G.M. "DOC" Lousignont, Ph.D.
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Dreaded "J" Turn
A lesson in Being Careful Out There !
A lot of people have asked over the years what is BCOT!
It is Be Careful Out There! Now I say that because there are a lot of hidden dangers doing what we do. The other reason is to remind myself to Be Careful Out There, because I just really don't have a good safety history when it comes to prospecting trips.
You have heard of people that are just an accident waiting to happen? Well I'm just one continuous accident with momentary lulls in between.
Like three years ago when I took a wonderful prospecting trip to Rye Patch then on to Northern California with Digger Bob and Chico Jim to detect some hydro pits. It was such a great trip and I also got 4 nuggets so I was pumped!
So on the way back home, I hit a deer! Big buck, ripped off the whole left front of my new pickup truck.
Then 2 years ago, coming home from Gold Basin, I swerved to miss a coyote, I was so gun shy from hitting the dam deer. I just knee jerked and tried to avoid hitting the coyote, threw my truck into a skid, hit the berm of the graded road and rolled my truck. $14,800 worth of damage, they had to rebuild it from the frame up.
OK, so three weeks ago, I go out to do a little detecting and I am bound and determined to get way the hell back in and amongst the mountains and find some new ground.
So I take off on my quad, a 350 cc Artic Cat. It has served me well.
I pretty much know it's limitations in terms of climbing mountains and it does an amazing job. In fact sometimes I get up a hill side and look back down and scare myself because I can't believe I negotiated such a steep grade.
It's a 4 wheel drive manual transmission and it has a low and a super low gear that really helps if you get in trouble. You just have to reach down and pull this rod forward to engage these extra low gears.
OK, so I am back in and amongst the mountains where I wanted to be. Looks like pretty virgin territory, just like I like it. I've worked this one gully with no success, but also no trash! It was time to ride over the mountain and see what was on the other side.
The whole area had rain about 3 days before, and while the ground was relatively dry, in other words, not muddy, it was damp. When you dug a hole, the ground was still moist.
OK, so I start up this mountain out of this gully. I could only go up the mountain on the one side of the gully because the mountain to the right of me had no entry point to start up, there was just this solid rock wall about 10 feet high.
In other words, as you were walking up the gully, the left side had the normal benches and little rills running down into it from the mountain side, but to the right was just this solid rock wall, going up about 10 feet, and then the mountain started it's slope up.
The mountain I was going to try and negotiate was probably 200 feet to the top.
I started in first gear and start chugging up the mountain avoiding the Joshua trees, boulders, cactus, and large bushes.
Well about half way up I had to slow down because there were some rocks in the way that I had to sort of go sideways around across the mountain, NOT my favorite maneuver! I like to go straight up the mountain, balls to the wall, screaming like a 12 year old girl at an INSYNC Concert!
As I straighten back up to resume a straight path up the mountain I sort of lost my momentum. That, combined with the soft dirt, caused the quad to start throwing rocks and it starting spinning the wheels and digging into the dirt.
Well the back wheels were digging in faster than the front and all of a sudden I felt the ATV, start to come up in the front. I mean this baby was ready to roll over backwards with me on it. At this point I am off the seat and hanging over the handlebars trying to keep my weight on the front of the ATV to keep it from flipping backwards on top of me.
I am screaming words so dirty, I don't even know what they mean! Words like dam, crap, hell, poopy dust, the "F" word, they just did not come close to expressing the gut wrenching fear I was feeling, so I was making up dirty words!
This thing was going to flip backwards, bend me in two, break my spine, shove my pick through my brain and out my rectum, and it was probably going to break my Minelab SD2200d.
I had to stop, breathe, think, and not panic.
I stopped gunning the engine and screaming. I carefully reached back with the hand I had on the accelerator, and turned the key off to kill the motor.
It was like those cars in the movies that almost go over the cliff. You know, where the car is teetering back and forth. Where if the guy in the car got an impure thought and happened to get an erection, that alone would send the car plummeting down the hill! Yeah well that was me, except I needed the weight in the front of the ATV! I needed a handful of VIAGRA!
