That was the rune that came up when I asked, “How bad did I fuck up?” late Sunday afternoon. Wynn.
Usually, that rune comes up and means something about joy. Sometimes it refers to clarity, but most of the time, it is about joy being present (or, sometimes, not present). And that was more-or-less what it felt like that time. The rune was upright and it felt gently encouraging and hopeful, and I teared up a little, because I really needed something like that, though it was also a little difficult for me to see where the “joy” was in the moment.
I was sitting near a roadside cafe, closed for the day, in a relatively remote place that does not even count as “tiny village,” waiting for someone to drive out from the closest actual city to pick me up. The vehicle I had been driving was stuck in a rut about a 2-hour drive, or a 2-hour hike, from the cafe (it was 6+ miles as I walked, my GPS tracked it for me), along some often-terrible dirt roads.
I had at least an hour to wait, I didn’t have a book to read, so why not spend some time asking wretched self-pitying questions of the runes?
Saturday hadn’t been very pleasant, either. It started out nicely, but I spent most of the day driving along some really terrible roads, and most of that driving made me very nervous, because I have very little experience driving on such roads, and while I believed the vehicle was the right kind for the job, I do not know where the cut-off between “doable” and “Absolutely Do Not” is. Very rocky roads, tossing the truck back and forth. Places with one deep rut and one shallow rut, and so one side of the truck rises higher than the other and oh god oh god it’s going to tip the fuck on its side fuck fuck fuck (it did not). Places with slick wet mud and ruts and gravity and etc. pulling the vehicle inexorably into a rut I did NOT want to end up in, oh shit, it’s sliding, fuck, ohmygod. Whew, managed to get away from that one. Many stops to have the shakes for a while (after the tippy places, mostly). Constant reaching out to Loki for reassurances and also constantly telling myself “these roads are navigable, you got through that last patch, just take it r e a l l y slowly, it’s okay, the pitch is not THAT steep, really, it’s NOT going to roll.” Many reminders to try and RELAX, stop tensing up constantly. Relaxing makes the bouncing easier to handle, too.
The landscape was fucking gorgeous.
I wanted to get out and do some hiking, but I also wanted to get off all the bad roads well before dark, and get back to the city before total darkness. As beautiful as it was, it was hard to truly appreciate it when I had to pay so much attention to driving. I did manage a few times, and oh, some of the hills just took my breath away, made me glad to be there at that moment.
I was out there doing volunteer work: checking on the presence and condition of the roads, as well as a few other things, for an organization that monitors such things. If the nights had not been so cold, I would have been camping, but as it was, I was sleeping in a nice warm place in the city, thus adding at least 2 hours of driving to every day.
I was exhausted at the end of Saturday, and also felt pretty terrible about myself. I had no business out there doing that, did I? I have very little prior experience on bad roads. I mean, I know, how else will I learn other than by doing it? (Well, perhaps by going on group expeditions, or maybe having a coach, somehow.) But what the fuck kind of foolishness or reckless “confidence” was this, anyway?
When I went to bed, I spent some time sobbing to Skadi about it all, and about how some of the fear was related to reaching out for reassurance – which I was getting – and having a layer of fear about how trustworthy that reassurance was. What are the odds Loki might reassure me to the point I do get into trouble, because He wants me to learn (again) to trust my judgment, not His? How much trouble would He actually let me get into? . . . Was it even Loki, or was I giving myself that extra boost in His voice? Etc.
At some point Loki showed up – or maybe Skadi was all “Dude, this is Your problem, You deal with her” – and I angsted at Him about it all.
One of Them told me there was no shame in quitting. I didn’t have to go out again on Sunday.
I knew that; the organization I was doing the work for would be fine with that.
But. But. I also didn’t want to let myself totally be ruled by fear, right? I knew some of my terror was absolutely related to inexperience, and you know, I had navigated those roads. I didn’t get into terrible situations. I controlled some vehicular sliding! (A first for me!) I did NOT get pulled into that one super-nasty rut!!
I knew I would feel deep regret if I called it off and went somewhere safer and more relaxing on Sunday.
Sunday I had two options: drive in the way I had on Saturday, or drive in along the place I exited on Saturday. The “in” road was kind of awful: it included several very steep slopes, and I wasn’t eager to revisit them. The “out” road was much flatter, and I knew going in that way would definitely get me to specific place I wanted to go explore – I had left it alone Saturday because of time left in the day, but I knew the organization would like to know more about it. However, if I went in the steep route, I’d also have to drive along another stretch I hadn’t visited yet, and getting info on that road would be useful, too. And it was a pretty level stretch of road, and my contact out there had said it ought to be pretty reasonable (he’d warned me about the steep slopes), but no one else had been this year to report on it. So it would be good to get current info.
