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Sunday, January 10, 2016

A really crappy day

OK, this day is far enough in the past that I am now willing to write about it and laugh a little.

There is a part of my shift where I work three 12 hour days, and then get a single day off, before returning to work three 12 hour nights.  That's 72 hours of work in just seven days.  It was during this part of my shift that we got buried in snow.  Between work, having a long driveway, and hand-shoveling the deck and concrete slabs, I found it difficult to keep up with snow removal.

All the "fun" happened on my one day off.   I was using our little tractor out on the road to push snowplow slop away from the mailbox.  I pushed the snow pile just a little too far, and the front tires of the tractor went off the shoulder.  It's difficult to tell how far to push when the snow pile covers the contours of the terrain.  The tractor got stuck; half on the road, half in the ditch.

I walked up the partially cleared driveway to get the truck and a tow strap.  The truck got about 20 feet out into the snow before also getting stuck.  It slowed, then stopped moving forward and the rear end slid sideways - 4x4 didn't help.  Neither did digging down to the dirt or cat litter.  The truck would just move off the dry stuff and start spinning tires again as soon as it moved a couple of feet.

I got complacent last winter and left the summer tires on the truck.  The summer tires *look* like they should be excellent in the snow; they have a pretty aggressive tread pattern, and they howl quite a bit going down the road.  Last winter I left the summer tires on, it worked out fine - probably because we had almost no snow.  This year, not so much.  The summer tires suck in the snow because the rubber compound is too hard.

At this point I had two vehicles stuck:  The tractor out on the street, and the truck, barely a few feet off the garage concrete slab.  I was fuming mad at this point.  Obviously the truck wasn't going to pull the tractor loose.  The truck couldn't even move itself on a level surface.

I returned to the tractor, shoveled snow out from behind the front tires, and pitched the shovel into the loader bucket.  Then I fired the tractor up, threw it in reverse, revved the living heck out of the engine, stomped on the differential locker pedal, and dumped the clutch.  All four wheels flung snow for a second, then the engine bogged and the tractor lifted itself up out of the ditch.  Halleluja!

I used the tractor to tow the truck back onto the garage concrete slab, then drove the truck into the garage.  Next I had to roll each winter tire across a foot of snow from the shop to the garage.  Tiring work, that.

I set about removing the summer tires.  I didn't have the correct size socket, so I had to go to town using the wife's amazing All Wheel Drive (AWD) vehicle to get the correct deep socket.  After I got the socket, I quickly destroyed a ratchet, snapping  off the 3/8" drive, because the lug nuts were so tight.  I was still angry after having two vehicles stuck, and this additional frustration was not helping...

I went to town (again) and bought a bigger 1/2" drive deep well socket and a breaker bar.  With those tools I eventually got all the summer tires off and the winter tires on.  It was a pain in the neck, which is why I normally leave this stuff to a tire shop.  Nevertheless, the next time I was in town, I decided that I would be free of the $50 tire swap fee every season.  This is all that was missing.  A couple of tire swaps and they will have paid for themselves.

I am looking into getting an older AWD vehicle like a small Subaru wagon to commute with.  Something like this:

It would be really nice to have better fuel economy and winter traction than the truck (even with the winter tires and 500lbs of sand, it is still sketchy).  The wife's AWD vehicle doesn't even need summer/winter tire swaps.  It does fine with all-season tires.  Eventually I hope the truck can just be used around the property for hauling stuff and snow-plowing.

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