Ever been stuck? (Post #167) 2/3/2010

Admittedly the number of times I have been green laning or on any official off-road activity since I left the Marine Corps (circa 1986) can be counted on my fingers and toes without taking off my shoes. Those unintentional trips off road for this reckoning will not be counted. I will share with you in the story I hope you will soon to be entertained by, what not to do when green laning or muddin’, or off-roading, or bogging, or whatever you call it, where you are from.

As I stated above, we will not count the time my good friend and fellow Midnight Maverick Marauder, Jack (real name) and I went driving around in my Super Banana colored Dodge Ram short bed pickup a day after a snow storm hit.

Admittedly we were “on the sauce” that night. Before driving and drinking was as seriously frowned upon as it is today, it was common for “good ole boys” to grab a six pack and go for a drive around on the country roads in the rural parts of the county you may reside in. The worst you could expect from the local police was a slap on the wrist, a surrendering of your beer, and stern warning to “get home, and I mean now”. The likelihood of even seeing a police car on muddy back roads was astronomical. You were more likely to see a UFO abducting some unsuspecting cows than a cop getting his precious car muddy and possibly stuck at midnight on a week night.

Back in those days these roads were most often unpaved and a complete blast to tear around on. At the very least we would drive out to someone’s hay barn or drive down to the river and sit around listen to tunes and have a few beers. Truly harmless stuff.

Imagine this road, sloppy wet and covered in snow.

The night in question was during a week when Michelob was on sale, making the week basically a holiday in my book. The fall semester finals were over and Christmas (1986) was just a few weeks way. The night began with me, due to poorly fitting passenger door, ejecting Jack out on to the pavement. His landing was judged 9.0, 9.0, 6.5 (damn Russian judge), 9.0.

If he had not knocked the bottom off the bottom of his bottle of Michelob, which he was still holding when he rolled to a stop against the curb, he would have taken gold that night. A nasty head injury resulting in a black eye and a dead soldier were the only ill affects. Instead of ignoring this omen we continued on, trusting that the beer bottles were cold enough to keep the swelling down on Jack’s eye for several more hours of driving fun.

After a few successful treks on some very muddy roads and treacherous roads we took a turn down a road we would not drive back out of. As we progressed down the road we were trusting my driving skills and a limited slip rear differential that I proudly exclaimed I had left me stuck. Fateful words indeed. After two deer had ran past us on the “trail” we were driving on, it was decided we should turn around.

After 24 years of recollection I’m pretty sure this is the road.

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I nice sized puddle of water ahead of us obscured the “road” (we’ll use that term loosely). I took it with high revs and crossed with an awesome wall of red muddy water crashing over the hood. Great fun. I found a wide spot to turn us around and deciding not to temp fate again I attempted to cross the puddle on the opposite side to avoid my own ruts. We got about half way before we came to an abrupt stop.

Lots of wheel spinning later we were well stuck. A small tree was sacrificed (cut down) and jammed under the rear wheel. All it managed to do was provide a friction device to heat the tire to the point of bursting when the 33 degree water rapidly cooled the tire. When that tire popped it sprayed everything with red dirt water. Everything.

So you have the situation as such. We were a mile and a half down a muddy dirt road. Pickup buried to the axle. Freezing temperatures. Snow falling on and off. And I in jeans a formerly white KATT sweat shirt. Jack was similarly attired. Neither of us had a coat or even a stocking cap between us.

We walked back up to the last paved road we had crossed. And after a while of standing around, we saw an 18 wheeler pull up to a house down the road. We walked down there and careful not to scare anyone, I went up to the house and asked to use the phone. I tracked that red mud straight across the floor and called my apartment for assistance. Scott defaulted and left the rescue to Mike, who after an expletive filled paragraph describing the hour we had called, I hung up. Mike had eloquently informed me that it was 3:30 in the morning on a work night. Work for him, but not for me.

I was confident we would be rescued. What I wasn’t confident in my physical condition when the rescue arrived. It was cold and that is understating it quite a bit considering we had nothing but sweatshirts and jeans on.

My confidence in our rescue came from what I believed to be EXCELLENT directions to our location. “We are north of Norman, I can see the radio station towers of KOMA directly west of us, there was a lake and we were on the east side of it, and the road is kind of curvy. Hell, anyone worth their salt would have triangulated down on us no problem. Mike informed me in another expletive laced paragraph what he thought of these directions. Apparently they were not as good as my beer soaked brain thought they were.

Jack and I walked back up to the road and surprisingly 35 minutes later a very salty Mike flew by in the infamous Red Van. We screamed for him to stop and amazingly he heard us. He turned around, picked us up, and we got an expletive filled ride home.

When me and my hangover got to Midwest City the next day, hiring a tow truck driver was a bit of a challenge. The bigger challenge was finding my truck. It is still a mystery how I managed to find the road. I had enough money to get my truck out. But when the driver told me just before he turned on to the muddy road, “you realize, if I get stuck you have to pay to get my truck out too.” I told him, “don’t get stuck.” He paused, and then turned down the road.

He navigated the ruts and holes expertly and winched my truck out of the pond that had formed in the road we were trying to drive down. His comment as we reached the lake and followed the road to my truck, “Are you sure your truck is down here?” I was just about to answer him when there in the road ahead of us was my truck.

He found solid ground and started to reel out the winch. He gave me the business end of the winch and without a word looked at the truck and then at me. I turned and waded out into the freezing water, knelt down and hooked up the winch.

When my pickup was on solid ground. I thought he would abandon me but instead he loaned me his high lift jack to change my tire. I’m not sure the gesture was because he was impressed that I had just soaked myself to the waist to hook up the winch or recognized the skill it took to get as far down the road as I had in just a 2WD pickup or just felt sorry for my poor shivering ass.

I paid him, thanked him for the use of the jack and I followed him up to the paved road. The ordeal was done. The last 24 hours was all on me. Even to this day I take full responsibility. Jack still had a black eye two weeks later at our 1st Annual Formal Christmas Party.

Pictured: Mike and Jack.

Mike and Jack
What we did was stupid, dumb even.
Drinking and driving is dumb.
Letting me drive you around all night on back roads is brave dumb.
Leaving your apartment with just jeans and a sweatshirt in an Oklahoma winter is stylish dumb.
Getting stuck on the east side of Lake Draper where people dump bodies is very dumb.
So the next time you are out ripping it up in your Landy, just remember my story and try to do it a little less stupidly.

But sometimes, spontaneous off-roading makes a hell of a story.

Thanks for reading and Happy Rovering.