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Maxim 32: Anything Is Amphibious If You Can Get It Back Out Of The Water

Last week at Boy Scout camp, I had a few car issues. Okay, I dumped my Honda Civic into the creek, nose first. My friend Howard Tayler wrote the title of this post for his web comic Schlock Mercenary. I put it to the test.

As I arrived home on Friday night, my broken car sat at the curb waiting for me. I'd been able to drive it from the scene of the crash to the highway. The check engine light had come on. My diagnostic tool couldn't read the codes. (Why did I have a check-engine-reading tool in my car on a camping trip? Don't ask.) It seemed safest to have it towed home.

I got up Saturday morning and headed out to check out the damage. There was a big hole in the bumper. Popping the hood, I could see that the AC condenser was pressed into the radiator. Which in turn was pressed into the fan. My car would run, but not for long if I tried to drive it without repairing it. It certainly wouldn't have made it the 40 miles from Spanish Fork canyon to Pleasant Grove.

I cleared a space in front of my garage, put the front of the car on jack stands and went to work. The first part of any repair is disassembly. It's like peeling an onion. . .and then putting it back together. The bumper, or rather the cowling over the bumper, came off pretty easily. Honestly, most of the rivets were popped from the dip in the creek.

The actual bumper is a big piece of steel that goes across the front of your car. It sort of looks like a curved bow protruding out to protect your car. Mine? It was the piece that pressed the condenser in. It was mostly horseshoe shape. It had done its job and died in the effort. It took the bulk of the impact. It came off surprisingly easily.

Now to the real work. The compressor looks like a miniature radiator. It is supposed to be flat. Mine was more bowl shaped. I didn't remove it yet, though. It was full of freon. I didn't want to remove it until I was ready to refill the AC system. Instead, I swung it out of the way. Kind of like a barn door. I heavily damaged, broken barn door.

Behind the compressor was the actual radiator. It was also mostly bowl shaped. I drained the radiator and got about a pint of fluid. The car takes 1.8 gallons. It had lost a little fluid. Next, I started disconnecting the hoses. There are 6, which wouldn't be a problem if the clamps weren't hidden behind other components. I made a mental note of where each hose and each electrical connection went.

The back of the radiator has two fans. These were pressed up tight against the bent radiator. As I pulled them off, they spun easily, apparently unharmed. Stepping back, I felt pretty confident that disassembly was done. Not too bad considering the possibilities. I needed a new bumper, a new compressor and a new radiator.

Towing my car from the canyon to my house cost $500; $300 to pull it out of the creek and $200 to load it on a truck to my house. Total parts for the fix were going to come in about $400. By the way, don't try this at home. Well, if you are a mechanic, or have a neighbor who is, you can. Taking my car to a shop would have probably run into $1000 or $1200 for parts and labor in addition to towing.

Any job, no matter how small, is an excellent excuse for a new tool.

I almost had everything I needed. I ended up buying a vacuum pump to evacuate the AC system prior to refilling with freon. I also had to buy the freon and some more plastic rivets to attach the bumper cover.

It took a couple of days to get all the parts in. My neighbor and his son came over to help. Cameron, my neighbor's son did a lot of the work on the radiator. Jonathan, his dad did the work on the AC and my part was the body work.

A Honda Civic that is missing the cowling in front looks a lot like a wannabe Mustang. My kids thought it was cool. I lived in fear of catching a rock in that soft aluminum. Tomorrow, I'll put the cowling back on and call the repair complete.

  • One week
  • Two junk yard trips
  • Three trips to the auto parts store
  • 14 Times I wished I'd learned to swear

The best part of the entire process was proving the validity of my friend Howard's Maxim 32. Yep, I got it back out of the water. It proves it was amphibious. I think I may combine that Maxim with #11: Everything is air-droppable at least once, and figure once was enough.

This is the final post to a multiple part story about my misadventures at scout camp. I plan a rare Saturday post tomorrow to include the picture story.

