It was a dark and stormy night...
OK so it's the moldiest cliché in literature. It also happens to be true. A moonless night during the big '86 monsoons down in Tucson.
The meteorologists were calling it a 100-year storm. The kind of heavy rainfall that only hits the desert once a century.
The streets were flooded, and arroyos and normally dry rivers and dry washes were overflowing everywhere.
Anyone with a lick of common sense was staying home and indoors.
Me? I wasn't that bright. I was headed home from a friend's party. It was almost midnight, and the storm had been raging for hours.
I decided to try a run for home, figuring that my Jeep Cherokee would get me through minor floods, and I thought I could find a route around the major floods.
I had just had a big Cummins diesel engine installed in the Jeep, along with an extra 40-gallon fuel tank. I had a heavy-duty winch on the front and I damn near needed a ladder to get into the drivers seat. So I was better equipped than most to go out into the storm.
I stopped at a grocery store a few blocks from my friend's house, and stocked up on some chow, figuring that I would be stuck at the house for a few days at least.
Leaving the store, I got out my street map to plot a route to avoid the lower lying areas. Finally deciding on a plan, I headed out. There was only one stretch of the route I worried about, having several relatively low areas between high, steep hills. The first part of the trip went smoothly, I made it through some minor street flooding, then turned south to make the run towards Valencia road.
The first few low areas had only a foot or so of water, and I passed through them easily. I came up on a station wagon that had stalled out in the middle of one of the dips. I used my bumper to push the car out of the water and up to the top of the hill to safety.
I stopped to see if the people were ok. All I could see through the driving rain was the hand of the driver poking out through the partially opened window waving me on. I flashed my lights and started off.
As soon as I started down the next hill, I slammed on the brakes. I knew this road well, and there was at least 10 feet of water over the road in front of me.
I backed up and turned around, thinking that my friend's party would still be going on, and I could crash on his couch, or even in my Jeep if he ran out of room inside.
I passed the station wagon and waved.
Then I felt a strange rumbling that shook even the big Jeep.
I stopped before starting down the hill, with my headlights shining down into the wash in front of me. When I turned on the spotlight and cranked it around to point off to the side, I saw one of the scariest sights of my life.
A 15-foot wall of water came boiling down the wash, carrying boulders, trees, and at least one very battered car along the leading edge. I was far above the crest of the water, but I still backed up in a hurry.
I continued backing up until my driver's window was even with the driver's window in the station wagon. I rolled my window down a bit and called over to the other car. I saw the driver's window roll down an inch or two. "Road's flooded in both directions now. Looks like we're stuck here until it goes down."
The other driver didn't answer, just rolled up their window.
I shut the Jeep off to conserve fuel, even though I still had 7/8 of the main tank and the spare tank was full.
I crawled over the back of the front seat and into the back of the Jeep. I was glad that I had folded the rear seats down for more cargo room.
I dug out my desert survival kit and then cracked a couple of the windows on the side of the Jeep away from the wind, Then I pumped up the Coleman lantern and lit it. I took stock of my supplies. I had beer and sodas and 6 1-gallon jugs of water.
I had lunchmeats and bread, Mayo and Mustard; I even had canned soups and other assorted chow.
I had a sudden thought, and dug into my side compartments. Sure enough, my Coleman stove and a Sterno stove with a dozen cans of fuel were in one side storage bin.
On the other side, there were the mess kits that I used when I went fishing and camping. So I could cook and I had no worries about going thirsty.
And I always kept a couple of blankets and a pillow in the Jeep, since I never knew when I would end up sleeping in it.
In the grocery store, I had grabbed a few paper back books and some magazines just in case. I got bored at home before the floods dried up, so I settled down against the pillow, adjusted the Coleman lantern, and opened the first book.
Along about 1AM, I got sleepy, shut the lantern off, rolled up in the blankets, and dropped right off to sleep.
The rain still lashed against the Jeep, and the lightning and thunder was continuous. The wind rocked the Jeep slightly, but I was too tired to worry about it.
I woke up the next morning to the sound of someone tapping on the driver's window.
I sat up and leaned over the seat to roll the window down.
"Hi, I hate to bother you, but do you have any toilet paper?"
The rain was still pouring down, and the girl's red hair was wet and straggly as the water ran down her face.
"Sure, Just a second." I told her. I reached into the back and grabbed a 4 pack of Charmin.
I popped open the glove box and took out one of those compact umbrellas.
The kind where you push the button and it extends and opens automatically.
I handed her the umbrella first, then once she had it open, I handed her the toilet paper. "Thanks." she said. Then headed around to the other side of her car.
I rolled up the window again and opened the other side windows a bit more.
I set up the Coleman stove and made some coffee with the old battered blue coffee pot from my mess kit. I had just started frying bacon and eggs when the girl tapped on the window again.
I rolled the window down.
"Here's the toilet paper back." She said. "Keep it." I told her, "I have another 4 pack in here, and you can keep the umbrella too."
"Thanks." The girl said, she started to turn away, and then she stopped and sniffed. "You have hot coffee?" She asked incredulously.
"Yup," I said. "I'm just now making breakfast. Would you like a cup?"
The girl hesitated a moment.
"Can you spare 2 cups? My friend would probably want one too."
"No problem." I told her.
I dug out a couple of the plastic drink mugs that I seem to accumulate by the score. I poured 2 of the better ones full of coffee and popped the lids on.
I opened the glove box again and dug out some packets of creamer and sugar and handed it all to the girl.
"Here ya go." I said.
She gave me a smile and went back to her car.
I rolled up the driver's window again and stretched out to have breakfast and finish the rest of the book I had started the night before.
I set the pan on top of the Jeep where the roof rack would hold it in place, and let the rain wash it clean. The paper plate and the plastic fork I had used, I simply put into the plastic trash bag on the floorboard.
For lunch I made sandwiches and popped open a can of soda.
I beeped my horn and rolled down the driver's window again. The girl rolled down her window about halfway. "If you are hungry over there, I have plenty of food over here."
"No, we're OK." the girl said.
I just rolled up my window and started the Jeep,
I let it idle to keep the batteries up while I turned on the radio to hear the weather report. It didn't sound good. The national Weather Service was predicting at least another 3 to 6 days of heavy rains before the storm system would die out.
A moment later I heard another tapping on the window.
This time when I rolled the window down, a different girl stood there. This one a big busted blonde.
"Cheryl may be paranoid, but I'm hungry." She said.
I scooted over to the passenger side.
"Come on in." I told her.
She opened the door and slipped in quickly before too much rain got in. "Hi, my name is Mandy." She held out her hand and I shook it.
"And my name is Bill."
I gestured to the back of the Jeep.
"Help yourself." I told Mandy. "There are chips of all kinds, bread, lunch meat, and all the fixings. Make yourself something and take some back for Cheryl."
Mandy scrambled into the back of the Jeep, I admired the view that she presented. She had a nice, tight rump and long tanned legs that her shorts showed off very well.
She kicked off her shoes before clambering over the seat. I appreciated the courtesy.
"Cheryl is sure that you are an axe murderer or something." Mandy said as she busied herself making sandwiches.
"Grab a 6 pack of sodas for the two of you while you're back there." I replied.
"Well, are you?" Mandy asked playfully.
"Am I what?" I asked. I was a little slow on the uptake at the moment, being distracted by the view of her rump wagging in the air as she rummaged through the grocery bags
. "Are you an axe murderer?" Mandy laughed.
"Of course not." I replied. "How does one murder an axe anyway? Strangulation seems pointless, no neck to squeeze, Likewise poison is out. Maybe you could shoot it or burn it at the stake..."
Mandy was howling with laughter. "I'll tell that to Cheryl just like you said it."
She climbed over the seat again with her loot." Can we take a couple of these magazines?" Mandy asked.
"Sure." I said. "Help yourself."
"You're a treasure." Mandy said.
She slipped on her shoes and opened the door.
I scooted back over to the drivers seat again and sped the engine a little, then let it idle some more. KLPX was playing some good classic rock.
After a bit, I slid over to the passenger side and got out to take a leak. When I was done, I checked the pan on the roof. It was clean enough. I wiped it with a towel and put it back in the Jeep.
I was already wet, so I strolled over to where I could see the road down into the wash ahead. Still flooded. In fact the water seemed deeper. I went to the waters edge and shoved stick into the mud a few inches from the waterline.
I went the other direction.
Also still flooded.
I stuck a marker stick into the mud just above the waterline. Then I went back to the east of the hill.
I walked east, off the road and into the brush.
No good that way, the hill sloped sharply down a few yards from the pavement.
I went west.
The ground was solid enough and there was enough room between the mesquite and Palo Verde trees for the jeep to get through. And the ground sloped upward to a relatively flat spot a good 40 feet higher than the road were on.
There was enough room up there for both vehicles.
I figured I could tow the station wagon if I needed to.
I walked back down to the vehicles. Mandy was standing beside her car under the umbrella. "What's up?" she asked when I approached.
"I'll show you." I told her.
She followed me to the water's edge in both directions. "The water has already reached the sticks that I put about 6 inches from the waterline."
