Delusions of Toughness

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 ( 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!

About Tandi

I love my morning coffee, reading, the wilderness, paddling, poetry, my Spanish husband, and being a doctor. I also love writing my blog, and reading yours.
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16 Responses to Delusions of Toughness

  1. DoD says:

    Hi T and M,– winter doesn’t start for 3 more weeks –LUV Pa xoxo

  2. Karen says:

    You could do what most Canadians do…..stoke up the fire and pull out a good book. In your case a very LONG book.

  3. Dawn Jamieson says:

    Hi Tandi. Sounds as if winter is really attacking you. You WILL get used to it. Used to It – but you don’t have to like it. I remember, from my growing up days in the Yukon, how warm it felt when it “warmed up” to -20 F. I really enjoy reading your blog. For I warm spot may I suggest Brasil. In Aleen’s blog she said the temperature stays at about 40 C. And it is winter there!

    • Tandi says:

      Hi Dawn, So nice to hear from you. Yes, I know I will get used to it, its just been a bit harder than I’d imagined. After two weeks of minus 20 to 30, and colder with the wind chill, today it was minus 20 and it did feel quite refreshingly easy. Plus I went to the store and bought some mitts warm enough to take up Everest, or for Arctic expeditions. Those are for me!! Brasil sounds like a great idea – I am happy to hear that Aleen is enjoying it. Does this mean that she is no longer 6 or 7? Has she changed from when I saw her last?

  4. Tandi, I’m not gonna lie. This sounds like my own personal version of hell. I’ll meet you in Kauai – when are we going?!

  5. Stuart says:

    All this human propulsion stuff is thoroughly over-rated, you need that essential Canadian invention – the skiidoo!! Noisy, polluting and an absolute blast! : )
    Sounds like an amazing experience Tandi.

    • Tandi says:

      I was thinking about skidoos on my run today, as one went by me. Here they are like cars, ubiquitous: on streets, lakes and paths. But what I really want from my morning commute is that sense of freedom and ease that comes from spending some quiet time in nature. I don’t think I can find it on a skidoo. But I’ll keep you posted! And, I have an even better idea of how to get to work now – can’t wait to show you! Stay tuned.

  6. Mona Chernoff says:

    You guys are such BRAVE people, I know this lady that likes it at least 90deg. would never survive. Ted said he thinks you should head South,,Way South!!!!
    Along with hot fire and LONG book, I’d think of a big bottle of rum & eggnog would be in order.
    Hang in there girl, it’s only Dec. 1st.

  7. jesus says:

    Hi Tandi andM artin.Fuck that cold. Only reading and I had to wear a hat. It is also true that my poor head has each time less hair.I wanted to write for some time but laziness and facebook did not let me do it. I am surprised and I have so much fun with your experiences in the world’s freezer . I laugh because Tandi tell it very fun. I think that to live there is very big experience bu at very hard too. . Martin is frozen?? If I get to put this in facebook, I promise you that I’ll write more. A hug for all. For dogs too.

    • Tandi says:

      Jesus! Thank you for your great comment. The first official comment with swearing. And in English, very impressive. Did you hear that in a Johnny Cash song too? Un abrazo.

  8. I am going to hope from now on that Jesus comments on every post – water came out of my nose.

  9. Randy says:

    remember to put your vacation ideas into perspective as far as what warm is now. Now that you’re on your way to acclimatizing to arctic weather, a warm vacation might be sunny day skate skiing down by the river on the Busk trail!!

    • Tandi says:

      We are coming to Nelson in February to do just that. It should be pretty easy to handle the temperatures. The hills, not so much. There are none here!

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