Irish Urban Art
O Christmas Tree

Winter on the Road


Oh hi, Polar Vortex, soon to be unseasonably warm spell!

It's really cold tonight and it's going to snow. And sleet. And rain, both freezing and not. By this time tomorrow night, God knows what the conditions will be, but the precipitation will be over. It's going to be dangerously cold tonight, but by Sunday noon it will be over 60 degrees. What the hell, weather?

I spent several weeks one frigid winter on the road with the circus. I'm embarrassed to say that I can't remember which one; it was either Voorheis Brothers or Kelly Brothers. What I do remember is that it was abominably cold and I was living in my van.

I had a strategy though. I stayed inside as much as possible, for one thing, either at the venue or a restaurant or mall. When I did go back to my to sleep, I followed a strict routine.

First, I lit my Coleman camping heater, pointed it directly into the little area I used as my bedroom, and waited until the inside of the bedroom warmed up. And by "warmed up," I mean that my nose hair didn't freeze and break off every time I took a breath. This looks like the heater I used. It was fueled by a propane canister. To make it work, you turned on the gas, struck a match, and lit it up. It would flame up slightly, but then settle down and glow red while it put out waves of blessed, blessed heat.

Vintage Coleman Heater Propane Catalytic Heater 2000 - 5000 BTU Green Free Ship!

While the heatening was happening, I stowed the next day's clothes in the bottom of my sleeping bags. I say "bags" because I had two of them. One was a thick, heavy bag rated to -5 degrees. That one was lined with comfy flannel. I had stuffed it inside the second bag, which was a springtime weight bag, rated at 40 degrees. I made sure the zippers were on opposite sides to prevent cold air from sneaking in.

Then I'd take off my parka and boots, and crawl into my bags. Once inside, I wriggled out of the rest of my clothes and tossed them into the corner. I left on my socks and undershirt. After that, I squirmed over to the doorway and turned off the heater. I didn't want to, but I kinda had to or risk dying if the thing fell over and ignited the contents of my van. I pulled on my knit hat and burrowed into the sleeping bags so that I was completely covered up.

I stayed roasty-toasty in my little cocoon and slept like a baby. In the morning, I did it all in reverse. It helped that my clothes were nice and warm from being in the bag all night.

It stayed really cold for almost the entire run, until we drove into Oklahoma. (Oklahoma! That means it must have been Kelly Brothers. Voorheis Brothers worked strictly in Michigan.) The temperature there was well above freezing -- probably in the low 50s and sunny. I remember hanging out with the performers -- we were all wearing tee shirts and feeling like we were finally, finally really warm.