I was having dinner alone (as usual) in a cafe just now and I overheard a couple discussing their travel options. The girl said she really wanted to go to a place that is snowing.
It made me remember the countless times I heard of people telling me how lucky I was that I was able to have multiple experiences with snowing (when I went to Colorado for work) and how they wished they could spend a few weeks in a country that is snowing.
My first trip to the States was in May 2010. It was late spring, so although I secretly hoped that it might snow a little bit for a day or two, I knew it was very improbable to happen. My work counterparts told me it would be really strange to snow in May.
But, one morning on my second week, I looked out of my hotel window in the morning and saw this scene. Apparently it snowed the night before!
I remember thinking that I must be dreaming. And then I remember feeling very happy because apparently my hope was so powerful that it came true! I mean, yes, it was sunny in the morning and the snow thawed quickly, but still, it snowed when I was physically here!
It might not be a big deal if you are an American or European, but for a Malaysian, it is a big deal to be able to see things covered in snow: buildings in snow, cars in snow, grass in snow… It was awesome!
And of course I did what most first time tourists would do: take a picture outdoors without a jacket at 28°F (2°C). It was one of the most stupid decision I have ever made in life.
My work counterparts were annoyed. They said it was supposed to be the season to plant flowers, and most of them have began work a couple weeks ago, and now this nuisance snow has to destroy everything. They even blamed me for bringing the snow.
But still, at lunch time, one of them who was out smoking came and informed me that it was snowing outside. A first timer has gotta do what a first timer gotta do, don’t you agree? So I immediately made my way outside. We were not allowed to use the camera within the office premises, so I went to the smoking shack and took my picture. Of couse, it was after I ran around in the mild snow like a lunatic, much to the amusement of the Americans.
That was during my first trip. My second trip happened on a September. My third trip happened on a March. It wasn’t exactly winter on both occasions, but since it was Colorado, I was able to experience sporadic snowing. I did not enjoy the snow that much on both occasions. It was much colder than on my first trip, and I got cracked lips on both visits.
I think the worst I’ve seen from that two trips was on one night when I was out and about. It was fine weather in the evening when I entered a restaurant with a colleague (we were traveling together from Penang). But when we left the restaurant, this was what greeted us.
We saw someone got creative on someone else’s car. Or was it us? I don’t remember us doing this. It was probably not us.
And then my fourth trip (my most recent one so far) was between October and November. It was the beginning of winter. It was fine for the Americans, but man, was it brutal for me!
The snow was a constant on that trip. In Colorado, the weather is a bit strange. Even in winter, it can be freezing cold in one day, but the next day the temperature would go up to above 70°F (above 20°C). One day it could be like this in the morning,
The next day it could be like this, sunny and with most of the snow having melted and whatever dirty snow left would be shoved to the side of the roads.
Sometimes when it was cold enough, the snow would turn to ice on the roads. That is when it gets really dangerous to drive. If you drive across a slab of ice, you basically have no traction and are at a high risk to skid and crash into something. You need to be on 100% concentration at all times!
It was terrible in the evening. You know the sky gets dark really early in winters, basically 5PM sky would look like 8PM sky. And the wind would blow. And when the wind blows, that is when cold temperature gets really brutal. The few times I was out having dinner, I had to make sure I wear the full set of gear, complete with jacket, windbreaker, cap and gloves. And still, I have to make sure to park my car very close to the restaurant’s door. And even then, I have to make my way as fast as possible between the car and the restaurant. And I can’t run, because the road might be slippery with ice.
There was one day when I went shopping at the premium outlets in the evening with a friend. The place was an open area car park with rows of shops surrounding it. So basically what we had to do was to first identify which shops we wanted to go to. We would then drive to the parking lot directly in front of a shop, make a quick dash into the shop, buy our stuff, then make a quick dash back to the car, then drive to the next shop which is 20 meters away, and repeat the same process again and again until we did all our shopping.
I often tell the girls back in Penang: if you walk with your partner in the snow in winter, the only thing you will cuddle is your big fat jacket! You can’t cuddle with your partner because you are both wrapped up like a dumpling and the road is slippery and the awkward walking will make you slip and fall easily!
But the thing I hated the most was when our car was covered with snow in the morning..
Let me remind you guys if you even travel to a snowing country in the winter. If you are going to get a rental car, make sure to check that there’s a snow scraper tucked away somewhere in the car, either in the boot or in the glove box. If you can’t find it, request for it at the car rental’s front desk!
I did not know that until it was too late. When I saw that thick layer of snow covering my car for the first time, I used my bare hands to scrape away the snow. I did not know the rental car was supposed to come with the snow scraper. Do you know what it feels to do that? Well, you can find out if you hold onto a few ice cubes with your bare hands for 15 minutes without dropping them.
That’s not all. Usually, there will be a thin layer of snow that has turned into ice and sticking on your car. That layer of ice is basically impossible to scrape off. We had to go to work, so I decided to just drive, very very slowly since the visibility on the windscreen was extremely poor due to the ice. When I think about it now, I think it was a miracle that I made it to the office without crashing!
It was after I made it safely to the office that I learned about the snow scraper, and that there is a button in all American cars that we can press to thaw the sheet of sticky ice within a few minutes. That day I tried to find the snow scraper in my rental car but could not find it at all. And the next day it snowed again, so I had to scrape off the snow using my bare hands again. I quickly bought one for $10 in Walmart that evening!
I actually haven’t had the worst experiences yet. According to my American counterparts, when the winter gets brutal, the snow would be a few inches to a few feet thick on the ground and would not thaw quickly enough. That is when you have to stay home and scrape the snow off your front yard. That is also the time when you pray that the heating unit in your house does not break down all of a sudden.
But, I think I’ve had enough that if you ask me now whether it is fun to be in a snowing country, I would tell you this:
It is fun if you are there for three days. Any more than that and you will be freaking miserable!