Been almost 8 years since this happened. And now it seems likely that this year's trip to Ontario is also a "No," like last year's.

demlion

Well-Known Member
Feb 4, 2004
44,707
12,832
1
MY VACATION.


We always leave later than I want to. I always want to get a jump on the vacation, make some miles, make good time, and get halfway to the lake in Canada early on the first day. Something always happens though, and we end up leaving at about 10 am.


I hooked my 16 foot bass boat up to the little Japanese truck this morning about 8. I had Sue drive it around the driveway so I could listen for any weird sounds. Nada. The new wheel bearings I put on the 20+ year old trailer were nice and quiet. The wheels ran true. Good to go. She parked it and shut it off. She got out and said she would leave it in first gear. I told her to set the parking brake. She did. It is a 98, but has pretty low miles and I recently replaced the front bumper, so it was looking pretty stylish.


Over the next hour or so I loaded all the stuff in the boat and the truck. Looked like we would be out of there by 9.30 or so, which I considered a pretty good effort. I started the truck, put it in neutral and fired up the AC. I know the truck had been running for at least 10 minutes, as I was puttering around making sure I had everything loaded. I was going to make one more trip through the house to pick up anything I had missed, and we were gone.


I went in the garage to check that I had gotten all the fishing gear, and saw that I had. I started back out and saw the truck and boat slowly rolling down the driveway, across the grass and into the trees. I stood there with my hands on the sides of my head, my elbows jutted out like the handles on a sugar bowl. I felt like Mr. Bill: Oh, Noooooooooooooo! The truck was moving very slowly at first, then faster, then it went past the edge of the yard and hit the steep part of the hill and it moved very, very fast for a brief time then it hit a bunch of trees and stopped.


It was a good 60 feet off the edge of the pavement, and had made its own trail as it went down thru the woods. First it ran over some sumacs, then some small hardwood saplings, then a pine tree 3+ inches in diameter, then it hit a ten inch oak tree which stopped it. I jumped in and fired it up, got out again, locked in the hubs, got back in, put it in 4 wheel drive, and tried to back out. No. Rear wheels spinning, but not the fronts. Carnage on the front end. I could see the pine underneath the truck and it was pretty clear that it was taking the weight off the front wheels so they would not engage the ground sufficient to help me get out.


Chain saw time.


Before the truck and trailer and boat and almost all our stuff

crashed down thru the woods Friday morning, I was listening to NPR out of DC. The guy was standing on a bridge between the District and Virginia reporting on the day's weather to come. He said, "If I walk this way, toward the District, this afternoon I will face an Excessive Heat Warning--a Heat Index of 110 or above. If I go the other way, into Virginia, it will only be an Excessive Heat Watch. The most I will face is a Heat Index of 105. I guess we know where I will be headed this afternoon." HAHA, I thought. I am gonna be in an air-conditioned car in about 5 minutes, pal. Tonight it rains in Syracuse and tomorrow at Buckhorn Lake the high is set for 75*.

I guess the air temp was about 90 when the truck and boat and trailer took their little unscheduled trip. I had just had a shower from packing the stuff and I was feeling kinda sporty, if you must know.

Ten minutes later I was pouring sweat from every pore and orifice. The hottest day of the year is the day I pick to do a rescue/salvage operation on my boat and truck using my lawn tractor, a 4 wheeler and a chain saw.

The truck was hopelessly stuck so I hooked a 30 foot tow strap to the back of the boat and lashed it to the tractor. I reefed pretty hard on the sonofabitch about 5 times and dug some minor ruts in the grass. "Why won't this *()*^^%$*&)%$ No-good MF*(&%$#%^& come out of there?"

Then I realized it was still hitched to the truck, which was shut off in gear with the sad-ass, no good parking brake engaged. Not much chance I can drag the whole business up the hill. No. Suddenly I had hope I could get it out. All I had to do was unhook the trailer!

I went down to what modern engineers might call the truck/trailer interface. I could not lift the tongue of the trailer, loaded, on that hill, on my best day, and that was a while back. I have one of those wheel things on the front of the trailer which helps old men like me move the trailer around and you wind this crank and it raises it or lowers it. I cranked that as short as it would go and let it down from its latched-up travelling perch---wayyy too tall. Hammer time. I got a sledge out of the garage and made what amounts to an existential decision: either that sonofabitching wheel is latching in the down position or it is gonna get beat to pieces. Luckily, it held up to the pounding. I cranked it up and disconnected the hitch from the ball, whereupon the whole trailer shot forward and smashed the hell out of the rear bumper, almost catching my hand. My mind was a swirly smoky cauldron of bitterness.


