Monday, January 29, 2007

The Tow Truck Never Comes

“Not to worry”, my buddy kept insisting. “The tow truck will be here in half an hour.”
I wasn’t so convinced.
“Seen that movie before”, I replied. “The tow truck never comes…”

We were cold and worn out, having already spent two hours in a futile attempt to dig our truck out of a snow filled ditch – using an ice scraper for a shovel. The small sign nailed to a tree overhead read 22 ¾ miles, serving as a grim reminder of just how far we had ventured up this logging road. The last rays of sunshine were long gone from the surrounding mountains. We had no other option. It was going to be a long, cold walk back to civilization. The similarities to a Jack London story were not lost on us.

It’s amazing how quickly even the simplest of plans can change. Consider, for instance, the casual afternoon of steelhead fishing that my buddy Dustin and I had planned for this past weekend. We had forgone our usual routine of getting on the river at first light for a much more civilized first cast at 1 PM. Whereas a normal day of steelheading starts with a 4 AM wake-up call and bad take-away coffee for the drive in the dark, this day was more about spending a few relaxing hours away from the city. Fish or no fish, we were going to be happy just being in the wilderness, surrounded by nothing but eagles, forests and mountains.

The day seemed ideal for such a plan. The weather forecast had called for rain, but as we stepped out of the truck at the crack of 1 we were greeted with brilliant sunshine that warmed the air pleasantly. We took a couple of hours to work through one of our favorite runs. No fish, but already the city and it’s frantic pace seemed far behind us.

It was a little too early to call it a day, so we decided to drive upstream and try a spot where Dustin had landed a large steelhead the previous spring. There was quite a lot of snow in the area, but the logging road that follows the river had been plowed, so we stored our gear in the back of the pick-up and headed upstream. We soon discovered that the snowplow had only cleared the road as far as a small hydroelectric facility, and our spot was another several miles further. Someone else had carried on up the snow-covered road from that point, as indicated by relatively fresh tire tracks, so we decided to follow suit.

We hadn’t gone very far before we realized that we had probably made a mistake. Our tires were restricted to the ruts left by the previous vehicle while the differential dragged through the snow. As we progressed, we saw snowmobile tracks in the snow next to the truck. Note to self for future reference: “If you see snowmobile tracks in the snow where a road should be, don’t drive down the road.” We decided to press on to where the other guy had turned around, and attempt to do the same.

About 2 ½ miles further we came across the spot. It looked dodgy, but doable. Dustin turned the wheel and followed the tracks to the right. We inched forward and had just put the vehicle into reverse when we felt the front end drop. That’s never a good sign. We piled out of the truck and stared in dismay at our front end, firmly settled down into a ditch. I pulled out my cell phone and wasn’t surprised to see the “no service” message. Still, we were somehow convinced that with just a little effort, we’d succeed in digging ourselves out and we’d be on our way.

There’s a classic Simpsons episode where Bart and Homer chase a roast pig in vain through the streets of Springfield. As the situation becomes increasingly futile, Homer keeps insisting, “It’ll still be OK!” Even as the pig blasts through the air over the nuclear power plant, Homer is convinced they’ll get it back. Dustin and I shared in Homer’s optimism, but unfortunately we were likewise blinded by it. Our digging efforts seemed to only bury the truck even further. The harder we worked, the more entrenched the truck became.

At one point a group of guys came by on snowmobiles and offered to call us a tow truck once they got to an area that had cell phone coverage. Several hours later, exhausted from digging and pushing, we sat back and pondered the likelihood of the tow truck arriving. Dustin seemed confident that it would only be a matter of time. I wasn’t so convinced, and felt it was time to start hiking out. Darkness had pretty well set in, and we were a long way from another human being.

This is the part of the story where my ever-prepared father will shake his head and wonder out loud “Will Dave ever learn?” My Dad is notorious for having every imaginable piece of equipment you could possibly need in his backpack. We’d go on hunting trips and I swear he could have built a small warming hut, complete with hot tub, out of items from that pack. His buddies and I would often rib him, but we were always thankful when he’d supply us with some extra gloves or spare batteries.

Well, Dad, not only was I without batteries last weekend, I didn’t even have a flashlight. Perhaps if you had made me suffer more when I forgot things, maybe then I would have heeded your warnings?

We stumbled almost 5 miles in the dark before we reached the first ranch house.

All I can say about the man who lives in that house is that he is a SAINT. He drove two perfect strangers all the way back up the valley to our truck, and pulled us out. It was one big hairy deal too, as the roads and snow had frozen and conditions were treacherous. Even so, he stuck with it until we were out of the ditch and back on paved road. He wouldn’t accept a penny from us for his troubles, either, stating that people had done similar for him and “whatever comes around goes around”. Needless to say, as we drove back to town and came across another fellow struggling to push his truck out of a snow bank, we didn’t hesitate to stop and lend a hand.

Oh yeah, and about the tow truck? It never came.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Suns Also Rise

Had a great time last night in Phoenix. The hi lite was getting a chance to attend a Phoenix Suns game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Still, one small drawback - I was looking so forward to seeing Kevin Garnett take on the Suns, but it turns out he had been ejected from a game the night before for throwing a punch, and suspended for one game. MY GAME! The Timberwolves point guard was suspended too, so they had a very short bench and a weak team. The result? The Suns crushed them without even blinking. They were up by 35 at the beginning of the 4th!
We bailed early to watch the end of the football game. Saw New England go up by a field goal, then watched in horror as Indy marched back down the field...

...and speaking of horror:
While in Phoenix yesterday - it snowed.
Arrived in San Antonio this AM - it was 42F.
Am planning to stay in my room tonight, cranking up the heat, and watching Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth". Seems kinda ironic that I'm here for a conference related to global warming!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Don't look now, you've been "Plutoed"!

It was only a matter of time, right? Read on:
In its 17th annual words of the year vote, the American Dialect Society voted “plutoed” as the word of the year, in a run-off against climate canary. To pluto is to demote or devalue someone or something, as happened to the former planet Pluto when the General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union decided Pluto no longer met its definition of a planet.

There were actually a lot of great entries in this year's contest. Read the whole rundown here, including winners from past years: