Stunt Driving

“We’re not gonna make it!” My white-knuckled fingers gripped the passenger door handle of the little budget car we had rented. The car with no shocks; the one that, at this instant, was in the most dire possible need of shocks. Somehow Brent steered over a couple of rocks with the left front tire rather than the axle, while the right tires found their way out of the latest rut without high-centering us. A brush-choked gorge of uncertain depth yawned below the edge of the road. I just knew we were about to do a barrel roll into it, which would have brought our beach vacation to a spectacular end.

Brent and I are not truly Beach People, per se; that is, we have no desire to spend hours building sand castles, or lie around toasting in the sun. Usually we vacation in mountain or desert areas where we can do some hiking. But several months earlier a friend had sent us some stunningly gorgeous photos from this little Caribbean island. It looked pretty doggone romantic, and our thirty-something anniversary was coming up. So we decided on a nice, quiet, relaxing island vacation for a change, booking a room at the Regent Palms Resort on the Turks and Caicos island of Providenciales.

And it was nice, quiet and relaxing–all through the first couple of days, that is. We kayaked and snorkeled (after we bought me a swimsuit, which I had somehow forgotten to pack), and ate seafood twice a day. I highly recommend the island and the resort, as well as the Coco Bistro restaurant in town. Yum.

Then the spirit of adventure kicked in. We had rented the car so we could get around without waiting for taxis and such. The Turks and Caicos Islands are British territory, so Brent had to get used to driving on the left. (You’re not supposed to notice that I didn’t say we had to get used to it. This was because I flat chickened out and refused to drive.) He did great; only a couple of near-misses on the first day. Anyway, as we gained confidence and studied our map of the island, we talked about visiting “Northwest Point Marine National Park” out on the west edge of Providenciales. It was several miles out, at the end of Malcolm’s Road, which the map showed was unpaved.

“Unpaved” can mean any number of things. I pictured a nice, hard-packed dirt road with perhaps a dusting of gravel. Instead we found ourselves bumping along a winding strip of terrain such as I had previously seen only on those “Professional Driver, Closed Course” truck commercials. It wasn’t bad where we turned off the highway, but the farther we went the more rugged it became. Deeper ruts, larger rocks. I started suggesting, ever so gently, that we might just forget about the park and get the heck back to town. A few vehicles met us coming the other way, toward town. These people, clearly prepared for the rough road, drove jacked-up SUVs or pickups tall enough to block the sun. We could almost have driven under the chassis of some of them.

Forget driving on the left; Brent was doing well to find any passable bits at all, and those were worth having to dodge the occasional oncoming SUV. We were averaging about eight miles per hour. As we skirted the hillside, leaving behind the last side road (and civilization,) I kept surreptitiously checking my phone for signal strength. Finally the road seemed to end at some sort of radio signal tower.

“Too bad, I guess we’ll have to go back,” I tried, but Brent had spotted a little road cut, off to our right, that plummeted straight downhill toward the ocean. I pretty much jumped out of the car to keep him from driving down there without reconnoitering first on foot. Unfortunately for me, after the first terrifying plunge, it seemed to smooth out somewhat, so we climbed back up to the longsuffering little car and started out again.

I checked my signal strength one more time, picturing a dramatic helicopter rescue, and shut my eyes. A few long minutes later, we were safely parked. I had to laugh at the sight of a dozen or so angle-parking spaces, as if that many people could be crazy enough to drive out there, and all at the same time.

Long story short, it was worth the struggle to get there. The flat, wave-washed rocks, with little mollusks anchored on where the water would just lap over them. The isolation and sunlight, both intense enough to be palpable. Best of all, the sense of adventure that drew us together, and buoyed us up to make the trip back seem easy. We had persevered.

Thanks for reading!
Jan

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