Sunday, December 22, 2013
The Teal Terror to the Rescue
Each year Mercedes and I make our annual Christmas trip to the Oregon Coast. This year, the final destination was Pelican Brewing in Pacific City. We took some scenic back roads to the small coastal town, and then headed to the sand to do a bit of off-road driving. It's nothing hardcore, but it's fun to putt-putt around the sand and then park and enjoy the sights and sounds of the ocean. We also grabbed a pint of Pelican's fantastic beer.
After having a great time at the beach and brewery, it became time to head back to Portland. We hopped in our sandy Suzuki and headed off. I wanted to show Mercedes another beach outside of Pacific City, which happened to be the exact same beach that I got stuck on a few years ago in my lowered Toyota Yaris (I know, I know; it was stupid idea). Well, wouldn't you know it, I pull onto the beach to find a new Dodge mini van stuck in the sand along with a family of six people who were visiting from Washington State. There's also guy with a Jeep Cherokee trying to figure out a way to pull them out, but he isn't having any luck since he didn't have a good recovery strap and couldn't find a place to rig the strap up to the van.
We pull up and say that we've got a winch and should be able to help out. Everyone is relieved, as the family had been trying to get the rented 2013 Caravan out of the sand for the past half hour.
One of the first things you want to do when recovering a stuck vehicle is to identify the recovery points—something we taught people at the 2013 Overland Rallies and Workshops. In this case, the van did not have any rear tow hooks or recovery points (or at least none that we could locate). Let's check up front. Unfortunately, the vehicle's front end was mired deep in the sand, since the van is front-wheel drive. To see if there's a tow hook up there, we're going to need to dig the front end out. We all start digging to see if we can find a hook or loop to attach the winch hook to. None of us had a shovel, so we used hands, wood, ice scrapers, and anything else that's going to remove sand from under the vehicle's front end. After a lot of digging, we cannot find a tow point anywhere. If there is one, it's likely under a plastic cowl. Time for plan B.
Plan B consists of making sand ladders out of floor mats. Essentially, this means taking my all-weather rubber floor mats out and putting them behind the tires, hoping that the vehicle can get traction on the rubber mats, and back out of the sandy situation. We aired down the front tires in hopes of additional traction and put the mats partially underneath them. No dice. The van is totally high centered; the frame is lodged on the wet sand. We check yet again for tow points on the front end, but there's nothing. It's now getting dark and starting to rain. Thankfully the tide is not coming in. However, we really want to get these people off the beach. Time for plan C.
Plan C requires doing something I don't really want to do, but I really want to get this car unstuck. With no other options, I decide to wrap the winch rope around the van's rear axle, being sure to place the ballistic nylon sliding sleeve on the area of the axle where the synthetic rope will rub, thus preventing any rope abrasion. I run the line back to the shackle on the Suzuki's winch bumper, which is a solid anchor point. We clear everyone out of the way and I plug in the winch remote. To help anchor the vehicle in the sand, I have Mercedes put the emergency brake on and have her stand on the brakes.
I have the van's driver put the car in reverse and i start pulling in the winch line. Almost immediately, the lightweight Suzuki's front end begins squatting down and digging its front wheels into the soft beach sand. Now I start wondering: Am I simply going to pull myself toward the van, or is the van going to come towards me?
Luckily, the van slowly starts to emerge from the sand. I tell the driver to keep reversing so as not to get stuck in the sand again. After a few seconds—success! The tiny Teal Terror saves the day! We made sure the family got back to the highway before we left. Everyone was extremely grateful and appreciative, and we all exchange merry Christmas greetings.
This is what I would call karma in action. In 2009 I was stuck here and pulled out by a good Samaritan. Four years later, there's someone stuck here, and I am able to help. I had't actually planned on even going to this beach at all, but at the last second, I swung around to show Mercedes this beach, and ended up helping out. It's funny how stuff like this happens.
People who are unfamiliar with driving off the pavement often don't even consider the fact they could get stuck. But almost instantly, they can find themselves in a precarious situation, unable to get their vehicle back to solid ground.In this case, if it had been a different time of day, the tide might have been coming in, and the mini van could've ended up a casualty of the incoming waters.
I'm sure the last thing this family expected today was to get stuck on the beach in their rented minivan. Actually, the last thing they expected was probably being pulled out by a teal Suzuki Sidekick.