Tuesday, March 29, 2011

From the Archives - Trouble with Tire Chains


Shortly after Christmas in 2004, which my family had spent with my mom in Phoenix, Oregon (a great mythical town rising up out of its own Ashland), we got caught in a bit of a blizzard driving home to the Bay Area, and had a terrible time with our tire chains. I wrote a story about it which ended up running in a local chain of newspapers under the headline “DRIVER KEEPS WARM BY SEETHING ABOUT CHAIN REQUIREMENTS.” (My wife had been a journalist at the chain and was close personal buds with the editor.) They cut out the second half of my story, but otherwise changed very little. I was impressed with that. Look, here it is now:

We’ve had a pretty exciting winter with gobs of rain, which means snow in the mountains. Check out this recent photo of I-80 near Donner Pass:

In honor of all that snow, I now offer you my original tire chain story, intact. In the words of a waiter at my favorite San Francisco Thai restaurant, “Enjoy please enjoy.”

The Trip Home – Dec 28, 2004

When we started our trip back from Oregon I had a feeling of dread—not about the dangerous road conditions, since the falling snow was melting instantly on contact with the ground—but about the probable insult of being required by the Department of Transportation to install chains in such conditions. And sure enough, as we approached the base of Siskiyou Pass, the traffic slowed way down and countless motorists pulled over and began their struggle. We tuned into the highway condition radio station, and learned that DOT was indeed requiring chains on Siskiyou Pass for all vehicles except four-wheel-drives.

Now before I launch into my tale, I must digress for a moment to share with you my feelings about Siskiyou Pass. The way locals talk about it, you’d think early mountaineers got stuck there and ate each other, but it’s really nothing. In Colorado it would be ashamed to call itself a pass. Riding over it on a bike would be a minor workout, not worth braving the traffic for. It climbs maybe 3,000 feet. About its only authentic feature is that it has runaway truck ramps.

I also need to vent for a minute about tire chains. The insult of installing chains is twofold. First, the tendency of DOT to require them in merely wet conditions should insult anybody’s intelligence. Using chains on a wet road makes about as much sense as wearing a condom in a public restroom to keep from getting AIDS from the toilet seat. The real risk is that I’ll have a heart attack from the rage I’m filled with when I consider how many people must get run over as they dink around on the shoulder, too distracted by the difficulties of their chain installation to remember that there are cars whizzing by. Then there are the stories you hear about chains coming off and wrapping around the axle. Those terrify me, because I’ve witnessed, many times, the horrific bicycle equivalent of such a thing. For example, my old buddy David Pinter’s long Dr. Who scarf got caught in his rear wheel once because he didn’t maintain the velocity necessary to keep it streaming gloriously behind him. Or take my college roommate, whose jersey, which he’d foolishly wrapped around his mountain bike’s bars to expose his strapping upper body, went right into the front wheel and flipped him over the bars. The potential consequences of a tire chain tangling in the axle of my car could be much, much worse. And yet it’s a very real possibility—you see dead chains all over the road, standing in stark relief on the black, yes, totally black, shiny black, not snow-white road surface.

The second part of the insult is that I’ve only once managed to install tire chains on my own. They’re not intuitive, at least not to me, and the instructions are about as helpful as instructions always are—that is, not. And yet you see people, regular people like you and me, dutifully working at it, out in the cold on the side of the road. As you roll by these guys, putting off the inevitable, hoping there’ll be a last-minute telegram from the governor pardoning everybody, you get about a ten-second glimpse into each individual’s struggle. I’ve never looked over to see a motorist who obviously has the task well in hand; each guy seems to be taking the tangled web back off his tire and staring at it. But I have to assume some, probably even a majority, of these people get them on there okay—which is amazing considering that as a society, America hasn’t even gotten a handle on its damn car alarms. But as long as those other guys are out there fighting the fight, I feel like a wuss paying one of the professionals in their overalls. So on top of insulting my intelligence, the chain requirement insults my very manhood, which is probably even worse.

I was kind of hoping Erin would have some very compelling and forceful argument why I should just pay one of the guys from the get-go, and in the spirit of not introducing marital discord I could sigh and say, “Yes, dear.” But this didn’t seem to occur to her. I pulled over and started to get out, and she said something like, “Wear your gloves, dear, you don’t want your hands to get cold.” Okay, this probably bears little resemblance to what she said, but it’s how my male ego translated it.

