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Penn. couple was stranded in desert

Penn. couple was stranded in desert

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WAYNESBORO, Pa. (AP) -- A retired Pennsylvania couple stranded in their compact car in the Utah desert for four days subsisted on crackers and soda before hiking to safety.

Ray and Sue Beard are back home after spending four harrowing days in the desert when the directions supplied by their portable navigation device led them far off the beaten path in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, a 1.9-million acres of rugged public land in southern.

Sue Beard, a former editor of The Waynesboro Record Herald, and her husband, Ray, 67, were traveling to Torrey, Utah, from the northern edge of Arizona when they became stuck and damaged their rented car on a winding, deserted mountain road.

"I know finding us would have been like finding a needle in a haystack," said Sue Beard, 61. "When we got stuck, I was sure we weren't going to make it."

With only scant supplies, including peanut butter crackers and Diet Coke, their situation looked dire. Married just five months, they wrote letters to their family and amendments to their wills while daytime temperatures soared to the 90s and overnight lows fell to the 30s for four days and nights.

"We each had three crackers every morning and we savored them like juicy steaks," Sue Beard said.

During the day, they opened the car doors for ventilation, but that would attract chigoe fleas that left them with hundreds of bites.

Aware that they would not last much longer unless they ventured out for help, the Beards gathered their remaining supplies on May 31 and tried to hike to a main road.

Battling dehydration, it took the couple more than five hours to cover a little over 7 1/2 miles before they curled up to rest under a black umbrella. They were awakened by the sound of a passing motorcycle and were eventually able to get the attention of another group of riders.

"We had been praying for our angels of mercy," Sue Beard said. "We had no idea they would be on motorcycles!"

They were airlifted to a hospital in Page, Ariz., and given intravenous fluids, but spent just five hours in the emergency room.

The Beards hope their experience will serve as a warning to other motorists who travel in unfamiliar territory without checking the route supplied by a GPS device. There were no signs along the route warning them of the treacherous conditions that lay ahead, they said.

The ordeal has renewed Sue Beard's religious faith and she will begin attending services with her husband.

"I'm just tickled by that," Ray Beard said.


Information from: The Record Herald

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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