To be honest, I’m not fond of off-road vehicles. They’re loud and smelly, and they tear up the landscape. But when Keith and Robert pulled up in their monster truck, all tricked out with winches, straps, and four-wheel drive, I knew I was looking at an attitude adjustment.
I had just crossed the state line into southern California, and I was looking for a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) campground along the highway. BLM land is a haven for people like me because it’s free, often remote, and minimally maintained. You can just pull off the road and camp.
Sure enough, I saw a few rigs some distance from the highway, and I was betting that this was the Imperial Dunes Recreation Area. I exited, thinking I could wend my way back along a makeshift service road.
For one fateful moment, I perched at the crest of that little road. Looks pretty sandy, I thought, but the big rigs got through, so… The die was cast. I crept forward. Thirty seconds later, I was inextricably stuck.
I wish I could say that I remain calm and resourceful at moments like this, but I don’t. My mind races, and I start to sweat. I run around like a chicken on hot tar. In this case, however, I did have the presence of mind to dig under my tires and to shove in some boards for traction, which produced absolutely no result except broken boards.
I was licked. I sat on the running board of my truck, phone in hand, and was soon engaged in a pleasant conversation with a nice guy from AAA who lives in the snowy east and who could not, however hard he tried, really grasp my predicament. I was working through all the formalities–trying to reach someone who actually knew where I was in California when, suddenly, a white charger flashed before my eyes; it snorted, reared, spun about in the sand, and skidded to a halt right in front of me.
“Need help?” Two young-ish California dudes bounded from this monstrous white steed. They were on their way to their secret off-roading camp when they saw poor, stranded me. I hung up on AAA.
The straps came out; the winch ground into action. What with backing and winching and tugging, my rig was soon free of the pit and turned around. But now I was facing the way I’d come, and I had to go through the bottomless pit once again.
We reconnoitered, and I don’t mean to suggest that I was any help. “So, what are you doing out here, anyway?” Keith asked, kindly refraining from pointing out that I might be better equipped with an apron.
“Well, you’re out here doing it. That’s pretty rad,” he said.
“Yeah, pretty rad,” I muttered.
We plunged in for the final—and most laborious—maneuver, back through the sand pit. Every inch was hard won as our heroes literally dragged my rig through the sand, engines roaring, tires spinning, sand flying.
When all was said and done, I ended up shaken but not too much the worse for wear. I’m not sure I could say the same for my rig–or theirs. Then, off-roaders gallantly escorted me to a place in the desert where I could camp, AND they invited me to their super-secret camp where a cool party was happening that night with some rad people. Then, they roared off to tear up the landscape in stinky vehicles. I liked my camp so much that I ended up staying for three days.
So, I’ve had to adjust my attitude, now that I’ve discovered a few guys who are generous enough to use their skill and equipment to help out old dames in distress.
I think that’s pretty rad.