posted on Jan, 12 2015 @ 06:28 PM
I recently had a mini "SHTF training experience" that I'd like to share.
I live in a rural county in Texas. Most of our county roads are unpaved dirt/gravel (or, during this time of year - mud). There are many a long,
lonely stretch of road. It's almost 5 miles from our farm to the nearest paved road.
This past Friday evening my boyfriend and I were returning home from a town about 60 miles from home. When it comes to travel my bf tends to stick to
the same routes. I've shown him shorter ways from this town (and others) back to the farm but he tends to stay with what he knows. This evening,
however, he decides to put his new GPS to the test and tells it to show the shortest route home.
We're driving along and I know where we're going, because I've taken these alternate routes many times, when the GPS sends us off down a county
road with which I wasn't particularly familiar. Several turns and several miles later we are on a very dark stretch of road and soon find ourselves
buried to the axle in huge muddy, water-filled ruts that look to have been made by monster-truck size tires (we learn later that this strip of road is
virtually impassable for most vehicles from about December to March each year - something the GPS is not aware of, evidently!).
Cell phone coverage is spotty at best. Calls made to my daughter and son-in-law back on the farm never went through. We were on our own. So, We decide
It's about 11:30 at night. After getting enough reception to check Google Maps I realize where we are. I'd actually been on this road a year or so
back with my daughter and s-i-l (when it was not a muddy mess) while geocaching. It's almost 13 miles from our farm but only 3 or so miles from a
main FM road where we might be able to hitch a ride. As it turns out, during our entire walk we never encountered any vehicles. Didn't even get the
chance to shake our fists at anyone passing by and not stopping!
The walk from the truck to the paved road included a detour due to a deep, wide ditch that even on foot was not passable (I tried -- after taking off
my shoes and socks and rolling up my pants legs I stopped about a 1/3rd of the way when the (icy) water reached my knees). So, we backtracked a little
ways, adding another mile to the journey.
Eventually we left the paved road and traveled a back road through a cattle ranch reaching our farm about 6 hours after we first set out.
Lessons learned... I won't dwell too much on supplies. Although it was below freezing (it had been sleeting earlier in the day) the weather proved to
be no big problem. We were both dressed warmly and had on foot gear that wasn't wholly inadequate for a 14 mile trek (although mud boots would have
greatly helped during the first few miles).
We had flashlights & extra batteries. I had an emergency blanket although we never needed it. A scarf or face mask would have been nice during those
times when had to walk into the light but chilling wind. No, material "stuff" wasn't an issue. The issue was the "stuff between the ears."
The two things that proved to be most valuable on this 6 hour walk in the middle of the night are things you don't keep in a backpack or a pocket:
Attitude and Knowledge (specifically, knowledge of the area you're traveling in).
ATTITUDE: I kept calm. Stayed positive. Focused on the task at hand (getting home). I kept a steady pace, interruped only when I had to stop to
wait on my boyfriend. There were some uncomfortable moments (aching legs, a small blister) but all-in-all I chose to look on the bright side (hey, it
wasn't raining or sleeting and we weren't 20 miles from home!). Can't say the same thing for my boyfriend. OMG.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, first, berating yourself for the first mile really doesn't help the situation. Sure, it was probably a
dumb move to take that route in the first place and not back away at the first sign of trouble (there were a few muddy tracks he manuevered past
before hitting the big mud pit). However, at this point what's done is done. Getting mad at the world, getting mad at the mud, getting mad about the
distance, and complaining and yelling and whining... oh the whining... does not help. Sure, his legs were hurting and every time he had to take a
break there was more complaining about the cold. That mud was not easy to walk through. But still, a lousy attitude makes lousy circumstances that
much harder to deal with.
In order to hold onto my own sanity I found (and he later concurred) that getting him to talk about things other than the cold, the pain, the long
walk, etc. really helped. We discussed "stuff" that would have been nice to have with us (such as an extra pair of socks or a more comfortable
backpack). Toward the end of the walk I even got him to laughing and making jokes about our little trek. One particularly hilarious moment (well, to
me anyway) was when he freaked out thinking some giant bee or something was buzzing his head... it was actually a cow mooing at us from out of the
darkness. I seriously was laughing for the next mile and teasing him about that killer cow. It helped to lighten his mood for a little while.
If you find yourself in similar circumstances and dealing with someone with a less than positive or helpful attitude. Try to get them talking. Get the
focus off all the bad aspects of your situation.
KNOWLEDGE: Out of everyone who lives at our farm I'm the only one who knows more than one way to get in and out of our area. We live on a dead
end county road and there are 1 or 2 main routes we take in and out. But I know at least five ways to go and I'm the only one here that can get to
the nearest towns and the nearest city without ever getting on a paved road. We've had fallen trees block the way. Bad weather, a wreck, even slow
moving tractors can block the way. It just makes sense to know alternate routes.
Right from the beginning of our trek my bf repeatedly asks "Are you sure you know where we are?" or "Are you sure this is the way to go?" Yes.
Yes. YES!!!! Initially when we left the paved road to take the "back way" to the farm he was resistant. He wanted to stay on the main road until we
reached the roads we normally drove. It was only because I insisted that it would add another 3 or 4 miles to our walk that I was able to convince
him to take the route we did take.
Maps (paper or online) are great and all. Google Maps helped me get oriented quickly when we first started our trek. But actual experience driving (or
biking or hiking) your area is even more valuable. How many ways do you know to get back home if the SHTF while you're at work or at the grocery
store? Having a bag full of "stuff" can make the journey a little less arduous but a good attitude and not having to worry about getting lost are
even more important.
Well, that's my story folks.
Also: Be careful making assumptions about who will or won't be an asset or a hindrance in an emergency situation. My big strong 41 year old boyfriend
was the one with the attitude problem & terrible sense of direction. I'm a slightly overweight 56 year old grandmother with a cranky hip. I must brag
that if this had been a graded test I would be the one passing with flying colors. (Although, we both collapsed when we got home, barely moving for a
full 24 hours!) After this I'm never going to be able to get him to take the backroads.