When I felt out for hints from Them about which option to take, They nudged me towards revisiting the steep route.
When I drove in on Saturday, there were a couple inches of snow covering the ground; it was mostly gone Sunday. The drive in was much more anxiety-inducing than it had been on Saturday, which kind of perplexed me: I’d driven it before, why was I so bugged by the bouncing and shit??
I could see the ground better, and thus had an “oh shit” moment when I realized the lovely red ground that set in on one of the steep slopes was a lovely sticky red ground. But I got down all those roads fine, if nervously, and soon got to the turn to the “new” road. Lots of it was pretty bumpy, but there were several relatively smooth flat stretches, too.
Then there were some places with a single deep rut running down it. I got past a section like that, the vehicle straddling the rut. Then another section. Then there was a side “road” that went around a short section of that crap, so up I went on the side.
Ahead of me was more deeply rutted ground. Not just another 10 feet, either. More like 70 or 80 feet. And I didn’t know how much more of this fucking road would be like that. And my nerves were shot. Okay. This is a nice flat clear area, I will back up and turn around and GTFO.
I backed up and bumped the rear tires into another rut and immediately knew I was fucked.
I’d noticed it as I drove into that “clear” area, but it was far enough off to my side I’d put it into “not a real threat” category. Plus, for most of its length, it was very shallow.
Then I forgot to check behind me thoroughly when I backed up, because the area was so clear of shrubs and big rocks . . .
I backed right into the 10-foot stretch of the rut that was actually deep enough to perfectly cup the tires, just deep enough I couldn’t drive out again.
I don’t think I can overemphasize how amazing that was.
I found literally the only spot in 50 feet of “rut” that could trap the vehicle. I spent a bunch of time picking up juniper and sagebrush branches to make areas of traction in front of each tire, but right in front of the back tires there were small woody plants growing, so I couldn’t jam any branches down in between the tires and the ground to be most effective, the little plants were in the way and were too tough to work past. Of course I didn’t have a shovel, or even anything I could use as a reasonable make-shift shovel.
I tried again to drive out, hoping the rear tires would grab onto the branches, but no luck, and I wasn’t about to keep trying and trying and end up digging the wheels in even deeper.
So I put my sandwich and water and most of my extra clothes into my backpack (I left my heavy winter coat; it wasn’t going to be cold enough I’d miss it), put a note on the dashboard that I was walking out in such-and-such direction, and walked out. I knew it was only about 6 miles, and it was pretty level going along the road. Much nicer walking the roads than driving them!
I hoped someone else might drive out there; I’d seen a vehicle leaving the area in the morning. It was unlikely, but . . .
If not, there were some ranch buildings once I got close to the highway. I might have cell reception? Worst case, I could surely flag someone down on the highway.
Eventually I was out of the hills enough that I had some cell reception. After trying to get help at the first house I found – no one was home – I was able to leave a message with my local contact and let him know I was stuck. He called back soon, said he had a vehicle capable of towing stuck trucks (!!), and we made plans for him to come rescue me. We decided that it was too late in the day to go haul my truck out – I figured it would be dark by the time we reached it, and I was NOT up for driving out in the dark.
So when the runes gave me Wynn, I thought okay, it was true, there was something positive here: I had help on the way, I was not hurt, the truck was not damaged, there was a likely solution at hand. Not all was lost, right?? Challenging, sure, but there’s hopefulness here! Maybe something else, too.
So back to the city that night, then an early start Monday. My rescuer said he’d had to help other people get out before in other situations, there’d even been other calls from even more remote places (though those other folks had eventually extricated themselves fast enough he didn’t have go out and get them). It’s kind of a fact of life out there, for people who drive out on those roads. He said it had taken him a while to get used to driving this stuff, too.
I knew that, intellectually. I know that even people with LOTS of experience sometimes get themselves stuck. It was still really good to hear these things from someone else. (Later he said it was a good reminder for him, too: even the experienced folks don’t always remember to take the time to toss a shovel into the vehicles before heading out.)
It had taken me 3 hours to get from the city to where I found the perfect truck-catching rut. So I figured the best-case scenario for Monday was that I might get back to the highway by early afternoon.
