Farmer Clive proudly reported to me sometime yesterday afternoon that he’d pulled 258 cars and vans out of the mud and he was looking for his next two in order to make it a round 260. Of course, he carried on pulling cars out of the mud for several hours after that, and I know another 40 had been done by somebody else.
If you’d not guessed it – this was the first Empire LRP of 2016. And it’s what happens after you put well over a thousand people on a farm with clay soil after a rather large amount of rain in the days and weeks leading up to the event.
Much of my time was spent yesterday repeating the same basic information. ‘Have you tried second gear and low revs? And you’ve tried reversing as well as going forward? Have you got your mates to give you a push?’ And lastly: ‘Do you know where your tow hook is?’
This last question caused many people huge amounts of problems. If you drive a car, your tow hook is almost certainly stored with your spare tyre. That means if you’ve already loaded all your kit into the back of your car, you’re about to spend some time unloading it all into the mud. (Top Tip: Buy several heavy duty groundsheets. Stash them somewhere accessible in your car like the back pocket of your drivers seat. Never take them out until you need them. Replace them when you’ve used them.)
Even more annoyingly, some tow hooks have a little plastic cap on the screw thread, presumably put there to frustrate drivers who don’t carry a knife in their car just waiting for an emergency to happen. (Thanks Kat for finding out that fact so that I could let other people know…)
If you have a commercial vehicle of some kind, your tow hook may possibly be attached to the inside of your bonnet. (Thanks Ben for that tip.) You might also find them under your seat, along with some other basic tools.
Smart cars might have their tow hooks under the drivers seat where the battery is.
And If you have a fantastic car manufacturer, your tow hook might be in your glovebox. These are my favourite kind of cars right now.
What I want you to do, as soon as you’ve unpacked your kit from whichever event you’ve been to this weekend, is go and locate your tow hook. Don’t wait, do it now. Remove any stupid plastic cover that they might have put on the screw part of it, and store it in your glovebox. Then you’ll never have to unpack your car again in order to find your tow hook which is stored under the carpet of your boot.
Some second hand cars don’t come with a tow hook. That’s ok, you can buy new ones on Amazon.* You can probably buy them lots of other places too, but Amazon will put it through your letterbox, and then you can put it in your glove box. And helpfully Amazon lets you put your reg number into their search engine which will hopefully help you find the right one to fit your car.
I suggest you also pick yourself up a tow strap.* (I don’t know how good that one is – as always, do your own research). Nine times out of ten on a LARP field it’s going to be someone towing you out who has their own tow strap. But it doesn’t hurt to have one stuck under the passenger seat or somewhere equally accessible. If you have the room I’d also throw in some of these traction thingies.* I have no idea what they’re really called, but I saw a handful of cars rescued with a set of these and bit a of brute force and ignorance.
Hire vans. These were a problem. Hire vans often don’t come with a tow hook. Look, I have no idea why they take them out but it seems to me like a bloody stupid idea. I’m sure there’s a great reason for it that is entirely unknown to the crew of Empire LRP. Make sure you have your documents with you, and that includes things like your recovery helpline number. What we were having to do was get players to call the recovery helpline, who would send the AA van out to the site (other brands of recovery service are available…). The AA person would then attach a special strap to the axel (I think) and then Farmer Clive could pull the car out of the mud. I’m pretty sure that this is bad for your car and bad for your insurance, so don’t do it without a helpful recovery person to instruct you as to exact how it needs to be done.
Of course, none of this is relevant if you have an older and distinctly average car like my faithful little Ford Escort. When you pop off the panel on the front of the bumper there’s a fixed towing point already there. No messing about with screw in hooks or any of that stuff. And in this situation you are allowed to have a few smug thoughts to yourself, before helping someone else unload all their kit into the mud (and please, please remind them to put their towing hook back in their glovebox afterwards rather than anywhere else…).
But seriously, go now. Go and put your tow hook in the glove box. And if you don’t have one, order one. This wasn’t the most exciting post I’ve ever written, but please share this around so that car drivers will see it. I don’t want to see anyone else having to unload their kit into the mud on a LARP site because they left their tow hook with their spare tyre.
Neal Knowles also added the following in a comment on Facebook about being towed:
When towing with a strap or if they are connected both ends never never step over it. Always go around the vehicles. Also when you are doing that first extraction never ever stand in line with the strop. If it snaps or the hooks give out it will fly at stupid dangerous speeds (with a lump of metal on) in the line it is being pulled by. You can imagine the hurt that would cause if it hit you.
Once you are moving the towing vehicle is usually doing most of the work. Best thing to do is keep in neutral, engine running and let them do all the work. Watch their brake lights and brake gently when you see them slow. Follow the course they are doing.
Too many times I have towed people and they are gunning the engine and suddenly get traction. Fly forward and almost hit the back of my car. Also turning the steering wheel wildly side to side. This just makes it harder to pull them as it adds to the resistance.