Teardrop Trouble: Between a Rover and a Hard Place

Rolling down the original Route 66!

Rolling down the original Route 66!

Some lessons you learn the hard way. I’ve always wanted a vehicle that can take me all the way to the end of any road. Since getting my 1996 Land Rover Disco last summer, I’ve gotten a little cocky about where I take the Teardrop.  After some modifications, including a heavier axle and bigger springs and a lift, the Rattler is pretty rugged. The Rover barely knows the trailer’s back there and since it can go just about anywhere, I sometimes think the trailer can too. On a dirt track in northern New Mexico, I got a very painful, very humbling reminder that I should always scout out new roads on foot before I blindly drag my much beloved trailer down them.

Free site in Carson National Forest, near Angel Fire

Home sweet home in Carson National Forest, near Angel Fire

The directions to the base of the Questa Dome said the road was rutted, but passable to most vehicles when dry. The last half mile could be dicey, but there was room to park (or turn around) before it really went to hell. I don’t know how old those directions are, but at least one major flood has run down that road since they were written; the track went from bad to boulders. Fortunately, there was indeed a place to turn the trailer around. Learning to reverse a 10-foot trailer is a steep learning curve – the smaller they are, the more quickly they jackknife – but after two years of towing, I can just about thread any needle with my rig. I made the 90 degree turn in one try, and got the Rover turned around but the Rattler got stuck between the deep ruts and the steep bank.

Will Brake For Ruins: Bear Valley Cabin

Will Brake For Ruins: Bear Valley Cabin

I had to unhitch. Since the trailer weighs only 600 pounds, I can usually muscle it around by myself. But somehow I didn’t notice the slight slope to the road. As soon as I lifted the trailer off the hitch, it started rolling forward. I tried to stop it, but 600 pounds is still 600 pounds and it crunched me against the back of the Land Rover, pinning my hips between the bumper and the front of the trailer. I don’t think I screamed, but I gasped and gasped and gasped, and summoned just enough adrenaline to push the trailer off me in a Herculean move. I slumped to the ground under the back of the Land Rover, sure I had broken my pelvis. Forcing myself to keep breathing through waves of pain, I flashed back to the scene of my horseback riding accident at 18 and found myself saying “easy, easy, easy” out loud, just as I would to a runaway horse.

As soon as I could move, I began checking myself for serious damage. My left knee was injured; it wouldn’t bend, and the strap on my Chacos on that same foot had snapped. I was glad the sandal had given out and not my knee. Feeling carefully around my hips, I decided my pelvis wasn’t broken, just terribly bruised. So I made myself stand up. I walked slowly back and forth, making sure all my bones were still weight-bearing. Everything hurt, but nothing was broken. The trailer was stuck sideways across the rutted road, jammed up against the bank. Moving it would be an easy job for two people, but much harder for one injured woman with a bad back. Well, shit.

Teardrop self portrait with the new original art I bought from a street artist in Taos: the Rio Grande Gorge in ink and watercolor. Fits right in with the abstract of Hemisngway Playing the Piano that I bought from a street artist in Key West.

Teardrop self portrait with the new original art I bought from a street artist in Taos: the Rio Grande Gorge in ink and watercolor. Fits right in with the abstract of Hemingway Playing the Piano that I bought from a street artist in Key West.

The odds of somebody coming along the road to help me were slim; it wasn’t a well-used track. I could drive the Rover out to the main road and flag somebody down to help with the trailer, but I wasn’t keen on dragging somebody else into my predicament. I’m a stubborn solo traveler; if I get myself into a mess, I’d really rather get myself out of it. I set about chocking the trailer’s wheels and building a line of big rocks across the road, so it couldn’t roll into the back of the Rover again. Then I unloaded everything out of the trailer, which probably lightened the load by less than a hundred pounds (I don’t have a lot of stuff) and set about heaving it back into position. Each heave gave me a fraction of an inch and I had to spin that thing 90 degrees. On a break between efforts, I phoned a friend for a pep talk.

A good place to heal

Campsite in a Sea of Sage

It took me an hour of painful maneuvering, with an assist from my carjack, but I got the trailer re-hitched and reloaded and headed back down the road to a sweet free campsite on BLM land near the Rio Grande Gorge where I stayed last spring. I spent the next few days convalescing, taking long slow walks down the dusty roads that crisscross the plateau east of the gorge; I’m a big believer in healing by moving. I was gentle with myself, my bruises constantly reminding me to take it easy. Despite the pain, in that beautiful place that reeked of sage, a good medicine, I found it hard to complain about anything. Mistakes made, lessons learned, nothing broken. Onwards and upwards!

Bowie lovin' a good dust bath

Bowie lovin’ a good dust bath

Bowie Shake!

