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The Night That Lasted Three Days
It was a stormy night, Spencer, Devon and I were on the road headed back from Georgia. We were in my truck, a grey 2002 Ford F-250 Supercab Flatbed, the 7.3l turbo diesel was purring right along. We pulled into a BP to fuel up, I took the time to make sure everything on the 36’ gooseneck flatbed trailer was still tied down tight. I was hauling two lifted side by sides and my 1982 Ford F-250 mud truck rollin on 44’s. We were coming back from a weekend mudfest. I had been driving for about four hours, it was getting dark out, the forecast called for high winds and a chance of a tornado. We were almost to Spencer’s grandpa’s farm where we would spend the night.
Not even ten minutes after we got back on the road it started downpouring so hard I could barely see the road. According to the Gps we were only 30 minutes away from where we would be spending the night. Suddenly the winds kicked up and the truck and trailer started to get squirrely. An announcement came over the radio that there was a tornado warning for the county we were in.
By now it was raining so hard I had to slow to a crawl. Suddenly I hit something, it brought the rig to an abrupt stop. I grabbed my rain coat and hopped out of the truck, I was immediately nailed with wind driven rain. I whipped out my headlamp and it didn’t take me long to realize we had hit a downed tree. I went to the bed off my truck and grabbed my Stihl ms661. The saw came to life on the first pull. I cut the tree into manageable lengths. Devon and Spencer moved it out of the way, I put the saw back, checked the truck for damage, I found very little. We proceeded down the road, slow and cautiously.
We didn’t make it much more than a mile before we encountered another downed tree, we proceeded to clear the road as we had done previously. We made it another five miles or so, during which we encountered four more downed trees. It took us almost two hours to make five miles the winds were violent and it was pouring cats and dogs, when we encountered a washed out section of road. Where the road had been was now a raging rapid of flood water and debris.
I quickly developed a plan of how we would cross the washed out section of road, I talked it over with Spencer and Devon and they agreed. We prepared to enter the extreme weather. My plan was to unload the trailer and drive the mud truck and side by sides across first. We took the binders loose and unchained everything, careful to make sure we put all the chains and binders in the toolbox on the front of the trailer. I made sure to lock the hubs. I climbed up the 44” tall tractor tires and jumped in the cab. The supercharged 351w spooled to life with a roar, I threw it into reverse and backed it off the trailer. I flipped on the LED light bars and turned the wipers on high.
I left Devon and Spencer behind as I headed to test the waters. I came to the edge of where the road was washed out, threw the truck into four wheel drive, then eased into the water. I’d estimate the water was at least two feet deep as it came swallowed over half of the tires. I had made it almost halfway when a large chunk of debris pushed me sideways, I quickly nailed the throttle to pull the truck back straight. I continued onward, until I came to where the road was still intact, I once again pinned the throttle in order to climb up the slope to the road.
I continued down the road a little ways checking for other washouts, I found none so I headed back to the rig to share my findings with the boys. I made it back without obstruction and shared my findings. I shared my plan with them, they agreed.
We unloaded the side by sides, Devon and Spencer took them across, I followed in the mud truck. When we reached the other side they parked the side by sides off of the road, then they hoped in with me. We went back across to get the truck and trailer. I grabbed a couple of tow straps and a clevis out of the toolbox on the trailer. I proceeded to the front of the tow rig, once there I hooked each loop of the first strap to each of the tow hooks, then I took the clevis and joined the second strap to the first. Devon backed the mud truck up and I dropped the end of the strap over the pintle hitch, making sure to latch it. I went over the signals with Devon. Then I did a walk around to make sure we were ready to roll. I locked the hubs, hopped in the cab and flipped the knob to 4x4 and flipped on the led light bars.
I gave the horn a quick toot, that was the signal to go. My plan was simple, use the mud truck to pull the tow rig with the trailer across the washed out section of road, this way if I lost traction he’d be there to pull me through. It was underway Devon eased into the rapid moving water I followed close behind. Once the truck and trailer were in the water I looked in the mirror only to see, that I couldn’t see any sign of the trailer other than the neck of the trailer in the bed of the truck. The trailer deck sits 30” high and it was fully submerged, I rolled down the window to see how far the water was coming up on the truck, but I was immediately hit with the sting of wind driven rain. I figured the water was at least halfway up the doors, as it was starting to seep in where the door meets the rocker panels.