I got the trailer unhitched and it is mashed into the rear bumper of my truck so I figure, okay, now I can pull the trailer up the hill and get it back on the pavement. I climb the hill to the tractor, put it in first and give it hell. Ruts in the yard. Does not move an inch. WTF? As I get off the tractor, just consumed by rage, ready to blow up the whole mess and let it burn the woods down, Sue hands me a glass of water and says, "Shouldn't we call a tow truck?" It is a perfectly reasonable question. One which anyone might ask in that situation. Somehow, the vicious, cutting replies shooting through my brain got stopped before they came out of my mouth. I felt like I was dying from the strain of not saying those things. And oh did I ever want to take that sledgehammer to the truck, boat, tractor and all of it. I said, "I don't think so." She went in the house.

I am wearing my stylish new shorts and a new T-shirt, and sandals. I am ready for a sporty day pulling my tired old boat to Syracuse. But now, I have cuts and scratches all over my arms and legs from fighting thru the brush to get to the truck and back like three separate times. My shirt is completely soaked thru and hanging heavy, as are my shorts. My feet are swimming around in my sandals on a river of sweat, and little twigs and pieces of grass are sticking out the sides of the sandals, dragging the ground as I walk.

Shoulders slumped, I walk back down to the trailer hitch, where I find (of course) that the SAFETY CHAINS are still attached and I am still trying to skid the truck up the hill because it is STILL attached to the boat. What's more, it is a good thing I did not take them off because I would have pulled the wiring apart since I had not unhooked that, either. I was so saturated with anxiety and fear that I was literally not acting in a rational and ordered way. Kind of frightening, really, because I very much wanted that trailer unhooked from the truck. I knew all the steps, but I could not get past my rage long enough to do this simple three step thing properly.

I thought, you really have to laugh ( I chuckled a little, to show how you do) as I walked back up to the tractor to back it off just a little to put some slack in the safety chains which of course were as rigid as a pipe. Got the chains off and now I was ready. The tractor was going to pull that boat right up over the small cliff it had fallen off of and up to the driveway. I gave it some throttle, eased out the clutch. The tow strap slid from the middle of the axle over against the left wheel and viciously jerked the trailer sideways, further into the brush. Fail.

But wait! Now the hitch was clear of the back of the truck, and maybe I could get to the front of it with my 4-wheeler. I used chains to bind the hitch to the back of the 4 wheeler, and in a maneuver certainly not approved by the Polaris Manufacturing Company I used my 300 Explorer to tow that 1500 pound boat and trailer combo up thru the brush and sumacs to the pavement, getting only a dozen or so additional scratches on my arms and legs. Now all I have to do is get the truck out and I will have this deal wired.

The retrieval of the truck, boat and trailer had become, in some ways,

more important than the vacation it was designed to facilitate, a metaphor for man's (my) ability in the age of facebook to do a simple vehicle rescue with limited tools and minimal rationality, in 90+ degree heat, without the help of towing industry professionals, under (self imposed) time pressures of an extreme nature.

I walked around the boat. Aside from the pine needles and sumac branches all over it, it was looking good. I walked down to the truck, got in, started it up and tried to back out. Still stuck although it was in 4wd. I rested my forehead on the steering wheel for a moment. Got out of the truck and fought my way through the brush to the passenger side. Where the turn signal used to be beside the headlight on that side was a gaping hole with a forlorn wire sticking out. No sign of the blinker assembly or lens. Well, it won't matter if the turn signal works if you cannot get the truck out of the woods, will it?

For what seemed the 5th or 6th time that day, I lay down in the dirt--in the dirt and leaf clutter and twigs and poison ivy and pine duff beside the truck. Pretty clear why the truck won't move--a 3 inch pine tree is wedged under it, and the top of the tree is in a fork just in front of the front bumper, about a foot off the ground. I think it is holding the weight up off the front wheels. I stand up and go in the garage and find my Stihl MS 211 Chain saw. It is designed to be a lightweight homeowners saw. From the Stihl website: "If you're a homeowner who wants it all, Stihl has heard your call."

I think there can be little doubt that I want it all at this point.

So I kneel down in the dirt and leaf clutter and start up the saw. One problem is I have to get partly under the truck to cut the tree, and I am really not certain how far the truck will drop when the tree is cut thru. I settle on a safety-driven posture of extending the running saw with my right hand and goosing the throttle when the chain is resting on the bark. The weight of the saw helps it to eat thru the tree and I notice, almost too late, that the weight of the truck is going to pinch the saw chain. I jerk it back just in time, and the saw quits. So I pull it out, get to my knees, start it again, lay back down, reach under the truck to undercut the tree, and it quits again. I repeat the above procedure with the same results two more times before I yield to the inevitable and check the fuel supply. It was not out of gas, there was merely so little gas that it would not run. I lay there in the dirt. I was wondering whether I had any chain saw gas.

