The Worst Stuck
I guess it was while Greg's 1970 Chevy K/10 pick up was in it's second stage. Had a rebuilt 350 in it, and a 4" suspension lift. Sporting 12.5 "x 33" Bridgestone Desert Duelers, on American Racing Outlaw
II's. This was before the 6" lift, and 35" Gumbo Monster Mudders, and lots of other goodies. Many were a direct result of what happened here on this day...
It was mid Saturday morning around 9, and we were bored. So we decided to go to the Caldwell trails. Not for anything other than to pass time, and cruise the trails. There were still a few areas we had to explore. We knew most of the trails, but there were still nooks, and overgrown paths to check out. We were alone, so we stayed out of the creek, and deep mud holes. The Caldwell trails were actually private property, owned by a local power company, and some areas privately owned. The power company raised the dirt roads they built, since this entire area was often under two feet of water after heavy rains. It was also slow to drain. There were a few creeks, and a few tracks for bikes and 3 wheelers. Quads weren't on the market yet. There were a few mudholes, but for the most part, the trails were very dry during droughts, and most of the summer.
We played it safe, and rode the hardpacked, potholed and puddle dotted trails. After riding the main trails for a while, and checking out what turned out to be a few dead ends, we decided to pull over and turn around. There was a motocross track at the opposite end of the trail that we wanted to go to. Greg found a nook on the side of the trail, it went down onto a huge field, about two feet lower in grade than the trail. The tall grass was matted down, and there were scrubby looking bushes here and there. He pulled straight in, and cut the wheel, we heard the dead, dry weeds and grass crunching under his tires. He came to a stop, and put the 4 speed in reverse. He let out the clutch, and the rear tires spun! We were on perfectly flat ground. He shifted into 4 wheel low, and tried it again. This time the truck just hopped. We got out and looked. It seemed dumb, since the mud was only 2" up onto the sidewalls. How could we be stuck?
There was Greg, me, and our buddy Stephen. Me and Greg went to get some rocks and branches to put under the tires. We loaded up each wheel, and tried to get out. The tires shot out the debris we put under them, and the shortbed stayed put. The only difference was now the mud was 4" up the sidewalls of the Desert Duelers. About an hour had gone by since we got stuck. Figuring since we saw no one else in the trails to ask for a tug, Stephen and I headed out to the main road. There was a shopping center about a 1/2 mile up the road with a pay phone.
The strongest truck out of our buddies I called first. Frank had a 1974 International 4 wheel drive long bed. It was a beast, with 5.10 gears. Up front he has a cement filled 4" steel pipe with two tow hooks welded on it. In the rear, the bumper and bedfloor were one piece. The bedfloor and interior bedsides were 1/8" diamond plate steel, and the bumper was 1/4" diamond plate, all welded together. He said he was busy, which I knew, because I was calling him at work. I knew he got out at noon. He said he'd come up after work, and bring Mikey with him. Mikey had a 75 Ford F-250. He just lifted it 4" and had brand new 12.5" x 33" Dick Cepek Fun Country meats on it. It was his Dad's, and sat for a few years. A month earlier, Mikey had just put it back on the road.
Figuring I should play it safe, I called Gene too. He had a 2 wheel drive 1970 C/20. He also had a lot of tow straps and chains. Having two wheel drive he got stuck a lot, and knew a few tricks to get out. The fact that Greg's truck was in a field, the only way we'd get out was with as many feet of tow straps and chains we could find.
It turned out the field was very spongy. It seemed dry, but just walking your feet slid, and smeared the dead grasses. I got a ride back to the entrance to the trails. Steve's Mother dropped me off. He called her because "There's no way I'm staying out there with all those mosquitoes in the middle of nowhere." So I headed back in solo.
When I got to where Greg was, the truck was sunk further. Greg didn't try anything, just sitting the truck was getting sucked deeper and deeper into the black muck. All we could do was wait for help. We sat down and drank sodas I got at the shopping center and waited. We left the CB on, since we all had them. Gene was the first to arrive. He laughed, then said he could pull Greg out. He got out his chains and straps. In ten minutes we had the trucks chained and strapped together. Gene as on higher firmer ground. Greg's rear pumpkin was sitting on the ground by now. Gene rolled until the chain was tight, and dumped the clutch. Greg's truck sat still, and Gene slowly dug two trenches with his rear tires. Greg was trying to help by popping the clutch while in reverse. He just sank a little deeper.