Suddenly the truck was thrown sideways by a large chunk of debris. The trailer jackknifed, I hammered down hoping to pull it straight again but I had no traction. Luckily Devon noticed and pulled me straight through. Once on the other side we loaded everything back on the trailer and chained it down. We hopped in the cab all of us drenched for being in the downpour. I cringed thinking about how my cloth seats would fair after coming in contact with so much water.
We made it within fifteen miles of the farm by 5:30 am when the truck started to sputter before it died. We had officially run out of fuel. We had already burned through all of the diesel in the 148 gallon on board transfer tank as well as the trucks fuel tank. I asked Spencer, who was more familiar with the area from visiting his grandpa’s farm, He said the nearest station that sold diesel was at least 30 miles to the left of us, he then mentioned that there was a 500 gallon tank at the farm that was used for refueling the farm equipment, but that he wasn’t sure of the last time it had been refilled.
He tried calling his grandpa but upon pulling his phone out he discovered the screen was destroyed and his phone wouldn’t turn on. I offered up my phone but he exclaimed that he didn’t know his grandpa’s phone number, instead he called his mom, whom I had in my contacts. She answered, sounded like we woke her but we got the number we needed, and called him he picked up and confirmed my fear, the tank was empty. But he had at least six, five gallon cans, I told him we’d be by as soon as we could to get them.
I told Devon and Spencer the plan, which was to unload the truck then take one of the side by sides off the trailer and drive it to the farm then grab the cans and begun the roughly 30 mile trip to the fuel station. While we were there we made sure to top off the side by side and bring two five gallon cans of gas with us. By time we left the farm it was becoming light out, as it was 8:30 am. We had made it 24 miles when we came across a section of washed out road. Not knowing how deep it was, I eased into the water. The front tires were immediately emerged, it kept getting deeper, by time we were all the way in the water was almost chest deep, boy was I glad I had a snorkel on the side by side otherwise the engine would have sucked in water and hydro locked. We made it across with encountering minimal debris.
Once we made it through the over two miles of washed out road we traveled the remaining few miles uneventfully. At the gas station we filled the cans, including the gas cans, and topped off the side by side. Spencer came out and told us he had bought us a present, eager to know Devon, snagged the bag out of his hand. He took out three scuba diving snorkels and three pairs of goggles, I laughed. I threw the cans in and made sure to strap the cans down. A minute later we were off on our way back to the truck and trailer. When we got to the section of washed out road, I could definitely tell the water had risen and the road had washed out even further. I instantly realized why Spencer had purchased the scuba diving gear. We all put it on and prepared to enter the freezing cold water. This time the water level was at least six inches past the tops of our heads.
We had made it almost all the way across when the razor started to sputter, I quickly check the gauges all looked good, so I didn’t understand why it was sputtering. Within one hundred feet of the road it died, I tried to get it to start with no such luck. I panicked if we couldn’t get it going we were at risk of getting washed downstream losing the valuable fuel we desperately needed and not to mention the twelve thousand dollar razor. We were literally dead in the water. I had an epiphany, I headed to the front of the machine, put the winch in free wheel and pulled the synthetic cable out. Devon and Spencer must have known what I was doing because they grabbed the tow straps and swam towards me. Once out of the water we found a tree and hooked one of the straps around a solid looking oak tree. Then we hooked the other straps together. They were barely long enough to reach the hook on the winch rope. Once hooked, I told the boys to wait here while I swam back to the razor. Once I got there I noticed a log jammed against the side, I took a huge gulp of air and went under to try and free it. It took all I had but I got it freed. Then I took the winch out of free wheel and hoped in the driver's seat winch control in hand I began to spool in the cable. Once the tension was taken up I felt the side by side start to crawl forward. With in minutes the razor was back on land where I could figure out why it had quit.
I tried getting it to start again with no such luck. I did a visual inspection, I noticed the vent line had come unhooked from the fuel tank thus letting water in the fuel. We drained the fuel tank, flushed the lines and took the fuel injectors out and dried them. Then put fresh fuel in and primed the system. It was the moment of truth, I turned the key, it cranked for a few before it roared to life, it was music to my ears. We cleaned up before heading out. By time we rolled out it was 10:30 pm and pitch black out. I flipped on the Led lights. We made it back to the truck and trailer by 3:00 am. Once there were put the fuel in it, loaded up the side by side and the mud truck, chained everything down hoped in the truck, still soaking wet and cold. Turned the key, nothing, I tried the lights, nothing, the battery was stone cold dead, we unloaded the mud truck, jumped the truck then loaded it back on the trailer. 36 hours after we had run out fuel we were finally back rolling. We made it to the farm that afternoon. It had been three days since I had slept so I immediately went to bed.