Wednesday, June 12, 2013

When Things Go Wrong


I’ve just had a lovely long trip in which everything went smoothly, the sea was like glass, the weather was perfect, the food was great, I didn’t get sick… which means that it will soon fade to just a pleasant but vague memory. It’s strange but the only trips we remember vividly are the times when things go wrong.

I still remember every detail of my first trip to Greece, wandering from town to town with a backpack, catching local buses, sleeping in people's spare rooms. We were two naïve girls alone, constantly having to fend off unwanted advances from Greek men who kept their own women shut away. There was only one occasion when it got really worrying—when we found ourselves alone in a house with three men and two beds. We had been invited there by an elderly man and assumed his wife would be waiting for us. A soldier and another man had accompanied us up the hill and we assumed they were escorting us out of chivalry.  When they stayed and there was no wife to be seen we got distinctly nervous. Well, nobody tried anything and we gave a good speech about promising our parents that we would not stay where there was no lady to chaperon, and eventually the soldier escorted us down the hill again. Pfew.

Another trip I remember vividly was the time we tried to be among the first tourists to Ladakh, the Himalayan kingdom that had been off limits because of its proximity to China. We had hired a Ladakhi driver to come for us with a vehicle at 4 in the morning, so that we could reach our destination by nightfall. He arrived, his face completely expressionless, not seeming to speak or understand any known language. The vehicle was an open jeep. Freezing cold. We drove and finally climbed the Zoji-la pass, 15000 feet. Road had streams running across it, herds of nomad sheep and goats wandering down it—oh and a 3000 feet drop on one side. We reached the top, kept going through wild, Himalayan no man’s land and at 4 p.m. we reached a road block, manned by the Indian army. It turned out there had been a landslide, washing away twenty five kilometers of road.  The driver had obviously known this before we started. We had no choice but to turn around and drive back.

                It began to get dark. It was bitterly cold and we discovered the driver had other little quirks—like thinking he could save gas by switching off the engine every time we went downhill. Since the hills often involved sheer drops this was not good. I sat with my hand poised and every time it went near the key I slapped it away.  We were horribly conscious of that three thousand feet drop on the Zoji-la. We had had nothing to eat since a breakfast stop at first light. We finally got back to our houseboat at midnight and the driver left without a word or a smile.

                Yes, I remember that trip pretty well. And the French farmhouse in which my first task every morning was to sweep up the bits that had fallen down during the night, or the camping trip when it rained solidly for a week and our site became a lake.  My theory is that humans aren’t meant to have it easy. We are built for survival and struggle and it’s only then that we feel fully alive. Maybe that’s why we like mystery novels—we create times of stress and heightened emotion when humans are at their most vulnerable.

So… any good survival stories to share?

I'll be giving away an ARC of my upcoming Royal Spyness book called HEIRS AND GRACES to the best story.


  1. Rhys, that is a horrifying story! And an interesting conclusion, that we aren't meant to have it easy...

    Gotta think about a story--I'll come back later but I doubt I can top that one!

  2. Rhys, I'm breathless and feeling shaky just reading about that trip with the 3000 foot drop off! Yes, I have one or two survival stories but none that will come near that.

    When we lived on our little ranch in California it rained for over a month one spring. There was a dry wash below our house, but the rain and the spring thaw kept eating away at the cliff sides along the wash. We lost our road, about 20 feet down and 200 feet across. It had been the only way out. The Piutes were behind us and were not passable except by horse. We had two unbroken horses in the corral and 10-year-old frightened twins.

    Our truck was on the other side of the flood, several feet from the edge of the Cliff that lost inches and more daily. Trees and rocks rolled by.

    A neighbor, who lived on the right side of the wash, called on the CB radio and offered to move the truck if Steve could get the key across the wash to him. So Steve waded through the water in the early morning before the snow melt got to us as the temperatures rose later in the day. He tied the key around a rock and threw it. I was sure it wouldn't make it, but it did.

    We were stranded for a month, and the roads were out for three months. We could get out through Jawbone Canyon to go shopping if we drove halfway to LA and back.

    I found out what cabin fever was. I learned that CB radios tend not to work when it's cloudy. I got to know the people (all six of them) who lived on our side of the former wash, now year-round creek, and I learned you could cook a ton of delicious things out of very few ingredients.

    The twins learned they still had to do their schoolwork, because the principal's brother would ride his horse over and deliver the assignments. He would also bring in the mail from the general store down in Onyx and bring my eggs in to sell or swap for meat or other goods. He would also relay telephone messages, because Auntie-Mom would call the store to see how we were.

    It was all kind of exciting with lots of boring bits in between the excitement. We read lots and lots of books, including the Little House series and Anne of Green Gables, to the kids. We all imagined we were out there on the prairie, in the woods, and on the banks of Plum Creek and played many of the games and activities in the books. They were the perfect age for that.

  3. Horrifying story, Rhys! Oh my goodness, I feel queasy just reading it.

  4. Rhys, I cannot top you! But I do remember a crazy van ride, zooming up to ruins in Mexico along switchbacks with sheer drops and donkey carts... halfway up the driver asked some of the people sitting on one side of the van to move to the other side. For balance. Later that year I read about a van going over the edge.

  5. Oh, Rhys, you have the most interesting experiences.

    We were on a cruise and stopped at Cap-Hatien, Haiti many years ago. Besides it having the most abject poverty I have ever seen what scared me were the guns. Guns as we got off the ship, guns on street corners. We took a tour up the mountain to the ruins of a palace. Our tour guide led us to a circle of benches and asked us to sit. He proceeded to tell us a bit about the history of the area including how, just over those mountains, was the Dominican Republic. Then the lecture turned to politics and the guards surrounding us all clicked their guns. Holy crap! The evils of communism, the Duvalliers were gods, and I was sure we were going to die on that hillside. Thankfully a group of us decided we wanted to be out of there so we told our bus driver to get us back to the ship. Once on the bus, he told us we had to go to the Cathedral but we mutinied and insisted we go back to the ship. It was very scary. Haiti was beautiful and most of the people were quite lovely, but very very poor. We were quite glad to leave.

  6. That drive down the mountain sounds horrifying Rhys.

    My one and only time on horseback was on a trip to Catalina Island. We went on a trip up a mountain with sheer drops as well and I swear my horse was suicidal. He kept going closer and closer to the edge, as if to jump off.

    I am sure that he just wanted to see the view, but that was when I realized that I had *no* idea what that horse was thinking. Maybe he was depressed. Who knows.

    Haven't been on horseback since.

  7. Rhys and Reine, those are two wild stories for a Wednesday morning. I don't have anything even remotely close.

    The best I can do is a camping trip at a small campground at the northerly tip of Cape Breton in Nova Scotia, on a night of howling winds.

    "The wind dies when the sun goes down," I reassured my partner, who was trying to keep the gale from stealing the carrots she was attempting to slice into a salad. "No worries."

    Of course, that particular bit of weather wisdom does not hold when a front is blowing through. While it never rained, the wind roared all night long. Our LL Bean tent stayed firmly in place, but it rocked from side to side all night and if we slept at all I've forgotten that part.

    When we poked our heads out of the tent about 6 a.m., we found the campground was nearly deserted. Of the twenty or so sites, all but two or three others had been abandoned in the middle of the night by campers who apparently could not take it.

  8. It's a toss-up - either it's the drive from Dodoma, TZ to Kondoa when we were stopped by a man with an automatic weapon who told us there were bandits on the road but he would protect us if we gave him money (um...was he the bandit?) The bus later caught fire and around midnight we crawled into a town whose name translated into Mosquito Village and stayed at a motel that still gives me the shivers.
    Or it was the time my husband chatted up a guy at a beach bar in Barra de Potosi Mexico and arranged to have the man - in his teeny tiny rustbucket - drive us to Mexico City. I was convinced we were being kidnapped. Probably one of those.

  9. Honorable mention goes to the time we were snowed in in a small Chinese village. Couldn't get out, no electricity in the guesthouse, no food except noodles, orange soda and vodka for 3 days. So cold we had to duct tape trash bags to the windows to keep out the snow.But that was kind of fun.

  10. Hard to imagine a worse trip than yours, Rhys. Gosh, two beds, three men, and two naive young women. Eek. You escaped that one by the skin of your pearly whites.

    My husband was out in Colorado taking photos, so I flew out to Denver to join him for a week. I had been out there before, but not up into the mountains, really. We went up through the passes and I kept getting increasingly lightheaded, nauseous, and frankly, stupid. Could barely string two words together. It didn't help one little bit that we were driving through steep gorges on winding and narrow roads, either.