I screwed around with the chains for awhile. The instructions were gone. The chains seemed much, much too short. Insults one and two, like Thing 1 and Thing 2 in Dr. Seuss, pranced around and taunted me—these are unnecessary! you're not a real man!—until I was too angry to logically suss out the chain installation. I got back in the car and kept driving.

Traffic was getting slower and slower as more and more motorists began the process of wasting their time and energy in the abominably pointless project. Eventually we saw an old dude in coveralls standing by the road, apparently car-less, so we figured he was one of the tire chain professionals. I called out to him. Either he didn’t understand me or couldn’t hear me, because it took a long time before we understood that he was in fact a chain guy, and he understood that yes, we wanted his services. He spent a good 20-30 minutes fighting with my chains, during which time he had me pull forward and then roll back dozens of times. Each time I pulled forward I shut the engine off afterward, not wanting to gas the poor guy.

How many times would my car start? It’s not a great starter. The battery has been run down too many times, and there’s a relay problem somewhere, and in my black leather work bag I have a little burned-out fuse that I’ve been meaning for months to buy non-burned-out replicas of, to stash in the glove box. (Last time the car died, my mechanic recommended I lay in a supply.) Compounding my nervousness about all the pulling forward and backing up was the nagging fear that sooner or later I was bound to run over the guy. Whenever he yelled for me to stop, I was sure I’d rolled over and crushed him.

Once the chains were on, the car drove like hell. It felt like I’d removed the tires and was driving on the rims down a railroad track, across which somebody had thrown an I-beam every five feet. Rough the whole time, with an extra thump every revolution: WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! At certain speeds it would smooth out a bit, and then it would get even worse when I crossed some other invisible speed threshold. And of course in the traffic I didn’t get to choose my speed.

We made our way up the pass, very slowly. Everywhere you looked on the shoulder motorists were fiddling with chains. Even SUVs were pulled over, their drivers installing chains on their own recognizance, just to be safe. Over and over again the radio announced that chains were required on all vehicles except for four-wheel-drives. What were these SUV guys thinking? Were they just dying to try out the new chains that they’d bought from Kragen? Or was it that they love a natural disaster, and installing chains made this one official, the way a souvenir from Niagara Falls makes your trip there more real? Or were these the type of extraordinarily risk-averse people who wear a belt and suspenders at the same time, and buy extended warranties for every $20 boom box or electric carving knife they buy, and find somebody to sue every time reality catches up with them and sullies their safe little imaginary world?

We passed the chain control checkpoint and there were a couple of bored looking kids sitting in a DOT pickup truck, eyes glazed. A giant sign with big orange lights said “Chains required when lights are flashing,” but the lights weren’t flashing. Had the kids simply forgotten to turn them on? Or was the radio announcement wrong? The thought that I could have gotten away with not using chains was almost too hideous to contemplate. Every so often we saw a car like ours, driving blissfully unprotected up the mild, wet grade, and my blood boiled. We passed over the top of the so-called pass and there was no sign of snow, slush, or ice. We descended the other side and still nothing. It was slow going. How fast can you drive with chains? I had no idea. I kept it around 35.

About five miles from Yreka, the first town you reach after leaving Ashland, the starboard chain burned up in the atmosphere. It had been making extra noise for some time, and I’d already pondered the fact that the port chain took at least 20 minutes to install and the starboard not more than 10. Maybe the chain guy took a shortcut. So when the chain came off I wasn’t really that surprised, and since it was a clean break, I wasn’t worried about it wrapping around the axle. In fact, I was mildly exhilarated. Free at last! The ride became 50% smoother and I knew I’d never have to look at the damn thing again. Now I began to wish for the port-side chain to go, to finish the apotheosis from crippled thumping to quiet rolling.

I got my wish, sort of. Just before Yreka the port chain did break, but instead of coming completely off, it hung around, jingling cheerily. I pulled over onto the shoulder and got out to look. Sure enough, it had wrapped itself completely around the axle. Oddly, I wasn’t particularly angry. Having feared this scenario so acutely, I’d come to think of it as inevitable. Also mitigating my anger was the delicious realization that once I’d removed this chain, probably by cutting it into little bits, the stinking pair of them would be gone from my life forever.

