The Mother of All Calamities

1993-08-02 Ben Slide Rock State Park AZ 2

My Real Memoir

For our last big event before we officially started our freshman year of high school, BFF Jeff and I took a YMCA Caravan trip, with a dozen barely-teen boys and two barely-adult leaders. The previous summer’s Caravan had had a few snags, but this one was truly the Mother of All Calamities!

The groundwork for disaster was laid when all of the official vans were booked. As a result, we were given an oxidized green airport limousine with eat-your-heart-out-Buck-Rogers fins that someone had donated to the Y after its odometer passed the 100 million miles mark. We nicknamed it the Green Dragon.

On day one, the brakes gave out and the Green Dragon sailed half a mile into the desert before finally nesting in a cactus patch. On day two, after just two hours back on the road, the Dragon’s transmission stopped…transmissing. We spent the next two days at a tiny gas station-slash-auto repair shop in the town of Tiny Gas Station-Slash-Auto Repair Shop, waiting for the Dragon’s transmission to be rebuilt. We laid our sleeping bags in the sand, but after the mechanic pointed at his scorpion-in-amber bolo tie and said, “They’re ever’where,” we slept in the Green Dragon like kippers in a tin.

By day five, our frantic parents were demanding that the trip be cancelled, but we voted to keep going. We were going to have fun if it killed us!

It nearly did.

We made it to Oak Creek Canyon in Arizona where, millennia before humans invented fiberglass waterslides, God designed the prototype: Slide Rock. We walked almost a mile on jagged pebbles, but it was worth it. Sleep-deprived and nerves ajangle, we hurled ourselves into this wondrous cataract with ruthless abandon, sliding down again and again. Finally, one by one we crawled up the bright red embankment like an artist’s conception of evolving amphibians, and fell asleep. For five hours.

In 113 degree heat.

When we awoke we were redder than the Sedona soil. We walked the crimson mile back, our sunburned soles pierced by flint fragments. O’er the path we went, screaming all the way.

We sat in a stream near our campground, hoping our dead epidermis would float away in the cool blue water. It didn’t. We lay in our sleeping bags that night, moaning, and despite being manly 14-year-olds, openly crying.

The next day, the worst of us were taken to a clinic to have their Buick-sized blisters lanced. It was the most severe sunburn the doctor had ever seen. We smeared our bodies with prescription ointment, weeping in relief. And then, somehow, we began to laugh again. We were brothers, we’d survived the unsurvivable and bonded big time. And that made the misery almost worth it.

We eventually made it to the Grand Canyon, after having all of our money stolen, our brakes fail (again), our trunk catch fire while we were searching for the doe we’d hit, and then speeding away (trunk still aflame) as her enraged mate charged across the space we’d occupied a moment before, and… (honestly, this is the condensed version).

20 years later, a patch of basal cell cancer—courtesy of the Arizona sun—was cut out of my shoulder. Now, when I see the scar in the mirror, I think, “Don’t ever do that again, you idiot.” But also…

Boy, I miss those guys.

My Real Memoir is a series. To read the next one, click here.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in Humor, Memoir and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

53 Responses to The Mother of All Calamities

  1. Pingback: If-Then: My Teenage Equation | Mitch Teemley

  2. The Hinoeuma says:

    My goodness. Tales of young disasters. I have had a few but, nothing like that.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Gina Cash says:

    Mitch, I don’t know how you survived into adulthood, but I am so glad you lived to tell these tales!!!

    Liked by 5 people

  4. When you said “The Mother of All Calamities,” you weren’t kidding! OUCH!! I hope at some point the Green Dragon was pushed over a cliff to its death (sans passengers, of course).

    Liked by 4 people

  5. Kara Luker says:

    Oh my gosh that sounds more like an over-the-top movie than real life! So glad you walked away ok (apart from the skin cancer of course).

    Liked by 3 people

  6. anitashope says:

    Some of our most fondest moments almost killed us. I have some as well.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. What Gina said above! Honestly. Boys!!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. rwfrohlich says:

    See, girls just don’t get it when we describe adventures like that as fun. Parents don’t get it either.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. #hood says:

    temperature 138 feels age 11


  10. I visited Sedona in 2016 and went to Slide Rock. It looked too dangerous to go down, so I opted to stroll up on a higher ledge near tree-like bushes. I heard a rattler and raced back down. Kudos to your group of carefree campers who weren’t timid about having REAL fun and were able to make light of the calamities.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Did Ponce de Leon ever find that thing?

    Liked by 2 people

  12. pkadams says:

    You’re a true survivor! 😁

    Liked by 2 people

  13. And here’s the point where I say something banal, like, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. What an adventure!

    As for that skin cancer, well, we are very familiar in Australia. My husband needs to attend the dermatologist every four months, after having been a surf lifesaver in the days when they wore a skimpy swimsuit (aka budgie smuggler) and an even skimpier red and yellow cap whose sole purpose was to enable them to be identified.

    Liked by 3 people

  14. Jennie says:

    Of course you would do that again. Great memories, a band of brothers facing all the odds. I wish all children could have these experiences (except for the sunburn.)

    Liked by 3 people

  15. murisopsis says:

    Mercy! I’ve had blistered sunburns too – fortunately I haven’t had any signs of skin cancer -yet. But I’m always checking!! I had to groan as I read the misadventures…

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Victoria says:

    I love this story, in total, but your reference to sleeping in the Green Dragon. “like kippers in a tin” was fabulously funny. Such imagery! 😉😉😉

    Liked by 3 people

  17. Pam Webb says:

    The best part of these disaster trips is becoming blog post fodder. Your fans happily graze on your memories!

    Liked by 2 people

  18. The adventures of youth–designed to give us wisdom. God bless, Mitch!

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Pingback: The Mother of All Calamities – CURIOSIDADES NA INTERNET

  20. Great memory, Mitch! We’re now paying for those days of our youth, but boy was it fun!

    Liked by 2 people

  21. Memories can bring smiles or frowns, laughter or tears, sometimes depending on the mood you’re in or the attitude taken.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Pingback: The Most Memorable Year of My Life | Mitch Teemley

  23. Pingback: Pen Pals Forever! | Mitch Teemley

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s