And, by wilderness, I mean the parking lot of a hiking trail.
I left work a few hours early yesterday. And, as I was walking to my car, I thought it’d be nice to grab the dogs and head somewhere pretty. Flipping through a hiking app on my phone, I settled on Suntop Lookout. Checking the time, I estimated the entire trip should take about four hours. The dogs and I were on the road around 3pm, we should’ve been home before sunset.
Heading east on Route 410, it was just as sunny and a tiny bit cooler than it had been in the city. The roads were clear. There was barely any snow. Small piles of it here and there. And, to be honest, I’d hoped there’d be just a bit of it. Then, I turned on to National Forest Road 7160, which is apparently like that armoire in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe because there was snow all over the place. Though the road was clear.
My first mistake was driving into the unplowed parking lot of the trail. My second being not turning around as my car bumped and slid around, the undercarriage grinding against the high centered snow of the tire tracks I was following all the way up to the trailhead.
After I parked the car, I got the dogs out and let ’em run around in the snow. Then, we headed into the forest until my late-coming logic kicked in and I thought “Maybe this isn’t a good idea?” and we headed back towards the car. I snapped a few shots and hopped in the car. It was about 5pm.
We must have been in the car all of 30 seconds when my front left tire made friends with a deep pile of slush. Stuck.
Don’t worry. The First Rule of Christopher McCandlessing for Beginners is: Unwavering Hubris. Wancy’s take? I’m from Chicago. Snow shmow! I got this!
For the next two and a half hours, I try to get my car out.
Before I go any further, let me tell you about the Second Rule of Christopher McCandlessing For Beginners: Wear Really Wear Worn-out Sneakers and a Very Thin Hoodie when heading Into the Wild.
Trying to get my car out involves a combination of all these things: rocking my car in and out of the hole via that reverse/drive/reverse/drive trick, gathering pine tree branches and leaves to stick under my tire (as to gain traction), jacking that corner of the car up FIVE separate times, attempting to my push my car out because I think I’m She-Ra, breaking the ice up around the tire, but mostly what I succeed in doing is getting my feet and ass wet and freezing.
That’s when I wonder if I’ve got roadside assistance. Yes, about a half hour before the sun goes down, and after hours of trying to get the car out is when I wonder this.
Like I said: Hubris.
It turns out I do. The operator begins calling tow services. Meanwhile, that call keeps dropping because I am in the middle of nowhere and I have one very noncommital bar that only sometimes wants to hang out with me during this growing crisis. And, finally, on maybe return call #5, the operator tells me that there are no tow services that will come to where I am because of the snow. She then tells me to call 911. She tells me I may have to leave my car behind.
I call 911 and guess who doesn’t wanna pick up the phone? I mean . . .
There’s just the tiniest sliver of daylight left. I get back in the car and apologize to the dogs profusely, but also tell them we will not follow the Final Rule of Christopher McCandlessing. (That’s death, by the way.)
I mean 911 doesn’t even want to talk to me, so I’m feeling a little bit panicked.
I text my friends Piper and Jeff: Please call me. And, they do. Also, they live in Chicago. Piper calms me down while Jeff starts making some calls. Jeff gets a hold of Brian (who lives in Seattle, but I didn’t want to bother him because I knew he was busy? Let’s talk about that issue of mine some other time). And Brian calls the police . . . who are like “Oh, I totally didn’t hear the phone ring?” (Not really, but WTF.)
What happens next: The police are trying to locate the police that can help me. I’m not in their jurisdiction. But guess what? I’m not in the jurisdiction of the next police station I’m transferred to.
Then, finally, the police are like, “So, yeah, we’re kinda busy and far away, so . . . you should call a tow service.”
“No tow services will come here,” I say. “At least, that’s what roadside assistance says.”
The officer on the line explains there is a service that will come, but most places don’t want to cover because of the price. She gives me the number, then before hanging up adds: “If you are paying for roadside assistance, then you are paying for roadside assistance. Make them take care of it.”
And, I do. I call the tow service, roadside assistance, and finally someone is on their way to come rescue me and the pups. We are all starving and I’ve given them a bunch of treats, but not all of them . . . just in case!
Oh. Piper and Jeff have been on the phone with me this entire time. Other than what my headlights or flashers illuminate, it is pitch black out. It is about 8:30pm. And, it is beyond comforting to have these friends on the line. Though, I know it’s later in Chicago, and I’m feeling a little bad about keeping them up. They both work full-time. Additionally, they are parents of a wonderful, two-year-old boy named Roswell.
“Piper, you guys should go to bed. The tow truck is on its way.”
“No. I’m not getting off the line until I know you’re back on the road.”
I won’t argue. Namely because I was feeling a little scared, but also ’cause I knew there’d be no shaking her even if I really wanted her to get off the line. But I can tell she’s tired by the scratchiness in her voice.
“You mad?” I ask.
“Hmmm . . . I’m not sure,” she says.
This isn’t my first go around at Christopher McCandlessing for the Modern Man. I’m fanciful, full of whimsy, and spontaneous. Here’s how to read that: I’ve made a lot of mistakes.
“Wancy,” she continues, “What were you thinking?”
Meanwhile, Jeff sends me this text:
I hear the hum of the engine and Memo snoring, notice that I’ve got about an eighth of a tank left of gas. What was I thinking?
“I was feeling sad. And, lonely. In the past, I’d go and find sex to wash over it. I think . . . I think I just wanted to see something beautiful. Ya know?”
This is news to me. For me at least, there’s been no solace in random sex. Though, it seemed like there was. And, it’s something I’ve struggled with more than half my life. Suddenly, I felt past it.
The phone cuts out around 10pm. Just about the time the tow truck pulls up, yanks me, the dogs, and the car out of my icy hell. I call Piper, Jeff, and Brian when I’m on the road. I’m lucky to have some amazing people in my life. I’m lucky to have had a signal.
I am grateful.
We get home around 1:00am. I feed the pups and head to bed.