This weekend we managed to pull off one of the most insane things we've ever attempted: the Underground Barbecue.
Hiccup and I met up with Sertile outside the Jordan Creek tunnel early on in the evening. Hiccup and I had both our cars loaded up with food and gear. I'd spent a small fortune on most of it just a few hours earlier, and we were intending to use every bit. We were going to have a barbecue in a massive chamber deep inside the Jordan Creek tunnel.
First, we started unloading our vehicles and piling stuff up on the ledge of the concrete canal that ran into the tunnel. Once we were done with that, we ran back and parked our vehicles in a legal parking lot. Then we came back, Sertile jumped down into the tunnel, and I started handing gear and food down to him.
As we were doing that, we noticed someone walking toward us on a bridge that ran over the canal a ways off. I thought we were busted already, but the man said, "Hey, are you guys homeless, too?"
We were relieved to find out the guy was just one of the homeless people that sometimes use the tunnel for shelter. We told him about the barbecue and that he was welcome to come down and get a bite to eat if he was hungry. He said he was really just trying to get a little bit of money so that he could get to Nixa, the next town over. He was crying and looked slightly drunk, so Sertile and I both gave him a couple bucks.
That seemed to brighten him up a bit, and he decided he would stay and eat some barbecue. Since we were ready to haul everything inside the tunnel by this point, he grabbed an armful and started heading inside with us. By the time we dropped off the first load at the entrance and made it back to the entrance, he had already changed his mind and wanted to go to Nixa again. I felt pretty sorry for him, and I gave him another ten bucks for helping us haul the stuff in. He thanked us and wandered off, sobbing the whole way. We had joked about how it would be cool if some homeless people came and ate at the barbecue with us, but that wasn't exactly what we had in mind.
It took about four or five trips to get all the stuff back to the chamber. I was kicking myself, because I'd brought an insane amount of food and gear, and we didn't even know if people were actually going to show up. We had enough food and drinks to feed at least fifty people, so I was definitely beginning to think I'd gone way overboard. I didn't know it at the time, but it was a damn good thing I brought so much.
I got Sertile to start putting the grill together, while I went up with the extension cords I'd brought to try and borrow power from a semi-abandoned building that connected to the tunnel. I was surprised when I found that the manhole going into the building wouldn't budge. I had Sertile come up and help me, but we still couldn't move it. There were other ways into the building from the tunnel, but upon further inspection, we found that they had sealed up every last way into the building.
We came back down, and I began brainstorming ways to get electricity down into the tunnel. While Sertile continued assembling the barbecue grill, I went up to the surface through a hole in the tunnel and started scouting around the nearby buildings. I even got so desperate that I crawled on my hands and knees for about a hundred yards through a cramped tunnel in the hope that it would lead to somewhere with an outlet.
By the time I made it back down into the tunnel, the first of our guests, Anne and Shattered_glass_heart, had arrived. It was after eight o'clock by this point, and I was a little worried that they were the only ones that had shown up so far. We told them about our electricity problems, but I swore that I was going to get us power before the night was over.
Sertile finished the grill just about the time people started trickling in. Some of his friends showed up, as well as David Keetz and his friends. I told Sertile I had a gas lantern in my car, and we agreed that I should probably go get it just in case we couldn't get electricity. So, I went up above to my car to get my lantern and my ultra-bright spotlight.
While I was up there, I began scouting around the nearby buildings for an outside outlet. I was extremely happy when I found one that was within distance of the tunnel. I ran back, and lowered my spotlight down to Hiccup. Then I started to lower the lantern down to her when it slipped out of her hands and shattered on the ground. I told her not to worry about it and had her hand up the extension cords and a small clock I'd brought to make sure the outlets worked.
Unfortunately, the outlets I found didn't have any power. However, I found another place farther away where I was able to plug in. I ended up needing all 300 feet of my extension cords, but I managed to get it from there to the tunnel.