    Luckily, we stayed at a lovely inn with spectacular views of nearby peaks. When we were checking in the lady owner noticed me slurring my words and she sat me down and handed me a big cup of water. "Altitude sickness," she said. "Start drinking water, and keep doing it the entire time you're in the mountains."

    I felt better in a few hours, thank goodness, and was finally able to appreciate the incredible beauty of our surroundings. Oxygen. It's a requirement.

    That was also the trip when I got to meet the legendary wildlife filmmaker Marty Stouffer, of PBS's Wild America fame. Steve had been filming several shows for Marty around then, and I got to tag along when Steve visited Marty's offices in Aspen. Good thing I was no longer a blubbering idiot!

  11. Reine, your experience was worse than mine because it was your home and family. I think on trips we're prepared more..the adrenalin is flowing.

    I think my own runner-up is being stuck alone for 2 days on the island of Delos because the sea was too rough to come and get us. Ran out of food. Then when a boat did come, it broke down halfway back and again we were stuck bobbing on big waves.

  12. Rhys, how horrifying, both the two girls-three men scenario in Greece and the driver who kept switching off the engine! Gives me shivers to think of what might have happened either time!

    My travel nightmare is closer to home. Most of my international travel has always gone well, but this was a vacation to the Missouri Ozarks with my first husband when my oldest kids were teens and my youngest a babe in arms. It rained the whole week, miserable, with us cooped up in one hotel room and my husband furious at his ruined vacation. Finally, when the rain let up late one afternoon, he insisted we'd go to this animal safari park he wanted to visit.

    A surly teenager took our money and passed us through the gates in our tiny old Fiat stuffed with the five of us. The dirt roads were muddy traps. None of the animals were fenced off from the others or the roads. A herd of wildebeests surrounded us, shaking the car, but finally left after enough beeping of the horn. It started to rain again, the sky grew dark, and we got stuck in the mud further along the road. Just as a pride of lions came up.

    My husband was digging us deeper and deeper into the mud as he gunned the engine. then the lions started trying to knock the car over to get at the tasty goodies inside. That Fiat was so small that they could claw the middle of the roof when they stretched up on their hind legs and did so. They were rocking the car, the kids were screaming, husband's cursing, and I'm holding the baby close and praying the most fervent rosary ever in the history of prayer.

    Finally, the car was knocked loose from the mud enough to get some traction--by the pushing and rocking back and forth the lions are doing--and we shot forward out of their grasp and made it on out of the park. At the gift shop afterward, we found the kid who let us through had been fired right before that. The park was supposed to be closed when storms were coming in, and he'd taken our money and left. The owners came back when they got a call about a horn honking over and over in the park--or we would not have been able to get out again until morning.

    My now-grown daughter and I were reliving that experience last week at a family event, and she told me, "I was so embarrassed afterward to realize I'd peed my pants in fear."

  13. Oh, my! You folks have been through some tumultuous times! I bow down in respect.

    Rosemary, I think you should have an annual party at which you serve noodles, orange soda and vodka. Maybe with a recipe contest! :-)

    Rhys, I totally agree with you about not remembering the "uneventful" times... what is a good trip if it's not a good story? One of my absolute best stories involves a "dog-sledding retreat." A friend waxed eloquent describing the rustic lodge in the snowy woods, the 'authentic' northwoods meals (hint -- 'authentic' is not an adjective you really want to see applied to 'meals'!) and, of course, the silence of the woods as your faithful huskies streak across the pristine landscape. Sign me up! What we actually got was a one-room electricity-free cabin with 3-high(!) plywood bunk "beds" for those lucky enough to commandeer them; others slept in snow huts; hunks of moose and fish defrosted over an oil barrel fire; being dragged behind the sled through slush for seemingly miles because the primary instruction given was "whatever happens, don't let go!" The best part was when members of the resident tribe of Native Americans dropped by to evict us because the one-room shed was where they made maple syrup. Our "guides" asked them to join us for some mostly-thawed moose and talked them out of the eviction. They told the most wonderful stories that night as we huddled around the oil barrel and I SO wish I had written them down!

