How To Avoid Having A Mountain Pass Named After You

by Todd Walker

Can you get there from here?

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Dirt Road Girl loves mapping our trips – even if I know how to get there. She claims I have a built-in GPS in my head. That doesn’t stop her from whipping out her trusty atlas from behind her seat. She’s the first to admit that she’s directionally challenged. She doesn’t use her smart phone map. She likes the paper version.

I’ve been “lost” a few times due to poor planning. Being of the male persuasion, I never admit to being lost. I call it exploring. Here are three strategies that will help you navigate the not so clear path to preparedness in Lewis and Clark fashion.

How to Avoid a Donner Party Bug Out

Over 160 years ago, a bunch of pilgrims hitched about 90 wagons and let the dust fly on the “Great Highway of the West” chasing their dream of a better life. The tragedy that followed in the Sierra Nevada happened to everyday folk like you and me – merchants, teachers, farmers, fathers, mothers, and children. Almost half of the group died.

Keep in mind, they weren’t bugging out as we know the term today. The pressure and stress of bugging out runs through my mind like a bad taco through my business end. If you’ve ever packed for an extended vacation, or visit to the in-laws, you know what I’m saying. I once packed my young family of four and moved to Siberia for 6 months. The amount of stress involved in carrying a two-year old on my back, carry on luggage, my four-year old by the hand, and wife #1 by the feet, was memorable – but doable with modern transportation. How about trying it Donner style with primitive means of locomotion? I now understand why death visited these pilgrims even before the winter snows reduced them to eating each other.

Reading survival fiction makes me go hum at times. Some authors portray what I think would be a fairly accurate journey in the land of TEOTWAWKI. For some, not so much. Who knows what to expect? I’m certain that it won’t be a drive or walk in the park. To get a glimpse of a real-life SHTF event, look no further than the Donner Party tragedy. Their life and death struggle offers many lessons on survival. Here’s a few.

Beware of untested advice

Decisions made by ‘leaders’ of the group didn’t end well. Leaders lead only if they have followers. I’ve seen many self-proclaimed leaders and leaders-by-title in this category. All they’re doing is taking a long walk by themselves…with no followers. It’s always easy to follow leaders when they make good decisions and the journey is easy. No one makes all the right choices. I’ve made many horrible decisions that not only effected me, but those following me. That’s the worst part. Knowing I’ve caused pain to those closest to me. There’s no easy way or short cut to right the ship. And the bigger the ship (group), the longer it takes to turn it in the right direction.

James Reed, the unofficial leader of the party, read “The Emigrants’ Guide to Oregon and California” by Landsford W. Hastings before their departure. Granted, Reed had no way of knowing that Hastings route was untested when they packed their last cast iron skillet on the wagons in Springfield, IL. Hastings claimed his short cut would shave 400 miles on easy trails for westward pioneers. It didn’t. Pay close attention to snake oil salesmen like Hastings. Examining his motives, one finds his vision of building his financial empire in the Golden State. Nothing wrong with making money. However, choosing to follow untested advice from his little book was one cause of the Donner Party’s doom.

Even with new information available along the journey, proving this short cut to be a hoax, the ‘leader’ decided to stay the course. If you’ve read advice or watched videos on preparedness and survival, follow your gut – no matter what the ‘experts’ say. Some in the Donner wagon train followed their gut and a proven route and dodged disaster.

Beware of untested equipment

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There’s nothing wrong with owning quality equipment. In fact, I encourage it. However, all the high-tech gadgetry promoted to ensure your survival is worthless if used stupidly. Mr. Reed had a two-story bug out wagon with extravagant suspension, sleeping quarters, and a stove for heat and cooking. His daughter called it “The Pioneer Palace Car.” This pimped out BOV (Bug Out Vehicle) might have made the journey in tact had the head-strong owner, hell-bent on saving a few miles, not pushed it and his family over the proverbial hill of destruction.

