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There Is No Normal and Other Lessons Learned

It was in early March when the days were still chilly and the snow was still falling that the locals assured me the snowfall was not normal and not to worry.   “This week’s snow would be the last”, they all claimed.   As a recent transplant to Boulder, Colorado, I was excited to live in a new climate and for all my new adventures.

I didn’t actually mind the snow.  It was pretty and silent and melted away after a couple of days. I had roof over my head and a fake fireplace (gas) to keep me warm.  I used my gloved hand to scrape 5” of snow off my windshield one morning.  Light and fluffy, it was easy to do.  “Why do people complain about that?” I wondered.   As a native Floridian, I thought it wasn’t bad at all.  At least it wasn’t bad until it snowed again, melted, and formed an ice shield on my windshield.    That was the beginning of my series of lessons.

Lesson #1: Windshield wipers will not remove ice from a windshield.  This will only shred the rubber wiper blades.  So a friend recommended I buy a snow scraper and assured me that no special scraper specifications were necessary.  I wouldn’t need to go to an automobile parts shop, and so I bought my first snow scraper at a grocery store – for $2.59.

Lesson #2:  Don’t store the snow scraper in the car.  When it snows overnight and all the car door jams get buried, it makes a mess to have to open the doors to fish out the scraper. (Opening the door causes the snow to fall inside on the seats.)

Lesson #3:  Cars grow icicles, when the snow gently melts off a warm car hood.    The icicles were generally clean and shiny and could easily form across both the front and back bumpers.  The less pretty icicles came about from when a car splashed through muddy puddles, and dirty ice globs formed on the wheel wells.  If the ice globs grew too big, turning front tires created an odd, crunchy, grinding sound and so it was helpful to knock them off the wheel wells.

Lesson #4:  Be prepared.  After a friend invited me for a “quick hike” at the Flatirons (a beautiful local rock formation), I tied on my hiking shoes and grabbed an 8 oz bottle of water.    We walked over snow covered rocks, slogged through muddy puddles, climbed hand over foot up wet boulders, and dodged dozens of tennis shoe wearing tourists.  With my one free hand, it was sometimes tricky.  Two and half hours later, we finished our “quick hike”, with me still carrying a long since emptied water bottle.  The hike had been a cardio nightmare, but if I had been prepared, I would have had a small day pack to carry water, snacks and other essentials, and left my hands free for climbing.

Lesson #5: Learn the local lingo.  Nearing the bottom of our Flatiron hike (see above), a pony-tailed man in his 20s slowed stepped his way up the path, towards us.  I said, “Good on ‘im, he’s going to sleep up there – just look at how he carries his mattress folded across his back!”  My chatter was abruptly cut off by my friend’s hysterical laughing; apparently the young man was carrying his crash pad on his back, not his mattress.  Crash pads are used by climbers to protect themselves when practicing rock climbing maneuvers.

Lesson #6: Keep spare clothes and proper shoes in the car!  Family friends invited me join them for an evening in Denver and as it was a beautiful, almost balmy 55 degrees, I wore nice slacks and blouse for an evening in the big city.  By the time our event was over and I walked to my car, it was well below 20 degrees and snowing.  Wow!  I shudder to think how I would have fared if my car had broken down and I had become stranded.  Perhaps this lesson falls into the “be prepared” category.

Lesson #7:  Loose the purse.  With the need to carry a hat, gloves, lip balm, bottle of water, lotion, scarf, tissue, etc., there comes the need to carry it all – and a purse doesn’t measure up.  A small backpack or shoulder bag works much better.

Lesson #8:  Ice-skating on your kitchen floor is not recommended.  It turns out that when a home loses its heat source and the temperatures are sub-zero for days on end that the inside of the house can become quite chilly and ceramic floors can freeze.   And when the washing machine drain pipe explodes and sprays water all over the kitchen tile floor, an instant ice skating rink is born.  One wrong step, feet are airborne and you are in a world of hurt.

Lesson #9: Give bicyclists a brake.  Cyclists are around every corner – on neighborhood streets, country roads and divided highways.  While I have always been aware and cautious when driving near a cyclist, now that I have stood in their shoes (ok, have ridden in their clipped-in bike shoes), I really see how important it is to steer clear and give them a brake.

Lesson #10:  There is no “normal”.  My first nine months in Boulder brought the weekly spring snows, record setting floods, a heat wave, and a late autumn deep freeze.  And while the locals claimed all these events were “not normal”, I’m not buying it!  There is no normal.

By | 2017-02-23T21:21:22+00:00 January 12th, 2014|And Stuff, North America, Travel Tales|1 Comment

One Comment

  1. Andre Joubert January 14, 2014 at 12:05 pm - Reply

    Useful tips to remember when I head into the South African winter. It snows in Africa, some times.

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