As I lay there I saw an ant dragging a piece of bark about 5 times his size thru the dirt. The poor dumb bastard. Maybe he was going on vacation as soon as he got the bark moved, or maybe he was just a doomstruck cog in a massive organization of ants moving bark around for no reason at all. I somehow resisted the urge to crush the ant. It seemed like it might be unlucky.

I trudged up the hill past the tractor, found the saw gas, carried it back and filled the saw. It started up first pull. I lay back down, undercut the tree one-handed, and just got the saw out of the way before the whole business sank down about 3 inches. I then had to cut the trunk about 4 more times and pull the pieces out one by one. I did not want to back the truck out and rip out hoses or vital steering parts. Such a rash approach would make it impossible to use the truck to tow the boat to Canada. I think that by this point that was still the main idea.

The force of the truck crashing over the tree had actually uprooted the thing, and a ball of roots about a foot high was sticking up in the air underneath the truck. By now there was only about 3 inches of trunk still attached to it. I tried to wiggle it; no go. Somehow I had to cut the roots that were still in the ground. There were only a couple of them and once they were cut I could drive out. I crawled further under the truck, throttled the saw up and just plunged the saw into the dirt next to the roots. I was surprised to note that in short order it cut thru the dirt and roots and I had the stump loose. I pulled the stump out from under the truck. I made a mental note to have that chain sharpened. When I had the stump clear, I found the turn signal assembly, intact, under the truck. It apparently just popped out when the fender got crushed against one of the trees. Bonus.

I only, as it turned out, had to cut down two more trees which were in the way of maneuvering the truck into a position where I could back it straight out, up the little cliff and onto the pavement. That was sort of a rough ride, but it was a great feeling.

All this was less than 48 hours ago as I write this. The truck leaked no fluids, the headlights worked, and except for the turn signal, all systems are go. We drove to Syracuse on Friday, and up here yesterday. I took the boat off the trailer, fired up the 40-horse, oil-injected Merc, and blasted across the lake in the 75 degree sunshine yesterday. Last night I went fishing and caught two nice little (~12-13") bass which I returned to the lake. I skipped fishing this morning to finish this, but the high today is going to be a breezy 69* F. I'll go fishing again in a little while.

For those of you preparing for your own vacations, let me only say: Patience is the key. Happy Motoring.
 

PSU1282

Well-Known Member
Jan 27, 2006
489
204
1
Question? Can you go into Canada for fishing? I don't believe you can but I might be wrong.
 

PearlSUJam

Well-Known Member
Dec 31, 2013
12,064
14,335
1
You basically cannot go to Canada unless you are visiting family members who live there.
Ontario is currently in another major lockdown. Since last Spring, you can't even enter Canadian water on any of the Great Lakes or their tributaries unless it's an emergency. This ban includes pleasure boating and fishing.
 
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Parkland Fan

Well-Known Member
Jul 25, 2001
1,992
1,028
1
Nice to read the story once again. Even though I knew most of the details, I still laughed while reading it.
"a swirly smoky cauldron of bitterness".
I assume that you were an English Major.
That phrase reminded me of a reading assignment that I suffered through, but I can't remember which one.
 
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demlion

Well-Known Member
Feb 4, 2004
44,707
12,832
1
"a swirly smoky cauldron of bitterness".
I assume that you were an English Major.
That phrase reminded me of a reading assignment that I suffered through, but I can't remember which one.
Nah, my dad was an English teacher. I majored in Accounting.
 
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KBFAN19

Well-Known Member
Nov 4, 2010
74
12
1
MY VACATION.


We always leave later than I want to. I always want to get a jump on the vacation, make some miles, make good time, and get halfway to the lake in Canada early on the first day. Something always happens though, and we end up leaving at about 10 am.


I hooked my 16 foot bass boat up to the little Japanese truck this morning about 8. I had Sue drive it around the driveway so I could listen for any weird sounds. Nada. The new wheel bearings I put on the 20+ year old trailer were nice and quiet. The wheels ran true. Good to go. She parked it and shut it off. She got out and said she would leave it in first gear. I told her to set the parking brake. She did. It is a 98, but has pretty low miles and I recently replaced the front bumper, so it was looking pretty stylish.


