I went on an adventure through western Wyoming a few weekends ago that involved 85 miles of off-road driving in my Toyota Land Cruiser through some of the most picturesque surroundings I’ve ever encountered. Relying on forest roads, we didn’t encounter much in the way of human civilization, which was part of what made it such a great getaway. What we did see consisted of a few horse trailers, some signs marked ‘XX miles to Jackson Hole,’ and this 2011 Audi A6 Avant up on blocks, with both passenger side wheels removed, parked off to the side of the trail.
Let me reiterate:
An Audi A6 station wagon.
Abandoned on a dirt road.
40 miles deep into a National Forest.
With both passenger side wheels removed.
I burst out laughing when I first came upon the above scene. "WHAT PLEBEIAN FOOLS!" I thought to myself as I hopped out of my Land Cruiser (which had yet to even sneeze at the trail) to get a closer look. I then noticed that the back seats were folded down and that there was a big trunk in the back. Then something odd happened. The parking lights flashed. My friend Kyle insisted that it must have just been his 4Runner’s lights reflecting in the Audi’s, but then it happened again. This was really weird. Immediately, we began to scan the hillside for a sign of someone holding the key fob. Nothing. At one point I actually uttered the phrase "this feels like a trap" — an insane thing to think anywhere deep into rural Wyoming. With a subtle sense of urgency, we got back into our vehicles and moved on — but for the rest of the weekend, we couldn’t stop trying to explain the scene. Here are two theories about what might’ve been going on:
The "I’ve Played too much Grand Theft Auto" Theory
An anti-government anarchist took the time to drive this complex German performance car deep into the Wyoming wilderness. He then took the time to remove the wheels and prop the vehicle up on stumps, hoping that the scene would draw in some wannabe-good samaritans. It was then that he would press the ‘unlock’ button on the remote from his hiding spot in the woods, which was wired to detonate whatever explosives were packed inside of that big trunk. Only it turned out to be defective, and based on this technicality alone, the lives of everyone in my party were spared.
… This was probably unlikely.
The Realistic Theory
My Land Cruiser and my friend Kyle’s 4Runner both sit atop aggressive, tried-and-true BFGoodrich All Terrain tires. This Audi, presumably, did not. My guess is that, as it was a top-of-the-line Prestige model with the S-Line package, it rode on something like 19-inch wheels wrapped in summer performance tires. Summer performance tires don’t do well off-road, and my bet is that this poor Audi punctured both of its passenger side tires on a rock as each one passed over it on the trail. To dig even deeper, I’m willing to bet that the driver at some point even assured the passengers, "It’s ok, it’s got Quattro!" just prior to the tire destruction. With no patch kit and only one spare, the driver was forced to remove both wheels and haul them into town for repair with the help of the ranger station that was down the road. As far as the parking lights flashing, I’ve read a few different accounts on the Audi forums of this occurring on rainy days like this one. This was a 6-year-old German luxury car, after all.
As soon as I got back into cell service, I did a Carfax lookup via the vehicle’s Utah license plate, and there was record of an oil change taking place at a tire shop in Salt Lake City just a few days before this encounter. I just now looked it up again and, lo and behold, it was again serviced at that same Big O Tires, just a few days ago. I’m willing to bet that this time though, there was actual tire work involved. Find an Audi A6 Avant for sale
Chris O’Neill grew up in the rust belt and now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. He managed to work in the auto industry for a while without once crashing a corporate fleet vehicle. On Instagram, he is the @MountainWestCarSpotter.