We unhooked the two trucks, and waited for Frank. It was almost 1 before Frank showed up on the CB, he said he had Mikey with him. They also brought Mikey's little brother Rob, my brother Andrew, and Frank's brother Gary. All three of them had 80cc dirtbikes, and took advantage of Greg getting stuck to hitch a ride to the trails. When the got to the trails, they promptly unloaded the bikes and rode off. Frank surveyed the situation. We all threw in our two cents, and after a little of "my way is best" we decided how to do it. Since Frank's truck was a beast, he would be in front. Mikey got the middle spot.
Mikey backed into position, and Frank did too. We chained the three trucks together, Gene sat this one out. Frank was on higher ground than Greg, but since Greg turned to the left when we pulled into the field, Frank couldn't try pulling with his tires on the high hardpacked road. There was no straight line between Greg's truck and the main trail. Frank put his beast in 4 low, and so did Mikey. They took up the slack in the tow lines, and hit it. Both trucks started hopping and flinging mud, Greg's was just spinning and slinging, not hopping anymore. It was nearly down to the framerails. Mikey had a hole under each tire, and Frank had even deeper craters under his. They backed off, leaving slack in the chains. Mikey unhooked, and tried to go. He was stuck, tires just slinging mud. We hooked him up to Frank's International, and Frank tugged him right out.
Greg was getting nervous, and desperate. I don't blame him. How was he going to get out? Frank wanted to try alone from a different angle. Mikey didn't want to end up like Greg. We hooked up the strap to the beast. Frank tried getting a little running start. He rolled forward, tightened the strap, and backed up a few feet. He dumped the clutch, and the tow line went taut. Frank's truck slid side to side slinging mud high into the air. Greg's tires just spun. Completely caked with black muck. They were at least 12" larger in diameter with the mud on them. The treads weren't cleaning out at all, just caking up more it seemed. Frank backed off and tried jerking Greg's K/10 three times. The shortbed wouldn't budge.
It was now down to the framerails and then some. The frame was beginning to disappear under the muck. The air was filled with a stench since they stirred up so much muck. We were quickly running out of ideas. It seemed a winch was the only way. Gene had a 3,000 pound come-along. He also had a 1,500 pound one. Mikey had a 1,500 pound one too. Frank backed up to Greg. Mikey put his truck on higher ground in front of Frank's. They chained the two trucks together. We then hooked all three come-alongs up to Frank's rear bumper and Greg's front bumper. Greg sat in his truck, me, Gene and Mikey cranked away on the come-alongs. When the cables got really tight, and it got extremely hard to pull the handle, mine twisted into a pretzel! Gene's then broke, the cast metal sleeve where the handle goes in cracked right off of the 3,000 pounder. Mikey's handle on his 1,500 pounder twisted into a similar shape that mine did.
We knew there was only one last hope. We called in our last resort. My father. Frank drove me out to the shopping center. Mikey went and picked up some burgers and drinks for everyone. I called home. Dad knew what was going on. When my brother Andrew left with his bike, he told Mom where he was going, and that Greg was stuck, and I was with him. Dad knew when I called, Greg was stuck bad, or I would have been home already. It was nearly 7 O'clock! I missed dinner. A few years earlier, Dad took out the rear bench seat in his 1979 CJ 5. He built a tool box that went from wheel well to wheel well. It was three feet tall, and two feet wide. In it, he kept tow straps, clevises, pulleys, block and tackle, cables, snatch blocks, chains, and rope. The Jeep was outfitted for wheeling pretty good. It had 12.5" x 33" Dick Cepek Fun Country meats. Up front, he had a 3,500 pound winch. Four tow hooks on the front bumper, and two on the rear. Most of all, he had a lot of experience getting unstuck. He went to some unbelievable places with that CJ, and made it out.
My Father showed up around 8. Were almost stuck for 12 hours! It seemed so stupid, since all we were trying to do was turn around, on what appeared to be dry ground. The "little brothers" were getting to be pains. It was dark so they couldn't ride anymore. They were getting bored, and driving us all nuts. Gene wanted to get going, so he offered to take two bikes and riders with him. My brother and Rob decided they'd go. Gary would leave with his brother Frank. My father stared at Greg's truck. You could tell he was thinking up an elaborate plan.