We drove into Yreka. We pulled into a gas station. Like I-5, the place was packed. I pulled into line for a pump. One driver was ahead of me, and he decided to install his chains right then and there. Maybe he was taking advantage of the shelter from the falling snow. Needless to say he took forever. He seemed oddly cheerful about the whole thing: Oh, boy, I get to put on my chains! After ten minutes of watching him, I finally reached the breaking point. In a moment of Zen perfection, I managed to remove the tangled tire chains from my axle and strangle him with them, all in a single fluid motion, and then I leapt to the gas station roof like the characters in “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” From here I came back down to reality and asked the gas station clerk if she had any bolt cutters. She didn’t.

Finally I got my turn at the pump. Erin was still changing Lindsay’s diaper when I finished, and she recommended I check the oil. I went back in to buy a quart, asked the clerk if there was a mechanic in town who would be open on a Sunday. She didn’t know, but one of the men in line offered alternative advice, which is what I’d actually been hoping for. He gave me directions to a hardware store that would be open.

I found the place and they had one pair of bolt cutters. They were good ones: 36-inch dual purpose. Dual purpose? Yes. Of course they could cut bolts, but they would also function as my favorite bike shop tool, the one I liked to call The Persuader. The Persuader at the bike shop was a big hammer, but these bolt cutters were even better. They weighed a ton. If you could get a good swing into those babies, you could probably knock down a brick wall. Their potential as a bludgeon of inanimate objects was promising, in case the chain-cutting failed.

As soon as I paid for the bolt cutters I feared that they’d do me no good, that I just wasted my money. It was already starting to get dark, and I couldn’t see much under the car. My jack was in the back, buried under tons of gear, and my bike was obstructing the tailgate, lashed down with string, and anyway I seemed to remember that you shouldn’t crawl under a jacked-up car that has passengers in it, and I wasn’t about to ask my family to stand around in the cold and snow.

One thing I’ve learned through several automotive breakdowns is that there are always men around, even on a chilly Sunday evening, who materialize like fairy godmothers (though of course they never look anything like fairies or mothers) and dispense advice or at least (as in the case of a dead battery) a good push. Such a guy appeared and—apparently sizing up the situation entirely on his own, within about five seconds—said, “What you want to do is drive up on a curb with the left wheels. That’ll give you a bit more room under there.” I nodded, said that was a great idea. “I wish I could be more help,” he apologized. He looked sincerely bummed that that was the best he could do. Then suddenly he had another idea. “Down the road there’s a U-Haul guy who does chains,” he said. “You might look for him.”

We drove down the road, chain dragging behind us like the Ghost of Christmas Past. I found the U-Haul guy. He was either closed for the day or nobody knew about him. He had a trailer in front of a low building that looked to have once been a gas station. I told him what was going on, and my strategy with the bolt cutters. He didn’t say, “Aw, heck, I have a better idea. Stay in the car, I’ll take care of everything!” Not that I was really disappointed at this; my fantasy was somewhat more modest: he would have a car jack, maybe even a hydraulic lift so I could cut those chains into tiny bits from a comfortable standing position. “Sorry, all my jacks are broken,” he said, evidently reading my mind. “You can pull under the overhang, though.”

I pulled under there and rolled the port wheels up onto the curb of his porch. I got out. Not much light left at all. In fifteen minutes or so it’d be dark. Even beneath the overhang the ground was filthy and wet—probably no better than the road. The U-Haul chain guy strolled over to watch. I imagine that a chain guy doesn’t mind watching somebody else sprawl out on the ground for a change. His expression conveyed a mixture of amusement and curiosity. I imagined he was sizing me up: is this effete-looking white-collar boy really going to mix it up with the bolt cutters beneath his car? Of course he may not have been thinking this at all, but given the circumstances it sure seemed that way to me. I might as well have been preparing to sing karaoke in front of a famous rock group. Maybe he was going to wait until I’d totally given up, humiliating myself in the process, before stepping in and rescuing us. Or maybe he was going to watch me melt down and then get into his truck and drive off.

