The Night We Almost Became Fossils

12 Aug

Last weekend was an awesome blip in the lives of your friendly neighborhood Constitutional bloggers. Reunited for the first considerable amount of time in a year and a half, we retreated into the woods with two other pretty amazing guys (we have decided to protect their identities, to keep their reputations from being blemished by association) for a guys-only camping trip. We had an awesome time eating, drinking, hiking, burning things and building tiny competing civilizations on a cardboard polygon (I think it was a decagon, but I may be off by a few sides), all the while catching up on each others’ lives and escaping the stress and pressures of the outside world. Very tranquil. Except for the ride there.

Getting from my office in Gordonsville, VA to the remote forests on the North Carolina-Georgia border turned out to be an epic journey indeed. A couple months ago I had bought a round-trip flight to Atlanta, the closest major hub to Joe’s current residence, in preparation for this trip–the thought being that this would save me a significant amount of transportation time. The one and a quarter hour trip from G-ville to the Richmond International Airport ended up not being too bad traffic-wise, and I got there in plenty of time to check in and chill at the gate. When I first got to the gate, the monitor said my flight was delayed 12 minutes–no big deal, I thought, as I called Joe to give him the heads up–and then a few minutes later, the departure time was changed back to “ON TIME”–even better, I grinned. But only after we had all boarded the plane and taxied away from the gate did the pilot reveal his grim news: because of rain in Atlanta, all air traffic was slowing down and we were not going to take off from Richmond for another 45-60 minutes. So we just sat there. For 50 minutes.

When I finally arrived in Atlanta and found my way to the Baggage Claim area, it was close to 7:00pm. Fortunately, JTS hadn’t decided to leave the airport and do better things with his time, and we proceeded to his faithful Jeep. The first two hours of the drive were really enjoyable; we had so much to catch up on and chat about that I really didn’t mind the added transportation time. And according to the GPS, the total trip to the campgrounds wasn’t supposed to take much more than two hours anyway.

GPS. That’s where we ran into trouble. Those three little letters contain so much meaning–comfort for the lost, home for the homeless, fulfillment for the hungry, amazement for the non-tech savvy. People tend to put very blind faith in this contraption; referring to it as a a great all-knowing deity, to be revered and respected but never addressed directly (“No, just stop talking, She says go LEFT so we need to go LEFT!” “I don’t care what you think, the GPS says…”). Of all people, you would have thought that my co-blogger and I, in our cynicism and self-proclaimed geniousness, would have known better than to blindly take directions from a talking box. We even had printed directions, which we tossed aside after verifying that the first five or six maneuvers were the same as on the GPS’s recommended route. If only we had looked at the END of the route, we could have saved ourselves such a headache…

We started to suspect something wasn’t right when the asphalt ended. Suddenly we found ourselves on a narrow gravel road with more hairpin turns than… something that has a lot of hairpin turns. And right about this time, the sun set completely, leaving us quite literally in the dark. The GPS told us it would take just five or ten more minutes to get through this maze of death (if we had met a car coming the other direction, we likely wouldn’t have seen it until we had a head-on collision around the next bend) and that we would arrive at our destination–which was a road name, mind you, not a physical street address–before 10:00. We had just enough cell phone reception to call Phil and tell him the “good news” of our imminent arrival, before at the next gyration of the road, all cell phone phone signals were lost and we were completely incomunicado. In the dark. And as we negotiated each curve at a crawl, I had a sneaking suspicion that we weren’t going to make our target ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival, not the Basque terrorist group, in case you were wondering).

After about another half hour, we arrived at what the navigator-in-a-box insisted was our “destination”. It was just a spot on the gravel trail like any other, but apparently at this point the trail changed names from “Death-maze Rd” to “National Forest Road”, the road on which the campground was presumably located. And we still had no cell phone reception. As we continued onto “National Forest Road”, our spirits received two more crippling blows almost simultaneously: (1) we realized that our fuel level had gone under a quarter tank and was fast approaching the “E”, and (2) Little Miss All-Knowing completely lost all satellite reception. The source of her navigational wizardry had dried up, perished, vanished, poof, it was no more. She was an ex-parrot. (   😉 to MP fans   ). We now had no way of knowing where we were or how long this road was–it didn’t seem like much of a stretch to assume that it spanned the entire length of the national forest, given its name. And being a “national” forest meant that this was one of the most remote areas left in the state of North Carolina in the 21st  century. If we screamed for help at the top of our lungs, nobody would hear us. And did I mention it had recently rained, so the sky was still overcast and starless? (Not that I’m well-versed in astronomy, nor is The Scholar, but we would have had at least SOMETHING to go off of).

So this is when we started to realize the implications of our predicament. Hardly a negative word was spoken between us, but we knew what each other were thinking. If one little thing went wrong–a flat tire, an empty gas tank, a broken axle, a herd of deer through the windshield–we would be screwed. No way to use any of our fancy electronic gadgets to call for assistance. No friendly rural country cabin-dwellers to fetch us a glass o’ water. No knives or rifles to defend ourselves against a bear or slaughter a deer to combat our growing hunger. No bubbling brook within earshot for fresh water. No one there to tell us we were being overdramatic in our heads.

I could just imagine the end of our story. The Jeep would break down and skid off the mountain road, and one of us would twist an ankle or break a toe trying to get out of the car, then we would start wandering into the night–probably in a straight line, because one of us would look at the probabilities associated with different directional strategies–and end up deeper in the middle of nowhere from where we started, and no one would ever hear from us again. Until an archaeologist in the year 3015 uncovered our remains, scratched his head for a minute, and hypothesized on the origins and purposes of those little enclosed conglomerations of plastic, metal and wires that we were clasping in our fossilized hands…

Or we may have been smarter and waited in the Jeep until morning, when we would have begun to make our way further down the road on foot and flagged down the first tourist-filled minivan we happened to encounter.

But in any case, we ended up getting to the campground about an hour later and had a terrific weekend–perhaps even more terrific because our near-death experience had given us a new appreciation for the little things in life.


4 Responses to “The Night We Almost Became Fossils”

  1. joe 8.12.10 at 5:17 pm #

    This post = awesome. And by awesome, I mean, true.

  2. miscellaneoussheepery 8.12.10 at 5:55 pm #

    The thought of JTS & Derrick the intern slaughtering a deer for sustenance almost made me fall out of my chair laughing. I’m glad you guys made it out alive & had a good time camping =)

  3. miscellaneoussheepery 10.24.10 at 8:59 am #

    Gentlemen, I request an update to your blog.

  4. miscellaneoussheepery 12.27.10 at 10:05 pm #


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