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 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.
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.
"WOOHOO! YEAH BABY!"
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.
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.
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.