The Road to Saline Valley, South Pass – May 24, 2016

When we checked into the Panamint Springs Campground last night, we chose to stay in a dry RV spot since we weren’t going to be there long enough to need any services. So it was a real surprise when we woke up to a stream flowing from our site.

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There was a water faucet, but it was part of the irrigation system. The irrigation system had been turned on, but the one at our campground had broken off underground and all the water was creating a stream running under our truck.


The water faucet is to the left of the open front door.

Except for getting our feet wet at the bottom of our steps, this wasn’t a problem for us. We contacted the office, but they weren’t able to do anything about it at the moment.

We finished packing up and continued to go west on Hwy 190.

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At the edge of Death Valley National Park, we turned onto Saline Valley Road.

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The road follows along the top of the ridge. Joshua Trees love high altitude desert and this part of the road is definitely both.

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Joshua trees silhouetted against the sky.



There is a turn off for Hidden Valley. Then the road follows Grapevine Canyon which drops it into the Saline Valley.

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There is a lot of wildlife and flora down the Grapevine Canyon due to the spring that runs through the area. At one point, we were treated to the sight of an adult quail followed by a procession of baby quail crossing the road. As we got closer, suddenly there was a tremendous number of quail jumping out of the bushes, flying and running across the road. They all disappeared into the canyon on the other side of the road in moments.

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As we reached the slope leading down into the valley, we heard the sound of a big aircraft close by. After looking around for a bit, we saw a C-130 flying really low along the valley to our left.

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I took a few pictures, but they don’t do it justice. The C-130 is a really large four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft. It passed from behind us to follow the valley. To see it flying so close to the ground for miles was amazing.

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Most of the drive to Saline Valley Warm Springs from the south pass is a very long heavily washboard dirt road. The washboard is truly teeth jarring, especially for the 50 or 60 miles it takes for us to reach the turn off to the warm springs. The Fuso is especially uncomfortable and it feels and sounds like everything is going to rattle apart.

Bone jarring washboard video

We came this way in June one year in our Range Rover. It was 128 degrees along the valley floor. We blew out two tires going down this road to the warm springs. Not at the same time. It was a combination of the heat and the washboard. So we take it easy when we drive in from the South Pass.

I think the mountains make for beautiful scenery.


Notice the washboard.

There is a mostly dry lake bed/salt flat which shines with the sunlight.

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Eventually, you reach the turn off for the warm springs. It is still a long drive before you get to the bat pole. It is on the far right of the photo below. And the springs are the darker green area with trees that is almost in the center.


We started out around 8:30 am and arrived around 3:00. It is a long and dusty drive. We set up camp, but that is a story for the next blog post.




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Traveling to Panamint Springs – May 23, 2016


A view of Panamint Valley at sunset.

Because of all the interest in the Fuso getting stuck in the Black Rock Desert playa, I posted those blog entries out of sequence. Now that those blog posts are done, I’m working on filling in the gap between Overland Expo and going to the Black Rock Desert (May 23-29).

We left Overland Expo on the morning of Monday, May 23. We were planning to go to Saline Valley which is located in the Death Valley National Park. Due to the length of the drive, we were going to camp at Panamint Springs tonight and drive to Saline Valley the next morning.

Death Valley National Park Map

On May 23, we started from Mormon Lake, Arizona (just south of Flagstaff, AZ). We crossed into Nevada by the Hoover Dam. We didn’t see any Big Horn Sheep this time. In previous years, we’ve seen them on the rocky walls right before you get to the Dam. We passed through Las Vegas and headed north on NV highway 160 to get to Death Valley via Pahrump, NV.

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Interesting geology in Arizona

Jon and I have been going to Death Valley area since we lived in California (about 15 years ago). It is a gorgeous area and I love taking photos there.

view down valley w sky 3

Photo from December 2000 – Death Valley

It is all about the light. That is unless it there is a dust storm. We were here two years ago and there was an incredible dust storm that really limited visibility.


April 2014 – Saline Valley Dust Storm

The drive out was uneventful. We stopped to get gas and groceries in Pahrump, the last town before the national park.

The sun was just beginning to set. There were already a lot of shadows.

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By the time we reached an area with a good view of Death Valley, the sun was setting.

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It was pretty, but not the best conditions for photos. It was also getting late and we were tired.

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To get to Panamint Springs, we had to drive over the Panamint Mountain Range. This is a long uphill drive and we have to take it slow in the Fuso to keep it from overheating.