No way was I going to foul up my Gore-Tex parka, nor the wool sweater beneath it, so I stripped down to my t-shirt. I’m sufficiently claustrophobic that I shudder even remembering what I did next. I crawled under there, lying on my back and pushing myself along with my feet, which stuck out beyond the car. I could now reach with the bolt cutters and, using highly indirect tactile cues, find links of the chain to cut. Of course, to get the jaws open wide enough to span the chain links, I had to open the handles up all the way, which was more than my arms could handle given the confined space. So I had to use one arm on one handle and brace the other along my neck and torso. The car continuously drooled black water into my eyes and ears, and I was fighting off the panic of claustrophobia, and the handle was less than comfortable against my neck, and the links were hard to grasp and surprisingly strong, but from the first successful snap of a link I knew motivation was not going to be a problem. God that felt good, hurting the tire chain. I had to have that feeling again. I was instantly a tire-chain-cutting junkie. It’s a rare thing to commit vandalism and effect a repair at the same time. Again and again I opened the jaws, hunted around for a good bite, and crushed them shut, like a voracious beast. My favorite line from a James Bond book sounded in my head:

Die damn you die die damn you die damn you die damn you die

Meanwhile, above me, Erin chatted with the chain guy. He owns a landscape supply place, which basically means he sells rock and soil products that, by virtue of creating backyard paradises, command a non-trivial price. He also does the landscaping himself, and gets a lot of clients wanting him to build rock pools or some such thing. (I wasn’t getting all the details, because I was grunting like a pig caught in a trap, which I basically was.) The chain service was just a tertiary business. “I love doing the chains,” he said. I was dumbstruck by this proclamation until he went on to explain that he makes $1,000 a day doing it. I wondered how much of that he has to pay to the DOT for requiring chains, and suddenly the whole business made perfect sense—simple extortion. (Only the SUV drivers still defied explanation.)

I had to come out a couple times for air. Not for actual air, of course, but for the sensation of breathing freely, which is the only cure for claustrophobia. My t-shirt was soaked, my arms and hands filthy, my numb fingers cut up from dragging on the undercarriage of the car. I spat filth from my mouth and wiped it from my eyes. It was terribly difficult to raise the gumption necessary to slide back under. I was a guy rescued from a collapsed mine who had to go back in to retrieve his car keys. But each time I was won over by the burning desire to vandalize that damn chain some more.

I’d just finished the bulk of the cutting when Erin called down to see if I was making any progress. I grabbed the largest mass of chains and hurled them out from under the car, triumphantly and yet disgustedly, like when you extricate a mouse-sized wad of hair from the sink drain and fling it toward the trash. No, it was even better: I was a physician in South America who’d just dragged, from a small child’s throat, a three-foot tapeworm and then hurled it, still wriggling, onto the dirt floor of his jerry-rigged clinic. But there was still one piece of chain in there I couldn’t get at. Only a few inches of it hung down: enough to cause problems? I slid out from beneath the car to ponder the matter and consult with the chain guy.

Coming at the problem from the other direction, ahead of the wheel, he fished his arm expertly within the wheel well and in a jiffy had the last foot of chain out of there. Whew. I picked up some handfuls of snow and started scrubbing my arms with them. The guy invited me to head inside his shop to wash up. Erin brought my sweater and coat, and five minutes later we were back on the road, gliding wonderfully and quietly along. It was dark when we got back on I-5. Almost immediately we saw a big electric sign: “WARNING – CHAINS REQUIRED 20 MILES AHEAD – CARRY CHAINS.” Unbelievable. The road was still just wet. Erin and I, once recovered from our disbelief, agreed that we hadn’t seen the sign. [Note: this is where the newspaper version of this story ended.]

Traffic was still terribly heavy and slow. The shoulder was littered with stopped motorists tinkering with their chains. Installing them? Removing them? Tightening them? Just going through the motions for no reason, like a kid who’s mastered the Rubik’s Cube and yet solves it endlessly? Impossible to tell. After an hour we’d made it about ten miles: halfway between Yreka and Weed. Then traffic stopped entirely. A minute passed, five more after it, then another ten. I shut off the engine and killed the lights. Erin asked a trucker if he’d heard anything on the CB. “Yeah, they keep changing their mind. First they’re going to close the road, then they’re going to open it, then they’re going to require chains.” It was snowing pretty hard, as it had been all day, but the ground was still just wet. What is going on here? I thought. The center cannot hold. The falcon cannot hear the falconer. Cats and dogs living together. French nuclear-powered submarines.

We brought Lindsay and Alexa up to our laps and spread out a sleeping bag. The guy ahead of us climbed out of his big strapping SUV (engine still running) and stood in the road. He paced around a bit, without a coat on, and stared out at the day. Sure, he wasn’t doing anything useful per se, but perhaps in that moment he felt like Jason Bourne: acutely aware of every possibility, every contingency, instinctively tuned in to all the angles. Like a crouching cat, he could spring into action at any moment. Eventually he decided to put on his tire chains. Now, I don’t know whether he was just having a hard time with them, or was deliberately savoring the activity, but he proceeded to work those chains for at least the next forty minutes. I watched, torn between bemusement and relief: at least he didn’t shame me by snapping those babies on in five minutes flat. He must have pulled forward and backed up a hundred times.

