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."
FLASHBACK TO 1984.
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.
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?