by Maria Ruiz
“What’s that car trying to do?” I yelled at my husband, Ted.
“I don’t know. Now what the f…. is it doing?” He yelled back.
“I don’t see any other car lights. Can you see any house lights?” he yelled at me.
“Nothing. What are we going to do?” I whispered.
“I don’t know. Just keep calm.”
I watched in apprehensive mode as the little car pulled in front of us.
We were driving in the dark, on strange roads in Crete. Thoughts of hijacking, murder, or kidnapping flashed through my brain.
Ted tried to keep driving straight, but had to swerve to avoid hitting the little car as it slowed in front of us.
We had come to Crete on a ferry from Athens in a rented motor home. Why would someone want to capture us? Except for our American Passports, we didn’t have anything of value. Not counting our lives.
The island of Crete was experiencing the worst winter in eighty years and little snow blizzards swirled around the lights of our camper. We had always found a campground to stay in by four o’clock but today was different. The campgrounds listed in the book were closed.
“We’ll look for a gas station,” Ted said about five o’clock. Driving along the two-lane road, we both searched for a station. Not finding any, we turned down small roads toward small villages.
As we drove through the dark streets, we were now looking for small hotels. Nothing. At one point, we drove into a dead-end street. The snow was coming down so thick we couldn’t see beyond the hood of the engine. I got out and moved in back to gauge the edge of the road and signaled to Ted. Slowly, inch by inch, he managed to turn the motorhome around and we made it to the one and only little highway across the southern part of the island.
Now we were driving in total darkness. It was past ten and we were exhausted. We didn’t know what we were going to do. We could only keep driving, hoping for somewhere to stop for the night.
Our lights were the only lights we could see. That is, until we spotted those car lights coming up from our rear.
Now with the car forcing us off the road, Ted had no choice but to slow and stop. Alone, in the dark, on a small road far from any lights of houses or streets, we were at the mercy of whatever fate lay before us.
We came to a full stop as the strange car pulled in next to us. Two men jumped out of it and moved toward our door.
They had black knitted caps on and wore dark clothes. Clearly, they were younger than we. One approached the passenger window and looked up at me, while the other went to Ted’s side. We were caught in the middle.
My heart was racing. What to do? Ted reached over and turned on the cab light.
As the one on my side’s face came into the little shaft of light, he smiled and started waving. I recognized him. Now I could see that it was our camping neighbor from Athens. My heart slowly moved down my throat, back into my chest.
“It’s the guys from Athens.” I cried to Ted.
Ted looked and now both men were waving at us through the glass. I rolled down the window and both tried to speak at the same time.
“We saw you driving on the highway as we were eating dinner. We know there’s no place to stop, and decided to chase you down. We found a campground in the next town over and talked the owner into opening it up for us. You can come and stay there. Nothing else is open on the whole island.”
Ted opened the door and the three began to great each other. They pointed up the highway and Ted nodded.
Now following the little car to the only place to spend the night, I was glad we had made the effort to talk to the owners of the only other camper in the Athens campground.
Maria didn’t have any photos to share from their exciting winter adventure in Crete, but was able to share some beautiful photos from summer in Crete–a bit more inviting time of year.