Here are the other parts of the story

I'm Okay. I'm Okay. . .I'm Not Okay (Sliding off the road)

If The Good Lord is Willing And the Creek Don't Rise (Yup, it ended up in the creek)

It's What We Do (Okay, NOW what do I do? I figure out how to get out of it)

Maxim 32: Anything is Amphibious If You Can Get It Back Out Of The Water (a hat tip to my friend Howard Tayler, who wrote the headline)
That Doesn't Go There – The Long Delayed Picture Essay

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

Life . . . Flight (A Poem)

Big, small

Hope, pray

Now, then

New, old

Well, sick

Life, flight

Hope, fear

Future, past

Old, young

Man, child

Boy, girl

Far, near

Crowded, alone

Silent, cry

Pray

Tomorrow, I'll finish up telling you about my car. Today, this is all I have.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

It’s What We Do

Okay, maybe I was feeling a little sorry for myself, trudging along a muddy mountain road as a light rain fell. I didn't fail to acknowledge that I was unhurt. I couldn't say the same about my car which was a half mile behind me, nose down in Bennion Creek. You know when they say how wonderful it would be to get away from it all? Go on vacation somewhere out of cell phone range? Yeah, that's great until you find yourself in a situation where you need a cell phone.

I honestly didn't know what I was going to do. I had a vague plan to hike back to scout camp and catch a ride down to the highway rest stop. You know, the one that used to be a railroad turnaround station back in the 1800's. I say "vague" because I really wasn't sure what to do after that. What's the protocol for getting your car out of a creek? Is there some 1 800-HELPME number for that?

My thoughts were interrupted by the sound of an oncoming car. Someone was headed down the canyon. I stepped off the road as a black pickup came into view. Of course, he had a truck. Everyone on this road should be driving a truck today. My front wheel drive Honda Civic was evidence of that. The truck slowed as I waved him to a stop. He was obviously from our camp, although from a different troop. I was wearing my scout shirt, mud and all.

Are you headed down to the highway?

Yeah. What happened to you?

My car slid off the road back there a ways. If you wouldn't mind, I could use a lift to out to where I can cell reception.

Sure, hop in. I have some work I need to do this morning. I was on my way to the rest area to use my phone. I should warn you, I'm probably going to be down there for several hours.

No worries. You're saving me a long hike.

We shared the things that two adult men wearing Boy Scout shirts do. We slowed as we passed my car. Its taillights and a little of the read panels all that was visible.

Wow, that's in there pretty good. Are you okay?

Yeah, it was going pretty slowly when it headed down the bank.

His four wheel drive truck handled beautifully through the mud and the rain. As we arrived at the rest area the rain let up. I thanked him and pulled out my phone. The first call had to be home.

Yeah, I had some minor car trouble. The car slid off the road.

No, I'm fine, but it's going to take a tow truck to get the car out.

I think it's probably fine. It was running when I slid off. Can you look up some tow truck companies in Spanish Fork?

Really, I'm fine.

Okay, maybe I downplayed the accident just a little. There was nothing my lovely wife could do about it at this point and I really didn't want to worry her. She gave me a couple phone numbers and I called the first one.

I slid off the road up by Bennion Creek off Highway 6. Do you guys do those tows?

No. We don't really do that sort of thing, but let me give you Andy's number. He can help you.

One phone call later and Andy agreed to come out and tow my car. He agreed he'd pick me up at the rest stop. . The one that used to be a railroad turn around. I thanked Chris, the other scout leader who gave me a ride and collected my bags.

Andy arrived in a four wheel drive truck with a winch on the front. I climbed in and we headed back toward Bennion Creek. As we slid through the mud up the road, my car was in the exact same place it was when I left.

I don't like to bring my big wrecker up these roads, but I might be forced to on this one.

What do you mean?

Well, at the angle your car is facing I'm not sure my winch will be strong enough. We'll see.