Over the next hour or so I loaded all the stuff in the boat and the truck. Looked like we would be out of there by 9.30 or so, which I considered a pretty good effort. I started the truck, put it in neutral and fired up the AC. I know the truck had been running for at least 10 minutes, as I was puttering around making sure I had everything loaded. I was going to make one more trip through the house to pick up anything I had missed, and we were gone.


I went in the garage to check that I had gotten all the fishing gear, and saw that I had. I started back out and saw the truck and boat slowly rolling down the driveway, across the grass and into the trees. I stood there with my hands on the sides of my head, my elbows jutted out like the handles on a sugar bowl. I felt like Mr. Bill: Oh, Noooooooooooooo! The truck was moving very slowly at first, then faster, then it went past the edge of the yard and hit the steep part of the hill and it moved very, very fast for a brief time then it hit a bunch of trees and stopped.


It was a good 60 feet off the edge of the pavement, and had made its own trail as it went down thru the woods. First it ran over some sumacs, then some small hardwood saplings, then a pine tree 3+ inches in diameter, then it hit a ten inch oak tree which stopped it. I jumped in and fired it up, got out again, locked in the hubs, got back in, put it in 4 wheel drive, and tried to back out. No. Rear wheels spinning, but not the fronts. Carnage on the front end. I could see the pine underneath the truck and it was pretty clear that it was taking the weight off the front wheels so they would not engage the ground sufficient to help me get out.


Chain saw time.


Before the truck and trailer and boat and almost all our stuff

crashed down thru the woods Friday morning, I was listening to NPR out of DC. The guy was standing on a bridge between the District and Virginia reporting on the day's weather to come. He said, "If I walk this way, toward the District, this afternoon I will face an Excessive Heat Warning--a Heat Index of 110 or above. If I go the other way, into Virginia, it will only be an Excessive Heat Watch. The most I will face is a Heat Index of 105. I guess we know where I will be headed this afternoon." HAHA, I thought. I am gonna be in an air-conditioned car in about 5 minutes, pal. Tonight it rains in Syracuse and tomorrow at Buckhorn Lake the high is set for 75*.

I guess the air temp was about 90 when the truck and boat and trailer took their little unscheduled trip. I had just had a shower from packing the stuff and I was feeling kinda sporty, if you must know.

Ten minutes later I was pouring sweat from every pore and orifice. The hottest day of the year is the day I pick to do a rescue/salvage operation on my boat and truck using my lawn tractor, a 4 wheeler and a chain saw.

The truck was hopelessly stuck so I hooked a 30 foot tow strap to the back of the boat and lashed it to the tractor. I reefed pretty hard on the sonofabitch about 5 times and dug some minor ruts in the grass. "Why won't this *()*^^%$*&)%$ No-good MF*(&%$#%^& come out of there?"

Then I realized it was still hitched to the truck, which was shut off in gear with the sad-ass, no good parking brake engaged. Not much chance I can drag the whole business up the hill. No. Suddenly I had hope I could get it out. All I had to do was unhook the trailer!

I went down to what modern engineers might call the truck/trailer interface. I could not lift the tongue of the trailer, loaded, on that hill, on my best day, and that was a while back. I have one of those wheel things on the front of the trailer which helps old men like me move the trailer around and you wind this crank and it raises it or lowers it. I cranked that as short as it would go and let it down from its latched-up travelling perch---wayyy too tall. Hammer time. I got a sledge out of the garage and made what amounts to an existential decision: either that sonofabitching wheel is latching in the down position or it is gonna get beat to pieces. Luckily, it held up to the pounding. I cranked it up and disconnected the hitch from the ball, whereupon the whole trailer shot forward and smashed the hell out of the rear bumper, almost catching my hand. My mind was a swirly smoky cauldron of bitterness.


I got the trailer unhitched and it is mashed into the rear bumper of my truck so I figure, okay, now I can pull the trailer up the hill and get it back on the pavement. I climb the hill to the tractor, put it in first and give it hell. Ruts in the yard. Does not move an inch. WTF? As I get off the tractor, just consumed by rage, ready to blow up the whole mess and let it burn the woods down, Sue hands me a glass of water and says, "Shouldn't we call a tow truck?" It is a perfectly reasonable question. One which anyone might ask in that situation. Somehow, the vicious, cutting replies shooting through my brain got stopped before they came out of my mouth. I felt like I was dying from the strain of not saying those things. And oh did I ever want to take that sledgehammer to the truck, boat, tractor and all of it. I said, "I don't think so." She went in the house.

I am wearing my stylish new shorts and a new T-shirt, and sandals. I am ready for a sporty day pulling my tired old boat to Syracuse. But now, I have cuts and scratches all over my arms and legs from fighting thru the brush to get to the truck and back like three separate times. My shirt is completely soaked thru and hanging heavy, as are my shorts. My feet are swimming around in my sandals on a river of sweat, and little twigs and pieces of grass are sticking out the sides of the sandals, dragging the ground as I walk.