Make no mistake about it: this was no natural disaster. Rather, it was a completely unnecessary annoyance, visited upon us not by an angry god but by an incompetent human, or worse, an incompetent committee. I pictured a dingy office with a few civil servants in it, drinking stinking vending machine coffee and arguing over what to do. Maybe they were gridlocked, or maybe they had an even number of people and no majority vote, or maybe they didn’t have the authority to open the road and were trying to hunt down the guy who did, who was out bowling or whose cell phone was in his other pants. Or perhaps the committee was on a power trip, playing God, and had decided it would be fun to strand everybody for however long it took for the roads to actually become dangerous, and then open the roads and take bets on how many cars went into the ditch.

In some ways, a natural disaster would have been easier to stomach. If our life had been in danger, we could have switched into some survival mode that was beyond anger and frustration. But as long as my car’s battery held up, we could survive for days, starting the engine and running the heater for five minutes every hour or so. An endless supply of water was falling from the sky, organized into snow for our gathering convenience. Sure, Alexa had run out of diapers, but only when she sleeps for eight hours or so does she need them, and anyway nobody ever died from a bad smell. Granted, we weren’t particularly comfortable. To fit all our gear in the car I’d set my seat farther forward than I’d have liked, and of course our children could lose patience and start bawling at any moment. But our little family wasn’t exactly the Donner party.

A young guy with a crewcut wearing nothing but sneakers, jeans, and an LAPD t-shirt stalked sullenly up and down the road. He didn’t appear to be looking for anybody, and I couldn’t fathom what he was doing out there. Just a jumpy guy who can’t sit still? Or was he forestalling panic by proving to himself that it wasn’t that cold out? Or was he performing a public service by inspiring the rest of us, especially the women? After all, he did embody a high plane of human resilience and stoicism. I wished I’d brought my hip flask. With that prop, I’d have had the nerve to join him out there. We’d silently pass the flask back and forth as we brooded over big manly thoughts. Instead, I sat in the car and beeped my kids’ noses.

We passed about two and a half hours like this. It had been seven or eight hours since we’d last eaten, so we started in on our provisions. Having planned to eat at a great Mexican restaurant in Redding, we hadn’t packed a picnic, but we had leftover plum pudding from Mom and a foil bag of organic chocolate truffles from Dad. Whoa. Culinary nirvana. Alexa and I wolfed pudding while Erin frantically prepared unchokeable bites for Lindsay, who howled her impatience. I’ve never had better truffles. Next to us, a man who looked to be in his late sixties stepped out of his car. I opened my door and asked if he’d heard anything. He eagerly approached and we chatted. Moments later he and his wife had presented us with a half a deli sandwich, untouched, and several mandarin oranges. We passed around the truffles. “I’m from Colorado,” he said, and I know exactly what he would say next. I wasn’t wrong: as he pawed at the wet asphalt with his foot he said, “There, we wouldn’t worry about this. We’d just drive.” I felt vindicated. At last, another motorist who knows the difference between truly treacherous conditions and silly make-believe crises.

And then, suddenly, activity! The line was starting to move! The old couple got back in their car, and Erin and I frantically worked to get the kids back in their car seats. About thirty seconds into this process the guy behind me ran up to my window. “We’re moving!” he said anxiously, as though we suddenly had just five minutes to rush through the terminal and catch our connecting flight. I shrugged him off (which was a very polite response compared to the vast supply of smart-assed responses I hold in store for such occasions) and once the kids were set, I started the engine and rolled forward to fill the 50-foot gap that had opened up ahead of us. Then we sat for another fifteen minutes or so. Erin and I decided that the movement was probably the result of a few cars up ahead, perhaps miles ahead, whose drivers lost patience and took off across the median to the northbound lane to head back to Yreka.

Over the next hour we made it ten more miles. Perhaps a mile before the first exit for Weed we saw another chain inspection station. Countless cars squatted in the shoulder as their drivers futzed around them. Erin and I worked on our no-chains story. We had two strategies.

