Good evening, Netizens…
While the talking heads of local television weather forecasting were prattling among themselves this morning about how bitterly cold it is outside, I cannot help but wonder how many of them have been in Northern Minnesota during a really cold winters day. Whenever someone mutters something about how bitterly cold it is here in Spokane, typically when the temperature hovers just as or below zero, I cannot help but remember a morning years ago when I was driving from Northern Minnesota to Chicago. It wasn't, by any means, the first time I had spent a night in a motel where the nightly temperature dropped below thirty degrees below zero and where smart travelers always gratefully accepted the option of plugging our vehicle block heaters in, otherwise our vehicles might not start the next morning. Since I had already made several runs to Alaska in the winter, I knew most of this. In the parlance of long-haul truck driving, the pay for driving either Minnesota or Alaska in the winter was well worth it, considering they always paid well for the frozen fingers, the number of times you had to chain up/unchain, and the number of times you had to out wait a blizzard in some god-forsaken restaurant with greasy food and tasteless coffee.
However, the mental image that has lingered in my mind all these many years was a morning quite like this morning in far-off Minnesota hauling sacks of bark dust out of Northern Minnesota with the temperature sitting below minus thirty degrees. As I glanced up at my mirror, I could see a cloud of exhaust smoke from my twin pair of pipes that reached back nearly ten miles behind me, still hovering in the air. Despite the absolutely frigid temperature that morning, there was not a breath of wind, and each vehicle I saw on the road that morning left a similar tail behind them, all except for a single Volkswagen Beetle that was braving the cold. No one I have spoken with has ever explained why the Beetles didn't leave contrails behind them.
In that morning so long ago, with the full moon setting dimly in the west as the sun glared bitterly across the snow-crusted flatlands of Minnesota, as with each passing mile I drew closer to places still fond in my heart in those days, I couldn't help but notice as I came further south, my twin contrails had all but dissipated, as if they were never there to begin with.
But if I closed my eyes but for a second, put away the mesmerizing sounds of 18 wheels on the frozen roadbed, I could still see those twin contrails extending out behind my truck, and for a time there, I knew it had truly been cold.