Accidents happen. I get it. This was no accident. He was warned. Here’s an account of Reed’s stupid decision from Legends of America:

At Fort Laramie James Reed ran into an old friend from Illinois by the name of James Clyman, who had just traveled the new route eastwardly with Lansford Hastings. Clyman advised Reed not to take the Hastings Route, stating that the road was barely passable on foot and would be impossible with wagons [Emphasis mine]; also warning him of the great desert and the Sierra Nevadas. Though he strongly suggested that the party take the regular wagon trail rather than this new false route, Reed would later ignore his warning in an attempt to reach their destination more quickly.

If your Survive-O-Meter is pegged on red-alert, back off and reassess. Getting to your destination alive is the objective, right? Experience is a great teacher. Why would Reed jeopardize the lives under his care after hearing first hand advice from an old friend? Pride? Belief in untested equipment? Whatever drove him, it cost him and his party dearly.

Putting confidence in your equipment you personally have never tested is dangerous. I’m afraid too many in the preparedness community fall into this category. My nephew and I had a conversation around the fire pit about his ability to make fire. He told me about his journey to making fire from friction. When he was in middle school, he wanted to make fire with a bow drill using only what he had on his person – a pocket knife and his clothing. He’d read “how to” do it. Now he wanted to test the methods in the book. He gathered wood from behind his house, used his boot lace as cordage, and constructed the bow drill. On the second day and many disappointing hours later, his labor paid off. He created fire from friction! Something I’ve yet to manage, even with training wheels.

Doing the stuff trumps knowing the stuff. Have you tested that new pressure canner, rifle, solar charger, or other shiny survival gizmo?

“In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice, there is.”
— Jan L.A. van de Snepscheut


I’ve ignored experience-based advice before and have the scares to prove it. If an alternative route to your “destination” is proven, take it. Weigh the risks and calculate the potential pros and costly cons. Follow your gut. Arriving off schedule is better than dying. Stay prayed up and laid back.

Beware of untested relationships


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Iron sharpens iron, but there’s a lot of heat in the process. How do you plan for the internal stress that will visit any group on the run to their hide-y-hole? Even if you are able to shelter in place to weather an extended TEOTWAWKI event, plan on tempers flaring. Will arguments over those struggling to keep up or pull their weight with the party end in death? James Reed was banished (some of the group wanted to hang him) for stabbing one of his fellow stragglers. Geez, keep up or die, eh! Other accounts say he killed a teamster for excessively whipping the oxen. Whatever the cause of the attack, it highlights our susceptibility to stress when facing less than predictable situations.

Even if you’re in a group of people you really like and respect, sparks can fly. It would be wise to develop a plan for the added stress and pressure of bugging out or staying put in a world of ‘zombies’ when civilization collapses. The Donner Party had to deal with their own ‘zombies’ – some from within, some from outside their group. Mr. Wolfinger hung back with a few others to cache his wagon in Nevada. Not wise. The survivors in his small group said he fell prey to Indians. The oxen and cattle were easy targets for the natives as well.

From within the group, there was an accidental shooting, minor accidents leading to infection and death, and in the most extreme stage, cannibalism. I’m in no position to judge. I’ve never been close to this kind of extreme survival situation.

In our unpredictable futures (maybe the future is predictable to a degree), it would be wise for us all to heed lessons from the tragic trip of the Donner party. Practicing resilience, self-reliance, and preparedness might keep our names out of the history books.


Categories: BOV, Preparedness, Self-reliance, SHTF, Survival, TEOTWAWKI | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment


I want to give Kwitchabichen a big hat tip for his guest post today. Head over to his site for more goodies.

