Allen On Travel

A 30 year veteran of world travel (but knows nil about Orlando-area attractions), Will Allen III writes about his weekly odysseys by air on business and how the airlines rob him--and you--of time, the most precious commodity on earth. Time: It's all we have, and the airlines routinely take it from us. This blog challenges the airlines to keep their basic promises.

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Location: Raleigh, North Carolina, United States

Born 1948 in Kinston, NC and raised there in beautiful eastern North Carolina, I now live in Raleigh and commute around the country and the world.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Doing Business In Artic Weather: Ask The Locals How To Deal With 38 Below Zero

I had to fly to Duluth Monday morning early and then drive 80 miles to Hibbing, Minnesota (Bob Dylan’s home town). Hibbing was forecast Sunday night to be 33 to 38 degrees below zero (see below weather forecast for Hibbing on Sunday and Monday from

Weather Forecast for Hibbing, Minnesota (HIB) Chisholm Airport
Last Updated Sun Feb 04 12:53:00 PST 2007

Sunday, 04 Feb
Mostly Clear tonight. Lows 33 below to 38 below zero. Wind chill readings 35 below to 40 below zero after midnight. Northwest winds 5 to 15 mph.

Monday, 05 Feb
Partly Cloudy Monday. Mostly sunny. Highs 4 below to 9 below zero. West winds 5 to 15 mph. Wind chill readings around 50 below increasing to around 25 below in the afternoon.

Monday Night, 05 Feb
Partly cloudy. Lows 31 below to 36 below zero. Northwest winds 5 to 10 mph.

I knew that if your car craps out on you at 30 below, it’s over; you can quickly freeze to death before anyone comes by unless you are prepared. So I phoned friends and relatives who live in northern Minnesota and Wisconsin, and asked them what they do. Here’s what they advised:

(1) Wear lots of layers, and make the layer closest to your skin the best skiers’ grade underwear possible. Not particularly wanting to die, I therefore spent $144 Sunday afternoon to get equipped with the finest, warmest New Zealand Merino wool full body underwear from Great Outdoor Provision Company in Raleigh.

(2) Another friend (from Fargo) told me: “A cheap survival trick, widely used in this area, consists of an empty coffee can (metal), some old candles, & matches---this is a makeshift survival oven & can keep you warm for a couple of days. I always have a kit in my car when traveling North during the Winter.” I couldn’t take this advice because of the matches going through security, but I tried to cobble together something in Duluth.

(3) Keep all skin covered because frostbite or at least severe skin burns can occur in 30 below temps even with a few minutes of exposure. A Wisconsin friend said: “Just keep all your skin covered, no matter how dumb you look. You are smart if you keep covered.” So I packed my warmest thick gloves, scarf, and C-Store Thief Ski Mask that covers my whole face except for the eye, nose, and mouth holes.

That took care of me, but what about my rental car? Wouldn’t the oil congeal and the radiator possibly freeze up? But then I remembered that most Minnesotans have those plug-in contraptions under their hoods that warm the engine compartment and oil pan. You just plug an extension cord into it, and then your car will start no matter how cold it gets.

Except that Hertz in Duluth (in Duluth!) didn’t have cars with those electric heaters and plugs, and they had a special notice up, too, saying that Hertz would not pay for jump-starting cars too cold to start with batteries dead from renters trying repeatedly to start them anyway.

Luckily, my client, who was born and raised in Hibbing, had the solution: leave my rental car running all night in the hotel parking lot (with the doors locked) to avoid being frozen up in the morning.

Reluctantly (fretting about my selfish production of greenhouse gases), I followed his advice. Not only did it work, but I was relieved to find that the car burned only about an eighth of a tank of gas idling all night.

And it WAS cold! To amuse myself I tossed a glass of water straight up into the air this morning outside by the car at 6:00 AM, and the droplets froze in mid-air before they hit the ground.

Cold though it was, my first impression of the people in Hibbing was a good one. They are kind, full of good humor, resourceful (they have to be in this weather!), and helpful. I look forward to my next trip here, but frankly hope that it will be 100 degrees or so warmer.


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Blogger bryan said...

I am from south Texas where they shut the whole town down if the temperature gets below 30 degrees F. Just thinking about things being that cold makes me physically hurt. You are brave.

2/06/2007 1:36 PM  
Blogger bryan said...

I am from south Texas where they shut the whole town down if the temperature gets below 30 degrees F. Just thinking about things being that cold makes me physically hurt. You are brave.

2/06/2007 1:36 PM  
Blogger JS said...

I trying to figure out how you left your rental car running with the doors locked. I'm a frequent traveler and every time I rent a car I receive 2 keys and a remote control. All attached to ONE key ring from which they can not be removed. Did you have remote start on this rental car? If not, please share your secret how you could leave the keys in the ignition and then reenter the vehicle via locked doors.

2/09/2007 12:51 PM  
Blogger William A. Allen III said...

Answer to JS: Hertz gave me a key ring with a single key plus a remote control key fob that COULD be removed from the spiral key ring. I removed the remote control, and used it to lock the car once the car was running Monday night and to unlock it Tuesday morning. Then I attached the remote control again to the key ring. it's true that some car rental places give you key rings that are sealed shut, but that wasn't the case here.

2/09/2007 1:10 PM  

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