Rock crawler gets stuck on Ediz Hook rip-rap in Port Angeles during photoshoot gone awry
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Jeremy Schwartz/Peninsula Daily News
Waylon Elsbree, background, and friend Phil Dotson, foreground, work to get Elsbree's 2,800-pound rock crawler off-road vehicle off the rip-rap along Ediz Hook on Thursday evening.
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Jay Cline
Elsbree's rock climber on Ediz Hook riprap before it was freed.

By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — What started as photo shoot for Waylon Elsbree's bright green rock crawler turned into a comedy of errors as the Port Angeles man and friends spent hours trying to get the off-road vehicle unstuck from the rip-rap of Ediz Hook last week.

“This day has just been one joke after another,” Elsbree said Thursday evening as he rested from trying to pry one of the massive tires of his rock crawler from between the rocks on the north side of the Hook.

The story begins Wednesday evening, when Elsbree, who owns One Way Fabrication in Port Angeles, wanted to use the rocks of Ediz Hook and the backdrop of the Olympic Mountains as a setting for a photo shoot for the rock crawler he built as a seven-month shop project at Peninsula College about three years ago.

Elsbree said Simpson's Used Parts & Towing, Quality 4X4 & Truck Supply and Baxter Auto Parts, all of Port Angeles, all contributed donations and parts to make the crawler a reality.

The 4-wheel drive vehicle has a special, articulated suspension for driving over rocky areas.

Petersen's 4-Wheel & Off-Road magazine was interested in photographs of the crawler.

Elsbree secured permission from city officials and towed the off-road machine out to the Hook with his pickup truck and trailer in hopes of getting some sunset shots before dark.

He got all the photos he wanted of his machine parked on Hook rip-rap.

Then the 2,800-pound crawler ran out of gas.

He was not able to get more fuel for it before dark, so he left the machine there overnight.

After gassing up the crawler the next morning, Elsbree tried anew to drive it off the rocks and back onto its trailer.

That's when the seal between the rim and tire of his left rear wheel blew, flattening the tire.

“That was a continued problem all day,” Elsbree said.

Elsbree left the machine for most of the day while he tried to wrangle friends to come and help pull the machine from the rocks.

Come 6 p.m., Elsbree was back at it as onlookers drove slowly by snapping photos and asking him what he was doing.

Over the course of an hour and a half, both the machine's drive shaft and ignition switch failed, stranding it without power and forcing Elsbree to use the winch from his truck's trailer to pull it off the rocks.

With the help of friends Phil Dotson and Devon Horn, Elsbree used wooden planks, portable metal ramps and heavy duty jacks to muscle the machine from the rocks and back on to its trailer.

Elsbree's truck blocked one and half lanes of Ediz Hook Road as the rock crawler was rescued.

That did not seem to sit well with some drivers who sped by making obscene hand gestures.

“Sorry to anyone who was inconvenienced by the truck and trailer being in the road,” Elsbree said.

All in all, the rock crawler did not come out too worse for wear.

Elsbree estimated that replacing the ignition switch and repairing the damaged part of the drive shaft would cost him about $25.

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Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at jschwartz@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: July 05. 2014 11:13PM
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