Sunday, January 29, 2006

No Room for Error

Fairbanks has had it's longest month of sub zero temperatures in years. The average temperature for the month of January will be at about -20. We bottomed out on Friday the 27th with a -51, and had about five days in a row with lows below -40, a temperature where things really start to break down. At these temperatures you just want to call a time out. But, Alaskans are tough. The school buses keep going, even at -50 and most everyone heads to work.

Operating a car is particularly challenging at -40 or colder. The car seat is has hard as frozen block of ice. The tires are frozen in a lumpy state, so for the first mile or two, you're clumping down the road with club foot tires, usually not in tempo. That's the amusing part. Meanwhile, many mechanical things just break down.

On Wednesday my wife's Honda blew a gasket and dribbled oil all the way into town. At least whe was able to get it to the service center in time. It will take nearly a week to fix, so we're limited to my compact Toyota--still running strong at 10 years old. On Friday I took it in for an oil change and a new battery. I'd been planning all month to do that at the end of this week. That was a mistake. They worked on it when the car was still frozen, which damaged the engine block/battery heater devices that we had installed back in 2004. Everyone here plugs their vehicles in for a few hours before starting. It's easier on the engine, and it heats the oil and battery so the car will actually start when it's -30 or colder. But on Saturday, at -35, I couldn't start the car. After hours of trouble-shooting and heating up the new battery inside, we found that the electric cables were damaged--they pop like brittle twigs at those temperatures. So for now we have no cars. Hopefully that will be fixed by Monday.

Meanwhile our water shut off Friday night. Frozen pipes. We called the plumber who were on the way, but our sweet neighbor came over and asked if we had plugged in the heat tape that wraps around the water pipe. OHHHH, you have plug it in? Doh? Just saved us $200.

As for skiing. The week was a wash. I did get out for 45 frozen minutes on Monday. It was -21. Got through it and hoped for warmer weather. Tuesday it was -24 and I'd left my clothes in the car (which I do all the time). But even though I changed into them inside, the chill just sapped the heat from my body, so when I started there wasn't much to keep my feet and hands warm. I made about 3k and ended up doing the rest of my workouts indoors on the stationary cycle. I did run an easy 4 or 5 miles on Thursday (froze my toes about 1/2 way through) and another 3 on Saturday.

Kids have been cooped inside for a week now. At school the cut-off for outdoor recess is -20. Alaska kids are tough, but toughness has it's limits.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home