Monday, October 26, 2009

Surviving Sunday, ... But Just Bearly.

The sun visor on my JEEP.

Sunday morning I was flying low heading out to Cedar Key Scrub to meet with Doug Taron of Gossamer Tapestry for a bug hunt. Doug is a butterfly restoration scientist down from Chicago for a gig at the UF museum in Gainesville. He had emailed me about being in the area, and we had agreed to meet at Cedar Key Scrub.

I was running a little late as usual, so I had the JEEP in warp drive as I headed out 345 to Cedar Key. Bear was with me. I thought it would be nice for him to go on a real adventure since much of his work week is pretty uneventful.

I glanced over at him as we blew down the two lane road through piney woods and swamps. He was looking mighty cute with his ears up, all alert and enjoying the breeze through the open window.

"Great picture" I thought. I reached for my camera, fumbled it out of the case, turned it on, and held it with my left hand while I steered with my right. I glanced too long at the viewfinder screen as I tried to compose the picture.

The road curved.

I did not.

In a flash, I was off the pavement at 60 miles per hour on a grassy shoulder of a banked turn.

Words came out of my mouth that I don't use on this blog, so use your imagination.

I dropped the camera in my lap and gripped the wheel as the rear of the JEEP began to slip out to the right. I think, "We are going into a skid, the rollover should happen any moment now."

LOCATION: FEDERAL LAW ENFORCEMENT TRAINING CENTER, GLYNCO GEORGIA, HIGH SPEED PURSUIT TRAINING TRACK ... the instructor puts his hands on the car we will soon be racing around the track, he speaks ... "Do NOT brake during the turns, if you do the car will spin out. If you feel the car beginning to skid left or right, TURN INTO THE DIRECTION OF THE SKID! I lean over to the cadet next to me and say, "yeah right, that's like, if a guy throws a right hook at you, you should lean in to it."
The instructor hears me and picks me to go first around the track. He has me purposely put the car into a high speed skid and pull it out by turning into it. Repeatedly.


I gently turn the wheel to the right, the JEEP straightens out, and begins to skid left, I turn left, keeping my foot off the break.

As much as I would like to stop the JEEP and have this high speed, shake your guts out of your body ride over, if I brake, the tires will dig in and we will roll. I may love,love,love my JEEP, but I am aware of it's faults ... rolling over is the big one.

I am seatbelted, Bear is not.

I focus on keeping us straight, turning this way, then that way, and letting friction with the grassy shoulder slow us. Eventually it does and I ease us back on to the road after a hundred yards of nail biting unscheduled offroading.

An oncoming car in the opposite lane has stopped a safe distance away to see the impending wreck, but I'm back on the asphalt and okay.

I give him a thumbs up as I zip past him.

I get to the meeting spot about 5 minutes before Doug and never mention the harrowing near death experience on the way out. In fact, he will hear about it for the first time when he reads this.

At Cedar Key Scrub State Preserve, I stuffed a park brochure/trail map in my back pocket and we take off along a sandy trail.

It's fun to get out there with someone who is excited to be there and Doug was. It was cool but warmed up as we hiked, and his beloved tiger beetles began to show themselves after a while. Bear and I let him go ahead whenever a good patch of beetley sand appeared.

Like the SS Minnow, what was to be a short walk turned into a marathon hike when we missed a turn, and then another, and another ... all the while me with a trial map in my back pocket.
It wasn't a big deal, we were having a good time, but Bear was warming up and needed breaks from time to time.

If we hadn't have taken the wrong trail, we would have missed this scrub jay on a powerline when we came out of the woods along the wrong highway.
Serendipity baby!

A few times, Bear just quit and plunked down in whatever shade was available, and we did the same, while he cooled off. He had a little swamp water once, and later a kind hiker shared his water with him.
I was feeling really guilty since I had not brought water along for the short hike we originally intended.

Bear, Doug (who is NOT an axe murderer), and FC at Cedar Key Scrub.

We made it back to the parking lot eventually, Bear drank a water bottle and all of my 52 ounce Bubba Keg mug of water from the house, so he was feeling pretty good back inside the JEEP.
Doug, and I had a coke at a little store and then we headed for Shell Mound.

The last time I endangered my sweet Bear was at Shell Mound where Doug hoped to find a different group of tiger beetles.
In the newly gravelled parking lot, I parked the JEEP and stepped out to get a photo of my new magnetic sign that the Harbor Branch folks had sent me. Any picture is better with Bear in it, so
I left him inside with the window down for the shot.
I clucked my tongue to get an alert expression from him ... and he leaped out the window ... with the leash still on, briefly hanging himself when it caught on the seat.
He only hung for a second before crashing to the gravel parking lot.
He was okay and shook it off.

So, let's look at Bear's day ...

  • Almost in a car accident.
  • Overheated and dehydrated.
  • Briefly hung by the neck before crashing to the rocks below.
  • Narrowly missed stepping on a diamondback rattler ...

Oh ... I didn't mention the rattler?



W.R. said...

