On January 4, 2017, while crossing near Ontario, OR on our way back to Louisiana, we encountered a mighty snowstorm. Weather conditions rapidly changed for the worse, visibility was next to nothing and the roads quickly iced over.
This seemed to have happened within minutes. The weather and roads changed so fast that a few miles before I was cruising at approximately 60 miles per hour in 2-wheel drive without any issues or concerns. As we approached a hill, we noticed the conditions began to change. As a precaution, I slowed down to about 45 miles per hour and focused on driving. Once we crested the top of the hill, we noticed other vehicles slipping and sliding on the roadway and a semi truck in the ditch ahead of us.
After reaching the top, I felt the rear end break loose and begin to fishtail. Knowing that heavy breaking and ice don’t make for the best combination, I began downshifting. The fishtail continued to get worse and I was in the process of putting it into 4-wheel drive when the FJ slid sideways and drifted a lane.
The driver's side tires bit and caused us to roll off the road, into the ditch/median dividing the north and southbound lanes of I 84. As we rolled, I heard two loud “pops” in quick succession. This was the side curtain airbags deploying closely followed by the front windshield breaking. Luckily for us, the FJ only rolled once and there were several feet of snow on the ground to help soften the impact.
One thing I’ve learned due to my background and some of the neat places I’ve worked is staying calm in high-stress situations can make the difference between life or death. Not saying that at that moment we were at risk of dying, but poor decisions made from that point forward could lead to injuries or possibly even death.
In high-stress situations staying calm helps decisions to be made based on rational thought versus making them out of confusion, fear or panic. Staying calm in high-stress situations or chaotic environments isn’t always easy because our bodies have built in mechanisms to helps us focus on threats/dangers and survive in those type of situations.
Adrenaline is one of those mechanisms. It is a great tool to help a person stay alive or find the strength they never knew they had. Although adrenaline is good, in my opinion, and experiences, it can also work against you if you let it. Once it kicks in, your heart rate, breathing, and overall focus change. You can fall victim to "tunnel vision" and it can become difficult to make informed, rational decisions because your brain and body start to work on training, instinct or lack thereof.
For me, a way to help my brain get back on track in these type of situations is taking a big, deep breath and telling myself to “calm the F*CK down”. Now obviously you don’t need to say the “F” word, but for me it helps to convey the importance of calming down and sometimes, it’s liberating to drop an F-Bomb. When I take a big, deep breath, it allows more oxygen back into my body. By doing this, it helps reduce my heart rate slightly, opens up the world around me (tunnel vision is reduced) and focuses my mind on what tasks need to be accomplished next.
As we sat upside down in the FJ, being held in place by our seat belts, I took a big, deep breath and told myself to “calm the F*CK down”. I did a quick assessment of the overall situation. Some of the things I was looking/listening/smelling for were:
I asked Ashlie if she was ok. She responded “yes”, she followed that up with “I’m so glad you strapped everything down!” Since everything was strapped down, we avoided any possible secondary injuries from large objects being tossed around during the rollover.
Let's back up for second and review the part where I strapped everything down. I am one of those guys that try to be prepared for everything. I’m also of the mindset, that it’s better to have something and not need it than need it and not have it.
Over the years, I have added tie down points everywhere in the back of the FJ to include, the top of the cargo box. My loving wife would give me crap for taking so much time loading the FJ and making sure everything was secure. I was like the Rain Man of strapping luggage/cargo down.
As we hung upside, a little smirk came across my face when I heard her say those words. I knew I did good, even though I had just rolled the FJ. I think we both learned something in that moment. Ashlie learned that I really like the movie Rain Man and I learned how important it is not to listen to your wife…I mean, not to be lazy when packing a vehicle.
After checking on Ashlie, I gave myself a quick once over. I knew the next thing for us to do was get out of the FJ. Even though it was cold outside and snowing, I decided it wasn’t in our best interest to use the FJ as shelter. The roads were icy and we weren’t that far off the roadway. What I didn’t want to happen was one or more vehicle loose control and crash into the FJ while we were still inside.
The first step, getting out of the seat. I hit the eject button on the seat belt and dropped onto the roof. I told Ashlie it was her turn and down she came. I then deflated and cut the side curtain airbags on the passenger side. I tried opening the door from the inside, but the snow was preventing it from opening enough for us to get out. Next option was to break the window. I keep a glass punch on my visor, but it came off at some point during the rollover. Next option was to use my trusty knife and hit the window in one of the corners.
