Today, let me tell you a story. This is one of Jeff's and my favorite tales of misadventure. We were doing a grand loop of the Midwest during one of our winter breaks (when we still were students and had winter breaks . . . sigh). We were still living in Nashville at this time. We had been to Lawrence to see friends, my brother and sister-in-law, and my stepdad and his wife. Then we turned northeast and headed to my sister's in Illinois. We had left a bit late, so we knew we would be finishing the six-hour-drive by about eight or nine that night. It was New Year's Eve and we wanted to be in Taylorville in time to celebrate the ball dropping in Central Time.
Jeff had recently been given the use of a GPS unit by his job, and we borrowed it for our trip. The GPS was trusty, and we enjoyed having it point out alternate routes on these well-worn paths for us. After all, the wheat- and cornfields of Kansas, Missouri and Illinois can provide only so much excitement. We traveled east across Missouri on 36 Highway. We crossed through Hannibal, birthplace of Mark Twain/Samuel Clements, and onto I-72. As we got to the far side of Springfield, we decided to use the GPS to provide a fun rural road. We turned off as the sun was setting behind us. We went through small town after thriving small town. Did you know Illinois has a large amount of non-ghost, apparently non-meth-addled small towns?
We gathered that we had made a wrong turn onto the blacktop that would take us through the final stretch to Taylorville. Rather than make a U-turn on the road, Jeff opted to turn left onto a dirt road that the GPS told us would connect back to the road we wanted. It was dark and we couldn't see well. Suddenly, we realized that we were on a farm access road! This was not even a legitimately constructed road to hold the load of his pickup and the two of us. By the time we understood that we needed to get off this road and quick, we were stuck in the side of a huge mudpile. It was probably eight'o'clock.
Jeff tried to free us by rocking the truck - rhythmically gunning the gas to try to get a little traction under the tires. We didn't budge. He had a few spare lumber scraps in the truckbed (don't ask), so we wedged them under the tires to make a platform. No luck - the tires pushed them out of the way with their spinning before they could gain any purchase. We were starting to get desperate, and the reality set in that we were miles from any recognizable road on New Year's Eve. We saw a house up on the hill - I figure it was the people who owned the field we were in - and there was a light on in the window. We had no cell phone service, and the only option was to trudge up the steep hill, coated in mud from the trek from truck to gravel road, and knock on their door. I felt certain that this was the moment I was going to be murdered by serial killers.
We got to the top of the hill, knocked timidly on the door, and were welcomed by some fine farmers to step only onto their welcome mat inside the door because we were absolutely caked in wet mud. They were understandably puzzled about why in God's name we had turned onto their farm road, but they brought us their cordless phone and gave us the number of a tow truck service. Our hopes were low because it was a holiday night, but there was an answer! We told the guy where we were and he said he would be out in half an hour. We spent the next awkward thirty minutes standing on a two-foot square area while making small talk with these elderly rural folk.
The tow truck man finally arrived, and amid our profuse gratitude about coming out on New Year's Eve, we hopped in his truck and took him down the hill to where our truck was stuck. We thought this would be a quick job and we would be on our way. He backed his truck onto the mud road, hooked a thick tow chain to the underside of our pickup's bumper . . . and proceeded to get his truck completely and hopelessly stuck in the mud as well. So now we had our truck hooked to a tow truck - both mired in the mud. The tow truck man called his girlfriend. We all hopped in his truck and listened to tunes while we waited another half-hour for her to arrive. She was a sweetheart, and we thanked her relentlessly as she explained that she was missing her bowling league's championship game. We really felt like a couple of idiots at this point for driving into an access road in the dark. She drove us into town, dropped the three of us off at the tow truck man's house, and we all hopped into his truck to drive back out to the two stuck trucks.
While we were at his house, I was sure I was going to be murdered by serial killers for the second time. Instead, he offered any of the old American Pickers-type antique stuff he had in his garage to us for free. What a nice guy. We arrived back at the farm road, hooked his truck to the tow truck, and each of us hopped in one of the vehicles to steer. After a few false starts and some wiggles, His F-150 singlehandedly pulled out his tow truck and our S10 back onto the gravel road. We jumped for joy! We were free! This whole project had taken about four hours. The tow truck man charged us only $75 for this whole ridiculous experience, but we insisted on giving him a hundred. We raced back to the main highway, vowing to never again follow the GPS into oblivion.
We arrived at my sister's house at about 11:53. Her sleepy son emerged from his bedroom to find us completely covered in dried mud like a couple of chocolate-dipped bananas. He looked so confused, and then he just turned around and went back to bed. I don't remember anything else about that night, but this remains one of my all-time favorite stories to this day.