Winter Rescue - Pickup Tugs a Semi From The Snow
Today started out just like you'd expect your first Monday back at work from an 11 day vacation, it SUUUUUUCKED! I was dragging ass all over the place and all I could think about was how badly I wished I were still tucked in my nice warm bed. Every muscle and joint was stiff and I was feeling very lethargic, each movement seemed to require twice the effort it should and I didn't wanna play anymore (my day job is a manual laborer so being stiff makes for a hard day). I had decided that today would be a good day to take it easy and SLOWLY work back into my groove.
Around 9 am (the time I had been just rolling out of bed during my vacation) my luck peaked, an ingot truck showed up! What's an ingot truck? I work at a foundry, we cast things out of metal (mostly bronze). The metal is shipped to us in bricks called ingots (think of gold bricks, that's what they look like), the ingots are stacked on pallets (about 2,300 pounds apiece) then they load them onto a semi and send them to us. Why is this a significant event you ask? Because we don't have a loading dock, I have to drag every one of those pallets to the back of the truck by hand! Add in the fact that it's cold as hell outside and the bastards are nailed to the hardwood flooring in the trucks and it makes for quite a chore. Needless to say I was not terribly excited to see an ingot truck show up this morning but that's part of the job I do so I pulled up my big girl panties and got it done.
During the unloading process the truck driver had taken it upon himself to keep me company inside the trailer, apparently he felt like I needed to chit chat while I was dragging 2300 pound pallets of metal to the back of his truck. He was a nice guy so I tried my best to be polite and listen to his stories while I worked. The most notable and detailed story he told was about how he'd just finished installing a four wheel drive system on his semi, it had dual rear axles and both of them were driven. I hadn't realized that this was something special (I'm not a trucker) but he assured me that this would guarantee his travels would be safe and free him from the worry and inconvenience of getting stuck. Being a gearhead myself I can appreciate the premise of four wheel drive in the winter, afterall I own a few four wheel drives myself, although not exactly the same type of system I could certainly appreciate his enthusiasm for carefree winter driving.
After hearing story after story about everything under the sun I was finally finished and ready to send him on his way. I headed for the warmth of the indoors and the inviting thought of a drink of water (I was a bit parched by this time). I wasn't inside more than 5 minutes when one of my coworkers came to me giggling to himself and explained that the semi was stuck! The snow had started to melt and it was nothing but ice underneath, all four of his driven wheels were spinning and his truck wasn't moving an inch! HAHAHAHAHAHA after all the talk about the big bad ass four wheel drive impossible to get stuck semi and he's stuck in a couple inches of snow on FLAT ground? I laughed to myself for a minute as I reflected back on all the times I've had to eat my words in similar situations. "HA HA HA" I thought to myself "How the hell is he going to get a semi unstuck?".............Then a stroke of genius hit me, in a pure "hold my beer" moment I said to my co-worker "I've got a strap, I'll grab my truck".
My chest filled with air as I proudly walked to the parking lot to grab my mighty Ford, what vehicle could possibly be better suited to the task than my 1 ton four wheel drive v10 lifted nitrous breathing (bang on my chest) snow thrashing crew cab? After announcing my plan to another co-worker (the guy that took the video you'll see in a minute) I approached the now incredibly pissed off (and embarrassed) driver of the semi and exclaimed "I've got my truck, have you got a place we can hook a tow strap?" He looked at me for a moment in disbelief, as though I had a cucumber growing out of my forehead. At that moment I realized that I looked like an idiot, how was I possibly going to pull a semi (with a trailer) over this slippery terrain? It was too late, I'd already committed myself to looking like an asshole so there was no turning back now! Come hell or high water I WAS going to pull that damn semi out of the snow! After a few moments of observation the driver looked at me with enthusiasm and said "It's not that bad, a Volkswagen could probably pull it out". You know when one of your friends is getting ready to do something stupid but you want to watch so you encourage them to do it anyway? That's what this guy was doing. Worst case scenario he had a funny story to tell his buddies, best case scenario he didn't have to wait for a proper tow vehicle to show up and could get back on the road.
After crawling around in the snow under the front of his semi for a few minutes the driver had found a place to hook a strap, I told him "I've got a strap, I'll grab it", he immediately responded with "oh no, don't you worry about it, I've got 10 straps, we'll use one of mine!". Fine with me, I backed up to the front of the truck and waited for them to connect my truck to his semi.
