Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Every Trip Needs a Mishap or Two

If the internet at the café we are at was anything less than dinosaur slow, I would’ve looked up a quote about perseverance or overcoming obstacles or something else similarly cheesy and inspiring, but as things stand with the internet pokiness, you’ll just have to imagine something fitting.  I’m sure you’ve all had one of the experiences we just had, where you got yourself in a true jam, which seemed hopeless, then by some chance managed to snatch cheerful victory from the jaws of a terrible day.  Ours began like this:

Joel (while driving, to S+S in the back seat): You two want to check out the winery where Tanja and I got married?
Steve: Yea, definitely, but its past 5 now, won’t it be closed?
Sarah: Doesn’t matter, I’d still like to pop by.
Joel: Yea? It would be fun to just spin by, let’s do it. Mount Massedon Winery here we come.

Sadly though, to Mount Massedon we did not go. We took a right onto a gravel road that was meant to head to the winery, but which after about 250m turned into a clay road instead. Had the road crews been a little more diligent with their trimming, we might have been able to read this sign and avoided the adventure to come (but really where’s the fun in that?)

The sign reads “DRY WEATHER ROAD ONLY.” After the heaviest month of rain in the past 12 years, we were definitely not in dry weather.  As we crept deeper into the eucalyptus forest and farther down the hills, the little rental car began to slide a bit side to side in the road. This wouldn’t have been a problem had we been on the road we thought we were on – which shortly afterwards would have become paved again and popped out into civilization – but on our road, we quickly realized we were coming up to a sizable little creek with steep clay hills on both sides. Problem. Turns out the road we were after was two roads further up the main road, and what we had wandered onto was a forest service road. So, seeing no way forward, we turned around and headed back up the hill we’d come from. 

The four of us (thankfully Joel and Tanja’s baby boy was at home with Grandma) got particularly quiet at we approached the big clay hill that wound back up through the forest. Joel gunned it a bit and the car, despite a little sliding, nearly, NEARLY, made it up before the wimpy front tires lost their grip and sent us sliding into the ditch. As they put it in Oz – we were “truly bogged.”

If that photo doesn’t look that bad, check this out:

No problem though, we have a cell phone! Joel whips out the cell, whispers in slight disbelief that the battery is on its last bar, and quickly rings his mom, Ruth. He manages to get out the name of the road but just as he’s yelling “Tell them to bring a 4-Wheel Drive tow truck!” the phone dies.  Time to start walking.

Fortunately, Joel’s stepdad Ray has a 4X4 truck and his trusty iPhone 4.0 is able to track down the forest we’ve found ourselves bogged in. Sarah and Tanja walked out to the main road to meet him and Joel and I worked on getting sticks under the tires of the car. The following conversation ensued:

Joel: Well, worse come to worse, we could just ditch the car, forgo the security deposit, change our names, and never use that rental company again.
Steve: I guess so. Hardly seems ideal though.
Joel: No. But really that’s the worst that could happen.
Steve: Except maybe if Ray’s truck gets stuck too. That would be worse.
Joel: Ah yea, that would be the worst case.
Take a wild stab at what happened next.

Ray’s truck did manage to get the rental out of the ditch, but couldn’t get it up the hill (just 6 feet short of safety). But in the process, his truck became “truly bogged” too in the ditch. Damn. The only option left to us was to back the rental down to a turnoff and let Ray go ahead past us into the bush to see if he could find a way through. As we were putting this together though, Ray managed to get a hold of a bloke named Marcus, who amongst other professions (firefighting) had his own bush rescue setup on his truck. Excellent. Ray went off with Tanja and Sarah through the woods, leaving Joel and I to wait for the arrival of Marcus on the scene. Just in case, we took a water bottle and a jar of baby food (once a Boy Scout…). 

Sure enough Marcus arrived shortly afterwards in a truck with monster tires, a V8 350 engine, and all sorts of towing apparatus. Marcus himself looked like he might be able to get us out of there without the truck though, as he was roughly 6’6”, 250, with bright red hair and big Blundstone boots. Hallelujah.

As it turns out, Marcus is used to rescuing vehicles that are half swamped in rivers so our little bog problem was child’s play for him.

As Joel puts it, Marcus was one “fair dinkum” kinda guy (solid, salt-of-the-earth fella) and got us right back up that hill. In the meantime, Ray (hereto known as The Hero of Bogland) and his trusty iPhone had found a way through the forest and had brought Sarah and Tanja back home safely. Several hours after our initial descent, we all shared a few pizzas and beers at home, spiced with that special blend of adrenaline that comes with what passes for close calls to us city folks. 


  1. Nice recap. Your Down Under experience wouldn't have been complete without some outdoor adventures. We didn't want you to have to blog about doing the Sunday New York Times crossword so Tanja and I thought we'd spice things up a little with some four wheel drive excitment in a 2WD rental car with bald tires. Well that's the story I'm sticking to anyway. BTW, the car company tried (unsucessfully) to charge me a cleaning fee for the bugs on the front of the grill. If only they knew about the mud caked through the undercarriage :)

    Thanks again for visiting and we look forward to reading about the rest of your adventures. Happy travels.

  2. Ah, how quickly we forget our roots of driving in MA. Thanks for keeping us posted- This note bring love,
    M,P & Sophie

  3. Surely one of you remembers restarting an old, dead, Subaru wagon that had its occupants stranded at Deception Pass, Washington, USA. After all other possible remedies failed, someone wandered into nearby woods, picked up a log and smacked the dead Subaru engine with this "do-right stick". The engine then started right up and we made it (limped) back to Seattle. Sarah, did you forget how to use a "do-right stick"?

    We love the stories and especially the videos of "roos" and "bog rescues". Love you both, Peter

  4. Ah yes. It's a strangely fulfilling feeling to have a minor disaster that eventually works out, and it makes for a great story. I especially like the bit about Marcus- you will probably always remember him and his name, much as we remember a Santa-Claus looking man named Braxton who saved us from a boating fiasco in North Carolina...

  5. Love You Both!

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