I’ve realized I may just not be tough enough for this town, this part of the world, this weather.
Its such a pain to turn start the vehicles (and mine is STILL at the shop anyway) these days that I’m planning to commute by bike instead. I’ve emailed a few local colleagues who commute by bike for their advice. I also discovered Phillipe Morin’s blog on life in Inuvik (inuvikphotos.ca) and contacted him too. Here are some of the tips they gave me:
1. A simple bike with only a few moving parts is best – suspension systems, hydraulic brakes and gears can all freeze up and create problems. This advice actually makes me happy – a good reason to add to my quiver of bikes. I mean, I can’t use my high end carbon road bike for sure, and a northern winter would not be a good way to treat my high end cross country bike (I rode it in the winter in Nelson, but this is a different story up here) and my vintage green commuter bike, inherited from my grandfather, is too much of a sentimental favorite. So this summer I bought a simple single speed bike and its perfect. Check.
2. Beaver fur mitts are great in the cold. Fantastic, they sound perfect. Hard to find though so will have to do without for now. Alternatively gortex gloves, plus an insulated layer, and add another thin wool layer when its below minus 20. (Hmm, does that mean its occasionally above minus 20?)
3. “Be sure to get studded tires for your bike, and practice a bit before actually commuting! It literally takes me 2x as long to ride in the winter compared to the summer, and depending on how the surface is, it can feel like riding through molasses.” Okay. Studded tires. Check. I put these on the other day in my bike shop/kitchen. Riding through molasses. Okay, might be fun.
4. Wear two layers of socks and heavy boots, long underwear,several layers of pants including a wind layer, several layers on top, including one or two wind jackets and perhaps even a full down coat, a neoprene face mask, and a balaclava, a toque, a ski helmet and ski goggles. Okaaaaaaay. Not sure I’ll be able to even move with all that, but I like the idea of being warm. Here is a photo of Phillipe sent me of him dressed up for biking in Inuvik, in his “maximum winter gear”:
But it gets worse:
5. “One problem my bike has below minus 40 is that the freewheel ratchet in the rear hub can get stuck in the open position if I coast. When I start pedaling again, everything spins, but no power goes to the rear wheel. To avoid this on really cold days I need to continuously pedal, even when slowing to a stop – and never coast.” Alright. This is getting a bit much. Frozen wheels, really?
Things are pretty daunting these days on the non-biking front too. The kitchen sink drain froze as we left some water in the sink overnight. The drain to the tub nearly froze completely too, as we’ve been closing the door to the entry way to reduce drafts. Both of these mistakes we were warned about by the previous owners, but we still managed to pull them off! The washing machine, (in the entry way, along with all those drain pipes) doesn’t work at all today – I suspect it too is frozen inside. Now that we are keeping the entry way door open to thaw things, its cold and drafty in here.
It gets worse.
Today Martin was out and about doing some outdoor tasks, and the dogs were with him. After about an hour he noticed that poor old Ginger, our lovely, loving and devoted Golden Retriever, was sitting there looking a little unhappy. Shivering in fact. Probably getting a bit of hypothermia in fact. Poor old girl. I never imagined our hairy dogs would need dog sweaters, but it might just be so. It is after all minus 30, which she has never experienced before in her life, and she is a 13 year old retiree, game but slowing down. Now every time either dog looks at me, I’m wondering just what they are trying to tell me. “Hey stupid, I’m getting cold, can we go home now?”
I discovered a great skating rink that someone in the houseboat community built. With end boards and everything. I was pretty excited to try out my new ice skates so went over there today for the first time. The ice had been shoveled, but there was still a faint dusting of snow on it. I could absolutely not glide – it was all I could do to just walk on my skates. I buried my pride, ignored the fact that to anyone watching me I must look like a complete geek, and persevered. To no end. Not one glide did I get. Finally I figured out that it was that dusting of snow…the snow here is so cold its more like sand. Imagine skating on sand. It just doesn’t work. Not sure how all the local hockey players do it but I’ll have to find out.
Anyway, it feels right now like its winter 6, and Tandi zero. I’m sure we will get used to it all, but that hasn’t happened just yet. If you have any suggestions for warm winter vacation sites, please let me know!