On one of my daily walks last week—sun shining, 70° here in Southern California—I got to thinking about why I relocated to the San Diego area in the first place over fifty years ago. For sure, to be able to walk along the beach on a balmy mid-winter day had to be one of those reasons. So why was I bundled up like an off-season tourist in Barrow, Alaska? Guess my blood thinned out to the point where anything under 70° feels arctic. What a wuss!
I also thought about the coldest I’d ever been. Surely, I must have a Top Ten or whatever. The two atop the list…well, they’re quite memorable.
A FROZEN MONUMENT
My bride, Jacqueline, was born and raised in and around Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and over the years we’ve made many trips back there to visit her family. To avoid crummy weather we kept most of the visits to spring and fall. But one year we had to go back for a wedding—in early February. That’s where it gets dicey.
One evening we drove down to Iowa City with some relatives for a basketball game, the Iowa Hawkeyes vs. Illinois. The wind chill hovered around -10° as our brother-in-law dropped us off near the entrance to Carver-Hawkeye Arena, and we hurried inside. Nice and warm, especially with the combined heat of 17,000 bodies.
The game ended late, around 10:30-11, and we set off for our brother-in-law’s car, which he’d parked about a quarter- to a half mile away…best he could do. The wind chill had elevated just a tad—it now registered -45°. That is not a misprint. Minus 45 degrees! Other Iowans didn’t seem to mind as they made their way to their cars. Lots of schnaps in flasks, my bride pointed out. I barely heard her, totally convinced that I was about to freeze to death and become a permanent monument on the University of Iowa campus.
At least the Hawkeyes won the basketball game.
WHERE’S THE SUNRISE?
The second coldest I’d ever been happened in…Hawaii. I’m serious. We vacationed in Maui about two decades ago, where we signed up for a day trip to the summit of the Haleakala volcano. To paraphrase the brochure: “See the most spectacular sunrise on the planet!” We had to be at the tour bus by 3 a.m., not my favorite time of day. But what the heck, it sounded awesome.
We arrived at the top in some seriously thick fog. No only thick, but cold. To be prosaic, as we writers are, it felt like thousands of ice shards piercing my flesh and freezing the marrow of my bones. Maybe we came underdressed for the experience, though we’d put on layers of just about everything we had brought on the trip. Whatever; we froze our asses off, and the fog never dissipated, so we didn’t even see the sunrise. The tour company offered us a free trip later in the week. Oh yeah, 3 a.m. again? We declined.
Okay, I’m off on another walk. My weather app says it’s 64° out. Quick, where’s my parka and Ugg boots?