Sunday, April 12, 2009

Babes in the Woods

Yesterday we had quite an adventure. Dick is such a good story teller, I'm glad to share his report - so here's what happened to us yesterday!

On our way home from our Amish excursion a couple of weeks ago; we drove through Lake City and then on to Manton along M42. This route took us past a cache we have placed called “The Armillary”. It's located along the side of the road at the site that once held the Sherman School. The school is long gone but the land is still in the hands of the Sherman family. In the ‘60’s, Vernon Sherman placed there a collection of “stuff”, all mounted on concrete platforms. Among other things, there is an old printing press, a rail-mounted reciprocal saw, an armillary, and a large (five foot tall) pink rock that he dubbed the Sherman Stone. He even went so far as to have two brass plaques made which contain his poem titled “The Sherman Stone”.
Let Sherman’s stone stand for a breed of men I knew of late.
For logs and land unsubsidized, for “ciphering” on a slate.
Their gold and silver passed at face, their politicians knew their place.
Their mail, “Big Brother” never dared to read, nor tapped their phone.
Until we break our “horse” of state, they’re better men I vow.
They taught their kids in one room school,
“Democracy means the people rule”.

We found the collection to be interesting and developed a puzzle cache that requires a close inspection of the various items to answer questions that would lead to the cache coordinates.

On our recent visit, we found that the area is not being cared for and that rust and overgrowth has rendered the finding of the clues to be more problematical than we wished. We decided to archive the cache and replace the old offset container with a magnetic container attached to a piece of the equipment. We thought to retrieve the old container but discovered that the road to it is a seasonal road and is not plowed.

Over the next weeks, we found a suitable container, attached magnets to it and painted it matte black. Equipped with a logbook and a couple of trinkets, we set it aside to be placed on our next visit.

Saturday morning we worked at a few domestic tasks, while one of us supervised the Roomba and did some housekeeping, the other one wielded the chainsaw clearing up some downed branches and trees that the winter storms had provided. The day was warming nicely and the sun was inviting and we discussed going for a ride when the phone rang. It was the world's greatest Grandson offering us an opportunity to join him and his mother and uncle on a quest in the online game World of Warcraft. These chances do not present themselves every day and so we spent an hour or so sitting side by side at the computers asking, “What should I be doing?” ‘I don’t know, I’m just following Dylan.” “Should I be the healer?” “I don’t know, ask Dylan”.

Our grandson has this problem with us. Is it logical that two schoolteachers could be less knowledgeable than a fifth grader? In his words, “That makes no commonsense whatsoever”. When we profess ignorance, he is sure that once again, someone is pulling his leg. When his grandfather indicates that he doesn’t get it, he gets this look of bemusement and says, “What do you mean, you don’t understand?” At times his response to his grandmother’s question has been, “Weren’t you paying attention Grandma?” We do the best we can but it is evident that at times, in some areas, we are not as knowledgeable as that fifth grader.

At any rate, the five of us helped him finish the first quest but without Jana we were not a strong enough group to kill the big boss and get him the other achievement he desired. Our gaming activity was complete before 2:30 and since the day was so nice we decided to go for a ride. What better goal than to redo the Armillary cache.

Thus the adventure began.

The drive south was uneventful. We considered a detour back to the Walton Junction cemetery to check our cache there but a quick look at the seasonal roads dissuaded us. (Foreshadowing!) We arrived at the Sherman School site and quickly placed the new container. Then it was a short side trip east on Walker Road to retrieve the old container.

The extension past Green Road was still covered with snow. Both the right and left hand sides of the road were clear but in many places there were trees growing right up to the edge of the road. There were tracks along the side where someone had driven out but it looked like they were winter treads, maybe a 4x4 pick up. It is only a short, less than a quarter mile walk, so we parked at the intersection. Then the old phrase “We get too soon old and too late smart” kicked in. What the heck, this thing (our RAV4) has 4x4. (Although we’ve never used it and we don’t have tires with an aggressive tread.) The book says just push this button. And so, like a couple of kids 55 years our junior; we pushed the button and headed down the snow covered road. (Actually, the driver pushed the button although the decision was a joint effort.)

