Friday, March 07, 2008

JEEPs, Storms, Gravy, and Crockpots

I awoke this morning around five, made two crock pots of sausage gravy, grabbed my camera and headed off to work in a pouring rain.

Today was a teacher workday and I was the sausage gravy guy on the breakfast team. I don't eat sausage gravy, but I know how to make a pretty good batch according to the biscuit munching gravy aficionados.

Crockpots will figure later in this tale so make a note to remember the crockpot.

At school, we had a good breakfast and then went off to our strangely quiet, studentless classrooms to finish grades and do all the things that you can not do during a "normal" hectic school day.

All day long we were under flood and tornado warnings as a relentless rain drummed on the school's metal roof. A very dark sky kept dumping steady, heavy rain with no breaks in the deluge. It was exquisite.

The only negative thing about all this rain and lightning, was the fact that I was supposed to take my teacher buddy Cindy on a JEEP ride to see a champion tree and hopefully some gators, but the flooding world outside postponed that.
Seeing the tree takes a little hike and this was not the best day for that.

We agreed to postpone that for a wee bit drier day.

After a while, I realized I was done with my paperwork, so I gathered up my stuff and headed out.
It was only 2:30, but I was off.

Into the JEEP went my laptop, camera, and an almost full crockpot of sausage gravy as well as an empty crockpot.

Turns out another teacher had made a pot of the stuff, so they didn't wipe out the spare crockpot of my concoction.

With the JEEP loaded, I headed home earlier than usual, enjoying the pouring rain and the sight of ditches full to the brim again. After I crossed the Waccasassa River bridge, I turned into Devil's Hammock park.

It was grey, dark, and pouring, but I just could not resist the urge to drive into the swampy park. Tomorrow, they might close the park due to roads underwater, but no one had done that yet today.

You gotta carpe diem dum ferrum est fervens.

There's something very serene about a swamp during a rain.

One of the things I love about this relatively new park is it's roughness. The roads are dirt with a little limerock gravel tossed here and there to firm them up and there are multiple creek fords when the water is up like it was today. The hammock has lots of trails (also unimproved) that are closed to vehicles, so there's something for everyone.

A week ago this ford was dry.

I had a blast driving along flooded roads, fording creeks, just generally being JEEPish. There were no gators to be seen in the dim grey rainlight, but deer, turkey, hawks, and egrets cooperated.

At some point, Mrs. FC called me to request a ride home from work (the kids had taken her car) so I went and picked her up.
So I left my splashy fun and headed back to town to get her.

On the way home, she suggested we splash through Devil's Hammock since it was a good JEEP day.

"Okay," I said, " What a good idea."

For the second time today, I entered the park. We splashed through the puddles and crossed a few streams before I found a muddy new road to explore.

Just as a side note, we were not driving off the designated roads and tearing up the countryside.
Although I'm sure I increased the size of some of the potholes in the old logging roads that run through the park.
It's a compromise.

The road we were exploring was gradually fading to a mud trail, so I decided to turn around. The only problem was there were woods on one side and a small ponded area on the other. I tossed the JEEP into 4WD just to be safe and began a tight 3 point turn, sandwiched between trees and water.

As I completed the turn and headed out, I misjudged the road edge on the wet side and the JEEP slid off the road and into the water. I powered forward but gravity won and we slid farther into the pond.

It's not a good sign when you can hear your exhaust bubbling up from under water.

I tried to go forward, but there wasn't enough runway between the JEEP and the road slope. I could feel the wheels start to spin so I stopped.

Mrs. FC said, " Are we stuck?"

"No, we're in a JEEP ... just gotta rock it some." I replied.

I put the JEEP in reverse and gave her some juice. There was a little progress and then, again the wheels spun.
I stopped.
I dropped the JEEP into 4Low and opened my door to make sure the wheels were straight.

Pond water poured over the gunnels and into the JEEP around my feet.
I shut the door quick.

That was the first time my stomach did a little lurch. Had I stuck my JEEP miles from anywhere in a pond, in a storm?

