How the hell did I get myself into this mess?
That’s what I was thinking a few weeks ago as my wife, our dog and I trudged down a cold and lonely dirt road in the mountains, miles from civilization.
My usually trusty four-wheel-drive Toyota was hopelessly stuck in a little patch of snow no bigger than a slip-n-slide.
By my estimate, we had about a 5-mile walk to Highway 70 ahead of us, and another couple miles to the house from there.
No problem under normal circumstances. But on this day, we were tired and frozen, and darkness was looming. Sheesh.
We were in this predicament thanks to a comedy of errors and bad decisions by me. The first bad move happened about an hour earlier when I agreed to get off the couch.
It was downhill from there.
Life was good at 4 p.m. I was in extreme recline mode, with The Masters golf tournament on the big screen and the leaders approaching Amen Corner.
In my bliss I forgot a pledge I made a few days earlier — that we were going to pack a lunch, get out of the house and go for a drive to … anywhere.
Shelley gave me a chance to get out of it. She could see I was in my special, lazy place.
“Nope. I’m ready. Let’s do this,” I said as I kicked the recliner into the uncomfortable position.
I hit the record button. We loaded the dog and cooler in the truck. I put it in reverse and heard my right taillight explode as I backed into our ATV trailer.
Just moments into our adventure, Bad Decisions and Comedy of Errors were tied 1-1.
“Do you still want to do this? I can tell you are mad now,” Shelley said.
“I’m not mad. We are going for a picnic,” I said, with the best fake smile I could muster. “Hitting the trailer was my fault. And it’s just a taillight.”
Shelley reminded me it was illegal to drive with a busted light. She said we should take her car.
“Nah,” I said. “We are already loaded up and ready to go. The worst that will happen is I get a fix-it ticket.”
We picked up the broken taillight pieces; put the truck in gear; headed down the driveway; and pulled right in front of a CHP car on the highway.
Just five minutes into the game, the Comedy of Errors jumped to a 2-1 lead.
I didn’t just pull in front of the cop, who was traveling at highway speed, I cut him off.
He didn’t skid, but he certainly had to jam the brakes.
Shelley and I just locked eyes and laughed. What else could we do?
I felt my pocket to see if I remembered my driver’s license as I floored it to try reach the speed limit. At the same time I tried to add up the number of laws I was breaking.
Sure enough, the rearview mirror revealed a red light a few feet behind me.
As Shelley laughed uncontrollably, I let out a loud “F@&#!” and pulled over at the first side road I could find.
The officer passed me and kept going. Apparently he had more pressing issues than a bad driver with a busted taillight.
We gathered ourselves and decided to just follow the gravel road. A few minutes later, we were 1,000 feet higher at the edge of a meadow overlooking Cromberg and Graeagle.
The perfect place for a short hike and picnic.
But NO! … Danny didn’t like this spot. He decided there would be an even better spot higher up the mountain.
So away we went.
Bad Decisions had pulled back into a 2-2 tie with Comedy of Errors.
A few miles up the narrow (now dirt) road, we approached the little patch of snow.
“Yay, I get to use four-wheel drive,” I said. “And look; there are no tracks in it. We are the first ones up here this spring.”
I should have known by now that the picnic gods were against me, but I went for it anyway. We came to a spinning halt and burst into laughter again.
This isn’t happening. This is NOT happening.
Bad Decisions had rallied for a 3-2 lead that it would never relinquish.
We had no shovel. We had no chains. We had no gloves.
So we dug the slushy snow with our hands until they froze. Then I got back in the truck, put it in gear, and dug myself deeper into the snow.
We repeated the process five times.
Funny, they never show this kind of off-road futility in those Toyota commercials.
So we walked.
The laughter was gone.
Among thousands of thoughts, I silently wondered how many of the quality Toyota parts would still be attached if some hillbillies found my truck before we returned.
“We have to go back,” I said. “There is no way I’m going to be defeated by a dinky patch of snow.”
So we dug. We dug with our hands, sticks, tree bark. We dug until we reached mud. We dug a muddy trail for the wheels to travel and filled the trench with gravel and pinecones.
We hugged as I got behind the wheel for one last try. If this didn’t work, we would be walking home in the dark.
A frigid wind started to blow and rain drops hit the window as I turned the ignition. I gave Shelley the old “thumbs-up” like they do in the movies.
Mud, snow, gravel and pinecones shot from under the spinning wheels.
Oh God … We’re screwed.
And then the truck started to move. Slightly, but it moved.
It picked up speed as I slid toward a deep ditch on the side of the road.
Hell, I don’t care if I roll it. I’m not gonna let off the gas!
Fifteen minutes later I was back home, fully reclined, fast-forwarding through the commercials as I watched Adam Scott’s classic Masters victory.
Too bad we couldn’t fast-forward through that picnic.