Question: Of the several trips I’ve taken in the last few years, which destination calls up the most memories of being butt-chapping cold?

Florida, of course.

Oh, sure, there was that winter camping trip I did in northern Indiana a couple of years ago. But the dominant theme of that trip was how we were able to keep the cold just at bay, not really how we experienced it. And all the time I’ve spent cross-country skiing and snowshoe-ing, from Montana to Indiana to Oregon, has been overly warm, if anything. Nope, Florida definitely wins the prize for the greatest freezing of my butt.

That is because in recent years, I’ve been lucky enough to time my trips here with thirty-year cold snaps. It is, at this very moment, a grand total of twelve degrees warmer in Florida than it is in Indianapolis. Two years ago, we planned to spend a long Valentine’s Day weekend here. We left Indianapolis on a rainy, cold day in the high thirties — and arrived on a rainy, cold day in Florida in the mid-forties. We drove south frantically, watching the dashboard thermometer creep up a digit at a time. When we hit 70, we pulled over and found a public beach. We walked for an hour on the beach before the rain and wind caught us.

Being cold in Florida is worse than other places for two reasons: 1) You don’t expect it and 2) Everything is outside, because cold is unusual. So it’s difficult to find much to do during a cold snap in Florida.The wildlife, which is probably just as acclimated to Florida’s customary warm temperature as people are, has mostly said to hell with this and taken cover. Rivers where you ordinarily couldn’t dip your paddle six inches away without encountering a turtle or gator seem completely empty, and anyway, it’s too damn cold for people to be out there themselves. And forget the more traditional Florida attractions — they’re all outdoors.

But I can’t do too much complaining.  I make matters worse by traveling primarily to north Florida, and in any event, this place has provided me with enough February flowers to make up for the occasional butt-chill.

Besides, Florida almost always has one thing that Indy doesn’t even on the coldest days: Sun. Bright, serotonin-inducing sun. I’ll take it.

 

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