30 January 2007

The Moulton Journal: slick roads & getting stuck

It felt odd to ski alone this morning. RTD is at the vet--hopefully just for a day or two while they make sure she has no bowel obstruction or internal infection. Not holding down food and a high white bloodcell count are a worry. She's been on an IV and gets to try real food this afternoon.

On Moulton Road I came across a middle-aged guy whose mid-size Chevy was stuck in a snowbank. He was running all season radials on the front wheel drive car, and it looked as though he had gone into a downhill turn a bit fast and lost it.

I pulled the chain out, locked in the hubs for 4WD, gave a couple of jerks and had him free. It was a little tough pulling him uphill. But I've had a car or two slide into my vehicle when pulling them downhill to get free, and I'd like that not to happen anymore.

I think this guy lives up The Moulton, but why anyone would live up there without 4WD or AWD is beyond me. It's a snowy rural road, narrow with lots of turns, and it can be very snowpacked and icy. Naturally, it's not a high priority for the county gravel truck. You can "sort of" get by with a regular car, but it requires caution and some days when you just stay home.

There are generally two forms of being stuck. In the one, you just need to step out and engage the hubs, or maybe take a few swipes with a shovel, or maybe someone comes by with a chain. In the other, you are really stuck: the mud & water are coming in through the doors, or the frame is high-centered on a rock, or you tried to punch your way through a snowdrift and the bottom fell out. Either way, be prepared: this is Montana.

There are generally two driver problems that lead to getting stuck. With the one, you have inadequate tires and/or are driving a 2WD rig when you need 4WD/AWD. I've come to be a great fan of studded winter tires on my Toy p.up. They are wonderful on ice or snowpack, and have saved messing around with chains a few times. Yes, if you drive the backcountry, carry chains--even with 4WD. With the other problem, it's plain old driver error: taking turns too fast, driving too close to the edge of the road and getting sucked into the deep snow, misjudging the clearance of your vehicle.

Luckily, Montanans above all people in the world are very friendly & helpful when it comes to getting fellow drivers unstuck. And most are prepared, with a tow chain or strap, a shovel, a heavy duty jack, and oftentimes a winch or (at least) a come-along. Thank you to all the fellow drivers who have helped me out!

Back to skiing, I headed out along Big Flat again today and made a nice loop of it. We sorely need more snow. The loggers seem to be finished at The Moulton, so once (if?) we get snow it'll cover up the bare road and let us ski from the parking lot.

No comments: