Friday, December 26, 2008

Another Day of Aerobic Road Clearing

Another Day of Aerobic Road Clearing

We got back from Christmas with family and friends late, and part way up the hill, the TrailBlazer refused to continue forward. Earlier in the day, when we were clearing the road with the snow thrower, we had cleared to the right margin of the road--and when I drove up, I had hugged the right margin. When I tried to back up and try again, I slid off the road into the drainage ditch. It wasn't much, but enough that we couldn't go forward, or backward. The surfaces were just too slick. We knew we needed chains, but there were none to be had on Christmas Day.

This morning, we made another attempt to get out on our power, but it just wasn't possible. Fortunately, a complete stranger had decided to snowplow Sunburst Road. This being Idaho (where right-wing selfish conservatives dominate everything), he came over, offered to help extricate us, then decided that he needed his tractor for this--the snowplow was just too big to get up our driveway. An hour later, he pulled us free, and since we had now cleared the driveway to the left margin of the asphalt, we had no problem climbing to the top. He also used his tractor to clear our driveway from top to bottom, and simply would not hear of accepting any payment for it. He was just doing it for the fun of it!

Readers who were here last year will realize that we have had similar experiences before with complete strangers bringing their earthmoving equipment up to help, and refusing to accept payment of any sort.

Finding the Security Chain Company Super Z6 traction devices was a bit more work than I expected. Some of the retailers listed on their website not only did not carry their products--but had never even heard of them. Finally, when I called Commercial Tire on Fairview Blvd. in Boise, they not only had them, but they had the specific models required for the TrailBlazer and the Jaguar X-type.

Remembering that it is always best to first install chains under ideal circumstances--we installed them on the TrailBlazer around sunset at my daughter's house, which is one of those unplowed subdivisions in the valley that still had plenty of snow and rutted ice to make it a realistic test. I was pleased to report that while not quite as easy as in the video, this is so much better than the traditional ladder chains that I now declare ladder style chains obsolete! It took about two minutes to get them installed on the first wheel, and about a minute to get them installed on the second wheel. I'm guessing that with practice, we'll be able to do them in under a minute each. Removal was very slightly harder. We did actually have to move the car a couple feet to get the wheel off one of the chains.

Driving around the subdivision, it was clear that these were providing substantially more traction than the all season tires alone. Obviously, chains don't allow you to ignore the laws of physics. You still have to drive with great caution, and you dare not consider driving more than 30 mph with chains. Of course, if conditions are so bad that you need chains, it would be crazy to drive 30 mph anyway. And if conditions are good enough to go faster, you need to stop and take the chains off, because you are wearing out the chains and your tires.

Coming back this evening, we had planned to chain up when we left state highway 55, because the old highway is plowed down to where we turn onto Sunburst, but still has lots of snow. The more I thought about it, however, I decided to wait until we reached the bottom of our driveway before making the chain-up decision. When we reached the bottom of our driveway, I could see significant portions of asphalt exposed. The combination of the stranger clearing our driveway, our active effort to expose the asphalt by removing ice in others, and intermittent sunshine, had made the road something that 4WD could easily and safely navigate. But it was gratifying to know that if we needed to chain up, Security Chain Company's Super Z6 product would make this an only slightly unpleasant task.

When the Jaguar comes out of body shop on Tuesday, I'll make sure that the set for it fit as well. Since the Bridgestone Blizzak WS60 tires that I was planning to put on it don't seem to be available before I have to go to Bend next (what a surprise), having these chains is very important.

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