Monday, July 06, 2009

Stuck in a rut - literally

Today was fun. I went for a drive with a friend with the intent of going hiking. We were driving around Sutton, MA, looking for a place where the Massachusetts Mid-State Trail becomes a trail again rather than following a paved road.

We eventually found a dirt road turn where the trail headed into the woods. Since there wasn't any parking at that junction, we decided to drive along the dirt road. After a few minutes of driving, the road quality got worse and worse. Eventually, it became a rocky mud thing that somewhat resembled a dirt road, but definitely wasn't suited for most cars. I was kind of enjoying the adventure, and decided to push onward. "What's the worst that can happen?" is something I think I said to my friend at some point. The road was bad, but the worst I expected was getting some scrapes on the bottom of my SUV from some larger rocks that I might accidentally hit.

Well, it turns out something worse could happen. While my friend was outside the vehicle helping me navigate some extra large rocks - I managed to drive a little too far off the edge of road and wedged my front right tire between two very large rocks. Woops! I was being a bit impatient and rather than slowly creep around some rocks in the middle of the road, I went a bit faster and thought I was clear - and didn't even see the brush covered rock on the right that the right tire dropped over. From my friends point of view in front of the car, it looked like the right tire had just bumped into a very large rock and stopped forward progress.

The rock on the right that was behind the right tire was so well hidden, it was a few minutes before we even realized that's why the car wasn't moving. At first I though it was no big deal, that the vehicle was stuck from going forward because there was a rock in font of the right tire. And when going in reverse didn't work, I just assumed it was because left front tire was slipping on a muddy rock. After getting out of the vehicle I saw the right tire nicely placed between two very large rocks and instantly got that "OH Crap!" sick-to-the-stomach feeling.

It wasn't looking good. Both rocks were a couple feet in diameter - not something that two people could reasonably expect to be able to move. Moving the one behind the tire definitely wasn't an option - it was under the car and appeared to be well rooted in the ground. The one in front was big enough to weight about 800 pounds, maybe more. Again, not something easily moved.

So, the first thing we tried was using the car jack to raise the front of the car enough so the tire would be lifted and we could put other rocks underneath. It seemed like a good idea, but due to the way the vehicle was titled on the edge of the road, the jack, while positioned adjacent to the front tire, was actually lifting the whole back end of the vehicle. Eventually the back right tire came off the ground rather than the front right one! The weight of the engine combined with the slope of the road was working against us.

Plan B: While the rock in front of the tire was quite large, it appeared to be sitting mostly on the surface of the ground. So, there was a chance we could move it. I began to dig behind the rock while my friend went searching for something decent to use as a lever. Surprisingly, he quickly returned with 2 good quality 2x8 planks about 4 feet long that just happened to be on the side of the road not too far away. Perfect! After more digging and the coordinated use of the levers between the two of us, we we able to slowly pry and push the rock over enough so the tire was no longer obstructed. It took us about 2 hours in total to get the vehicle free. At that point, we decided we probably shouldn't push our luck and reversed direction back to better road conditions.

I think in the future, I'll keep a few more tools in my SUV than just the standard jack and tire iron. And maybe not treat my Toyota RAV4 like it's a Jeep. But where's the fun in that?