Before I had a chance to do that, I heard someone outside the vehicle. I noticed the passenger door start to open and a foot clearing snow out of the way. It was a truck driver who saw the FJ upside down, but no one moving around. Thankfully he stopped to help us so we didn’t have to break the window and crawl out, otherwise our hands would have looked like John McClane’s feet!
Once out of the FJ, I called 911 and Ashlie contacted our insurance company. Due to the weather conditions, it took several minutes to give the 911 dispatcher our exact location. I could not see any mile markers around us or any signs. Using my GPS, I was able to tell her what exits we were in-between and large landmarks I could see.
While we were outside waiting for emergency services, we observed several vehicles sliding around the roadway. One of the problems I saw, was us and an 18 wheeler both were in the ditch. Traffic could not see us until they reached the top of the hill. This did not leave them much distance to slow down before reaching our location.
I carry several things in the FJ to help make us more noticeable in the event of an emergency. A few of those things being:
Lucky for us, a guy stopped and said we could use his truck for shelter until help arrived. Before I would let Ashlie (who isn’t a fan of cold weather) seek refuge, I asked her to take a picture of me standing on the FJ in my Chive shirt. Never miss a photo op! KCCO
It didn’t take long for an Oregon State Trooper and a tow truck to arrive. Once the tow truck driver recovered the FJ and loaded it up, we were good to go. Both the tow truck driver and the State Trooper were kind enough to offer us a ride to a hotel. We decided to take the tow truck driver up on his offer, that way we could get our bags out of the FJ. The State Trooper and tow truck driver were very kind and professional. They obviously knew Ashlie and I were from out of town and did everything in their power to make the overall experience as easy and stress-free as possible. Thank you, gentlemen!
The State Trooper, tow truck driver and other people who stopped to check if we were ok, noticed some of the interesting stickers I had on the FJ that you could read really well when the vehicle is upside down. I had one on the skid plates that said "If You Can Read This, Sh!t Just Got Real!" and a Problems/No Problems sticker on the back window. Several years ago I added the Problems/No Problems sticker because I thought it was amusing. After almost flopping the FJ onto its roof while on a trail in Texas last year (2016), I came up with the "If You Can Read This, Sh!t Just Got Real!". I never really wanted to see how those decals looked on the FJ while it was upside down, but I did. I gotta say, they looked great! The best way to promote a product you make is to show it off and that's just what we did that day. The "If You Can Read This, Sh!t Just Got Real" decal is product tested and roll over approved!
If you haven't noticed, I'm trying to sell more of the "If You Can Read This, Sh!t Just Got Real!" decal by dragging this shameless promotion out as long as I can....buy the "If You Can Read This, Sh!t Just Got Real!" decal...
The following day, we started making phone calls to vehicle rental companies and towing services. The insurance company informed us it could take up to five days before they could get an insurance adjuster out to our location. We couldn’t wait five days and I wanted to get the FJ back home for a proper burial. We would either have to trailer the FJ back or have it towed back. I contacted several towing services to get quotes. The cheapest quote was about $1,800. I figured I could do it a lot cheaper by renting a truck and trailer.
There were a U-Haul and Enterprise rental facility near our hotel. I contacted U-Haul first to see if I could rent a full vehicle trailer and truck. U-haul stated, vehicle trailers and box trucks are good for a one-way rental, but their pickup trucks are not. I would have to either rent a large box truck to tow the trailer with or rent a pickup truck, drop the FJ off and then drive it back to Oregon .
I contacted Enterprise next. What I didn’t realize was they have two divisions. One for regular vehicle rentals (cannot tow) and one for truck rentals (can tow). Both allow for one-way rentals. The nearest truck rental facility was in Boise, ID, which was several hours from our location. My plan was to walk to Enterprise in town (about 3 miles), rent a car and drive to Boise, ID. From there, I’d rent a truck and drive back to load the FJ on the trailer.
As luck would have it, once I reached the Enterprise rental place in town, they happened to have the exact type of truck I needed (4x4 Dodge 2500). Apparently, the guy who rented it was unable to make it to Boise, ID so he dropped it off at that location shortly before I got there.
I drove back to the hotel like a boss, picked Ashlie up and then we went shopping for supplies. We bought several large straps to secure the FJ, a few tarps, and candy. Next stop was U-Haul. A large amount of snow dropped on the town from the storm which made it challenging for us to get out with the trailer.
