Four-Wheeling Fun On An Old Railroad Bed: My First Off-Roading Adventure

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#1
Four-Wheeling Fun on an Old Railroad Bed.

It was late summer of 1987. I just had gotten my new full sized 4x4 pick 'em up truck a couple of months earlier and I was aching to go four-wheeling. I had unsuccessfully tried a couple of times earlier in the summer at various locations in and around the Twin Cities, and got arrested for it each time! (Trespassing). I was down in Hopkins, MN talking to an old cruising buddy of mine about all the places to go four-wheeling. He spoke of this place out past Chaska, MN where no cops would ever find me. He said there was an old railroad bed where the tracks had been tore up years before, and gave me directions. I never found out what railroad it was but I was all excited to go. My friend said he didn't have time to go, and that I should wait until he could get a few people together and go during the daytime. The thought of daytime four-wheeling didn't appeal to me, and I told him I would just go by myself. He said, "No! Don't go alone." When I asked him why, he wouldn't tell me. I figured that since I had this huge 3/4 ton 4x4; and he had this little Jeep Eagle car, that I could go four-wheeling a lot better than he could, so shortly after midnight that night I ventured off to the designated place alone.

Even with good directions the place was hard to find, but I managed to find it. At first I didn't think it was possible to drive back in there. It looked like a hole thru the woods, no sign of a road or anything. It was miles from any type of community at the time. I was determined though, after driving all that way, I was going to go four-wheeling. I dropped the truck into the low range and locked it into four-wheel drive. I turned on all my off-road lights and ventured into the hole; so narrow that I was pushing brush away with the front end of my truck. A little ways in, the brush widened so it wasn't scraping my sides anymore, and I noticed huge ruts in the road. We are talking DEEP ruts where my truck was scraping the ground as I traversed them! Next I came to a split in the road in an open area; it took me a few minutes to decide which way to go and it is a good thing I picked going to the right. As I started down the tracks, I looked over to my left, and saw it was the edge of a cliff that went down at least 100 feet. In the dark it had just looked like an open field. As I traveled along I opened my door to see how close I was to the edge and found I was riding on the edge! I then knew why my buddy had said, "Don't go in there at night!"

I took a sigh of relief that I had not plunged to my death and continued on out of curiosity as to where this road would end up. I decided to be a lot more careful though. After the clearing I entered the woods again, but the road was now flat and easier to drive on. It was still pretty narrow, with my mirrors clipping tree branches as I drove along. All of a sudden my tire got hung up on something in the path. I couldn't see anything and couldn't figure out what I had hit. It felt like a big rock or something. I decided to drive over it and as I gave my truck more gas I heard a really loud screech and hiss. I thought, "What the Hell was that?" The truck rolled over the obstruction and I was continuing on when I noticed that my front end seemed to be out of alignment. I continued to drive along slowly and then came to the realization that my front tire had gone totally flat! I got out and took a look and saw that it had been ripped like someone had taken a knife and slashed it. I knew whatever I had driven over back there was very sharp. I decided to walk back with a flashlight and see what I had run over. It turned out to be an old rail spike that was still attached to an iron tie plate. My front wheel had held the plate to the ground as the spike punctured and slashed the sidewall of my tire.

Now I was in quite a predicament. Here I was in the middle of nowhere, trespassing on Government land, in a place where neither the cops nor a tow truck could reach me; let alone wondering how I would ever explain to them exactly where I was in the first place. I had two options that I could see, either back out the way I came (how would I ever keep from driving over that cliff then?) or somehow turning around and driving out forward. How was I going to turn around though? This road was so narrow that I had to squeeze out of my door just to examine my tire. Trees all around and a two foot embankment on both sides. I decided to keep driving further in and see if I came to another clearing that wasn't part of a cliff. I drove for what seemed to be several miles and no sign of a clearing. I did notice that there was a place where a lot of smaller trees were. I decided that I would turn around there by pushing over the trees with my truck. It took some doing, but I managed to get turned around without getting stuck. It took me about 20 minutes of maneuvering and chopping with a small hatchet I had in my utility box. I took another look at my tire and by this time it was totally destroyed and falling off the rim. I wondered how I was going to get through those huge ruts with my front end riding about 18 inches lower now! I also wondered if I could avoid sliding over the embankment back at the cliff. Putting on the spare tire was also out of the question as the ground was soft and all I had was the little crank jack to lift the truck. It would have just sunk in the ground as I tried to raise the wheel up. I was pretty scared.