The view down into the Panamint Valley is really lovely although the light was disappearing quickly.


We planned on staying at the Panamint Springs Campground. By the time we arrived, it was late and we both were hungry and tired.


Panamint Springs Resort – Photo from May 2014

The restaurant was closing in a half hour. I staked out a table while Jon checked us into a campsite.

Panamint Springs Campground

After a late dinner, we settled into the Fuso for a quiet night. There are times when it is really nice to have a camper. There wasn’t much we needed to do before going to bed.

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Black Rock Desert, Finally on Firm Ground – June 4, 2016

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When the Bulldozer and Fuso finally reached firmer ground, they stopped to disconnect.

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It was such a relief to finally have gotten the Fuso to a place when it is unlikely to drop through the playa.

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We all stopped and checked over the condition of the Fuso and assessed the situation.

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We stood around and talked for a while.

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Then it was on to the staging area to load up the bulldozer and mini excavator.

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You can see the Semi-truck and trailer in the distance to the left of the bulldozer.

The Fuso drove on this part of the playa just fine. I took it easy and followed so that I could take pictures and watch the Fuso’s progress.

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Everyone made it to the staging area without any problems.

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Willie loaded up the bulldozer.

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Gary had not arrived yet. Willie was going to wait for Gary and they were going to pick up an unoccupied vehicle that had been stuck in the playa.

Jon and I in the Fuso and Carman in his Xterra decided to go ahead and leave to playa. We were going to meet at Bruno’s Gas Station.

IMG_3871 Xterra fs

We finally drove on the actual playa road, not just across the playa.

It was very dusty and hot. Thank goodness we didn’t break the windshield. We weren’t able to go particularly fast. The Fuso was running pretty hot. It was over 100 degrees outside.

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We stopped at the entrance to the playa and checked out the signs.




We also took a good look at the Fuso to make sure that everything looked ok. It was exceedingly dusty.


Carmen went ahead and we followed.

Jon and I stopped at Bruno’s Shell and Towing in Gerlach.


Carmen had decided to go check on a stuck vehicle. Willie and Gary arrived shortly after we got there. They had decided to go back later in the day for the vehicle.


We talked for a short time and we went on our way.



To sum up:

These are the things we did right:

A) Come prepared. That means plenty of water and food, recovery gear, a shovel, jack, pull-pal, tow straps/cable, etc. Be sure that you can actually access the recovery gear from the outside of your vehicle.

We used to keep the recovery gear in a lower storage box on the passenger side of the vehicle. It is a good thing we moved it, because we really couldn’t reach that box when we sank, plus because of the damage to that box, getting into it would have been exceedingly difficult.

B) Carry an DeLorme inReach satellite two-way texting and emergency communicator with the emergency insurance

DeLorme inReach

C) Pay attention to the weather and find out about the current conditions in the area.

The Friends of the Black Rock Desert in Gerlach is a great resource.

Know Before You Go


Things that we didn’t do well.

A) Make sure you have actually have roads that reach all the way to your destination.

B) Follow well established routes across the playa.

C) If you are on a playa, pay very close attention to the surface of the playa. If there is vegetation growing on it, don’t go there. It will be very soft.

D) Just because there are tire tracks across an area of the playa doesn’t mean that your vehicle will be able to drive on it, too.


Most importantly:

If you just need a tug and/or digging to get out, contact:

Carman at:

Smith n Tobey in Wadsworth, NV



If you need a major recovery effort, contact Willie of Courtney Rock and Transport


Bruno’s Shell and Towing

565 Main Street in Gerlach, NV








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Black Rock Desert, Stuck in the Playa, Day 4 (Second Recovery) – June 4, 2016

So we got the Fuso out of its hole and were on our way to the staging area and firm ground. The bulldozer had stayed with the Fuso. Carman and the pick-up truck had waited with the Fuso. The mini excavator and I headed back to the staging area. I arrived pretty quickly and waited for everyone else to arrive. I waited for 5 to 10 minutes and noticed that the Fuso did not appear to be getting any closer.


The Fuso isn’t getting any closer.

There was no tell tale dust cloud behind the Fuso, so I headed back. The mini excavator moves at a slow walking pace, so Gary had only gotten about halfway between the Fuso and the staging area.

When I arrived, it was obvious why the Fuso stopped. It had gotten very badly stuck on the driver’s side. The Fuso had sunk down to about the same level as we had originally gotten stuck on Wednesday.


