Shit Happens

by: Jon Held - President, Gotham City Land Cruisers

The weather was warm and chatter on the local list was frantic with people wanting to get out and wheel. A couple of guys from Gotham were running up to Mahwah, NJ for a day of exploring. I jumped on the opportunity, and the 3 of us took off for the day.

There were some fun trails, but the majority were really tame access roads. None of us had been to this area before, so we wound up backtracking quite a bit before lunch. At around 1pm or so, we met up with Greg Jarvis, and some of his crew who were regulars in this area. They were just getting started for the day, and asked us to tag along. Paul and Kevin decided they had had enough, so only Josh and I tagged along. Did some really great trails, and had a blast. At around 3pm, the fog was really rolling in, so we decided to head out and come back on another day.

On our way out, I was following the 3 FJ40s over some hard packed snow. I saw Paul's 40 list suddenly to the left as his rear left tire popped through the ice. He crawled up out of it with out too much effort. At this time I realized that the ice I was on might be deeper than I thought. It looked like the stuff we were running around on all day, so I really didn't give it another thought. Anyway, while I was waiting for Paul to clamber out of the hole, my left front popped through the ice. I threw it into reverse and mashed the pedal. Then my right front broke through, and when the frame hit, it fractured the ice sheet and I slid right under. Now I'm about 30 degrees down, with the tip of the bonnet under water. Luckily, Paul noticed what was going on, and quickly backtracked to me. I had started taking on water, but it was just a puddle on the floor.

Things went from bad to worse when the rear came down with the bumper on the ice sheet. At this point I shut her down and opened the sunroof. We were taking on serious amounts of water and I had no idea how deep this sinkhole was. The rest of the group came around, and there was another group of wheelers there who quickly jumped in to help. Josh was whisked away into a warm, dry vehicle with snack food. He was fine.

Then the recovery effort began. At 1 point, there were 3 vehicles with 3 double line pulls from Warn 8724s, along with a full size Bronco on 2 3" straps. While the winches pulled the vehicles towards my truck, the Bronco made several full speed tugs at the rear of my rig. All this to no avail. My Cruiser was abandoned at 10pm and the next day, we trailered in a load of 2x12 lumber from Gregg's shop, along with a HUGE 1960s dumptruck with chains on the wheels. Using the 2x12s, we laid a platform to get to the rear of the truck to attach chains and winch lines. Then we placed those 2x12s under the wheels and axles and pulled with everything. It inched up a little at a time, with the water draining out each time. It popped on the 5th attempt.

I've never seen a truck look so good as mine did when it was back on solid ground. Of course, the doors locked themselves along with my keys in the ignition (I wasn't worried about anyone stealing it at the time) so I had to bust that little window in the back to get in. Plopped my but down on the muddy seat without a thought and smiled.

The recovery effort claimed the right headlight assembly, the lower bib, both rear mud flaps, and a used BFG muddie. A little customizing of the left front quarter, but not too bad.

I consider myself a safe and responsible wheeler. I try to be prepared for any eventuality with extra clothing, extra supplies and water, fully stocked first aid kit, recovery gear, tools, parts, even a spare-spare tire. I also like to think I have some extra common sense. Nothing could have prepared me for this. Be careful out there people. Shit happens.