Bowie Shake!

Dust Halo. A dirty dog is a happy dog!

Dust Halo. A dirty dog is a happy dog!

Stay tuned for more dispatches from the road!

About theblondecoyote

Mary Caperton Morton is a freelance science and travel writer with degrees in biology and geology and a master’s in science writing. A regular contributor to EARTH magazine, where her favorite beat is the Travels in Geology column, she has also written for the anthologies Best Women's Travel Writing 2010 and Best Travel Writing 2011. Mary is currently based in western Colorado. When she’s not at the computer she can usually be found outside -- hiking, skiing, climbing mountains and taking photographs. Visit her website at www.marycapertonmorton.com.
This entry was posted in New Mexico, Road tripping!, Sustainable Living, Teardrop Trailer, Vagabonding 101. Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to Teardrop Trouble: Between a Rover and a Hard Place

  1. Donna says:

    Mary, so glad you are OK. Stay safe out there!

  2. swo8 says:

    Stand back when that dog shakes out the dust.

  3. Lavinia Ross says:

    Glad you were able to get out of that jam! Good thing you are resourceful, young, and strong. Horseback riding accident – I had a good one at 18 years of age myself – although nowhere near as bad as yours.

  4. shazzarob says:

    Glad your ok.Keep safe.:-)

  5. chris339 says:


  6. Kim says:

    Scary stuff! Way to go getting out of that jam intact!

  7. dorannrule says:

    I am so envious of your strength and determination. What a story!

  8. Ancientfoods says:

    Glad your ok, what a story. I have to look up Rio Grande gorge, I’ve never been there. My husband and I will be in New Mexico this year. I lived there some time ago, miss the beauty of the land and the food.

  9. gaucho8782 says:

    Wow that sucks, glad your were able to get out of that mess relatively unscathed. Looking forward to reading about your adventures this summer! Craig

  10. Wow Mary,Glad you are safe and sound. THat is the only thing I do worry about when travelling solo and off the beaten path. Injury or sudden illness, break downs. Well, glad you didnt break anything.

  11. Jakub Szaper says:

    Enjoy the time. I made similar route (along Route66) in 1992 (2.5 months) with my shabby jeep and tent. Take care and shoot a lot of pictures. Greetings from Poland.

  12. Brian says:

    Ah. The things we go through to get that primo campsite:) Last weekend I wedged my travel trailer into a sweet (but very unlevel) campsite by the lake. As I was leveling the trailer it shifted and the wheel on the front jack almost came off of the leveling blocks. That would have sent about 600 lbs. of hitch weight concentrated into 4 square inches on to my foot (yeah, I was wearing sandles too).

    I’m so glad you’re OK. I look forward to each new adventure you have.

  13. Glad you are OK. The teardrops are easy to tow, but not so easy to back up.

  14. diannefallon says:

    I knew that because I was reading your post, you were ultimately going to be okay, thank goodness. That could have been a very bad situation, and I’m glad good karma was with you!

  15. gpeppers says:

    Thanks so much for sharing your adventures, I’ll live vicariously through them.

  16. furrygnome says:

    Well, I’m sure glad you’re ok. But now I’ll be worried about you out there in the wilderness in between every post!

  17. Sandra says:

    So glad you ended up being okay. . . I’ve been on a road like that, heading up into the Manzanos to (I want to say JFK campsite?) east of Los Lunas/Belen. Wow. We almost got struck by lightening out there by a freak storm, too! 😦

  18. Debra says:

    You have such incredible strength and determination! Why aren’t you plastered all over the press as a role model for women?

  19. Thanks everybody for all your kind words and encouragement! I’m feeling much better and almost ready to climb another mountain (or the reverse mountain of the Rio Grande Gorge)! Hope you all have fantastic plans for Memorial Day weekend! Cheers, M

  20. Jewels says:

    Oh my what an ordeal, so glad you’re okay!

  21. Really glad you weren’t seriously hurt. I am so impressed with your gusto!

  22. liseybee says:

    I have dreams of owning a teardrop, too. Good to hear a tale of caution first, though! I’m heading down to New Mexico tomorrow for a mother daughter trip. Will wave to you in a random direction when I get there.

  23. beachman says:

    wow…..great story. Glad that nothing broke when that trailer had you pinned. Well It’s back out on the road for you. What is next? Where is next?

  24. Sheesh. Be careful.

    And get the knee checked by a real doctor. If you have slightly torn ligaments, and it’s not repaired, you’re hiking adventures are going to be a lot less fun or doable.

    Yes, I know, I’ve got a medical background, so I over worry about lots of stuff.

  25. Mary, so glad you are okay! Your strength and determination are an inspiration. May you have many more adventures (and no mishaps!). Carol

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