Willie, Jon and Carman had already started working towards extricating the Fuso. The back of the Fuso was hooked up to the bulldozer which was pulling backwards and a little towards the driver’s side. Dirt has piled up a little in front of the lowest storage box and to the side of the front wheel.



The bulldozer was able to pull the Fuso several feet backwards.


The tracks under the front of the Fuso show how much it has moved backwards.

After doing this, there was quite a bit of dirt between the storage boxes and around the rear wheel.


Using our experience in getting the Fuso out the first time, the bulldozer pulled the Fuso towards the high side (the passenger side this time). They started by pulling the front part.


Carmen is hooking up the tow chain to pull the frame by the back wheel to the side.

There is now quite a pile of dirt alongside the front wheel.

The front end has been pulled a couple of feet to the side. The back has only moved about a foot.



And now you can actually see and get to the rear wheel.



And now all of the lower storage boxes are above ground level.



The next step was to try using the giant tow rope to yank the Fuso backwards.



They are ready to go.



The bulldozer digs in.


Pulling hard.


On the first try, the Fuso moved backwards several feet.


We tried it again.

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Ready for the second pull.




The Fuso has definitely moved backwards. There is a lot of dirt behind the front wheel and the lower storage boxes are a little lower.



Jon and Willie assess the Fuso’s current situation.



The Fuso has tilted a little more.



A view of the passenger side.


Gary has arrived after he walked back from the mini excavator.


There is now quite a bit of dirt to the side of the passenger side front wheel. But the passenger side wheels are on top of the caterpillar tracks which should made them a little more firm.



Jon and Willie take a walk to prepare for what comes after getting the Fuso out of the second hole. No one wants this to happen a third time. The best way to keep that from happening was to plan the best route to get to firm ground.


Jon and Willie plan a route. The mini excavator is in the distance. The bulldozer has left a lot of tracks.


When they return, we prepared for another pull forward. No rope this time. If the Fuso does get out, the rope would require them to stop before continuing. Inertia will help keep us from bogging down again.




We are ready to go.


The chain broke.

Video of the chain breaking.

Here is the link in case the internal link doesn’t work:


Thank goodness no one was hurt. It broke with a lot more momentum than when our chain broke the last time. This time the chain popped up to hit the front of the Fuso. It broke a headlight and front spot light, but it didn’t break the windshield. We can drive without headlights as long as it is daytime.


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Gary offers to get another chain. Willie decided that he would go back to the semi-truck and get a heavier chain. It gave me a chance to take a few more pictures.


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The bulldozer has been leaving lots of tracks in the attempts to get the Fuso out of the ground.

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Signs that the bulldozer has been active.


Jon and Carman look at the damage and remove the broken chain.

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Willie comes back with a bigger chain and Jon hooks it up to the Fuso.

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We are ready for the next pull.

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And the Fuso is out.

The Fuso gets free a second time.

Here is a link to the video.


Jon and Willie had made a plan for what happened once the Fuso was out, so they continue driving until they come to a good place to stop. At about 17 seconds, you can watch the rear wheels of the Fuso break through the playa up to the rear axle. If they had not be moving, the Fuso would have gotten stuck, again.

They stop to reevaluate the ground and decide on the best route back to the staging area and firm ground.

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Jon and Willie get out to plan the next part of the drive.

The marks in the foreground of the photo are from the undercarriage of the Fuso dragging when the rear wheels dropped down into the playa during the first part of the drive (at around 17 seconds on the video).

Jon and Willie continue forward after a few minutes.


The Fuso is finally on its way to firm ground.

A link to the video of the Fuso’s escape.

You can see how much the Fuso wallows from side to side as it drives over uneven surfaces. It does it even with the stronger replacement frame. Add to that the weight of the vehicle, it makes it easy to imagine how one side could just drop through the playa crust.

Fortunately, the playa gets generally firmer as they get closer to the staging area.


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Finally driving out to firm ground.




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Black Rock Desert, Stuck in the Playa, Day 4 (After the First Recovery) – June 4, 2016



We finally got the Fuso out of the hole that we had been stuck in for the last four days. All it took was five people, a 22,500 pound bulldozer, a mini excavator and a lot of digging.

Video of the bulldozer leading the Fuso into a turn

To get back on firm ground, we needed to turn the Fuso around (180 degrees) and drive over more ground just like the stuff we got stuck in.



We got stuck so far into it because of Jon’s great driving and inertia. The problem is getting up a little momentum while on an unstable surface.

