It’s Iowa…but man that was cold


I woke up at 6 a.m. Wednesday morning, actually I was up at like 5 because I got a couple of messages from people wanting doughnuts.

Kiwanis is selling doughnuts and they wanted on the list, but the idea that people were messaging me on Facebook that early that they wanted doughnuts, makes for good writing.


Anyway, I decided I would get up and warm up the cars because 18 below with -42 wind chills is a BIG deal.

I told my family that I was gonna go out in a t-shirt because that might be the coldest temperature I experience for the rest of my life and I wanted to… well….. experience it.

So at 6:30, I put my boots and jeans on and put on a 100% cotton Hanes t-shirt. I might be stupid..but I’m not stupid.…you know what I mean.

I grabbed a zip-up hoodie, my gloves, a thermal Army-green stocking cap and my NorthCrest heavy winter coat. I slipped into the zip up without zipping it up, put on the hat and grabbed the keys.

Opening the door, I stepped onto the porch and the wood popped under the weight of my heavy boots. Not my weight I tell ya – wasn’t me…. but the weight of those boots. I side stepped closer to the house over the framing of the porch so the planks wouldn’t crack.

I stepped down the three cement steps and onto the sidewalk and in that brief 20 seconds, the inside of my nose was starting to freeze. I flared the nostrils, yep…freezing in 20 seconds.

After walking down to my wife’s FJ Cruiser, I pried the door open and threw my heavy coat and gloves into the passenger seat. I slipped out of the zip up jacket and stood there like an idiot in the street in my t-shirt, jeans, and boots.

I commented to myself, “Yeah, I can’t feel any difference from any other really cold day.”

I’m 50 years old and I wanted to know what that blistering chill felt like on bare skin. I reached in and tried to turn the Beast over. It really didn’t want to wake up. I put an additive in a couple days ago to pull the water out of the gas line and made sure the tank was full.

After about 12 cranks, with all the ergonomic lights flickering with each crank, it screamed to a start. I mean it screamed to a start with all those frozen metal parts and an oil that probably was close to frozen syrup.

Then I went to the Sable and started it, too. It was a bit more tolerant of the cold and started quickly. After my mind shifted from hoping the vehicles would start, considering this has taken less than two minutes and I’m keeping the 4-minute frostbite scenario in the back of my mind, I started to wonder if staying in just a t-shirt was a good idea.

A couple people drove by and I waved. I always wave. They smiled and shook their head. “Must be that idiot from Pen City Current that splashes through puddles in thunderstorms.”

Yeah…that’s me.

I hustled back to the Cruiser, stopped at the door and checked myself. What was I was feeling? Fingertips burning, skin tight but holding its own, nose was definitely frozen inside…and my breathing was getting labored. WHAT?

You aren’t supposed to take deep breaths when it’s -42 with the windchill. It’s dangerous. Enougha this. I jumped in and put on the hoodie, pulled the NorthCrest over my lap and slid my arms in so the coat was on backwards over the front of me as I sat in the SUV.

The panic started to set in and I began to hyperventilate just a little. “Calm down, idiot. This is on you,” I said to myself as I turned on sports radio and grabbed my phone for a distraction.

I turned on the heater and it screamed. All the fans and motors were frozen and they just whined. I turned the heater back off for fear that I would snap a motor component. I waited for the temperature gauge to get to “C” before I turned the fans back on.

I could feel the moisture coming back into the skin. I could literally feel it softening back up. My fingertips were good and numb, so I pulled my hands back into the sleeves. I put my face in the hood for warmth. I’m a bit claustrophobic, so that didn’t go well for too long.

I stayed in the SUV breathing shallow and trying to forget about the cold. After about 15 minutes both vehicles were running smoothly and the heaters were just starting to produce some tolerable air.

I turned the Beast off and locked it back up. You just don’t leave running vehicles in Fort Madison anymore. Walking into the house, the wife was just on her way out. Now the snow has never bothered her and she deals with the cold just fine. She just gets a little chippy when she’s on the couch in a sweatshirt with the hood up, her boots on, and two blankets over her.

WHAT?! You don’t mess with a man’s thermostat!

Anyway, the next day, she started her own damn car and I got punished for that lame act, by the furnace acting up and the water pipes inside the house freezing. (I swear I had the thermostat set at 68). Your Heat and Air Guy posted on his Facebook page that you might be sorry if you didn’t change your filter during the cold snap. I changed mine last year, it’s all good.

“Sir, you’re furnace filter was clogged and I think your furnace was working too hard and overheated. I changed it out for ya. Everything’s working ok.”


Well, needless to say, we survived in the Vandenberg home. I felt the bite of -42 winds on bare skin. Not sure I’m any better for it, but at least the readership knows I’m a fool.

It’s supposed to get to 50 on Sunday. Most definitely a t-shirt and shorts day, but that’s Beside the Point.

About Chuck Vandenberg 5270 Articles
Pen City Current and are products of Market Street Publishing, LLC, a multi-platform media company delivering hyper-local news, sports and advertising information to Fort Madison, IA and surrounding communities.

1 Comment

  1. Great piece, Chuck. Like so many families in our chunk of the Midwest, it appears that a certain amount of temporary insanity runs through various members and only surfaces in rare instances—like needing to stand out in minus 42 degree weather in one’s ‘altogether’ just because. Fortunately, I’m guessing, both the urge and the opportunity are rare occurrences. Welcome back from the far side!

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