Tuck, My Fruck is Stuck

Today I decided to see if I could un-stick the truck and get it back up the hill.

Usually, moving heavy things is one of those slow-moving projects that you think about, do a little, watch, and then maybe do a little more. Not this time.

My subconscious was telling me that I should wait until it’s dryer – say, June – but I wanted to be able to haul some wood in the back and I got impatient. It rained yesterday and the day before. Now, that’s a spoiler for you.

If you recall, we left our heroic steed on one knee, waiting for rescue. [stderr]

30 feet directly behind the truck is a nice sized maple tree, so I threw a tow strap around the tree, hooked a 15 foot chain to that, and a come-along to another strap under the bumper. I left it idling in neutral and cranked away on the come-along until I pulled it out of the hole it had dug itself into. Then, I hopped in, engaged 4wd, and backed up. I knew I had one chance, which was to back up and get the rear wheels on this slopy area which is dry, and turn and engage forward. That didn’t happen; I could only go backward, which was heading into disaster because:

  1. The pond’s outflow is down there
  2. There is a tree

I almost made it, but instead I wound up with an hour of work wasted, and now the truck is parked up against the tree in a really nice squishy region.

You’d be justified in thinking I am not the strategic genius, after all. But remember: I could barely walk from the pain in my foot and I was hauling a 5 gal bucket of baby frogs. I didn’t drive all the way down there, I just went some of the way. I suspect that many dinosaurs that wound up in the La Brea Tar Pit had similar reasoning.

That is some slick, sticky, gluey goop. What’s sad is how easily it defeated me. When I read about what every invader except the Mongols experienced in Russia during the spring, I hold my toxic masculinity cheap. (Napoleon’s men and horses hauled multi-ton bronze cannon through 3 foot deep fresh-thawed mud!)

Where panzers fear to tread

Right now my options are all bad. There’s a bank on the left and a pond on the right. I was hoping to charge up the bank and go between trees into the relatively dry field, but I got too much sideways motion. I tried to hook the come-along on the tree to go forward, again, but the tow-strap snapped and that definitely decided that. Ken will be bringing his backhoe to dig the holes for the shop floor, but he may be too smart to venture down that way with it. I’ve got a 30 foot chain which I can hook to my 20 foot chain and maybe I can get him to pull me at an angle toward the bank. If I had another 300 feet of chain I could hook a come-along to the frame of the hot forge, and just crank my way up, one inch at a time. I’m going to sulk and think this over, maybe until August.

By August it ought to be dry enough that I can just drive right out!

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If you’ve ever been in one of these low-traction situations with a tracked vehicle you’ll have had a great opportunity to be impressed by the incredible genius of tracked design. Think about it this way: you have a piece of road-way that you put down in front of you, drive forward on, and pull up behind you. It’s so brilliant, I am shocked that the Romans did not invent it. It’s not perfect, though, since the whole system depends on the weight distribution of the total weight over the total surface area of the treads. In other words, your panzer can go over almost anything until, really suddenly, it sinks because that weight/support ratio just upended on you. When I was a kid, asking Axel Von Dem Bussche about his experiences on the Russia front he said that the mud was the worst. Then he said the cold was the worst. Then he said the wind was the worst. He was a charming old warrior, who could say something like that to a kid, with a twinkle in his eye, as he waited for me to catch up. I asked him about the wind and he told me about a time they were parking panzers on a frozen lake (it was solid; no fear of sinking) and it was windy and one of the Panzer IVs started to blow across the ice. Then he sat for a while, thinking, and nodded, “the wind was the worst.” [Observe the tracks of the Tiger tank in the picture above – they are slatted, which is really good for forward/backward traction, but I suppose they could become like giant ice skates from hell attached to the bottom of a great big slab-sided panzer AKA “sail”]

I once saw a Land Rover Series I, a lovely restoration, with a sign on the back that said “exploring Australia 25 feet at a time.” That being the cable-load of the winch.

When I was a kid, one summer in France, my dad managed to mire our car similarly, on a dirt road way back in the ass end of nowhere. That makes this a “family tradition.” Being a family of hikers, we set off for home – about 12 miles more or less as the crow flew. That was the problem – there were some pretty big changes in elevation in the way, so we had to march along the highway verge in spots, which extended the travel path dramatically. All I remember of that day was that it sucked. A couple days later it was dry enough to get the car out.


  1. says

    It rained yesterday and the day before.

    Sounds like you have normal spring weather in your part of the world. Where I live, it’s oddly dry. In the spring, ground is supposed to be wet and muddy. Yet that’s not what I have here. Snow melted already a while ago. There haven’t been any rain for several weeks. Right now it’s sunny and temperatures are pretty high for April, it’s 16°C outside today. And the ground is very dry.

    Last summer was unusually hot and dry. Now we have an unusually dry spring. Obviously this is a problem for everybody who is trying to grow some edible things on their land.