Shoulders slumped, I walk back down to the trailer hitch, where I find (of course) that the SAFETY CHAINS are still attached and I am still trying to skid the truck up the hill because it is STILL attached to the boat. What's more, it is a good thing I did not take them off because I would have pulled the wiring apart since I had not unhooked that, either. I was so saturated with anxiety and fear that I was literally not acting in a rational and ordered way. Kind of frightening, really, because I very much wanted that trailer unhooked from the truck. I knew all the steps, but I could not get past my rage long enough to do this simple three step thing properly.

I thought, you really have to laugh ( I chuckled a little, to show how you do) as I walked back up to the tractor to back it off just a little to put some slack in the safety chains which of course were as rigid as a pipe. Got the chains off and now I was ready. The tractor was going to pull that boat right up over the small cliff it had fallen off of and up to the driveway. I gave it some throttle, eased out the clutch. The tow strap slid from the middle of the axle over against the left wheel and viciously jerked the trailer sideways, further into the brush. Fail.

But wait! Now the hitch was clear of the back of the truck, and maybe I could get to the front of it with my 4-wheeler. I used chains to bind the hitch to the back of the 4 wheeler, and in a maneuver certainly not approved by the Polaris Manufacturing Company I used my 300 Explorer to tow that 1500 pound boat and trailer combo up thru the brush and sumacs to the pavement, getting only a dozen or so additional scratches on my arms and legs. Now all I have to do is get the truck out and I will have this deal wired.

The retrieval of the truck, boat and trailer had become, in some ways,

more important than the vacation it was designed to facilitate, a metaphor for man's (my) ability in the age of facebook to do a simple vehicle rescue with limited tools and minimal rationality, in 90+ degree heat, without the help of towing industry professionals, under (self imposed) time pressures of an extreme nature.

I walked around the boat. Aside from the pine needles and sumac branches all over it, it was looking good. I walked down to the truck, got in, started it up and tried to back out. Still stuck although it was in 4wd. I rested my forehead on the steering wheel for a moment. Got out of the truck and fought my way through the brush to the passenger side. Where the turn signal used to be beside the headlight on that side was a gaping hole with a forlorn wire sticking out. No sign of the blinker assembly or lens. Well, it won't matter if the turn signal works if you cannot get the truck out of the woods, will it?

For what seemed the 5th or 6th time that day, I lay down in the dirt--in the dirt and leaf clutter and twigs and poison ivy and pine duff beside the truck. Pretty clear why the truck won't move--a 3 inch pine tree is wedged under it, and the top of the tree is in a fork just in front of the front bumper, about a foot off the ground. I think it is holding the weight up off the front wheels. I stand up and go in the garage and find my Stihl MS 211 Chain saw. It is designed to be a lightweight homeowners saw. From the Stihl website: "If you're a homeowner who wants it all, Stihl has heard your call."

I think there can be little doubt that I want it all at this point.

So I kneel down in the dirt and leaf clutter and start up the saw. One problem is I have to get partly under the truck to cut the tree, and I am really not certain how far the truck will drop when the tree is cut thru. I settle on a safety-driven posture of extending the running saw with my right hand and goosing the throttle when the chain is resting on the bark. The weight of the saw helps it to eat thru the tree and I notice, almost too late, that the weight of the truck is going to pinch the saw chain. I jerk it back just in time, and the saw quits. So I pull it out, get to my knees, start it again, lay back down, reach under the truck to undercut the tree, and it quits again. I repeat the above procedure with the same results two more times before I yield to the inevitable and check the fuel supply. It was not out of gas, there was merely so little gas that it would not run. I lay there in the dirt. I was wondering whether I had any chain saw gas.

As I lay there I saw an ant dragging a piece of bark about 5 times his size thru the dirt. The poor dumb bastard. Maybe he was going on vacation as soon as he got the bark moved, or maybe he was just a doomstruck cog in a massive organization of ants moving bark around for no reason at all. I somehow resisted the urge to crush the ant. It seemed like it might be unlucky.

I trudged up the hill past the tractor, found the saw gas, carried it back and filled the saw. It started up first pull. I lay back down, undercut the tree one-handed, and just got the saw out of the way before the whole business sank down about 3 inches. I then had to cut the trunk about 4 more times and pull the pieces out one by one. I did not want to back the truck out and rip out hoses or vital steering parts. Such a rash approach would make it impossible to use the truck to tow the boat to Canada. I think that by this point that was still the main idea.