One strategy called for full disclosure: we used to have chains, but they broke, and we had to cut one of them off, and now we have no chains but I’m a competent snow driver from Colorado, a place with real winters. Exhibit A was the bolt cutters, Exhibit B the empty chain box. But this strategy had problems. First of all, the Highway Patrol may have a zero tolerance policy and thus may not accept explanations. Second, depending on the actual cop, mention of my Coloradan heritage—and its implicit suggestion that California drivers suck at driving in snow—might affront him. Third, the guy might be just an all-around jerk with a bias against Volvo drivers, blonds, cyclists (my bike was on the car, remember), or motorists in general. Lots of moving parts to this strategy.

So our second strategy was to lie about our car. This had worked once before, during a ski trip in Erin’s old company car, a Chevrolet Lumina. With casual confidence and breezy authority, I’d told the inspector it was four-wheel drive, and he’d nodded and waved us right on through. It was worth a shot, I figured. But that guy hadn’t been a cop. Are all cops experts on car makes and models? Are they required to know when Volvo started doing All-Wheel-Drive wagons? Or maybe the cop wouldn’t care. Maybe it’s a hassle turning motorists around. Erin postulated that the bike on the back might make the car look more sporty, and thus more 4WD-ish. We pondered the matter silently for a few minutes. Then I decided to practice my lie on Erin. With complete conviction, I looked her right in the eye and said, “Are you aware that this car is full-time four-wheel drive?” She looked legitimately surprised. “Really?” she said. “Then there’s no problem!” Erin is no fool—I simply have the ability to lie very convincingly. But would it be enough?

In the event, we determined on the fly to say nothing and act natural. I withheld the temptation to lower my window or look at the inspector. He waved us through, or at least seemed to, in my peripheral vision. For the next few minutes (that is, the next 100 yards) I half expected a cop car to pull up and bust me, but it never happened. We were okay, at least for the time being.

We took the first exit into Weed, and once off the main drag I noted that the road was, finally, completely covered in snow. I did some very subtle steering experiments and decided the conditions were perfect for doing tricks. Had I still been a teenager, without a family in the car, I’d have spent the next couple of hours sliding all over the streets of Weed, fishtailing around corners, doing doughnuts in parking lots, and celebrating the dual gift of a rear-wheel drive car and a beautiful snowstorm. Instead I drove carefully under the highway to Taco Bell and parked.

Twenty minutes, seventeen dollars, some 3,000 calories, and a couple dozen packets of “Fire” sauce later, we headed back out there. It was still snowing hard, a strong wind was blowing, and the roads had become legitimately treacherous. It’s likely that people’s tire chains were finally doing them some good. The driving wasn’t all that hard without chains, though. The highway continued to descend, and wound through some gentle curves and over some bridges, and sure, I could have lost traction at any point by accelerating abruptly, hitting the brakes, steering too quickly, or responding poorly to having done any of these things, but I was fine as long as I moved around gradually, limited my speed to about 30, and didn’t touch the brakes for the next forty miles. My only real fear was the number of SUVs that cruised by at relatively high speed, their drivers convinced that a big masculine heavy vehicle cannot lose traction. We did see perhaps a dozen vehicles that had slid off the road, but in general everyone was okay. Oddly, the Highway Patrol was nowhere to be seen, until we came across the chain inspection point, across the highway, for northbound traffic. Eventually the snow turned to rain, and the rest of the drive was uneventful. The kids even slept, and Alexa amazed us by not urinating in her car seat. We reached home at about 4:00 AM. The six-hour drive had taken more than fourteen hours.

As Erin put the kids in their beds, I unloaded the car. When the bike was back in the garage and the rear cargo area finally emptied, I lifted the lid that covers the tools, jumper cables, etc. and confirmed what I’d long suspected: we had a second set of car chains in there, the more modern kind, in their original box with instructions. I thought about hurling them in the garbage, and replacing them with Exhibits A & B (bolt cutters and empty box) for future trips. Then I sighed and put them back in the car. I might actually need them some day.
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1 comment:

  1. Great story! I'm originally from San Diego, but I lived for years in Michigan, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and other snowy places, and it truly amazes me that the Highway Patrol runs those inspection stations. Recently, I drove miles and miles on Interstate 17 down a six-percent grade in a snow storm from Flagstaff, AZ to Phoenix, and there were no checkpoints, and it seemed no one had chains. It was a little scary, but never really seemed dangerous. How is it that Arizona drivers can do it, but not Californians?