24 Aug We Rolled the Rover in Vinton Louisiana
We crashed the Rover.
Fortunately, no one was hurt. It wasn’t raining, but the road was wet. We hit a slick spot while exiting the highway – the Rover first swerved and then, as I countered to stay on the asphalt, it spun 180 degrees, sending us into a ditch backward. Upon hitting the slope, the Rover flipped onto her side, landing in a water-filled ditch.
It seemed to happen in slow motion – slow enough that we made eye contact and were able to speak to each other as we realized we were going into the marshy water. I can’t be sure of what was said – I believe I was yelling “baby, baby, baby!” and as water rushed in and our belongings were flung through the cabin, we both reached for our seatbelt buckles. We did not know how deep the water was.
Only a week prior we had discussed the dangers of seatbelts and high water. We had forded a stream on our way to a remote village in the state of Chihuahua and on our return several hours later, we realized that rain had turned the shallow stream into a frothy surging river. We opted to find an alternate route home.
So, when we went in the water, we had our minds on the seatbelts and on getting out of the vehicle as quickly as possible. As soon as the vehicle came to a halt, Mittie was half submerged in muddy water; we stood and scrambled over our gear to get out the back.
We grabbed the already soaked bag of electronics on the way out hoping not all was lost. When we got out and waded through the water, people had already stopped and were calling 911. While our first instinct was to tell them we didn’t need assistance – because we probably could not afford it – we were glad to see officer Scooter Lewis of the Vinton Police Department arrive only a minute or two after we got out of the vehicle.
Officer Lewis was everything you might hope for in an emergency responder – he was professional and reassuring. He brought calm and compassion to chaos. The ambulance is required for any wreck on the interstate but officer Lewis assured us that we could opt-out and not have to pay anything. The two women in the ambulance took our vitals and said we would be fine. They wanted to keep an eye on me for just a moment as my blood pressure was high. As we spoke with them and Officer Lewis filled-out the paperwork, the wrecker righted the vehicle, put the transfer case in neutral (but still let the lifted wheels rotate freely, just in case) and then towed us to the safety of the Love’s gas station. The people at Love’s were kind enough to lend us towels and allow us to shower.
Vinton Louisiana is a small town close to the Texas state line. In Vinton they have a tight-knit community that is accustomed to helping each other and others. A community like this one is a beautiful thing. Officer Lewis called Constable Chris Jowers who in turn called Tony Thrower of the Ward 7 Fire Department. Both men arrived with tools in hand, ready to get La Poderosa running again. After the accident she would not start. The windshield was cracked and the passenger side window had been shattered but the water had allowed for a relatively soft landing and aside from some minor cosmetic damage, she looked just fine. We were lucky to be in such a sturdy vehicle.
The reason the vehicle would not start was because when she rolled on her side, engine oil had seeped past the rings into the combustion chambers – oil was on the wrong side of the pistons and had doused the spark plugs. Tony and Chris removed all plugs and we turned the key a few quick times in the hopes that the engine would cough up as much of the oil as possible. We also had to reset the inertia switch, which cuts off fuel to the engine in the event of a roll or crash (thank you, Brett of British 4×4 in San Antonio for taking our call and telling us where to find the switch). La Poderosa still wouldn’t start. The plugs would have to be replaced but it was getting late in the evening and Mittie’s parents were coming to meet us.
We thanked everyone and took 2 live crawfish from the passenger footwell back to their home before leaving the vehicle where it was. Tony said he would keep an eye on her until we could return with spark plugs. With new plugs she started right up and smoked a lot as we burned off the oil that was not where it should be.
It is hard to express how comforting it is to find a friendly face when in trouble far from home. We had very little money and were quite shaken. And we didn’t know what the vehicle would need to get started. We were at the mercy of the universe and were luckier than we knew to roll over in Vinton Louisiana. The good people who came to our aid will always be in our hearts. They went far beyond the call of duty and did not charge us a penny. Please take a moment to think about that. We try to help travelers in need because, as people who are often on the road in new places, we know how important that can be – but this reminder has been a good one. Everyone needs a helping hand from time to time so please do what you can for your fellow man. Chances are, they’d do the same for you should you find yourself crawling out of an overturned vehicle full of water.
Scooter, Chris, Tony – THANK YOU. Thank you, thank you, thank you.