  14. We adopted our daughter from Peru. This was during the time of the Marxist Shining Path group. As we drove through Lima, our driver pointed out sights like "That's where the statue of Kennedy was until the terrorists blew it up. Ha Ha." American businesses (KFC and such) had guys with rifles stationed at the entrances. Wealthy homes had wire and glass at the top of their walls and often armed guards.
    This had gotten to seem fairly "normal" when one night the lights flickered and went out and the emergency lights came on. The two locals in the hostel lobby began arguing as to whether it was a power plant failure or the terrorists. Then we heard and felt explosions. They started laughing and agreed it was the terrorists. When we spoke to our adoption agency that Sunday, our caseworker asked if we'd like her to call my mother (our only living parent) to reassure her that we were, in fact, alive and well. Realizing that my mother read the Sunday NY Times which had an article about the bombings, we gratefully accepted her offer. We found out later (a year or more) that someone we knew was in Lima at that time picking up her adopted daughter. Unlike us with our jovial locals reassuring us, she was alone with her little girls and terrified that they were going to die.
    We needed to fly into the "eye of the Amazon" to the district where she was born to see a local official. 7 of us flew out in a tiny plane. The views were spectacular as we left the desert coast and came to the jungle. We landed on a dirt track at the "airport" (a one room cinder block building). We piled into vehicles, some with windows, some without, some with doors wired shut to hold them on, and went into town. After going through the legal stuff, we waited in the park. Young boys wanted to polish my husband's suede shoes and couldn't understand why he didn't want that! As we waited, a very impressive thunderstorm was coming in. Finally, we got into another mishmash of vehicles (most without windows) and took off in the rain. One of our lawyers rode by in the back of a pickup truck, soaking wet. We all tried to squeeze into the center of the cars to get away from the open windows and rain.
    Arriving at the "airport", we found the plane wasn't there. They'd gone off to run another job while waiting. They came back and we took off in the storm.
    Mind you, several of the people with us were afraid to fly on commercial airlines. You can imagine how they felt about a 7 passenger plane flying in a thunderstorm. The co-pilot turned around after a particularly impressive blast of lightning and mimed picture taking. He said God was taking our pictures!
    Our children can never argue that we didn't really want them!

  15. Wow, love that story, Rhys. That's a good one--nice and scary. :-)

    I lived in South America for three years after college. My experience included: run-in with an ETA terrorist who stole my money; ride alongs with Ecuadorian police who were on the take; traveling through Peru, home of the then notorious Sendero Luminoso guerrillas with a knife always in hand; stranded on an island in the middle of Lake Titicaca because of rains; trying to get across the Amazon River in a little motorized boat whose motor had died before a titanic storm overtook us; having my passport stolen while in Peru (while on the so-called Indian train to Macchu Picchu) and then having to bribe officials in Lima so I could get a new passport...I'm sure I've forgotten many adventures.

    However, all that aside. My all time worst travel adventure should have been the tamest and most luxurious: a Caribbean writers retreat cruise! Seasick the whole time and then the tops of my feet got so badly sunburned while kayaking in the Panama Canal, that my feet swelled up. Second degree burns. I looked like a red-footed booby. I was miserable. I'm surprised I got any writing done.

  16. @Libby Dodd: Just read your comment. Yes, Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso)! Your comment reminded of the lights going on randomly while I was in Lima and locals saying it was the guerrillas in the hills.

    I was scared the whole time I traveled through Peru because apparently the guerrillas sometimes kidnapped Americans. But I did it anyhow. Crazy.

  17. Whoops, writing too fast: that would be--lights going OFF in Lima...

  18. Too bad my husband isn't sharing his scary travel moments. The time he got cornered by a bear in Alaska, while hauling around a big movie camera on a 40-pound tripod (filming for National Geographic); or the time he and his dad were on a trawler in the Arctic Sea with native Inuit and were forced to eat raw seal, cut right off the carcass with a communal knife, because there was nothing else to eat.

    And thank God I wasn't with him on those trips. I'd have been like Linda's daughter, faced with that bear.

  19. You're so right, Rhys! The trips I remember best are the ones where crazy things transpired.

    My crazy trip karma began when I was trapped in the Louvre with an art thief at age 23. Since then, some of my fondest trip memories are of things that happened when I got myself horribly lost. And I seem to have shared my crazy trip karma with my husband: we were in Europe during the Icelandic ash cloud that created havoc for travelers, and more recently when we tried to take a night train from Prague, our train was too long for the main train station, so we had to go to the creepy old train station on the outskirts of town. Great fodder for mystery writing...