The force of the truck crashing over the tree had actually uprooted the thing, and a ball of roots about a foot high was sticking up in the air underneath the truck. By now there was only about 3 inches of trunk still attached to it. I tried to wiggle it; no go. Somehow I had to cut the roots that were still in the ground. There were only a couple of them and once they were cut I could drive out. I crawled further under the truck, throttled the saw up and just plunged the saw into the dirt next to the roots. I was surprised to note that in short order it cut thru the dirt and roots and I had the stump loose. I pulled the stump out from under the truck. I made a mental note to have that chain sharpened. When I had the stump clear, I found the turn signal assembly, intact, under the truck. It apparently just popped out when the fender got crushed against one of the trees. Bonus.

I only, as it turned out, had to cut down two more trees which were in the way of maneuvering the truck into a position where I could back it straight out, up the little cliff and onto the pavement. That was sort of a rough ride, but it was a great feeling.

All this was less than 48 hours ago as I write this. The truck leaked no fluids, the headlights worked, and except for the turn signal, all systems are go. We drove to Syracuse on Friday, and up here yesterday. I took the boat off the trailer, fired up the 40-horse, oil-injected Merc, and blasted across the lake in the 75 degree sunshine yesterday. Last night I went fishing and caught two nice little (~12-13") bass which I returned to the lake. I skipped fishing this morning to finish this, but the high today is going to be a breezy 69* F. I'll go fishing again in a little while.

For those of you preparing for your own vacations, let me only say: Patience is the key. Happy Motoring.
I remember falling out of my chair when I read this years ago. Although I didn’t remember you blaming Sue for the faulty brake.
 

Uh Clem

Well-Known Member
Mar 21, 2017
468
695
1
The Future
As I started reading I thought, “Oh no, he didn’t. Not again.” I then realized I was reading an oldie but goodie. The story is well worth the time to reread. As Burns said, the plans of mice and men gang aft a-gley.
 
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LionJim

Well-Known Member
Oct 8, 2003
37,802
19,337
1
Levittown, PA to Olney, MD
Oh, god, sun dresses.
"Breaking Away" is a good sun dress movie.

Rbf9377787c68c040afa59e556f71aae4
 
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KBFAN19

Well-Known Member
Nov 4, 2010
74
12
1
MY VACATION.


We always leave later than I want to. I always want to get a jump on the vacation, make some miles, make good time, and get halfway to the lake in Canada early on the first day. Something always happens though, and we end up leaving at about 10 am.


I hooked my 16 foot bass boat up to the little Japanese truck this morning about 8. I had Sue drive it around the driveway so I could listen for any weird sounds. Nada. The new wheel bearings I put on the 20+ year old trailer were nice and quiet. The wheels ran true. Good to go. She parked it and shut it off. She got out and said she would leave it in first gear. I told her to set the parking brake. She did. It is a 98, but has pretty low miles and I recently replaced the front bumper, so it was looking pretty stylish.


Over the next hour or so I loaded all the stuff in the boat and the truck. Looked like we would be out of there by 9.30 or so, which I considered a pretty good effort. I started the truck, put it in neutral and fired up the AC. I know the truck had been running for at least 10 minutes, as I was puttering around making sure I had everything loaded. I was going to make one more trip through the house to pick up anything I had missed, and we were gone.


I went in the garage to check that I had gotten all the fishing gear, and saw that I had. I started back out and saw the truck and boat slowly rolling down the driveway, across the grass and into the trees. I stood there with my hands on the sides of my head, my elbows jutted out like the handles on a sugar bowl. I felt like Mr. Bill: Oh, Noooooooooooooo! The truck was moving very slowly at first, then faster, then it went past the edge of the yard and hit the steep part of the hill and it moved very, very fast for a brief time then it hit a bunch of trees and stopped.


It was a good 60 feet off the edge of the pavement, and had made its own trail as it went down thru the woods. First it ran over some sumacs, then some small hardwood saplings, then a pine tree 3+ inches in diameter, then it hit a ten inch oak tree which stopped it. I jumped in and fired it up, got out again, locked in the hubs, got back in, put it in 4 wheel drive, and tried to back out. No. Rear wheels spinning, but not the fronts. Carnage on the front end. I could see the pine underneath the truck and it was pretty clear that it was taking the weight off the front wheels so they would not engage the ground sufficient to help me get out.


Chain saw time.


