I gotta go where it’s warm

Published 1:13 pm Saturday, January 17, 2009

Even though I moved here in August, I officially became a Minnesotan a week ago Saturday.

I was flipping through the television stations and landed on The Weather Channel. The broadcaster mentioned it was going to be an extremely cold day in Minneapolis with a high of 19 degrees.

“Well that doesn’t sound that bad,” I thought to myself.

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You know you’re from Minnesota when 19 degrees sounds comfortable, when you just hope the temperature doesn’t come with a minus and when you’re satisfied you only have to scrape your car’s windshield in the morning, instead of having to do it a couple of more times during the day.

This week was brutally cold, though, even for the most die-hard natives. Temperatures, which reached as low as 24 degrees below zero, dropped faster than last fall’s gas prices.

What I needed, I convinced myself, was a vacation to some place sunny and dry and where a car would start on the first go.

However, there was simply too much to get done at the office this week and as a result, I settled for an alternative.

I embarked on a virtual vacation by calling a few editors who work in more southern parts of the country, and I asked them about their warmer weather in hopes it would hold me over until spring.

I talked with Ginny Graybiel, managing editor of the Pensacola News Journal in Pensacola Fla.; James Meier, senior editor of news for The Desert Sun in Palm Springs, Calif.; and Maggie Denney, assistant editor of the Island Breeze in South Padre Island, Texas.

Graybiel was at a lunch appointment when I first called, so I left a message and then dialed up Meier.

“I hate to tell you, but it’s 80 degrees today,” he said. “I wore shorts on Sunday while cleaning out the garage. It was a spring cleaning day.”

Well, Mr. Meier, I probably won’t know what that’s like for several months now, but I can imagine.

“We also have wildflowers blooming right now that have never bloomed before in January,” he said.

Meier is a California native who spent two years in Chicago before moving back.

He admits to owning a parka, but added that he hasn’t worn it lately.

“I also own a light jacket that I use 10 to 15 times a year” he said.

I next reached Denney, who wears flip-flops and shorts year-round in South Padre Island or SPI to the locals.

SPI is a hotspot for college students during spring break and northerners who escape from the snow.

“Right now, we have our winter Texans,” she said. “They come from Minnesota, Indiana and the mountains of Arizona, Kansas and Michigan. We get them from all over where it’s cold.”

So Ms. Denney, did I mention it’s 24 degrees below zero today?

“I’ve never experienced that,” she said. “I don’t think I’d be able to handle it. I think my blood’s too thin from being this close to the equator. I don’t think I would go out of my house.”

Before we end the conversation, Ms. Denney mentioned some interesting things about the pace of life in SPI.

“It’s very casual,” she said. “It’s island time. It’s a much slower pace of life. We don’t do well with traffic here, because we don’t have traffic. Any time we have more than five cars in front of us, we wonder what’s up with the traffic. But we don’t get road rage, we just sit back and enjoy the sun. It’s an island, what do we have to get mad about?”

Point well taken.

Before the end of the day, Graybiel was kind enough to return my message.

She explained that Pensacola is located near the Alabama border, a 10 or so hour drive from Miami. It’s not triple-digit hot this time of year in Pensacola, but it’s still warmer than Minnesota. This week it was in the 50s.

“For us, it’s a bit chilly,” Graybiel said, who admitted she played hooky from work Tuesday to play tennis. “I do have a turtleneck sweater on, but I’m not wearing a jacket.”

In 2004, Hurricane Ivan ravaged parts of Pensacola, leaving a large amount of sand for the natives to deal with.

“You all are probably better at removing snow than we are at removing sand,” Graybiel said.

I feel much better after that vacation. A special thank you to all of my guests for their input. I’m pretty sure now I can make it until spring.