Monday, November 3, 2008

Bring me my lusty winch

We've just wrapped up a lovely weekend at our friends' hunting ranch, a bit southwest of our current digs. We're not hunters ourselves, and, even though Saturday was opening day of the season, they didn't do any hunting either. Mostly we rode ATVs around the enormous property, soaked in the wood-fired hot tub, and watched movies on the big screen TV -- pretty much what we did the last couple of times we were there. Opal loves the ranch, and she even manages to find her dogly place among the hunting Spaniels. Which included, on this visit, a 10-week old female puppy that we helped them pick up on Saturday -- what a cutie.

On our previous visits, we had arrived at the ranch by car and stayed in one of the guest rooms, but last time we were there, we scoped out a spot on the property about half a mile from the house, and just a couple hundred feet from their private lake, where we could park Odyssey, and this visit we decided to do just that. This spot is just inside a gate off a paved county road, whereas their house is a quarter mile up a rough gravel road with low trees, off a dirt road, and unreachable in the bus.

We made it to the gate down the narrow county road without trouble, and it would have been a straight shot to the parking spot nose-in, albeit across a very small patch of soft sand. However, we made a critical error in judgment and decided to turn the bus around first, and back into the space. Somewhere in the middle of the three-point (well, more like five-point) turn attempt on the narrow and highly crowned road, I managed to get the rear skids landed on the ground with the drivers in the soft sand, and that was all she wrote -- we were stuck, and fully across the road to boot.

We've done this before, and so I put on my grubby clothes and set to work on unsticking us, while Louise called our contract towing service to send a wrecker, in the likely event that I could not do it myself. Fortunately, there was enough room around behind us for the very little traffic on this road to make it past us, and our friend directed the traffic that way while I continued to try to dig us out.

At some point one of the neighbors arrived with his tractor -- I think he imagined his little Cub Cadet could pull us out (not), but instead he helped move some of the soil with his front-loader. Unfortunately, he also managed to whack Odyssey with the bucket at one point, causing the only real damage of the entire incident. At some point, all three of us were digging the rear end out, after I had already jacked the drivers up and shoved the few boards I had under them.

Even with the wheels on the boards, the combination of the back end still being hung on the slope, and there being very little maneuvering room in front of the bus, meant that I was again immediately stuck after moving the bus forward a couple feet.

Given enough time, we could have continued the cycle of jacking up the drivers, placing the boards underneath, and excavating the skids until the multi-point turn was completed, but darkness was falling, and shortly thereafter the giant wrecker arrived to bail us out.

After assessing the situation and a brief discussion, he positioned the truck behind Odyssey as best he could, in the proper direction to help us complete the turn (we briefly contemplated going the other way, and undoing what we had already done).

Odyssey came to us with a towing pintle already affixed to the frame, and I had equipped this with a hefty grade-8 bolt, which serves both to attach our class-III trailer hitch if needed (we never have) or for it's intended purpose of yanking the coach out of trouble. The wrecker had a strap that would fit around this bolt, and the strap had a fairly low breaking strength of around 8,000 lbs, which would protect Odyssey from damage that the massive wrecker could easily inflict with its main cable, capable, I'm sure, of a good 2o tons.

Once the cable was affixed and the wrecker's massive ground anchors had been deployed, I climbed into the driver's seat, cranked the wheel, released the brakes, and the winching began. Louise reports that the bumper flexed quite a bit, as the angle of the tow cable meant about 30% of the force was in the up, rather than back, direction. After being winched backwards a few feet, we drove forward a few yards under our own power, with the wrecker operator hop-scotching 4x4s underneath the drivers as we went. One more backwards winch, and then I was able to drive straight out onto the road.

We kept the wrecker on hand until we were backed into our lovely parking spot, just to make sure we were not going to sink in. But, as I had originally surmised, we had no trouble at all once it was a straight shot.

This is the first time we've had to be winched out by a wrecker since we started blogging here. We once sunk up to our axles in mud in a Pennsylvania state park, almost exactly four years ago on the newly-completed Odyssey's first cross-country jaunt. That was where we decided that our next set of drive tires would be traction models. It was also the first time we needed to use our new CoachNet road service -- ironically, we blew a tire the very next day, making it two days in a row. We wisely purchased this $100/year towing coverage after literally getting stuck in a driveway on our third day of driving, a 5-hour, $300 mistake (story here, buried in a long post).

Anyway, once we got settled, it was a lovely spot -- the sort of place we normally seek out on public lands, but, instead, conveniently on our friends' property.


  1. Getting stuck is always fun. At least you only needed one wrecker. I got an F250 stuck in a field once. A flatbed had to pull the other wrecker out.

  2. Sean,
    Interesting story. I have just one question/suggestion. Would it have been possible to manually manipulate the rear leveling valve for the air bags and raise the rear end?
    I once did that on a Neoplan that got stuck at Fort Chaffee (Ft. Smith, AR) while we were there on hurricane Katrina/Rita relief opperations. The driver attemped to turn around using a small driveway (which he missed) and got the left side drives off in a ditch. Causing it to bottom out in the rear.
    They called a wrecker service out, but the wrecker driver called back and told them "that it was getting late, gonna be dark soon, and might rain too! So he'd come out in the AM!"
    At that point I told them I could get it out, if they would let me.
    Well the base didn't want it sitting there blocikng the road.
    The owner didn't want it sitting there all night twisted like a pretzel, and sinking farther if it did rain.
    So I put on my trust jump suit/overalls and slid in between the drive and tag axle (remember I'm a pretty large guy!). Then I used the screw driver and vise grips I'd taken under with me to disconnect the linkage on the rear suspension leveling valve. Once disconnected I was able to take and duct tape a broom handle to it.Once I had my broom handle attached and placed in a position I could control it from beside the coach, I had 2 guys help pull my feet/legs out while I worked the front half of me out (must have been a sight to see! LOL!)
    Once free from my torture chamber, I was able to have the driver start it and build air pressure. Once pressure was all the way up I took the linkage and pushed it up, so it would inflate the bags more. I did this until the rear skid pad was clear of the road. Then I had the driver try to back out. Well no luck, he had sunk the drive tires to the point the reah housings "pumpkin" was bottomed out on the drive.
    So I fired up my trusty SETRA and pulled behind it. Then I droppeed the frot bumper of mine and put in the "tow bar" that comes with it. Then I hooked a chain from the tow bar to the rear towing point on the Neoplan.
    I had a fellow driver hold the linkage stick where we could raise the rear of the bus while I backed up and pulled him out! FWIW "BK"


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