Jon and Willie stopped after they pulled away from the immediate area around the hole. The Fuso was level and stable. It had cut into the playa surface, but it didn’t really dig in.
It was so fantastic to have the Fuso out of the hole. Now that it was out, it was time to check out the area. The hole was amazing.

Jon is standing in the passenger side side wheel rut.

The Fuso’s underside drag marks are visible behind Jon in the picture above. You can see how the underside of the truck dragged along the dirt.

A closer view of the drag marks.

It explains why it required so much force to get it out.

The passenger side tire rut was incredibly deep.

After spending some time looking around, we were ready to pick up all of our equipment and head to firm ground. There was a lot of gear.
Since we were so focused on getting the Fuso out of the hole, we didn’t have a specific route planned out to get us back to the staging area. We were all just so relieved to have the Fuso free.
We had five vehicles to return to the staging area. It is a good thing we had five people to drive them all rather than making multiple trips. Willie was in the bulldozer pulling the Fuso with Jon at its wheel. Gary drove the mini excavator. That left Carman to drive the pick-up truck while I drove Carman’s Xterra.
The plan was for all of us to meet at the staging area and the semi-truck.

Finally on the way back to the firm ground.

But we weren’t there quite yet.

To be continued in the Second Recovery.







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Black Rock Desert, Stuck in the Playa, Day 4 (First Recovery) – June 4, 2016

Hopefully, we now have everything we need to get the Fuso out.

So hopefully, we now have everything we need to get the Fuso out. In addition to Jon and me, we also have:

Carman, of Smith n Tobey Recovery Services, and his Xterra

and the highly skilled and experienced Willie of Courtney Rock and Transport and his assistant, Gary. Willie has brought his bulldozer, mini excavator and a tan pick-up truck with equipment.

It is currently 12:30 in the Black Rock Desert playa and temperatures are already at 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

We started by walking around the Fuso, evaluating and discussing its current situation.

12:31 - Evaluating


12:32 - Jon making a point

Jon is pointing out some important features.


Note how well you can see the underside of the Fuso. This is not a good way to view our vehicle.

Notice how well you can see the underside of the Fuso.

It was decided to try to level the Fuso. We didn’t want it to fall over on its side and having all four tires on the ground makes it more likely it would be able to roll rather than drag.

The first task involved using the excavator to dig a hole next to the driver’s side rear wheel.

12:38 - Excavating next to the left rear wheel

Jon and Willie attached arecovery chain to the frame.

12:43 - Hooking up a recovery chain

The Bulldozer was moved into place and the recovery chain was hooked up. When the bulldozer was drove backwards, the Fuso slid into the hole and straightened out.

12:46 - Before the pull



12:46 - After the pull



A deep hole had been required.

12:47 - Rear wheel is in deep

The Fuso is now quite a bit more level.

12:48 - Fuso more level now


Now there is a big gap on the passenger side of the Fuso between it and the ground. The excavator was used to fill in the gap.

12:50 - Pushing dirt to fill in the gap


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Gary is packing down the dirt


The bulldozer was moved to the back of the Fuso. The Fuso was hooked up to the bulldozer. We are trying to pull it backwards.

12:53 - Trying to pull it backwards

First Try


12:56 - Second try

Second Try

The Fuso has not moved backwards at all.

12:58 - It hasn't moved

Jon describing the mechanics involved with pulling the vehicle out.

There is too much dirt behind the rear wheels. To get the Fuso to roll backwards, it will need a ramp.

Clearing out the dirt under the back of the Fuso.

1:01 - Excavating next to the right rear wheel

Excavating next to the right rear wheel

At least by having the excavator, it makes it much easier to dig an area next to the truck to work.

1:03 - Trying to clear out some of the dirt under the back

As always, there is lots of digging required.

It is a challenging place to dig.

It is a challenging place to dig.

While Gary and Carman were digging under the back of the Fuso, Jon and Willie had been discussing the situation.


The ultimate problem is getting the Fuso up and out of the hole. So Jon and Willie decided to see how effective the excavator is at lifting the front of the Fuso.

1:09 - Trying to lift the front end

Trying to lift the front end

It wasn’t successful. The Fuso is just too heavy for the mini excavator bucket to lift.

Since more of the dirt had been cleared from the back of the Fuso, we used the bulldozer to attempt to get the Fuso to go backwards.