Andy tried multiple configurations. Most of which involved more and more chains. At one point, he said, "Don't stand there. . .you're in the kill zone." Eventually, he anchored his truck to a tree. He used a come-along anchored to two other trees and using the come-along he literally pulled the car out by hand. The winch eventually burned out. The cottonwood tree the chain was attache to moved several inches. Fortunately, it didn't fall over.

As my car slowly inched its way back onto the road, I noticed the hold in the front bumper. Peeking inside the engine compartment it was obvious the AC condenser was shot. It's pretty soft aluminum. The condenser pushed back into the radiator, also soft aluminum. That in turn pressed back against the fan, pinning the blades. It might run, but it wasn't going to run for long with a compromised cooling system.

I pointed it downhill as the rain started up again. Andy agreed we'd meet at the highway. I took off to beat the rain while he packed up his chains. I arrived at the highway without too much trouble, but then I hadn't had a problem going down the mountain. Andy agreed to give me a lift back to camp.

Do you do regular towing as well?

Sure do.

How much to tow it back to Pleasant Grove?

Well, it would normally be $250, but since you're already paying me for the earlier job, I'll cut you a break on both tows. Call it $300 for getting it out of the creek and $200 for the tow back to Pleasant Grove.

What could I say? It needed to be done. And I realized that often a "plan" is simply deciding what you do next. I returned to camp and tried to put aside thoughts of my car. There was nothing I could do until I got home on Saturday, so why worry?

It almost worked.

This is part of an ongoing series of posts about my misadventures at scout camp last week. Tomorrow, we'll find out what the damage was and how much it would take to get back up and running.

Here are the other parts of the story

I'm Okay. I'm Okay. . .I'm Not Okay (Sliding off the road)

If The Good Lord is Willing And the Creek Don't Rise (Yup, it ended up in the creek)

It's What We Do (Okay, NOW what do I do? I figure out how to get out of it)

Maxim 32: Anything is Amphibious If You Can Get It Back Out Of The Water (a hat tip to my friend Howard Tayler, who wrote the headline)
That Doesn't Go There – The Long Delayed Picture Essay

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

If The Good Lord Is Willing And The Creek Don’t Rise

The most surprising thing was the lack of panic. I was facedown in a creek. At least my car was. The creek was obviously not too deep, but my car was at such a steep angle, I wasn't sure if it might not just tip over into the stream. Plus, I'd hit some small trees on my way in. There was no telling how unstable the hillside might be.

Last week I taught a group of Boy Scouts what to do in the event of an emergency.

  1. Stop
  2. Check for injuries
  3. Seek shelter
  4. Build a fire
  5. Signal for help
  6. Get water
  7. Don't worry about food

I started going over the list in my head.

1. Stop

Well, that one was definitely taken care of.

2. Check for injuries

Amazingly the airbag didn't go off. My slide down the hill had been almost in slow motion. I didn't appear to be injured. I'd been wearing a seat belt. I found that the seat belt wasn't pressing too hard on my chest because I was literally standing on the brakes trying to keep from falling forward.

3. Seek shelter

That would be back at camp. Time to get myself out of the car. I turned off the engine. My first impulse was to open my door. Four inches from my driver's side window was a 24" diameter cottonwood. The implication didn't hit me until later. I missed connecting with that tree by less than the length of my arm.

Still standing on the brakes, I undid my seat belt and gathered my things. I slipped a couple of CDs into my bag, I grabbed my son's binder that he was using to track his eagle project. I glanced around the car. Nothing else that seemed super important. I realized that I was going to have to climb out the back seat. I slid my seat forward to get some room to climb around the front seat. It reminded me of the Mission Impossible movie where characters were climbing up the inside of a car. I grabbed my bag and managed to get the back door open.

Placing my feet against the door frame, I grabbed at the tree limbs around me. The ground, not surprisingly was soft and very, very muddy. I managed to get out of the car and started to scramble up the embankment. The car, fortunately, seemed pretty secure. Leveraging against the rear panel and using the trees, I finally managed to reach the relative safety of the road. It was at that point I realized I'd left the lights on.

Do I really want to climb back down there just to turn off the lights?

