Another day in the field…

Certain rites of passage exist in every phase of life, whether it’s being beat up by a sibling, pulling your first all-nighter in college, or making your first on-the-job mistake in your profession.  Rites of passage are badges of honor, like an induction to the secret club.  They symbolize acceptance because everyone in that group has faced a similar trial, mishap, or victory along the way.  They signify a deeper understanding and dedication to the particular field.  Some rites tend towards moments of pride, whereas others lean on the humbling side.  It has taken me 1.5 years, but I have finally earned my official rite of passage.  This isn’t quite the rite of passage I would have expected, but it’s another day-on-the-job / in-the-field for me.  The days have been graciously diverse for me, as of late.


Kristin Landau has been featured in my preservation related stories lately. She visited North Carolina for a few days and participated in my escapades.  On one particular Friday, I treated Landau to a tour of Overhills, my life.  Having read many chapters of the Overhills book (another story for another post) the vast acres of structures and sections of the estate would make sense to her, whereas, when I first visited Overhills, I had no geographic orientation.


Landau and I were having quite the enjoyable Overhills day in the warm Carolina spring weather and we were on our way to another part of the estate.  Before heading in that direction, I drove up to one house to give Landau a closer look.  Upon driving away, I took the wrong dirt road (they still all look the same.)  Before long, we encountered a big mud puddle, leftover from the rainstorm on Thursday night.  It wasn’t that big, so I drove the big government truck through it.  Unfortunately, on the other side of the mud puddle was another mud puddle – a much larger one.  Now we were stuck in between the two.  Unsure of whether to go forward or backwards, we discussed this for a little while.  I eventually decided that I didn’t know if I could drive in reverse through a puddle, but certainly forward would be easier.  When I drive in the sand, I drive with one half of the car on the embankment, where there is more traction.  I thought that this would work just as well with puddles.  


Forward I drove.  Within seconds of slowly entering the mud puddle, the front left side of the truck began to sink.  I panicked, immediately.   “Oh my god, Kristin, what do I do? I don’t know what to do!”  And I’m getting progressively more nervous as the truck is sinking and suddenly Kristin, in the passenger seat, is a higher elevation than I am.  Unfortunately, she didn’t know what to do either.  My panicked solution: turn off the engine, get out of the truck, and grab our stuff.  For a split second, we thought that her door was stuck, but it was just really heavy as it now began the top of the car. 


Being out of the truck felt better, more solid, but it certainly didn’t look any better (see photographic evidence credited to Landau.)  The truck does have a wench and we were surrounded by trees, but we didn’t know how to use it.  The next step?  Hang my head and call the office, despite knowing that this would be something I’d never live down, never.




The jist of my panicked conversation went something like this: “I’m sorry, the truck is stuck but I can’t get back in because I’m afraid it’s going to tip and I don’t want to die.”  The boss’ reply: “Don’t worry, I’ll send someone out to get you guys.”



[These photographs may not look so terrible, but believe me – we were stuck.  That back right wheel was not touching the ground and the front left wheel was sunk in the mud.]


While we were waiting for our savior, another truck drove by with two other contractors who just happened to see us stuck in the middle of nowhere.  They were gracious enough to help with big chains to pull the truck out of the mud (with only a slight bit of teasing.)  I was so grateful to them, particularly because there were two of them and I did not have to assist in driving the truck through the puddle. 


After the traumatic experience, all seemed well.  Off we went to the next part of Overhills, promising to stay away from any form of puddle.  We turned the corner and suddenly the truck’s speed dropped from 20 mph to 10 mph to 0 mph.  It just stopped.  Great.  And it began making a terrible noise.  Figuring that perhaps water got in the engine, we turned off the truck and opened the hood.  Everything seemed all right.  I had no choice but to call work, again. 


Apparently, there were three reasons why this would be happening: 1. that truck just does that for no good reason.  2. Water may be somewhere in the engine (transmission? I can’t remember.)  or 3. it may not be in the proper drive (i.e. 2wd, 4wd.)  After trying to follow directions and trying to shift into 2wd, I had no such luck.  So we were about to wait on a rescue again when this random family of hikers came up to us to find out what is wrong.  (Keep in mind, this is government property, aka off limits to hikers.)  An older man convinced me to let him try to put the truck in the proper drive.  He asked if I wanted 2wd or 4wd. I said, “2wd I guess.”  And then something wonderful happened: the truck moved!! We could drive again.


Without visiting the next section of Overhills, I told Kristin that we had to go back to the office.  The truck sounded terrible, I was still scared-to-death, and who knew what was wrong with it.  Because of the terrible noises the truck was making, I decided to drive back to work the slower way, rather than on the busy highway, just in case we had to pull over.  The entire way we could go no more than 40mph and the truck was working so hard and sounding so terrible.  Talk about nerve-wracking! 


Finally, finally, we arrived back at the office, safe and sound.  One of my colleagues went out to check the truck and found one reason why it would sound so terrible: the truck was in 4×4 low, which apparently is only used on dirt roads.  Yes, that was cause for an uproar of making fun of me.  My response: “I grew up in suburbia. I drive a Subaru. What do you want from me? No one ever taught me how to drive a truck. I don’t claim to be a truck driver!” 


Well, anyway, the truck is fine. I have no idea why the man put the truck in 4×4 low rather than 2wd.  Driving home slowly was a smart decision.  Someone is going to give me a truck lesson sometime soon. I’ll be made fun of forever (fortunately, that means they like me around here.)  I’m neither the first nor the last person to be stuck somewhere in our work trucks (though previous cases have been flat tires, stuck in the sand, or just a truck that stopped: hence, my rite of passage.) Everyone wanted to see Kristin’s pictures.  Kristin found the whole situation hysterical, but I did not because it was my responsibility, myself, and my best friend at risk!  I suppose, now, it’s funny.




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