  20. OH ho! Amazing.

    Once we went camping (!me!) On the Appalachian Trail. IT WAS POURING. ANd freezing. And up in the woods a ways, we saw--a fire.

    A FIRE.

    I said to our guide...what's that?

    ANd he slowly looked at it..and then drawled..
    "Well (more like way-ull), Baby must be out again."

    I said--"Baby?" (more like: BABY??)

    Long story short, apparently there wa a well-known firesetter in those parts, called, terrifyingly, "Baby" and he'd just gotten out of prison for his latest firesetting.

    Which made it a good thing it was raining.

  21. Oh, Hank! Made me spew tea with that! :-)

  22. Great stories Rhys. Many of my stories are too long for here - certainly the best ones anyway. However I will think about trying to get the best down from the 700 words I have in its shortest version and come back later. Love listening to others travel stories. Once we survive, the exciting ones are the best to tell of course.

  23. Why in the world would you call a serial arsonist "Baby". That is too creepy Hank.

    You just can't make this stuff up.

  24. I have to admit, these amazing stories make me want to STAY HOME!

    Though I was telling Hallie the other day about a sailing trip on a smallish boat with my sister and brother in law in the British Virgin Islands. I didn't take enough Dramamine and got sick within half an hour of leaving port. Upchucked the entire rest of the day, sitting on the small deck holding a pot with my family gathered closely around. Hallie did have to wonder why I raved about that trip:).

  25. Gee, all these stories make my family's Hurricane Vacations (we travel to hurricane-prone areas during hurricane seasons because the rates are lower then!)seem like minor irritations.

    Remind me to say "no" if one of you asks me along on a vacation:-)

  26. I know, Kristopher. Yeesh. xoo

    And oh, no, DebRo--we are FUN!

  27. Well... there was the time we were coming back from Cancun after a weeks' stay with the whole family. We had a villa with a kitchen and cooked most of our meals there to save $$, so I brought some necessities with me to complement the fresh ingredients we brought.

    Which wasn't a problem, until I arrived in Newark and tried to get through customs with three baggies of oregano, rosemary and thyme...

  28. Good Lord, there've been some hair-raising adventures amongst the Reds & Co. The earliest incident I remember of a trip gone bad took place the summer I was ten, in August of 1960, when my grandfather died. Gram, Mom, my brother Tommy and I attempted to accompany his body from Los Angeles to Arlington, VA for burial. Dad desperately wanted to join us but couldn't get time off from work.

    My grandfather was a career navy man, a Sea Bee, and he'd died on active duty, so the navy was paying for his body to be transported to Arlington. It should've been a problem-free trip. My 16 year-old brother and I were well-behaved and knew how to be supportive and helpful to Gram and Mom. Things went well until our layover in Albuquerque, NM where Gram waited too long to re-board the train. We were waiting with her, so we all missed it and had to take a bus to catch up to it.

    Again, things went well until we reached Chicago. Gram had made plans to meet up with some relatives. I don't know why, but they didn't meet us at the train station, and we ended up walking so far that Mom and Gram got blisters on their feet. When we got back to the station I was sick from the heat and vomited in the terminal before I could make it to the bathroom. Horrified and humiliated, I remember workers spreading sawdust over my mess and rolling a large wooden luggage cart over that.

    We had a layover of several hours, and my brother stretched out on one of the wooden benches, face down, to sleep. Mom wanted him to get his rest, but she was obsessed by the fact that his wallet was in his back pocket, ripe for picking. Not wanting to wake him to remove it, she sat for hours keeping watch over him.

    You'd think we'd have learned our lesson about getting back to the train in time in Albuquerque, but somewhere between Chicago and Arlington, we did it again, we missed the train. I don't remember the details, all I remember is Mom and Gram consulting with each other after it happened, then Mom asking Tommy and me, "Would you like to ride in a plane?" Good thing we said yes, because that was the plan. The four of us flew in a very small prop plane, through a thunderstorm, to National Airport in Washington, DC. That freakin' plane shook and creaked every time lightening struck it, scaring the bejesus out of us. It was the first flight for Mom, Tommy and me. The Captain let my brother and me come into the cockpit during the flight and attempted to reassure us about the weather, but to the end of his life my brother was a nervous flier, and I remain one to this day.

