#36 Heroes Sometimes Drive Jeeps

Moving to Mexico has certainly reduced the number of times my cell phone rings.  Most people communicate via What’s App text and I no longer receive those pesky calls from “Scam Likely” so a jingle from my phone often means a family member is calling or a San Carlos level “emergency”.  So when my phone rang one Monday afternoon I quickly picked up. On the other end was my friend Amy, asking, “Are you up for a rescue mission?”

My mind began to spin.  What kind of saving could she need?  A few pesos short at la tienda?  A dog loose on la playa?  Someone is short a set of snorkel gear?  Such are the emergencies in San Carlos.

Playing it off lightly Amy claimed she and a friend, Paula, had been riding an ATV and had managed to get stuck.  Unable to drop a pin due to lack of signal, she quickly provided directions to their location.  “We’re a little past Cactus Island just beyond La Manga 3.  There’s a trail to the right before you get to the parking lot. That’s where we took the trail off to the right then made another right and a left.  We are on the side of a hill near a barbed wire fence.” My brain ticks for a few seconds as I realize generally where they are which happens to be in the middle of the desert.  “Oh, and it would be great if you could bring something to cut down a tree because we are wedged up against one and we ran over the ATV’s winch.”  For the record, that parking lot she referred to is a flat piece of dirt overlooking the shore.  Those rights and a left are in the middle of nowhere.  Then she added, “And if it’s not too much trouble, can you bring some water?”

This wasn’t a snorkel gear situation, this was an actual problem.  Somehow these two intelligent women managed to get themselves into a bit of a mess.  By this time of day, the temperature is in the upper 90’s but feels well above 100.  The landscape is full of cacti and scrub brush offering little to no shade.  They had tried to move the vehicle themselves for more than an hour.  Now, while I won’t share their ages, let’s just say these women are not spring chickens in an under 50 sort of way.  These mature ladies ride ATV’s out into some of the most secluded and beautiful places multiple times a week and definitely know how to handle themselves, so if they are asking for assistance…it can’t be good.

Ready for action. No sense in washing this baby.

Eavesdropping on the call, Mike had already started to load our orange Jeep.  Ropes, bow saw, straps and a hitch were piled into the back along with a cooler shoved full of water bottles, sodas, neck cooling towels and ice.  With one last check of a satellite map of the dirt trails we headed to the desert to rescue our friends.

We jumped into the Jeep and shot north out of town until the asphalt ended. We sped through the small fishing village of La Manga where we took a right at a battered orange traffic cone that boldly marks the turn to La Manga 2, an even more remote fishing village.  We maneuvered through the desert viewing cacti and cows along the way then by passing the even smaller village of La Manga 3.  We bumped down the dirt road to the cattle crossing marking the point of entry to a private ranch.  While we’ve never been stopped entering this property, as we rattled over the cattle guard I hoped this was not the day the owner was on the lookout for trespassers.  We zigzagged toward the mountains only to do a 180 to face the Sea of Cortez.  On the horizon we could see the rocky Cactus Island and the soft sandy shore and rolling waves of the water…there are worse places to be stuck.

As directed we turned right onto the small trail just before the flattened dirt section where the trail instantly became ATV sized as our Jeep Wrangler squeezed through the thorny brush.  We veered right at the split and I attempted to contact Amy.  She shouted, “We can see you!”  Looking around I see nothing but desert.  Then out of the corner of my eye an orange dot is bouncing on the side of a rather large hill.  It’s them!  Paula, wearing a bright orange tank top stands out like a beacon.  

While the sand deepening trail physically took us away from the stranded ladies it eventually wound back toward them.  As it did, the trail tightened and increased in steepness.  Deep ruts in the ground met us as we climbed the final 100 yards.  There we found two exhausted yet smiling women and much to our surprise a small dog named Sophie.

Water and cool towels were the first courses of action.  Sophie was moved to the shade of the Jeep where a tiny bowl of water allowed her to drink to her heart’s content.  Meanwhile Mike surveyed the situation. 

Not a horrible place to be stuck in the sand.

The vehicle was stuck in the sand on the edge of the hill and wedged against a small, mesquite tree.  A branch of the tree had managed to wind its way into the side of the ATV.  Moving it any direction could cause severe damage. Since the tree was literally holding the ATV on the hill sawing it down would create an even larger problem. 

Mike removed the branch that was  blocking the steering with his trusty bow saw.  Next he unhooked the winch from the fence and physically lifted the front end of the ATV so that Amy could slide the cable out from under the tires.  The winch hook was positioned on the front of the Jeep and I backed up taking out the slack. 

With Paula on the ATV, Mike pushing from the back, I held fast in the driver’s seat of the Jeep as Amy took photos for prosperity.  Paula engaged the winch and pulled the machine free of the sand.  

After a cheer of joy Mike and I hopped into the Jeep and slowly backed down the steep hill. With Sophie in my lap, her face buried in the AC vent we backtracked the route through the desert to the main road of town.  As we passed off the cute canine to Paula, she said, “You two are heroes in my book. You’re my angels.”  A few weeks later at a small quarterly birthday celebration, Amy wrote in Mike’s card, “I for one am sooo glad you were born! Otherwise, I might still be lost in the desert!”

Regardless of where you live, we all do our part to help others when asked.  A ride to an appointment?  A cup of sugar?  A pull from the sand?  One’s emergency simply becomes another’s adventure.  As the sun set over the Sonoran Desert on that fateful evening rumor has it that at least two residents of San Carlos believe that heroes sometimes drive an orange Jeep.

October 6, 2020

“Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

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