The Muddy Misadventures of the Caliche Kid

Galleons, for those of you who don’t know, I’ve spent the last few days on the road, traveling from Michigan to Arizona in my giant van without a name (since it wasn’t my vehicle, it never got a real name, though I will admit to a pang of sadness as I returned it today- we bonded during our journey). The first day was long and uneventful, but the second day… oh, the second day.

The second day of travel found me getting tolled up the ass as I zipped across Oklahoma. And while I was excited to get out of that wallet rending suckfest, I was less excited about where the road was taking me next.

Texas.

I have never been to Texas, and it’s one of the few states I can honestly say I have no desire to visit. And yet, I had to drive through the panhandle on this trip of mine. Ugh.

And not only was I going to have to spend a few hours trucking (or vanning, in my case) through fucking Texas, I was going to have to stop for gas once. To reiterate: Ugh.

So that’s how I found myself pulling into a gas station in Conway, Texas in the early afternoon. There were a few absurdly long lines of cars at about three pumps. A rotund gas station attendant strode over, and as I rolled my window down, he began explaining to me about their pump issues in a thick Texas accent. I’m forcing a smile and nodding politely, already feeling insanely impatient and thinking I should just get back out on the road and stop at the next gas station along the interstate instead. But by then, another car was up on my bumper, so I couldn’t maneuver giant van out of the line.

Looks like I was waiting.

Ten minutes later, I finally pull the van up to the pump, select the only working option, and start fueling up. During this time, gas station attendant has wandered back over to me (lucky me) and starts asking me where I’m from and where I’m going and yadda yadda bullshit fucking smalltalk. I try to be civil but short with him to deter him from further conversation, but it does not phase his laid-back Texas self. Oh no. He just keeps fucking talking. When the tank finally fills, I almost do a fucking hoppy dance of joy as I jump in the van and pull away from Chatty McGee.

Parking the van away from the pumps, I head inside for a soda (and bathroom stop). Everyone working there is disgustingly friendly and so Texan it was painful. I happily exit the convenience store and get back in the van, ready to get the hell out of this state.

Unfortunately, the ramp back onto I-40 was closed, so I decided to head on down the road until Gary (my little Garmin) gave me directions that would lead back to the interstate. Sure enough, he had me immediately turning onto this little county road, which was going to link right up with an I-40 access road. Huzzah.

And so, me and the van start along this county road. While tiny and kind of shitty, it’s paved and not too terribly long. I can see where it will hit the access road in about a mile.

But what you can’t tell from the start of that little road is that it stops being paved about halfway along. At that point, it goes from shitty paved road to shitty dirt road. And I was honestly not paying a hell of a lot of attention to the goddamn road surface as I went along, so I was on the dirt portion before I realized it.

I fucking hate dirt roads, galleons. They are just dirty, uneven, awful things that I avoid whenever possible. And if I had known this county road was going to become a dirt road, I never would have taken it. However, I’m halfway down the road and while it’s now dirt and shit, the end is in sight, I might as well just continue on.

What I failed to take into account was the winter storm that had just passed through the area, probably because there was no goddamn snow on the ground. I just didn’t put it all together until, as I’m going down this road, I suddenly start to slow down. Slower. And slower. And then I am stopped, though my foot’s on the gas, and it dawns on me.

This dirt road is now a goddamn mud pit.

And I am stuck in it.

The shit-scared panic of being stuck in the middle of this county road is Assfucknowhere, Texas isn’t the first thing that hits me. The first thing I think of is actually a scene from My Cousin Vinny when Joe Pesci gets his car stuck in the Alabama mud. And really, if you had been raised in the same household as me, where that particular film is watched at least twice a year, it’s probably the first thing you would have thought as well.

Regardless, I try to shimmy the car back out of the mud and onto the ostensibly drier portions of road we’d previously been traveling on. I can only manage to move the van back and forth two or three feet, and I start to worry I’m just digging it in deeper by doing so, so I stop. I throw the emergency flashers on, then get out of the car and start the muddy, squelchy trek the 3/4 mile back to the gas station.

Upon reaching the gas station, I speak with the attendant from earlier. He seems incredulous that I managed to get stuck in the mud (it was the first of many, many times I heard one of the locals ask “Why on earth were you driving on that dirt road?”) and about as useful as an asshole on one’s elbow. So, I haul my muddy self inside. The folks behind the counter freeze at the sight of me. I calmly ask if they have a phone book or the number of a local towing company to help me extricate my vehicle from the muddy hell it was currently residing in. One of the ladies finally stops staring long enough to give me the number of a towing company.

Upon calling the towing company, I discover that they lack a 4-wheel drive vehicle that could get me out of my sticky predicament. Really? A towing company in a rural area without a 4-wheel drive vehicle? The guy on the other end tells me my best bet is to find a local farmer with a tractor to haul me out, then hangs up on me.

