It would be difficult to pick just one, after the record-breaking snow and rainfall at the 2015 Overland Expo WEST show at mormon Lake, Arizona. The NAU 4X4 Club cheerfully coordinated uncountable extractions from the camping area, and at one point constructed a daisy chain of several trucks to pull out a motorhome. There was Wolf’s stupendous deuce-and-a-half, pulling out another motorhome all by itself. Ross Blair used his supercharged Tacoma to recover a trailer and several vehicles. And who knows how many unnamed people simply pitched in with a winch or tow strap to tug someone out of the gloop.
On the other side of the venue, a different drama was unfolding, as the massive semi truck and trailer from host sponsor BFGoodrich ended up parked in a low spot that slowly became a quagmire during the Saturday snow and rainfall, despite the cinders laid down beforehand. On Sunday afternoon it was going nowhere.
A large tow truck was arranged, but the mud proved too sticky even with that pulling. We needed recovery mats. A bunch of MaxTrax appeared (as they always seem to do in these situations), but not quite enough to fully float all the tires necessary on an 18-wheeler.
Meanwhile, in the nearby Camel Trophy area, we had just freed an LR4 that was stranded in a level patch of completely frictionless mud, using a pair of Crux Off Road’s new aluminum bridging ladders. Wedged under the Land Rover’s rear tires, they provided both lift and traction.
Jeremy Plantinga, the designer and fabricator, was pleased with how they had performed all weekend being used and abused by Duncan, Andy, and friends. Now Nick nudged Jeremy and pointed to the BFG semi.
“Oh, no,” said Jeremy. Plastic mats such as the MaxTrax can deform under a heavy load in resilient mud, but the whole point of a bridging ladder is to be rigid enough to support a vehicle over an empty span. The Crux ladders are rated for 7,000 pounds—we were looking at a truck that probably weighed ten times that.
“C’mon, Jeremy,” Nick taunted. “Let’s just see what happens.” Finally, reluctantly, Jeremy agreed, and Nick grabbed both ladders and ran, cackling demonically, to the semi. We wedged them under the rear wheels of the truck’s carriage, and gave the tow truck driver and the semi driver the thumb’s up. Slowly, ponderously, the truck began to move. The Crux ladders disappeared inch by inch under the wheels and were crushed into the mud. The semi rolled free, and we pried the ladders out of the mud, to find them . . . intact.
It was amazing. A couple of center supports had bent downward, and the ladders wound up ever so slightly twisted, but they could have been instantly put back into service. The side rails were perfectly straight. We jokingly suggested to Jeremy that he should add a decimal point to his weight rating.