So the water is rising." Mandy stated.
Seems to be." I replied.
Shit, shit, shit." Mandy spat out. "Will it get up this far?" She asked.
'I dunno." I said. "But the radio is calling for 3 to 6 more days of heavy rain. And we are not all that high up right here."
Mandy bit her lower lip. "What do we do if it does rise this far?"
'Well, I am going to take my jeep up the hill there while the ground is still firm enough for traction." I said.
Mandy looked up the hill, then down at the water, already an inch or so higher on the stick.
"Will our car make it up there?" She wanted to know.
"I think so. And I can always use the Jeep to tow you if you get bogged down." I told her.
"I've got to go talk to Cheryl." She said.
I went back to my Jeep to get it ready for the move.
Then I walked the route I would take up, planning for minimal turns and maximum firmness.
When I got back to the cars, Mandy was waiting for me again.
"Cheryl didn't want to go, even after I showed her how fast the water was coming up. I told her she could sit down here and drown, but that I would go up with you were it was safe and dry." Mandy said with a mischievous grin. "She changed her mind in a hurry."
"Tell her to start up and get ready. When I start out. Have her follow me exactly, go where I drive, and nowhere else. Honk of you get stuck, then wait for me to pull you out." I told her.
"Yassuh Bossman." Mandy quipped as she gave me a snappy salute.
I returned the salute with one finger, and she laughed.
I started the jeep and waited for Cheryl to start the station wagon. It turned over for several moments, then the engine growled to life.
I beeped my horn and turned to go off road and up the slope. I took it slow, with the 4-wheel drive locked on.
Cheryl took it a little slower. She did it right, keeping the pace steady and not racing the motor if the wheels slipped for a second.
Eventually, I pulled up on the flat top of the hill, and swung around in a wide arc so that I could lift the tailgate of the Jeep without the rain blowing in.
Cheryl pulled her station wagon up next to the Jeep and parked it.
I opened the tailgate of my jeep and went around to Cheryl's car. "Pull around so that your drivers window is close to the back bumper of the jeep. That way we can rig a tarp between the tailgate of the Jeep to the roof of your car, so you have some ventilation without having to get soaked."
She nodded and rolled up her window again. She started her car, backed slightly, then pulled around a Palo Verde bush to park her car with the drivers window only a couple of feet from my rear bumper.
With Mandy's help, I rigged one of my waterproof tarps from the roof rack of my Jeep to the roof over the station wagon; held there with the handyman's friend, duct tape.
Cheryl finally rolled down her window to thank me.
"No problem." I told her.
I fired up the stove again and made some canned chili and offered it to the girls along with some crackers.
Finally, Cheryl started to relax.
Mandy came around and climbed into the back of the Jeep with me.
"We both work at Follies Burlesque." Mandy said.
"I thought you both looked familiar." I replied.
The Follies Burlesque is an adult theater that features XXX rated movies and nude dancers. I visited there a couple of times a month.
"I really appreciate your taking care of us like this." Mandy said. "Cheryl still thinks you're a serial killer."
Cheryl had been listening from the other vehicle. "I do not, I only said he might be."
"I'm not a serial killer," I assured her. "Although I did pretty much wipe out a box of granola the other morning."
Cheryl laughed at the joke. I was relieved that she seemed to be loosening up a bit. We chatted for while, then Mandy went back to the other car. I gave one of the blankets to the girls, and then I spread the other one out in the back of the Jeep. I left the tailgate up and shut down the lantern. I had just gotten to sleep when the door opened and woke me up.
Mandy crawled over the seat and into the back with me. "Cheryl snores." she said solemnly.
I raised the blanket and she slipped in beside me. "This is much better." Mandy said softly.
She snuggled close to me with her head on my shoulder and her arm across my chest. "Good night." she said.
"Good night," I replied.
She nestled down and closed her eyes.
I hadn't expected this, but what the hell, Sleeping with a stacked blonde beat hell out of sleeping alone. So I closed my own eyes and went back to sleep.
I woke up to find Mandy curled up in a ball facing away from me, and myself curled up to her back spoon fashion.
My arm was around her, and she was clutching it tightly to her chest.
She was still out cold. I tried to pull my arm free, but Mandy just whimpered in her sleep and held my arm even tighter.
"She does that a lot." Cheryl said.
I craned my neck around to look at her. She was leaning in the open tailgate.
"I figured that this was where she went." Cheryl said with a grin. "It was too quiet in the car when I woke up."
Mandy finally woke up when she heard Cheryl's voice. "You snore." she accused her friend.
I just laughed.
I soon had both girls sitting cross-legged in the back of the Jeep while the coffee perked.