Hey, there, you big stud!

From the Top of the Pile

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The other day I was out touring a new oilfield pipeyard east of Estevan. They had the Canadian division president out, and I got to learn something new about oil country tubular goods, which I hadn’t expected.

Another thing I hadn’t expected was that my -65C rated composite-toed winter work boots were not considered sufficient to walk about the yard. These are the same boots I’ve used for the past few years to climb all over drilling rigs, leases and rights-of-way for the last several years (and the warmest boots I’ve ever had).

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You see, my boots were lacking studs. And I’m not referring to the guy in them.

So they provided me with this stretchy rubber gizmo that attached to your boots like the toe-rubbers my dad used to wear on his Oxford shoes on formal occasions in the winter. Now, winter oilfield boots are enormous, but these accounted for that, and while looking ungainly, they did, successfully, attach to my boots. It was like walking around with studded tires.

We successfully navigated walking through the pipeyard, and not one of us broke his or her face upon the steel or hard ground. At the conclusion, I was about to take these contraptions off, but they told me to keep them. That was very kind of them.

I don’t know what the proper name for these things are. Is it cleats? Crampons? Studs? Traction devices? I guess I’ll call them cleats.

A few days later, taking pictures and video of the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train in Estevan, it was a very nice day. Even so, standing on the cold and slippery ground for an hour was not something I wanted to do in runners. Out came the heavy boots, which still had the cleats attached. While they looked a little goofy, I was the one person that wasn’t slipping and sliding, as kids all around me were landing on their padded bottoms.

When it all wrapped up, I realized both had fallen off. I retraced my steps and found them. None of the few hundred people there picked them up for themselves. Funny, that.

You see, a few weeks before, we had freezing rain. And I had bought cleats for my wife and daughter for Christmas as stocking stuffers (as the son had some from last year). Instead of waiting for Christmas, I insisted they all wear them that morning. That didn’t get too far with my wife. The daughter took hers off the second she rounded the corner of the garage at the front of the house. But the son wore his for a day, and no noses were broken or buttocks bruised.

Later that day, we observed a man crossing one of the main streets in Estevan go ass over teakettle and land on his head near the 7-Eleven. I pulled over and jumped out to check on him, but he didn’t want or need any help, and staggered off on his merry way. If he had cleats, he would be short one concussion.

I am learning, however, that the social acceptability of these cleats is somewhat lacking. Especially if you are in high school. Fair enough.

One more point – don’t wear them inside, ever. You will utterly destroy your flooring, especially lino. Thankfully I am not speaking from experience here.

This year, finally, I was able to afford winter tires for my current Ford Expedition SUV. Back around the winter of 2012, my tires on my previous SUV, a 2004 Buick Rainier, were nearly bald. That winter I nearly rolled it in freezing rain conditions near Winnipeg, and later hit the ditch near Weyburn after an inch of ice formed on the highway in April, no less. I resolved to get studded winter tires, and the next year, did so.

The next winter I found it was like driving on dry pavement. However, not having enough money for two sets of tires, driving with the studs during the summer wore them down, and the traction the following winter wasn’t nearly as good.

In 2014 we got a different SUV, and again, I didn’t have the extra money for winter tires. While 4x4 is helpful, it does no good in stopping. This fall, once again, I got studded winter tires, Nokian-Hakkapeliitta-9s (say that three times quickly).

These are two generations of improvement over the Hakkapeliitta-7s on the Buick.

I don’t know what magic those Finns have conjured with their tires, but the performance has been spectacular. Again, and perhaps more so, driving on slick ice is more akin to driving on dry pavement. I’ve even tried to spin around a bit or do a fishtail or two, but no dice. These suckers keep you glued.

Which is kind of my point. If you’re serious about not ending up upside down, either while walking or driving, you really should consider studs. I don’t expect to be wearing them all the time, but when it is incredibly slick out, it’s not a bad idea. And in the future, as long as I can afford it, I think my truck should be wearing studs, too.

Because I’m that type of guy. Studly.

Brian Zinchuk is editor of Pipeline News. He can be reached at brian.zinchuk@sasktel.net.

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