Tuesday, November 29, 2016

How our guests find us...or we find them

Since we added the new Cohune Camping Casitas, we have been doing a lot of research about how our guests find us.  A few years ago, the answer was almost always "TripAdvisor," but TripAdvisor seems to have misplaced us and thinks we are in southern Belize, so we aren't getting many visitors who find us that way.  We have put listings on booking.com, airbnb.com, glampinghub.com, and are working to keep our Google pages up to date.  Recent guests have found us through a number of non-traditional ways such as ebird.org when they are looking for a particular bird which happens to have sightings near us, random YouTube videos that mention us, referrals from other local businesses, or luckily having us triangulate into the center of various sites a guest wants to see.

This past weekend, we did it differently; we found the guests!

We had blocked out Thanksgiving Day and the day after so we could do a rare overnight and spend some time with friends in the Mountain Pine Ridge.  We had a great holiday despite the torrential rain, and decided on Friday afternoon that we should try to get home so we didn't have to drive on the slippery, muddy, rain-drenched roads in the dark.  As we were coming through the gate to the Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve, a couple of very wet, obviously in distress tourists flagged us down.  We stopped to see if we could help, and they explained that they were stuck in the mud on the fire road, about ten minutes' walk from the gate.

We always carry our tow rope, and we have decent tires and four wheel drive, and we had a pretty good idea of where they were stuck, so Dan and Catherine hopped in the pan of the truck and we headed down the fire road.  The friends we had been visiting had said that they had taken the fire road fairly recently, and that it had been cleared and improved since Hurricane Earl, and that it was very passable...but they had done it in the dry weather.  On the flat, the road wasn't too bad, but as we came around a turn and could see where they were stuck, we realized that they were on a slight incline, and that the road had been recently "improved." This improvement resulted in lots of loose dirt forming small banks on either side of the road, which had turned into deep mud pits which sucked their vehicle off the road and into what became a fairly deep ditch.  Jeff and Janese, the other couple in the car, jumped out as they saw us approach and warned us not to get too close.

We found out that they had already been stuck once, but by the time they realized how bad the road was they were down a hill that would have been impossible to climb in their vehicle in those road conditions.  They had taken the fire road rather than the Chiquibul Road because their GPS made both roads look like the same type of road, and the fire road route is shorter.  Lesson learned in how much you should trust a GPS!

We stayed as far from them as the length of our towrope allowed, and hooked up.  Our truck was on a flat enough spot that we could get some traction and managed to move them forward, but they were too far down the muddy bank for our truck to pull them back up to the firm part of the road.  Tom decided to unhook and head home to get another tow chain so we could be on a firmer and flatter part of the road to pull.  It was a good theory, but as he started to back up to a place where we could turn around, the mud created by our spinning tires pulled our truck into the mud bank.  Not wanting to end up as deeply in the ditch as the first car, we decided to walk out and get back to Moonracer to get the tools needed for the extraction of both vehicles.

We were lucky, and got a ride from the gate, despite being wet and muddy.  We loaded picks and shovels, a come-along, and more chain into the Honda, and headed back up the road.  We parked the Honda at the gate - we didn't need three stuck vehicles! - and carried our tools in to the mudpit with the intention of winching our truck out and back to the flat and then trying to pull their car out of the mud.

It was a good plan, except the cable in the come-along, which we hadn't used in a while, had somehow become jammed and wouldn't pull off the spool.  We did a quick bit of brainstorming to figure out how to get out, but it was raining harder and harder, and rapidly changing from gloomy dusk to full-on dark of night.  Tom asked if they had anywhere they had to be that night or the next morning, and if they had whatever they needed to spend the night, and offered to cram everybody in the Honda and overnight at Moonracer, and worry about getting the trucks out of the mud in the morning.  The offer was eagerly accepted, and the six of us waded through the mud, getting deeper by the minute, and back to the Honda.

Each couple took a casita, and really appreciated the hot shower.  We were glad we had made a decision to add the water heater to the shared shower!  I threw together a quick dinner, which wasn't the normal Moonracer Farm fine dining experience we try to deliver, but a hot meal was much appreciated, and was far superior to spending the night in a stuck-in-the-mud XTerra eating granola bars for dinner.  We called the hotel where they had planned to stay and said not to expect them.  Best of all, we all made new friends and sat around the table talking until after 10PM, with them fascinated by our life in Belize, and us equally fascinated by their life on a ranch in Utah.

Saturday morning, the rain had stopped, and Tom got on the phone and tracked down a tractor.  One of our neighbors, Edgar, was more than up for an adventure, and met Tom and Jeff at the end of our driveway shortly after 8AM.  Tom and Jeff jumped on the tractor and headed up the road, while the rest of us stayed at Moonracer and ate breakfast.  Tom said getting our truck out was relatively simple, but even the tractor had a little trouble with the XTerra, which validated our decision to admit defeat and retire to Moonracer the night before.  Even with the difficulty, Tom and Jeff were back within an hour, so they were also able to enjoy a hot breakfast.  Tom, Jeff, and Dan hosed the bulk of the mud off the XTerra, we exchanged contact information so we can keep in touch, the the four of them loaded up and headed out to continue their Belize adventure.

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