This was in lieu of this Jalopnik question:
That being said, I am sleepy, and have a right to change the story:
In early June, 2003, I was traveling in a rented non 4×4 Ford Escape (my daily is/was a ‘95 4WD YJ Wrangler), and near Klamath Falls off the 140 by Lake of the Woods, my ex-wife and I had found a secret lake to camp near, up NF37 off the main road (I think!). It was a dirt road off a highway, that led to an actually quite popular “locals” lake with secluded campgrounds (in the early season), somewhere near Eagle’s Lake OR. The book I have to pinpoint this is packed, as my real wife and I are about to have a renovation. I can follow up.
Whatever the case, my first wife and I loved our 2 dogs (a Coyote-German Shepherd Mix, Deoghi, from Colorado, and a scrappy little Cairn Terrier saved from an LA situation… we named him Pavlov), which is obviously why we were travel-camping with them, exploring NorCal and Oregon’s best pup friendly areas. Our guide books were littered with talented suggestions that all refrained from mentioning that early season could include early June, and early season could include roads that hadn’t been maintained, graded, or surveyed. We had been shut out of Crater Lake… too much snow. But why should “snow” register to a NorCal native in early June, I ask you?
Still, we were determined to get to this romantic little spot, namely because it was obvious our relationship needed it. So much of life is the journey, and not destination. In this case, this marriage was a journey, and while waiting for the destination I realized it simply was just a sinking ship who’s harbor may never be reached. However, naively, at this time, I thought it was a romantic camp spot that might resolve our woes.
So, powering up this “National Forest (NF)“ road, I’m starting to realize that the season goes WAY LATER than we NorCal people are used to, and I’m starting to see intermittent marshmallows around the car. Mind you, this is a 2ton 2 wheel drive. My curious, loyal, sweet pooches are pawsitively powering me on, loyally patient as I negotiate “old stagecoach” type dirt roads. As the marshmallow becomes more apparent, my ex says “that’s not snow, is it?”
A proud gent, who knows his world, I disobey….
“Yeah, that’s snow. We’re at like 6000 feet. Pretty sure that’s snow”
I admit, I don’t remember the exchange properly, so I will make this wonderful human that I loved into a wonderfully better person. Or the person she was, though we did not work out….
“It’s June. That’s not snow”.
“I’m pretty sure that’s snow”.
“It’s not snow.”
At this point, we’re driving at 40 mph past old growth on non maintained roads… and I see a bunch of marshmallow in front of me, about 30 yards away… straight shot, no turns or switchbacks, dead ahead.
“I’m pretty sure that’s not snow”.
Then, knowing we are going to drive through this pile… “Wanna bet?”
At the time, my ‘95 Wrangler was a tight friend of mine, 7 years old, in its prime. I knew it’s skill, and I knew it’s squirrely light weight. Oh how I knew that weight… driving around Boulder and pulling cars out of snow as my treads growled and bucked inside previous laid tread tracks. The nature of such a light car is that it moves around like a coked up gerbil, but it doesn’t get stuck. It’s less than 3Klbs. This was a rental Ford Escape (this is before 2008, which I like to define as “pre-awesome Ford that is really killing it” vs “post-being just a terrible company”. Ford is unbelievable now. Seriously. Back, then, not so much. I love rear wheel drive 2 ton cars. It’s like a sled on wheels that can’t turn. Anyhoo… I wasn’t angry, sad, lonely about my relationship, etc. I may have been tired at 3p in the afternoon, or I may have just been sassy….
You know how cops stop a young kid in a Mustang, or supercar, or WHATEVER… because it isn’t about “OH RED CAR”, but “oh, young guy with way way too much power that could be dangerous”? This was my “young car” moment. This was my moment to leave cars and coffee, gun it, and act the fool while crashing into chain linked fence. I’m older now, and I see those terrible errors I made… especially the ones I know I could have avoided with a year or two of experience and maturity.
So I am gunning it to drive through the sluch ice snow, far enough from a Slushpuppy machine to feel confident, but young enough to be dull. I hit this snow bank that has been crawling across the road in the afternoon sun, and I’m expecting a joyous “FWOOOSH” of snow spray onto the windscreen, and a bit of a jump to finally find the suspension….
