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A Most Amazing Weekend

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Posted On: Sep 17, 2001 By: Eric Riston Category: Land Rover News

What a weekend, folks. Some of this is unbelievable, but I swear this is nothing but the truth....

J.L., of the Ottawa Valley Land Rover Owners, went out for a bit of 4x4-ing Friday, with a local club member's 88" Rover, (aquarover winner Keith Elliot), following me along. We brought a guy from work and his girlfriend along as well, they were riding in the back of the 109". We went out around his house, deep in the woods behind Ottawa.

Basically, we went snowmobile trail riding, and it got a little messy. "Valdy" was feeling particularly adventurous, and when a chance arose to ford a three-foot-deep stream, I basically put on a crazy face and charged.

Great! Of course, the motor keeps going, sealed ignitions are great, but I lose all forward motion, and I stall the motor when I let off the gas - No problem. Hook up the winch onto a tree, hop back in, look back as the 88" is waiting far behind on hardpack. He's not planning on going swimming.

I hit the starter button - the sound of an electric motor whirring up to speed, but the stupid bendix is stuck, and it won't engage. No handcrank...

So, I'm a little cheezed, everyone is a little worried. I lay down under the Rover, fully submerged in some black goopy mess. The rover is sunk in deep. I get the starter out. The gear is toasted.

We pile into the 88", go back to my friend's house, get a ride home and drive Dierdre home with the minivan at 2 am.

Okay, by this time it's 5:30 am. I'm supposed to be at work by 8 am. I call the big cheeze at work, who happens to be an ex 4x4 nut and explain the situation. I get off the hook at work, pickup a rebuilt starter for a Ford 300 and hightail it to my buddy's house to borrow his trailbike to get to the pit where the Rover is. Did I mention I had a starter, AND a spare battery, AND 20 feet of chain strapped to a 1979 XT 500 trailbike? I mean, I can handle the bike, but with 100 lbs of extra junk strapped to the rack, it was terrible - especially since I haven't ridden a trailbike in a long, long time.

I get on the road with no helmet, as his didn't fit me, and I hammer it. Hey, I hadn't been on a bike for a while, but a big four stroke monster is no match for me, the "motocross king", right? Uhh. Wrong. Torque meister bike spins the tire from 3-4 shift as I was getting a little throttle happy. I get the worst cold sweat of my life as the fully loaded, heavy Yammy dances around for traction for an instant. Whooo.... I'm still alive.
Then, I hit asphalt. Hooray! I'm wailing, 5th gear, 4000 rpms, 110 kmh. Great, I'm on top of the world again!

Hmm. What's up ahead, on the road? Is that an IMPALA? A WHITE IMPALA? WITH A GUMBALL MACHINE ON THE ROOF? (double gulp)

I Hammer off the gas and onto the brakes as I downshift down to sane speeds...I get passed by a cop car, going the opposite way. She, (and I do emphasize she, as she was most definitely a she of the highest possible she-ness - A particularly beautiful creature, if I do say so myself), stares me down. I keep going, she stops, and then, I stop. I Kill the bike as she backs up. Then as the power window rolls down on the big Impala...

"What's your name?"
"J-L Morin"
"Got any insurance on that bike?"
"Nope. No plates, no insurance, I don't have a helmet or a motorcycle license."
"What are you doing out here?"

I explain the situation and the fact that the motorcycle is the only vehicle that will get me back there. I point to the battery, the starter, and the chain. She smiles, kinda shakes her head, and says, "Well, slow down, and take it easy... You were barelling down this road way too fast."

Unbelievably, (and this action reinforces my trust in our great nation's lawmakers), she shows compassion, and lets me go under the promise that I'll be relaxing on the loud handle.

I get to the trail and the bike handles like a ton of bricks on a skate board. I get in far enough, and sure enough, I peel. I fall off the bike, it lands on my ankle and sprains it lightly. I also break the clutch lever and burn the heck out of my leg on the pipe.

Great. So I walk to the mudpit, toting the battery, and the starter. I spend another hour putting the starter in, and miraculously, it starts. I start winching ahead, but the land is a mucky mess, and I don't want to go through the mudhole I went through, so I keep going. I put my four tire chains on, but the whole forest is a bog - dense vegetation on top of this brown mucky soup, and I keep sinking in. I take the bonnet off "Valdez" as he is heating up a lot and I take my shirt off as it is steaming hot. I progress about a half mile along the trail. I am hoping to hit a road soon, but I am feeling the effects of lack of water - I am getting dehydrated fast. I need water. So I decide to hike out, try and start the bike, and ride to the nearest farmhouse to get some water and recharge my body.

The hike back is grueling as I sink into the muck to my knees. I start getting very, very weak. It is 95 degrees F and I have not had a sip of water for 6 hours, and have been working like a dog in the humidity. I finally get to the bike but find I am too weak to start it - I'm drained, starting to see white spots and losing my balance very easily.

I know I'm in deep doodoo - big time. I take the risk and drink some swamp water, but it is so filthy it is drinkable. I try and filter it with a T-shirt, no good. I decide to try and push start the bike on a hill, but then...I hear a horn.

What? Who? This far out in the woods? Low and Behold, a BIG OL' JOHN DEERE TRACTOR! Jonathan and Karen (friends) had gotten worried, and cashed in a favor to get the local farmer in there with his 6400 4x4 farm tractor. They are hanging from the sidesteps, smiling, kinda relieved to see me alive. I am happy to see them, it was like my prayers were answered.

I jump on the tractor. The farmer starts laughing as I am covered in mud and muck. He drives through the mudpit without too much difficulty, says in 35 years of farming he's never seen anyone take a truck through so much mud and actually make it through, but the tractor soon starts chewing up the single track. We get to the Rover and start towing it back. I get it started and begin driving along behind him as best I can, because the clutch is slipping, big time. We get to the big mudhole, and as soon as the tractor tries to get through, he goes straight down into the muck. Not good.

Jonathan and the farmer spend a good hour getting it unstuck, tying the tires to trees with chain, and using the massive tires as winch drums. I cannot help as I am too weak. IT WORKS! The mudhole is now a chaotic mess of black, so we start looking for alternative routes. After looking for a long time, we find a hydro line, which we follow with the tractor until we hit pasture land. I am basically getting really close to the edge of consciousness, my mouth feels like sandpaper and I am not sweating at all.

Finally, we are within 100 yards of pastureland. There is a drainage ditch separating us from safety. I talk the farmer into taking the mad charge approach. He hits the stream at 20 kmh in the big turbo diesel tractor, engine RPM wailing, and he makes it through - the scene was something you would find in a monster truck rally - total redneck craziness, but boy was I happy to see that green monster shoot through the muck!

We are safe! We hightail it to the farmhouse and I proceed to drink a whole pitcher of water in one serving, while others enjoy a coke. I am alive, well, and the farmer got his tractor out.

Basically, the story ends there. "Valdy" is still in the muck, I will try and retrieve him tomorrow by bringing a few batteries as spares, and winching him through the hole, now that he starts. Unfortunately, the clutch is now pretty much toasted, the rear tub is torn badly on one side where my traction ladder came up and broke the aluminum, and "Valdy" is covered in a three inch thick layer of mud.

I would just like to point out here, as I have been in this situation, that I will NEVER be so unprepared again. "Valdy" is going to start carrying a supply of emergency water in a Jerry can at all times, as I fear that if the tractor had not come, I might have been in a much worse predicament.

Well, off to sleep... J-L

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