The original plan was for us to pick up the trailer and head to the salvage yard where the FJ would be loaded onto our trailer using their tow truck. Like I said, the snow made it difficult. I ended up getting the truck and trailer stuck in U-Haul's driveway.
The tow truck driver was kind enough to load the FJ up, drive out to our location and pull us out. Once he finished recovering the second vehicle of ours, he loaded the FJ onto our trailer.
I spent the next hour or so strapping the FJ to the trailer and preparing it for the 2,000-mile journey back to Louisiana. While I was doing that, Ashlie was in charge of making sure the heated seats in the Dodge were properly working.
After loading everything up, we hit the road. Our route back would take us through Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and finally Louisiana. It was slow going for the first two days due to road and weather conditions. At one point, while crossing through a part of Wyoming, traffic was doing about 15-20 mph with only one lane open for 100 miles or so.
We had the opportunity to meet up with the Venture Overland crew in Denver, CO for a hearty breakfast. It was great to see them again and do one last meet with the FJ, even if she was on a trailer. Before leaving the meet, the Venture Overland crew and I decided the Dodge was missing something so they threw one of their stickers on there. Whenever given the chance, you should always sticker the rental! #StickertheRental
If you want to connect with a great group of people, check out the Venture Overland crew here: VO Facebook page
Ashlie and I learned, when you roll a vehicle, things just randomly get lost. One of those things was her deodorant. It was in her purse and decided to liberate itself while we were busy testing gravity.
The days following the rollover, we searched the FJ in all the normal places you'd look for something. We never found it. I just figured it went to that magical place socks go after putting them in the dryer.
I told Ashlie we could buy her another deodorant and she hesitantly refused. She said that was her lucky deodorant and she wouldn't stop till she found it. She said something about having a particular set of skills finding things. That's what we get for always watching the movie Taken...Good thing we don't watch the Saw movies or I have a feeling we'd be playing some stupid games.
As we pulled into a truck stop for fuel, Ashlie said she was going to look in the FJ again for her deodorant. She said she found a clue while looking at pictures. On my way back to the truck, I heard her yell, "Hooray! I found it". Of course, I had no idea what she was talking about because I had already forgotten our conversation. Typical guy thing.
Low and behold, she located her lucky deodorant stick in between the drivers side sun visor and headliner. She was my Liam Neeson, but not in a weird way. I've got to admit, that deodorant plays a mean game of hide-and-seek. Side note, I was very glad she found it because she needed it. Don't tell her I said that.
On our way home, Ashlie and I had lots of interesting conversations and even questioned parts of the rollover.
Some of those questions came about when I was trying to figure out what I could have done differently to avoid pulling a 4G inverted dive in the FJ like my man Maverick did in Top Gun.
Somehow, these questions led to our patch collection on the headliner in the FJ. Most of our patches come from places we've visited, off road clubs we've met up with, patches from when I was in the Military or patches we have designed and sell in our store. I would estimate there were more than 70 patches up there.
Collecting patches and placing them on the headliner has become pretty popular in the off-road community over the last few years. There are several ways people attach the patches to their headliner. Some of the more popular methods are using velcro on the back of the patch or using push pins to hold them in place.
I use velcro on the back of mine. Works great, but occasionally, a patch will drop from the roof and hit one of us. Usually, when this happens, it scares the ever living crap out of whoever it hits!
Ashlie: "Remember when we'd be driving the FJ and a patch would randomly fall from the roof and scare the crap out of us?"
Me: "Do you think we scared the crap out of the patches when we rolled the FJ and fell on them?"
Speaking of patches, we have one to commemorate the time I parked the FJ on her roof. Most significant events in life deserve their own sticker or patch. This is one of those moments.
It comes with a velcro backing and ready to be stuck to your headliner. We have worked with our engineers (not real engineers) to develop this patch. We gave it special attributes that could cause it to fall on you while you're driving and give you or your passenger a nice jolt of fear.
To get yours, please click on the picture or link: Keep Calm Roll Over patch
...but wait, there's more!
Our "Never Forget" LIMITED (only 100 made) edition patch is now available too!
Click on the picture or the link below to get yours while supplies last.
Product page: Never Forget patch
Back to the story...
While towing the FJ, I could feel how sad she was. In past road trips, she and I would stop to get some nice sunset or sunrise pictures together. The FJ loved being in front of the camera. She always showed her curves off like she was one of those gals on the runway.
I know she didn’t like me taking pictures of her in that condition. She would have rather stood on her own four tires, but deep down, she wasn’t ready to let go yet. After some back and forth discussions, we came to an agreement. I would only take two pictures of the sunrise to her back while she rode her chariot into Valhalla.
