“Most travel, and certainly the rewarding kind, involves depending on the kindness of strangers, putting yourself into the hands of people you don’t know and trusting them with your life.”
~ Paul Theroux
Tuesday morning I said goodbye to Chris. Thank you again for all of your hospitality and great cooking. Even if I wanted to stay, I wouldn’t; I awoke with a sore throat, stuffy head and knew I was on my way to a bad head cold; that’s no place to be when a newborn baby is present. So down the road I went – and what a road!
Within twenty minutes I crossed the Missouri River into Iowa. I like Iowa! It’s a pretty place, lush and green, probably because there’s corn and soybeans growing — everywhere! And everyone is very friendly!
After driving for an hour or two I came upon the little town of Wiota, Iowa. I decided to cut through the town, taking a shortcut over to another byway via some farming roads when I came upon a sign:
Enter At Your Own Risk
I’d seen similar signs in other states and enjoyed taking my four-wheeling vehicle down those roads to see the rural USA. As you can see…the road began with a hill. I looked down and just saw gravel…so I proceeded.
Look how beautiful it looks!
I forgot about the torrential rainstorm we had the night before.
The ENTIRE road, for one country mile, was nothing but MUD! I was on a hill. I couldn’t back up. I couldn’t stop. I had no choice but to continue. Chris and Robyn have a magnet on their refrigerator with a quote on it by Winston Churchill that reads: “If you’re going through Hell, keep going.” So did. I put the truck in four-wheel drive and drove five miles an hour. It was SO slippery! It was like driving on ice! I made it three quarters of a mile, only one last hill to climb, when…
…so I just started walking…
What a workout!
I’d seen a farmhouse at the end of the road…I hoped they had a tractor. Finally, I made it!
What an adventure!
Well…there was nobody home except an old hound dog lazing on the front porch. As I stood there scratching my head, pondering my next move, a local sheriff came down the road. He said someone called him and said there was an SUV stuck in the mud over on 682nd Road. I never saw a soul…? He said there wasn’t anyone gonna come out here today in this mud to rescue me and I would be better off back in the town of Atlantic where there’s food, motels and other amenities.
He dropped me off at Olsen’s Outdoor Supply where I met Kolby. As it turns out, Kolby’s grandfather has a tractor repair shop back in Wiota, so he drove me over there where I met his grandfather, grandmother and his father, Bryan, who worked there. When they all finished laughing, at me and with me, they kindly agreed to make a rescue attempt of my XTerra with one of the tractors they had on hand.
Me and Kolby drove back to the scene of the crime, or as close as we could get to it, with Bryan following in a big ol’ farm tractor. Along the way we compared my city to his town:
My city – three high schools; his city – one.
Number of people in my graduating class: 275; in Kolby’s – 20.
Farms in my city – two or three; in his – too many to count.
Cows in my city – zero; in his – uncountable.
Tractor dealerships in my big city – zero; in his little town – dozens.
And there were many other comparisons that I don’t recall right now but we laughed about them for the entire ride.
At the top of the hill I climbed into my first tractor. Bryan backed it down the road as slowly as possible. After a cautious twenty minutes we reached the shipwreck. It took another fifteen minutes to maneuver it out of the ditch and then another fifteen to timidly drive both vehicles, still chained together, to the dry patch at the top of the hill.
Bryan, inside the tractor,…
…backing down the muddle 1/4 mile…
…and pulling me out!
I gave Bryan a cash reward for saving my dumb ass and thanked him profusely. If it wasn’t for him and Kolby and grandpa I might’ve been stuck down in that “holler” for days. As it was, the whole event, from pavement to pavement was only three hours! It could’ve been a lot worse if it weren’t for that sheriff and the great family who pulled together resources to pull me out of that ditch.
I want to thank you all again for saving this dumb Rhode Islander.
I tried to pay it forward today by pulling over and changing a flat tire for two young ladies who didn’t have AAA and who could’ve been stranded there in the rain for a good part of the day. Every kindness we show a stranger makes us all a little less estranged.
I hope you pay it forward and offer a helping hand to a stranger in need.
The gam continues…