Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Stuck (Again)

I've been in the Yuma, AZ area for the last couple of weeks, mostly boondocking around Mittry Lake which is about 15 miles northeast of Yuma, close to the California border.  (I'll do a campground review in another post.) Most of the campsites around the lake are unfortunately near a dusty access road that circles the lake and with even the moderate traffic if you camp at one of the roadside sites your rig is soon covered in dust.  My intent was to find a somewhat more secluded campsite more off the access road so as to not eat dust all day.  There are many ATV trails leading off the access road so I followed a fairly established one that looked to be heading for a good spot.  The trail was hard-packed sand and gravel with some big rocks so I initially wasn't concerned about the possibility of becoming stuck...initially.  My mistake (this time) was in not comparing the Tank's 10,000 lb weight with the relatively light (1500 lbs) ATV's that had made the trail over the sand in the first place.  After following the trail for about 200 yards I got concerned that it was beginning to degrade just as I passed a wide enough area to do a three point turn around to get back to the access road.  I began the turnaround and as I stopped to put the Tank in reverse I felt the rear wheels sink about six inches...and not move the Tank backward.  Having the dubious distinction of being a multiple time "stuck-ee" I knew not to spin the tires and climbed out to look at how bad things might be..

The road to trouble!
It wasn't good.  The weight of the Tank had caused it's rear tires to break through the hard packed "crust" that the ATV's could drive across and beneath the crust was loose unconsolidated sand that offered very little traction.  I first hit on the idea of piling rocks, which are all over this part of Arizona, behind my drive wheel so as to offer more traction and allow the Tank to move out of the sand.  No luck, the Tank's weight simply pushed the rocks deeper into the loose sand and by now there was about a six inch "step" behind the drive wheel that resisted the wheel going backward, I'd have to dig this step out into a more gentle incline.  Out came my utility shovel.

My little shovel...don't leave home without one!
I shoveled out all four tires so there wasn't anything but a gentle incline behind each wheel then I reloaded rocks behind the drive wheel and tried backing up again, once again the Tank merely pushed the "traction rocks" deep into the sand and I only moved about six inches backward.  Finally, I remembered that when I was stuck in Utah I had taken a charcoal bag that still had some charcoal in it and used it as a way to get traction...I decided to give this approach a try.  The Albertsons across the California line I had grocery shopped at doesn't use normal plastic shopping bags (this might be a California thing) but they WILL sell you much bigger and thicker plastic bags for $.10.  I had kept mine because they seemed like they'd come in handy for some application and boy was I ever glad I did!  I filled an Albertsons bag with rocks and put it behind the drive wheel and crossed my fingers, this time I felt the drive wheel catch on the rock bag and the Tank lurched back a couple feet and, more importantly, the drive wheel stayed up on the hard pack crust, I was free, sort of.

The "quicksand" where the Tank got stuck.
I still had to make a left turn to aim the Tank back up the trail towards the access road and to build up any momentum I was going to have to head back "down" into very place I had just got unstuck from.  I realized there wasn't an easy fix to this so I carefully shoveled out grooves in the sand for my front wheels to initiate the turn in so they wouldn't just push piles of sand in front of them and hinder building up some speed and momentum.  Then I got back into the Tank and, with the knowledge I was driving back into what had just taken me a half hour to get out of, I gave the Tank gas and kept up enough momentum to get back out of the loose sandy area and back onto the hard pack of the ATV trail!  Another boondocking lesson learned:  If the Tank weighs five times more than a ATV it just MIGHT not be able to go where ATV's go, duh!  I was so grateful I had the utility shovel with me, I would never had been able to move all the sand that was necessary to be moved without it.  You can buy them at Home Depot or Lowes and I think mine cost $8 or something, what a great investment!

Thanks for reading!