stuck004  Stuck In The Mud  stuck005

We got this Jeep Wrangler this spring, and we love it. AJ, my 15 year old, is crazy about it. He keeps asking me when we can take it off-road. Finally, on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend we took the hard top off. Monday (Memorial Day) I decided to take the Jeep to this dirt road that someone told me about. The entrance to the dirt road is about 3 miles from home. It was so much fun, driving that Jeep up the hills and through the puddles and stuff. Eventually, about 3/4 of a mile down the road we came to a place that looked a little questionable. There was some muddy terrain but I figured I could get through. My biggest concern was that there was a slight hill a little ways down the trail that I could not over. I was worried about what might be on the other side of it.

I decided to give it a try. Partly because I was curious to see if I could make it, and partly because I was probably trying to show-off somewhat for AJ. Incidentally, this is why alcohol should always be involved when doing things like this. Of course since I was with AJ I didn't have any beer on board. If I was with friends and we had some beer in the Jeep I never would have attempted this manuever, knowing that having alcohol on board would only exacerbate any problems if we did indeed get stuck.

So....I go for it. Start plowing through the mud and over a small steam. The Jeep is getting a little squirrelly but still getting through it all and I'm just-a-grinnin' as they say down South. Then, I get to the crest of the hill and just on the other side is a REALLY nasty looking bog. Since I was going fast to get through where I was, I just couldn't stop in time and I plunged into this mud-hole. Practically a pond.

Anyone who has ever gotten stuck while 4-wheeling knows that "sinking" feeling when you can feel your truck drop down as far as it can go and just stops. You just know that you are hopelessly stuck and are always smart enough to just try to get out a couple of times before giving up. This was the case here. We got out of the Jeep, stepping into knee-deep mud, and surveyed the situation. As "frugal" as I am, I immediately decided that rather than mess around all day with shovels and planks, I would walk home and call Caron's to get me out of this mess. Remember it's a holiday and I'm 3/4 of a mile down a dirt road, 300 feet from any solid winch attachment point. I knew this was gonna likely be a 500 dollar tow bill, if not more.

So...AJ and I walk the 3/4 of a mile dirt road, and the 3 miles home. Our shoes are caked with mud, making it difficult to walk. As soon as I got home I called Caron's and explained my situation. Caron's is a local heavy-duty towing company. They are usually who we (my Fire Department) call when we are at a wreck and need to have someone winched or towed. These are the guys who can get you out of any jam imaginable. Remember I live in New England, the "idiot driver" capital of the world. I've seen these guys get tractor trailers out of trees, haul Honda Accords out of ditches and out from underwater after the driver realized that it wasn't a high-performance car after all. I've seen them separate a box truck from a gasoline tanker without spilling a drop, stuff like that. I was certain that the Jeep would be home within the hour.

I met the guy in the wrecker at the start of the dirt road. he calls in another guy with a pickup truck to be his backup man. I'm in the wrecker with the guy, and I brought along a shovel of mine in case I needed it. We get to the site. Both of the guys walk down to Jeep. They looked it over. One of the guys turns to me with his arms folded, looks at me and says...."Dude, I don't know what to tell you. I can't help you, and I don't know anyone who can".

So, I decided to stay there for a little while to see what I can accomplish with my shovel, which turned out to be not much. There was so much suction in the mud, that the shovel was nearly impossible to remove. The muck that I was in was the consistency of a chocolate milk shake, but with lots of water on the surface. I wanted to get the water out, so I dug narrow trenches to try to drain it away. Next thing I know I hear the sound of 2-cycle engines whining in the distance. It was this gang of teenage hooligans on ATV's and dirt bikes. I was praying they wouldn't see me, but sure enough the sound got louder and louder and there they were, doing all they could not to laugh at me and my predicament. The kids were funny. Fighting with each other and throwing each other in the mud and stuff. Actually they turned out to be pretty good kids. One of them even offered to go get his Dad to help me dig out. I still worried that they might come back after dark and break the glass and piss on my seats and stuff, so I told them that i was going to camp out there for the night.

So, giving up for the day I walked back to the street and drove home. I had that terrible feeling that you get only a few times in your life when something so bad happens that you hope it's only a bad dream, and even though you basically know it's real, you still hold on to that hope that maybe it is just a dream after all. I couldn't believe that I had to leave the Jeep sitting there in that mess overnight.

The next day, Tuesday, I got at 5am. I loaded up my old van with everything that I could think of that I could use to dig out. It just so happens I had a bunch of 4 foot sections of old railroad ties at home that I only a few days before got for a landscaping project. These would end up proving to be extremely valuable. I loaded them up along with whatever planks and 4x4 sections I had, shovels, rakes, wheelbarrow, gloves, etc. I also brought along everything that I would need to set up "base camp". A radio (also proved to be very valuable), lots of water, some sandwiches, toilet paper, towels, etc.

I drove up there, but of course I could only get 300 feet from the Jeep, so I had to carry each of the railroad ties the rest of the way, 1 at a time. Then I loaded the wheelbarrow with the rest of the stuff, which also required several more round trips. I set up base camp and started digging. It was hot those days too, but fortunately for me the heat does not bother me. I dug and dug and dug all day Tuesday. Shovels still proved useless because of the suction of the mud. I completed the job of trenching away the water, then dug out all around the Jeep by hand. I couldn't even wear leather gloves because the mud would cake on them immediately. So here I am in mud up to my knees, picking up this muck a handful at a time, and trying to throw each handful far away enough so that it wouldn't flow back into the "hole". I listened to the radio all day, which really helped, and took a lot of water breaks. Luckily I found a nice cold fresh water spring right near the site, and I used it often to splash on my face and stuff, which was very refreshing. I ended up naming it the "life-giving spring".