I was picturing the embarrassing phone call to some friend to come snatch me out of there.
No way.

I had more room to build up some momentum if I went backwards so I revved the engine and told Mrs. FC to hang on.
The little 4 banger engine roared. The JEEP moved backwards, sliding some as the tires tried to bite into the slope of the road berm and get us out of the pond.

We were paralleling the slope at first, moving backwards, but sliding down ... and then ... there was this moment when you could tell it was going to work and suddenly we burst up onto the road bassackwards.

I said some other things I won't repeat here, but they were all complimentary of my little JEEP's abilities.

We were high fiving in celebration, but also in relief!
I was totally stoked on the ride out of the park.

"Did you see how she powered up that slope? What about that water pouring in my open door? I knew we'd get out, she's a JEEP after all, You just have to know how to drive ... blah, blah, blah, testosteroney talk ... blah, blah, blah"

Eventually I returned to my normal, calm self ... but dang!

Coincidentally, I was wearing my "It's a JEEP thing,... you wouldn't understand" T-shirt.

So here is the point where the crockpot gets it's 15 minutes of fame.
When we got home, I leaned into the back to grab the crockpot off the backseat. It was completely upside down. We had forgotten about it and all the bouncey driving had flipped it.
This was the crockpot WITH the almost full load of sausage gravy.
Upside down.
On my JEEP seats!

I turned it over ... holding my breath and hoping.

Sure enough, the latches that lock down the rubber sealed lid were tight and not a drop of gravy had spilled.

Superior design.

Way to go Hamilton Beach! What a great product! I am forever in your debt.

Having said that, I still don't recommend offroading with crockpots full of gravy.


carrie said...

that is the coolest story. my friend green lynn sends out your post. We all live in the jacksonville area.
I remember the everglades water like that , from when use to go out to my dads camp. Great photos.

knit ya later

tsiya said...

Heck, if you learn to drive in the red shell on North Beach you can drive anything, anywhere, almost!
That swamp driving used to be fun in a Skeeter, with big slick tires, and no fenders!
I was almost through high school before I saw a tire with grooves in it.

Alan said...

Sounds like quite the afternoon! We recently purchased a Hamilton Beach crock with a locking lid, so I am at least pleased that you put it through such a rigorous test for us so we know that it works, haha.

Jane said...

Loved the story! Not much offroading here in Dorset, England - although we do get LOTS of rain! Thanks for giving me a laugh on a dull saturday morning. Jane

Kimberlee said...

Okay...when you started talking about gurgling tailpipes...I cringed a little, fairly certain the story had taken a fatal turn. But, no! I never should have underestimated the tenacity of a JEEP coupled with pure testosteroney (great word!) determination! Fun story!

threecollie said...

You know man, you can really write! My heart was right up there in my throat and I wasn't even there...glad you got out all right. Getting stuck isn't funny, but it is something that has happened to me so many times in our hellish driveway that I finally broke down and bought a gas guzzling four wheel drive. (I miss my minivan, but at least I get home now.)
Do you have the recipe for your sausage gravy posted somewhere? I am not too fond of it either, but the boss has been begging me to find a recipe and make it for him

PS, glad you are getting is the pond coming along?

Floridacracker said...

Hi! Welcome to Pure Florida! I bet you have great memories from that glades camp!

My dad (class of '47, K.H.S.) often talks of the fun he had in skeeters on the beach when he was a teen.
And yes, I learned to 4WD in the red shell of Vilano and Summer Haven in a 1970 International Scout. That red stuff will swallow even 4WD vehicles if you get careless.

I thought I'd save you the trouble of testing it!

Glad you enjoyed it. Today is cool, dry, and very windy. It's calling me out!

It was fun and the first extreme test of the JEEP since I tend to baby it just a little. Glad you came along for the ride!

I would think 4WD is mandatory in your icy, snowy clime.
I'm not sure my recipe is much of a "recipe".
I brown the sausage, then drain it.
Next into the pan goes a little water or canned chicken broth to loosen up the cracklings.
Milk mixed with flour to form a thick gooey gravy goes in next. Just lower the heat, keep stirring and add the sausage back in.
I toss in lots of black pepper, some salt, and a good dose of Tony Cachere's cajun seasoning for bite.
That's it. Embarrassingly simple, but everyone seems to like it.

threecollie said...

