24 January, 2014

As Cold As It Gets

Brrr. It's been a cold winter of late. Eighteen below yesterday - so cold the furnace can't quite get the house up to normal. I ought to be used to it, but I'm not.

Although I grew up in Virginia Beach, I left Virginia for graduate school in Maine in the early 1970s. I was there four years, and it got pretty cold sometimes. You get used to it being around zero. It's when your get a "cold" snap that it's difficult.

Ten below or even twenty below was curiously interesting. And not unusual. Super crunchy snow. Beards and mustaches very quickly became filled with frost from the moisture of one's breath. Colder than that and it starts to get dangerous. I think once I stepped out into a minus forty chill just to see what it was like. My, my. Just surreal. Thankfully the wind wasn't blowing.

Even milder weather could be problematic. I loved to cross country ski and would go at the drop of a tube of klister. Below a certain temperature, however, we were advised not to. It was such a vigorous work out that as you started to breathing deeply and rapidly, there was the possibility of frosting your lungs. Not a pleasant thought.

The wind chill could be problematic too. I usually skied in local woods and fields - rarely at groomed facilities. I recall the one time I went with friends to a ski resort, we were all quite excited as we arrived. The place was busy, and we were ready. When we went inside to pay, we learned that although there was downhill skiing, the cross country trails were not open. It was too cold and too windy.

It seems the downhillers could ride up, ski down quickly, and if cold, go inside. We cross country types might ski an hour out into the wilds, get cold, and then be another hour from safety. We went back home disappointed. The only time I ever got a bit of frostbite was after moving to New York. I seem to have recovered from that, thank goodness.

I got in the car a few days ago. The dash thermometer read 16˚F. By the time I backed out of the garage and reached the end of the driveway, it said 5˚ and was dropping. I was reminded of the time it followed the same pattern as I drove my daughters somewhere. The car's thermometer said 15˚, but we knew it was colder than that outside of the garage. The digits went into free fall. We weren't sure what it would read after it got to zero since it was our first winter with that car.

15˚ ... 12˚ ... 8˚ ... 6˚ ... 2˚ ... 1˚ ... 0˚ ... -2˚ ... -3˚ ... -6˚ ... -10˚ ... -12˚ ... -13˚ ... -15˚ ... -16˚ ... -16˚ ... -16˚. It was actually slower than that, adjusting one degree at a time, but thank goodness it stabilized. Boy, we sure blasted right through that zero mark!

We've had very few of a few of those unusually cold days in the past couple of weeks, but I'm sure they are on their way. Can you say 'polar vortex?' Sure you can. I guess we'll be ready it though. We'll just bundle up and make certain we don't touch anything cold with wet skin ---

--- not even on a Triple Dog Dare.