Earlier in the week Wayne met some of his caching buddies over at Eglin Air Force Base, about an hour's drive from home. It's one of the largest of all military bases in terms of area so there are lots of caches hidden there. The Air Force allows civilian cachers there...they just have to register for a permit and then call ahead to be sure the military isn't doing bombing runs or having maneuvers.
There were five of them, and although they drove over separately, they decided to all go in one vehicle from that point on. And the vehicle they chose to go in belonged to Amanda, a 30-something woman caching with her 10-year-old son. There was a valid reason: Amanda's husband was active duty and her Ford Explorer bore a sticker that would get them into areas they couldn't go in their own vehicles.
They'd barely gotten underway when Amanda assured all her passengers that they'll be safe with her, and she whipped out a pistol from under her seat and announced that it's loaded and ready. And, she went on to brag, she was an excellent marksman. She could even out-shoot her husband, an Army sharpshooter who trains Rangers. At this point Wayne began to get a little nervous; civilians aren't allowed to bring weapons on to the base. But it's too late...they're headed for the woods. Wayne said he was trying to ignore the bright orange Tenneessee sweatshirt she was wearing and the banjo music from Deliverance that was playing in his mind.
The destination was a cache with a bit of a reputation. The closest anyone had been able to get a vehicle was 1.3 miles away and then they were forced to walk the rest of the way. As you can imagine, the terrain at Eglin can be rugged and swampy. After all, they train Special Forces units there and do survival training as well. Amanda was determined she could get closer.
They bounced along a road so rough that one of they guys compared the trip to an adventure ride at Disney World. And then she took a turn on to what could only be described as a path, and Wayne was sure they were going to get stuck as the Explorer didn't have four-wheel drive. But that didn't stop Amanda...she weaved around pine trees and potholes like a running back avoiding tacklers. And she drove right up to the cache, leaving them to walk only a few feet for their find.
Fast forward to Friday. Wayne went back to Eglin, this time by himself...as I said, there are lots and lots of caches there. He planned to spend the better part of the day there so I wasn't surprised when the phone rang about 4pm. I figured it was him calling to say he was on his way home. It was him alright...but he wasn't on the highway home. He was stuck. Actually, Old Blue was stuck and he was walking 1.5 miles back to the highway so he could get a tow truck to come pull him out.
He said he knew he was in trouble when he crested a small hill on one of the unpaved roads on Eglin and found lots of soft sand on the downhill side. He was afraid to stop there, sure he'd be stuck so he went all the way to the bottom, thinking there was another road he could turn on. It was even worse. So he turned the truck around, got a running start, and attempted to climb the hill. Heavy rains earlier in the week and the excessive churning of four-wheelers making that same climb had turned the roadway into a big sandbox and Old Blue didn't have enough get up and go to make it. Rather than bury the tires deeper by continuing to try, he headed off on foot.
Rescue came via a four-wheel drive truck about an hour and $50 later, much better on both counts than we feared. And you can imagine the harassment he's been taking on all fronts since then. Here's a picture of the wheel well I took this morning right before he headed to the car wash to get rid of all the mud and sand on the underside of the truck.
Amanda might have been giving her passengers a few driving lessons the other day, but I think my buddy learned a different lesson all on his own.