This month’s Speak Up for Success newsletter is about the public speaking lesson I learned while marooned in the Savannah National Wildlife Preserve. Here’s the actual story, told as it happened. And if you’re not already receiving the newsletter, sign up here.
Don’t Trust Your GPS in Georgia
As I write this, I am hiking — perhaps trudging is a better word — out of the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge. Just to set the stage:
I recently decided I needed a break. (Boy, did I need a break!)
So I flew down to Charleston SC, rented a car, and drove to Georgia to stay with an Air B&B host named Jonathan. Jonathan turned out to be a daredevil kind of guy — a former aeronautical engineer and former stripper who owns three motorcycles and rode one to Guatemala.
He made me nostalgic for my former life (the one echoed in my novel, The Tattooed Heart), and my last night there we stayed up late watching Patty Wagstaff aerobatics, wing suit BASE jumping, and Isle of Man bike racing videos.
Jonathan suggested that I check out the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge en route to my return flight in Charleston, SC. That sounded good, so I plugged it into my GPS and left early the next morning.
The Romance of the Road
In New York, I usually print out a map and study it before hitting the road.
Consequently, I’m kind of a GPS neophyte — and when my GPS pointed me down an unmarked dirt road, I didn’t at first realize that I should recalibrate. Once I realized, I didn’t want to.
The road was extraordinary.
I drove slowly and reverently through what felt like ancient forest.
I drove cautiously but happily over a series of wooden bridges, after checking to make sure they had steel underpinnings. (OK, the steel was rusty; but hey, the rental car was insured).
And — perhaps under the spell of the adventure videos I’d watched the night before — I drove fast and pretty skillfully through what started out as patches of mud but soon turned into deep, gooey ruts.
In fact, I drove my heart out, right up to the not-entirely-unexpected moment when my left front wheel sank down a foot, and there I was, in the forest, in a rental car, in my little Jones New York sweater, with no cell phone service or clear way to get out.
What Does This Have to Do With Public Speaking?
Sometimes even the best-laid (or, in this case, not-so-well-laid-GPS) plans become obsolete. When that happens, I recommend that you:
- Resist panic and self-blame (if, like me, you’re inclined toward them);
- Assess your situation in simple, specific terms (this month’s newsletter gives several examples); and
- If necessary, lose your roadmap and come up with an alternative plan (which, by some wild coincidence, is the subject of Public Speaking Tip 15: Know When to Lose Your Script).
As for what happened in Georgia:
- Although the AAA road service guy who showed up when I’d finally hiked back to “civilization” couldn’t tow the car, he took me to Frank & Linda’s Diner, an Italian restaurant run by two Bronx ex-pats that had great food;
- The waitress at Frank & Linda’s explained to me that what I’d done was not just unoriginal (“You went mudbugging in a Chevy, hon!”) but was in fact a major local sport (see the video below);
- The local tow guy my waitress recommended took me to meet the puppy farmer whose land I’d traversed; after gently lecturing me about being an idiot, the puppy farmer allowed as that I’d gotten three bridges farther than anyone else who’d done the same thing, which made me feel like an action movie star; and
- Somewhere in between meeting all these folks, hanging out, eating, laughing, and getting towed out of the swamp by a Robot, I lost some of the fear of the South that was carefully bred into my New England bones.
This is not the day I’d planned to have when I set out from Jonathan’s just after dawn, but I’m glad to have had it, and I did learn one important thing:
If you’re going off-road, rent a car with four-wheel drive!
And if you’re still wondering what “mudbugging” means, check this out: