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I’m Okay. I’m Okay. . . I’m Not Okay!

July 31, 2017

I knew the road was dangerous. But, I had to take it anyway. Ever feel that way? Maybe a snowstorm comes through and you realize that you have no choice, but to drive in it. Or maybe it's raining outside and you just want to curl up by the fire with a good book, but you have to be at an appointment.

It rained pretty heavy all over Utah last week. The rain was especially bad on Monday. We left a wheelbarrow out in the rain over night, the next morning it had 2" of rain in the bottom. The road to Bennion Creek campground was not a bad road. It stretched for five miles from Utah Highway 6 east into the mountains. Dirt all the way. That's not normally a problem in a desert state. But, the thing about deserts is that when the rains do come, the ground can't handle it. It pools in ditches with no where to go. It crashes down slot canyons creating terrifying flash floods. It also, makes an innocent dirt road into a monster truck rally pit.

Except I don't drive a monster truck. I don't even drive a truck. My 2001 Honda Civic is front wheel drive. The tires, aren't bald, but they aren't new.

Tuesday morning I had an important phone call. Bennion Creek is too remote for cell reception. I started down the road to the rest stop that marked the old railroad turnaround. Going down the canyon was slightly nerve wracking. The car pitched and wove all over the road. It wasn't all muddy, of course. There were long stretches of solid road that gave a false sense of confidence.

The trip down and back took about 20 minutes on a good day. Last Tuesday, as I made my way down, was not a good day. I made it down without incident. And I made my phone call. But, I now had a decision to make. How to get back to camp?

The "smart" move would have been to park my car and hike. But, it was 5 miles on a muddy road. . .and it kept raining off and on. I'm a pretty good driver. (Doesn't everyone think that about themselves?) I decided I'd head up the canyon as far as I could go. When my car got stuck, as I was sure it would at some point, I'd hike from there. Everyone else at camp drove a truck, they'd come pull me out.

Okay, planning to get stuck might not seem like the best plan to you. Frankly, I seriously doubted it's viability as well, but I didn't see another option, short of a five mile hike in the rain through the mud. The plan started off okay. The first half mile or so was solid packed dirt. The first muddy spot was in the middle of a long straight stretch. I got a little bit of speed and tried to maintain forward direction and momentum.

Remember the line in the Pixar movie Cars, "Turn right to go left"? There's a lot of truth to that. I was counter-steering for about 50 feet, but it felt like 50 yards. All the while I was saying, "I'm okay. I'm okay." And a short slide through the mud and I was okay.

Drive on!

A half mile more and I approached the second muddy spot.

At least I'm a mile closer than if I'd parked at the highway,

I told myself. As I hit the second muddy section, I managed to stay straight and only lost a little speed as my tires spun flinging mud up the side of my car. "I'm okay. I'm okay." I repeated as a mantra. And again, it worked.

The next muddy spot was a blind corner to the right. If another car (let's be honest, it would have been someone driving a sensible truck) had come around the corner, I was going to crash. I got as far to the left as I dared without dropping into the creek and cut the corner as close to the canyon wall as I could. The car strained to keep it's wheels on the ground. My speedometer registered a much higher speed than the view out my window told me I was achieving.

"I'm okay. I'm okay." It was more of a hope than a belief. My knuckles turned white as a kept a death grip on the steering wheel. The car started to fishtail, as I forced it around the corner. Ignoring all the rules of sliding, I kept the pressure on the gas, afraid to sacrifice any speed for control.

Almost there. . .

Almost. . .

"I'm okay. . .I'm okay. . .whew. . I really am okay!" I felt the wheels finally grip the road. Relaxing my grip on the wheel, I could see the blood slowly start to return to my fingers. I figured I was about half way there. I still didn't think I'd be able to drive all the way and I actually started looking for a good spot to pull over.

Maybe just a little farther.

Like a roulette player letting it ride, I assumed that there was at least one more winning spin of the wheel. The next muddy spot was a straight section of road, but just in the middle of the muddy area was a hump in the road. Rocks that refused to be washed away by the rain made a natural speed bump. I was worried about bottoming out my oil pan if I hit them too quickly.

I hit the mud and went into my familiar counter-steering posture. Again, the tires spun in the mud and kept my forward momentum going. As I crested the speed bump, I was still chanting, "I'm okay. I'm okay. . ." And then I wasn't.

"I'm not okay."

My left front tire got into some extra soft mud on the left shoulder. It slowed the car and spun it 90 degrees to the left. Unfortunately, the shoulder ended in a row of trees. My car, now perpendicular to the road started to slide down the embankment. The trees cleared and were replaced with a view of rushing muddy water.

I wonder how deep that creek is? Guess I'm going to find out.

No, I was definitely not okay. But, I didn't yet know how not okay I was.

This week I'm telling stories from camp. The first one is about planting my car in a creek. Tomorrow, I'll explain what came next.

Here are the other parts of the story

I'm Okay. I'm Okay. . .I'm Not Okay (Sliding off the road)

If The Good Lord is Willing And the Creek Don't Rise (Yup, it ended up in the creek)

It's What We Do (Okay, NOW what do I do? I figure out how to get out of it)

Maxim 32: Anything is Amphibious If You Can Get It Back Out Of The Water (a hat tip to my friend Howard Tayler, who wrote the headline)
That Doesn't Go There – The Long Delayed Picture Essay

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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5 Comments
  1. patricia (Bliss) Nelson permalink

    Did you ever think that each time you got that “I think I can do this” feeling and then that ummhhh maybe. that it was the Lord saying maybe better not do this. Once a man said, “Lord I really prayed and you still let that rock hit me.” The Lord replied, “Oh did I miss one. (of the many)” Maybe saving you one or two times was enough. Remember the one “I sent you a policeman, a boat and a helicopter but you still wouldn’t evacuate during the flood. You just prayed for more help. What did you expect” Next time maybe only one slip and slide where you have to counter steer then please give it up. You are too precious to so many of us!!!

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. That Doesn’t Go There – The Long Delayed Picture Essay | Rodney M Bliss
  2. It’s What We Do | Rodney M Bliss
  3. If The Good Lord Is Willing And The Creek Don’t Rise | Rodney M Bliss
  4. Maxim 32: Anything Is Amphibious If You Can Get It Back Out Of The Water | Rodney M Bliss

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