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Re: [T3] My Palomar Hill Climb

Thanks to everyone for their comments on my Mt. Palomar story. I had expected a 
certain amount of polite "applause," but was extremely gratified to find all 
the cross connections that this story drew, especially Neil's about his 
Grandfather's prison road crew.  

I had no idea that so many of you would also have made this same drive.  

Peter Parker is exactly right about momentum being the key to driving on 
slippery roads. You must not drive too fast, nor too slow, and don't try to 
change direction too quickly. I also like the story from the person (sorry, I 
forgot who) who described driving fast enough around the corner to keep from 
sliding inward. Good physics there!  ;-)

I've occasionally toyed with adding weight in front, but never done it. In the 
end I'd be worried that it would cause the front wheels to sink in deeper and 
add drag, which would only make things worse. A lot of people in this part of 
the world put weight in the rear of front engine/rear wheel drive cars to add 
traction. The idiots put a couple of 80 lb bags of water softener salt; the 
smart ones use sand or kitty litter/oil absorbent. Don't ever buy a used car 
which has had its trunk filled with salt.  

Paul Knox's story of starting his FI type 3 at -41F beats anything I can come 
up with. Those kinds of temps are things we only hear about on the news. Does 
everyone know that the boiling point of propane is -44F, so once the temp gets 
close to that, the propane doesn't bother to move from the tank to the furnace. 
This actually happens occasionally in North Dakota. Keep in mind that if you're 
a farmer on the northern Great Plains, propane heat with a big outdoor tank is 
probably your only option. Paul's parking brake cables were probably just a 
little slow releasing that night. Grease gets thick, too, at those temps.   

My coldest drive was a bit below -35F. I remember being extremely cold the 
whole way home, (at that temp the heater never got going, even in 35 miles at 
highway speed) but I marvelled at how the brakes, with the silicone brake 
fluid, felt normal. Normal polyglycol brake fluid would have turned to the 
consistency of honey around there. It still works, but it's just slow to 
respond, and you can really feel the difference in the pedal.  

Brian's experience about driving in heavy snow without chains is pretty typical 
stuff. It can be a great experience as long as all goes well. Few people's 
experiences go so well that they get a wife out of it, however. Did you pass 
the snow plow, Brian? I've done that on the Illinois Toll Way. Always wondered 
what they thought....

I've had a few similar experiences in the mountains of Colorado and New Mexico, 
as well as "flatlander" snow drives in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana, as 
well as in Texas and Oklahoma. Russ's Iowa experience is probably about the 
same, although I've never had studded snow tires, nor ever felt there was a 
time when they would have improved anything. I understand that they only offer 
an improvement on solid ice and actually make things worse in rain/wet 

My best Madison snow driving story was the night I was waiting at the Madison 
airport for my girlfriend's plane to get in. It had been snowing hard all day 
and the plows had been working to keep the airport open. Planes had been 
landing and taking off all day, but in the evening things were getting worse. 
My girlfriend never got in, so there I was, feeling sad and lonely, in the 
airport with a lot of morose people who wanted to get home, but all the taxis 
had given up, and there were rides which had failed to show.

I was ready to just feel sorry for myself and leave when I realized that I 
could at least do a few people a good deed and take them home. I loaded about 5 
people with bags into my 68 Squareback and spent 45 minutes delivering them 
around town, then went back for another load. We had a great time, and after it 
was all over we ALL felt better, in spite of the missing girlfriend.

I can still remember someone shouting for me to "Look Out!" as I turned onto an 
unplowed side street. The plowing had left a ridge about 18" high with the 
untouched snow 8-10" deep on the other side. I had enough momentum to carry 
over the ridge, and then driving on the fresh snow was no problem. I think at 
that time I had a set of Firestone recaps (over OEM type 3 6.00 x 15 6PR) snow 
tires. They weren't nearly as good as the Michelin M+S 165-15 radials I got 
later, but they would take me almost anywhere.

I don't remember how many carloads of people I took home that night. I just 
remember how much fun we all had with a carload of strangers, young and old, 
male and female, sitting on seats, laps, and the cargo area, all in the same 
stranded predicament, packed into a little squareback on a night when the only 
other vehicles on the road were the snowplows.

These were strangers who became friends for a brief time and then probably 
never saw each other again. I hope they remember this night occasionally and 
smile, too, as do I.

Jim Adney, jadney@vwtype3.org
Madison, Wisconsin, USA

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