FC, the boss says thank you!

Floridacracker said...


roger said...

i was wondering how that gravy was gonna provide traction. your description of the moment of realization of circumstance ....stuck immobile somewhere the rain...brought back more than one memory for me. all before cell phones. luckily enuff, i worked my way out of *most* such situations by myself. oh yeah, all in 2 wheel drive vehicles. i did need help to get my car out of the sand and off the beach before the tide came in. what i would have given for another 2 drive wheels.

Bull G. Ator said...

I had a very similar day yesterday. Went to Devil's Hammock where I espied what looked to be a rather tasty afternoon snack. Had the dining area all set-up when somehow the Jeep managed to get free of the muck. Dang!

Steve said...

I really enjoy your writing. You're a great storyteller with a very cool life, it sounds like.

Hurricane Teen said...

"There's something very serene about a swamp during a rain."
There's nothing more serene.

This story made my weekend complete. These are the kind of situations that only you can manage to get into.

Floridacracker said...

me too. i've stuck and unstuck em with a jack, a shovel, and something to shove under the tire for traction or to get the frame off the ground!
i pulled my share of stuck tourists out of the tides reach as a teenager too.

Maybe next time pal!

Thank you! Glad you enjoyed the ride.

Floridacracker said...

Oh, I had lots of practice getting into stuff with a kid named Kevin and another named Billy when I was your age.

Deb said...

I had thought from your early mentions of crock pots that this would end up a mess. Glad it didn't.

Here in Minnesota, I've had the pleasure to have stuck experiences like my own driveway.

debbie said...

Well, that was quite an adventure. You had a lucky day escaping all of the possibilities of what could have happened. Did you buy a lotto ticket on the way home? We had bad weather here in the panhandle, but not as bad as you guys had it. Today is COLD and very windy. Keep up the great writing.

Floridacracker said...

I suppose up there, the gravy would have frozen before the ride ended. I can't believe your recent temps. Wow!

I did grab a Fantasy Five ticket actually.
COLD and windy here too!

Thunder Dave said...

Nihao FC, Wow it sounds like you had a pretty fun time, once the near disaster was over that is.

We're sunny and 68F here today, but poor Lightnin is dealing with somewhere between 15-17 inches of snow!

Floridacracker said...

Hey Kung Fu,
How's Beijing?

Sharon said...

Thrills, chills, spills!! What a day! :)

(MY crockpot doesn't have nifty latches like that, pffft) :o,

Sharon said...

Oh, and this REALLY makes me miss the Bronco, and the days when there were still sand dunes around here. Probably 60% of our dates were 4-wheeling :)

Paintsmh said...

All i can say is I am with my dad on sausage gravy!! And I am so SO glad you shared your recipe with mom! Now we can have sausage gravy!! Yummm!

Floridacracker said...

LOL! 60% of my dates ended up on the beach thanks to 4WD.

Enjoy! Sounds like you are working extra hard up there lately!

Paintsmh said...

I made us some this morning. I didn't get it quite right, it is going to need some definite tweaking, but it was still good. And I have been busy, it is making me very tired.

Anonymous said...

My crockpot doesn't have nifty latches like that either! I dumped a boiling hot cherry crisp all over the front seat floor of my 2 week old Toyota Highlander! Teacher workday potluck offering that didn't make it around the very last corner before school! Needless to say, we were short 1 dessert.
Caroline in South Dakota

Floridacracker said...

Welcome to Pure Florida!
The very last corner before school only adds to the pain of that spill!
If it's any consolation, cherry crisp sounds delicous!
I have to say, I'm sold on this Hamilton Beach pot with the locking lid.

P said...

Oh, you make me miss Alachua county! I'm up North now, but man, do I miss poking around out in those swamps. Great story!


Floridacracker said...

Hi Perri!
Welcome to Pure Florida!
Love your sheep!