  2. kestrel says

    Out of the frying pan, into the fire, as they say. Yeah, you may have to wait a while before you can drive that baby out of there. If I were there, I would definitely not drive my tractor down there to pull you out…. it would just get stuck too but in a far more spectacular way. I’d lend you another tow strap, though. :-)

    Last year the tractor got stuck down in the field and boy did that ever look bad – it had sunk in up to the rear axles on both sides. However, in our case, it was a single area that had become swampy due to the neighbor’s irrigation water overflowing and running through the field. We identified a solid area to aim for, took the steel ramps we use to put the tractor on a flat-bed trailer, and laid those in front of the big tires in the back. We then got it started by pulling it with the truck. Worked great… she just drove right on out of there. But we had somewhere to go that was pretty solid and it looks like you don’t have that option right now. You don’t seem to have any sage brush either… that is useful to throw in front of tires to give traction. But for as far as you need to go, wow, that would be a lot of sage brush.

  3. says

    I have 100′ of light cable – 3/8″ stuff – I am going to cut it into workable chunks and loop the ends. It’s stainless; the mud won’t be a problem – and then I can align with a tree on the bank and crank it right up there. It’ll be a long shitty afternoon so I am going to wait for it to get a bit drier. There’s a line of maple trees that’ll serve as anchors. If I had a wired-in winch this would be a piece of cake.

  4. Pierce R. Butler says

    Last month a fully-loaded honey truck from a septic-tank pumping company got stuck in my muddy driveway.

    The pumping crew called in an industrial-strength tow truck, which secured itself with a set of big augers in a drier zone before winching the rescuee vehicle out of its self-excavated pit.

  5. lorn says

    I forget who coined the term but what you are talking about may be best called “military mud”. Described as a unique mix of soil. clay, moisture, and long lines of heavy vehicles that churn the mix to gloppy, sticky perfection.

    A classic solution is a set of pieces of Marston matting. Preferably at least four of them so you can park on one set while extending your path forward with the second set.

    A working alternative is simply a pair of steel cables with scraps steel welded in a ladder configuration at suitable interval will work. Angle iron salvaged from discarded bed frames welded on with the ‘V’ pointing up works well but rebar, longer to get suitable contact area, might do it. How well it all has to be welded together and the spacing between cross-pieces are both judgement calls. Tighter spacing on the cross bits accommodates smaller, or softer, tires. Ideally you weld up four assemblies.

    Another alternative for self-rescue is to weld a rough cable, or rope, drum onto a suitable wheel/s. You installed this/these, jacking can be problematic, on the drive axle and wind on your rope or cable. Capable enough used singularly they work best in pairs as there is much less lateral movement. Some rural woods runners, fully expecting to get stuck, just run with the wheel/drums always mounted. This was, of course, long before capable winches got cheap.

    My personal preference is for ropes and straps, working load twice the dead weight of the vehicle or better, and rigging a Spanish windless. A come-along might be used.

    Hint ( from personal experience) : Take the vehicle out of gear and disengage the parking break before trying to drag it out. I once skidded a truck about twenty yards on locked wheels. The second twenty yards went a lot easier after I took the bitch out of gear and disengaged the parking brake. What can I say. In gear and brake on is how I reflexively set it up before I leave a vehicle. Doh!

  6. says

    Hint ( from personal experience) : Take the vehicle out of gear and disengage the parking break before trying to drag it out. I once skidded a truck about twenty yards on locked wheels. The second twenty yards went a lot easier after I took the bitch out of gear and disengaged the parking brake.

    Reminds me of a story about a couple who go on vacation in the Greek islands; they rent a dual bicycle for a day of exploring. Eventually they come to a hill and they decide to try it. As they get further in it gets steeper and there is a dropoff to swirling white water and rocks far below. Now they are sweating and puffing. Finally they get to the top and dismount to stretch and catch their breath. One says “for a minute there I was afraid we wouldn’t make it!” The other says “I know, right? I was on the brake the whole way so we wouldn’t roll backwards!”

  7. Jazzlet says

    Our garden ought to be that wet, instead we are watering our potatoes and alliums, in April for fucks sake. Andreas Avester is right if we don’t get some substantial rain very soon the crops are going to be very poor, but there is no rain forecast.

  8. lochaber says

    Once got a rental car stuck in the sand in the desert. Parked it at night, when I couldn’t see what I was doing, and left and went camping for a couple days, didn’t realize it was soft sand until I returned. Tried “rocking” the car, and that only sunk it deeper.
    ended up digging sand out from under the frame, sticking some rocks in, and using the jack to raise it enough to stick some rocks under the wheels. A couple cycles of that, and I managed to get it the 10-20 feet or so to rocky ground, and then drive back out.

    Not sure what I would try in your situation, looks like you have plenty of woodland, so maybe trying to line the expected tire path with pine/fir boughs?

    But, waiting for somebody to help is probably far less effort, and more likely to succeed, if that’s an option.

  9. says

    Aah, the joys of American technology. Works great so long as you fudge the input parameters. Time to rig up a giant flame thrower and change the soggy surface to a nice ceramic texture.

  10. says

    I have some pine trees that have decided to grow in places I don’t want them. I also have a battery powered sawz-all with some wood blades. I think i can turn the trees into traction and compost – good suggestion lorn.

    The idea of l-bracket and cable traction ladders is great. I try not to drive in the winter when I can avoid it but that sounds like a great thing to have rolled up in the trunk.

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