1:13 - Trying to pull it backwards

You can see how much the bulldozer is digging in at the back of its treads.

The bulldozer dug in and the Fuso didn’t move at all.

Willie had a big tow rope that we hooked up to the back of the Fuso in hopes that it would provide enough dynamic power to yank the Fuso enough to get it moving.

1:16 - Attaching a tow rope

Attaching the giant tow rope

Even with that effort, the Fuso remained firmly stuck.

1:17 - Trying to pull it backwards with a tow rope

Trying to pull it backwards with a tow rope


Video of Bulldozer trying to pull the Fuso backwards with a tow rope


A new approach was needed. Instead of pulling forward or backward, we would try pulling it sideways to try to get more of it on less disturbed/firmer ground. Since the passenger side was the low side, they started by pulling on the frame next to the driver’s side rear wheel.

1:23 - Attaching a tow chain to the back wheel to pull it to the left

Attaching a tow chain

After hooking it up, the bulldozer gave it a tug. It slid over several inches.

1:23 - Pulling the Fuso's rear to the left


The tow chain was attached in front of the driver’s side front wheel. The same process was tried again. The front of the Fuso slid over quite a bit more.

1:29 - Pulling the front to the right

Jon points to how much the front wheel has moved.

Video of pulling the front of the Fuso towards the driver’s side


(Please pardon the quality of the video, everything was happening so fast that I hard a hard time photographing and video taping the events.)

Now that the Fuso is reoriented, the next effort was focused on pulling the Fuso forward. Jon and Willie hooked up our recovery chain to the front of the Fuso.

1:31 - Jon hooking up the recovery chain to the front


The bulldozer gave it a tug. The tow chain broke.

Video of pulling the Fuso forward and the tow chain breaks



1:32 Broken recovery chain

Jon holding part of the broken chain.

Jon and Carman crawled down to extract the broken pieces and to see if there had been any damage.

1:32 - Finding the broken chain

The recovery chain belong to us and was obviously not rated for this kind of effort. Another chain was brought from Willie’s supplies. In addition to another chain. We decided that it would be helpful to dig out from in front of the front tires to give them a little more of a ramp to climb up.

1:33 - Gary brings over another chain. Carman digs.

Gary brings over another chain. Carman digs.

So more digging occurred.

1:34 - Always more digging

Finally we were ready to give it another try pulling forward this time.

1:37 - Ready to give it another pull

Ready to give it another try.


1:38 Success. The Fuso is out of the hole.

Success. The Fuso is out of the hole.

Video of the Fuso finally getting out of the hole.

Four days after we got stuck in the Black Rock Desert playa, we finally had the Fuso out of the hole we had sunk into.

However, this is not the end of the day or the story. It wasn’t enough just getting the Fuso out of that hole, we had to get it back on a firm surface.

I’ll continue in the next post.


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Black Rock Desert, Stuck in the Playa, Day 4 (Pre-Recovery) – June 4, 2016

We were scheduled to meet Willie in Gerlach at 9:00. So we had a little breakfast at the hotel before Carman picked us up.

"Bruno's Shell & Towing"

“Bruno’s Shell & Towing”

We were meeting at Bruno’s Shell and Towing on Main St. The funny thing about the garage’s name is that Bruno no longer owns it and it is no longer a Shell station. We were informed by Cecil, the owner of the garage, that Willie was going to be there, but he was running a little late.

We wandered around the lot surrounding the garage. It contained a wide collection of vehicles and equipment in various states of decay.

Very old trucks.

Very old trucks.


The desert is a great place to store old vehicles.

Two old RVs.

Two old RVs.

Willie arrived and immediately went to work loading up the equipment on his semi-truck.

Courtney Rock and Transport

Courtney Rock and Transport

That meant a 22,500 pound bulldozer and a mini excavator, both with caterpillar tracks. Plus a tan pick-up truck with shovels, wood, and other miscellaneous supplies. Willie had some additional help, Gary. He helped load the equipment and drive the pick-up truck.

Willie loading up the equipment.

Willie loading up the equipment.

The biggest problem about the area where we are stuck is that most vehicles big enough to pull us out would also be so heavy that they would also sink. The caterpillar tracks will do a lot to mitigate that problem. As it is, Willie will have to park his semi-truck on firm ground and then drive the equipment to the Fuso.

We would all meet at the Fuso. We had GPS coordinates for our camper making it pretty easy to find if you are familiar with the area. Since we were in Carman’s Xterra, we arrived long before Willie and Gary.

