The Deep Freeze
Apparently the world is warming. Scientists have told us this many, many times. I wish one of those guys was here with me right now, freezing his ass off in the middle of the Canadian tundra. It reached a high of 2 today (that's 2 as in degrees Fahrenheit). I guess Canada didn't get the Global Warming memo.
I'm a guest of Falken Tire and we are here to put the Eurowinter HS439, the company's latest snow tire, through its frozen paces. I ask one of the engineers how cold it has to be before tires freeze. My plan was to hit each tire with a hammer and break it into a thousand pieces so we could go back to the hotel and dive into a pool of brandy.
He tells me it's a great question but doesn't know the exact answer. In any case, 2 degrees is not cold enough. "No, this is perfect snow tire weather," he tells me cheerfully.
I want to hit him with a hammer.
The thought of a performance snow tire is alien to many West-Coasters. Who would possibly want to drive aggressively in the snow? We have a hard enough time in the rain. Snow is simply beyond most of us.
I'm pretty sure the Falken people know this; they group us together according to geographical location. We quickly learn that two Californians in the same car equals much amusement, at least for the Canadians.
Simply getting the car to move is beyond me. At first I think something is wrong with the car--the engine screams with no forward motion. And then the car starts to rotate like it's on a carousel. I insist the car is sick; maybe the transmission is broken. We need to go get it fixed right now. We'll be back in a few days when it's warmer. The instructor jumps in and proceeds to throw the BMW into glorious, snow-festooned drifts. He insists it's the fabulous Falken rubber that's making this possible. Although I'm sure the HS439s help, it's obvious this guy has honed his skill through many winters.
Ok, I'm not so good in the snow. But after the better part of afternoon instruction, I've learned enough to not embarrass myself. For a while I actually get the car to perform (I assume this is true because the Canadians are no longer laughing at me). A few more months in these conditions and I might actually be good at ice driving.
What I will do with these skills in Southern California remains to be seen. If it did snow here I'm fairly certain the entire state would simply fall into chaos. The roads would be clogged with pinwheeling cars and jack-knifed big rigs. Unless you had a halftrack, no one would be going anywhere.
Californians don't get extreme weather training before they become licensed drivers. I guess because they don't need it. In truth, they get basic training at best. I know this because I've got two kids of driving age and I'm privy to their instruction. I've had to augment their skill set with tools (performance driving courses) to manage California freeways. Simply merging onto the local highway can be a daunting task and timid drivers can cause all sorts of mayhem. And at the opposite end of the spectrum, there are drivers who are simply insane, guys hitting 100 mph while cutting across multiple lanes of traffic. Scary? You bet. But with proper instruction it's possible to at least minimize potential danger.
If for some reason I got transferred to Montreal (great city by the way), I'd enroll myself and family members in a winter performance driving school.
And most likely invest in a good set of snow tires.