Now if you’ll excuse me. I apparently got some dust in my eyes and they’re starting to water…
On Sunday, January 8th, we pulled into the driveway at our house. My buddy Tal (fellow FJ owner) was waiting on us to help unload the FJ. We pushed it off the vehicle trailer, unloaded the remaining items into the house and walked around the FJ assessing the damage and grunting.
The FJ gave me a sense of adventure and freedom I hadn't experienced before. It also allowed me to become part of an amazing community of fellow FJ/Toyota owners and offloading enthusiasts.
I wanted to travel this beautiful country of ours and visit as many places as I could. I was fortunate to do just that and had the pleasure of meeting up with so many great people along the way.
Early on I set a goal for myself and the FJ to visit all lower 48 states. The only way to accomplish that was to get out there and Explore America by taking several large road trips.
In October 2016, Ashlie and I planned another road trip, which I would start in December. We named this road trip, Winter is Coming. Before this last and final adventure, the FJ and I had visited 47 states (some multiple times). I left home December 8th for another adventure.
Little did I know this would be the start of the last and final road trip in the FJ. With only one state left to cross off my list, I made it a priority to visit North Dakota and accomplish my goal. On my way to Washington state, the FJ and I did just that! A few weeks later, the FJ was laying upside down in a ditch.
Winter came and the FJ did her job by keeping Ashlie and me safe. I'm thankful for the friends gained and adventures had while owning the FJ. Never would I have thought a vehicle could impact my life the way the FJ did. I'm sure many of you know exactly what I'm talking about. I'm glad she hung in there so we could accomplish our goal of hitting all lower 48 states. I estimate that we traveled about 70,000 plus miles on road trips together.
I will set the same goal for the next vehicle. If I flip that vehicle shortly after visiting all lower 48 states, then I'll stop using that as a goal.
Even though it sucks rolling a vehicle, especially 2,000 miles away from home, I’m grateful it happened when and where it did. My reasoning is:
Maybe this happened because it was time for something new, maybe Ashlie and I need something to bring us even closer, maybe to prove that I do all my own stunts, maybe to tell a story that might help someone else down the road or maybe just because that’s life. Whatever the reason, I’m glad it played out the way it did.
Since the roll over till now, I have had a decent amount of time to think about the accident and discuss it with others. I have had some interesting conversations with people and some less interesting conversations with myself regarding the accident and what I could have done better to prevent it from happening. Since I plan on doing future winter road trips, I think it would be beneficial to me, my wife or other passengers who might travel with me if I did an assessment or review of the accident.
In the military, we would call this an After Action Review (A.A.R.). The point of this type of review is to identify and analyze what was supposed to happen, what actually happened and how it could have been done better. Once you have those hard point identified, you figure out what went well (sustained) and what did not go well (improve). Normally, an A.A.R. is done immediately after, but I have been lazy.
Something I learned early on in my military career is constructive criticism is a good thing and has to be taken without anger. Important lessons can be learned by taking responsibility for your actions and admitting your mistakes. That's hard to do because we don't like being told we messed up or that we were wrong. For me, the easiest way I learned to accept this was to realize we are humans and humans make mistakes. Oh, and push-ups, lots and lots of push-ups.
The whole point of doing this review is so the next operation, training exercise or military movement is more successful. The best part about an A.A.R. is it's not specific to just an operation or the military. It can be applied to everyday life. Most large corporations us this in their business. They might give it a different name, but the basic principle remains the same. Most of us already do some form of this weather we know it or not (conscious or subconscious).
Without any further delay, let's dive into the A.A.R.
What was supposed to happen: Ashlie and I were to travel from Washington State to Colorado Springs, CO and spend a few days visiting the Garden of the Gods area.
What actually happened: I rolled the FJ in Ontario, OR while on our way to Colorado Springs, CO.
1: Remained calm, which allowed for easier management of the situation
2: All cargo (including Ashlie and I) were buckled in/strapped down which helped to prevent secondary injuries
3: "Emergency funds" were built into the trip budget during planning which made dealing with an emergency much easier and helped to reduce stress
1: Better placement of emergency supplies, which can be accessed no matter what the vehicle orientation/condition might be
2: Reduce speed to a much safer and more manageable rate while traveling through adverse weather conditions.