The Fuso is still really stuck.


Jon getting out recovery equipment.

You can see how far to the right the whole vehicle has shifted from its tire tracks.

You can see how far to the right the whole vehicle has shifted from the original tire tracks.

In preparation, Jon and Carman did a little digging to be able to attach a recovery chain to the frame on the low side of the Fuso.

Attaching a recovery chain to the frame.

Then we just hung out until we saw the semi and pick-up truck in the distance.

We can see the semi-truck and pick-up truck heading in our direction.

Dust clouds are good indications of vehicles.

We drove out to meet them at a staging area where the playa is firm enough for big vehicles.


The ramp gets unfolded first.

The ramp gets unfolded first.


Unloading the heavy equipment.

Unloading the heavy equipment.


With Willie and Gary driving the bulldozer and excavator, Jon volunteered to drive the pick-up truck to the Fuso. Carman and I rode back to the Fuso in his Xterra.

As expected, the trucks were a whole lot faster than the bulldozer and excavator.

The bulldozer is on its way.

The bulldozer is on its way.


Bulldozer followed by the mini excavator with the semi-truck in the background.

Bulldozer followed by the mini excavator with the semi-truck in the background.

Story continued in the next post. I’m breaking up Saturday’s events because there are a lot photos and videos.




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Black Rock Desert, Stuck in the Playa, Day 3 – June 3, 2016

The Fuso is still stuck.

The Fuso is still stuck.

Friday was a day for strategy. We needed a new approach and more equipment.

Morning came much too early. Breakfast was included in the price of our hotel. After almost two days of snacks, it was really appreciated.

Carman arrived to pick us up around 9:00. The plan was to drive up to the Fuso to evaluate the current condition in the daylight. Since there weren’t any plans to actually extract it this morning, I decided to catch up on my sleep.

The Fuso’s situation didn’t look any better this morning.

20160603 017 Jon

20160603 027 Jon

20160603 050 Jon

20160603 110 Jon


Carman didn’t have the equipment needed to get it out. Jon and Carman stopped in at Bruno’s Shell and Towing in Gerlach to find the person with the major recovery equipment. They were told to come back around 5:00 to meet with Cecil at the garage.

Jon came back to the hotel around 2 and we had a little lunch. Jon and Carman left around 4:00 to return to Gerlach.  It turns out that the person they needed to talk to was Willie, Cecil’s son. After a lot of running around and talking with other people and knocking on random doors, they met Willie.  He is the owner of Courtney Rock and Transport and has the heavy equipment needed to get us out.

They drove out the the Fuso with Willie so that he could determine what he needed to bring tomorrow. Arrangements were made to meet Willie at Bruno’s Shell at 9:00 am on Saturday before returning to recover the Fuso.

Jon got back to the hotel around 10:30 pm. We had a little dinner and went to bed. It was going to be a big day tomorrow.


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Black Rock Desert, Stuck in the Playa, Day 2 afternoon – June 2, 2016

Smith N' Tobey Recovery Service arrives.

Around 3:30 pm, we woke up from our nap when we heard a car drive up. A couple of minutes later, there was a knock on our door. Smith N Tobey Recovery Services had arrived. Carman and Marge had brought their XTerra, sand ladders, boards and tools.



The driver’s side rear wheel was now much deeper than it had been this morning.

Our plan was to dig out both rear wheels and put in the sand ladders. The other rear wheel had sunk a little more, so it also needed to be dug out again. We would use the MaxTraxs for the front wheels. Then, we would use the Xterra to to help get the Fuso out.

It was really hot (a little over 100 degrees F). Fortunately, Carman had a lot of experience in fighting wild fires. He really knows how to dig even in hot conditions.

Getting the driver’s side cleared was relatively straight forward.

Not as much digging required on the driver's side.

Not as much digging required on the driver’s side.

Getting the passenger’s side rear wheel dug out was a challenge. There was already a tremendous pile of dirt from our earlier recovery attempts. So not only did it require sliding under the vehicle, but just getting rid of the dirt required a lot of effort.

Carman sliding under the Fuso to do a little more digging.

Carman sliding under the Fuso to do a little more digging.

Due to the limited access, we were using a mattock and the back of the ax. Even the ice scraper came in handy. We’re packing a trowel next trip.

Rear tire with sand ladder in place. Ax used for digging.

Rear wheel with sand ladder in place. Yes, we used the ax for digging.

