RENO, Nev. (KOLO) Everyone dreads it. I've spent most of my life in northern Nevada avoiding it. But if you really need to get over the hill in winter, sometimes chaining up is unavoidable. Unavoidable and always unpleasant.
Whether it's chains or cables. It requires wrestling with cold steel with frozen fingers. Dress warmly and wear gloves. It's still a miserable job.
"You're always wet and cold," said Marty Robinson, who tugged a set on his new Camry at Gold Ranch.. "If it wasn't $40 bucks I'd pay someone else to do it."
And it takes time.
"It depends on how much trouble you have getting your chains apart," said a trucker who was struggling with a rusty set just outside Reno, "but usually it takes 15 to 20 minutes."
He had a partner. For those driving alone it can take longer, considerably longer. Every minute full of cold frustration.
Times like these you may find yourself thinking there must be a better way.
There is and I found it long ago. It means just turning around and staying home or finding a warm spot to wait out the weather or if your presence is really required on the other side, giving a chain monkey $30 to do it for you.
But you'll still be in for a bumpy, noisy ride and those chains won't be doing your tires or the roadway any good. So, again there must be a better way and just maybe there is.
It's called the Auto Sock and that pretty much describes it, a tire cozy made of a Kevlar-like fabric. No metal chains or cables. You just stretch it over the tire and as you would if mounting chains, pull forward or back once or twice to complete the process.
I was doing it for the first time and it took a few trips back and forth and a few minutes, but then it was on and we were ready to go.
We wanted to test it on a real drive, but by the time we shot this, the streets were mostly clear, but the word is it works just like chains, maybe better and a lot faster. You may not have heard of it, but truckers have.
"I hear they're supposed to be pretty good," said trucker James Littlepage, tugging on a particularly difficult set on his flatbed.."I don't know. I haven't tried them yet, but if they are better than chains I'd be happy to try them."
He may have to wait. Though legal in Nevada and California for the past four years they don't appear to be in general use, but people at the Nevada Motor Carrier Association say a few trucking firms are trying them out and they are available online for the average driver.
Both states give them the same status as chains. If chains are required, the Auto Sock will get you past the Highway Patrol and, some say, on your way and over the mountain quicker than the alternatives.