Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The highlight of this year's camping trip

I wish I was keeping a journal of our annual camping trips.

Off the top of my head I can’t recall much about our 1995 trip. I don’t remember who came that year, how the weather was, what we did that weekend or anything that made that weekend unique. The only thing I remember definitively is that I was living in Canada at that time and had to drive about eight hours to get there.

I won’t, however, have a hard time remembering 2007.

Our annual trip is typically a gathering of four of our charter members. I’m the only one who has been there for all 18. German Bear has missed one. Doug and JayHawk have missed a few each. All four of us were there this year, and each of them had a child or two in tow. Chances are they’ll all remember this trip, too.

Our campsite is on private property. It’s nice because we don’t have to worry about waking the old people in an RV at a nearby campsite. The drawback is that we have to carry our coolers and gear through a field to get to our site tucked inside the trees. We don’t have the luxury of parking 20 feet from our tents.

I rode to Wausau with Doug and his son. Doug hurt his foot a couple of weeks ago and wanted to reduce the distance he had to walk back and forth from his truck.

There are a couple of pseudo-roads through the property. Over the years trees have been harvested from the woods, and trucks need to be able to get in and out of the property, hence logging roads have been created. They’re not easy to navigate, but you can tell that vehicles have traveled them in years past.

We don’t have the luxury of a road to the campsite, but Doug thought we could drive through the field to get near it. The field is uneven, but it’s not as uneven as the wooded area. Decades ago the small fields around the wooded area were farmed by German Bear’s grandfather.

There’s a tiny pond in the middle of the main field, so I knew we had to avoid that. I jumped out of the truck and walked ahead of Doug to try and spot ruts he should avoid as we crossed the field. I thought he should go straight back to the trees and then try to drive across the field while hugging the tree line. I later found that wouldn’t have been much more successful.

As we got halfway into the field Doug decided it was time to start angling across it, toward the corner nearest our campsite. He came to a momentary stop as we were trying to find our way across the field and it ended up being a 24-hour parking space. He was stuck. His wheels sank deep enough into the wet clay underneath the field’s grassy cover that he wasn’t going anywhere. Driving forward or backward merely resulted in the spinning tires settling further into the clay. My attempt at pushing the vehicle from the front didn’t come close to making a difference.

We hauled a couple of things to the campsite, which was slightly further away than it would have been if we had parked on the gravel road where we always park. We had a couple of old boards at the site, so we took those and a couple of logs, as well as a shovel we keep at the site, back to the truck. We tried to dig out the wheels a bit and stuck the wood behind them, but we didn’t come any closer to moving the truck.

German Bear arrived after that and saw us out in the middle of the field with the truck. He was impressed that Doug got as far as he did given that the field is full of wet clay. His added help didn’t get us any closer to pushing the truck out of the ruts.

At this point we wondered who we were going to have to call to come pull us out of the field. A tow truck could hook the back of Doug’s truck to pull it free, but what was to keep the tow truck from getting stuck, even if it was able to keep 100 feet back from Doug’s truck? We thought it might take a tractor, but where would we find one nearby to come and save the day?

While three of us were already at the campsite on Friday afternoon, JayHawk was working that day, so he wasn’t going to be arriving from western Wisconsin until after dark. For the first time in nine years my cell phone worked at the campsite, I learned, so we called him and explained our dilemma. He immediately had two or three ideas of how to get the truck out. He was on his way home and decided to load up a variety of tools to help solve our problem.

JayHawk is a guy who can fix or solve just about any problem that comes along. He knows automotive repair, construction and a million other things, which is exactly what you would expect from a guy who was an art major in college. He brought a small arsenal of equipment with him on Friday.

By late morning Saturday the project was underway. Among other things JayHawk brought a floor jack and several long boards, some with studs. The idea was that we’d jack up the truck, get boards under the wheels and then back it out. Easier said than done.

The wheels were about as deep as the underbody of the truck would let them go, and the ruts that the wheels created were now filled with groundwater. Despite all that, JayHawk was able to engineer a slow, methodical solution. Jacking up the rear of the truck was relatively easy. The front proved to be more challenging. At one point I began to doubt that JayHawk could free the truck, but he eventually built a foundation of rock to support the boards under the front wheels, and about three hours after we started we backed the truck out. Fortunately Doug didn’t get stuck again as he backed out of the field.

It turned out to be quite an adventure I’m sure we’ll never have to repeat, and one we’ll never forget.

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