Saturday, April 25, 2015

""One Toe into Stupid"

The road that cuts through our property

            Excitement be-bops in syncopation with music as we snake around the Scenic Loop heading toward our hideaway outside of Leakey. Our vow to spend more weekends in our piece of peace gets swept aside by life’s demands, and so the anticipation for spending a mere twenty-four hours hiking our hills energizes us. Even the dogs know “cabin” means meandering through the hills, sniffing out deer, rabbit, field mice and wild hogs. They fight against the urge to sleep as the car sways into and out of curves.
              Green pulses everywhere. Clouds cap the tallest hills and feather trees with fingers of mist. Raindrops, large and fat, plop against our windshield with unexpected force, but then a few miles further the sun teases through the haze. Next to us, the river runs high in testimony to the heavier rains that soaked the hill country the day before.
            Our new car, hanging closer to the ground than our old SUV, hugs the slick highway with ease, but as I see more evidence of water and localized flooding, I wonder about the condition of the road into our cabin. The three mile final stretch to our place is a gravel and caliche mix with a section of blacktop where one “neighbor” laid asphalt along his property. A dry creek crosses the road in three different sections. One permanent resident in the area owns his own grater and keeps the road passable, but when we pull down the lane our tracks are the only ones to mar the surface. Worry sneaks into the car and settles into my stomach as David crawls us along at a cautious ten miles per hour. He eases the car’s speed even slower as we near a patch of rocks. We crunch over gravelly patches, but when thump, thump, thump rattles the car, he brings us to a complete stop.
            I hop out and scan the area behind us, trying to find the rock we must have grazed, but can’t see anything large or protruding in our wake.
            “I’m going to walk ahead,” I call back to David. “Check out the road near the first dry creek.” Within ten feet, the evidence of just how much rain has hit the area surfaces with the road totally washed out. Nothing short of a 4-Wheel-Drive can make it over this section of road!
            “We’re going to have to leave the car here and backpack it into the cabin,” I suggest to David.
            “Maybe we can fill in that section and crawl on through,” David proposes as he approaches me, trailing both dogs. Then he sees the washed-out patch and scans another worse area about fifteen feet ahead. “Maybe not.”
            “Why don’t we at least move the car off so we’re not blocking the road and hike up to the cabin? We’re this close, and we can at least check it over—even if we don’t stay.”
Koi and Bridget on the road on a dry day
            Bridget and Koi meander ahead of me, dodging off the road as they sniff and scout. David snugs the car into a little grassy area, and together we pick our way over exposed rock beds and slip-n-slide up the last hill to our cabin. We quickly circle the exterior of the small house doing a visual check for damage or break-ins. Shedding our mud caked shoes, we both feel relief to find the interior tidy and inviting.
            Our relief, however, proves short-lived since our return trek to the car forces us to look at the road from a totally different view. Our low slung sedan had eased over one stretch because we nosed at a downward angle. Going upward seems impossible since the car needs to climb over four to six inch ledges with sharp edges.
            Panic floods me and I double over weak kneed, “Ohgodohgodohgod, we’re trapped!”
            David stands beside me, “We can hug that area over there,” he points to a berm of rock and gravel created by an earlier grating. “If we fill in this section a little more, I think I can get the car through.”
            “What about that section?” I point up the road about eight feet further along. “Will you be able to zig the car over from that side to this better area in that short of a distance?”
            “We’ll need to fill in a much as we can, but I think I can do it.”
            We lift, shift, heave and shove smaller rocks and gravel into the areas where David plans on driving. By now, the dogs have sensed our anxiety and a muddied Koi tries to follow David into the car. Since he doesn’t want any distractions as he’s driving, I haul the squirming dog into my arms and start guiding David over the stretch of repairs.
            He doesn’t make it very far when the tires sink into the loose gravel and hold fast. Stuck!
            “Should I back up?”
            “No. We’re only moving forward.”
            David pops out of the car to check the front wheel on the driver’s side and begins digging around it. I drop Koi, who scurries into the open car and jumps onto the blanket that covered the backseat. Bridget takes advantage of our distraction and jumps into the car, too. On hands and knees, I claw away everything by the front passenger tire.
            David scrutinizes the path again, decides we’ll not get a better shot, and restarts the car. He has to give it a little gas to push it free and has almost no time to shift its course to hit the next stretch of road at the correct angle, but skill and luck propel him over and onto a smooth patch. Victory!
            Covered in grime and sweat, I sink with relief into the passenger seat.
            “It was like driving over wet marbles,” amazement tinges David’s voice. He shifts out of park and it’s only a few seconds before the car’s wheels touch our neighbor’s blacktop.
            “We weren’t stupid,” I point out. “We stopped when we hit that first rock.”
            “Well, I’d say we were one toe into stupid.”
Copyright 2015 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman
Dry portion of our road. A slip-n-slide of clay this trip.

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