An adventure story (2)

So, as I said in the last post, faced with the choice of security or a very dicey route home through the hills, I chose the latter.

If you\’e2\’80\’99ve read A Grave Talent, you\’e2\’80\’99ll have had a taste of what our storms do to the hills. And in fact, my friend Laura Crum used that very road in her novel Forged, although there it\’e2\’80\’99s a nice day.

After the first mile, the paint crew had given up bothering with the pretense of center lines; after the second, there weren\’e2\’80\’99t even very many guard rails at the drop-offs. The edges on both sides had that stretch-mark look that indicates some time soon large parts of hillside are going to head for the creek at the bottom, so I tried to stick to the center, except that there were an awful lot of landslides coming off the hills to my left. And waterfalls\’e2\’80\’94where normally there is a trickle, and by June barely enough dampness to keep the moss from blowing away, now there were magnificent specimens that in summertime would have tourists standing around with their cameras, oohing and aahing, and the local kids setting up tables to sell soft drinks and T shirts. But this was not July, it was January, and I hadn\’e2\’80\’99t seen another human being in three miles. I went slow, then slower; every time I came around a corner and saw a waterfall pounding and clawing its way out of a fold of hillside, I expected its culvert to have given way and the road to just stop in front of my tires. Lack of road is asking a lot, even for a Land Rover, and it was going to be a neck-breaking test of my driving skills to reverse to a wide spot and turn around, since there weren’t any.

The sky grew darker. The occasional watermelon-sized boulder sat in the middle of the road, eyeing my underpinnings. I occasionally managed second gear and reached high speeds of maybe ten miles an hour on the brief straight-aways\’e2\’80\’94I\’e2\’80\’99m not really sure, because I didn\’e2\’80\’99t take my eyes off the road long enough to look at the dashboard. I passed the first sign of human beings more animate than the opening to a driveway, namely, a truck parked (fortunately) off the road, the sign on its door saying \’e2\’80\’9cMobile Mechanic.\’e2\’80\’9d The thing looked as if it had been swatted by God\’e2\’80\’99s hand, or been pelted by a Roman catapult: the shaken mechanic must have had to climb out through the passenger door, because that driver’s side door would never work again. In addition, its bed was scorched and blackened, as if someone had used the vehicle as a fire-pit. I began to hear the sound of banjos gently playing the duet from \’e2\’80\’9cDeliverance\’e2\’80\’9d.

I did not see another car for fifteen miles. The rest of the county was far too sensible to drive that road.

But I saw some spectacular waterfalls, of the sort you would never see otherwise, since they are so very seasonal. And although there actually was a tree down, it was still lying across the wires overhead, and I figured that if it hadn\’e2\’80\’99t ripped them out of their sockets yet, it wouldn\’e2\’80\’99t in the five seconds it would take me to slip under.

That tree was the beginning of civilization, marked in part by the presence of wires, but also by 1) a real live road crew, three men standing in their slickers gazing up at the precarious tree, and 2) a bicyclist. Yes, a man on a bicycle, straining uphill through the rain, around the boulders, and under the tree, as if the light racing helmet on his head would offer protection against twelve inches of redwood trunk. God, did I feel a wimp.

Those 15 miles took me the best part of an hour, but in the end, the road was more or less open all the way through, and I was home before absolute darkness fell, having had my nice drive in the country.

Who says adventure is dead?

Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    You are a braver woman than I, Laurie.

    Kudos on the adventure!

  2. We don’t have mudslides in Ohio, but we had an ice storm this winter that did similar things to trees and power lines, with the added interest of temperatures below freezing when the power went out. And ice on the roads. It was fun.

  3. Not being one for high places, this sounds exactly like the kind of road that my husband always teases me about, saying things like \’e2\’80\’9cleaning in won\’e2\’80\’99t help\’e2\’80\’9d…because I do if I\’e2\’80\’99m not driving. I just can\’e2\’80\’99t help it.

