Trail Virgins Page 2
SR: How do you go about this? I can't see bungee-cording a quart of oil. What do you recommend? JD: I keep my quart of oil zip tied in the engine compartment, but hey, maybe you have your welder in there! My rule of thumb is to tie down anything that you don't want to get hit in the head with. My main concerned that day was that I was wheeling with someone very special, my five-year-old son. It wasn't so much what I didn't want to get hit in the head with, but what I didn't want to hit him in the head. So things like the shovel, axe, high-lift, tool kit, spare driveshafts, and my power puller recovery tool were tied down with extra caution. I made sure my fire extinguisher and first aid kit was secure. But other things, like my hand held CBs and my fountain drinks were allowed to be unsecured. I even tied down the small ice chest containing our lunches. SR: That was some good planning -- this is something you do before every run, right? JD: Yep, every run. It just makes good sense. Eventually you are going to roll. I've been wheeling for nearly 10 years and never even came close to rolling over until that day at Wedington. Nevertheless, I was prepared. SR: There must have been some mental preparation there too -- some sort of "just in case" mindset. JD: Yes, but I'm a cautious person by nature. I don't often take unnecessary risks. And seeing a friend getting pulled out of his rig with blood all over his face from getting hit in the head by his toolbox certainly reinforced my desire to be safe. SR: I can imagine -- sadly though, rolling is a reality we face as trail runners. From what I heard, you did some maneuvering which made it not so bad JD: It took nearly 15 minutes to roll over. At the top of the hill climb, the truck wants to start bouncing as the terrain shifts from loose chat to more of a stair-step situation. The truck started bouncing and without a rear locker and pretty crappy all-terrain tires, I couldn't get over the top. I tried a couple of different techniques to no avail. I had climbed this obstacle with ease a couple other times. On my last attempt, the left rear tire let loose as the truck was bouncing and turned sideways. There it hung up and I tried backing down and changing the direction of the wheels to maneuver out of it. But no matter what I did or what my spotter recommended, the angle just got worse. Eventually there came a point to when where the truck was going to go over and you just have to let it happen. Unfortunately no one had a winch for this run and by the time I new I was going over, it was really too late anyway. SR: When did you know that you were going over? JD: I knew that I was going over when I heard the right passenger shock top out with a clunk and felt the steering wheel "lighten." SR: What was your instinctive reaction -- better yet, what should you have done. JD: That meant that my front wheels let go and then it was just BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, down the hill. SR: So you were barrel rolling? JD: My instinctive reaction was to panic! The truck barrel rolled twice to the bottom of the hill and landed on its wheels. What I should have done was called for a winch before that third attempt. I had really lost my temper by then and was forcing the situation. Never wheel angry. I've been told that many times before and now it's finally cost me. I should have called for a tow-strap and have someone help me up the hill before that third attempt.
SR: The tow strap I imagine would have done one of two things -- helped you up, and held the rubber end down, correct?
JD: Exactly. But we waited too long. All the rollovers I've seen were either very sudden or they took forever and people waited to long to try to winch out. As a result of my temper, I now have to fix a wide variety of irritating problems caused by the rollover, the least of which is the damage to the sheet metal. But at least the damage was confined to my truck and my pride and not to my sons body or me.
SR: Good quick points to remember -- Stay calm, and don't be afraid to ask for help, right?
JD: Oh yeah. I know there is a lot of machismo in four-wheeling. It's evident every time one goes out. There is some bonding and one can meet some really nice people, but there is a lot of pride too. And even though I arguably stayed calm, I didn't have the nerve to ask for help. I didn't want to be a wuss in front of all my four-wheeling friends.
SR: What are your thoughts on that last statement if you knew then what you knew now?
JD: I'm definitely asking for help next time. Well...if I had a locker and better tires I wouldn't have had to ask for help. And stiffer shocks might have helped control the bounce. So maybe I haven't l earned all that much after all! 😉
SR: (laughing) well, like I said before, sometimes the fact remains that you're just gonna roll. As it's happening, what are some things the occupants of the vehicle should do to remain safe and healthy?
JD: Don't grab the roll bar! I only managed to get a single bruise on my arm during the event. I held onto the wheel, but without looping my thumb around it. For my kid, he was buckled down in an age/weight appropriate safety seat so he was probably safer than I was. For my full size passengers, I advise them to hold onto the stock 'fraidy bar or grab the loop I attached to the roll protection.
SR: Almost like the booming voice at the amusement parks -- "keep your hands and legs inside the ride at all times." I've seen many people instinctively reach out to try to save the vehicle, or even jump out mid-roll.
JD: Yes, I've seen that too. And that is one of those panic reactions that are hard to control. But it is important that one try, depending on the situation of course. If youre tumbling down a mile high mountain, maybe you should jump out. Personally, I'd rather rely on the protection of the vehicle than the protection afforded by my flesh and bones. Sheet metal can be fixed but getting an arm chopped off is a bit more complicated and expensive.
SR: What if you have the online welder though? I've heard BillyBob knows how to make an average adult-sized arm from the front fender of a 1973 Dodge Dart.
JD: That might be attractive if one can get it in chrome. And think of the party conversations one could have with it!
SR: So, Jeremiah, for the most part you feel that you had a successful roll for a first timer?
JD: Well, I can't imagine very many vehicles that can barrel roll twice and still drive home. And since I only got a bruise and my kid wasn't even traumatized by it, I'd have to say it was successful. I haven't appreciated running down all these little mechanical problems that have been spawned by the roll, but it gives me a chance to practice my skills.
SR: (laughs) I admire your positive outlook on the whole experience. I hope that many of the rookies reading here today have learned something from your adventures. Tell me, will I have the honor of wheeling with you at Zookimelt this year?
JD: I definitely intend on being there. I've intended on being there the past couple of years. I've always encountered financial or mechanical problems that caused me to miss, but so far things look pretty good. It's a long way from Fayetteville, Arkansas to Attica, Indiana. I have never sat in my Samurai that long so I might need a relief driver if my back decides to rebel. But this event keeps getting bigger and bigger and I think that it could really use a four-wheeling Ph.D. candidate to liven things up. And I'm a pretty rare breed I know. None of my colleagues can relate.
SR: That's just it, Jeremiah, Zookin' isn't for everyone. But those of us who have been bitten by the bug seem to never look back... rather we look up the hill and say "I can do that..."
JD: Yep, when I'm cruising around town or in the country I'm always looking up dirt roads or power line trails and thinking, "yeah, I can climb that."
SR: I think that ties in with the Motto of the Seasoned Rookie. Care to help me out with that one, Jer?
JD: If at first you don't rollover, try, try again?
SR: (laughing) Something like that -- but what I had in mind was: "Remember. There is no shame to being a rookie -- you're trying something new. A Seasoned Rookie is someone who comes back again and again".
Would you like to be a Featured Rookie in a future issue? Suggestions for a future article? Questions, concerns, or want to give me some cool parts for free? Drop me a line.