In February 2017, Bob Wells of Cheap RV Living.com asked if I’d be willing to test out some personal locator beacons for him, and I agreed. One of the devices is the SPOT3, and we decided to add the Save Our Vehicle (S.O.V.) feature to it. Naturally, we hoped I wouldn’t actually have to test this feature out (at least I did), but in mid-July 2017, I broke down in a remote location, with no cell reception, and I had a chance to test the S.O.V. feature out.
I MADE A YOU TUBE VIDEO OF THIS EXPERIENCE, SO IF YOU’D PREFER WATCH THAT CLICK HERE: Using the SPOT S.O.V. YouTube Video. I have some other video’s about the Personal Locator Beacons I’m testing, and you can find them under the Personal Locator Beacons Playlist on my YouTube Channel.
I’d decided to go over Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park and camp on the west side of the Great Divide for a night. I had a bit of a cold coming on and didn’t feel like hiking. It was a lovely drive over the tundra and I spent some time up there gazing at the wildflowers and sipping ginger tea before heading down the west side. I had a campfire in the rain that night and cooked up some steak and chicken to munch on over the next week. The monsoon season had started and it was clear that the clouds weren’t going to lift, so I left camp early the next morning to return to Estes Park. If you’ve never had the opportunity to sit above tree line on the tundra, and watch the monsoon clouds toy with the mountains, you can do it here: Monsoon Clouds on Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park.
I was driving up the switchbacks that lead from the Kawuneeche Valley in R.M.N.P. when I heard an odd noise coming from my engine and smelled something burning. My vehicle lost power, but I managed to coax it around the very tight switchback curve I was on to a pull-off. I feel very fortunate that there was a pull-off as there are only a few on this stretch of highway, and I feel even luckier that Studley Van didn’t conk out right on that very bad curve. That would have been very dangerous indeed.
When I lifted the hood, I saw smoke rolling out and my stomach sank. I checked my phone, but there was no cell reception. So I made the decision to activate the S.O.V. feature on my SPOT3 device because it was obvious that I would need a tow.
The SPOT is a Personal Locator Beacon which you can use to send messages to friends and family to let them know you are okay, let them follow your hike with the tracking feature, send a personal pre-made message, request help with the help feature or in a serious life-threatening situation; activate emergency rescue with the S.O.S. feature. It works by satellite so you can send these messages in most remote areas when there is no cell phone reception available.
The annual fee for using this service is $149.99 (it used to be $99.99, but SPOT raised the fee in 2017), and if you wish to add the S.O.V. feature, it’s an additional $30.00 a year. Here are the features:
* Up to five tows per year
* Up to 50 miles each tow
* Winching/extrication services
* Accident assistance
* Gas and oil delivers
* Emergency tire service
* Emergency battery service
* Lost key and lockout service
* Service is available in 50 U.S. states as well as Puerto Rico, Washington, D.C., and Canada
SPOT has partnered with Nation Safe Drivers (N.S.D.) to provide a vehicle assistance program like no other. N.S.D. is one of the largest suppliers of towing and roadside assistance, offering service on even the most obscure and hard to travel roads imaginable. It doesn’t matter if the roads are paved, dirt or gravel, N.S.D. partners will be there to save your vehicle. I’m not going to go into all the details here so if you want to learn more just click the link above.
It’s important to note that when you add the S.O.V. feature to your SPOT device, the help button is then allocated as the S.O.V. button and can only be used for roadside assistance (it’s the button with the hands on it) and can no longer be used to send other messages out.
I pushed that button and waited, it was 8:48 AM. At around 11:30 AM there was still no tow truck, and I was beginning to think that maybe it hadn’t worked and started to wonder if I should turn to plan B. You see, while sitting by the side of the road waiting, I’d managed to get a very slight, intermittent signal on my Verizon Jetpack, and had been communicating with a friend in Estes Park via Messenger. He thought I should get a tow truck from Estes Park to come, and eventually, he just made the decision to call my insurance company and get a tow truck out to me.
Then wouldn’t you know it….just five minutes after a tow truck was dispatched from Estes Park on the east side of the Divide, the S.O.V. tow truck arrived from Alpine Towing in Granby on the west side of the Divide.
Apparently, Alpine Towing got the message from Nation Safe Drivers, but the towing company was on another call at the time in a tiny mountain town in the middle of nowhere, so it just took him a while to get to me. The driver, Brad, was very nice and told me that he would be paid for the trip out and turn around without a tow, so it wasn’t an issue to him. He told me that the SPOT device worked very well, and gave them just enough information to get to the stranded vehicles location. However, he didn’t have any information on the type of vehicle or the problem at hand, so it was hard to know what sort of vehicle to come out with, and of course, there was no way to communicate with me to find out.
He kindly let me record his thoughts (which are in the video) then off he went, and I was left waiting again. It was about 1:30 before the tow truck arrived from Estes Park (about 29 miles from my location) because it had to travel over Trail Ridge Road which is not just your average paved road.
We arrived in Estes Park around 3:00 PM, but I could have been there by about 1:30 PM if I’d been just a bit more patient.
Here are my thoughts on this experience…TRUST YOUR SPOT S.O.V. it works! Sure, you might have to wait awhile depending on your location etc., but a rescue vehicle will come eventually. I’m going to assume that when the tow truck company gets a GPS location for a stranded vehicle, they will take a look at the surrounding terrain and make an executive decision on the type of help that may be required, and to a point, the type of vehicle they may need to send out. If you activate the S.O.V. on a deep sand dirt road in the middle of the Utah desert, I assume they will send out a vehicle appropriate for that kind of road, because they say they will come out to you no matter how remote a location you are in. I now know that it works, and should this happen again I’ll just sit back, relax and be patient and not let the fear of being stranded take over.
As a female traveling on her own, I can honestly say that having the SPOT device has given me much peace of mind. Knowing that if I have an accident while hiking alone, I can get help, or if I get stuck or stranded in a remote place, I can still get roadside assistance. I feel it is well worth the annual fee, even at $149.99 + $30 for the roadside assistance add-on.
So what happened to Studley Van you ask? Well, it turned out to be the A/C compressor, it just burned up and started to melt my belt. Naturally, it has to be one of the most expensive repairs on a vehicle, because it’s a sealed system and has to be done by a professional. There is a lot involved in flushing out the whole air conditioning system and filling it back up with Freon after the repairs have been made. This repair cost $954.00, and one place wanted to charge me $1,400.00 (the place Studley Van was towed to, so I had to get towed again the next day). I could have bypassed the A/C system completely, but I knew I’d regret it at some point in the future.
Roxy ~ A Nomad for Nature
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