             One of the most critical and often overlooked parts of any preppers/survivalist bug out plan is the Bug Out Vehicle or B.O.V. The BOV is any vehicle that will be your primary means of transportation during a time of crisis. This vehicle can be anything from a daily driver to a monster truck made just for the zombie apocalypse. Most people will prefer a large 4×4 to a small car or van. But many can’t afford to have a dedicated BOV and will have to make do with what they have, and that’s okay. As long as it gets your group and gear to where you are heading then it’s doing its job. For those of us that have a daily driver car and would like to have a dedicated BOV there are so many options out there. Everything from a nice new rig down to a $500 beater can be made into a BOV.
            Choosing a BOV really comes down to what you can afford and what your preferences are. 4x4s are great for off-roading but will cost most than the same model truck in 4×2 (two-wheel drive).  How much off-roading are you planning on doing to reach you safe area? Will you be blazing a trail through the woods to reach a remote cabin you built? Or can you reach your destination via the highway or paved back roads? These are all questions to consider when looking for a BOV. Also you should plan on how many people and how much gear you will be carrying, no need to buy a two-seater little truck when you have six family members and their gear to load up.
            Once you have a BOV that will work for you there are some modifications you may want to consider. For this I’m going to assume most people will be heading for the hills off the beaten path when the shit hits the fan and will have some kind of truck or SUV. But all these mods will serve you well in the city.
First up is lighting. Sometimes the two little factory lights up front just won’t do. To remedy this problem there are many after market lights and light bars to choose from. You don’t have to go out and buy the most expensive lights you can find. There are many low-cost light systems available at Wal-Mart or online. One thing I have noticed is most lights no matter the cost or brand use the same bulbs, so you are really just spending extra money for the housing and a brand name and receiving the same amount of output.
            Extra lights are very easy to install, most will come with the hardware and have instructions that are easy to follow. Just pick out a place for them and mount up. You will have to run a few wires, one to the battery positive with a fuse, the other to ground. Don’t forget the switch on the positive wire to operate them. Again these are very simple. Just splice the switch inline with the positive wire, figure out where you want it and your done.
            Another fun thing to have is a winch. These come in all types and sizes. You will need to find one that is rated to pull the gross vehicle weight of your BOV. Now these can be rather expensive so remember there is no shame in buying used or shopping around. A few things to consider when buying used it to thoroughly inspect the winch. If possible have the seller hook it up and run it for you to make sure all switches and motors are working correctly. Also take a look at the cable, some kinks and bends are okay, but beware of any frayed strands in the cable. If you find some don’t fret, this can be repaired. If the broken strands are close to the beginning of the cable (the end with the hook), you can cut off that part and with some cheap hardware from a local home improvement store reattach the hooking device. You will lose whatever length you cut off of course but there should be plenty of cable left. Now if the cable is completely messed up, you can pick a new one up at your local hardware store, which will be cheaper that ordering one from the manufacture. Make sure to get the same size cable that came with the winch.
            Installing one of these bad boys is a little more complicated. If you are ordering a new one, it should come with all the hardware and instructions to make installation less painful. If you get one that’s used with no hardware, I quick search online at the winches website or car and truck forums will be able to point you in the right direction for what you will need to purchase.
            Power inverters are something I think everyone should have on their BOV. These are relatively cheap and can be found at any local electronic store. They come in many different configurations and sizes, from single outlet to multi outlet. Almost all inverters just plug into a cigarette lighter port. Id prefer a larger one with several outlets so be able to run all your handheld electronic devices, cooler, coffee pot, or whatever (you know the important stuff).
            Now that you have all your extra lights and winch installed I would recommend looking into a high output alternator and a good deep cycle battery. These can be pricey and depending on you vehicle can be a pain to install, but the payoff is worth it. All the lights, winches and beer coolers running on your BOV will put a strain on the starting and charging systems. Just think of it as insurance. You wouldn’t want to be stranded with a dead battery.
            Other areas of your BOV to look at modifying would be the tires and suspension. A set of good off-road tires will go along way and save your butt where to pavement ends. With tires and other rubber products going up in price in recent years, do your homework. Shop around town, call stores and look online for the best deals. Don’t over look used tire stores. They often have decent tires that someone traded in for something else (just check them for nails and dry rot before buying). Word to the wise, off-road tires or mud tires will not last as long as regular tires if you plan on using your daily driver as a BOV. They wear very fast on the highway and, depending on the tread type, will made all sort of noise on pavement. With the expense and longevity (or lack there of) I’d recommend putting a good used or cheap set on a dedicated BOV and keep it off the highway as much as possible (just my two cents).
            Suspension components are second to tires. I not going to tell you to go out and buy a 12in skyjacker kit with a 6in body lift, those are nice but too costly for my taste. A good set of stock size off-road shocks will do fine in most cases. Just enough to help the vehicle perform well when the pavement runs out and you wont have to buy a bunch of other expensive parts to make them fit and work properly. Pricing depends on the brand and vehicle. I would have to say not to buy used shocks because its hard to tell if they are good or not when not installed on a vehicle unless you really know what you are looking for (I have a hard time telling so…. Yeah).
            As for the rest of the suspension, if it’s not broken leave it along. If you drive your BOV a lot and it feels sloppy in turns, a good rubber bushing set will go along way. Sway bar bushings, sway bar end links, upper and lower control arm bushings will really bring an old truck back to life (suspension wise). These don’t cost too much and some are easy to replace, but the control arm bushing is what will hurt your pocketbook. They are not easy to install. I’d recommend a professional mechanic replace them.
            One last thing. A good brush guard is not a most have but it wont hurt either (plus they look cool as hell). The benefits to one of these is pretty obvious, they will keep the front of your BOV safe from most of the things you may run into off the beaten path. Brush, tree limbs, deer, and zombies will all be push aside while saving your head lights and radiator from damage. They are often easy to find used for whatever vehicle you drive and are relatively easy to install.
Categories: BOV, Preparedness, Self-reliance, SHTF, TEOTWAWKI | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

