What I learned up North
As a native southerner, traveling north for the holidays was quite the experience. With Highs in the teens, lows in the, well just low. I got a taste of the North Country in all of its winter glory. Actually, I was told it can get quite colder, but I cannot even bear the thought.
Being from Virginia, I'm not unaccustomed to winter, down here it eases in with a sort of southern hospitality. Up north, October becomes fair game, winter will smack you in the face with single digit temperatures before you can find your coat and hand warmers.
My journey to Plattsburgh, New York; just near the border of Canada, was a great time spent with my wife and her lovely family. This part of the country is beautiful, with postcard worthy scenery of Lake Champlain and the mountains in the distance. There are however, some major differences from my hometown in Virginia. Here are some of my observations.
- Scarfs are not just for fashion- I did not know this, sure you see the kids in the Norman Rockwell paintings, but I never knew how important a scarf actually is. I bought my first scarf on my second day, after my face was numbed and chapped by the sideways snow and hurricane strength winds.
- There are rednecks up north - This was a revelation of sorts for me. I always thought rednecks were exclusive to the south. Nope, they are up there too, although most of them talk like Sarah Palin. I even saw a couple of confederate flags, I still haven't figured that one out..
- I have no idea how you could survive winter - My wife has lived in Virginia for 3 years now. As a teacher, during Halloween she was amazed at the kid's costumes. Little girls dressed as princesses, boys wearing costumes with short sleeves. Halloween costumes up north had to be able to fit over your ski suit.
- Snow, a way of life - Upon the first snowflake in the south, grocery stores are flooded with shoppers, stocking up on milk and canned goods. Filling up with gas, the hysteria can resemble a full fledged state of emergency. Up north, snow is not even noticed. From October on it is a way of life. Ice fishing anyone?
- Sweet Tea - While dining out, I usually order sweet tea. Most places would offer unsweetened with sugar packets...not the same. Sweet tea in the south is a sweet, syrupy concoction that will make your mouth pucker. The farther south you go the sweeter the tea gets.
- Sports - We went out to a pub one night and I asked the bartender if he could turn one of the tv's to the Independence bowl. College football? He asked, looking at me as if I had asked him to put it on Cspan. Asking to watch college football near Canada is like asking to watch hockey in Virginia. You can almost here the record skip in the background upon such a strange request.
- Did I mention it's cold? - Seriously, I don't know how people live through the winters. My muscles are sore from flinching. When family and friends from up north visit Virginia in the summer, they complain about the heat and the humidity. I can now feel their pain, it's just not right to be that cold!
Upon arriving home to 50 degree temperatures, I stripped off my layers and got back to southern living. There's a world of differences between our towns, 750 miles apart. Climate, culture, and habitat is night and day. While out in public in Virginia, you will hear a lot of Spanish, near the border, it's French. If 10 degrees, we close the schools. A light dusting in the forecast? Ditto.
We can't drive in the snow and we usually don't need to. We talk a little slower, stay a little warmer. A few inches of snow and we hunker down after the mad dash to the grocery store. We may be wimps in the winter, but I've only heard northerners say it's too hot to swim. I think both places have their draws and drawbacks. I look forward to visiting again, I'm thinking in the summer.