But all it was a thud. And a stop. And a broken romantic comedy ensued. Not to be a young, crass gent, but the palpable desire for a romantic camping spot dissipated into the night, and the notion of romance evaporated into the early eve air, like the snow from the rear differential.
For those who have been in the right relationship, you won’t relate. It’s like my current marriage… everything is awesome, and if it isn’t, we’re like adults talking about how we learn from the experience. But those in a bad relationship, it’s absurd like time, or the things in your house you know are wrong but try to ignore. This was bad. I was never right, but even in this case I may have been a bit wrong. I knew she wasn’t literally denying snow, but I wanted to make a point. And here we sat.
I spent from approximately 4.30p – 7p trying to dig the car out with makeshift shovels. The real ones were on my jeep. We had some supplies, but this drift of snow was truly like ice. By the time I had actually dug the car out to the rear differential, with the 4 feet of snow that the car had melted *under* the heat of the transfer case, it was quickly obvious to me that we weren’t moving. Not just tonight, but not until summer had hit full swing. I was moved, vomiting in a bit of a panic throughout the experience. I never could assess whether I was worried about being stuck overnight, or having to deal with the terror of my ex-wife.
So as it gets dark, we “make our bed” and realize we are at 6000 feet with two dogs in a stuck car. We don’t get any gear out to camp, we don’t think dinner, because as twilight turns to dusk, we start noticing a few of these trees missing bark. Not to assume (whether that is city folk thinking they are campers, or camping folk thinking they are naturalists) we know anything, it’s obvious black bears scratching along the bark. That’s not comforting for a young couple fighting about being buried in the snow. It’s not comfortable for any couple, generally, fighting.
It’s 9p. We’ve exhausted being angry about the situation. It’s dark. Our dogs are confused, tense, hungry, want a better walk. We’re hungrier than the snacks we’ve eaten, and we’re frozen. Now begins turning the car on, using gas to heat us, falling asleep, turning the car off, etc throughout the night. This literally is our night… worried about using the battery to keep lights on to look for bears who want to eat our food or dogs or whatever. I think the naivety at the time spun stellar yarns of giant, aggressive, entitled Grizzlies, at the time. So that’s another charm of youth. It’s 2p. Lights on, naps, then cold, car on, warmth, then panic, watching the gas tank empty as slow as lonely death.
There were no bears. Our dogs and I bonded, fell more in love, understood that life is complex, we make it through the night, wake up, and hug. We make a campsite breakfast near the car, in the cold, at the altitude, break of dawn. There’s no sleeping in when panic or dread owns your potential future. So we fuel up, pack the car, and leave it behind with our dogs more ready for adventure than Muir or Clark. We wander down the road to find mosquitos with license plates and a cute German in a Eurovan, headed to a fingerlake private spot off to the west. He alerts us that the place we want to be is literally yards down the road… we realize we’re near the main road. We had almost made it 8 miles up, and our lovely morning walk brought us further than we expected. The faux-truck car, still stuck, ignoble, lonely, learning it’s lesson.
I would love to say that the stuck car encapsulated the complex indignity of this failed relationship, but to be sure the experience bonded us (four, not two, for no dogs meant no future for us) for quite a bit longer… 1.25 years to be exact. We got into a bad spot, got through it, had a morning adventure down the mountain, found a hippy fishing guide in a crappy Toyota 4WD who took us back to the car… towed us out, drove us back down to the mountain to, uh…. “destress and relax” near Lake of the Woods, in his own cabin. And there you have it. A rollicking good adventure of a story that includes mundane relationship woes, the internet’s favorite dogs, and the most wonderful experience of Oregon hospitality and genuine warmth. Including a bit of ribbing and delight. Without the dogs the night before, how well behaved but skeptically barky they were that nighttime, they would have found brutal carcasses. But dogs can make life far better, and the misery of the story brings me joy now to even bring those two wonderful animals back to life. The other animal of the ex, I won’t insult…. It is always interesting that someone will knowingly drive into a snowbank to get stuck, just to prove a point. If you thought that was a metaphor for your relationship, well you have some more thinking to do. Don’t get stuck out of pride and hope for romance when you know what is in front of you. You can always move on.