Sunday, November 26, 2006

Our Family's Off-Road Adventure

I live in a relatively rural area, full of horse farms and rolling hills. We moved here three years ago from a large development about ten miles away. Living in Leipers Fork has been a dream of ours since we came to Nashville in 1994. Shortly before we moved into our new home I thought it would be a good idea to get a truck as I imagined having to haul manly things around since I would soon become a gentleman farmer (we don’t really grow much here on our land except for lawn grass and the occasional wild flower)- things like planks of wood, chain saws, stuff like that.

I’m not really a pick-up truck kind of guy, so I went with a hybrid (not the environmental kind- more of a mix between a rural truck and the kind of ride Tony Soprano drives- a black tricked out Chevy Suburban). When I bought it I instantly felt a bit of country bloom in me. Just the idea of pushing the button on the dash board and transforming my Suburban into a 4x4 was appealing. This lead to my demise, and taught me 3 things:

1. My wife’s concerns and worries can sometimes come true
2. Humility
3. A Chevy Suburban is neither a sports utility vehicle or a 4x4

Our eleven acres is flanked on one side by a 15 acre lot and a 60 acre lot on the other. Shortly after we moved in I secured permission from the land owner with the 60 acres for our family to use his land for taking walks and exploring. He lives in downtown Nashville and plans on building his dream home on the land when he retires in a few years. I got his name and number from my realtor. I didn’t specifically ask if I could go 4x4’ing on his land- I sort of put that under the “exploring” classification.

It was a Saturday afternoon, and for some reason I can not recall, our family took 2 cars on an outing. I think it was because I had to pick something up in my truck and bring it home, while my wife was going to stay out shopping, meeting up with her sister. After lunch, and after picking up whatever it was I had to pick up, I headed home with my two oldest daughters.

We turned into our driveway, and as we headed towards the house I made a fateful decision. “Girls- you want to take the truck out onto the land next door and do some off-roading?” The word “yes” rang loud and clear, and so I veered left, and made for the opening in the woods that took us “next-door.” We went through the clearing, down a small hill, and crossed the small creek in my new 4x4. Great so far. It was awesome bouncing and splashing over the creek like I was in a Land Rover commercial.

We spent the next 10 minutes bounding over hills and through sparse woods exploring the land, and it got real exciting when I told the girls we were going to speed up and shoot across the clearing up ahead- hoping to catch a few bumps and jumps that would cause some epic bouncing. As I accelerated and sped forward a strange sensation came over me. It almost seemed like the truck was on an elevator going down, and the horizon line seemed to unnaturally rise around me. The truck started to slide sideways, and then we came to a sudden stop. I noticed that if I reached out my hand from the window, it wouldn’t take much to touch the tall grass. We were stuck in mud.

If anyone tells you that the best way to get your car or truck out of stuck mud or snow is to slowly rock in back and forth, alternating between drive and reverse, don’t believe it. Especially if you are already in about 3 feet of mud. The result of doing that is to sink to about 4 feet of mud.

I decided to get out and take a look, and when I opened the door I had to push hard to get it open far enough to step out- and when I did the bottom of my door scraped about six inches of mud off the top of the ground. Big trouble. Bad. Very bad. The words my wife spoke to me only a half hour before were ringing in my ears- the words she said as a response to my mentioning that I might do exactly what I ended up doing…”Rich- don’t do it. I’m telling you something will go wrong- you’ll get stuck or break something, and it will cost a ton of money to get it fixed. You might even ruin your truck. Don’t do it.”

I had left my cell phone at home that day- of course- and so, took my shoes off, jumped into the mud (I sunk up to my thighs), and carried each girl, one by one, to the safety of the shoreline. The “field” I thought we would trek through was actually a large swamp that collected the rain from the surrounding hills. It was deep in the back part of our neighbors land, and I could not see any homes or roads from where we were. We walked home, I changed clothes, and set about fixing the situation- hopefully before Michelle got home.

Earlier that week I had seen my neighbor across the road working in his field with a tractor, and though I had not met him before this, I walked to his house and knocked on the door. You can imagine the conversation…”Hi my name is Rich- we live across the street…nice to meet you…you have kids? do we…its a nice day, isn’t it?...can I use your tractor to try to get my vehicle out of 4 feet of mud way back in the field behind my house?”

He agreed to help. He drove the tractor while I jumped on the side and held on, and we made our way to my car where we promptly got the tractor stuck.

I called a tow truck. The trucker got within 100 feet and started to sink fast. He was able to back out to safety, and informed me he couldn’t help me and drove away- charging me $50 to tell me so. I went back home and sat at the kitchen table trying to figure out what to do. I looked in the yellow pages under towing and learned there was a specialist in the towing field that was an expert at off-road/extreme vehicle recovery. That was the one. I called and they were out to our place in about an hour- right after Michelle pulled in and I gave her the update. That was fun and humbling.

The recovery team had a truck with 2 wenches- and seemed to know the drill perfectly. They purposely drove their truck full speed into the mud, sliding to a stop as close to my truck as possible sinking to the full four feet. They attached one wench to my truck, and the other to a tree behind the tow truck about 150 feet away. They pulled my truck to within 3 feet of theirs, and then turned on the other wench and pulled both of the trucks out of the muck while almost pulling the tree out of the ground. Success. 10 minutes. $250.

I have not, and will not again, take my 4 wheel drive off the road, I listen to my wife’s cautions (even though I don’t always indicate to her that I do), and I am content to stick to the excitement of navigating the pot holes in our 500 foot gravel driveway.


Gary Ashton said...

Thx for the link Mr P

G :)

DigitalRich said...

You're welcome Gary! Hope all is well in your world. Thanks for stopping by.