3: Have a minimum of three days worth of emergency supplies (food, water, medical, ect) on board in the event a similar situation occurs in a rural area
What was learned:
I let my pride get the best of me. I should have been driving slower and put it in four-wheel drive. Even though in the past I had successfully driven in two-wheel drive in similar or worse conditions, did not mean I would have been successful that time. I should always error on the side of caution. Making it to the destination safe is more important than time or pride.
I would blame the roll over on my own actions versus equipment or weather conditions. Certainly, weather and other things were a factor, but my negligence in not properly accessing the situation was the deciding factor in my opinion.
One of the more controversial topics when discussing the rollover has been tires. At the time of the accident, I was running Nitto Trail Grapplers (295/70/17) which are classified as more of a mud tire. They perform decent in snow and ice, but excel in mud or dirt.
For several years, the Nitto Trail Grappler has been my tire of chose. I found them to be a great all around tire which has served me well on long road trips where I would find myself in deferent environments (snow, mud, sand, dirt, ect).
*To read our Nitto Trail Grappler tire review article, please click: HERE
Some people living up north switch to a snow tire during the winter which makes sense due to the amount of snow and ice they get. For us living down south, we normally stick to one type of tire year round because we very rarely have to deal with snow or ice.
On winter road trips I deliberately select my routes to take me through the mountains. I love the scenery and atmosphere in those small towns during the winter. Typically, the mountain excursions are a small part of the road trip. On my way back home, I'll take a southern route and normally ride the coast down from Washington state to California and make a left to Louisiana.
Since I found myself in nonsnow type climates for most of the winter adventures, I decided not to invest in a dedicated set of snow tire for those road trips. I did not think it was necessary for the limited amount of snow driving I do on the trips. I still feel this way, but plan on giving the issue more thought and it could possible change in the future.
In conclusion, I refer back to my earlier statement of not blaming my equipment for the accident. It is my opinion, the tires did not cause the accident. Certainly, having a dedicated snow tire would have helped, but I believe it was driver error more than equipment failure.
Here's to the FJ. You will be missed.
Keep Calm Roll Over Sticker
We had about eleventy billion (math might be off on that) stickers on the FJ. We're fairly certain the FJ was powered and held together by stickers.
According to my research, stickers add horsepower and increase aerodynamics. There is a good chance, the Keep Calm Roll Over sticker is the highest horsepower sticker we've ever released.
Disclaimer: I don't understand Science and could be wrong, but don't let that stand in the way of you buying it!
To get yours, please click here: Keep Calm Roll Over sticker
"but did you die?" Sticker
Another classic sticker we had on the FJ was our "but did you die?" I placed this sticker on the dashboard, just in front of the passenger. Sometimes things would get crazy, and my passenger (mainly my wife) decided to voice their opinions.
I needed an easy solution to silence them without words because as we all know, words lead to arguments. After lots of research (watching movies) and science stuff, I came up with a simple saying that was continually in the passenger's field of view.
Once the sticker was in place, silence filled the cabin without me having to say a word. Anytime evasive maneuvers were taken, I would point to the sticker and I would notice them shrug their shoulders and grunt. Timeless sign of defeat! To answer your question, yes I pointed at this sticker while Ashlie and I were upside-down.
To get yours, please click here: "but did you die?"
Choosing The Next Rig
Without a doubt, the adventures will continue! Making that statement is the easy part, deciding which rig they will be done in is the difficult part. I have compiled a list of possible suitors. To weigh in on the discussion or voice your opinion, click here: 2017 Rig Draft
The FJ Lives!
The FJ was bought and rebuild buy a man who has the technology and know how to do this. That's right, the FJ is alive and well! She is now seeking adventure in another country. To read more about it, please click: HERE
Toyota Trucks & Trails Podcast
I was honored to be a guest again on the Toyota Truck & Trails Podcast. In this episode, we discussed the rollover, possible replacement rigs and what is next for BakesFJ.com.
If you're not familiar with the TT&T Podcast, we would suggest looking into it. They have good topics, they're very knowledgeable and informative and provide a great service for the community. Best of all, it's free to listen!
Big thanks to Jason and Rich for having me back on the show.
Open a cold beer and click on their picture below to get started!
Thank you for reading this article. We hope you found it entertaining. If so, please share it with others and don't forget to leave a comment down below!
The world is a large place, and life is short. Together, we can accomplish much more than we ever could alone.
Baker and Ashlie are the owners of Bourn Adventure. They enjoy traveling and meeting new people. Each of them has a different and unique background, which helps to shape their articles.