Car Talk’s Garage Buried by Snow

Recent record snow falls in the East coast reminded me of my one and only snow experience. It’s a car story.

On December 8, 2003, I was stranded in Cambridge, Mass. by a record snowfall brought in by a Nor’easter. It cancelled 335 flights, one of which was my ride home. With Logan Airport shut down for 16 hours, unable to return to Houston, I decided to use my “free” day to search for Click and Clack. You know Car Talk’s garage? I had no idea what an adventure I was getting myself into.

But before I tell you the story, I have to show you this picture. The night of the storm, a limosine pulled into the hotel and a beautiful bride and groom dashed from the wintry outdoors. I just happened to catch this image with my Kodak.

Dashing between snowflakes, here comes the bride

Okay. Back to my car story.

I knew from talking to a guy from the airport that Click and Clack’s shop was called the Good News Garage. The fellow had taken his car there once but he didn’t remember where it was. He remembered that their real names were Tom and Ray Maggliozzi and that Ray ran the shop. I asked him what he thought of Ray. He said that he felt like the guy was honest, but, surprisingly, unable to fix his car. I found that hard to believe. Next to my husband, Ray was the God of the Automobile.

set out early in the morning on foot. The snow fell so fast and was so deep that few streets had been plowed. Snow drifts taller than six feet towered over me, but these icy walls did not daunt me. With temperatures in the mid-20s, I set out on foot armed with my Kodak Max, purse, and cellphone.

The doorman at the MIT Hotel where I was staying told me that Click and Clack’s shop was at Pearl and Decatur about a 45 minute walk.

When I arrived to Pearl and Decatur, there was no Click and Clack Garage. I spoke to a rosy-cheeked guy who was shoveling snow off his driveway. He told me to go to Tudor off Brookline to find their shop.

I get there. I look around. Again, no garage. Just the Massachusetts Electric Store. I go inside and ask the owner. He had no idea where Click and Clack worked their automotive magic. Together we tried to find their address on the internet. No luck. Can you believe it? We’re talking about Click and Clack who have been on the radio for a 100 years. How can their garage be so well hidden?

So I leave and soon spot two bearded guys wearing baseball caps, and I think maybe they would know. They told me to walk further down Brookline. As I head that way, I’m careful to step into the footsteps of those who had walked before me so I wouldn’t get snow inside my boots. I’m now wondering whether I would have been better off staying at the hotel and looking at the snow rather than wearing it.

Car in snow.

That’s when I ran into Joe. He was driving a Chevy pick-up, and it was the first moving vehicle I had seen that morning. It was hard to tell where the cars were as most were so buried they looked like miniature hills or large camel humps. Joe asked me where I was going, and I told him I was looking for Click and Clack’s Garage. “Oh!” he says, “I know where that is. I can take you. It’s just a few blocks around the corner.”

I didn’t hesitate. I hopped in. It turns out that Joe knew Ray Maggliozzi.

So after talking to five people and hitchhiking with a stranger, I finally arrived.

The garage itself was an oldtimey brick building probably from the 1920s or older. I walked into the garage and met a friendly guy, but he lacked the Tappett sparkle. I asked him if Ray was in. He was not. What a let down! I was polite, but what I really wanted was to say was, “Hey! I came here from Houston, Texas. I walked for miles in two-foot deep snow after one of the worst snow storms in Boston history and had the dickens of the time finding you. I risked my life by hitching a ride from a perfect stranger, and now you’re telling me that Click and Clack are not even here?”

That’s life.

But where is the garage, you ask?

Well, if I told you, you wouldn’t have nearly the fun that I did. At least, now you know where not to look. However, I did take a picture for you. And, if you decide to drive there, I have some car tips about dangerous weather.

The Good News Garage

Car tips for driving in Dangerous weather:

  • Stay home! Is it really worth it to get out?
  • Make sure your car is road worthy. Make sure your tires, your windshield wipers, your washer bottle, your coolant are in good condition. You don’t want to be stranded. When weather is terrible, most people stay home (see #1), so you may be not only stranded but isolated.
  • Have your cell phone, charger, and carry an emergency kit with you. Costco, for example, sells an inexpensive car emergency kit with food, water, thermal blanket, flashers just in case you are stranded for several hours.
  • Make sure you have a good battery before you head out. Any good shop will be able to test yours for a nominal fee. As the Tappett brothers say, “Get the meanest, ugliest battery that will fit in your car.”
  • Make sure your coolant is a 50-50 mix. That’s 50% coolant to 50% water. Too much coolant can be as bad as too little. The freezing temperature of coolant is reduced when it’s at a proper mix and that’s a good thing. You don’t want your engine coolant freezing. It goes without saying that you should fix any coolant leaks before you head out.
  • If you’re in snow country and have to drive in snow, you need snow tires. If you’re in an area that also needs tire chains, keep them in your trunk, but know how to use them before you need them. Practice before you are knee-deep in the white stuff, in the dark, tired, cold, and hungry. These things always happen at the worst possible time.
  • Finally! Some words of wisdom from the Tappett brothers themselves!

“Even with good coolant, snow tires, stability control, all-wheel drive, and the bag of Doritos in the trunk, keep in mind that driving in snow, sleet, and ice is very treacherous. And even if you maintain control of your car, not everyone else will. So don’t ever get lulled into a false sense of security. Do everything slowly and gently. Remember, in the snow, the tires are always just barely grabbing the road. Accelerate slowly and gently, turn slowly and gently, and brake slowly and gently. To do this, you have to anticipate turns and stops. That means what? Going slowly and leaving and leaving plenty of distance between you and other cars. Rapid movements lead to skids and loss of control. Drive as if there were eggs on the bottoms of your feet – step on the gas and the brake pedals so gently that you don’t break the eggshell.

“If you’re nervous about driving in winter, consider spending some time practicing. Go to an empty parking lot and try sending the car into a little skid on purpose. Slam on the brakes, then practice turning into the skid and see what happens – and practice until you’re comfortable regaining control of the car. Doing this in a large, empty parking lot (preferably without light poles) allows you the luxury of skidding without ending up flat on your back, looking up into the eyes of seven different EMTs. The more comfortable you are maintaining control and regaining control, the better a winter driver you’ll be. Oh, and one more thing. Don’t forget your laptop computer with the cellular Internet connection so you can kill time here at Car Talk while you’re waiting for the tow truck

Winter driving presents a number of challenges to both you and your car. Cold weather tests the limits of your car’s mechanical abilities. Treacherous driving conditions test your abilities as a driver.

The consequences can be very dire. You could end up sliding towards a guard rail wondering if your affairs are in order, or, as Dave Barry would say, stuck on a deserted road and then passing through the digestive system of wolves. It pays to be prepared. What can you do to get ready for the snow and sleet-covered roads and dipstick-freezing temperatures? Plenty!”

Thank you, Click and Clack!

So that’s my one and only snow-car story!

Kathryn van der Pol, great admirer of Tom and Ray Maggliozzi, aka Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers

If you want to visit Car Talk’s website, here you go.