My parents and I leave early to drive to Tinytown and see the place I will be moving into. I ask dad to drive so that I can study the way the land moves and where the river crossings are. It’s nice, every once in a while, to be the passenger in your own vehicle. As we head out the door, I remind my parents we might have to park at the bottom of the driveway and hike up. The one time I visited this property before I knew my old Chrysler wouldn’t make it even if it had a pair of angel’s wings. Dad has his work boots on and mom changes into sneakers, then we hit the road.
We summit Pumpkin Mountain near the slopes of Roan and cross a river, then cut hard to the right driving very steeply up a paved road for about a mile. Where the pavement ends, a gravel road begins and dad ploughs past the safe parking spot and up the old logging road.
“It’s a Chrysler dad,” I say, holding onto the edge of my seat. The car scrapes along the bottom of the road as we dodge rocks and pounce over a few neglected water bars.
Mom grips the door handle for support. “Bill, just park it. Let’s get out and walk.”
“Oh, we’ll be fine!” He says, gunning the engine. We spin and press on, passing a driveway backwards and to our left along the way.
“Uh oh. Dad?” I say. “I think that might have been it. Though it could be straight ahead. Gosh, I don’t remember now.”
He keeps driving straight up the steep cut into Fork Mountain. A wide creek barrels down to our right and a abrupt bank from the road moves uphill to our left. There is no place to turn around and the road is so steep that if we stop they’ll be no starting again.
“Dad, let’s just park it here and walk. No one else will come up this road and we can back it down when we’re ready.” It’s ten minutes after ten and already we are late. The car lurches, catches in a soft patch of mud and loose scree, and touches bottom. The tires spin and Mom and I make eye contact in the rearview mirror.
“Oh, we’re fine,” Dad says again. He puts it in reverse and we inch back down the mountain a few feet. He parks the car in the middle of the road and Mom and I get out to walk. “I’ll stay here and turn her around the right direction, then catch up with you. Don’t worry.” Mom and I roll our eyes and start hiking up the road.
After about 200 yards, we come across an abandoned shack and an old logging road gate that is locked. “We missed it mom,” I say. “It must be that first driveway. They knew we were coming in by car and they would have left this gate unlocked if this was the right way.” We sigh and turn back down the mountain, hopping back in the car with dad, who has the car halfway turned around so that it sits perpendicular to the logging road, the creek and cliff at it’s back, the steep uphill slope at it’s nose.
“Hop in!” Dad says, and we are off again, only this time we don’t get far at all. The nose of my Chrysler dives straight into the ditch, bouncing on a large granite boulder that holds the frame of the vehicle slightly off the road. I crane my neck out the window and see the swollen edges of my plastic bumper bent and curving, about to snap, at which point all Schultz’s immediately start cursing and abandon the vehicle. If we’re on our feet, we’re safe – right?
Or not. Dad gets back in the car and hits the gas but it is too late because we are tires spinning, wheels grinding, bumper bending, mud flying, s-t-u-c-k stuck. Team Schultz gets to work right away pushing and shoving, heaving and hollering. Then we collect rocks from the creek bed and the side of the road. We pound and push and gather and pass. We jack the car up and by now dad is up to his knees in mud, still huffing, “We’ll be fine, it’ll work out.”
I am the lightest so I have to get behind the wheel and watch my late-fifty-something parents squeeze themselves between the bumper and the uphill slope of the road, where they then hunch down and heave with all their might into the front end of the car. I slowly press the gas pedal, the car eases off the granite boulder, the bumper snaps back into place as if untouched, and we are back in business – only now we’re mud stained, sweaty, and six curses closer to hell.
By 10:45 we make it up the correct driveway, though not without hoots and hollers from mom and I as dad barrels up the 45 degree angled drive and heaves the car over water bars, scraping bottom once again. “Dad….dad….dad….Can we just…dad….Um…Christ on a crutch!” Nothing I say seems to work, though if I pulled this maneuver in his vehicle he’d have a stroke. Stuart and Sandra come out, their giant dog all barks and fluff, and before saying hello they take one look at us and apologize.
“Oh god, it was the logging road, wasn’t it? I’m so sorry.” We laugh, we drink water, we discuss the absurdity of it all. On the side I ask mom if dad pulled stunts like that before she said she’d marry him over thirty years ago. She smiles and rolls her eyes, “Oh honey.” She winks. “You don’t even know!”