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Survival In The Pioneers: A Journey Told Three Ways

When Todd Peebler found himself fighting for his life in the treacherous snows outside Sun Valley, Idaho, only one of America’s greatest heroes could save him, Jack Donaghy of 30 Rock. This is the story of Peebler’s incredible journey, as retold by two Sun Valley natives and 30 Rock enthusiasts.

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By Ben Dreyfuss and Emily Dreyfuss

1. The Story

We are from a place that GPS systems loathe. Ketchum, Idaho, to be exact, deep set in the Smoky Mountains. Our hometown is where Todd Peebler, a Type 1 diabetic, was headed when he set off from New York City in his 2005 Audi A6 with in-dash navigation. He was journeying toward a new life in the mountains, a new job, a new world. But hours from his destination, Peebler's GPS system apparently led him astray.

Peebler's car got stuck in a snow bank nearly 8,000 feet up and approximately 20 miles away from Sun Valley resort. He spent three days walking down into town with only the clothes on his back, his Chihuahua Lola, an iPad, a lighter, and a magazine, the wonderful "Lapham's Quarterly."

The temperature on the second night was 2 degrees.

If Peebler had asked us, and not his GPS system, we would have told him that Trail Creek Road is always closed in winter. Every local knows that. That road is terrifying to drive in the summer, when the sheer cliffs where should be the road shoulder drop off into the water below. People drive off it all the time. In the winter, it is too arduous and dangerous to plow.

But the Audi's in-dash nav didn't grow up in Idaho. It saw a road, and it led Peebler down it. When he was rescued by a kindly dog-walker from Ketchum three days later—his Levis torn and soaked, his lighter useless, his feet numb, his blood-sugar treacherously low--the story had the kind of happy ending Hollywood salivates over.

To give Hollywood a helping hand, we’ve taken the liberty to outline the script.

2: The Film

“Gentleman, I almost died out there this week”

Based on a true story. All quotes taken from Peebler’s written account of the ordeal.

A film in 3-Acts

Act One

The Set-up

• Todd Peebler, 31, leaves his New York home, his girlfriend Jackie, and everything he knows to head out west for new job. He drives across country in his 2005 Audi A6.

Warning Sign

• Todd’s out-of-date GPS begins to let him down. “[A] U.S. military soldier armed with an AR-15” warns him “You’re lost.” Todd takes his directions, but soon goes back to his GPS.

Inciting Incident

• On the phone, Jackie tells Todd, a Type 1 diabetic, his blood sugar might be low. “[He] sound[s] funny.” Todd agrees. He drinks a “Coca-Cola” and suffers immediate black-out. Though unconscious, he apparently “follow[s] [his] GPS to the turn.”

Act Two


• Todd comes to hours later, only to find his Audi in a snow bank. He decides to pack up his iPad, his Chihuahua “Lola” and Lewis Lapham’s notable periodical, “Lapham’s Quarterly,” which he figures he could read later once he gets to his hotel. He heads for civilization.


• Civilization is nowhere to be found. Taking shelter, he burns the Lapham’s Quarterly, which is thankfully substantial enough to fuel a fire throughout the night. In New York, Lewis Lapham shivers.


• Day 2, wearing only “a pair of Levi jean-style cords and a couple of T-shirts,” Todd continues on. But then Lola the Chihuahua's travel bag breaks. She plummets “ass over tea kettle for about 700 yards down the mountain.” Todd reacts the way any loving pet owner would: he “get[s] in a sit-down position and slide[s] right down there to get her.”


• Stranded down a mountain, things appear bleak. “[his] slide ha[s] ripped the ass out of [his] pants, and now [his] pants only cover the back of [his] legs from [his] knees down.” He is literally flying by the seat of his pants.


• That’s when Todd recalls the wise words of one of NBC’s most beloved fictional characters: “The oddest line crawl[s] into [his] head and it is from Jack Donaghy from 30 Rock who told Liz Lemon on one episode that when all seems lost, the only way to win is to go deeper into the abyss.” Todd takes this advice somewhat literally and dives into the river.

Act Three

The Low-point

• That night, Lola and Todd hold their bodies together, sharing heat. Todd thinks “for sure that [he is] going [to] die, freezing and alone.” If only his iPad actually overheated.


• They wake up in the morning. Miraculously the very cold that had almost claimed him, has made the snow solid enough to travel on. “The cold was going to be [his] only way out, and so, yes, [he] went deeper into the abyss.“

• Todd soon hears a familiar sound: “dogs barking.” Soon enough he is saved by a female dog lover. (Meet-cute!)


• In the hospital, Todd writes a an op/ed, gains internet fame, and is reunited with his long lost mother. “She [comes] because [he] call[s] her and t[ells] her that [they] and all humans just do not have the time to waste bickering over petty stuff, and [he] mean[s] it.”

Fade to black

Epigraph: “What saved me out there are the most valuable things I have in my life and they are my friends and family.” -Todd Peebler

The End

3: The Index

In honor of Lapham's Quarterly namesake Lewis Lapham, and the fabulous Index feature in Harper's Weekly, where Lapham used to be the editor in chief, we give you some facts:

Peebler's Index:

Normal body temp for a human in degrees Fahrenheit : 98.6

Normal body temperature for a chihuahua in degrees Fahrenheit: 101

Average heat of the new iPad in degrees Fahrenheit: 81

Temperature on the night Peebler burned Lapham's Quarterly in degrees Fahrenheit: 10

Number of pages in the most recent edition of the magazine: 224

Number of times one of the authors of this post has met Lewis Lapham and begged for a job: >1

Minimum number of Lapham’s Quarterly editors who are aware of Peebler’s journey: 1

Likes on said editor’s wry offer to replace Peebler’s burned copy of the magazine at the time of writing: 8

Days a typical human can live without food: 10

Days Gandhi lived without food: 77

Days Todd Peebler survived without “snacks or drinks”: 3

Numbers of minutes after drinking a soda a hypoglycemic person should recheck their blood sugar levels: 15

Numbers of minutes Peebler had to wait after drinking that coca-cola: 4320

Blood-sugar level a hypoglycemic person needs to achieve before doctors advises them to safely stop snacking, in mg/dl: 100

Self-described toxicology report of Peebler’s muscles at the hospital: 7,000

The percentage of awesomeness it is that he survived: 100

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