Wednesday, April 02, 2008


NOTE: The trip was a good one, and so busy I had no time to write as things came up. So here I am, back in NYC with plenty of time to spare. I'll be posting items from the trip over the next days, weeks and hopefully not months like last time! Here's Story 1, which was started at the time of the incident.

Saturday morning on March 23rd. This story is is about my pre-coffee adrenalinerush…. Everything’s fine - now - and at 9am, I’ve got my coffee(which I really don’t need, as you'll soon understand) brewing, putting down a few words in the meantime.

The morning started out just fine - I had snagged a prime campsite in a way that once again reaffirms, somebody - somewhere - likes me. The park is PACKED. As I drove through, Ryan was full. Talking to a guy I met later, I found that the last site in Jumbo campsite was snagged by him about 6pm on Thursday night. As I rolled into Hidden Valley and say the “Full” sign at the entrance, I rued the day I had changed my travel dates to accommodate an impending visitor at home in mid April. Because of that, here I was, in Joshua Tree during spring break. Woo hoo. Yippee kay yi…yick.

Of course, I understand that the term “Full” is relative…so I did a run through the place. Loop B first, and every site had at least some indication of inhabitation. The main loop, was worse - cars everywhere, people strolling the roads looking to see whow as there and what was up. It was with small hope that I came to “my” spot - #24, the Stem Gem site - and saw a tent parked directly in front of the problem and another on the area where I traditionally pitch my own. No room in the inn, I realized. What to do….

I knew I was going to have to do what I do least well - ask someone for assistance. Running the back loop first, I saw one site with room for another car and a tent. It was a family. A suburban-looking type of family. “Slowww down, Nellie,” I told myself. “No need for panic. There’s probably another option.”

As I headed back toward the main loop, I noticed a site that, though not top-rate, was at least going to get morning sun, which is imperative to me. My number one criteria for a site in the place.

There were three guys at the table, readying their supper. But only one car, and only one tent. Worth a try, I figured.

Hopping out of the car, I came upon them and asked about pitching my tent. They pointed to a square by the road and said “Sure. There’s been a visitor here every night. The place has been full since last Sunday.”

Disappointment rolled through my body, imagining a 10 day trip with my claim staked at such a…..crappy spot.

Scanning the place, I noticed a small canyon heading uphill in the back, and said “I’d like to not be in your way - Let me see if I can find a spot back there.” The guys, on a 3-week tour the southwest by way of the Czech republic, said something I didn’t understand. Most likely the were saying “I don’t understand; what do you want?” hahaha


There she was….My new home. Juuuuust enough room for my tent, set in front of a flat boulder, with enough flat ground that, if I laid just right, I would have relative sleeping comfort. I looked around and saw that this would do very nicely, considering the alternatives.

And, it WAS a nice spot. The guys headed out on Saturday morning, and I took over residency, but kept my tent where it was. I found that the sleeping was actually very fine, in fact.

So….On Saturday morning, I wanted to get up early and see the guys off. I was a little….groggy.

Out of my tent in my down jacket, I set to work on organizing things in my trunk as they packed their gear. The sun came up very quickly, and cold turned to hot just as fast. Somewhere in that time frame, I switched out my down for a lighter hoodie more suitable for the day, and the next thing I knew, the guys were rolling on their way, headed up to the Petrified Forest and then on to Indian Creek. I waved good bye, took a moment to peruse my new space and felt all was right with the world. I could keep my tent in back, but be generous with the front area of the site, letting others park a car or camp in front, as had been done for me.

It was about that time that I decided I’d like to make breakfast, and headed to the car to get a box of cereal. Reaching for the door handle, I realized the car was still locked. Being a New Yorker, it was usual for me to do so, especially with a laptop, rack and camera inside. I just slept better that way.

Reaching into my pocket for the keys, I came up empty. Oh. No.

Oh yes. My pocket was barren. No keys were within.

In denial, I mentally scanned my surroundings, hoping against all hope that I was wrong….For I knew what I had done. I’d tossed the down jacket, with keys, into the trunk.

Of course I riped my tent apart, even though there was next to nothing inside. I walked the site, prospecting for the tell-tale sign of shiny metal. Nothing.

I could have kicked myself. Always, I double check the key location as I locked up the car. Always.

Except once.

And the boys had already left. Boys are helpful in a lot of situations, and it’s always been my belief that being locked out of a car was one where having a boy around would be most useful.