Note To Bear: "Only ride with Emma behind the wheel, and insist on your own seat belt." (Your own water supply would be nice, too.)

elpbulls said...

Dad!!! Most nerve racking post to read ever!!! There should have been a disclaimer at the beginning that said this story ends happily lol! Love you!! Glad you and Bear survived your adventure.

kathy a. said...

young man -- you'd better slow down. no photos while driving!

glad it turned out well.

Suwannee Refugee said...

So does that work the same in Africa where I'm at? Lean into punches and cars going in circles. Got it:)

Dani said...

You CRAZY MAN!! :) Glad you're all still in one piece.

Meems said...

What a dangerous life you lead up there in Cedar Key. Such escapades ... and those darn blogging photos ~I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who forgets good sense when a photo-op is presented. Good thing you had that flashback of good memory.

Poor Bear... glad he survived all of his near mis-adventures. Hate those rattle snakes in the woods.
Meems @ For the Love of Florida

STEB said...

you dident have to change befor you met doug:) bear has grown to bee quit the partner.

TROLL Y2K said...

I'm thinking Bear deserves a special reward for putting up with the first three. Will withhold judgement on who's fault the rattler was until details provided.

Hurricane Teen said...

AHH! Emma took the words out of my mouth...You needed a disclaimer before this post! This makes me nervous.
At least Doug didn't turn out to be an axe murderer...That certainly would have compounded the danger of the day.

Hurricane Teen said...

By the way, on a happier note, I think I MIGHT have seen your brother in St. Aug. Saturday night...This guy sure looked like you. Would he have had a reason to be at an event involving the Stratton family?

Anonymous said...


Agree with Emma. I was almost having a panic attack just now. I went back to the title to make sure it had humor in it before I continue!! I rolled in an open jeep many years ago on my way home from Crescent. It caused me to have panic attacks. Just the thought of you guys rolling and Bear not protected freaked me out!

Glad it all turned out well.


robin andrea said...

I can only imagine what Bear must have thinking all day, "Whoa, dude, who took the real FC and replaced him with this guy? Yikes. Someone save me!"

Glad it all worked out, and so nice to see two of my favorite naturalist bloggers hanging out together, looking for bugs.

Island Rider said...

And here I was apologizing for racing up behind you (or who I thought was you)on a motorcycle and it is you who was living the dangerous life! I will watch for red jeep's more carefully and not to wave, but to run! Glad it all turned out okay. Keep the camera out of the case so you don't have to go digging for it!

who wouda thunk it?? said...

dear Bear, you might want to look into the position "porch dog"

cndymkr / jean said...

It's a good thing that Bear can't talk. Because if he could he would have ratted you out to Mrs. FC as soon as you got home. "Hey Mom, you know what Dad did?"

Doug Taron said...

Apparently I don't need to be an axe murderer- you seem quite capable of taking care of self-destruction on your own! I had a great time, and have just gotten back from The Road to Nowhere, where I succeeded in getting two species of tigers. I really enjoyed our day out. You gave no clue whatsoever that you had just experienced a narrow miss in the Jeep.

Deb said...

Fumbling with camera while driving...that almost ranks up there with texting while driving! Glad Bear made it home alive, and you too so we can hear more of your escapades in the future.

PS: Don't you have a category for this, like "stupid things I have done"? ;)

Miz S said...

Yeah, I had to scroll down and make sure there was a happy ending. I'm so glad you stayed focused and remembered what to do.

What did Mrs. FC say? Hmmmm?

Caroline said...

We have the South Dakota Highway Patrol coming with their roll-over simulator tomorrow to my give our teen-aged drivers a lesson on seatbelt usage and safe driving techniques.
Should I send them your way, maybe?

roger said...

well, that was exciting. actual physical training does pay off. i think "sense memory" is what the method acting school calls it. somebody does anyway. glad it all worked out well. does bear want you to do the exciting driving thing again?

Pablo said...

I know you have that "stupid things I have done" category, but this incident really seems out of character for your, FC. I'm glad you're okay (and a little wiser).

Floridacracker said...

Okay, I recategorized this post under stupid things, but pulling that JEEP out of the high speed skidding without flipping it was pure skill.
Pure foolishness got me into the skid of course. I am aware of that and published what could have been my dark little secret as an educational post.
My ego is not so huge as to preclude me using mistakes I make as a reminder to all of us to make smart decisions.

I have some pretty important young people who read this blog and I wanted them to see that distracted driving is distracted driving whether you are putting on make up, texting, eating, or ... fumbling with your camera.

I also wanted them to see that if you keep your head and don't panic, you can save your ass from time to time.

Our long, flat, mostly straight and empty roads lead to a certain complacency while driving around here. I had a good reminder on Sunday.

I lost a precious niece a few years ago on straight, safe stretch of highway ... trust me, I take the subject very seriously.

Anonymous said...

I'm new to your blog- love it.
But Bear needs a harness for the car- it would prevent both possible ejection, and hanging. We have them and they work great!