Tom's Blog

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Towing the broken down red Mule

We have two Kawasaki Mule utility vehicles and they are indispensable for our restoration work. Thursday the red Mule broke down for Kathie when she was at the far end of the service road, about a mile from Conservancy entrance. Fortunately, she was able to reach Ben on the cell phone. We have a heavy duty chain that we use to pull cars out of ditches or when stuck (you'd be surprised how often that happens!), so we threw it in the back of the green Mule and drove to the scene of the breakdown. I drove the green vehicle and Kathie guided the red one.

The main problem with pulling a vehicle is to keep tension on the chain, so there are no stop and start jerks. The vehicle being towed has the responsibility to keep tension by judicious use of the foot brake. We had no trouble along the top straightaway but going down the steep hill at the end was another problem. Our road down the hill has two steep downward parts with a level area in between. (The level area is due to a 20-foot erosion-resistant phase of Black Earth Dolomite inserted between two sandstone layers.) At the top of the first down we disconnected the tow vehicle and let Kathie coast down to the middle level area. Then we hooked up again and I towed her all the way to the bottom. This last was tricky, as the bottom hill is quite steep, and if  you lose control you would fly all the way to the town road below, unless you ran into a large hickory first. Most of Kathie's control was with the foot brake, but she also had her hand on the emergency brake in case the foot brake failed.

We know what could happen if a vehicle went out of control on this lower steep road, as due to a stupid error on my part, the green mule once got loose and went all the way to Pleasant Valley Road, rolling over on the final road cut. (I jumped out just in time.) The repair bill was >$2000!

The photo here shows the final stage of towing.

We could have used our GMC Sierra truck to bring the red Mule out, but it would have been harder to coordinate the job. The two Mules worked beautifully together.

We checked the spark plug and a few other possibilities, then called our service people (Richie's in Barneveld) to come and pick the Mule up. Hopefully we will have it back in a few days.

We bought the red Mule about 10 years ago and it has been indispensable for our restoration work. We have a 65 gallon pumper unit that fits in the back (for burns) and a 25 gallon Fimco herbicide sprayer (for spraying projects too large for the Solo backpack sprayer). The green Mule we later bought second hand and use it when we have more people working, or to take visitors on tours. With the large knobby tires, it works beautifully in snow and we used it all last winter for wetland restoration work. It easily plowed through 6-8 inches of snow along the lane that separates the Crane Prairie from the marsh.


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