I quit for the day around 4:00. Got in my old Dodge van and headed back down the dirt road. As I'm headed back I'm thinking "I wonder if I should put some gas in the van before coming back tomorrow". The gas gauge in the van doesn't work and since I always fill it up, I know that I can get 300 miles or so on a tank. Since I'm getting rid of the van, I've only been putting a little gas in at a time so I never really know anymore how much I have in it. I was pretty sure I was good for another 10 miles, but just as I'm deciding that I'd be safe to put some more in, guess what......out of gas. Now here I am with a Jeep hopelessly stuck in the mud, and a van out of gas in the middle of a dirt road 1/4 mile from the street. "no problem", I think to myself. I always carry a 2 gallon gas can in the van for occasions such as this. Empty. used it the last time I ran out of gas and forgot to refill it. I had no cash on me at all because I knew I'd be swimming in mud all day. Now I head out with the empty gas can and my digital camera, thinking that I'll stop at the gas station that's about halfway home, get 2 gallons of gas, and give them the camera as collateral until I come back to pay them.

I'm walking down the road. it's HOT outside, I am covered in mud from head to toe, I can hardly walk because my shoes are caked with dry mud and weigh 10 pounds each. I get only a couple of blocks and what do I see ? A landscaping crew is mowing the lawn at a condo complex. Their trailer is filled with all kinds of machines, and of course about 4 10-gallon gas cans. "These grass-rats will hook me up", I'm thinking. I ask one of the guys whose on the rider mower, and to make a long story short...."no speaka de Anglais". Unbelievable. Here I am in this situation, totally dejected, and I know that trying to communicate with these guys any further will only waste more time, so I continue the long walk home. I even totally gave up on the gas station/digital camera idea, knowing that chances are it would only be the cause of more frustration. After filling the gas can, driving back to the site in another car, walking the dirt road to the van, and driving the van home, I figure it's time to call it a day.

The next day the same deal. Take the van to the site, dig dig dig. To avoid frustration, I didn't do what most people would do, which is try every 10 minutes to get unstuck. I knew I was in deep and knew I would have to be dug almost completely out to be able to drive out of this mess. The Jeep's wheels were sunk in soft mud, and the chassis had rest itself on hard clay-like stuff. After digging out the soft stuff all around the Jeep, I had to reach underneath and clear everything from the chassis. In order to do this, I had to set up my hydraulic floor jack under the Jeep and jack the Jeep up enough to get the railroad ties under each wheel. This was a hugely long and dirty process. Finally, I got myself to the point where I was ready to try to get out again. I start backing the Jeep, and I actually get it to move back a few inches, but the wheels start spinning again. I was psyched because I knew I was getting close. Another hour or so of digging and manipulating the railroad ties, and I try again. Vroom ! Out it comes. I know that all I have to do is make sure I stop before I get to the muddy spot that's right behind the Jeep so that I can turn it around and drive out fast to clear it. AFter sitting in the water for 2 days guess what?.....NO BRAKES !! I'm standing on the brake yelling at the top of my lungs STOP ! STOP ! but no dice. The Jeep plunges into the next abyss, hopelessly stuck once again.

I was stuck good again, but not nearly as hopeless as before. I figure if I can get myself out of that jam, this one will be a piece of cake. Another few hours of digging and doing the railroad tie thing and finally I'm out of the 2nd mess. I manage to back the Jeep out, into a hard area that's perfect for getting a good head-start for when I go forward and drive out of that mess forever. No forward gear at all. I guess something in the tranny or clutch got seized up from sitting in all of the mud and water. I had another idea to try. I drove the van home again, filled up my 2-gallon garden sprayer wit hot water, and bought 5 cans of brake cleaner. I returned to the Jeep, removed the bolts that attach the plate between the engine and tranny, pried the plate away, and sprayed the brake cleaner and hot water up into the bell housing. A lot of junk dripped out so I figured I might be OK. Sure enough, I was able to get it into 1st gear. I gunned it and plowed out of there as fast as I could, all the while being right on the edge of getting stuck yet again. When I finally made it to hard ground where the Van was parked I was so psyched. This ordeal was finally almost over, but I still had a lot of work to do. There was a lot of picking up to do. I'm a firm believer of "pack it in, pack it out", so I made sure that all of the railroad ties and planks and all the other junk I hauled in there was removed. I drove the Jeep back to the road, then walked back for the Van, and soon everything was at home. The funny thing is, after practically living there for 3 days, I was kind of sad to leave, but I said goodbye to the "life-giving spring" and quickly got over my sadness.

It actually took about 2 weeks for me to get the Jeep back in service. I had to drop the tranny to replace the clutch and throwout bearing. The whole Jeep had to be pressure washed inside and out, then cleaned by hand to get rid of all the mud. Seat covers, carpeting, roll bar padding, etc all had to be removed and cleaned. I even had to pull all the wheels and brakes to get the mud out from all of it.

When I tell this story to people they always say "I bet you'll never go there again". Actually I've been back several times, only now I'm not stupid enough to try to get through that spot again. It's still a great place to go 4-wheeling, and because of that whole ordeal I discovered that it's a great area to kidnap tadpoles, frogs, and wild plant life for my pond.

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