The sand ladders were put in front of the two rear wheels. The front passenger’s side was already on top of a MaxTrax.

MaxTrax is under the passenger side front tire.

If you look hard, you can see the pink of the MaxTrax under the wheel.

We put the other MaxTrax in front of the driver’s side front wheel.

MaxTrax in place.

We tried using the same set up that we used this morning except the XTerra would be attached to the Pull-Pal. We would use the winch attached to the Pull-Pal and the Fuso’s own power. While we were making final adjustments, we had a visitor on a dirt bike stop by to see what was happening.

We have a visitor. Jon and Carman deciding what to do next.

We have a visitor. Jon and Carman deciding what to do next.

Rusty had a friend that had gotten his pickup truck stuck in almost the same place last year. He and his friends were camping at the Black Rock Hot Springs. They found out the hard way that the water from the Black Rock Hot Springs drains this under this area.

We went ahead and gave our current arrangement a try.

Jon and Carman checking the equipment setup.

Jon and Carman checking the equipment setup.

The Fuso dragged the Pull-Pal and the XTerra towards us. Jon and Carman made a few adjustments and then tried again. We gave it one more try without any success.

Jon heads back to the Fuso for one more try.

Jon heads back to the Fuso for one more try.

Rusty offered to go back to his campsite to get his truck, a Ford F-250. It certainly has more pulling power than the XTerra. Since we weren’t having any success going forward, Rusty suggested that we try going backwards instead.

So Rusty left to get his vehicle while we did a lot more digging to get the Fuso set up to reverse. We packed up the Pull-Pal and much of the other recovery equipment. Rusty returned with his friend that had gotten stuck last year.

Jon continues to set up for the next recovery attempt. We have spectators.

Marge talking with Rusty’s friend.

We put down boards by the back wheels to give them more of a ramp to drive up.

Getting prepared for a recovery attempt going backwards.

Much more digging was required.


After a lot more work, we were finally ready to give it a try.


In less than a minute, we went from this:


Everything is ready for the recovery attempt.


To this:

Assessing the situation.

Not an improvement.


We all walked around it to assess the change of situation. After some consideration, we decided to use the Hi-Lift jack to raise the rear of the vehicle enough to get under it. We put the Hi-Lift jack on top of a sand ladder and board to keep it from sinking into the ground.

Jon and Carman did some more digging to make it possible to put bottle jacks under the frame to make it more secure. It had been hoped that with jacking up the frame, we could put some support under the rear wheels. But we couldn’t jack the truck up high enough to get them off the ground.

Jon and Carman doing what is necessary for the next recovery attempt.

Jon and Carman doing what is necessary for the next recovery attempt.

The boards, the MaxTraxs and sand ladders were arranged to give both the Fuso and the Ford the best chance of getting traction. This required a lot more digging and removing the jacks.


Sunset and our good samaritans are still here.

Sunset and our good samaritans are still here.

Around 10:30, we gave it one more try to get the Fuso out or at least less stuck.

Almost ready to make one more recovery attempt in the dark.

Almost ready to make one more recovery attempt in the dark.

It didn’t help.

The last recovery attempt of the night.

The last recovery attempt of the night.

We decided to call it a day. We thanked Rusty and his friend for all their help. They had been planning a gourmet dinner at their campsite and stuck around anyway.

The Fuso was much too unstable for us to be in it. We put away all of our recovery gear, collected a few items from the camper, shut off those things that needed it and finally locked it up.


We made arrangements with Carman and his wife to drop us off at the hotel in Gerlach, NV. We headed out on the playa in the dark. After driving around for a long time, it turns out were weren’t going in the right direction. We eventually stopped at a campsite. It turned out we had made our way to Rusty’s campsite at Black Rock Hot Springs which was in the opposite direction that we wanted to go. Amusing as it was, we were all tired. So we got directions and made it to Gerlach around 12:05. Everything was closed. Not even the bar was open.

Carman and his wife still had a 75 mile drive to return to Wadsworth,  NV.  They offered to drop us off at a hotel in the neighboring town, Fernley, NV. Fernley is a good sized town with a number of hotels and other services. So at 2:15 am, we were checked into a Comfort Suites.

We would get together in the morning to decide what to do next.


Categories: Prep | 2 Comments

Black Rock Desert, Stuck in the Playa, Day 2 morning – June 2, 2016


Looking out at the Black Rock early Thursday morning.

Looking out at the Black Rock early Thursday morning.

The story continues the next morning.

