but a temporary break from the other.

Where did you find yours?

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