Emergency Car Repairs WTSHTF

Reprinted with the author’s permission.

 Source: Kwitchabichen
                Well I thought I’d write up a post about what I know to help the prepper community. I’m not ex military or a professional survivalist but I am an ASE certified mechanic and make my living turning wrenches. Often in my job (maybe two to three times a week) I’m forces to go on service calls after broken down vehicles in our fleet. Drivers usually give a vague description over the radio of what is wrong with their vehicle and I have to decipher what I will need to take with me. Now I can’t carry everything with me (that’s what the shop and parts room are for) I do carry a few tools and a handful of parts that may be used. Several times I have been out and the problem is not what the driver described (that’s why they are drivers not mechanics) and I have to rig and fix the best I can with what I have.
                So here I will tell you some common problems and how to fix them enough to get you down the road or across town. One thing to mention is that these are not permanent fixes! Do not do these to your car or truck and think everything is good to go for another 100,000 miles. These fixes are not just internet rumor either; I have uses each of these to get a vehicle back to the shop for repair. Sometimes it is just a few miles up the road I have to travel, but more often than not I have to get the vehicle in from way out in the country. These tips and tricks will help you get going again in a SHTF or TEOTWAWKI scenario. WARNING SOME OF THESE ARE DANGEROUS AND WILL KILL YOU IF NOT DONE SAFELY PLEASE KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING BEFORE ATTEMPTING.
                First up is coolant problems. Blown hoses, loss of water, etc. Blown hoses can be fixed easy with tape (as long as they are not completely torn up, then you have to use lots of tape).
First thing you would want to do is use electrical tape not duct tape. Duct will not stick if there is any wetness on the hose and coolant itself is kind of slimy even after you wipe it off. You will want to wrap the hose as best you can and as many times you can. Once you get it sealed pretty well and you have coolant back in the system the next thing is to loosen the radiator cap, this will keep the system from building up pressure and blowing your repair off. It won’t over heat with the cap off but it will steam something to keep in mind.
                If the hose happens to be a heater hose (two hoses that come from the motor to the firewall together) these don’t need to be repair, they can be rerouted. You will need to remove the good hose from the firewall and run it to where the busted one comes out of the block. This will bypass the heater core so you won’t have heat but the motor will still hold water and you can drive on.  Some cars and trucks have heater control valves that cut the flow of water off to the heater core. You can use these to block the water from reaching the busted hose, keeping the water in the motor where it should be.
                Once you have repaired or rerouted your hoses you will need to refill the coolant you lost. Naturally a 50/50 mixture of water and antifreeze is what you want (may differ in extreme hot or cold climate) but if you don’t have any antifreeze with you water by itself is ok even in cold weather as long as you keep the motor running and warm it won’t freeze.
                Starter problems are the next big thing. Starters have a habit of not working when you need them. The most likely problem with one not turning over is that the brushes are seized up. A simple tap with a hammer, knife handle, or in one case a big rock, will knock the brushes lose for a few more starts. Something you have to beat the shit out of them but try not to do much damage. I have seen some start for months after tapping with a hammer before it finally stopped working.
                The second problem is a bad starter relay. The relay is located on top or side of the starter itself. When this goes you will need to cross it out. Locate the large wire (most likely the red one) that runs straight from the battery and a smaller one sometimes purple (it will be much smaller, don’t confuse with the ground that is the same size as the power cable) using a screw driver or knife blade to make contact between these two will cause the starter to turn. Make sure the key is on before doing this or you will just be turning the engine over and not starting it. There will be some sparks so don’t be afraid, you will not be electrocuted.
