I tow the Ranger on a 6X11 custom built trailer.  A winch pulls the front wheels up against a solid “headache bar” at the front and the bar and the side rails hold it in place.  That system had worked well for a year.  And then it didn’t…..

It was time to clean the chainsaw oil out of the back of the Ranger, so I loaded it onto its trailer and headed for the local car wash in Elgin. The road was a bit bumpy with frost heaves and all of the sudden the tandem trailer started to sway. I pulled off and checked the load, expecting a flat tire.

The tires were fine, but the Ranger had unhooked itself and was on the verge of dropping off the back of the trailer. YIKES!

Chastened, I moved it back up into position, set the brake again, and checked the retaining strap. Turns out the cutout I had selected on the pan underneath the Ranger doesn’t allow the hook on the webbed strap to seat very well: there’s a beam welded to the upper surface of the plate about 1/4″ from the hole. I hadn’t noticed that, and had blindly hooked at the most convenient cutout. I certainly won’t do that again.

I re-hooked in a safer cutout and proceeded on to Elgin. When I got to the car wash the thing was loose again, though it had not come adrift this time. Why would this slick system go so wrong, so suddenly? Frost heaves on the road! The way I have the thing hooked, a bump which causes the front suspension to flex will temporarily loosen, and potentially unhook, the strap. Clearly I need to develop a more secure fastening system, and as well come up with an additional safety strap which I can monitor from the driver’s seat of the truck.

To get home I tied a stout rope to the bumper of the Ranger and to a cross bar on the A-frame of the trailer. If the rope got tight, I’d know I was in danger, but it would keep the UV from rolling off the back of the trailer until I could stop.

Once home I checked tire pressures. In mid-winter this is always embarrassing. Three of the trailer tires were low. All of the Ranger tires were below 5 p.s.i. as well. Much puffing later, the rig was ready for another cautious roll-out, but I’ll look for a snap system for that web strap which will hold securely without making a mess of the bottom of the Ranger.

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This morning dawned clear and cold, with a strong wind from the north. If ever there would be a day this year for running on the crust, this would have to be it. As soon as I got to the farm I took the Ez-Go out on the rock-hard snow. Great. A quick tour of the property located a couple of dodgy areas where I fell through but had enough momentum to get out again. It looked as though the cart could see some action today.

The first chore was to deliver gas to the stranded Alpine back in the woods. That done, I backed out on my track to the safer fields, then headed north to visit the maple orchard. The cold forced me back to the house for a helmet with visor, but then I did a one-mile circuit of the farm at a great rate.

Play comes before work, but the next task was to take four 55 gallon drums of accumulated sawdust and wood scraps back to the pile at the edge of the property. These had accumulated over the winter and seriously cramped my style, so I was glad to have the drums empty, even if I found the trip out very cold in each case.

A trip to the gas station for fuel for the cart, and I was ready to play in full snowmobile attire. Charlie had shown up by this time and he snapped the action shot above.

Off to the woodlot.

That looks ominous on the page, and I should have known better. Fifty feet along the first trail and I felt the back tires break through the crust. Then I made my second dumb decision: I decided to push the cart ahead, speed up, and hope the crust got better. Three hundred feet further into the woods (and further from the house) I dropped my visor and jammed the cart through the dead branches of an overhanging tree, but it was for naught. All four wheels dropped into the suddenly-weak snow. Oops!

On the brighter side, I was quite close to the abandoned Alpine, so I gassed it up and the engine caught on the first pull. That refurbished primer makes all of the difference. It warmed up readily, but wouldn’t move. The front ski was frozen to the ground, about two feet below the back of the machine, which was sitting pretty on the crust. I raided a nearby rail fence and jammed, prodded and pried until the front tip came free. I thought I’d try it at that, so I fired up, dropped the Alpine into forward, and eased it out of its mid-winter burrow.

The single ski proved to steer very well on the crust. That was odd. I don’t recall ever driving the thing when it was easy to steer. Anyway, I swung around and picked up the Ez-Go’s track, then eased by it and backed in front. I tied a short length of rope from the towing eye on the cart to the hitch on the Alpine, then fired up and eased ahead.

Mistakes travel in threes, right? The Ez-Go pulled much harder than I expected, but the Alpine has lots of torque and so the driverless cart soon popped up on the crust, tried to overtake the Ski-Doo, then veered into a tree, stopping with a crash. It’s a credit to the cart’s design that it wasn’t damaged (see below)*. The polycarbonate fender bent out of the way and the front tire took the impact. My pal J.P. once told me, “The golf cart is the only motor vehicle ever designed to be driven by drunks.” Perhaps I should add “fools” to his definition.

Once it had shaken off the odd bit of tree bark the cart was fine, so I drove it around the remainder of the trail and back to the house in disgrace, collected Charlie, and returned for the Alpine. Charlie’s a little more cautious than I when it comes to crust, and he made me jump out of the cart as he did a loop close to the Alpine, then booted it out of there.

So I brought the Alpine in from the cold after its prolonged session in the woods. All in all, I guess it was the better vehicle today, though the Ez-Go certainly did its best.

UPDATE: March 22, 2008

Today it was still cold and the crust proved more reliable for the Ez-Go. With it I took a tour of the farm and exposed many pixels on the digital camera. The Alpine stayed where it sat. For a photo shoot the golf cart wins, hands down.

Alpine: 1 Ez-Go: 1

UPDATE: March 24, 2008

The crust is still holding well in the cold weather. After a tour of the southern half of the farm, today the Ez-Go earned its keep moving wood for the renovation project from the barn to the house. Boards too long to ride in the truck can be balanced across the Ez-Go’s dash board and the sweater basket for quick transportation when the trailers are all frozen in.

Once again the golf cart keeps finding uses in all seasons, now that its cold-weather fuel supply problem has settled down.

Today I also used the trailer hitch and a tie-down strap to yank two 18′ boards out of the bottom of a lumber pile. The cart offers good low-end torque in a confined area. I can’t see the Alpine doing this.

The papers today are full of the story of the guy who rigged his electric golf cart with a snowplow and remote controls. He clears his driveway from a standing position in his living room window. I don’t know about that, but the Ez-Go is definitely the sanding vehicle of choice on the farm. Put a plastic tub of sand on the back, fill it, add a shovel and away you go. The advantage over the tractor and loader is that it is much easier to get on and off to move the vehicle. The advantage of the cart over boot leather is that it’s much healthier to skid on the ice than to fall on it.

Alpine: 1 Ez-Go:4

* May 25th, 2008. I spoke too soon about the lack of damage from the impact with the tree. The front axle bent a bit. The left front wheel now tows out, and the suspension sits a bit lower on it than the others. This has caused some binding of the suspension on short turns, and it has reduced the turning circle to the right by a foot or two. Apart from that the cart has still worked normally in the many hours of operation this spring. I guess Alpines handle crashes into trees more readily than do Ez-Go’s.

Alpine: 2 Ez-Go: 4