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Learning New Four-Letter Dirty Words in Geology Class

It's a world of a different color where I'm camped now compared to Moab, which is just a couple weeks in the rear view mirror. Here in the lower Rio Grande Valley the world is grey, brown, and buff, which is rather bland compared to the red sandstone of Moab.

After a night of hard rain it began to dry up.  I needed to go to town to do the usual errands. (Here an RV travel blog should begin spoon-feeding the eager reader with every minute and mundane detail of his errand and shopping trip.) The road was a recently graded county road, with a hard gravel surface. But at one spot the color abruptly changed from buff to "red". Having been in Moab recently, I thought that it was a small area of red sandstone. Still, a slow yellow light began blinking in the back of my head. Then there was a small dip. I was surprised how difficult it was to get back up the hill. Whew! That was close. What the heck kind of sandstone do you call that?

A couple hours later, the errands were over and I looked forward to returning home on a drier road. Once again I was driving through the dip in the red/brown dirt: the slope of the road caused me to slide to the right edge, the lower edge, where water had drained. In seconds the van was up to its axles in plastic gook. You've probably already guessed the dirty four letter word for the day: C-L-A-Y.

Normally I think in terms of geology; but today's "class" was in rheology. Three feet from the right edge of the road, all seemed normal. A few inches closer to the right, and it turned remarkably plastic. My foot would sink in three inches. I made a noble effort with rocking the van and straightening the front wheels, but the combination of slopes doomed me to a shameful surrender, that is, calling my towing service who promised a tow truck in 3 hours.

What was I to do until then? So I walked to the chile farming area about a mile away. Demographic profiling is supposed to be a bad thing, but there are times when you can't avoid it. That works in both directions. If I had had the advantage of being a slightly attractive woman, I would already have been rescued; I could have just leaned against the van, preened and primped a little bit, swished my tail a couple times, and then some silly man would have magically appeared from behind a creosote bush. Actually, it probably would have been a couple of silly men, with each trying to show that he knew more than the other guy.

Let's see now: who should I target? Obviously not somebody with a small or clean car. There was no point in asking a woman. If I'd asked a bourgeois-yuppie-gringo type he would have thought that, if my story were actually true, I should just call my towing service, Platinum Card service, or push the Onstar button on the dashboard; and if I couldn't do any of this, well, I was probably just a recent parolee who didn't even have an automobile and was just cooking up a story to get into his SUV and steal his iPhone.

It seemed like the best bet would be a middle-aged male, blue collar or maybe a farmer: a guy who liked solving problems the old-fashioned way, with his hands and experience and common sense. But was there still anyone like that in America? And could they speak English?

I'm pleased to say that I struck gold on the second try: a middle-aged, male, Mexican employee of the chile company, who was driving an older, non-clean pickup truck. He even grinned when I mentioned the specific road, as if it were well known locally. He had me out of there in a few seconds, and I gave him some gasoline money out of gratitude.

Now, what is the moral of this story? Some gloating readers want to hear me admit that my next tow vehicle should be a four wheel drive machine. But I hardly see how a tow rope and ten seconds of work every five years justifies spending an extra $14,000 on the pickup truck. Or should I change towing services? Nah, none of them provide instantaneous service and if they tried, it wouldn't be affordable. My adventure would never have happened if I had been driving more towards the center of the road, or if I had stopped the van and probed the ground on foot before committing myself.


The county put some of that clay stuff on some of these roads too, like greased glass. Got on one one time, swore i'd never do it again. Worst thing, they brought it in, wasn't native. It's granite gravel here.
You must have some very popular county road guys. Do they plan on getting re-elected? I'm familiar with granitic gravel; good stuff.
Most have been paved now, cheaper to do than grade all the time. Granite gravel IS our native stuff, lol. Was no reason to put that clay there. O well, gone now.