    When we arrived in Virginia, my Marine Uncle Bob arranged for us to stay at Hospitality House on Quantico Marine Base. Uncle Bob was my dad's brother, who was married to one of mom's sisters. Another aunt and uncle were there, along with cousins, and so was the grandmother I'd never met, the one who became known as Sarge.

    Sarge criticized everyone and everything. Ordered everyone around. Wanted to make all the decisions, but not do any of the work, or help out in any way. I didn't care for her then, and my opinion of her never changed.

    On the day of my grandfather's funeral Uncle Bob was in what he called his monkey suit, his Marine dress uniform. In 17 years he'd be buried here too. In 36 years, the ashes of my cousin Rob, a Marine and Vietnam veteran, would be interred here. But on this day, we all gathered to pay our last respects to Howard Melvin Caldwell, husband, father, father-in-law, grandpa. I'm just glad we made it.

  29. This is as short as I could do - I swear, every word true.

    Sue and I were on our way to Nice, France. Hans had joined us. It seemed like any other day in our carefree 1972 trek through Europe as we passed the time in conversation and laughter. Then we hit the French town of Cerbere and events took a bizarre turn.

    A commotion was stirring on the platform. At the centre was a man flailing his arms about and screaming in English at anyone who approached him. A station worker noticed the Canadian flags on our knapsacks, came over to us and asked in French if we could help.
    The man was lashing out at everyone around him but we reluctantly moved towards him.
    "Stay away, no one come near me", he spat out in a Scottish accent.
    He was clean-cut, the younger side of thirty, and darting around, obviously terrified to stay still. We began talking to him gently and moved closer. As Geordie told us his story, the three of us looked at each other wishing we were somewhere else, anywhere but on that platform in Cerbere.

    Geordie and his friend had been staying in youth hostels and enjoying Europe.

    "We saw something we shouldn't have and they started chasing us", he said.
    "What did you see?" I asked.
    "It's crazy... I don't know what we saw. They caught us and said we knew what we'd seen. We didn't. We were scared but were able to get away but they found us again and now they've killed my friend and they're going to get me too".
    "Who's after you?"
    "The Mafia, now do you understand".

    Frankly, I didn’t, but I was sure his fear was real. Geordie was convinced security at the station was in on it and if they took him away no one would ever see him again.

    "If they take me, I'm a dead man", he kept insisting over and over.

    "Can I stand with you and hold your hand", he said directly to me and I felt Hans protectively put his arm around me. "They won't kill four of us". That was reassuring. The whole situation became downright unsettling. Finally deciding to go to the coffee shop, we suggested he come with us. Somehow feeling safer in the open, he wouldn’t leave and begged us to stay. We walked away. I looked back to see him running down the platform with gendarmes in pursuit.

    On our way to get coffee we passed through the main lobby. On the floor lay a man about the same age as the one out on the platform. There was a large crowd around him as people helped him. His eyes were open and glazed. The floor around his head was red with blood. All three of us stood staring without a word and then moved on, stunned and still silent. Soon we heard an ambulance racing away.

    One view from the coffee shop was of the platform where Geordie was still holding court only now he held a broken bottle and was using it as a weapon to defend himself. The gendarmes were circling and promising not to hurt him. Finally they wrestled him to the ground, handcuffed him and dragged him away.

    They placed Geordie in a car next to the window where we sat sipping tea. I saw his face after they locked him in. The fight was gone; he was resigned to his fate. He stared blankly out the window. Slowly he focused. On me. On my eyes. Right through my eyes into my consciousness.

    I felt my stomach tighten. Oh my God, I thought. He is a dead man.

  30. Deb Romano/Reine
    It is 40 years later and I still can see his eyes looking at me. I have carried it with me and always will. It was a good thing I kept a travel diary or I likely would not have believed it myself.

  31. Susan, thanks for the follow up. You are so right about writing things down! I have memories from long ago that I remember vividly, yet they're so far out from the norm that I often wonder... could that possibly be real? Did he really say that? Did she do that? Was it a nightmare? I write everything down now. xxxxx

  32. Brenda, I just reread your comment and brought me back to a winter storm and flood at the Mesquite Springs campground in Death Valley. It's a good thing we had a lot of kippers, Triscuits and gorp. We couldn't keep the fire going long enough to cook. We didn't dare drive out through a lonely and deserted Death Valley with the flash flooding.

    Hah! Instead of Mesquite Springs my speech-to-text originally wrote "Biscuit Sprouts."