15 minutes — It takes five winters to be a Tahoe driver | TahoeDailyTribune.com

15 minutes — It takes five winters to be a Tahoe driver

Jeff Munson, City Editor of the Tahoe Daily Tribune

Name: Carol Giese

Occupation: Office manager of Lakeside NAPA Autoparts, located at 1935 Lake Tahoe Blvd. and at 972 Tallac Ave. in South Lake Tahoe

Birth place: Born in Sacramento

Family: Married to husband, Jerry, daughter Melissa, 23, granddaughter, Shyenne, who attends Sierra House.

How many years have you lived in Tahoe? We have been here for about 11 years; before that we were in Anchorage, Alaska, where I worked in mortgage banking for the National bank of Alaska. We moved to Tahoe so I could be closer to my family.

How many sets of tire chains have you sold so far this winter? About 450 pair.

What’s the difference between regular chains and cable chains? Most of the new cars now recommend you to use cable chains, while the link chains are more geared toward pickups, vans and heavy-duty vehicles.

Which chain is better? They both have pros and cons. Right now we have a product called the Super Z chain, and that’s the best on the market. What makes them unique is that when they sit on the tire, they make a Z that goes back and forth across the tire for better traction. Plus, they have a bunch of tiny links on them that makes for even better traction and they are supposed to last longer.

How much are chains selling for these days? Anywhere from $32 to $89.

What’s something people forget to buy, but realize they needed when they’re traveling? A snow brush and wipers. Oh boy, do we ever go through wipers up here. A lot of people forget to replace them, especially if they are only used to rain. When it freezes at night, you really need those winter blades.

How often should blades be replaced? If you have a good blade, they should be changed every two years. Personally, I change mine every year. Tires, too. Not everyone would agree, but I think car safety is just as important as maintenance.

How many winters do you have to live through before you are a considered a local driver? Five winters. Unless, of course, you’re from or ever lived in Alaska.

What’s your advice to the first- and second-year full-time residents up here? Find someone who drives the same vehicle you do, but has lived here for more than five years. Ask them how their car or trucks works in all the seasons. I would also talk to the counter people here at NAPA. They have a lot of experience.

Do you sell those air fresheners that makes old cars smell like new cars? We do, but they don’t sell that well. Right now, we’re selling a lot of the 49ers football-helmet car scents.

What’s the scent? Pigskin, I think. It’s the winning scent! (laughs).

NAPA carries car stuff, but do you have hats and mittens and scarves? We have coveralls and gloves.

How about snow shovels? No, but we have a neat product that’s called the Snow Broom. This removes the snow off the tops of cars, which is a pet peeve I have.

Explain what you mean. Don’t most people clean the snow off the tops of their cars? I would say that most of the true locals do. You know, anyone here more than five years. But I think the tourists like to take the snow home with them and don’t realize how dangerous it is to have snow on the roof. Not only do you splat the guy behind you with snow, but when you stop or brake, it all slides down the front of your windshield.

What’s the most common question you get from visitors to the area? Probably the most common is “If I buy these chains and I don’t need them, can I return them?” We have to tell them no, of course. Chains are a way of life in the mountains. Carrying them is the law of the land, whether it’s your first time in snow or your 20th year.

How long should it take to put on chains? I’ve seen chain monkeys do it in five minutes. I’ve seen people who’ve never done it before take an hour. We recommend people read the directions before putting them on and, if they can, practice putting them on in the off-season, when it’s warm and the pavement’s dry.

Anything else? Yes. Ken Rankin, our assistant manager, says slipping the monkey $20 is the easiest way to put on chains.

Are locals good about winterizing their cars? Their cars, yes. Winterizing their boats, no.

As a driver yourself, what is a pet peeve on the road? I have a few. First, cars have blinkers for a reason. I know vehicles come equipped with them now. They are standard equipment. People should use them. Also, four-wheel drive doesn’t mean four-wheel stop. Just because you have a big four-wheel-drive truck doesn’t mean you’re going to stop when you put on the brakes. Also, slow down when the weather’s bad.

You’re saying people drive too fast for the conditions? Yes. Especially those with little or no experience driving in the snow. And the little young punks racing to get up the hill. I want to meet their mothers so I could tell them a thing two for not raising their children better. (laughs.)

Speaking of the young punks with the snowboards on the top of their cars, what advice would you give them? Know you are not invincible and pay attention. It doesn’t cost anything to pay attention.

Do you have a person you would like to see interviewed for 15 minutes? Write to Tahoe Daily Tribune City Editor Jeff Munson at jmunson@tahoedailytribune.com

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