All went well for the first couple of hundred yards. Although the snow was getting deeper, the vehicle and its four-wheel drive performed excellently. But then, all of a sudden, the right hand side of the car broke through the crust and we bogged down. Although forward progress was halted, we could back up. Could we back all the way out? That didn’t look like the best plan. Maybe, if we can go forward just another 50 – 60 feet or so to that clearing, we can turn around. We (OK, I) blasted forward for about 20 feet and bogged down again. Shifting into reverse we were able to back up about 2 inches, driving forward regained the same. Back two inches, forward two inches, Getting out and looking around revealed that all four wheels had broken through the crust and the snow was deeper than the ground clearance. We were totally bottomed out. We had zero traction. While considering the situation, a short walk retrieved the container we had come down here for so that goal was accomplished. A thorough analysis of our situation yielded only one solution.

Oh well, that’s why I have AAA towing. We just call the 800 number and they will send someone right out. Dialing their number on our cell phone revealed - - - NO SIGNAL! Try roaming, NO SIGNAL!!!

Well, one of us has to hike out to find a house where they have a phone they will let us use, and since only one of us is very mobile, and since chauvinism lives in children of the 50’s, off I went.

The first place, about a half-mile up the road past the intersection had a heavy duty gate chained shut and no signs of occupation. The next, a quarter mile further on had two dogs that obviously objected to my presence. The old poochy-coo talk and the hand held out palm down worked and the most curious/aggressive one gave me a thorough sniffing and allowed me to proceed. The other one, a tripod, (I learned he was shot the opening day of hunting season a couple of years ago.) continued his barking but did not come closer.

I walked up to the back porch and saw a sign that proclaimed NO SMOKING. I rang the doorbell and soon a young woman, mid 20’s to mid 30’s, smoking a cigarette, answered it. I told her my tale of woe and asked if I could use the phone, she flung the door open and led me into the kitchen and the telephone. (Folks are friendlier here, and of course Nancy points out that I was wearing my jacket that says Grandpa on it..)

In the course of the next 15 minutes or so, she; called her brother who lives just down the road and has a tractor to see if he would pull me out, (He declined due to liability issues.) offered me a Coke or something, revealed that her name is Tanya, that she was home alone, that the house belongs to her parents, that the kids were at her niece’s coloring eggs and that she would call John's, the towing place for me and tell them where I was because she used to work there. My call to AAA went well and after what seemed to be a rather lengthy hold, the nice lady said the tow driver knew the area and if I would wait at the intersection, (Tanya said it is called “Dead Man’s Curve.) he would be there by 6:05. However, the lady continued, they did not do snow removal and sometimes they will refuse to enter unplowed roads. Furthermore, my policy only covered normal towing and if more than one wrecker is needed or if additional equipment is required, I would be liable for additional charges. It was then about 5:15. Tanya insisted on giving me a ride back to the intersection. As we got in the car, a large, heavyset dog tried to get in with us. Tanya told me that she didn’t recognize it and did not know to whom it belonged. For whatever reason, it adopted us, followed Tonya’s car and stayed with us the rest of the time we were there.

I walked down the snowy road to report the situation to Nancy and then, accompanied by my new best friend, went back to the intersection and waited. And waited, and waited. Many thoughts went through my head, like if they won’t come down to pull us out, do we leave the car there ‘till the snow melts? Would National deliver a car out here?

Fatigue was setting in I had been walking/standing for nearly two hours, I walked back to consult and look at the car again. I noticed that the wheels seemed to be more firmly on the ground but were cocked to the left, I got in and started it up and had Nancy guide me from outside the car until the wheels were straight. I then tried to back up. It went back a foot. I put it in drive and crept forward maybe 2 feet. Back about 4, forward about 5. Then, after backing as far as I could, I gunned it and aimed for the shoulder. The car broke out of the snow pack and onto the edge of the woods. What appears to have happened was that during the two-hour wait, the heat and weight of the vehicle caused the snow to compact giving the tires more traction.

With the co-pilot guiding front and rear, we got turned around and then with everyone back on board, drove victoriously back out to terra firma. We were back on a road but still without a signal.

With a whoop and a holler and triple high fives, accompanied down the road by our new mascot, we drove back to Tonya’s and asked her to call John's Towing and tell him he wasn’t needed. Smiles of relief and joy filled the RAV all the way home. Chalk up another successful adventure for Basswood Bend! I only wish that Tom had been there to see that it is not just his car we take chances with.

I am reminded that when we bought a Jeep back in the 60’s, I wanted to have a winch mounted on the front. Nancy refused, because, “If you have it, you’ll want to use it.” I know that the wise adult action is to always shy away from deep snow or sand as we cruise our northern Michigan two tracks but I don’t think we can. From now on I think I’ll make sure to carry the satchel I have that is packed with the trenching tool, tow straps and come-along just in case.