OK. Engine off! I am across the handlebars laying on the front of the ATV. I have so much adrenaline pumping through my blood I can feel my high blood pressure going up even further. I can count my heartbeats in my ears. I'm figuring if the ATV doesn't roll on me and kill me, the stroke I am about to have surely will.
My left hand had a death grip on the brake. With my thumb I managed to set the lock on the brake. OK, now I just had to get the heck off this 500 pounds of man mashing machine. I ever so carefully crawled off the front of the ATV.
Once I was off, I just sat down to catch my breath, analyze the situation, and try to get my blood pressure down.
My hands were shaking so bad, that I knew if I ever got that dam ATV off the mountain, detecting would be a cinch the rest of the day. I wouldn't even have to swing the detector, I could just walk along and my shaking alone would make sure the coil got over every inch of ground.
Once I settled down I surveyed the predicament I was in. I tried to remember the operation manual on the ATV that I had read when I first got it. There was a section in there about what to do if you were stuck and had to get the ATV turned around to go back down the hill.
It was called a "J" turn. The idea was to put the ATV in neutral. You stand on one side of the ATV, and by controlling the brake you crank the ATV hard to one side towards you. You then gently release the brake, allowing the downhill pull of gravity to take the ATV backwards into a hard turn, while you stay on the uphill side.
Once the ATV has backed into a sideways position, you then put the brake on again. Crank the wheels headed down the hill. Ride the brake as you allow the ATV to get straightened out going directly down hill. Then you can get on, and ride the brake as you head down hill to safety.
Well before I did all of this, I decided I should probably put the gear in super low, in case the brakes gave out. The super low would cause the engine to brake the ATV going down hill.
Well the super low shifting rod had come off the transmission. I couldn't shift it into super low.
Unfortunately I forgot one very important thing when I was doing the "J" turn. You want to start on the side of the ATV that has the brake handle. That way, as you crank the wheels hard towards you, and allow the ATV to roll backwards into a turn, you stay on the uphill side with the brake handle closest to you!
Well I started on the opposite side of the ATV. The side furthest away from the brake handle. When I went into the J turn I was on the uphill side of the ATV, like I was supposed to be, but I was having to reach all the way across the ATV to control the brake! Not the optimum situation to be in.
OK, so now I had the ATV sideways on the hill. I was stuck with having backed it up the wrong way with the brake on the downhill side of the ATV.
I couldn't very well go on the downhill side of the ATV to be closer to the brake, because I would risk the ATV rolling over sideways on top of me.
I looked down the steep hill. It was at least 100 feet straight down the hill. At the bottom of the hill a gully and a solid 10 foot high rock wall. About 20 feet down the hill on the right side was a large bush. About halfway down the hill and about 10 feet to the left were two Joshua trees that were about 6 feet tall growing out of the same root system, otherwise it was a straight shot to the wall of doom.
I cranked the wheels hard to get them aimed downhill. I took a deep breathe, reached as far across the ATV as I could to release the brake. I allowed my hand to loosen the a tight grip on the brake and started to give the ATV a bit of a push to get it started to turn downhill.
I sort of forgot about the gravity thing, and while loosening my grip on the brake, before getting a chance to push the ATV, it just took off. The brake handle was pulled from my grip, and I was running hard to try to catch up, mount it, grab the brake, throw it in reverse, let the air out of the tires, save my detector, hell I didn't know what I was going to do! I just knew I had to catch that ATV, which was now headed straight down the hill.
Well that large bush I told you about, that was 20 feet downhill on the right ?? It had a different idea. It's idea involved me running smack into it, knocking me to the ground, while I laid there helpless watching my $5000 ATV speed away downhill head long into a devastating meeting with a 10 foot solid rock wall.
I was screaming at the top of my lungs "Oh s-h-i-t, oh s-h-i-t hit a tree, hit a tree, oh Sweet Jesus please let it hit a tree!"
The ATV wasn't even halfway down the side of the mountain and I swear as God is my judge it was going at least 30 mph if it was moving at all! All I could think about were those commercials with the crash test dummies, when the test cars smash into those solid brick walls, and what those cars looked like. Well my ATV was going to hit that rock wall going about 50 maybe 60 miles an hour! It was going to look just like those wrecked test cars with two exceptions, this pile of trash was going to have a $3000 detector smashed with it, and the dummy would be laying on the side of a mountain in tears instead of inside the vehicle.
