By Neville Ryan
On the return journey from mining Rainforest Jasper (see part 4) we encountered a major problem. After driving the truck over hundreds of miles of dirt roads and tracks and being only a short distance to the paved road, a loud bang let me know one of the tires had blown. We quickly formed a committee, of two, to discuss the situation. Crap! It was an inside tire. It is double the work to change an inside tire so we decided to slowly and very carefully drive the truck to the paved road where, if necessary, help could at least find us. We proceeded and just as I caught sight of the paved road another loud bang! We had lost the outside tire. Nothing left to do but continue on and park along side the paved road and form another committee.
Now we had to confront the problem head on. Should we unload the backhoe before changing the tires? In hindsight………the answer should have been yes.However, if you have read Part 4 you will understand that unloading and then reloading the backhoe was not my favorite thing to do at the time. So the answer to “Should we unload the backhoe before changing the tires?” became a “No”! Once again, in hindsight, this may not have been the wisest decision.
Luckily we had a jack that was suitable for jacking up the side of the truck…….when empty! We however, had a huge backhoe, fuel drums and tools crammed onto the truck bed and the jack wouldn’t lift the wheels to the height we needed. Should we unload the truck now? No need, we will just use more jacks. Problem solved! I cannot say this often enough but that hindsight is a very powerful factor. I think foresight is a much more useful idea.
Through careful placement and gingerly using all four jacks we managed to raise the truck to where we would be able to get the tires off. I should mention at this point that two of the jacks were car jacks. To all you truck drivers and off roaders out there (especially my safety conscious brother) I know exactly what you are thinking and it is too rude to put in this article so I will continue. We managed to get the outside tire off and took a break to admire our handy work and throw around quite a lot of self congratulations on a job well done. It was during this time of feeling how clever we were that we started hearing creaking noises. We were standing there wondering what the hell that noise was when suddenly it sounded like two powerful rifle blasts. The two car jacks shot out from under the truck like bullets and moved so quickly we could barely see them flying past us. Luckily they went past us and not through us. We didn’t really have much time to think about the jacks just at that moment because we were watching the backhoe boom swinging wildly on the truck bed because the other two jacks had collapsed. It is amazing that your life can flash before your eyes………twice……..in such a short timespan. The backhoe stopped swaying and the truck stayed the right way up.
It was time to have a beer and review the situation. Should we unload the backhoe now? Our question was answered by the fact that all four jacks were destroyed (thank goodness) so it was decided that Jonno would drive to town in the 4 wheel drive for help. A few hours later he was back followed by a giant tow truck that looked like it could lift a train engine. We explained what had happened and the operator just shook his head in disbelief, backed that giant up to the truck and lifted it (backhoe and all) like it was toy. The tires were quickly changed and we were off on our 1,000 mile drive back to Perth.
To keep things in perspective, we weren’t speared by flying jacks or crushed by a backhoe so overall it wasn’t a bad day.