We are still stuck. We have been in contact with a recovery service indirectly. They will be coming out in the afternoon.

It was dark by the time we stopped last night, so here are a few photos of our current situation.

Passenger side front tire

Passenger side front tire

The front tire was well set up for us to get out.

Passenger side rear tire and box. There is still a lot of dirt in front of the back tire.

Passenger side rear tire and box.

The ground has been cleared out under the boxes, but there is still some dirt in front of the back tire. The back of the Fuso is much heavier than the front, Consequently, back is sunk much deeper into the ground.


View of the underside from the back.

View of the underside from the back.

Jon had cleared out the area under the center of the vehicle. The pneumatic bottle jack helped to even up the camper overnight so that we could sleep in it. The jack and the board it is sitting on have sunk into the ground. We removed both before trying to move the vehicle.


The driver side rear tire.

The driver side rear tire.

The driver’s side didn’t sink down in the ground nearly as much as the passenger side.

It seemed like the Fuso had a clear path to move forward, except for a little more dirt in front of the passenger side rear tire.

Not long after we got up, we heard a vehicle heading our way.

A visitor.

A visitor.

It was a guy named, Mike, who spotted us this morning. He drove out in his side by side to investigate.  We walked around the Fuso to evaluate our current condition and discuss recovery options.

Mike’s side by side

His vehicle wasn’t strong enough to pull us out, but he had a friend with another side by side that would probably be willing to help out. Mike recommended that we dig out the area in front of the rear passenger tire. We pulled out more recovery gear. Jon did a little more digging.

Jon digging out the rear tire in preparation for assistance.

Jon is about to crawl down under the box to reach the rear wheel.

In less than an hour, Mike returned with his friend, John. As it turned out, they had been camping at Double Hot Springs for the past week. It was just chance that they were away when we stopped at Double Hot Springs yesterday.


The plan was to bury the Pull-Pal in front of the Fuso.

The Pull-Pal is deeply buried. The yellow strap is attached to be able to pull the Pull-Pal out of the ground if needed.

The Pull-Pal is deeply buried. The yellow strap is attached to be able to pull the Pull-Pal out of the ground if needed.

We connected our winch line to it. John and Mike connected their vehicles to the front of the Fuso. So hopefully between the winch, the Fuso’s own power and the two side by sides, we would be able to get out.


All ready to go.

Initial attempt. Everyone is ready to go.

The Pull-Pal stayed buried, but was being dragged through the ground. The Fuso remained very stuck. Everyone gave it one more try, but Mike and John couldn’t pull any harder without damaging their vehicles.

So we dug out a little more. John suggested using a snatch block (pulley) to double the strength of the winch.

We attached a separate piece of winch line to the Pull-Pal. The line coming out of our winch was fed through a pulley and then reattached to the front of our vehicle. This increases the ability of the winch to pull.

winch pp alt 434ca

In the photo above, the blue line is the line coming out of the winch. The yellow line is a recovery strap connected to the winch line coming out of the pulley. We don’t have enough additional winch line to cover the whole distance.

Note: We are using winch line, not metal wire cable. In the case of the line breaking, it just drops. When metal wire cable breaks, it will fly through the air with the potential to hurt people and equipment. We placed a blanket over the line near the snatch block to keep it from flying around if something breaks.

It would not be safe for John and Mike to pull from the front of the Fuso, so they hooked their vehicles up to the Pull-Pal to make it a stronger winch point.

The side by sides are connected to the Pull-Pal.

In the photo above, the two side by sides are on the right side. The blanket is the blue blob in the middle.  The winch line is the pale blue line extending from the blanket to the left side of the photo. The Fuso is on the left side out of view of the camera (see above).


With all the additional effort, we were finally able to get the Fuso to move.

side by side text

The bad news is that the Fuso is now even more stuck.  The driver’s side of the vehicle is deeper in the ground.

The good news is that the cab and camper are more level.


John talking with Jon after the morning's final try.

Jon talking with John after the morning’s final try.

After evaluating our new situation, John and Mike couldn’t do anything else to help us get out. We really appreciated their help. They were driving home to Oregon today and needed to get back to their campers to get underway.

We are expecting the recovery service to come out this afternoon, so hopefully we will be able to get out then. It was beginning to get really hot. Now that the camper is more level, we took advantage of the cooler temperatures and shade inside the camper. We were both exhausted, so we took a nap.

More to come.



Categories: Prep | 1 Comment

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