It's not difficult to hug a snow tire, or all four of them, for that matter, which takes longer, but it's the same method all the way around: bended knees, arms wrapped against the tread, feeling the sharp studs embedded in the rubber, cheek pressed against the sidewall.

It was my first set of winter tires, and given the traction the purchase put on my wallet, it didn't make me feel silly to go out every now and then for a visit during the first few days, just to say hello and encourage them to do their best when they roll through the inevitable patch of evil black ice.

What a great name for something that could really ruin a nice, winter day: Black Ice; it's a movie villain that always gets away, or a rap star who puts rhymes to words mothers don't want their children to hear.

It could kill a person, or, at least, it could cause insurance rates to go up. Either way, it's a bad thing, and a sensible person takes steps to protect himself from it.

Hence, the purchase fit for a king's carriage, or, in my case, a little Chevy S10 extended cab.

The studs grate against the ice and the asphalt for traction, crushing a safe path, sounding like a tank rolling over diamonds.

They cause more damage to the road than I was aware.

Oregon spends about $11 million a year fixing roads and bridges damaged by studded tires, according to the state's Winter Travel Survival Kit.

The kit also says that water collects in the pavement ruts caused by studded tires and creates dangerous driving conditions. That water can freeze and cause extra-slippery roads.

I didn't know, but it makes sense, because to fight the dark side that is Black Ice, you need a weapon just as tough and mean.

The winter-driving season runs from November to April 1. The tires are expected to last four seasons; so they're a good investment that doesn't really hurt as much as spinning out of control and flipping upside down off the road would.

The tires sure look good, but winter driving demands more than a pretty face. There are also sand tubes and chains.

The tubes weigh 65 pounds each, and placed in the truck bed over the rear wheels keep the wheels on the ground better than an empty bed.

For the price of the tires, I could have bought a beach's worth of sand tubes and crushed Black Ice, wherever I rolled over the dastardly thing.

Chains are necessary, but not really to use, but to carry so you don't get a ticket from the state police when signs say, "Carry chains."

Nice people have given me advice about driving in snow, such as getting a good head of steam going up a hill, and don't stop, because the tires, no matter how worthy of a hug, won't get traction again and there's a good chance the truck will slide backward downhill like a ball in a pinball machine.

The don't-stop rule applies to flat ground, too; if you see an accident, go around it at about 3 mph, because if you stop, there goes the traction and you'll be part of the accident.

If you lose traction and suddenly feel like you're on a carnival ride, remember to keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle and don't slam the brakes, but let the ride gradually slow down.

The advice I think of most often came from John Fiedor, the stage director in Dayville, who told me to buy winter tires and then drive as if I don't have them.

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