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It was March 2005, sunny and warm, and we had just finished a run down the Farmlands section of the White Salmon. I suppose I'll join in the cacophony of boaters and complain about the flows, it seemed like we hadn't had much of a season. Of course, the snowmelt rivers were going early, so Ryan Windsor and I headed up to the Columbia Gorge in search of adventure.
The flow on this day was about 2.5 feet, which was highest it had been for a long time due to lack of rain. Ryan is kind of new to the area ( and the Farmlands was the last of the gorge runs that he hadn't paddled ) so our run was a little more interesting for me as well.
For the shuttle, I had brought along my trusty Moped, which my sister had given me last year when I drove out to Chicago to visit her. Of course, the Moped wasn't registered in my name and still had Illinois plates, so I was pretty leery about doing the shuttle on any main-stem road.
I drove up the gravel road to the main road and waited because a car was coming. Suddenly the hairs stood up on the back of my neck and I just knew.. it was a cop.
Sure enough, it was a deputy Sheriff, and he blew by, headed north. Towards the put-in. Going my way, so to speak.
"Damn." I thought. "You gotta be kidding me!"
So I sat there, not sure what to do. I had already been pulled over once doing a shuttle, narrowly escaping a hefty ticket. Of course this was different. I was from out of state, a long way from anywhere, and he was probably bored out of his mind..
If he caught me, I didn't stand a chance.
So I waited for a minute or so, then I eased out onto the road and headed north. Somehow, the cop was still visible in the distance, and he seemed to be slowing down.. "oh @#?$*!!" I groaned inwardly as he slowed, slowed, and then finally pulled over to let me go by.
Run or Pay.
I calculated my chances: I figure he had a 400 horsepower engine, a racing suspension, and a couple of guns. I had a 1.5 horsepower engine, wheels the size of a lawnmower, and a PFD.
For me, this was an easy decision: I ran for it.
As the cop pulled out, I gunned it. My little Moped engine was screaming as I topped the rise and dropped out of his line of sight. I figured he would catch up to me in about 2.5 seconds, so I had to get off the road quick!
Just over the rise and there was a gravel road turn off, and I took it without slowing, tires spinning, gravel flying everywhere. The trees were whizzing by, and a couple of hundred yards up the road I spied a break in the trees, turned left, and rode straight off the road into the woods. Somehow I didn't hit a tree or crash, and after fifty feet or so I dumped the Moped and took off running through the woods like a rampaging axe murderer.
Somewhere in the back of my mind, my logical self screamed: "What in the @#*$ are you DOING?!?" But, ( as is often the case ) I ignored my logical self and kept running..
About fifty yards later I burst through the brush and skidded to a stop on another gravel road. Oh shit, the road forked somewhere north of here! I was actually on an island of land, stuck between the two roads!! Trying to stay calm, I started back for the Moped, but then I froze as I heard the dreaded crunch of tires on the road I had driven in on..
No time to think! I turned and ran back to the second road and jumped into the deep ditch next to the road, trying to make myself as small as possible.
It was definitely a car, and it was coming up the far road, the one I had ridden in on. Unable to resist, I peeked over the top of the ditch, hoping I could catch a glimpse of the car through the woods. After a moment, I caught a flash of white through opening where I had ridden into the woods and I saw it was him..
I ducked, even though he was probably too far away to see me. He continued easing ever-so-slowly up the road, and after awhile I couldn't hear him anymore
As the seconds crept by, I started running through my options:
1. Don't run in the first place.
Ok, I'll try remember that next time, logical self. Could you be a little more helpful?
2. Hope the Deputy stumbles across a meth lab out here.
Possible, but a long shot. Speaking of which, I might catch a stray bullet from the ensuing shoot-out, which would really suck..
3. Lay in the ditch until it gets dark.
Hm. Not bad, but Ryan might have something to say about that..
4. Sneak back to the take-out and try to hitch a ride like nothing happened.
Now that's more like it! In fact, that just might work..
I decided on option #4: Sneak back to the take-out and pretend like nothing happened.
Suddenly I heard the gravel crunch and my heart skipped a beat, because he was coming down the other road now, my road, the road where I was lying in the ditch.
I was trapped.
He was moving very slowly, creeping along, pausing periodically. I started sweating and held my breath as the car got closer.. closer.. until he was right next to me, where he stopped.
Exhaust and other hot car smells washed over me. He was that close, scanning, searching, while sweat trickled down my face and I tried not to breathe. It was like that scene from the Lord of the Rings where the Nazgul stops just above where the Hobbits are hiding and the Nazgul sniffs the air repeatedly..
He sat there for about twenty seconds while I did my best hidey-Hobbit imitation and then finally, agonizingly, he let off the brake and the car slowly rolled away.
After awhile my heart stopped racing and I started to believe that I just might get out of this with my bank account intact.
I waited a few more minutes then poked my head over the top of the ditch, scanning for the Nazcop. There was no sign of him, so I climbed out of the ditch and loped off through the woods, back up to the main road. Not wanting to expose myself unnecessarily, I quickly crossed the highway and ducked into the woods near the river. Once I was safely concealed, I started darting from tree to tree commando-style, working my way downstream, back to the take out.
Soon I was very close to the take-out at Green Truss bridge, but I froze when I saw a flash or orange through the trees. "Oh no, he's WAITING for me to come back!!" I thought, cursing furiously under my breath. Of course! He knows the area and he knows boaters, of course the logical thing was to just wait me out! I worked through a long, choice string of curses at my bad luck, and then settled down behind a tree.
I soon tired of waiting and decided to resign myself to fate, my oldest kayaking partner.
Sighing, I trudged up to the road and stuck my thumb out.
I got a ride pretty quick, and soon I was back at my truck. I stopped along the way and picked up the Moped, and then I headed back down to the Green Truss Bridge with a growing sense of dread.
When I pulled in there was no cop, only Ryan, who was looking mighty confused at that point. "HURRY UP! GET IN THE TRUCK!!" I said, leaping out and throwing Ryan's gear into the back. "I'LL EXPLAIN LATER.." To his credit, Ryan didn't say a word and we loaded his gear in record time..
We quickly made our getaway, whooping like bandits! I'll tell you what, I was thanking my old friend Fate all the way home for letting me live to tell, one more time..