I know there is a GOD! Do you know how I know? Well, do you remember those two 6 foot tall Joshua trees that were about halfway down the mountain and about 10 feet to the left? Well when I screamed, "oh Sweet Jesus please let it hit a tree!" within about 20 feet of being even with those Joshua trees, that ATV turned and headed straight for those two Joshua trees. Now I'm sure that the tire must have hit a boulder that caused the ATV to veer off in that direction. I'm just as sure that God heard my screams for help and nudged that boulder in the way of that tire.
What happened from then on was like in slow motion. That ATV hit those Joshua trees so dam hard that in a time lapse video in my head I watched as it uprooted one of those 6 foot high Joshua trees throwing it 10 feet into the air and 20 feet down the side of the mountain. I looked back at the other Joshua tree which was now pointing at the mountain on the opposite side of the gully. The front of my ATV was about 4 feet up the trunk of that tree.
The front wheels were 3 feet off the ground. The rear wheels were still on terra not so firma!
I couldn't believe what had just happened. I couldn't believe that I still had an ATV that was in one piece. I mean it looked like a dog that had tree'd a racoon, it was all up in a tree, and I might not ever be able to get it down, but hey. it didn't hit that rock wall.
"Thank you God, Thank you God, thank you Jesus!"
I was having my own revival meeting right there on the side of that mountain!
"Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord! If you have faith but the size of a mustard seed you can move a mountain, or apparently an ATV for that matter!"
I was giddy with laughter, and half dizzy from adrenalin, I really wasn't thinking clearly.
I had that really sick, "Oh crap I hope my wife doesn't find out about this" feeling in my stomach. You know, the feeling! The feeling that tells you that once again, when she told you to be careful, and you promised that you would, you weren't!
OK, so I am trying to calm myself down, trying to get my breathing under control, trying to quit sounding like Oral Roberts. By this time I have praised, Jesus, God, My Lord, My Lord Savior, the Baby Jesus, the Resurrected Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Holy Ghost, God the Almighty, God my Father, God the most Holy, Precious Jesus Redeemer of the World, etc. etc. etc.
I was starting to get my breath back, and it was time to get serious. Now that I had given so much thanks to the Heavenly Creator, it was time for me to have a talk with me! So out loud I start screaming.
"You stupid ignorant son-of-a-bitch, do you have any f---kin' brains at all. Perhaps you should get you head out of your ass long enough to realize that you could have just been killed! Are you aware of that?"
I surprised myself when I hung my head, and sheepishly admitted to myself, out loud mind you, "Yes I know, I'm sorry!"
I am on the side of a mountain in Arizona having a religious schizophrenic experience while I alternately talk to God and chastise myself, and apologize; TO MYSELF! You see these are the times when I wish I drank alcohol, because Gator Aide just doesn't cut it.
Continuing my running dialogue with the ass hole I call myself I approached my treed ATV with apprehension. On some level I know there is no way I could have escaped at least some damage to my ATV.
Much to my amazement, there was a single small dent in the tubular bumper on the front of the ATV. Even my detector came through with minimal damage. In fact there was no damage to the detector. The only thing that had happened is that it took the UFO coil and shoved it so hard backwards that it snapped the lower fiberglass shaft. Total damage estimate? $25. I mean that was if it didn't do some internal damage to the ATV.
I set the brake, and reluctantly climbed up on the ATV. And I do mean climbed! Have you ever had to mount an ATV that was three feet off the ground, up a tree?
I pushed the starter button and the motor started right up. I put it in reverse and tried to power myself back off of the tree. It took about 5 minutes of rocking, and cussing, and praising the Lord, but I finally got the ATV off the tree and back down the mountain.
I don't think I have ever driven that ATV so carefully getting it back to my car. It took me about an hour to go three miles.
I still haven't told my wife this story, I mean, it's sort of between me and God, and the rest of you detectorists on the forums! I just have a strange feeling she wouldn't understand.