Before the truck and trailer and boat and almost all our stuff

crashed down thru the woods Friday morning, I was listening to NPR out of DC. The guy was standing on a bridge between the District and Virginia reporting on the day's weather to come. He said, "If I walk this way, toward the District, this afternoon I will face an Excessive Heat Warning--a Heat Index of 110 or above. If I go the other way, into Virginia, it will only be an Excessive Heat Watch. The most I will face is a Heat Index of 105. I guess we know where I will be headed this afternoon." HAHA, I thought. I am gonna be in an air-conditioned car in about 5 minutes, pal. Tonight it rains in Syracuse and tomorrow at Buckhorn Lake the high is set for 75*.

I guess the air temp was about 90 when the truck and boat and trailer took their little unscheduled trip. I had just had a shower from packing the stuff and I was feeling kinda sporty, if you must know.

Ten minutes later I was pouring sweat from every pore and orifice. The hottest day of the year is the day I pick to do a rescue/salvage operation on my boat and truck using my lawn tractor, a 4 wheeler and a chain saw.

The truck was hopelessly stuck so I hooked a 30 foot tow strap to the back of the boat and lashed it to the tractor. I reefed pretty hard on the sonofabitch about 5 times and dug some minor ruts in the grass. "Why won't this *()*^^%$*&)%$ No-good MF*(&%$#%^& come out of there?"

Then I realized it was still hitched to the truck, which was shut off in gear with the sad-ass, no good parking brake engaged. Not much chance I can drag the whole business up the hill. No. Suddenly I had hope I could get it out. All I had to do was unhook the trailer!

I went down to what modern engineers might call the truck/trailer interface. I could not lift the tongue of the trailer, loaded, on that hill, on my best day, and that was a while back. I have one of those wheel things on the front of the trailer which helps old men like me move the trailer around and you wind this crank and it raises it or lowers it. I cranked that as short as it would go and let it down from its latched-up travelling perch---wayyy too tall. Hammer time. I got a sledge out of the garage and made what amounts to an existential decision: either that sonofabitching wheel is latching in the down position or it is gonna get beat to pieces. Luckily, it held up to the pounding. I cranked it up and disconnected the hitch from the ball, whereupon the whole trailer shot forward and smashed the hell out of the rear bumper, almost catching my hand. My mind was a swirly smoky cauldron of bitterness.


I got the trailer unhitched and it is mashed into the rear bumper of my truck so I figure, okay, now I can pull the trailer up the hill and get it back on the pavement. I climb the hill to the tractor, put it in first and give it hell. Ruts in the yard. Does not move an inch. WTF? As I get off the tractor, just consumed by rage, ready to blow up the whole mess and let it burn the woods down, Sue hands me a glass of water and says, "Shouldn't we call a tow truck?" It is a perfectly reasonable question. One which anyone might ask in that situation. Somehow, the vicious, cutting replies shooting through my brain got stopped before they came out of my mouth. I felt like I was dying from the strain of not saying those things. And oh did I ever want to take that sledgehammer to the truck, boat, tractor and all of it. I said, "I don't think so." She went in the house.

I am wearing my stylish new shorts and a new T-shirt, and sandals. I am ready for a sporty day pulling my tired old boat to Syracuse. But now, I have cuts and scratches all over my arms and legs from fighting thru the brush to get to the truck and back like three separate times. My shirt is completely soaked thru and hanging heavy, as are my shorts. My feet are swimming around in my sandals on a river of sweat, and little twigs and pieces of grass are sticking out the sides of the sandals, dragging the ground as I walk.

Shoulders slumped, I walk back down to the trailer hitch, where I find (of course) that the SAFETY CHAINS are still attached and I am still trying to skid the truck up the hill because it is STILL attached to the boat. What's more, it is a good thing I did not take them off because I would have pulled the wiring apart since I had not unhooked that, either. I was so saturated with anxiety and fear that I was literally not acting in a rational and ordered way. Kind of frightening, really, because I very much wanted that trailer unhooked from the truck. I knew all the steps, but I could not get past my rage long enough to do this simple three step thing properly.

I thought, you really have to laugh ( I chuckled a little, to show how you do) as I walked back up to the tractor to back it off just a little to put some slack in the safety chains which of course were as rigid as a pipe. Got the chains off and now I was ready. The tractor was going to pull that boat right up over the small cliff it had fallen off of and up to the driveway. I gave it some throttle, eased out the clutch. The tow strap slid from the middle of the axle over against the left wheel and viciously jerked the trailer sideways, further into the brush. Fail.

But wait! Now the hitch was clear of the back of the truck, and maybe I could get to the front of it with my 4-wheeler. I used chains to bind the hitch to the back of the 4 wheeler, and in a maneuver certainly not approved by the Polaris Manufacturing Company I used my 300 Explorer to tow that 1500 pound boat and trailer combo up thru the brush and sumacs to the pavement, getting only a dozen or so additional scratches on my arms and legs. Now all I have to do is get the truck out and I will have this deal wired.

