26 July, 2014

Urban Idiots to the Rescue


To quote her Majesty the Queen, there was a difference of sand on the beach this year. Last summer, once you made your way through the dunes, the fine silky sand gave way to hard, almost concrete like, compacted by the waves, beach. It was always a little damp from the high tides during the night, hard on your feet, impossible to dig into, and forget about laying on it to tan – a chair was a must. This time the beach was covered in soft mounds of white sand, rougher in texture than the dunes and varying in thickness. It was obvious that the sand was brought in, they do it in Miami Beach all the time. I missed the old sand.

St. Augustine Beach is public, and you can drive on it to find the spot you want. It is a one way road marked with orange cones, one way in, one way out. You drive off the paved road onto the sand, drive for a little while and then park in a makeshift parking area next to the dunes. The beach visitors that drive in live no near the beach so they pack their car full for a whole day visit. And, since it is beach driving not a single vehicle is a car, all either trucks or SUVs. Jeep Wranglers are the best, ones with huge tires. However, none of these vehicles are all-wheel drives as I found out. It’s the South, there is no need for an all-wheel drive when you get no snow.

Last year driving on the beach was like driving on a normal road, just a little more dusty. The sand was so compacted, the tires gripped perfectly. This year, the soft fluffy sand presented a new experience to all these drivers. And for some reason, in the area between the orange cones, it was a whole foot deeper than anywhere else. So, for the entire week, we watched every day as countless cars got stuck in the sand. The interesting part was they were all domestic makes, with large pick-ups (F-150 or similar) having the toughest time. The Japanese would just sail right by, smoothly and with ease. The Germans were not participating in the beach off-roading and parked in the paved lot by the pier.

It was our beach past time: stand in the cool ocean water, and watch a truck attempt to get out of a sand trap. It was quite funny actually. Until our last day on the beach. That morning, when we came to down to the beach, we noticed that the sand between the cones was unusually soft, our feet were sinking deep into it. There were several deep groves made by spinning tires of cars that already got stuck. This was going to be interesting.

Sure enough, soon a Chevy Tahoe made its way down the sand and promptly got stuck in the deep soft part. The more he tried to get out, the deeper he dug his back tires in. At some point, the driver got out (so the car was in park) yet the back tire kept spinning. He was completely stuck.

Behind him was a Jeep Wrangler with huge wide tires and a steel cable system mounted to the front. Locals, they came prepared. The Tahoe was a tourist. The Jeep’s driver got out and offered to help the Tahoe. From our ocean viewing spot, we figured that it was the weight, there was a platform with enormous cooler attached to the back of the SUV. They figured that out as well, and unloaded the entire car. The Jeep hooked the cable up to the back of the Tahoe and they attempted to slowly pull it out in reverse. The engine revved up, the tires just spun themselves deeper and deeper.

Ten minutes later, they were still spinning but not moving. We were in the water watching. I was starting to feel bad for the Tahoe, it was a family with small kids and no one else but the Jeep was offering to help them. At some point, a Toyota pick-up truck smoothly sailed around them, not even slowing down. Then I remembered something that might actually help them out. I left Terry and Danny to their bucket fishing and walked over to the Tahoe.

(Now,  for the rest of the story, you have to keep in mind that I was in a bikini, a straw hat, wearing bright orange nail polish on my hands). I walked over the Tahoe and said:
      “I don’t know where you guys are from, but I’m from Illinois and when we get stuck in the snow, we put floor mats under our tires to gain traction. Same principle should work here.”
The driver looked at me and said: “Floormats?”
       “Yep. Floormats.” I replied.
       “Hey, Hon!” he called out to his wife “here! Take the floormats!” he gave her the floormats which turned out to be nice ribbed rubber ones. The wife, with her perfectly done French manicure, and I dug the back tires out of the sand and shoved in the floor mat. I stepped way back, these things tended to fly off in all the directions once the car was out. We all held our breath, the Tahoe slowly revved up, the Jeep’s cable pulled taught, the back tires caught the mats, and Voila! Tahoe was out by a foot. We repositioned the mats, and tried again. More progress. The wife was smiling, looked like there were going to make it out of this mess.
       “Floormats?” she asked, “wow. We’re from Georgia, we don’t get snow. The whole state goes into a crisis when we get 6 inches.”
        “We got so much snow last winter, we had no where to put it. The mounds were taller than your truck,” I replied.
        “I heard kitty litter works too,” she said.
        “Now, that’s for ice,” I explained. 

At some point we decided that the Tahoe needed additional muscle so we started pushing it from the front. The only cool spots for us to put our hands on were the headlights. So there we were, two women in bikinis with pretty nails, placing floormats under tires and then pushing a huge SUV out of the sand. I got their whole life story while we were sweating together, told in a beautiful Southern twang. We griped about the new sand, they have been coming to the beach for four year and never got stuck because this sand was never here before. Finally, when the Tahoe was almost all out and we were just attempting to maneuver it to a solid ground, a man and his teenage sons came over to help push. he also had a Southern Twang and said something about no need for women pushing a car. The Tahoe, once finally cleared, found a sand-free patch by the dunes, and parked. He was facing the wrong direction of traffic, but he didn’t care. He wasn’t about to brave the sand again.

We never hugged or said goodbye. Once the car was out, I went back into the ocean to wash off the sand covering me head to toe. The family sat up camp with a large bright orange tent sporting an enormous T for University of Tennessee. Just like me, the wife jumped into the ocean to wash everything off; the husband stretched out on the chair and took a long smoke break. I went back to looking for shells. 

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