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February 2012 4xForward

Posted in Features on February 1, 2012
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Last month I gave you a brief rundown on a recent 4x4 trip I found myself on. I had no intention of being out late, or getting stuck, or anything else but having fun when I turned onto that unmarked asphalt road in the desert. After all, I had plenty of time to get to my appointment. But stuck is exactly what I was.

You see, almost all modern rigs revert to the default settings on traction control, ride heights, and the like when they are shut down. It so happened that those default settings weren’t what I desired for the soft sand I had parked in with a full load and full tires somewhere in the southwestern desert. The LR4, which had so confidently blasted across the dunes and trails, splayed out like a lizard in the sand with its belly on the bottom and the legs of the mud tires grappling for traction in midair. Compounded by my parking slightly uphill (duh) and failing to reset all of the vehicle’s parameters, I had buried the LR in 108-degree heat far, far from civilization.

Of course, our cardinal rule is never go by yourself and always tell someone where you are going. And since I rarely, if ever, know where I’m going and no one would follow me anyway, I was gloriously on my own. Now, I could have taken the spare, dug a hole, and used it as an anchor to winch myself out with the Warn PullzAll I had in the back, but the LR tire is under the rig, already buried in the sand, and I failed to pack a shovel. Instead, I took out the half-size Hi-Lift used on the Supersonic DED tour (Oct. ’10) and jacked up the ball hitch to move the rear end out of the sand. Too bad the air suspension kept up with the Hi-Lift and kept pushing the tires and offending A-arms back into the sand!

Ah, modern technology. Finally, I yanked a small stick from the sparsely covered ground and simply let the air out of the tires. Counting to 100 approximated 10 pounds per tire, even though the short sidewall looked dangerously close to the rim, as I knew it was the only way out. I also knew I had sufficient food and water for about three days and that I could walk to the highway in the cool of the evening if needed. After all, this wasn’t my first rodeo. How do you think I learned how to survive, by a book? No, practical experience was key here. Even though I missed that critical step of shutting down my ride in the first place, I was still confident of either extricating the beast or heading out on foot to civilization.

With near-flat tires and nanny settings reloaded into the LR4, I cleared the sand from under the most offending parts down below and settled into the leather-clad interior. It was make or dig time. After slurping through nearly a gallon of water I was looking for that make part. Sure enough, a blip of the throttle in reverse brought the beast to the hard-packed rocks behind me, like I had never even been stuck. Simple as that, I turned and headed back to the highway and actually made my appointment. But I still wish I was back in the dunes—that was more fun than anyone deserves!

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