The plan was to try to pull Greg out again, with other vehicles. The trucks lined up in a triangular shape. Frank and Mikey on one side, my Father on the other. Each off to one side behind Greg. Pulling from two different angles, might do it, Dad thought. We had tried pulling from the front, never the rear. Greg's truck was really deep by now. We dug behind the tires. We dug by the drivers door, since the truck was so deep the doors wouldn't open. We dug a few times earlier, but we kept having to dig more as the 70 shortbed sank. Frank and Mikey were chained to Greg. Dad was connected with a stretch-n-snatch strap. The plan was for Frank and Mikey to pull, and Dad to jerk. All three vehicles in 4 low, and ready. Frank and Mikey took the slack out, and Dad got the strap tight, then backed off. Frank started pulling, mud started flying again. dad jerked, backed off and jerked a few more times. It was clear Greg's truck wasn't going anywhere.
We tried jacking up the rear of the truck. The blocks got pushed into the muck. When we found a board big enough not to sink, all the jack did was extend the rear suspension. That muck had a suction grip on Greg's truck, and was not letting go. It was time to try the winch on Dad's Jeep. Dad hooked it up with a snatch block on Greg's truck, and one on his Jeep. This should have doubled the pulling power of the 3,500 pound winch twice. He chained the back of the Jeep CJ5 to Frank's beast, and Mikey's Ford. The winch slowly started taking up the slack in the cable. The cable stretched the CJ and took out all the slack between the CJ and Frank's truck. Then the slack between Mikey's Ford and Frank's truck. Then it started to sound funny. The motor was turning, but the cable wasn't moving. It quickly began smoking. Dad stopped. It was burned out! Now it was after midnight, and we were all out of ideas.
Dad thought about it a while. We were all stumped. Looked like he had no ideas either, short of calling a tow truck. The he got an idea. He got out some heavy hemp rope, and a block and tackle. We had no idea what he was going to do. This truck was stuck good. He started laying out ropes and pulleys guided by headlights. It was getting chilly now, and I had an ear ache. It came out of nowhere. We were all tired, cold, and hungry again. Dad had Mikey and Frank get their rigs into position. He moved his CJ.
This is how it was; Frank and Mikey were chained together, a block and tackle on Frank's front bumper, a snatch block on Greg's rear bumper. The rope went from Greg's rear bumper, through the block and tackle, then back to Greg's bumper, through the snatch block, and the end of the rope tied to the Jeep back bumper. There was a big coil of slack on the ground behind the CJ. The idea was to get a running start. The drag of the block and tackle, and snatch block, coupled with the stretch of the rope, would mean the Jeep wouldn't get jerked hard when the slack ran out. We were hoping in contrast, that the 70 shortbed would get jerked. Jerked right out of the muck.
We held our breath as Dad took off, the coils of slack flying off the ground. He went about 50 feet before he slowed from the load. The Jeep spinning the tires, Greg spinning his, and us all yelling. Greg's truck lurched up and out! He had to slam on the brakes to stop from getting dragged into Frank. Finally! After all we had tried, it was unstuck. It was now after 1 in the morning. Greg used a shovel to scrape the mud off his tires. They were beyond caked. I helped Dad round up all his gear, and return other gear to it's rightful owners. We loaded up Gary's Suzuki RM 80, and headed out of the trails. By the time I got home and showered, 17 hours had passed since we first got stuck.
I learned a lot from this incident, I think we all did. Greg spent a lot of money after this, making sure it wouldn't happen again. The first thing he bought was a Warn 12,000 pound winch. Followed by another two inches of lift and 35" Gumbo Monster Mudders. A positraction for the rear axle, double shocks all around, axle trusses front and rear, and rear leaf spring stabilizer bars. All these additions cut down on axle hop. The winch with 120' of cable limited the chances of getting stuck that badly again. If we had another truck, or a winch when we first got stuck, we would have gotten out easily. What was the worst was the way Greg's truck sank while it was just sitting. That was one misleading field of tall, dead grass! Only a few of us have trucks now. The next generation has them too. Gary has one, Rob has one, my brother Andrew has one. None of us go 4 wheeling much anymore. Gary, and my brother plow snow with their trucks. I plow with one of mine. Greg drives a Grand Prix. Frank has a Ford F-350 Powerstroke Diesel now. He drives a Mack R model, with a 50 yard dump trailer for a living. Greg's a mechanic now, and has been one for the past 12 years. Mikey also owns and drives a 18 wheeler. Hauling stumps and demolition mostly. We never really see each other anymore. I really miss the old days!
©1999 Charles D. Smith, all rights reserved. May not be reproduced in whole or in part, in any format, without the authors express written permission to do so.
Another story, only this time Greg saved the day!
Eric Got Stuck
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