That One Time Snow Tires Might Have Been Useful
People in Boston love to complain about winter driving. In preparation of fording foul weather they buy 4WD and AWD cars in droves, touting their dependability when they have to brave school-canceling conditions to get to Blockbuster or the grocery store.
But let’s be real guys, were the streets of the greater Boston area ever so gnarly, for so long, that you could justify guzzling fuel all year with a center differential adding drag to your station wagon?
Alas, who am I kidding… the people I’m concerned with don’t know what a center differential is.
I’m not going to stand by this claim for those living north of the MA border, but for drivers keeping most of their motoring within 50 miles of downtown beantown- you’d get on just fine with RWD and a few hours reading on how to drive in the snow.
Now if you’re reading this and calling me an idiot, here’s your chance to laugh like Dr. Evil.
I keep sport tires on my Acura all year because 1- I think I’m man enough to master the snow without studs and 2- that’s what the car was wearing when I bought it and I’m too poor to afford a second set of wheels.
This year, the weekend after Christmas placed me in upstate New York with the easy task of driving twenty-something miles from my grandmother’s house to the farm on the other side of the Hudson where my special lady was staying. Under normal conditions, the trip would forty-something minutes and be quite scenic.
On this day, the skies decided to open up like a broken saltshaker and start dumping champagne powder about an hour before I powered up my engine.
By the time I reached the highway visibility was down to a hundred meters, the breakdown lanes were littered with the carnage of rear-endings and spinouts, and state police had cut the speed limit in half.
This of course was also the time I remembered I had meant to replace my windshield wipers the last twenty times I visited AutoZone. The pathetic ribbons of rubber, all that remained of the once-glorious Bosch range toppers the previous owner had splurged on, groaned in protest with each stretch across the glass as salt and slurry were smearing all over my field of vision.
Dear mum was blowing up my comm system from back at grandma’s, delighting in acting out a cliché of panic as usual.
But bless the great state of New York, as they had been quick enough in dispatching rescue vehicles and warning lights that I was able to draft amber strobe lights all the way across US-84 eastbound.
West of the Hudson, I was on my own.
Risked a concentration lapse for an illustrative photo; that’d be a “winding road” warning off to the right as seen through the poorly-cleaned windshield of my TL.
Veering off the highway I quite literally skidded under the shelter of a fuel station in hopes that I might kick some snow off my undercarriage and clear my windshield with my sleeve before braving the winding secondary roads that lead into my destination in the Catskills.
My tires were caked with crud, taking the form of Flintstone-style steamroller wheels. I pawed a few lumps of ice melting salt from the barrel between petrol bowsers and rubbed it all over each tire.
That’s correct. I knowingly, willingly, and even intentionally increased the exposure of my vehicle to the insatiable metal-eating appetite of road salt in the interest of traction.
I could only justify it by telling myself the car would stand a better chance against the slow torture of corrosion than the alternative- a virtually inevitable impact with an obstacle.
Climbing back into the cockpit I made ready for the remainder of the journey.
Ten miles of winding, slippery road wrought with danger and idiots in Outbacks lied between me and the welcoming arms of a gracious hostess.
I accepted the challenge and nosed out from under the awning. The car bucked and yawed in protest for almost the entirety of the trip, but a combination of light throttle pressure and traction control made the journey a successful one. Albeit ninety minutes longer than I had anticipated.
With the destination visible on my GPS screen, just when I thought I was in the clear, I came up on this:
The car stuttered in protest.
Could those planks of timber support the sedan I was piloting? Because that “bridge” looked like it was built out of tree bark by the animals that helped Cinderella get dressed.
I rang to confirm I was in the right place. Yes, my headlights were visible from the house window. And if my car had eyebrows, one would definitely have been visible as well- raised in disbelief.
Sure, I’d crossed sketchier bridges in heavier trucks. But those were Australian diesels- just as happy to splash in the river of which the bridge spanned as to stay dry on the road above.
And yet- that bridge marked the last barrier between myself and the company for which I had been pining all week. I crept over in safety and breathed a deep sigh of relief as my tires escaped unscathed by splinters. On the other side, trip proved well worth the trouble.
So, yes, there was this one time I wish I had sprung for snow tires.