Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Road to Nowhere

            We were out in the middle of a New Mexico desert road, our rental car stuck in the sand. Up to the frame of the car. I’d spun the wheels a couple of times, which succeeded in digging us in deeper.
            The good news was that we had plenty of water, plus some rapidly warming cranberry juice and an apple. That was about it for good news. I thought we might have cell phone service, but I was afraid to check. Since we had taken a wrong turn onto a nameless road, I was not sure how to tell Triple-A or anyone else how to find us. “We’re stuck in sand on a dry road surrounded by a lot of sand. We saw some cows a few miles back. And a roadrunner. Find us.”

Road Hazards

            Calling it a “road” was a bit of an overstatement. What we thought was the “scenic route to Socorro,” according to the waiter at the restaurant, started off as pavement as it led past trailers and shacks with an abundance of perhaps salvageable rubble in the yards. The pavement gave way to a dirt road, which gave way to some loose gravelly sections.

Note the loose sand. We didn't.

We crossed a couple of cattle guards and a couple of places where, in rainy seasons, water would rush across the road, pushing small rocks. In a few places the tracks in the “road” were deep enough to cause the bottom of he car to rub against the sand. I pictured a hidden rock puncturing the oil pan (whatever an oil pan is). We had not seen a car since we left the highway about eight miles back. All of this, in retrospect, could be filed under “Warning Signs.”

Warning Sign

            I recalled the last time I’d been stuck in the sand. It was the 60’s, and my VW Beetle was stuck on a beach on Cape Cod where Roger and I had been drinking warm beer. We were able to carry the car, first the front then the back, then repeat, up to solid ground. But now, my little city car, which I had rented over the “upgrade to a Grand Cherokee for only $50” advice of the Hertz guy, was too heavy. And I was too old to try.
            Kim gamely traded her sandals for her boots, and she tried to push us back. Not even close. I tried staring at the front wheels. Also no help.
            Now, what?
            At that point we heard a low rumble, and around the bend came one of those “why-would-anyone-drive-a-truck-that-big” pickups. The plate on the front said, “Eat N.M. Beef.” Our savior wore the requisite cowboy hat. His broad face was creased by the sun. He was the nicest guy on the planet. And he had a chain in his truck. Sorry that we did not get a photo of him or of our stuck car, but we were not in the mood.

Where We Were (approximately)

            Ten long minutes later we were on our way back toward civilization in a weird rewinding of our trip to nowhere, retracing our route from “death trap” to “what were we thinking?” to “perhaps a trail” to “cars have been here before” to “this will be an adventure” to, finally, “road.”

            Kim and I sped north on I-25 and the great coffee shop in Socorro, grateful as never before for civilization and the kindness of strangers.

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