NEVER WHEEL ALONE…
That’s one of the fundamental rules of Jeeping. Can I tell you a story from back in 1987? One day while riding down the power lines just south of SeaWorld in Orlando, we got stuck. We got stuck in a place with the nickname, “THE STRAND.” Because of all the people who have been stranded back there. Back then International drive had not passed too far south of Central Florida Parkway yet and the power line trails and side trails went down to hwy 535 and out to Shingle Creek. It was a good place to deer hunt, and for me, catching snakes. To put 1987 into prospective, 535 was only 2 lanes, one each way. Epcot and the Magic Kingdom were the only Disney parks in the area. That afternoon we traveled down some dirt roads that ran behind Sea World, we made a water crossing and traveled down towards the affluent sand filter areas. (Large sand pits that filter treated water.) As I approached a stretch of sugar sand we started to lose momentum. There is a morbid sinking feeling when you know you are about to get stuck, and that is amplified 10 times when you are wheeling without a buddy. The side of the trail looked more solid so I pulled to the right and instantly sunk. I started the forward to reverse motion and tried to rock my way out, but I soon sunk to the axels. STUCK… We were a good three miles from 535 at the time. It was now 4 in the afternoon. I had been stuck in the past at a place called Stone hill off Hiawassee Rd (A local mud hole from back in the late 70s and early 80s.) Normally a few friends give you a push and you’re out. I had only my wife and our 2 year old son. She drove, I pushed… Nope. I jacked up the rear and put whatever I could find under the tires… Nope, moved 2 feet and stuck again. After attempting for 2 hours to get out on our own, we decided to walk out. It’s now 6PM, and starting to get dark. We are deep in Diamondback rattle snake territory and I have found some big ones here in the past, so walking out in the dark had its own issues. Way off in the distance we could see a light. We had no flashlight, no cell phones back then, no winch, no come-a-long, and no CB… In my defense I was young and in my early 20s. We started our trek, with our son in a stroller. By the time we hit 535 it was around 9 at night. We went to Brian’s Cove and called a friend. Back at home we tried calling a tow truck.. Ha HA HA… We knew some people with trucks so we called them and asked for some help. They came to pick us up and back out we went, now it is around 11PM. Still there and not broken into or stripped down. With 3 people pushing we were out with no issues. That day I learned a valuable lesson, NEVER WHEEL ALONE… BUT there is a liberating feeling while being on your own trail and having the ability to decide where you want to go and setting a pace for your self. While riding with clubs has its advantages, I often think how it would be if I passed a large snake, or stopped to photograph flowers or birds. Stopping in the middle of nowhere can be a peaceful experience. No sounds only nature is very relaxing. You can stop and pause to take it all in.
So if you feel the need to go explore on your own there are some real basic rules that must be followed.
1- Stay on the trail. You never know what is hiding in knee high brush.
2- If it looks like you might get stuck, turn around. If you have to cross water, get out and walk it first.
3- Let someone know where you are heading and when you will return.
4- Have recovery gear. (Winch, shovel, High-lift, and traction boards.)
5- Make sure everything is in working order.
6- Don’t go to deep into the woods.
7- Have water. For you and your Jeep.
9- Know where you are. GPS or Compass.
8- Have a first Aid kit.
9- Basic tool kit.
10- Buckle up.
Now it time for some practical advice. We often hit the trails or WMAs on our own but have run into other issues beyond getting stuck. The clutch went out in Tiger Bay national forest. We PUT IT IN FIRST AND USED THE STARTER, that puts some heavy strain on the starter and battery. We did make it home from Deland to Kissimmee with as few stops as we could. My wife stops for flowers to take photos that she uses to put scripture verses on so we often wheel on our own and just LEAVE THE JEEP RUNNING, just in case. Me I walk around and look for reptiles to document. We carry PLENTY OF WATER for us and the Jeep. Snack foods and a field guide. Be prepared. And lastly we keep a couple of hammocks just in case we were stranded for the night. Wheeling with friends is always fun, or do like us and just get a second Jeep.
Matt N Randy
Jeep Enthusiast, Pastor, Photographer, Artist, A husband and wife team that loves going out and seeing God's Creations.