Sometimes youre a bumbling klutz. Other times youre an unconquerable hero. And sometimes youre both within a couple hours.
To get my truck stuck miles from help took only a momentary lapse in judgment. To get out was going to take, well, I really didnt know. I just felt stupid and vulnerable and alone.
I took a couple days recently for a solo adventure into the winter Colorado wonderland. I would tell you where, but I dont want others rushing out there to repeat the fun of being marooned in the boonies. Just selfish that way.
To set the scene: My truck and I had just driven 25 miles up a seldom-used gravel road that is a spur off a seldom-used paved road that connects two seldom-visited towns. About a foot of new snow had been expertly plowed by a brave county driver whom I will not disparage.
In four-wheel-drive for about 10 miles, Id reached my destination and was turning the truck around. (This truck has made special guest appearances in previous stories, such as the time last spring when my wife and I had to leave it stranded in Utah. I dont see a trend here do you?)
I was completing part three of a three-point turn, making sure the truck was to the side so other vehicles (what other vehicles?) could get by. Thats when the right front took a sudden downward dive.
Talk about a sinking feeling.
In this section the plow blade had extended beyond the road surface, clearing a swath directly over a hidden culvert.
I stopped my forward momentum, swung the wheel to the left and tried to back up. This caused the vehicle to swing sideways, and the left front to also drop into the culvert.
The truck was now nearly perpendicular in the road. Tires straight as possible, I tried backing up again. Just spinning my wheels. Time to get out and take stock.
Tires mired in snow. Ice coating the slope of the culvert. Ice and snow covering the road. Embarrassment blanketing my psyche.
Not to overplay my situation. As yet, it was nowhere close to life-or-death. This wasnt Aron Ralston with his arm wedged between a boulder and a deep sandstone cleft in Utahs Blue John Canyon. This wasnt Capt. Robert Scott hopelessly stuck in a raging blizzard near the South Pole.
Perhaps someone would drive by. At worst, a phone call or two assuming I could get a cell signal would instigate a long and expensive trip by a tow truck. But first, was there a fix?
My gear was limited: In the truck bed were jumper cables, a jack, an avalanche shovel and a pouch of tools. The shovel was helpful. After that what I needed was something to chip away ice from the road, and give the tires some gravel to grip. The hammers claw might suffice.
Soon the snow was gone from under and around the truck. A half-inch thick, the ice cometh off the road not so quickly. The claw wasnt quite the right angle, and the truck body and mudflaps got in the way. When skin peeled away from my left index finger, I switched to my right hand.
I kept at this for an hour, driven by the fear of an unsuccessful attempt creating an even slicker path. It was time.
At first, more whirring rubber. I rocked the truck to create a small run-up path. One more time brought the truck a few inches farther, and I let off the accelerator. Just then, something wonderful happened. It felt like an invisible hand gave the truck a shove. More believably, the wheels found traction. The truck was moving. I gently gave some gas, and the truck was free ... and suddenly heading backward rapidly.
Later I laughed at the image: The truck shooting across the road and the back tires lodging in a culvert on the opposite side.
That did not happen.
Indeed, I was reprieved, out of jail, given a second life. My planned journey continued. That day, I more appreciated the small things, howled with the coyotes, marveled at snow crystals sparkling under a full moon that illuminated the night.
When you think about it, maybe thats what adventure is: Creating a scenario in which you star as a hero of your own foolishness.
firstname.lastname@example.org. John Peel writes a weekly human-interest column.