Anne Hilborn

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In my blog I ramble on about various aspects of cheetahs and doing fieldwork that interest me. There is the occasional tangent about academia, but mostly it is cheetah pictures.

Getting stuck (not in mud)

By Anne Hilborn, Apr 17 2016 08:41PM

March 21, 2014

A couple of weeks ago I got my first puncture. It happened in a fairly good place, on a dry track, on my way back to the house. It took me quite a while to change the tire, but I got it done. The next day I took the flat tire to the garage to get fixed. I planned to drop it off and pick it up the next day when it was fixed. However when I was walking away the guy called me back. He had poured water over the tire to find the leak. He showed me the 5 or 6 small leaks in the top of the tire, and proclaimed that the tubeless tire was done, utterly done. This left me with only one spare tire. However I kept the dead tire on the back of car. I did occasionally wonder why I didn’t take it off of the car, but assumed it was just because I was lazy. However I got my answer a couple of days ago as I was driving across country from Zebra kopjes to Soit Le Montonyi. I hit a massive hole, and as what usually happened, the front tire bounced through on momentum, but when the back tire fell in, the car tilted and stuck.

Doesn't look so bad really.

Sighing I got out and surveyed the situation. The back left wheel hung in the air in a very large hole. Theoretically this is a easy situation to get out of. You jack up the car, put something in the hole to support the tire, lower the car, and drive off. I had two pieces of wood in the back of the car, 2 sandladders bolted to the roof rack and 2 spare tires. A working jack and a shovel. Pretty well prepared. I jacked up the car and with rather misguided optimism, slipped the smaller piece of wood under the tire, in hopes that would be enough.

Um, no. A small piece of wood isn't going to cut it.

I was started letting the jack down when I realized I had made two mistakes. The first was not putting a rock underneath the front tire and the second jacking off the body of the car and not the tire holders. This meant that when I jacked up the back of the car, the car tilted forward a little bit. This put the jack at an angle where the body of the jack was tight up against the back door. As the car was lowered down, the top of the jack scraped up the door. Scraped paint didn’t bother me too much, but the jack was heading towards the handle of the door, and if I kept lowering the car, it would hit the handle and tear it off. Hmmm. I tried to think if there was something I could wedge between the jack and the door to protect the handle. But there was no space to wedge anything in between. So the only other thing to do was the put enough stuff underneath the tire to lift it up enough so that I wouldn’t have to lower the car so much before it could take its own weight. I took the spare tire off the car and rolled it down the hole. Cleverly I hadn’t removed the other piece of wood and the shovel from under the sleeping platform before jacking up the car. Which meant that they were utterly out of reach, as I was unable to open the back door, it being firmly held shut by the jack. Cursing myself, I got down a sandladder and wedged it under the car’s tire.

The hole was so big even shoving a spare tire down it wasn't enough

With the spare tire, sandladder and the piece of wood in the hole, I decided to try driving out. Holding my breath, I lowered the car, and just as the jack got to the handle, the car carried its own weight and the jack dropped out. With a exhalation of relief I got into the car and tried to drive out without success. I put it into low range, and with a roar the car jerked out of the hole. Thank God. Now I needed to put everything back, which took a while. The whole area was covered in bushes with tiny little thorns, and my legs were thoroughly scratched to hell from scrabbling around. The jack had done a number on the back door, the handle no longer worked, and the door wouldn’t stay closed. I had to tie a piece of rope from the inner handle of the back door to the handle above one of the passenger door to keep it shut. Sweaty, tired and irritated, I drove directly to the nearest track and trundled home. So that is why I carry theoretically useless crap in the back of the car, you never know when you have to stick it down a hole. Two days later I am still tweezing thorns out of my legs.

The back of the car throughly shagged by the jack.

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