I was watching in my mirrors as he drug the straps through the snow and was a little surprised at what I saw, "are those tie down straps?" I thought to myself, "No they couldn't be, that would be stupid".
Having done some vehicle recovery before (usually it's someone pulling me out of a bad decision) I knew that the most comfortable way for me to progress would be to pull the strap taught then give it hell, that would keep me from kissing my steering wheel if the semi decided not to move when it hit the end of the strap. I dropped my truck into 4 low, pushed the little "tow/haul" button on the gear selector and was ready for business. Once I'd gotten the thumbs up I inched forward on the strap to pull it tight, here it was, my moment to shine! A group had gathered outside by this point to watch what I was about to attempt and I wasn't about to let them down. I felt the strap go tight and I knew it was time, I could see the semi tires spinning in my mirrors, I put my foot to the floor! Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz all four tires instantly started to spin on the ice, my truck was slipping and sliding and waving around like a flag on the end of the tow strap. I looked to my audience and noticed that they'd started to smile and joke amongst themselves, DAMNIT this wasn't going to work! I'd already made a fool of myself, it was time to try something else I was going to have to give it a pop and I was already starting to have flashbacks of the nitrous burnout where I exploded my rearend and twisted my driveshaft in half. "What if I get a run at it and the damn thing doesn't even budge? I'm going to end up kissing my dash when it hits the end of the strap". I was out of options, I had to give it a try, here's a cell phone video taken by one of my co-workers (Scott):
That didn't exactly go as planned, the semi didn't move an inch and the truck drivers straps had snapped in 3 places! No more messing around, it was time to grab a real tow strap! The only problem was that I'd forgotten to grab it out of my bed before the snow started to fly so it was buried under a foot of snow! After some help from Scott we found the frozen strap and started to get it stretched out into something that more closely resembled a usable tow strap.
We reconnected the truck and the semi and prepared ourselves for another attempt. By this time most of the audience (including Scott) had lost interest in my seemingly hopeless project and had gone back to work inside the building. I didn't have my phone or any of our camera gear with me and Scott had taken his phone back inside so I guess the rest of the story you'll just have to take my word for.
Knowing that the only chance I had was to give the strap some slack and get a run at it I braced myself firmly back in my seat, I knew that this strap wasn't going to break easily and I still wasn't sure if my truck would have what it was going to take to move that big semi. "Here we go" I thought to myself as I hammered the throttle awaiting what was sure to be a violent and abrupt stop......."wait for it"........"here it comes"......."brace for impact"............nothing.....wtf? My truck just kept on accelerating forward, no abrupt stop or even a hesitation. Either the strap had come off the hitch or I'd ripped something off of one of our vehicles (you can guess which one I was hoping for). I looked to the guy giving me direction for information, he calmly waved me back to the truck. "What happened? Did I break something?" I said. "Nope, the strap popped off" he said. Thank the lord! I definitely didn't want to be buying that semi driver a new bumper or something.
I backed up to the strap one last time, this time was it, I was going to get it. I gave myself about 3 feet of slack in the rope and opened her up. Snow and ice were thrown quickly into the air as I thrashed forward, my head firmly planted against my headrest as I braced again for certain impact. There were only two ways this would end, either something was going to break or I was going to be the cool guy who pulled a semi out of the snow. I felt the familiar bungee effect of the strap as it was stretched to it's limits, I gritted my teeth and kept my foot glued to the floor. I was engulfed by a cloud of snow and ice as I was faced with the mighty weight of the semi. My truck clawed forward through the ice and snow as my rpm's soared, I couldn't believe it, could this actually be happening? Am I really towing a semi over snowy terrain? I glanced to my mirrors to see what was going on behind me and much to my surprise there was in fact a big white tractor trailer following my lead! We'd done it! He was out and my truck was the hero of the day! Obviously I pulled him an extra 20 or 30 feet beyond what was probably necessary because that's just what you do in a situation like that! The driver was thrilled! And a little surprised I think. He gathered what was left of his shredded tow straps (tie downs) and hit the road for another adventure and I proudly walked back into the building knowing that David had beaten Goliath and that my tow strap had lived to pull another day.
After having such a rough morning back from my holiday vacation I can happily tell you that my day was quickly turned around by a truck driver and a little bit of snow.
As a quick side note it wasn't really worth getting all worked up over, the truck pretty much came right out. I've had a harder time pulling lilac bushes!
Thank you for reading this weeks blog post.
Clint J. Grover