Monday, November 30, 2009

Winter Driving

My SUV has all-wheel drive, so I thought just maybe I could make it through the winter on my all-season tires.  But the 13-mile stretch of the East Fork Road between my house and the highway is a twisty, turny road that follows the river, and at the higher end the valley closes in and the forest gets dense, shading the road and preserving the snow and ice.

(This was on a good day after several clear days with highs in the 40s)

I've driven the road several times in the last couple of weeks and found that I can't go more than 20 miles per hour on the straightaways without slipping and getting a little sideways when I drive over the many patches of snow and ice.  The curves are much slower, turning the 13 mile trip to the highway or to the Sula Store into 45 minutes of white knuckle, I-hope-I-don't-slide-off-into-that-freezing-ass-river driving. 

I moved up here more for a tranquil back-to-nature experience than a life-and-death, man-against-nature adventure, so on Friday I went to Hamilton and got me some studded snow tires.  I've never had (or needed) snow tires, but they are pretty cool, with deep tread to channel out the slush and grooved rubber and metal studs to grip the pavement and the ice.

When I checked out at the tire store, the customer service guy told me, "You'll get traction now.  Hell, you can climb a tree."

The tires do have some serious bite, making the drive up the East Fork Road much more enjoyable.  I haven't had to drive them on any significant ice yet, but it's just a matter of time.  I'm going to wait and let the ice come to me instead of going looking for it.  I figure these tires can be like 4-wheel drive and be just good enough to get you way out in the deep back country before you get stuck.

Some states prohibit the use of metal studs because they can damage the road surface.  Other states allow studded tires only during a specified season.  In Montana, studded snow tires are permitted from Oct.1 to May 31.  My old all-season tires are stacked in my garage now, and next spring I'll take them back to the tire store to get them switched out, but then, unfortunately, I will no longer be able to climb a tree.


  1. Lol Cliff my brain just exploded at the idea you thought you could get away with all season tires up here! Welcome to the great cold Northwest my friend.


  2. I guess I lived a sheltered life in Texas. It was a big adjustment getting used to the fact that I had to have two sets of tires for one vehicle. I'm a believer now, and luckily, before I drove off in the river.

  3. I guess we can now call you a Fat Bastard Stud, huh?

  4. If it's something you feel strongly about.

  5. I'm still waiting to see the fat bastard snowshoes strapped on, Stud!

  6. As soon as it gets deep enough. It didn't snow here today like it did in Dallas.