Impasse Presents

What to buy in case you're stranded going over I-90 or Highway 2.

Aside from my spare tire, mini-jack, and chains that are the wrong size (which I discovered in the chain-up area below Snoqualmie Pass . . . oops), I'd be an unhappy camper if stuck outside Seattle city limits. I guess that makes my motto "Unprepared."

So in order to work toward my personal winter driving emergency kit merit badge, I first looked into a yearlong AAA Club Plus Membership ($83) that covers emergency road service, towing, and motel discounts. I then hit Storables at University Village, where I can dare to dream about putting everything in my life—and why not my car?—in a Plastic Stowage Box ($9.90, medium size). Next stop, Costco, which offers the Premium Automotive Emergency Road Kit that includes flashlight, jumper cables, tire patch kit, a 200-PSI air compressor, first-aid kit, shop rags, and safety vest for $29.95. The indispensable regional Thomas Guide map book goes for $12.99. That way, I'll know where I am when stranded.

I can't put Costco's delicious hot dogs in my kit, but I can get instant protein from a package of Oh Boy! Oberto Beef Jerky (4 oz. for six bucks). Don't want cow? How about nutritional Clif Bars ($1.59) instead? Hefty Bags ($1.89 and up) can double as tarps and raincoats. Who needs Gore-Tex?

Plastic reflector triangles are $7.99 at Shucks, where emergency flares go for 99 cents. Chubby and Tubby has a cheap compass at five bucks, 5-gallon gas cans for $9, all manner of work gloves ($5-$13), and reflective "space" blankets starting at $4. The centerpiece of the kit would be the indispensable Leatherman multipurpose tool, which REI carries in five anodized aluminum colors starting at $55. Also at REI, an Ames Camp Shovel ($12.50) might help extricate the car from a snow bank. For icy spots, one friend advises keeping a 40-pound bag of Tidy Cat litter in the trunk ($6.99), "to weigh down the car and use for traction under the tires." If unused, I can always adopt a kitty next spring.

I already have a cell phone, but if it isn't getting a signal or the battery dies, plan B is to carry a phone card or, more simply, a couple bucks in change for the nearest pay phone in Skykomish or Easton. The AAA tow-truck driver might find me wrapped in a garbage bag and showered in kitty litter, but at least my embarrassment will keep me warm.

AAA: 800-562-2582 or; Storables: 4750 University Village Place N.E., 206-523-7500; Costco: 4401 4th Ave. S., 800-774-2678; Shucks: several locations; Chubby and Tubby: 7906 Aurora Ave. N., 206-524-1810 and 3333 Rainier Ave. S., 206-723-8800; REI: 222 Yale Ave. N., 206-223-1944,

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