The tires locked up as I pressed hard on the brake pedal but the truck wouldn't stop. We weren't moving very fast but the ice and slope of the hill trumped my 4 wheel drive and my truck slid sideways, towards the edge of the cliff. It was New Year's Eve 2012 and we were in the mountains of New Mexico. Is this how it ends?
Up to this point our Christmas vacation had been a total dumpster fire and sliding off an icy cliff would really make for some bad memories. But as crazy as it sounds, potentially plunging off a cliff was only half the story. The following is a true account of our Christmas vacation with only a few names changed.
(Editor's note: as you read through the chronological order of events imagine the don DUH sound from Law & Order as you reach the end of each day's description. It will make the story really bad ass)
Day 1: Wednesday
We got the truck packed and the kids buckled in and were ready to leave. The cable guys were at the house again burying the cable line because the line gets cut every Tuesday and I have to call and give 15 different pass codes and the make of my first car and my phone number to a guy named Abigail even though the robot already told me the phone number I'm calling from but Abigail is always very sorry for making me wait. So the cable guys assured me they'd get the line buried in almost the same place as before and the cable would be back on when we got home. We exchanged Christmas presents and I told them to tell Abigail I was sorry for the bad words and I jumped in the truck and we headed North. Keith and his family followed us as we barreled down I-10. don DUH
Day 2: Thursday
Bought the first of several losing lottery tickets when we stopped in Tatum to get some chocolate milk, Doritos and energy bars for the kids. We'd spent the night in Midland and crossed into New Mexico a little later than planned because Keith wanted to stop and buy some new Moon Boots. My wife found some sweet coats for the kids at the same store.
Our convoy rolled into Ruidoso at about 3 so we hurriedly unloaded our suitcases and got a fire going before the sun went down. Keith and I went to the grocery store to buy some beer, wine, milk, hot sauce, deodorant and French Bread while our wives knitted or whittled or something. We also picked up some lottery tickets and medicine because Baby Cash had a fever and we rented some movies. don DUH
Day 3: Friday
Some big deer scared Keith when he was getting his guitar out of the van so he stayed inside most of the day researching sting rays. Baby Cash's fever was worse and Keith's daughter was really sick as well. To make matters worse we realized we had a plumbing problem so I started calling every plumber in the phone book, with no luck. I finally found a guy that agreed to come out Saturday morning. Until then no showers, no washing dishes, no laundry, and definitely no flushing. Six kids and four adults with no water, no problem! Keith and I were heading out to watch Tech's bowl game so it would help with the plumbing. It was a great hour with queso and beer and Tech football but we had sick kids back at home.
We left at halftime and I relied on VTM reports on my phone to find out we won and I wondered how many times a poor little gopher's heart can be ripped out and stomped on by a Red Raider with his boots on. don DUH
Day 4: Saturday
The deer and sickness and plumbing problems forced Keith and his crew to pack up the van and head back to Texas. My plumber didn't show so I scrambled to find another, almost calling Abigail when the situation looked most bleak. Finally, a nice man plumber and his son showed up and fixed things for only $460. don DUH
Day 5: Sunday
Baby Cash started to feel better so we went out for Calamari and Sissy got some fried broccoli. It was a nice afternoon and snow started to gently fall on the village. On the way back to the cabin we picked up a few movies and some lottery tickets. BroBro (the 3 year old) really loved Rock of Ages. Tom Cruise's character inspired him to take his shirt off and hang from the laundry bar in the doorway for most of the movie, singing "Rock and Roll Forever Never Dies" repeatedly. don DUH
Day 6: New Year's Eve
We awoke to find a fresh layer of snow on the ground. The kids were ecstatic but it was too early and cold to sled so I turned on Rock of Ages, hung BroBro up on the laundry bar and cooked breakfast. After our toast and noodles we bundled up and hit the "slopes" And by slopes I mean steep hills close to the house between large tree stumps and a dumpster. Fortunately, nobody ran into the dumpster too hard except Sissy but she's tough and she was well layered so it was a great afternoon.
After a few hours we headed back to the cabin to clean up so we could go visit some friends further up the mountain. It was snowing pretty good but the roads seemed OK and we had GPS and 4 wheel drive. As we got closer I saw the sign that said "No Road Maintenance Beyond This Point, Enter At Your Own Risk" but the sign was small so if it was really dangerous it would be printed in red with lights and stuff, right?
If it was dangerous they woulda made a better effort to stop us. Plus the GPS said I had to go another 1/2 mile so we went.