Yes. The engine was running when I got out. There was a good chance (okay, maybe not exactly "good", but still a chance) that the car would be drivable. I didn't want a dead battery. Getting back into the car was easier than getting out had been. Lights out. Now what?

I took stock. I had food in my bag. I had plenty of bottles of water in the trunk. Shelter. Right, time to start that hike to camp. But, before I left I did one more thing. I quickly wrote a note on a sheet of paper and tucked into a waterproof beef jerky bag and stuck into the trunk where someone would see it. I didn't want anyone to try to climb down just to find that the car was empty.

But, the most remarkable thing was the utter calm I felt.

Well, now I have this to deal with.

Honestly, that was my thought. I turned up the road and started back for the camp. I felt in great shape, but I popped a few Advil just in case. Aren't you supposed to feel something after a car accident? Was it really an accident, or simply a slide off? Could I have died? I suppose. But, I could be attacked by a bear, or struck by lightening, or any number of other threats.

Maybe I'm in shock. Maybe it will hit later and I'll process it differently. I didn't feel like I was in shock. But, would I know? Maybe I was in denial. Would you know if you were in denial?

As I trudged up the road, the sticky mud turned my shoes to the size of snowshoes. They also weighed a ton. And then it started to rain.

Well, I can honestly say, "It could definitely be worse."

This is the second in a series of posts about my misadventures at scout camp. Yesterday I described the events leading up to the accident. Tomorrow I'll talk about what happens to my car.

Here are the other parts of the story

I'm Okay. I'm Okay. . .I'm Not Okay (Sliding off the road)

If The Good Lord is Willing And the Creek Don't Rise (Yup, it ended up in the creek)

It's What We Do (Okay, NOW what do I do? I figure out how to get out of it)

Maxim 32: Anything is Amphibious If You Can Get It Back Out Of The Water (a hat tip to my friend Howard Tayler, who wrote the headline)
That Doesn't Go There – The Long Delayed Picture Essay

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

I’m Okay. I’m Okay. . . I’m Not Okay!

I knew the road was dangerous. But, I had to take it anyway. Ever feel that way? Maybe a snowstorm comes through and you realize that you have no choice, but to drive in it. Or maybe it's raining outside and you just want to curl up by the fire with a good book, but you have to be at an appointment.

It rained pretty heavy all over Utah last week. The rain was especially bad on Monday. We left a wheelbarrow out in the rain over night, the next morning it had 2" of rain in the bottom. The road to Bennion Creek campground was not a bad road. It stretched for five miles from Utah Highway 6 east into the mountains. Dirt all the way. That's not normally a problem in a desert state. But, the thing about deserts is that when the rains do come, the ground can't handle it. It pools in ditches with no where to go. It crashes down slot canyons creating terrifying flash floods. It also, makes an innocent dirt road into a monster truck rally pit.

Except I don't drive a monster truck. I don't even drive a truck. My 2001 Honda Civic is front wheel drive. The tires, aren't bald, but they aren't new.

Tuesday morning I had an important phone call. Bennion Creek is too remote for cell reception. I started down the road to the rest stop that marked the old railroad turnaround. Going down the canyon was slightly nerve wracking. The car pitched and wove all over the road. It wasn't all muddy, of course. There were long stretches of solid road that gave a false sense of confidence.

The trip down and back took about 20 minutes on a good day. Last Tuesday, as I made my way down, was not a good day. I made it down without incident. And I made my phone call. But, I now had a decision to make. How to get back to camp?

The "smart" move would have been to park my car and hike. But, it was 5 miles on a muddy road. . .and it kept raining off and on. I'm a pretty good driver. (Doesn't everyone think that about themselves?) I decided I'd head up the canyon as far as I could go. When my car got stuck, as I was sure it would at some point, I'd hike from there. Everyone else at camp drove a truck, they'd come pull me out.

Okay, planning to get stuck might not seem like the best plan to you. Frankly, I seriously doubted it's viability as well, but I didn't see another option, short of a five mile hike in the rain through the mud. The plan started off okay. The first half mile or so was solid packed dirt. The first muddy spot was in the middle of a long straight stretch. I got a little bit of speed and tried to maintain forward direction and momentum.

