Idle Thoughts From Mt. Waas
Airing down...
by Ollie Harris
Jan 24, 2013 | 1014 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
I was letting some air out of my tires outside a motel, just off Hill Field Road in Layton, Utah. There were three or four inches of fluffy snow on the big Dodge and snow was falling fast. According to the TV news, we were in for heavy snow all morning. There were slide-offs and fender benders all along the freeway. I would be taking my chances with the weather and traffic in just a few minutes.

I am the guy who tries to be prepared the best he can for any foreseeable problem. The saying, “If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear,” seems to have been meant just for me. There is a heavy fleece blanket still in its original plastic case in the backseat of the big Dodge. We have had it for several years but have never needed it. When warm weather returns, I hope to put it back into storage, still unopened.

There is the elaborate 72-hour kit in the back of the big Dodge. It contains everything from food to shelter to reading material. It stays in the truck. And, of course, there are the tires. They have an aggressive tread. Sometimes, when the roads are nice and dry, I think the tires are a bit much. They are not oversized or anything, but they are very aggressive, just the sort of tread you would like to have when pulling out onto snowy, icy roads.

Airing the tires down is an old trick known by all Jeepers and backcountry drivers. The softer the tire, the greater its contact with the surface. The greater the tire’s footprint, the greater its adhesion to the road.

I was careful not to let too much air out of my tires. I didn’t want to drive nearly 350 miles home on low tires. But, I dropped the air pressure a great deal from last summer’s fifth-wheel towing pressure. The change was enough that I could hear a different resonance on dry surfaces.

Years ago we moved from Moab back to the little Colorado town. It was a mistake that was soon rectified by moving back to southeastern Utah. But, while we were there I had to drive into town for work. There was often unplowed snow. I learned that only with snow tires could I get through.

It would be nice to have two different sets of wheels and tires. Some people do just that, putting different tires on for winter and for summer. Others of us compromise with all-season, or all-terrain tires. The big Dodge came with street tread on the original tires. I had to put on tire chains twice in my backcountry winter driving with those tires.

Speaking of tire chains, here is a little haiku poem I wrote for a freshman English assignment many, many years ago. It got me an A.

Sweating, cursing, squirming,

Putting chains on in mud,

Oh, oh damn! I am.

I was confident after airing down the tires, and because I had four-wheel-drive, that I could get along just fine on the snowy, slushy, icy freeway. Any time the roadway turns white or slushy, as a matter of principle I snick the truck into four-wheel-drive. I have learned that the Cummins engine is torquey and it is easy to brake the rear wheels loose. It isn’t any fun when the rear of the truck wants to come alongside for a little visit. Four-wheel-drive keeps the front wheels pulling equally with the rear and we stay nice and straight.

We drove down the freeway, sometimes at 40 mph, without a hint of trouble.

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