Tuesday, September 30, 2003

from my brother David, writing from Taos, NM

My brother David takes after our Dad. He's extremely hardworking and quite athletic. David also has a habit of working several jobs, at least one of which has to be labor-intensive (if you're ever in the DC club called Polly Esther's, you might see him there, barbacking; look for the trim half-Korean doing a lot of running and lifting). So David's sleep schedule is rather screwed up, and he's in constant need of rest. He'll just collapse whenever he gets a day off. Maybe he'll wake up and play Halo on his XBox, but he's too tired to do much else.

At long last, David managed to make some time for himself to enjoy a few days alone out in Taos Ski Valley, a place we've visited a few times as a family when my other brother, Sean, was attending an advanced chamber music camp a couple summers back (Sean plays the cello... if you need a chamber group for an event, I'm your contact guy).

Taos is gorgeous, and the Ski Valley resort is amazing during the summer, which is "low season" for them. The hiking is great, especially if you head out to Williams Lake (I haven't tried going as far as Wheeler Peak; it's enough for an out-of-shape hominid to gasp from the resort at 9,200 feet to the lake at about 11,000 feet). The Bavarian restaurant serves some kick-ass German cuisine, and the Inn at Snakedance is a clean, modern hotel with a friendly staff and a great breakfast service.

David, like the rest of us, fell in love with Taos and has been out there on his own before. He was there this time to kick back, relax, do some hiking, enjoy the food, and just decompress a bit before heading back to the DC-Metro area.

The Taos region also offers great driving routes, including a long, circular path that takes you past another huge lake. David had a nasty incident at the lakeshore this weekend... I'll let his email tell the story. You'll note he's got a thing for emoticons, which I avoid like the plague.

Except for the anuscon: (__*__)

And the corollary-- freakofnaturecon: (__**__)

[email follows]

Date: Mon, 29 Sep 2003 00:47:34 EDT
Subject: Dave Gets F-ed. Almost.
To: assorted recipients

OK - this is a TRUE story that happened to me TODAY. It is a long email, but I hope that you will enjoy it. :-)

Yes, my friends - For lack of better words, Dave almost got fucked. BIG TIME.

As all of you know (and for those of you that don't) I am in Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico - I've been here since Friday and will depart this coming Wednesday. Everything has gone without a hitch - weather, food, people - Dave was in a state of pure Zen. Mountains, blue skies, cold, rushing streams, nice people... you get the picture. And everything was going perfectly today - getting some (hopefully) incredible pictures, I went on a scenic drive around the ski valley area. It is a loop drive that is about 80 miles long and through the drive you go through mountain valleys and small towns. As I was driving around in my Explorer (with less than 10K miles no less) I passed through a town called Eagles Nest. On the outskirts of this town there is a very shallow lake (maybe 2 feet deep at most). It was an amazing picture moment for me - with the mountains on both sides and the lake in the middle. There was a cement boat-launch that went into the lake and I went down the cement incline toward the water in my SUV. The water of the lake had receded about 30 feet from the end of the launch, exposing dirt and, closer to the water's edge, mud. I got out of the Explorer and walked around on the dirt - it was firm enough, and there were tracks from other vehicles there, so I decided that I would take the Explorer off the cement launch and onto the dirt - I wanted to drive around to the far edge of the lake so I could have a better angle for my picture...

I drove without problems. Took my pictures, got back into the SUV and went about 3 feet forward, turning my wheels to the left so that I could turn around and go back to the boat launch.

RIGHT THEN AND THERE, DAVE GOT FUCKED. At least for the time-being, Dave was shit out of luck. The entire front end of the Explorer sank down into what was hard dirt 2 feet ago now-turned thick, heavy mud. The front wheels sank down and the only thing that stopped the whole front from going into the mud was the front suspension and frame of the SUV. Then the rear wheels sank down. My rental SUV was now knee-deep in heavy mud about 10 FEET from the water's edge.

At that time it seemed like I was about to unwilling buy an Explorer.

All these thoughts streamed through my mind - if one of these frequent mountain thunderstorms came I knew for sure the water would overtake the Explorer because the lake was so shallow - if it rained upstream then the water would rise as well - will the whole Explorer just sink into the mud if left there for an hour??

I jumped out, looking at the SUV in disbelief - just 5 minutes ago I was enjoying the mountains of New Mexico and now look at me! I ran around without a plan for a minute, then gathered my thoughts and started shoving flat rocks underneath the tires. NO ONE was around to help me and I noticed that the water was beginning to ever-so-slowly rise and was coming closer to the SUV. Must be high tide coming in.


My efforts to back the SUV out of the mud with rocks only made it sink deeper into the mud. Now the REAR wheels had spun all the way down to the suspension. I remembered that there were some campgrounds on the way to the lake, so I left my sinking SUV 10 feet from the water and ran for help. The altitude wasn't helping (8,500 feet). I spotted a house that had a 4x4 pickup parked out front about a 1/4 mile away - I ran and was out of breath not even half way there.

I came upon the house and a kind, calm old woman was sitting outside looking at me, obviously wondering why I had this crazed expression on my face - and whether she needed to whip out her shotgun or ask if I needed help. After making sure she lived there, I spotted her husband and blurted out, "MY CAR IS SINKING AT THE EDGE OF THE LAKE AND I'LL GIVE YOU $100 TO HELP PULL IT OUT OF THE MUD!" He thought it through for a second and said, "Well let's go then!"

The husband brought a fabric towing line and we drove in his pickup to my sinking Explorer. "You're stuck pretty good, huh?" he chuckled. HA. I would normally have some goofy reply but right now I was imagining the Explorer under water.

We unrolled the towing line and it was a good 30 feet short of my SUV. He said that he'd go back to the house and get a longer line. I opted to wait by the SUV while he got his extra line as if my presence next to it would slow the sinking. For what seemed like hours later (probably 5 minutes) he came back with two chain towing lines and we hooked each line together and onto the frame of the Explorer. After five tries, the SUV didn't budge. At ALL. We were beginning to think it wasn't going to work. We took shovels and dug mud out from underneath each wheel, put rocks in the holes and hoped for the best. Two tries later it STILL wasn't moving. He said, "One final try - we're gonna yank this sucker out, you watch." He backed up his pickup with plenty of slack on the towing line, and gunned it forward - suddenly my Explorer (with me inside) shot backward out of the mud and onto the concrete. THANK GOD FOR CONCRETE. I can't describe my elation at that particular moment. I was staring at pure, unadulterated futility and a good chance that my Explorer would be overtaken by the lake - but now thanks to this one person, my luck completely changed. He was my guardian angel! "THANK YOU SO MUCH," I sputtered out. I gave him his reward of $100. "What's your name, by the way?" "It's Peppe," he replied. And with that, we shook hands, he smiled at me while shaking his head (I'm sure he was thinking, "dumb city boy") and drove away.

I ended up having to pull off of the road, take off both front tires and scrape a good 3 inches thick of mud from the insides of each rim (the wheels were incredibly unbalanced with all the mud there... SUV was shaking violently from side-to-side at 50mph). I also power-washed the underside. Now the Explorer drives like it did before this "little mishap."

So in the end, Dave was saved by a kind 60-something named Peppe. Hindsight being 20/20 I should have never gone down that boat launch. A totally preventable situation. I'll chalk this one up to a lesson learned and something to pass down to the kids.


PS - I have pictures. HEH.

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