Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Off Road Driving

Here's something that just popped into my head.... It's second nature to me because I've done quite a bit of off-roading.

When the time comes to bug out, and I suspect it might be pretty soon, it may become necessary to go off-road, due to stalled traffic, road blocks, etc.... Joe of Viking Preparedness had an excellent post on convoys yesterday, and I felt that I could add to it with some off-road driving rules/tips.

The number one rule of off-roading is never go alone. When you get stuck, or break down, if you are alone your goose is cooked....

Never traverse a hill. Always take the hill straight on, or at a less than 45 degree angle. Let your "pucker factor" be your guide! If it doesn't feel right, it ain't. Be even more conservative if you are in an SUV, and especially conservative in a lifted vehicle.

Never "charge" a hill blind! If you don't know what's on the other side, you might be in for an unpleasant surprise! I know this from experience, brakes don't work when you're airborne, and you've just seen the pond on the other side..... Heh heh heh. If in doubt, scout it out!

Never assume you'll make it through that mud "puddle". Again, I've had the experience of a mud "puddle" suddenly becoming a sink hole. 2 trucks, 2 winches, and 2 hours later I was free again...... If in doubt, scout it out! (There's a theme developing here.....) Probe the mud hole with a stick or something to see if it is passable.

Now for some tips. If you find yourself on a dirt road in a 2 wheel drive vehicle and you become stuck, there are some things you can do. First off, don't "floor it" in an attempt to get going again, you'll only make things worse by burying yourself. Stop, get out, assess the situation, and study your options. One possibility in rear wheel drive vehicles is to partially engage the emergency brake. Most vehicles have an "open" differential, meaning power will go to the wheel with the least traction. Usually the passenger side wheel will be the one to spin when traction is lost. Partially engaging the emergency brake stops the "stuck" wheel from spinning and transfers power to the other wheel. On a front wheel drive vehicle you can accomplish the same thing by applying the brakes, very gently. In either situation, apply power very slowly and smoothly, and it might be enough to get you going again. "Poor man's posi-traction"......

Another thing to try if the emergency brake trick doesn't work is to slip a rock, piece of wood, or whatever else you can find under the tire that is spinning. This will give it more traction, and get you out of the hole.

If you even think you might be forced off-road, a come-along, tow strap(s), a length of chain, and some shackles are a sound investment. All can be gotten at Harbor Freight for 50 bucks or less. An electric winch is the ultimate "unstucker", but they ain't cheap!

A good compass, or hand held GPS, and good maps are essential for going off road. It's easy to lose your bearings, and you need something to give you direction. Those wobbly little Wal Mart compasses with the suction cup are virtually worthless, so pass them by. As a rule of thumb, the larger the compass, the better, so wander on over to a marine supply dealer and get you a good marine compass, if not a GPS. I ain't talkin' about no Tom Tom either, I mean a good Garmin or Magellan hand held GPS unit. A Tom Tom will just look at you crosseyed if you're bouncing down some power line right-of-way......

Speaking of power lines, they are an excellent "alternative highway". They are generally kept clear of trees and brush in a wide swath on either side of the towers for their entire length. Do be aware that there is usually a foundation slab at the base of the towers that might be hidden by tall grass or something. Those slabs can reach out and whack you if you ain't careful. Again, I know this from experience.....

Like power lines, Texas is blessed with a lot of pipeline right-of-ways, which are also kept clear of brush, trees, and major obstructions. They are usually kept mowed down as well, and could become handy "stealth highways" if the need be. Watch out for pipeline markers, they are usually T posts, driven in deep, and they can cause some damage to your vehicle. Some markers are welded pipe, and those should really be avoided! Here it comes again, if in doubt, scout it out!

There are also oilfield roads (but be aware that most of 'em dead end at a drilling rig or well!), park roads, ranch roads, and many other alternatives to the highway in an emergency situation. There are many, many maps available on the Texas General Land Office website, as well as from the US Geological Survey. These maps cover so much more than Rand McNally! Ranch roads, logging roads, oilfield roads, all the little county roads...... Very handy.

I guess the last thing is to consider the weather. If it's been rainin' cats and dogs, even if it's been a few weeks since the last rain, you might want to avoid off-roading if at all possible. At the very least, be extremely cautious. Snow (not that we get much down here!) can hide obstructions, holes, etc., so be especially careful in it. Ice, which is a possibility, can make things extremely treacherous. Never attempt a river or creek crossing before checking things out thoroughly first! Even a few inches of moving water is enough to sweep your vehicle downstream....... One more time! If in doubt, scout it out!

Now for the disclaimer (ugh): In no way do I advocate violating private property rights, any laws, rules, or regs, or anything like that. This is meant for informational purposes only, and in no way should be considered an endorsement of any possible illegal activity. So there! Be aware. Be informed. Be prepared!


HermitJim said...

Hey Mayberry...once again, excellent post with good,solid info. I appreciate the link for the maps...was unaware of it!

Guess we really are never too old to learn, huh.

Mayberry said...

Thanks Hermit, and glad to be of service. You're never "too old" to learn!

Shy Wolf said...

MMM, yah- nothin' like a 12 pack and dark woods trails! What ALL the off-roaders in this woodsy country carry is a Hi-Lift jack and 25 feet of 3/8 logger chain to go along with that tow strap. The Hi-Lift makes an excellent cum-along (even has directions in flyer-instruction book). You can do it with a tow strap, but chain has no give, so less slippage. Too, a sleeping bag, some H2O and grub goes a long way to alleviating that feeling you get in the pit of your gut when the beer's gone. :-D

Mayberry said...

Heh heh heh... I was gonna mention a hi-lift jack, but the last time I did, I caught flak about how "dangerous" they are......

riverwalker said...

Great post Mayberry. You weren't spinning your wheels with this one!


I drive my tractor in pearls... said...

I got stuck in a 2WD Expedition several years ago - babies asleep in the car, cell phone on the kitchen counter, husband in China. After using the 5 year old on a large 4 wheeler, putting logs under the back tires, and about an hour since I had to hike to get the 4wheeler, we were back on the road. I was filthy but feeling pretty good about myself.

Fast forward 2 years and when it was time for a new family car, the husband bought me a 4x4 Excursion. He added a cattle guard on the front to protect from deer and added an electric winch. Its an amazing machine. I dont think I will get stuck again, but if I do, I can get myself out, either using my winch or my brain.

Excellent post.

Shy Wolf said...

ROFL, Mayberry- next time someone tells you how dangerous a hi-lift jack is, ask if it's more dangerous than being stuck in the middle of no-where with a blizzard comin on and the feebs hot on their ass.
Some peope just gots no sense, Man!
If we're gona live our lives cuzz we're afraid, we may as well put a stake in our heart and get it over with. Chicken-poop libs, anyway.

Shy Wolf said...

Oh, forgot: there's a really neat trick of how to use a spare tire and wheel and length of rope/tow cable to make a winch that runs off the drive tire- might be a good idea for folks who want a cheap tool that works really well.
Too, a lot of the off-roaders up here, and elsewhere, I imagine, have a DC operate welding kit in their (monster) tool boxes.

Anonymous said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



Mayberry said...

Pearls, you got yerself a tank!

Shy, no kiddin', and I'd like to see that trick!

Sharon, thanks. Glad you enjoy it.