I had to contact my mom and let her know I wouldn’t be back in Portland until rather later than originally planned – she was driving through town and supposed to stay with me Monday night. She wanted to be by my place before dark, so she would plan to just wait outside my apartment until I got there. Monday morning I also contacted the rental place to find out what time I actually had to have the vehicle back: “Technically, you just have to have it back by 8:30 Tuesday morning.” RELIEF. Okay!!
I had a hard time sleeping Sunday night; too many anxious thoughts. I did not get much sleep, and I had to get up well earlier than works well for me. And I was sore from the previous days of driving and from the hike.
And then – we got to the truck and got it out about an hour before I expected we would even reach it, and I was on the highway less than an hour later. Then I had a long drive back to Portland, got there about when my pre-disaster plans had expected, found my mom had been waiting at my place for only 15 minutes, and then got the truck back to the rental place before it closed.
When we got to the vehicle an hour sooner than I expected, my relief was great: that was extra time, now. And then it came out so easy. I still had bouts of terror and nerves driving back out, because the fucking tipping. But overall I was so relieved, and felt fairly confident about getting through it, that my previous two days of saying “. . . I don’t think I should ever try this again” kind of evaporated, and turned into “hell yeah, I do want to come out to places like this again.”
I drove back home in an exhausted state of joy, thinking about what good old doom-and-gloom runes had told me Sunday.
If I had avoided that fucking hole in the ground, or even had a fucking shovel like a wise and smart person would have and dug myself out, and gotten back to the city on my own on Sunday, I would have felt defeated.
I can’t forget the amazing string of small oversights that lead to perfectly planting the truck into that perfectly tired-sized section of rut.
. . .
There are questions I’m not sure I want to ask, you know?
It could have all been entirely “shit just happens,” especially if you forget to pay the fuck attention to potential troubles.
It could have been “shit just happens” and then “strings were pulled by Powers to get me out super-easy.” Loki is good for finding solutions to sticky situations. Perhaps the land spirits helped, because They want me to be safe out there. Perhaps other gods or spirits Who watch out for me pitched in.
It could have been “shit just happens” and “good things just happen.”
It could have been . . . other options, too: I know some of the “trouble” I’ve been in before has been caused.
I know what I was worrying over Saturday night.
Knowing Who I know, any of the above are plausible . . .
I don’t know if I want to ask.
But fuck, no matter how it happened, that was amazing luck, putting the truck right there.
My mom left after lunch today with a group of her friends. I spent some time talking to them about my adventure over the weekend – one of them told me she’d once had a job that had her out on terrible roads, and she’d had to change a tire, 40 miles from where she lost cell reception, in cougar territory – and the danger with cougars is that they see a crouching person as prey-like.
When I told her about how I so amazingly planted the truck in the one deep section of that damn rut, she said something about how she thinks that when things like that happen, “it’s just meant to.”
I’m not going to ask.
After they all left, I went to a local cafe and had a nice cappuccino and a pastry. Caffeine helps with muscle aches, right? And oh gods I am in so much pain. I think a lot of it is from all the driving, but some of it is probably from the hike, which was a lot more walking than I’ve done in many months (and more than I have been capable of for most of the year).
Parked across the street was a big Ford, the kind that was the first big truck I drove on terrible roads (and I had a pretty great time, that time, but in retrospect those roads were BEAUTIFUL compared to the shit I saw this weekend).
I noticed a really amazing number of other big beefy trucks driving up and down the street. I know; trucks are on my mind now, I’m attuned to them, but still. So many in 20 minutes! In Portland!!
I’ve been thinking for months and months that when I move out there, I’m probably going to need to buy a car. Not just “a car,” it will have to be a truck. How else can I reasonably get out to the lovely remote places??
My truck will always have a shovel in it.
Saturday morning, I drove to a supermarket to buy a sandwich for lunch, and when I turned onto the main street, I was confronted with a staggering view of some of the nearby mountain peaks. The sky was cloudless brilliant blue, the morning sun illuminated them beautifully: it had snowed recently, and they were shining white, and I choked up.
If I weren’t already so in love with the area . . .
About an hour out of the city, there was snow on the ground, and snow and frost dusting all the rabbitbrush (low, shrubby plants) and other vegetation. It was exquisitely beautiful, and there was soft welcoming Presence. I wanted to pull over and cry, but there’s no shoulder out there.
Then there was a fog bank, and – it was – even more.
That place has my heart, so much.
Then the first stretch of drive up into the hills was exciting!
I was alone. I was surrounded by my beloved sagebrush and juniper and the hills were so beautiful, and it was gorgeous in the way that wintery landscapes so often are, and I was so happy to be out there.