Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Newsflash: Fairbanks is Cold in the Winter

Winter has finally decided to make an appearance at the party, arriving fashionably late but fooling no one.

Or so I thought.

Lawdy! The ink, the air time, the syndicated news stories devoted to such an occurrence. I don't know about you, but having been around in the Clinton era, at least the first one, evil grin plastered to my face, as Mr. Slippy Zipper said, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."

So, having been fooled the first time back in 1992 (year one of my Alaska life) when I was quite shocked when it got miserably cold, I really was prepared when winter decided to show up the next year and every year subsequently. It was sort of like... clockwork.

Oh, lookit there, I went and crabbed about the same thing last year.

But it is quite lovely having a bit of the minus 40s again, isn't it? This afternoon, and had I sufficient limbs and talent to take a photograph with my cellphone's camera while executing a left turn in my car which has a manual transmission, I would have captured the perfect photo for the day. There, paused in front of UAF's electric billboard, stood a cute little Alaska newbie, taking a photo of the temperature displayed there. Minus 36.

We were all there, not there at that corner, but there in the frame of mind where minus 36 was something to shoot a photo of and send back to the people we knew unfortunate enough to live somewhere else. Now, of course, we wait for the thermometer to hit something respectable before doing such a thing, say, at least minus 45.

But here at the CabinDwelling compound, we're sitting at minus 36 tonight, and it was a lovely evening to go out and chop some firewood. The moon is giving us enough light that I didn't even need a headlamp. Bonus too, is that wood splits quite easily at these temperatures.


Ishmael said...

Wow. I've nearly thrown out my shoulders trying to drive an axe into log when it was below freezing. You must have some good dry wood ... or does something molecular happen when it gets so much colder: like it's more brittle?

My science teacher in high school went to college at UAF, and he swears he saw a car tire bounce off a flat bed at 60 below and break in two when it hit the ground.

So how many heating devices are on the Soob? Battery blanket? Oil pan and transmission heaters? In-line coolant heater? Block heater? Interior heater? I had all those on my Chevy in Bethel and a half hour before I walked out I'd throw the switch to turn them on and it'd good to go. Electric bill was high, but I only left them on all night during the coldest nights.

Of course in Barrow, once you get your rig running in the morning, you never shut it off.

CabinDweller said...

I'll go with brittle. And the spruce I'm burning is from a local wildfire a few years ago - as someone said to me this summer, "I like my firewood standing" - so it is totally dry.

Believe it or not, the Soob has only two heating devices: an oil pan heater and the engine block heater. Which normally does the trick. But after a cold night, it needs at least a couple of hours with the heaters on.

Oh, some folks do the battery blanket, or battery pad - but I've been told it mostly just cooks the battery. I've heard of a few folks that do the transmission, but not that many.

However, the SO decided to change the timer while I was in Anchorage and set it later so Francesca didn't have enough time on the heater to start this morning. Arg.

Alaskan Dave Down Under said...

I always liked the square tire phenomenom the first five mins of driving in cold temps. That, and the vinyl seats cracking and the steering wheel splitting. Yup, loved all that!

Deirdre Helfferich said...

Yep, wood splits much more easily when it gets decently cold. Finally, winter has arrived. Only took it three months to get here.

"Harrumph!" grouses the lifelong Alaskan, disgusted with the lack of weather cold enough to drive the southerners away...

Ishmael said...

When I lived in Soldotna, my Ranger would always tell me when it was more than 20 below: That's because the seat wouldn't compress and I had to hunch over to keep from hitting my head on the ceiling.

Yes, it gets 20-30 below in Slowdotna, sometimes for a few weeks at a time. But of course, those are the days when it's what, 50 below in F'banks? It's especially fun when the wind comes sweeping down from the Mat-Su. Yay windchill.

subarctic mama said...

I love the easily split wood in the cold. Thanks for reminding me of the upside.