Remember the line in the Pixar movie Cars, "Turn right to go left"? There's a lot of truth to that. I was counter-steering for about 50 feet, but it felt like 50 yards. All the while I was saying, "I'm okay. I'm okay." And a short slide through the mud and I was okay.

Drive on!

A half mile more and I approached the second muddy spot.

At least I'm a mile closer than if I'd parked at the highway,

I told myself. As I hit the second muddy section, I managed to stay straight and only lost a little speed as my tires spun flinging mud up the side of my car. "I'm okay. I'm okay." I repeated as a mantra. And again, it worked.

The next muddy spot was a blind corner to the right. If another car (let's be honest, it would have been someone driving a sensible truck) had come around the corner, I was going to crash. I got as far to the left as I dared without dropping into the creek and cut the corner as close to the canyon wall as I could. The car strained to keep it's wheels on the ground. My speedometer registered a much higher speed than the view out my window told me I was achieving.

"I'm okay. I'm okay." It was more of a hope than a belief. My knuckles turned white as a kept a death grip on the steering wheel. The car started to fishtail, as I forced it around the corner. Ignoring all the rules of sliding, I kept the pressure on the gas, afraid to sacrifice any speed for control.

Almost there. . .

Almost. . .

"I'm okay. . .I'm okay. . .whew. . I really am okay!" I felt the wheels finally grip the road. Relaxing my grip on the wheel, I could see the blood slowly start to return to my fingers. I figured I was about half way there. I still didn't think I'd be able to drive all the way and I actually started looking for a good spot to pull over.

Maybe just a little farther.

Like a roulette player letting it ride, I assumed that there was at least one more winning spin of the wheel. The next muddy spot was a straight section of road, but just in the middle of the muddy area was a hump in the road. Rocks that refused to be washed away by the rain made a natural speed bump. I was worried about bottoming out my oil pan if I hit them too quickly.

I hit the mud and went into my familiar counter-steering posture. Again, the tires spun in the mud and kept my forward momentum going. As I crested the speed bump, I was still chanting, "I'm okay. I'm okay. . ." And then I wasn't.

"I'm not okay."

My left front tire got into some extra soft mud on the left shoulder. It slowed the car and spun it 90 degrees to the left. Unfortunately, the shoulder ended in a row of trees. My car, now perpendicular to the road started to slide down the embankment. The trees cleared and were replaced with a view of rushing muddy water.

I wonder how deep that creek is? Guess I'm going to find out.

No, I was definitely not okay. But, I didn't yet know how not okay I was.

This week I'm telling stories from camp. The first one is about planting my car in a creek. Tomorrow, I'll explain what came next.

Here are the other parts of the story

I'm Okay. I'm Okay. . .I'm Not Okay (Sliding off the road)

If The Good Lord is Willing And the Creek Don't Rise (Yup, it ended up in the creek)

It's What We Do (Okay, NOW what do I do? I figure out how to get out of it)

Maxim 32: Anything is Amphibious If You Can Get It Back Out Of The Water (a hat tip to my friend Howard Tayler, who wrote the headline)
That Doesn't Go There – The Long Delayed Picture Essay

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

Just Mailing It In At This Point

I’ve updated this blog every weekday for the past three years. Today’s Post is being written on Tuesday. It’s scout camp this week. Two years ago I updated during scout camp. It didn’t rain then. My car slid off the muddy road and I’m waiting on a tow truck. If I get back to camp, I’m staying. This scheduled post is to let people know I’m fine. No injuries from the slide off. But I’m gonna head to the mountains until Saturday. 

Next time week I’ll have exciting entries about scouting and accidents and detaching from work. As it is, I’m pretty much just mailing this one in.

Nope, Not Fine

My car is not a four wheel drive. I planted it in the creek on the way to camp. Tell you all about it when I’m not typing on my phone.

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