In 1960, John Steinbeck wrote a book called “Travels with Charley.” It was a precursor to the many American travel books later published.
Wednesday morning, I felt an affinity with those travelers as I attempted to arrive on time for a hike with my Hiker Chicks friends. Many of the Chicks live in Townsend, Tennessee, and our typical 8-10-mile hikes often starts there. A hike of that length means a start early enough that the group can get the mileage in and get back home at a reasonable hour. Arriving late can cause problems. Eighteen minutes behind the generous hour and a half I usually allot for this drive, I hurriedly dumped my remaining coffee in a thermos, got in the car and drove off.
As often happens when one is running late, circumstances were against me. Dense fog plagued me from our driveway all the way to Townsend, slowing me down as I cautiously peered at the road. Once on the interstate, other late-running people were speeding along, dodging for position, making questionable, startling traffic decisions while ignoring safety rules and speed limits.
Once I was nearing the airport, I misunderstood the new traffic lanes and took a scenic tour through unknown territories. If it wasn’t for my trusty navigation system which, by the way, helpfully told me I was now arriving 10 minutes later than I anticipated, I might have replicated Moses and the Israelites, wandering for 40 years in a wilderness I will call “somewhere near Airport Land.”
By the time I was back on track and driving through peaceful Maryville, I decided a soothing sip of coffee was in order. Picking up my thermos and pressing the little valve button, I took a tentative sip only to have it spill all over me. In my haste to be on time, I had not secured the lid correctly and now I had hot coffee on my hiking shirt, my hiking pants, the safety belt, harness and my car seat. It was a flood.
Hastily, I grabbed the bottle of ice water I always keep in the car and at the next stop light poured icy water all over me. The light changed and now I’m sitting in water, steering with my left hand as my right hand groped for the back seat tissue box.
I dried myself as best I could, throwing used tissues into the back seat. As the light changed, I realized I was throwing coffee-soaked tissues on my boots, backpack and hat. A block or so later, at another stop light, as I began gathering up the coffee tissues and putting them in the seat pocket, I looked down to find yet more coffee. Another icy water dump, light change and more tissue mopping.
By the next traffic light, I was literally sitting in a pool of ice water. I barely had enough tissues left to mop up that pool and after that I decided not to look any more. It was all just that wonderful.
Unbelievably, I made it to the hike on time. Hiking with my friends was peaceful and fun, the hike was challenging enough without being exhausting, and the drive home was uneventful. While I hope to never have a repeat of “the coffee malfunction episode,” in retrospect I have a very funny tale to tell. How dull life would be without unexpected events. Safe driving, my friends.
Cindy Arp, teacher/librarian, retired from Knox County Schools. She loves to hike.