                Alternators are next. There is not much to do when one stops charging, especially on newer vehicles that have electronic controls everywhere. Older cars and trucks with mechanical fuel pumps and few electrics can run for a long time on just battery power. One thing to keep in mind is to cut off everything you can that uses power, lights, radio, windows. This will reduce the draw on the batteries and keep the engine running for a while longer, hopefully to safety or somewhere to get another vehicle.
                Once you find a new car in the SHTF scenario most likely the batteries will be dead. Manual transmissions can be bump started by placing the shifter in first or second with the key on and pushing the car to some speed and releasing the clutch. There will need to be some charge in the batteries to get the car running and the alternator charging, 9.5v is enough to energize the alternator to make it charge but not enough to start the motor. (Note alternators are not generator, generators can make power from nothing, alternators need some power to energize it to start creating power) so if the batteries have nothing you can use the one from your other car to help energize the alternator after bump starting.
                Last topic I want to touch on is transmissions. For and automatic trans there is not much you can do for it if it goes out. Something simple like a buster shifter linkage is easy to deal with. If you find yourself with this problem, you will need to find the shifter linkage on the side of the trans, here you can either repair the cable or move it by hand.
The car will need to be running and the park brake applied to do this (WARNING KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING BEFORE YOU TRY THIS, OR HAVE SOMEONE HOLD THE BRAKES FOR YOU OR BLOCK THE WHEELS, IF NOT YOU WILL GET RAN THE FUCK OVER!!!) once you locate the shifting lever take note what gear it was in when it broke. Let’s say it messed up in park, that means the lever will already be in the park position, just like the shifter inside move it (easy click) down for reverse, neutral, drive. Just remember to put it back when you stop, the car will not start if you leave it in drive and shut it off.
                Manual transmissions are little better to mess with, shifting can be done inside the car on some models if the shifter handles messes up. But I want to talk about blown clutches. These are not the end of the world in an end of the world scenario.
                If you find yourself with a busted clutch fear not I can help. Most times when one slips and tears up you can still get it going. First you will need to get the car rolling some with the motor running let the clutch out and drive on. This works most times since taking off from a stop is the hardest on clutch. Once you are moving there is less stress on the clutch and most times it will hold. One thing to learn before the world ends is how to shift without a clutch. Most if not all semi truck drivers shift this way, less wear and tear on the clutch. Once you get the car rolling and the clutch engaged, shifting without it will help you get that last several miles (or days) out if it so you can get to safety.
                Shifting up all you need to do is get the engine rpm up while driving, let off gas, and pull the shifter out of that gear, next before the rmps drops to low slide it into the next gear.  Don’t force anything. I find it easiest once you get it out of the first gear, is to hold the shifter up against the next one (don’t grind it) until the rpms drop and match inside the trans and it will fall right into that gear.
                Shifting down is a little harder and needs more practice than up shifting. From high gear, let off gas while holding the shifter (putting pressure on it like you are pulling it out of gear) the shifter should fall out of that gear. Once in neutral rev the engine up to raise the rmps in the trans while holding the shifter up to the next lower gear. Do this right and it will grab the lower gear.
                That’s it for now. If you have any auto questions or topics you want help with, leave a comment and I will do my best to answer.
Categories: BOV, DIY Preparedness, Preparedness, Self-reliance, SHTF | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments

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