Notes From the Field – When you Assume…

On our first expedition to southern Africa, I learned a valuable lesson about assumptions.

Our group had just finished a jaw-dropping visit to Victoria Falls, rightly titled one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. In Zambia, our fleet rental company had swapped out a Land Rover Defender, ailing due to (cue the jokes) electrical problems, for a Toyota Land Cruiser Troopie.

Crossing the river by ferry boat back into Botswana, we got a lesson on “African Time” and the delays that come with it. Behind schedule, our group was racing the setting sun down the sandy tracks near the Chobe River to our evening campsite. National Parks in Botswana don’t allow driving after dark, to keep from upsetting the animals and their habits, and it was going to be tough for us to make it to our destination in time.

Driving as tail-gunner in the group, I started to bog down in a particularly soft stretch of sand. All of the other Land Rovers had made it through without any problems, so I was a little frustrated. Thoughts of “damn you Toyota” and “I wish I was driving one of the Land Rovers” danced through my mind. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get going out of the sand, all the while, the sun was sinking dangerously low on the horizon.

While the vehicle in front of me backed up and got out the recovery kit to pull the Troopie out, I had a thought: I’ll lower the tire pressure a bit to help it out. The benefits of proper tire pressure in off highway situations are well-documented, and ordinarily we would have done this first thing after leaving the pavement. But we were in a hurry, and I assumed the street pressures in the truck couldn’t be that bad … right?

The problem was, the tires weren’t left at a reasonable street pressure by the last guy. Not 30 psi, not 40, not 50, heck they weren’t even at 75 psi. The last person driving the vehicle had them filled up to a mind-boggling (and extremely dangerous) 115 psi or just under 8 bar. No wonder those tires weren’t gripping on the sand. They had about as as much floatation as the wheels on a conestoga wagon. After deflating the tires to a far more reasonable pressure of about 16 psi, the truck popped right out of the sand and didn’t give it a second thought.

In that case, I assumed the last people using the vehicle had exercised good judgement. I assumed that if they had not, at least the 4×4 rental agency would have double checked important things before dropping the truck off in the middle of the jungle. But I assumed incorrectly.

Likewise, for the last 10 years, we’ve assumed that we knew who our readers were at Pangaea Expeditions. Sure, we know how many people stop by, what pages are the most popular, etc. But when it comes right down to it, a lot of what we think we know is based upon assumptions. In the coming year, we’re planning to add a lot of great new features and content to the website. Rather than assuming who you are and who you want, we’d like to hear from you, the Pangaea Expeditions community.

To that end, we’ve decided to conduct a survey of our readers. When the results of the survey are in, we’ll analyze the data and use it to make sure that we’re bringing you the best content possible. Should you decide to participate, all of your information will be kept completely anonymous and confidential. Like you, we hate spam, and we won’t share any of your personal information with anyone. To help sweeten the pot, we’ll select one lucky survey participant to win a set of Staun Heavy-Duty Tire Deflators (an $80 value). With these, you won’t have to make the same assumptions I did next time you’re driving in sand. If you want to take the survey, please either click here, or click on the link to the right, just below the popular posts tab. The survey will only be open for a short time. Thanks for participating and being an active member of the Pangaea community.

Discover the world,

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