The change from Winter to Spring can be shown through a number of signs in Anchorage. The massive puddles of water. The dirty, half melted snow. The cars covered with salt and dirt. The roads being cleared of the gravel and dirt. The dirt and water. Did I mention the dirt? Okay, maybe I am too fixated on the dirt. There’s other things too … seagulls for instance.
The big trigger for us though is not just the conceptual seasonal change, but an actual physical change. This is the time of the year for all of us to change our tires (or if you are a strange Scotsman, tyres … or however you spell those things that are on a car’s wheels). Specifically, the change from winter tires to summer tires. Yes – nearly every Alaskan has two sets of tires for their cars.
For my entire life before moving to Alaska, the thought of having more than one set of tires was a luxury that didn’t even cross my mind. I seriously considered a second vehicle way more than a second set of tires. But there really isn’t much of an option here. Winter roads here are pretty darn tough to drive on. Of course there is the snow, and your winter tires need to be able to handle it, but there is a lot of ice on the roads too, not super slick but enough to make it hard to keep your tires gripping the road. Many have studded tires (tires with metal rivets on the tread for extra grip) to help with getting around during the winter. The problem is, most winter tires will get torn up on regular pavement during the summer; and studded tires will tear up the pavement (it’s actually illegal to drive on studded tires during the summer in Alaska). On the flip side, with all the rain we get during late summer, rain gear tires are all the rage for the summer months. Think of it like shoes. If you’re in a place where the weather isn’t too different year round you can get away with one pair of shoes, but if you are getting sunny weather and wintery weather, you will need shoes for each season.
If there was any business I could suggest someone to start up in Anchorage that doesn’t require you to get mining/drilling permits … its owning a tire shop. Today I went to remove my badly chosen snow tires (badly chosen because they were great on snow days … all 10 of them, and bad on the days the snows were cleared but there was still ice that studded tires would go over properly … all 500 of them). I went to the largest tire shop in town. This was a place with something like 20 bays for cars. They have three shuttles running to drive people to places while they wait. They have their own coffee stand … not just a coffee maker, but a stand. I couldn’t get an appointment, because I even try to look at tires until Wednesday, and they are booked up until July. Instead they told me to come when the shop opens at 8am and get on the waiting list. Today I did … 3 hours later I saw my car get pulled into the shop, and an hour later they were done. That’s right, 4 hours.
Because my old tires were basically used up when I got these winter tires, today’s set was the second set of tires I bought within a year. Four months from now, I will buy another set so I can have studded tires.
But between here and there, there is summer … so this change is a good thing for now.