    As with Rebecca, most of my white-knuckle driving experiences tend to deal with snow and ice\’e2\’80\’a6and thinking things like, \’e2\’80\’9cThank g-d, no big trees!\’e2\’80\’9d as I slid off a country road down into the woods during a greasy December snow storm (no serious damage and cell phones are a blessing. 🙂

  4. One of my Bear Creek Road experiences – Going home in the wee hours of the morning through the spinkle remains of the evenings rain. The truck starts slowing down inexplicably, now what. I pull over to the side and pop the hood ( not that I would know what was wrong if it jumped up and bit me, but it seemed like the thing to do ) Don’t see anything wrong so I hop back in to keep going. Rev the engine, take off the brake, let the clutch out…and start rolling backwards. Ooops. Walked most of the way back to Boulder Creek in the drizzle and muck. Gotta love the hills!

  5. Can I just say, you are Crazy…I spent 2 years stationed out at DLI in Monterey, and we would go out driving all the time, looking for back roads and such…but if there was a chance of rain, or had been rain…no way!

    And for the comment about the ice storms in Ohio…I grew up there, I’ll take the Mud slides any day..

  6. myninki says:

    I don\’e2\’80\’99t know what is that one feels so much when you found that someone that you admire sort of share something with you, or the other way around, English keeps getting trickier!
    As with the Josephine Tey thing, business, thing, it takes a while to get on the track when I write, no matter the language, meaning that I got all exited when I read that you know that lady, I thought I was the only one that knew her, book or so, another ignorant, third world thing to say I guess.
    It happened the same with this adventures in the road tale you wrote, you see I got my share of it alright, I used to that for a living, even if it wasn\’e2\’80\’99t exactly a living, not the adventures but the driving, riding, sort of thing.
    This is an island so I didn\’e2\’80\’99t get more that 2000km to go and back in the weekend, but when you get to do that every weekend for quite a while stops being and adventure and when it almost gets you killed more than a couple of times, you stop wanting to do it.
    I groan every time that I have to go outside Havana; it stops as soon as I get my rear on the seat of the car to begin again as soon as I get back!
    I used a Toyota Land Cruiser though and a big Mercedes van, a bit bumpy but very reliable, never tried a land rover, but if you like an adventure just get over here, and take a tour of the island!
    Is quite exciting as a matter of fact, first thing you must know is never trust a map, they could get you go over a cliff or trough the ocean, you choose! But of course you need to know were you are going but is ok, as long as you know that Pinar de Rio is on one side and Baracoa on the other is enough, the rest is on the way, it will be good to have someone to point the way to you, one side or the other because there is no signs to tell you were to go, people stole the signs to dress the old American cars that we still have around, they take awhile to put then back, time enough to get people needed again! And Havana city has a ring of roads the can get you easily out and in without a blink.
    But you will never get bored on the highway, once you manage to find it! you get at about 400 km of good wide road full of cows, dogs, all kinds of birds and lots of bicycles and of course tractors, those are the good ones, at night they use a can full petroleum lighted to sort of tell you that they are around, but not to worried you only gets to see them when they are in front of you! Very exciting!!
    The rest of the road gets better, you get the same company but only with enough space for two cars, one coming, one going, but we don\’e2\’80\’99t get landslides and stuff like that no.
    We do get very bad roads, or no roads at all, and holes, big holes in the middle of the highway, with none to tell you they are there and of course no signs, and they are just like good friends, they stick around\’e2\’80\’a6you get to see them again ten years later, the real problem always are the new ones, you don\’e2\’80\’99t know were they are going to be! You do get a wonderful view! And as you have to go slowly you get to enjoy it!
    If you manage to get yourself to the other side of the island view gets even better especially in the mountains but if you are a going down hill make sure you don\’e2\’80\’99t get any of does big old trucks that rides with their doors open to jump just in case they loose their brakes, you cant enjoy the view with that sort of pressure, but be careful not to step too long in yours, as your doors probably will be closed\’e2\’80\’a6!
    Once I went to dive at a wild beach of black sand in Baracoa and I snapped my knee before I even touch the water, nasty, I got to seat at the passenger side for the way back, I didn\’e2\’80\’99t like it too much, I guess that even with all of that its good the get the wheel.
    \’e2\’80\’9cwarm, sandy Caribbean beaches\’e2\’80\’9d

  7. Thank you, very interesting!

  8. Thank you, very interesting!

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