Sunday, December 16, 2007

Silly Snowy Shutdown

Peter Jennings, the legendary ABC News anchor, was Canadian. One time, he confessed that he failed to give a particular snow storm enough coverage because winter weather is so common back in Canada: it wasn't newsworthy.

Pete is my only shred of dignity down here in St Louis.

The last years of Herbie (the Miata) were shameful in winter: many pushes, bummed rides, and general embarrassment as our hero, a Canadian, was stuck in 3-4 inches of snow while the Americans drove around freely.

Though the Miata is not a great winter car, one notes that St Louis does not have Great Winters: they are generally tame with the occasional bluster. The problem was a lack of 'Tire Awareness' on the part of the owner.

Tire Awareness

Tire awareness is roughly defined as knowing the current state of one's tires, both in terms of wear and their rating for snow & ice. It is perhaps my greatest weakness as a driver.

Alas, the story continues: a lack of tire awareness currently has the new car (Rowdy, a Honda) stuck at a gas station. Actually, it is tire negligence since I knew that the new ride had performance tires geared for dry, if not summer, conditions.

I tried to venture out to a birthday party last night. About 4 inches (10 cm) of snow had fallen... Not good. I made it about a mile away until stopped at an intersection with a slight incline. I've come to hate inclines. For a spell in 2005, I would plan entire routes based on favorable inclines.

No accidents or damage (I think) but the requisite push at an intersection and the Walk of Shame back to the apartment. Plus I nailed a couple of curbs.

A subtext here is the handling characteristics of a front-wheel drive car versus a rear-wheel drive car. I know the difference quite well, but it is astounding to see it in action. Essentially, rear-wheel drive cars are finicky but predictable. Front-wheel drive cars are stable until they ain't, and then, as Dad says "you go in a straight-line until you hit something". Fun!

And so after a blissful 6 months with no vehicular stress, we now face the prospect of buying all-season tires under duress, and the questions about what to do with the car in the mean time. After all, it is parked at a gas station, where the attendants don't really speak English and may soon believe that the car is a gift for their lackluster service.

Good times! Oh, and I'm flying home in 4 days. LOL. I may bring back some tires.

ps. That Subaru WRX STi is looking better and better. Perhaps the 15 MPG and hearing loss would have been worth it.


Vic said...

I know you like to keep the readership informed at CC, however I would have keep this disgrace to yourself.

See you Soon.

CaptainCanuck said...

Yowwwouch. But probably deserved.

Update: I have the car home now and am calling tire shops.

Chairman Mom said...

Hey! Even St. Louisans usually do better than that! ;-)

Jennifer said...

Whatever you do, don't go to Sears. They actually LOST my car when putting on new tires!

North of Nain said...

As a person who spends 9 months of the year in 4 wheel drive...I can understand your prediciment. Tires are a crucial part of any vehicle. If you think about the actual amount of tire that is touching the ground is quite small...hey, you know it out.

And having lived in Newfoundland where snow is a way of life as are hills with over 45 degree angles, tires are all the more important.

Drive on my friend. Do not be afraid of making that tire purchase. Hold your head up high and say...I drive all season tires.

CaptainCanuck said...

Just to clarify... if I were back in Canada, or in the snowbelt in the US, I wouldn't have bought either car and would be more meticulous about tires.

StL just catches me off-guard. You only need winter stuff for 10 days. Indeed, the locals _do_ account for this better than me :-)

Also, the US does get some serious snow:

re: snowbelt. One of the worst storms I have ever seen is lake-effect snow in Buffalo.

re: cold. Though North of Nain might match it, the coldest I have ever heard of is a friend from North Dakota: windchill of -100 F. That's crazy.

Binky said...

I am now at work, after being stuck in my own driveway!

I saw two cars off the road this past weekend, not too far from our house. One was a mid-size pickup the other was a Pontiac Wave. It seems like around here there are as many 4WDs in the ditch as anything but I think some of that may be over-confidence.