About 50 yards down I started to worry. The road had a steep drop followed by a sharp turn, all covered in snow and ice. But the view was absolutely breathtaking! You could see far into the valley and the mountains off in the distance with no guardrails or protection to block any of nature's beauty. We learned later that this particular turn is named "Eagles Nest" because only eagles go up there. Now there was a nimble F250 with a big Double T sticker about to make the trek.
I slowed to a crawl, but the truck slid. The back end started to come around the left side and my wife began to shake and the kids were eerily quiet which is rare but cool and all the while I was pumping the brakes but the truck wouldn't stop. They say your life flashes before your eyes in moments like this but all I could see was a big tree on the edge of the cliff that I hoped would stop us if I could steer into it.
I kept trying to ease into the brakes and guide the truck toward the tree when suddenly we stopped. I shifted into reverse to try and back out but we started sliding again. It stopped after a few feet and my wife ordered all three kids out. After they were at a safe enough distance I tried again to reverse up the hill with no luck. My wife told me later that she took the kids far enough up the hill so they wouldn't see the truck fall off the side of the cliff. She's always so good at planning ahead.
There were lots of tree branches around so I started to shove as many as I could behind the tires to get some traction. It helped a little as I was able to move about 20 feet back up the hill but no further. A man walked out of his house up by the tiny caution sign and said he'd never seen any trucks make it through there before. Thanks bro.
Our friends arrived and took us to their house so my wife and kids could warm up. Then they took me back to the truck to try and dig it out. My buddies shoveled away some of the snow and ice and sat in the bed as I spun the tires again. We were able to get it turned a bit and then they pushed the side and spun me all the way around and I drove up to the safety of a well maintained road. I grabbed the family and we got our asses off that mountain real quick.
We got back to the cabin, ready to celebrate but BroBro didn't want to hang from the laundry bar and sing rock and roll. He had a fever. don DUH
Day 7: New Year's Day
The weather started to clear so we loaded up the truck to head home. Packing for 3 kids is no easy task and it takes several hours. Baby Cash started walking a few weeks ago and he's really good at walking to the bathroom and to the refrigerator which means he's gonna be a really successful man, but he makes packing and simple tasks and living very difficult.
Finally, we had it all loaded and I tried to start the truck to let it warm up.
It wouldn't start.
The alternator was almost dead. Our Tech neighbor drove me to Western Auto but they didn't have one in stock. He'd have one in the next day and he let me borrow a battery and jumper cables to get the truck going again so I could drive it in. So, with my battery and cables I went to the grocery store to get some medicine for BroBro's fever. The truck died before I finished. Tried to jump it but no luck. We called a tow truck and a nice man from Poteet loaded all our stuff into his truck and took Sissy and me to the cabin. don DUH
Day 8: I'm supposed to be at work damnitt and it's Baby Cash's Birthday
The nice man from Poteet picked me up and took me to Western Auto to pick up my truck and we loaded up again and finally escaped New Mexico. I bought some lottery tickets and gummy worms along the way but didn't win again. We made it to Midland at about 8 o'clock and ate some chicken. It was Baby Cash's 1st birthday so we let him shove his face in a cup cake. don DUH
Day 9: I hope I don't get fired
We left Midland at the crack of 11 and didn't even stop at Taco Villa. There was a snow storm heading for West Texas and we got the hell outta there. I barely had time to buy some lottery tickets and pork rinds before the storm hit.
We made it home at 4:29 and unloaded all of our stuff. I turned on the TV but the cable was out so I called Abigail and gave him my phone number and the make and model of my first car and he apologized for taking so long. Sissy had a fever and BroBro threw up on the dog (Lola Maria) while Baby Cash headed straight for the fridge to unload all the lower shelves for us again.
After I cleaned up Lola Maria I went to Las Palapas to pick up supper. On the way I stopped at a gas station to buy one more lottery ticket. The clerk asked me if I was feeling lucky and I smiled.
Yes. Yes I am.
I'm lucky that there are so many nice people in West Texas and Eastern New Mexico and Poteet and Western Auto, and all were willing to lend a hand to an idiot in a big broken truck. I'm lucky to have good friends that like sting rays and snuggies and aren't afraid to spin my truck while I'm burning the rubber off the tires. I'm lucky to be able to come home to Texas and I'm lucky to have had the opportunity to listen to guys like Jack Dale and Ryan Hyatt on the radio and to be a part of a big Red Raider Matador family.
Most of all though I'm lucky to have Sissy and BroBro and Baby Cash and their beautiful mama to share these vacations with.
And also Tom Cruise and Abigail.
Happy New Mexico!