Sunday, April 02, 2006


After capping off the sites with a trip down into the cone of extinct volcano Capulin, in Northern New Mexico, we head back up to civilization and spend a pleasant night with my brother and his family near Colorado Springs. Greg’s field site is not too far away from them, so we decide to revisit it on the way home.

During our first stop there, the batteries on Greg’s handheld computer failed, so we had to cut the surveying short. Before we left, I saw some abandoned farm buildings in the distance. I thought it would be fun to have a look around since we knew nobody lived there. The road goes right by them, but hidden between us and the buildings is a big, deep mud hole, and wouldn’t you know it? My expert driving gets us stuck right in the mud. Ughh. We are trapped, miles from anywhere and anyone. We strategize and Greg gets out to push. Not much friction anywhere and his shoes now have about 18 pounds of mud caked on each. Still, not much choice but keep trying. What a great start to our trip. Some rocking of the car, some turning of the wheel, some pushing, slipping, and sliding, and we are finally free. Very muddy, but free. So much for the farm buildings.

When we return to the site five days later we are sure to have recharged batteries and a renewed respect for mud holes. Luckily it is drier now. We enjoy some more surveying, but it is the end of a long trip and the boys are anxious to get home. We finish up and get in the car to return to the house much to their jubilation. Turn the key. Car is dead. The boys had been playing the car and had left the lights on for what, maybe two hours? Uggh. But hey, no problem, it is a stick shift and we are at the top of a hill. We have the whole length of the hill to jump start the car. Once again, my expert driving has us halfway down the hill without a started car. I ask Greg what I am doing wrong. Turns out I should also have the key in the ignition turned on. Ooops! I have another chance, so try again, the car starts, then stalls again and now we are in a saddle at the bottom of the hill. No momentum. No nothing.

Hmmm. Only option is to push it up the hill and try again. We push it up the hill a bit in front of us and try to jump start it in reverse. No luck. We try this two more times. No results. The kids are distraught. Then we decide to back it up the hill behind to try again in first gear. It is hard pushing up hill. We pull the emergency brake and rest in between bouts of pushing so we can get even higher up the hill. We draw marks in the dirt as goals to reach. We count and sing sea shanties to coordinate our efforts. Rees helps and it is really helpful. We empty out the car to lighten it. We are exhausted and we can’t get it any further up the hill. This is it. Our last chance in the middle of nowhere. For some reason, I am entrusted with this chance. I put in the clutch, let off the brake, give it some gas, and, when I am at the very bottom of the hill with maximum momentum, I let out the clutch, and, yes, the engine kicks in. We’re saved! Engine running, we reload the car and we are off for home.

All this fancy equipment, but it’s useless without batteries. Maybe we should invest in a solar charger, or a horse.