May 31, 2011
Stuck in the mud
My parents’ camp is a peninsula of oak trees and white pines, surrounded by marsh. To get there, we drive on a road that’s not even a dirt road but a path across a field, a right-of-way. Most of the time, the field is hard and dry, and the cars make it across fine. This year, we’ve had so much rain that grassy road turned quickly into a Slip ‘n Slide of wet clay.
On Saturday, my husband’s car got stuck before we’d made it all the way up the road. After lots of pushing, swearing, shoving boards under tires, and arguing about what to do, we got the car moving again. Then about twenty feet farther, the car sunk again, the tires spinning in a way that would be familiar to anyone who has ever driven on ice. Except that ice is better because it doesn’t splatter mud in your face while you’re trying to push.
I gathered a couple of buckets of gravel from the closest gravel road, and we jacked the car up to put gravel under the tires. But it was pretty clear to me that even if we moved forward a foot or so, the car would sink again. At the point, we decided to leave the car where it was and hope that a couple days of sunny weather would make the grassy road revert back to its normal state. We unpacked our tent and groceries, and just left the car where it was. “You don’t need to go anywhere for a couple of days,” my mother said.
“It looks like we just parked there,” Shaggy Hair Boy said helpfully.
When Blond Brother-in-law arrived with his four-wheel drive truck, he took an alternative route through the pine trees, boughs scraping the sides of his vehicle. He produced a tow rope and yanked my husband’s car out. We all cheered.
Of course, now we had three vehicles at camp, with no way out except the treacherous mud puddle, but we were all confident that a couple days of sun would come to our rescue.
Then it rained. And rained some more.
My mother and I kept optimistically saying things like, “Oh, just a few hours of sun will dry the road out nicely.” My father dug drainage ditches, but then gave up saying, “The water just keeps coming.” My husband walked around gloomily saying, “I’ve got standing water on both sides of the car. We’re never going to get out of here.”
By yesterday, the sun was shining, but the ground was still awfully wet. During lunch, we argued strategy. As we packed the cars to leave, an ominous foreboding hung over camp."That mud is like quicksand," said my husband. "Impossible to drive through."
Shaggy Hair Boy and Red-haired Niece began taking bets as to when we'd actually get all the cars out and safely up onto the gravel road.
It took us three hours. We’d get one car free, and then another would get stuck. We used boards, buckets of gravel, and the anchor line off my father's sailboat. We gathered behind vehicles to push. We sent text messages to family members who weren't at camp to keep them up to date on our progress.
We’d try one thing, then another, and then in between, we sat on lawn chairs, ate snacks, and argued about the best strategy. “Put it in neutral. The wheels are spinning too much!” one person would yell. “Back away,” Blonde Sister kept saying. “The rope is going to snap!” (She was right. It did.) My father, when his car finally broke free of the ruts, drove the fastest we’ve ever seen him, using momentum to go careening over patches of mud while we all cheered and ran after him.
When we finally had all the cars up on the gravel road, we were left with huge ruts that were quickly filling with water. So the day ended with us jumping up and down in the mud, stomping the edges of the ruts with our bare feet, smoothing out the road the best we could.
Posted by jo(e)