Travel blog by a global nomad

06 Nov

My BIGGEST blonde moment ever…

I’m visiting a friend in the Yukon, where the road conditions in the last week have deteriorated as the first winter snows arrived. I was collected by my friend in Whitehorse where we then picked up a ‘new’ truck for her partner, which she drove the three hours to where she lives in the Yukon.

Since arriving back in the snow playground of home, we’ve begun to wonder if the vehicle does have ‘no problems’ as the seller assured us – specifically, the four wheel drive seems to be temperamental and the low drive seems to be non-existant. So that is the pretext for what follows…

There are no, er, dedicated cleaning facilities where I am staying, so to clean up, I have to drive to a nearby hotel on the Alaska Highway and use their public showers. I proceeded to do so and had a pleasant shower, chatted with the fellow at the front desk and then got back in the truck.

My problems began almost immediately. I had a terrible time reversing. I managed to angle the truck out just enough to get it so it blocked the adjacent tow truck and then my wheels just sat there, spinning. I popped the truck into low range… still spinning going no where… put the car in first gear – no where, popped it back in reverse, still spinning. So I put the 4WD drive train into neutral and then tried in 4WD high again… inched back just enough to now be completely blocking in the tow truck and then stopped, tyres spinning furiously.

I got out of the car in case I had inadvertently backed over something but no, I was clear of the tow truck and there was nothing but packed snow under my tyres. I got back in… put the car back in low range… managed to reverse a smidgen more. I popped (grinded?) the 4WD train into 4WD high again and just gunned it and managed to lurch forward – but almost immediately, theback end of the truck began slewing violently to the right, which was bit of a worry since the tow truck lay in that direction…

So I revved it again and slowly inched forward, the truck fishtailed momentarily and then seemed to swing around and straighten up for a second.

“Phew!” I thought, “it’s finally popped itself into 4WD!”

But as soon as I tried to drive forward at any speed faster than 5km, the truck rear end began to fishtail speedily to the right again… So I revved it up and crawled through the hotel carpark, stopping frequently before the truck could do a 360 on me. I was cursing furiously under my breath and wondering whether to just walk back to my friends (probably about half an hour away by foot and of course, I had no coat on and its minus 10C…).

However, I managed to edge the car in a stop start fashion out of the hotel carpark and pointed it at the highway.

Well, pointed is a bit loose… More precisely, I still in the hotel carpark, facing the highway but the truck was at 45 degrees to where I was going. Yet somehow it was going straight and as long as I didn’t exceed 10km/hr, I wasn’t fishtailing. So I figured I may as well try to get this truck back to my friends place.

Getting on the highway looked like it was going to be tricky – there was a very small, gentle incline. I was going to have to rev to get up that incline and onto the highway. I made absolutely sure there was no traffic coming in any direction and then caustiously revved the truck up to 10km/hr and literally spun onto the highway, ending up perpendicular to the traffic, which fortuanately, there was none.

So I cautiously tried turning the truck at very low miles back in the direction I wanted to go and it slowly came around… except the only way I could drive it forward was if the car was at a 45 degree angle to the road… Truly perplexed, I began driving down the Alaska Highway, praying no one would come up behind me. I only had to drive about 1.5km before I turned off, although I was unsure how I was going to drive this truck an additional kilometer along packed powder roads.

My luck ran out. Suddenly, there were flashing red and blue lights behind me… On the Alaska Highway, tiny community which is not much more than a blip on the map and a cop car comes up behind me just when I am driving at a 45 degree angle down the highway at 10km/hr. As far as I can calculate, he must have been the only cop on the highway for at least 300km…. and he’s behind me as I am struggling to drive the truck!

I wind down the window as he pulls alongside.

“Are you having some trouble?” the nice young man yells out to me from the cosy comfort of his driving seat.
“I think so,” I reply. “This is a new truck for some friends I am staying with nearby and it’s been having problems with its 4WD. Now it seems to be really weird, like one half is in 4WD and the other half is not so I am sliding badly.”
“Have you got it in 4WD?” the policeman asks me. Internally I roll my eyes.
“Yes… I’ve tried it in 4WD, 2WD and also in 4WD low. Nothing seems to work – it just feels like something is not working at the back – like its locked…”
“Let me pull over and we’ll see if we can’t sort this out,” he replies, and pulls a discrete distance in front the truck.

He walks by the drivers side,  waving a car by, and the asks me to try and drive. I put my foot on the accelerator and rev highly. The car begins to slide forward obliquely.
“Whoa!” he cried out. “You back tyre is locked!”
“Locked?” I said, puzzled, “like as in its not turning?”
“Yep.” Its not turning. Hang on a minute, I’m just going to go around the other side and see what’s going on there…”
I watch in my side mirror and see him gesticulate for me to drive forward…I engage the truck and slides forward again.
The policeman walks around to the passenger door and opens it and leans in. “Its defintely locked in the back…have you got it in 4WD?” he asks, leaning over to check I have it in 4WD. He sees that it is.
“OK,” he goes on, “can you put it in neutral for me?” I put the gears and the 4WD drive unit into neutral.
“Ok… now can you put it back in 4WD…good, now put it in first… ease forward on the clutch…” The truck began to inch forward slightly and then started to fishtail.
“Hmm.” he pondered for a moment. “Let’s try the same thing in 4 low.. good, pop it in and now ease up on the clutch…”

The truck continues its drive forward at 45 degrees to the straight and narrow.

The cop pulls his body out of the passenger door and looks as perplexed as I feel. “Wait a minute…I’m going to check the back again. Try moving forward when I get around the back,” he tells me. I follow his orders and he goes from first the passenger side rear tyre to the drivers side. “The back tyre is defintely locked!” he calls out to me, staring at in consternation, knowing now the truck was defintely in 4WD. As he turns to go back around to the passenger side, he tosses off a:

“Have you got the park brake on?”

I groan out loud and throw my face into my hands. Of course! I put the blasted park brake on when I parked at the hotel to make sure the truck didn’t slide out into the car park while I was having my shower! And the park brake light is permanently turned on in this truck as well – whether disengaged or not so I don’t think to check that as it is always on!

Feeling dread, I reach down to release the park brake (its one of those ones down under the dashboard) and there is a satisfactory metallic “cling!”

Park brake released. I thrust my face into my hands again and was shaking my head as the cop came around to the passenger side.

“I feel like such an idiot!” I wail at him! “How could I forget I put the park brake on back at the hotel???”

“It was the park brake?” he asked, wondering if it was going to be his lucky day after all!

“I think so,” I reply.
“Try going forward,” he urged.

Truck engages perfectly and edges forward smoothly. I stop.

“I am such an idiot!” I tell the policeman as he comes to the passenger door and closes it for me. “Thank you so much for your help!”

He grins at me, “Not a problem! Glad we were able to solve the problem quickly and without too much trouble!”

I thank him again and then sheepisly drive off – straight down the Alaska Highway.

He followed me until my turning and I gave him a polite thank you wave as I turned onto the packed powder road to my friends place.

That, for the record, is defintely my biggest ever blonde moment!

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