The retrieval of the truck, boat and trailer had become, in some ways,

more important than the vacation it was designed to facilitate, a metaphor for man's (my) ability in the age of facebook to do a simple vehicle rescue with limited tools and minimal rationality, in 90+ degree heat, without the help of towing industry professionals, under (self imposed) time pressures of an extreme nature.

I walked around the boat. Aside from the pine needles and sumac branches all over it, it was looking good. I walked down to the truck, got in, started it up and tried to back out. Still stuck although it was in 4wd. I rested my forehead on the steering wheel for a moment. Got out of the truck and fought my way through the brush to the passenger side. Where the turn signal used to be beside the headlight on that side was a gaping hole with a forlorn wire sticking out. No sign of the blinker assembly or lens. Well, it won't matter if the turn signal works if you cannot get the truck out of the woods, will it?

For what seemed the 5th or 6th time that day, I lay down in the dirt--in the dirt and leaf clutter and twigs and poison ivy and pine duff beside the truck. Pretty clear why the truck won't move--a 3 inch pine tree is wedged under it, and the top of the tree is in a fork just in front of the front bumper, about a foot off the ground. I think it is holding the weight up off the front wheels. I stand up and go in the garage and find my Stihl MS 211 Chain saw. It is designed to be a lightweight homeowners saw. From the Stihl website: "If you're a homeowner who wants it all, Stihl has heard your call."

I think there can be little doubt that I want it all at this point.

So I kneel down in the dirt and leaf clutter and start up the saw. One problem is I have to get partly under the truck to cut the tree, and I am really not certain how far the truck will drop when the tree is cut thru. I settle on a safety-driven posture of extending the running saw with my right hand and goosing the throttle when the chain is resting on the bark. The weight of the saw helps it to eat thru the tree and I notice, almost too late, that the weight of the truck is going to pinch the saw chain. I jerk it back just in time, and the saw quits. So I pull it out, get to my knees, start it again, lay back down, reach under the truck to undercut the tree, and it quits again. I repeat the above procedure with the same results two more times before I yield to the inevitable and check the fuel supply. It was not out of gas, there was merely so little gas that it would not run. I lay there in the dirt. I was wondering whether I had any chain saw gas.

As I lay there I saw an ant dragging a piece of bark about 5 times his size thru the dirt. The poor dumb bastard. Maybe he was going on vacation as soon as he got the bark moved, or maybe he was just a doomstruck cog in a massive organization of ants moving bark around for no reason at all. I somehow resisted the urge to crush the ant. It seemed like it might be unlucky.

I trudged up the hill past the tractor, found the saw gas, carried it back and filled the saw. It started up first pull. I lay back down, undercut the tree one-handed, and just got the saw out of the way before the whole business sank down about 3 inches. I then had to cut the trunk about 4 more times and pull the pieces out one by one. I did not want to back the truck out and rip out hoses or vital steering parts. Such a rash approach would make it impossible to use the truck to tow the boat to Canada. I think that by this point that was still the main idea.

The force of the truck crashing over the tree had actually uprooted the thing, and a ball of roots about a foot high was sticking up in the air underneath the truck. By now there was only about 3 inches of trunk still attached to it. I tried to wiggle it; no go. Somehow I had to cut the roots that were still in the ground. There were only a couple of them and once they were cut I could drive out. I crawled further under the truck, throttled the saw up and just plunged the saw into the dirt next to the roots. I was surprised to note that in short order it cut thru the dirt and roots and I had the stump loose. I pulled the stump out from under the truck. I made a mental note to have that chain sharpened. When I had the stump clear, I found the turn signal assembly, intact, under the truck. It apparently just popped out when the fender got crushed against one of the trees. Bonus.

I only, as it turned out, had to cut down two more trees which were in the way of maneuvering the truck into a position where I could back it straight out, up the little cliff and onto the pavement. That was sort of a rough ride, but it was a great feeling.

All this was less than 48 hours ago as I write this. The truck leaked no fluids, the headlights worked, and except for the turn signal, all systems are go. We drove to Syracuse on Friday, and up here yesterday. I took the boat off the trailer, fired up the 40-horse, oil-injected Merc, and blasted across the lake in the 75 degree sunshine yesterday. Last night I went fishing and caught two nice little (~12-13") bass which I returned to the lake. I skipped fishing this morning to finish this, but the high today is going to be a breezy 69* F. I'll go fishing again in a little while.

For those of you preparing for your own vacations, let me only say: Patience is the key. Happy Motoring.
Best story ever!