Bronco Diving in The Winter Olympics
For this weeks blog post I've decided to tell you a story that happened a few years ago in an area known as Rose Ponds just outside of Blackfoot, Idaho.
It was nearing the end of a long cold winter in Idaho, sometime around late February of 2012 is my best guess and I was getting mud fever! For the last year I had been working on upgrades for my daily driven 1978 Ford Bronco with every intention of eventually turning it into a mud bogging, go anywhere monster/badass daily driver. When I'd gotten the Bronco it was in non-running condition with years of neglect from sitting so I'd spent the majority of the last year (and the majority of my money) fixing things like the steering, belts, hoses, fluids, seals, wiring, exhaust, etc. the usual stuff. The bronco had however come with an aluminum intake manifold and a 4 barrel carburetor so I did have some inkling of performance under the hood. The only "Upgrades" that my budget had allowed on the bronco up to this point were a high flow air intake, a Holley 600cfm carburetor, 31x12.5x15 Maxxis Bighorn tires (which by the way are KICK ASS tires!) and a full exhaust system. Needless to say this thing was no monster, but it is an incredibly capable vehicle and this one definitely had just enough power to get me into trouble.It was my weekend with my kids (I'm a divorced dad with shared custody of my children) and I was bound and determined to do something cool with them. Being a divorced parent it's often my goal to be known as "the cool one" with my kids so the typical pizza and a movie thing doesn't happen very often at dads house. I like to raise the ante a little every chance I get!
With the bronco in good running condition and the snow starting to melt, all I could think about was how badly I wanted to test my bad ass new tires in the mud! I got a hold of a friend of mine who also happened to be and long time mudding enthusiast and asked if he wanted to go out to Rose to see if we could stir up a little mud from underneath the melting ice and snow. Keep in mind that I'd only had the Bronco for about a year and before that I had absolutely ZERO experience mudding. My friend agreed that this would be an excellent way to have an adventure with my kids and show them yet another facet of the automotive lifestyle that we as enthusiasts all love so much.
I loaded up the kids, fired up the bronco and headed out. When we arrived my friend and his daughter were already there waiting, apparently I wasn't the only one who was excited for muddin' season. Because of his years of experience I decided to just follow him to get my bearings, wherever he went I would go, how cold this strategy possibly go bad?
My friend (Eric) was driving his 1981 Chevy 3/4 ton pickup, 4 wheel drive, turbo 400 transmission, 6" lift, 36" Super Swamper TSL's (bias ply), custom exhaust, with a mildly built 402 big block. This thing was built for the mud and it did a damn good job in it! Check it out:
We had found a GREAT spot next to one of the frozen ponds, there was exposed dirt with just a little bit of mud here and there. I followed Eric all over the area, wherever he went I went and I tried to throw up more mud or go faster than him on every pass. After about 30 minutes of following Eric around I felt like I had a good grasp on the area and that it was my turn to start breaking some new trail (My kids were very helpful in saying "Dad go over there, Dad go try over there, Dad, etc.). Eric was doing a good job of finding mud and flinging it all over gods green earth but he kept going through the same general spot and I, in my infinite wisdom (you know how when someone finds something new and all of a sudden they're an expert on it? Yeah that was me when it came to mudding) had decided that the best place to find more mud was under the ice on the edges of the pond. The pond made a very slow and gentle slope into the water so there was nothing but fun to be had here. I made sure my kids were strapped in securely and headed for the icy edges of the water, as I broke more and more ice out of the way I was exposing more and more mud for us to play in, it was exactly what I was hoping for! The conditions couldn't have been better, the pond continued to have a very gradual slope into the water so there was no concern in my mind whatsoever that we might run into trouble. I was hauling ass all over the place, flipping mud as far as my little bronco could possibly manage and laughing with my boys, I knew it was something they'd remember for the rest of their lives (you'll reflect back on this statement later) and I couldn't be happier about it. What a cool dad I was being!
After some time spinning around in our fresh mud I decided it was time to yet again brake new trail through the ice and I knew just the place to do it. We had been playing along the side of a long oval pond but we'd flipped most of the mud out onto the dirt and we needed some new slop to play in. Just ahead, where the pond made a turn, there was a great looking spot that I hadn't even touched the ice on yet, the area looked almost identical to what we'd just finished breaking up, nothing looked out of place or of the slightest concern. Without a second thought I dropped the bronco into 4 low, aimed it at the virgin ice on the edge of the pond and put that bitch to the floor! I'm not sure how fast I was going when I hit the ice patch but suffice it to say that I'd had the hammer down for about 30 yards and we certainly weren't moving at a walking pace. I felt the front of the bronco as it went from the soft mud to the hard slick surface of the ice, then just as I felt the back tires climb onto the ice I hear a loud CRASH!!! It had come from underneath the bronco, "OH SHIT" I thought to myself. Almost instantly after the crashing sound I felt the seat of my bronco drop out from under me, you know those dreams where you feel like you're falling? It was exactly like that. I felt my body hit the end of my seat belt and I knew that we were in trouble, the ice had broken underneath us and against everything I thought I knew, the water was DEEP! The bronco had a full head of steam when it hit the ice and I'd guess that by the time I realized we'd broken through the ice we were probably still doing every bit of 35 mph. I went from happily looking at the mud we'd been playing in to looking straight down into the icy waters of rose pond. There was ice smashing against the front of the bronco and water covering my windshield as I crashed through the frozen pond and I knew that I only had one option, I had to keep that son of a bitch on the floor and try to drive it out the other side! I had my kids with me and I'll be damned if we were going to be buried in this icy grave.