So much for that famous Texas hospitality.

I squish back over to the counter and ask for the number to the local sheriff’s office. The same lady frowns (because it is apparently greatly putting her out to write down two fucking phone numbers for me), then gets me the digits. I call the sheriff’s office, tell them my woes, and am told someone will head by when available.

And so… time to wait, I guess. I buy a new soda (having left my other one in the van) and proceed to sit and stare morosely out the window at my van, which is visible in the distance. A man sits down at the table next to me and starts asking about my situation, having overheard my phone conversation. I tell him what’s going on, then he offers to try to help me out after he finishes his sandwich. He has a 4-wheel drive Jeep with a winch on it, so he thinks he can drag me out. I shoot a skeptical look at his little Jeep, thinking about the heavy ass van sitting in the mud ahead, but figure anything is worth a shot.

By the time we got near the van, his Jeep started losing traction (which my van never did, which I still find really odd). He slipped and skidded around, and I had about 20 heart attacks as he slid behind, around, in front, and back around my van, nearly hitting it SO MANY TIMES. After thoroughly coating both my van and his Jeep in mud, he determines he can’t do anything and we drive back to the gas station.

And now I’m waiting again. I speak with my father, then call the sheriff’s office again, where I’m told a deputy will be there when they become available but that the dispatcher can’t make them get to me any faster and would I please stop calling. So, I sit back at my table and do the forlorn staring bit again.

A sheriff’s car drives by, going the opposite direction from the van. I bitterly watch it go, thinking it’s going to go the wrong fucking way (despite me repeatedly telling dispatch to have them come to the gas station and get me so I can direct them to the van) and leave me up shit’s creek here. But then the car turns around and comes back. I practically leap from my seat and fly out the door, but the car’s gone past. As I run toward it, I watch it pull down that county road.

Well, at least I knew this sheriff’s car was here to deal with my issue. Finally.

As I hurried toward it, the car went down the road, stopped partway, then started backing all the way back down the road. At the end, the deputy finally saw me.

“Well, little lady,” he said, “you appear to be stuck in the mud.”

NO SHIT.

But instead of being the impatient, asshole city dweller that I am at heart, I turned on my limited charm and played up the “damsel in distress” angle, which works way too well on folks in rural towns because they are all insanely sexist and really do think women are weak and rather useless. Particularly with cars.

The deputy has me get in his car and he drives me a few miles down to Panhandle, the little town he’s actually from. Along the way, he tells me about the dirt in the area, which is actually a clay-like substance called caliche, and about how often vehicles end up stuck in the mud after a bout of precipitation.

Him: “Well, down here, we don’t really have regular mud, you see. We have caliche, and when it gets wet…”

Me: “It turns into horrid, squelchy, car sucking death muck?”

Him: *laughter* “That’s ’bout accurate, missy.”

He gets a call over the radio and proceeds to start joking into it, saying how he’d picked some girl up who was being mouthy and how he’d smacked her around to show her who’s boss.

Lovely.

We eventually pull right into a towing company’s parking… area (can’t call it a lot, more like a dirt patch), and the deputy starts explaining to the stereotypical hick working there the situation and how it should be possible to pull me out from the front, right onto the access road I was trying so hard to get to. The towing guy says he’ll give it a go and tells me to go wait in his Suburban.

After fifteen fucking minutes of the good ol’ boys shooting the shit, the towing guy and his crony get into the Suburban and we head back to the van. During this trip, I am repeatedly asked why I was in the mud in the first place, and it really took everything in my not to make a smartass remark in response. I mean, what the hell, do these fuckers think I was doing this on purpose?

“Why van, doesn’t this seem like a lovely day for a caliche cruise? Let us frolic about in this mud patch until we are both mired in the muck, yes? Righto.”

We arrive at the van and the towing guys hook my van to their Suburban, and we slowly drag its heavy ass out of the goopy mess it had been hanging out in. And there was much rejoicing.

Anyway, this entire fucking adventure lasted less than three hours, but was full of enough stress (that I really didn’t need, after the previous week’s stress) to last three months. I spent a lot of that time walking around in the cold and wind, fretting and fussing as everything I fucking own hung out in a patch of sticky muck.

But the whole time this was happening, the part of my brain that finds amusement in the weirdest fucking things was just having a goddamn LOLfest. Every single goddamn Texan I interacted with was a fucking Texas stereotype. They were exactly how Hollywood portrays them. Exactly. It was fucking hilarious. If I’d been given one wish during the whole escapade, that part of my brain wouldn’t have wished for the van to be out of the mud. Oh no. It would have wished for a camera to have filmed the entire ordeal, just so I could show everybody later and everybody else could see how fucking absurd everything was.

Anyway, that concludes the tale of the Caliche Kid (as I have styled myself). I hope you found some amusement in it. Because now that it’s all over, I think it was a fucking riot.

And also, I am a goddamn moron.

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