Sometimes the Road Less Travelled is Less Travelled For a Reason

How an unexpected detour earned my son's car the nickname, "Off-Road Mudder."

I am a fan of high-tech safety technology that helps us avoid mishaps before they happen. So I find myself wondering if having input from the sensor technology incorporated into today’s “self-driving” cars would have influenced a key decision made by my son, Paul, a few years ago.

He had flown home to Saskatoon from Toronto and decided to purchase and drive an older secondhand Cougar (above) to his new job near Weyburn, about 110 kilometres southeast of Regina. He had planned to turn left onto a secondary gravel road at the four-hour point of the drive, which he did, but soon realized that he’d turned “one road too soon.” But he wasn’t lost. As he said, “I had the idea that every road in Saskatchewan is part of a grid.”

The road he had turned onto was close to the one he wanted, but was dirt not gravel. And he was not aware that an unusual amount of rain had fallen in the area. The dirt road deteriorated into mud before his eyes, to the point where attempting a U-turn would have caused him to get stuck. So, he powered through the muck and made it to the next turning point, which was, in his words, “An instant regret.” He got stuck in mud up to the door panels.

Making matters worse, his cell phone was out of commission. He walked to a farmhouse where an older couple called their son-in-law who drove over in his truck and they hooked a tow rope to the old Cougar. It didn’t take long to extract the car and the son-in-law hauled it and Paul to the proper grid road, which thankfully was dry. The truck pulled away, leaving a long slick of mud in its tracks. Paul hopped into the Cougar, put it in drive, but couldn’t get a grip! He rummaged in the trunk and found a windshield scraper to knock the clay out of the wheel wells and scrape the tires. The Cougar had the shakes all the way, but finally got Paul to his destination in total darkness, hours late.

The next morning when his new workmates took a look at the plastered-up Cougar, they christened it “Off-Road Mudder” and the nickname stuck.

Imagine though if Ole Mudder had safety sensors onboard that detected colour changes in the surface of the road ahead? Paul would have received an alert about mud ahead and avoided the whole mess altogether.

Next, take a nostalgic look back at what it was like learning to drive on the farm.

Originally Published in Our Canada