MUSG Trip Report


Tractor versus Motorcycle: The eternal struggle
Sept. 22, 2007
by Bob Svercl

(Sleeping, then my phone rings)

Jay: (already at Burruss) “Hey Bob, you ready for caving?” Me: (trying not to sound groggy) “Yee...ah, I’m, um, waiting at my apartment with all the equipment ready for you guys to come get me.” Alright, alright, so I suck at waking up. But at least having access to the equipment helps in guaranteeing you’re going on the trip. So I had them drive to get me at the equipment box, a.k.a. my apartment. Little did they know I had just waken up, but then again that’s just how I am. Then came the drive.

We had 3 mountains (well, actually 2 since one was just a ridge) to pass over to get to the cave, and that’s when I learned of the fun with riding with Matt while he drove on the curvy mountainous roads. “Oh my god!” and many other whimpers were added to our soundtrack as we came to every turn, some of which I called “scary turns” (you know, those 15 mph hairpin turns). Then when passing around a curve we came straight on with a semi that caused Matt to let out a big “Unngh!” And all the while during these curvy roads, John was sitting in the front asleep, his body bobbing back and forth like a punch-me clown. Christine, Jay, and I all made good friends in the back, though Christine got the brunt of the squishing as she was in the middle (she probably had more bruises from that than Marshall itself).

Getting close to the cave, most of our conversational topics included car crashes (we passed by the spot where I crashed my car this summer), death, and other kinds of serious injury, none of which brought respite to Matt who was on an hour and fifteen minute adrenaline rush. “All right, we should get to the parking area in like a minute.” And then we were to witness the greatest battle of the ages. We saw a bunch of motorcyclists while coming around a curve, and they looked like they were organizing for something. Later, we come across a bunch of tractors who were all facing our way and they were organizing. So it was settled that we had infringed on the territories of both the motorcycles and the tractors, and though we wanted to witness the battle that was about to ensue, we feared for our safety and got out of there.

The battle that waged was glorious yet brutal. The sounds of engines revving tore through the air, and though the tractors had a height advantage, the motorcycles were more maneuverable and organized, much like a pack (er, pride if you’re in the know) of lions taking on big elephants. And back to us. (Hmm, we’re a lot higher from the stream than we should be). Doh! Went past the parking area! We were too distracted by the battle to realize that we were at least 5 minutes past the cave. Turning around with a steep embankment on one side brought a little more terror to our driver, and we eventually made it to the parking area. Getting changed for the cave, we saw some of the tractors pull into the parking area. They were tired and battle-weary, but victorious.

Changing into our caving clothes, we realized we had come across some tractor convention or something and became a sort of side-show with people giving us weird looks. It’s true, cavers actually are a different breed. Then we played on the bridge for a bit and headed toward the cave. Oh, and I made Jay go back to get extra lights for the cave pack. Yes, I’m an asshole, but he’s going to be an awesome leader (and NO it was not hazing! We just played on the bridge while waiting for him).

Getting to the entrance of the cave, we ran into a few people from the Blue Ridge Grotto based in Roanoke (Woo! Wait a minute, who said that?). They had a map of Marshall, which was pretty much a straight line almost (straightforward cave, no, really). We took a long lights out to give them a head start so we wouldn’t get a traffic jam (3 of them, 5 of us). Jay was leading our trip, and he sneakily led us over them like ninjas if only they hadn’t seen our lights. Oh, and I was also reminded that the massive hole in my jumpsuit exposed a certain “bulge” to anyone below me.

“Well, at least I’m wearing boxers,” I said.
“Doesn’t help much.” answered Jay.

The water level was (at some parts) about 6 inches lower, and pools of water in some areas were non-existent. We went through the Birth Canal anyways, since we like pain and it was Christine and Matt’s first time in Marshall. Hey, I don’t say “Marshall kicks your ass!” for nothing! We set up our webbing for the Leap of Faith, then took it down as the Blue Ridge cavers came to the Leap of Faith. Not to worry, they had their own webbing, we weren’t just being dicks. We set up our webbing at the top of the Mud Wall and headed up to the Circular Bench. Apparently on the way both Jay and Matt made use of the not-so-often-used-because-it’s-a-bad-idea caving technique of no points of contact, not by accident though. Taking a break, we divied up a granola bar, or at least the crumbs it had been reduced to from being mashed up in the cave pack, then headed down to the stream.

Trying to find the right path up to the Mud Wall, I went through an area that was just unnecessary. Oh well. Jay found a salamander, lizard, gecko thingy that was orange with black spots and we stared at it for a bit, then found another one along the stream. Jay found the path to the Mud Wall, which was at the corner of the Fake Mud Wall room (I’m calling it that because it is a fake). We got to the Mud Wall, and using the webbing made our way up. We stopped for a break, then hightailed it out of that cave, bypassing the Birth Canal on the way back because we could walk around it. Oh, and I pissed off Jay and John (this happened twice) by going around them while we were suspended over water with our hands on one side and feet on the other. I evilly laugh at it, though.

After exiting the cave, we played on the rope swing for a bit. Jay lost his balance after jumping off the rope swing and nearly fell back into Christine which would’ve knocked them both into the freezing cold water. Geez, you squish her on every left turn on the drive over and then you nearly push her into freezing cold water, and I’m the bad guy? Heh, she would’ve gotten her revenge anyways. We attempted to break height records on the bridge, then decided to head back.

The drive back, as every caving trip has been, was full of deer on the sides of the road and in the fields near the road, so the caving in dangerous areas was actually a break for Matt. On the way back, I wanted to stop at Confederate Breastworks and the following dialogue occurred:

Me: “We’re going to stop at Confederate Breastworks and check it out.”
Jay: “What? Confederal Rest Stop?”
Matt: “Federal Restrooms?”
Me: “Confederate Breastworks”
Christine: “Federal Restaurant?”
John: “Confederate Restroom?”
Me: “Confederate Breastworks!”
Jay: “Confederal Rest Stop?”
Me: “CONFEDERATE BREASTWORKS!”
Jay: “Oh… Confederal Rest Stop?”
Me: “Shut-up!”

There was a hike we could’ve taken, but nah, we were tired. Marshall really takes it out of ya. Plus we were hungry too. So the rest of the trip was spent with the people in back pretty much passed out and me in the passenger seat playing with Matt’s iPod wannabe thingy (I forget what it’s called).

And the moral of the story is: Roving tribes of tractors will soon conquer the land. We must fight them at all costs.