I knew the campsite was well stocked with males, and so I knew what I had to do - go find one willing, able and available to snake my lock.

First I thought of my neighbors, who I had heard talking and saw a woman preparing some food. I called over and explained my problem, and the lady said her brother, who was a fireman, was still asleep. But when he woke up, she’d see if he could help. But she doubted it.

By then I had walked up to her, as would be appropriate when in dire need of help. I saw an older man sitting in a chair in the rear of the site, turned sort of away and seemingly ignoring me. It was a little off-putting, for in my mind, men were supposedly happy to assist a damsel in distress. Even when a situation dictated hopelessness, a guy was always good for an honest effort.

Another belief shattered, I suppose. Truth is - I don’t think I ever needed the outright assistance of a guy who wasn’t a paid for service sort on man before. I’d heard stories from women whose men had come to the assistance of others, and always had wondered what that must be like…to see my shining night gallantly save the day. I’d always imagined how proud of my guy I would be when/if that day came for me. How I would send him off to modern battle with a smile of encouragement, trust his return after helping the beautiful maiden, and awaiting his tale of heroic effort and success.

If I was that girl whose men were both not present for my dilemma…I would not be feeling very noble. She had even suggested I call Triple A. Considering I was twenty miles from town, and my wallet and cel phone were….locked in my car….I couldn’t help feeling the shiver of rejection. To turn away a stranger in need, when you could help - at least a little; without so much as a limp offer of good luck. That’s cold.

Upon the mention of AAA, I was jolted back to the reality of my predicament Forget the Three A’s, I was envisioning a triple-digit bill, and that simply would not do. So…I thanked her and said I was sure there must be a dirt bag with some car-getting-into experience around.

As I headed back to my site to regroup, the man I’d seen sitting on a chair got up and meandered over. I wasn’t sure if he was coming to take a look at my locks until he actually stopped in front of the car! I guess I was being vetted as help-worthy or something….

Mr. Neighbor didn’t sound too promising, as he explained how times had changed and the last car he’d broken into was way back in the sixties….. But he said he’d see what he could do, and mentioned going back to his campsite to see if he could find a length of wire.

I looked down at the ground as he headed away and what do you suppose I saw, laying in the sand in front of his feet? I kid you not - it was a wire coat hanger. Do I have the gods on my side or what!? (Yes, it would appear that I do.).

So, he whipped out his Leatherman and put the snips to use, and then fashioned a ghetto Slim Jim. He poked and prodded and tinged on something metallic-sounding deep inside the door innards. Alas, it was not to be.

Just then, a park ranger ambled by and I said “I locked my keys in the trunk.” I did this because I thought he’d want to know what I was up to there, with a wire snaked down a vehicle… He came over, reminisced about such dilemmas for a moment and then said that he’d finish the campsite walk-through and if we still hadn’t gotten in, he’d call the park LEO, who sometimes has a tool kit for just such emergencies. If they weren’t packing, he said, he’d get me to a phone where I could call the dreaded $$$, I mean AAA.

Those minutes were lonnnng ones, I can tell you, and when Mr. Ranger returned, I couldn’t believe my luck when he pointed down the road and exclaimed “Oh, there they are right now!” He walked over and returned with a kind lady LEO brandishing a few plastic chocks and two wire J-shaped rods. She came toward me and said “I am not a professional….” and then got right to work. First, the guy tried to give her beta on the thing, reaching his hands out to take the tools. But she scoffed and said “Times have changed, that ain’t how to get in.” She rammed a few chocks in the door, snaked the wire down and told him to pry the door a little further ajar.


Next, she simply pressed the electronic lock and the door was sprung like a jailbird out of Mayberry on Barney Fife’s watch.

Of course… the alarm began sounding…. Luckily, it was about 9am now, and so my car wasn’t being the camp rooster announcing day’s break. We all rushed to find the trunk latch, and finally I discovered it in a little pull-out bin below and left of the steering wheel.

Popping the trunk, there were my keys, in plain sight. Hanging out of the pocket in my down jacket…..

So - it is confirmed. I am one lucky lady.

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1 comment:

GB said...

Nice blog (and good story, too). If you want to trade links, I'll link your blog to mine. I think we're doing the same thing (trip reports, etc), so it is all relevant. It would be nice to support each other. If not, keep climbing and writing.