Last Update: 2/10/2017

Digging Myself Into a Hole – Literally

Vanholio’s Promaster City van front end wheels dug into a New Mexico sand hole at Hunts Hole  –
Van life ain’t all sunrise vanagon yoga photos. Oh, hell no! Sometimes all goes to shit. Like a couple weeks ago: Got the van sand-trapped at Kilbourne Hole. It’s a dune-rimmed, volcanic crater in south-central New Mexico.

Here’s the 3-day nightmare and how my dumbass attempts at a fix fucked things up more.

Where It All Went Wrong

Vanholio was headin’ from Columbus, New Mexico to Las Cruces. Thought it’d be cool to take the back roads through the southern bit a Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument to see the mountains, the hole, and what else might be out there.

When I got to Kilbourne Hole (after some wrong turns), why, I looked up at that crater rim – up high and out there 30 miles from the nearest town – and I thought it’d be even cooler to spend the night up top.

I cut off the county road, followed the jeep trail to the hole, and started up the rim.

Now, that rim is pretty much a sand dune. Windblown sand has caught up there on the volcanic basalt rock below. And it’s steep. So as I climbed up the soft sand dune, my front wheels dug in and slowed. (The van is a front wheel drive.) Then I came to a stop afore the top a that bit.

As Vanholio was rolling back down the hill, he thought, You know, Vanholio, see that little spot over there? Down here at the bottom? Why don’t you camp there for the night, and maybe hike up the dune to see the crater. No point takin’ a risk.

I shoulda stopped with that thought right there. But did I? NOPE!

The little devil on Vanholio’s shoulder piped in. Vanholio, he said, If you back up and get a running start, you can make it to the top.

Good idea! I thought. And that’s where it all went wrong.

It Worked! (Until It Didn’t)

I backed up the van, gunned it, and ran up that bit a hill, swervin’ the wheel back and forth, plowing sand before me.

At the top, the trail continued upward to my right (eastward) as the rim got higher over that away. I gunned it again and whipped on up at 30 mph, plowing through where the sand was softer.

Until I got almost to the highest point. At a dip in the trail, the sand got … well, whatever the opposite of packed is. I stalled climbin’ outta the dip. Then I tried reversin’ back up out the other way. Just ended up gettin’ stuck at the bottom.

Tryin’ to power out, my front wheels dug down like a pig after kitty shit.

The Extraction Protraction

Day 1

Dried yucca, lumber, sticks, and rocks gathered in a pile
Stage 1: Gathering debris

Seein' the situation, naturally Vanholio did the obvious and shoved some dried yucca and sticks under the tires to get traction. (That's the photo at top.)

Didn’t do shit. Every time I tried to work out, I just dug them front wheels in deeper and deeper.

It were late and gettin’ dark. Plus I was powerful tired and not thinkin’ none too straight. So I said fuckit and went to bed.

Sand leveled out flatter with board in front of van
Stage 2: Leveling sand

Day 2

With some sleep and calm thinkin’, Vanholio realized this was gonna take a full excavation. It was gonna take plannin’ and stages.

Actually had a lotta time to think ‘cause it rained most a the day. Not hard, really a drizzle. But a drizzle with dark clouds and wind and temps in the 40s is kinda miserable. And a hypothermia risk.
Piece of plywood underneath the right front tire for traction
Stage 3: Lumber under tire

No hurry nohow. Had more than a week a food and water packed. Kilbourne Hole is a beautiful campin’ spot. And I had internet. Everythin’ a man could want, besides a willin’ woman.

Later on, a couple hours before sunset, the weather cleared. So I set about Stage 1, collectin’ dead yucca, lumber, sticks, and rocks to build my bridge to freedom.

Day 3

Yucca, sticks, boards, and rocks laid out in two tracks in front of font tires, like a railroad to freedom
Stage 4: Building a bridge

Next morning was clear, sunny, and warmish. Then I set to Stage 2, levelin’ the sand out before the van.

That done, I dug more under the front wheels and put lumber under them for a stronger, more stable footin’. That was Stage 3.

Stage 4 was usin’ the rest a that debri to make a bridge out in front a the van.

Finally, Stage 5 was diggin’ out the sand from under the body, particularly from under the front suspension and engine block.

It was mid-afternoon by this point. Vanholio was filfthy, sore, and tired. But it was worth it. This setup had to work.

He got into the van, turned on the engine, and proceeded to work the gas and gears, rockin’ back and forward to gain his freedom momentum.

But all the dumbass did was dig them front wheels in further and further. Damn near to China. Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!

Callin’ in the Tow Boys

Closeup of sand between front tires, supporting suspension and engine block
Problem: Sand under suspension, engine
This was the situation: As the front tires dug into the sand, that front underbody kept gettin’ rebeached. That’s the big reason I couldn’t get no play.

Now, it’s possible that with jacks, rocks, and a whole lotta diggin’, Vanholio coulda fully excavated the van outta there. Possible.

But I didn’t have no jacks nor rocks. And dammit, I was justly fearful a gettin’ pinned underneath. Then I’d have a real fuckin’ problem, I tell you what!

It was time to call a tow truck, godammit! Which I did.

But that turned out to be a whole other clusterfuck. I’ll relate that shitstorm in the next posted manifesto.

Cover of "All the Whores I Knowed Before" a book by Vanholio! For sale on Click through.

Also See ...


  1. Anonymous10.2.17

    Flip flop winch..

    1. I've seen a video of those. Good idea generally. Big problem I had out there was no materials to make one from and no strong place to attach the rope. The Kilbourne Hole rim is a sand dune with yucca (not so strong roots) and whispy grasses. The whole desert around there is like that. :-(

      For other readers, here's what Anonymous is talking about: . Take note!

  2. Anonymous11.2.17

    Preparedness is the key. High lift jack that can be used as winch, tow rope, bag for deadman anchor.
    That video btw is outright wrong and shouldn't be used. For safety, rope should go on one side. Read up here:

    1. I'm probably gonna get one of them high lift jacks. I hope Vanholio ain't stupid enough to take on a dune again, but sand, mud, snow, and ice do happen regardless.

    2. Thanks, BTW! What I don't know's gonna kill me one a these days.

  3. here is something that looks interesting to try. (ingenious maneuver to get your car out of the mud)

    1. That's great! I'm going to use it to replace the video in the post now, which I see has died.