I managed to navigate all the obstacles and get back to the ruts again. I surmised that perhaps I could use the rim of the flat wheel to dig into the side of the ruts and raise the truck up high enough to make it through. I had to bend my outside rear-view mirror flat against my truck so I didn't rip it off on the trees. My plan worked well and I made it through the ruts and back out onto the main road. I had no idea what road it was, and knew if I got caught around there, I would be arrested for trespassing again. So I decided to drive back to the main highway before calling for help; after all, the rim was already shot.

When I got back to the highway, I pulled over and parked on the shoulder with my four-ways on. I turned on my CB Radio and called for help... no one answered. (This was before the days of cell phones). It was now about 2:30 am on a week-night. Everyone was sleeping and I was so far off the main freeway, that I was out of CB range of any truckers. I tried for about 30 minutes to reach someone on my CB with no luck. No one drove by either while I was sitting there. I noticed a couple of farm houses down the highway about 1/4 mile, the lights were on in one of them. I decided to walk down there and see if I could have them make a phone call to AAA for me.

I walked up to the farm house, opened the gate and started walking up to the door to knock. I got to about 50 feet of the front porch when, in the moonlit darkness, I saw two pit-bulls racing around the side of the house towards me, growling and snarling! I froze in my tracks! I thought, "Bad idea, really bad idea!" I started talking very softly to the "puppies" as I slowly walked backwards to the front gate. The dogs were very agitated and snarling violently. I gingerly got back to the gate and slowly closed it in front of me. The dogs were content to stay on the other side of the fence--thank Heaven. I figured that at least now the guy in the house would call the cops to report a prowler. I waited until almost 4 am and no cops showed up.

I noticed that the guy was still up so I decided to try and coax him into calling the cops on me. I walked back by his house and started shouting and throwing pebbles at his windows. This really upset his dogs and I was afraid they were going to jump the fence and maul me, so I quit and went back to my truck. I had tried everything possible but that guy would NOT call the cops on me! I even shined my 1.5 million candlepower spot light on his house and in his windows to no avail. I have wondered what he must have thought to this day. I guess he figured I deserved to be stranded for the night or something.

I decided to try the CB again with no luck, so I laid down for a short nap. I woke up around sunrise to someone talking on my CB! I grabbed my mic and started breakin' for help. I got a hold of a base station and they called AAA for me. It would not be much longer now. A few minutes later a Carver County Sheriff squad car finally pulls up. I got out of my truck to greet him and he says, "Having a little trouble here?" I shook my head affirmative and he said, "Well it's never a long wait for us to arrive." I said, "Really? I have been waiting here since 3 am." He said, "Oh, sorry." I explained to him I had gotten a hold of AAA with my CB and that they would be here within the hour. I asked him to check back later to make sure I was gone. He smiled and agreed.

When the tow truck arrived it was determined that he would have to disconnect my drive shaft to tow me home because of how badly my wheel was damaged and stuff. It took him about 15 minutes to get me all hooked up and we started off. It was now morning rush hour and the highways were getting quite busy. The tow truck driver had been up late the night before and he was quite tired. As we were heading up I-494 through Minnetonka, he started to fall asleep while driving just as a huge Semi-truck was passing us. I noticed that we were drifting into the side of the semi! I shouted and grabbed the steering wheel as we came to within millimeters of sideswiping the semi! I almost lost my brand new 4x4 that morning! I kept him talking after that and we finally made it safely back.

To have my wheel fixed and the drive shaft re-connected it cost me over $400. That was the last time I ever tried off-roading on an old railroad bed.

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Tude

Sometimes traveler is traveling.
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#4
hehe - oh boy we used to get in trouble with the 4 wheels a lot of time after last call. hehe one of the better ones was the ex husband taking the big off roader jeep down a closed canal during the winter - and it wasn't frozen. I swear the town was down there looking at the town trucks yanking his jeep out of frozen mud and kinda leaving parts behind. Fun and expensive days with that vehicle. :D
 

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