Sorry, I can't come into work today, it's drizzling and my car is stuck...
September 5, 2009 10:48 AM   Subscribe

Possibly going to move and work as a caretaker of a small farm-sanctuary in upstate NY. The problem? It's on a windy, steep dirt road and my car is less than good. Help!

I'm considering taking a caretaker's position in upstate NY (and by upstate, I mean near Beekman, between Poughkeepsie and Pawling). Everything sounds great - a house, utilities, stipend, and I'll be able to get another job for additional income. I'm supposed to go interview next weekend.

However, I took a drive up to the area earlier this week with a friend. All was going well until we got about a mile or half a mile away - when the road suddenly turned to dirt and began to climb. The dirt seemed pretty well packed, but we haven't had rain in a few days and there were lots of rocks scattered on the road.

I drive a 1992 Volvo 240 (that has been in several accidents and isn't super reliable anyway). I believe that it will be able to make it up the road in decent weather, but things like rain and snow on a windy, hilly dirt road frighten me. (Do they even plow dirt roads?)

I want to take this position, but not if I will be stranded up on the hill when it's raining or snowing. Plus, it's a good four or five miles to the closest store or main-ish road.

I will need to drive for:
-social outings
-a job! (unless i can find a reliable "work at home" job, but I'm not counting on it - though suggestions are always welcome!)

I've thought about getting an ATV, but I don't think you can drive them on the road. I've also considered trying to park down before the road changes to dirt and walking/biking up, but that would not be so appetizing in driving rain or snow. Would new tires help? A different car? A motorcycle?

$700 is my limit, but obviously spending less in preferable.

Any and all suggestions are welcome!
posted by firei to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total)
Get an old tractor (or ask if they have one available at the farm) to use for ingress & egress. It'll probably help to have a snow plow on it during the winter months.
posted by torquemaniac at 11:31 AM on September 5, 2009

Everybody I know who lives in mountainous and/or snowy places drives a Subaru Outback. From looking on Craigslist it appears you could get one between 10-15 years old that's in your price range.
posted by katemonster at 11:32 AM on September 5, 2009

I think you should find a nice $500 truck and put tire chains on it.
posted by mearls at 11:36 AM on September 5, 2009

I'm from Florida and have never lived in a really snowy place but I've been told tales about snow mobiles being used during the winter as regular transportation. Perhaps the farm has a snow mobile for the caretaker's use. This would help during the winter with snow.

It seems to me that the farm would have a tractor/some sort of plow so that they could repair the ingress/egress road themselves (assuming that they own the road).
posted by LOLAttorney2009 at 11:38 AM on September 5, 2009

Response by poster: I'm pretty sure that they don't have a tractor or a snow mobile, because it's a tiny little farm that's more animal sanctuary focused than crop growing focused. however, I do plan to ask when I go to interview!.
posted by firei at 11:40 AM on September 5, 2009

I used to drive an old Volvo S144 and it handled pretty well in inclement weather when equipped with decent tires and/or chains. I think my Volv was heavier than yours, but not by too much. I'm sure you'd be fine in the rain, though. With a little bit of experience and confidence, in reasonable snowfalls too (you won't be going anywhere when a big blizzard hits anyway, right?).

Short of giving it a go with the old ride, I'm sure you could find a used ATV or snowmobile in the sub-$1k price range that would cover the 5 miles to the road. How about taking up cross-country skiing?

Sounds like fun! Enjoy!
posted by maniactown at 11:41 AM on September 5, 2009

Why don't you get your Volvo fixed as in: made reliable. That car is basically a bunch of wheels, a motor and a transmission. This ought to be technically possible unless some structurally indispensable bit has rusted to crumbles. Then get yourself a pair of decent rough-weather tires with studs. The end result will maybe not be as fancy as a brand-new 4x4 but realize: your trouble will be getting uphill. Once up, any car is the same, new, old, four-wheel-drive or not. They all need three things:
1) good brakes
2) good tires
3) a driver who is smart enough to use the gears in a judicious fashion before even considering braking, and who lets the car at home if conditions get too icy.

The 240 was designed for Sweden. At the time when it was built, most countryside roads here were gravel (many still are), and the slush in some parts around here is just as bad as in NY state.
Jeez, sometime during the winter I am forced to park my V70 (front wheel drive, winter tires, anti spin thingy, whatnot) down in the village because there's no way getting it up here. For cars with a back drive like the 240, the trick of the old guys in the village here is to put a sack of cement in the back and drive uphill in reverse. You'll be fine.
posted by Namlit at 11:42 AM on September 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Reliability and mud-road-ability are two different issues. Let's look at the second, which is, I take it, your real question:

A set of tire chains, or better yet, a full set of snow—not all-weather, but SNOW—tires. A 240 in snow tires with a couple of sandbags in the trunk will be pretty near unstoppable in anything but quicksand.
posted by bricoleur at 2:01 PM on September 5, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: For ~$700 replacing the tires would be your best bet in the short run, as swapping your old, battered Volvo for an old, battered sub $1K Jeep or Pickup would only bring you new headaches.

ATCs and quad runners are restricted to off-road use in Dutchess County, and wouldn't offer much help in winter.

Good luck with the interview, and whichever choices you make.
posted by Smart Dalek at 5:41 PM on September 5, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks, all - I guess I'll be getting new tires if I get the job. :)
posted by firei at 5:48 PM on September 5, 2009

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