I pulled up my big girl panties and kept my foot on the floor as we busted through the ice. Then after what seemed like an eternity (it had actually only been about a second and a half) all of a sudden I felt the bronco hit something solid with the front tires, the windshield cleared and I was looking straight up at the sky! SON OF A BITCH I was in a full wheel stand coming up the far bank of the pond (Eric said that we were completely vertical and that it looked like we were just about to roll over backwards) I knew I had to get out of the throttle or we'd be upside down in the water. We were almost home free, just a few more feet and we'd be completely out of the water. I was just starting to release the throttle so we could drop down out of our wheelie when the engine died, the carburetor had been tilted to such an extreme angle that it had starved itself of fuel and had shut us down IN THE MIDDLE OF A FUCKING WHEELIE OUT OF A FROZEN POND!!! The bronco immediately dropped back into the icy water hole that we were just almost out of. This time however it felt different, the passenger wheels weren't touching anything, they were spinning freely in the water and the bronco was starting to tip out into the deep water. The only thing holding the bronco from rolling out into the water was the ice that hadn't broken yet. A sense of EMERGENCY was racing through my mind but I didn't want to worry my kids, afterall we were there to have fun! I calmly told the kids, "Ok guys, I need you to quickly undo your seatbelts and climb up here with dad, I'm going to have you guys wait on the side while I get the bronco out". Water was starting to rush in around the passenger door and I could feel the bronco tipping further and further toward the deep water, I glanced out the passenger window and all I could see was ice and water, I knew that I had to get the kids to safety and I had to do it FAST!
My boys wasted no time unbuckling themselves as I snatched them from the back seat and tossed them to the safety of the nearby bank. I carefully climbed out of the bronco to see just what it was that had happened and exactly what I was up against. I turned out that there was a small indention in the edge of the pond where for one reason or another it dropped almost straight off into the icy depths, it was as if a hole the size of my bronco had been dug there just for me. If you look closely at the picture you can see the area behind the bronco was all flat muddy ground, the entire area had ice over it when we'd arrived and this area looked absolutely no different to me than the rest.....obviously that wasn't the case.
After the kids were safe and I'd had a chance to get blood pressure down a little the whole thing was actually kind of cool, who do you know that's done this? This was something we could look back on and laugh at, what a great memory (as I started thinking about changing my underwear).
In case you're wondering, yes we did eventually get the bronco out. I had to go for a quick dip to hook up a tow strap, then after a great deal of time and effort I was able to convince the bronco that it was in fact a good idea to start and stay running while 1/2 way underwater. The only down side to the whole deal was that Erics mighty mud slinging Chevy had oddly broken down right in my way (you know how those chevy's like to break down) but luckily the tow strap had quickly frozen and become stiff so I was able to use it as a bar and push him out of the way as I easily, almost without effort backed the bronco from it's ice bath (it was a really stiff rope, and the ice was......and the water.....ford...). FINE. Thank you Eric for pulling my Ford out of the ice with your Chevy.
I'll bet that thing had a full 12" of standing water in it when we finally got it drug out of that hole, if you look closely at the picture below you can see water pouring out of the interior.
At the end of this whole ordeal I actually did walk away with some high notes: 1st I was glad to know that even in a time of urgency I was able to keep my cool and think clearly, 2nd I had a GREAT reason to replace the old worn out interior and makes some upgrades to the bronco, 3rd I learned a LOT about ice mudding that day and I can guarantee you that my kids won't be with me the next time I'm headed into uncharted territory, and finally I submitted a few of the photos to Petersen's 4 Wheel & Off Road Magazine and I'll be damned if they didn't publish my photos in their magazine 4 different times since then! I'd have preferred to be recognized for an automotive accomplishment but sometimes you just have to take what you can get and this time I got the "Look at this jackass" award!
Thanks again Eric for pulling me out, and thank you all for reading this weeks blog post. Here's a video we did on the bronco since this little incident, it's pretty fun, have a look:
Thanks again, till next week.
Clint J. Grover