I dropped back down into the tunnel and plugged in a bright halogen light just as more people were arriving and the first burgers were coming off the grill. Everyone was thrilled at the electricity, because it was great not to have to wander around in the dark. We would've had a stereo down there as well, but I had stupidly forgotten to bring the power cord for the stereo. David Keetz had brought a guitar, though, and played that off and on. Willard was also a big hit, showing up in one of his vintage suits and wading boots.
Through the course of the night, people came and went. Almost everyone from the site that had said they were coming showed up. Even a few people from the site that I didn't think would show up surprised me. There was almost never less than a dozen people in the tunnel, and people were scarfing up food as fast as Sertile could grill it. At the highest point, we even had around twenty people down there all at once. All in all, probably about forty people showed up. The turnout was beyond anything we'd imagined when we came up with the barbecue, and it ended up being a good thing that I'd brought so much food and gear.
Toward the end of the night, someone discovered our extension cords and unplugged them. I poked my head up through the tunnel to investigate, and I saw two security guys pulling the extension cord through a fence that I'd run it through. I ran back down into the tunnel and hurriedly unplugged the extension cord. Then we watched as they pulled the extension cord up through the tunnel and all the way to them. We just let them have it, because if we'd stopped them from pulling it up, they would've followed it to see where it went and would've found us. They probably thought the extension cord belonged to them anyway.
The barbecue went on for probably another hour, and then we started packing stuff up. It was down to just Hiccup and I, Willard, David Keetz and his two friends, and Raven and Sketch. They all said they'd help us haul stuff out, which was a relief since it would've taken Hiccup and I about ten trips to get it all out.
As we were walking down the tunnel with the stuff, we met about eight people coming toward us in a line that hadn't been at the barbecue. They asked for Sertile, and we told them he had already left and that they had just missed the barbecue. They said they still wanted to explore the tunnel, since they hadn't been there before and continued on. It was too bad they hadn't shown up earlier, because they would've made our crowd even bigger.
Once we made it back to the entrance of the tunnel, we stopped to rest, while Raven and Sketch headed on out. As we were standing there, three guys walked across the bridge above us and stopped, as if they were surprised to see us down there. I waved a couple times and tried to greet them, but they just stared at us and finally walked off.
At that point, I left the five of them down in the tunnel to go move my car closer. When I returned, I found one of the three guys standing above the tunnel, staring down at everyone with a furious look on his face. I didn't immediately realize it was one of the three guys from the bridge, but I could tell this guy wasn't looking at everyone with good intentions. I thought maybe he was just some psycho looking for a fight, but then I realized he was one of the guys on the bridge. Despite that I asked him, "Hey, are you here for the barbecue?" He never took his eyes away from the tunnel and snapped back, "I already had a barbecue, man. My friends are down there right now getting my grill."
It was pretty clear there was some sort of drug crap going down right in front of us, and this guy clearly felt we were interfering. I acted normal, but I was suddenly panicky inside, because I knew we were in the middle of something bad. I left the guy on the ledge and went down into the canal by the tunnel entrance to join everyone else.
As I got down there, the other two guys came out of the tunnel, and they were carrying a backpack that everyone said they hadn't gone in with. The guy up above asked them, "Did everything go okay?" and they said yes. They all started to leave, and the third guy yelled down at me as he left, "Now you can have your damn barbecue without going to prison!" The really scary thing was that a lot of people said afterward that they had seen the backpack down in the tunnel, but they hadn't thought anything of it. There's no telling what would've happened if the backpack hadn't been there.
After that disturbing little incident, we all decided to get the hell out of Dodge. We walked our stuff the rest of the way down the canal to where there was a ladder, threw everything up on the ground, and climbed on out. Right as we were doing that, the eight or so of Sertile's friends that had been inside came climbing up behind us. We told them about the drug guys, but they had somehow managed to not run into them inside the tunnel.
Everyone pretty much went their separate ways from there. Hiccup, Willard, and I loaded our vehicles up, since we were parked together, and then we headed on out.
Thus ended the first Underground Barbecue.
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