LIFE IN OUR MOUNTAIN TOWN: Making it through winter in Truckee
Having a sunny, warm house is about as essential as anything when you live in a place that is often downright cold.
Despite our many days of sunshine per year, I still don’t seem to manage to keep warm on many a winter night. Then again, our overnight low temperatures in the summer are apparently what earn Truckee its ranking as one of the coldest places in the lower 48 contiguous states. Maybe being cold is a year-round problem for me.
Although I am not ready to thumb my nose at this town and move to a warmer climate, I am starting to get tired of being cold all the time. It could have something to do with the fact that I am a thin-skinned, easily chilled-to-the-bone Caucasian female who likes to chew ice.
On the other hand, I think it has more to do with the uneven heat that occurs nightly in my house when we burn wood to stay warm instead of cranking the thermostat.
I like to think that I live in a well-built house, until I open the drawers that hold our pots and pans, and I feel a chill that makes me shut the drawer as quickly as possible. Just what did the heating guy do when he installed that seemingly high-tech down-draft for our cook-top? It sure feels cold and drafty in those drawers to me.
We have an efficient (or so I’ve been told) gas furnace which has recently become exorbitantly expensive to run. And so we’ve been resorting to burning wood in our “Fireplace Xtrordinaire,” which I’m not sure is that extraordinary, but it works. It has a blower which circulates hot air around the house, but between the glass doors shielding you from the fire and the blower making its whirring noise, the sound of a good old crackling fire is completely lost. Still, the blower does generate some solid warmth, unless the fire is burning low, and then it will blow cool to cold air. This is usually my signal to head upstairs to bed and climb under warm covers.
For years I have stood in front of any burning wood stove or fireplace in the various houses that I have lived in here in Truckee. I will stand with my back to the heat source, warming myself up until I just about can’t stand the heat anymore. No matter what I do next, moving away from the fireplace just makes me feel cold. So I have to go back and warm up. This has gone on in my household for many years now, on many a winter evening, and now that I think about it, I have probably expended an awful lot of time just trying to warm up, when I could have been getting something else accomplished, like doing the dishes.
And standing directly in front of hot blowing air certainly doesn’t help with another affliction of mine – dry, cracked skin.
Many of us who live in Truckee have rooms in our homes that are shut off from the heat in order to save on unnecessary heating bills, especially lately with the skyrocketing cost of natural gas.
A neighbor of mine shared a story with me recently about her three-year-old daughter who likes to play upstairs in their guest room. They don’t keep this part of the house heated all the time, and so upon checking on her daughter, my neighbor found her up there playing by herself, wearing her coat, hat and mittens. At least she had the sense to dress as if she were going outside, even though she was just heading to the guest room. It’s interesting that even the three-year-olds who live in our town are savvy when it comes to dealing with the cold.
Many of us also have rooms in our homes that we have every intention of heating, but since they are situated over the garage, they are pretty darn cold. This is the case with the bedroom in which I sleep. So when I mentioned previously that I head for warm covers when I go to bed, the sheets aren’t always exactly warm when I first get in. Much to my husband’s disappointment, I do not wear summer pajamas, ever.
Placing anyone’s bedroom over a garage, even one that is insulated and dry walled, is about as good an idea in mountain building design as roofs that shed snow in front of doorways.
Being cold having dry cracked skin playing indoors with your mittens on it’s amazing what we put up with to live in our winter wonderland.
Katie Shaffer has lived in Truckee since 1981.
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