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Confessions of an off road instructor

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This has been a long time coming. For years we have compiled stories and ideas to share with the world and finally we have an outlet. I welcome you to the True Grip blog; more commonly known as our confessions! Once a month you will have the opportunity to read and enjoy our adventures, opinions and observations we have relating to the world of off road pursuits and adventure.

Tread lightly (in all sense of the phrase)

Our first entry kicks off and stays true with the title of our blog ÔÇô this is a true confession, one IÔÇÖve had the burden of carrying for many years now and I must let go. Not only am I confessing but am also seeking forgiveness. You see, as I regale you with my confession you will realise that I committed cardinal sin during the course of this event. A core bond between all of us at True Grip is based on the promise that if an instructor gets stuck and requires any form of assistance, he or she must under all circumstances buy lunch for every member of the team the following day. By ÔÇÿlunchÔÇÖ I actually mean a KFC bucket (the largest available on the menu) as this has and always will be the choice of food punishment. You can now see where the infamous ÔÇÿTrue Grip bellyÔÇÖ comes from.

It was the autumn of 2011 but the place and names will remain undisclosed to protect those involved. I had a spare hour until I was meeting the boss so I decided to take one of the Land Rover Discoverys for a quick spin into the woods for a bit of independent driving. One senses that my off road skills were lacking back then but forgiveness rather than approval of my driving technique is whatÔÇÖs being sought. On this particular drive upon which this burden attaches, I took a detour from the normal approved route and sensed the occasion to venture on an out of bounds track. I was quite smug having successfully tackled what this aggressive track threw at me when I came across a rather large water hole. By now my leisure time was quickly running out and to avoid missing the meeting with the boss I foolishly blazed ahead, confident the vehicle would cruise over the crater.

From here, time seemed to break down into a series of slow motion frames, momentarily. Firstly, the dip and thud of the front bumper onto the floor of the bottomless hole; the flex of the springs as the rear wheel parted company with the ground behind me and the awful sound of rubber slipping on mud where the tyres inevitably lost traction. All this was nothing compared to the torrent of water that was flooding under the driverÔÇÖs door, slowly forming a silty pool at my feet. After trying the forever saving ÔÇÿdiff lockÔÇÖ which proved ineffective I quickly realised the predicament I had landed myself in ÔÇô I was stuck. Proper stuck. My only exit from the car was through the boot so I hauled myself to the back of the car and forced myself out. The land rover resembled a rocket that had nose-dived and crashed, forming a huge crater on impact. I was taken back to my childhood reading about the legend of the ÔÇÿSword in the Stone.ÔÇÖ The immovable car was the sword ÔÇô I just had to find an Arthur.

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Well what to do? I could not make the dreaded call for help. I would be bombarded with photos, laughter and embarrassment but more importantly I could not allow my perfect record to be tarnished followed quickly by my sterling reputation as a flawless off road driver. Self-recovery was not an option. The vehicle did not have a winch and the other vehicles were all being used on other courses. I had to drive this lump out of the hole. By now I was late for my meeting with the boss so I sent him a courtesy text message explaining my absence (unexpected work required my attendance on the site for the remainder of the day) to buy some time. I was safe for now as no other cars would pass by, given the fact I was in the ÔÇÿno goÔÇÖ area. It was no-go for a reason.

After considering my options I formulated the best makeshift plan ÔÇô sneak up to the cabin, snatch the sand ladders and spade without notice and creep back to re-shape the hole and dig myself out. The prospect of such a mission was frightening but I had no choice. I went into stealth mode to acquire my equipment and turned my hand to landscaping. Essentially I built a mound under the back of the vehicle so that my rear wheels were once again in contact with the ground. This endeavour seemed to go on for what felt like hours, hacking away into the night like an outlaw. When eventually completed, I looked upon my creation ÔÇô a messy pile of 2 sand ladders, numerous logs and lots of mud. Alas, I jumped in the driving seat, engaged low range, diff lock, reverse and took my first step to freedom. After 4, 5, 6 (I have lost count) attempts I finally gained enough purchase and wiggled out of the hole. IÔÇÖve gotten away with it!

After tidying up the site I realised that the bossÔÇÖs treasured and brand new sand ladders were now buried deep into the mud, there was no hope for them. At least they received a decent and respectful burial. Also, the entire front bumper received the same fate but this was a small casualty to pay ÔÇô something for future me to figure out. I sheepishly drove back to the car park which by now was pitch black, left my vehicle facing the wall so no one else could see the damage the following day. I purchased a second hand bumper from eBay that night and had to stealthily drive the 4×4 for 4 days until it arrived so the other instructors did not identify the missing bumper. After fitting it early one morning, I could finally relax ÔÇô it was over and my secret would die with me. The small matter of the sand ladders went unnoticed ÔÇô I managed to divert any conversation that could lead to discussed said objects.

But now the time has come to truly admit my error. I literally moved earth and mud to avoid the onslaught of embarrassment from who would have been my rescuers, but more importantly I broke the True Grip code of recovery and denied my fellow off road instructors their rightful bucket of KFC. Some would say this sacred agreement is accompanied by severe consequences if broken and now I am ready for my punishment.

I will buy all staff a bucket each and have already purchased a set of new sand ladders, I hope this is enough.

Now, I am regarded within my work as an instructor of very high standing and therefore I ask your confidentiality between you and other fellow readers.

Even though I managed to worm my way of out of the spotlight back on that 2011 autumn day, I took away a valuable lesson (as well as the land rover bumper). Regardless of what you have done and know, you never stop learning.

Until next time, torque lightly