Noche de Muy Frio

In the first week of December, El niño decided to go south for the winter and leave us at the mercy of the jet stream and Canada’s best known export: An arctic chill of sub zero air. The previous year we enjoyed record warmth and even days for motorcycle rides until January. However, this is Maine and as the saying goes, if you don’t like the weather, wait 20 minutes. 

Our heating system is simple; We have a 20 amp connection that we can utilize 1940 continuous watts. We have a 1500 watt simulated fireplace space heater, and a 250 watt space heater. The rest we use for the fridge and lights. Between the two heaters we get about 6000 BTUs or in practical terms, a 40° boost from outside temperatures. So if its 20°, we can keep the rolling palace at a manageable 60°. Our other heat weapon, is our propane heater. Utilizing 1 pound canisters of propane. It will blast out 4800 BTUs for up to 6 hours. Nestled in our sink, it resembles a loving giving sun which pumps out light and warmth which in turn, nourishes our temperature and mood.

On this particular December day, we were aware there was trouble coming. An arctic cold front was coming in pushing out an area of mild air which were resulting in very strong winds and a 50° drop in temps. The coldest night we had experienced up to this point was about 15°Even that was a little bit uncomfortable because of thin walls and zero insulation on the floor save a few throw rugs. It could be a rosy 60° at shoulder level, but down at ankle level barely 35°.

Our sleeping loft is furthest away from the heaters and also separated by a curtain to keep out light, it got mighty chilly up there. We relied on a double sleeping bag and our own body heat to stay comfortable. 

When the night of much cold hit, the gusts of wind started to pick up around 1pm. The temps had been dropping rapidly throughout the late afternoon. By sundown it was already 10° and was forecast to go below zero with a windchill of -35°. Like the geniuses we are, we guzzled massive quantities of wine. We waited to fire up the propane sun. Because it only lasted 6 hours, we wanted it going far through the night as possible. By 10:30pm we couldn’t stand the cold anymore and fired it up. We happily put our feet up in front of it as the little ceramic dial began to radiate massive chunks of warmth. As nice at it was, cold fingers of air still crept in, pushed by 60 mph gusts of wind outside. The motorhome groaned and shook with each blast of wind. We wore flannel shirts and pants in the loft. As I laid there, my mind thought of lots of cheerful scenarios. Our solar panels will be blown off. Our transmission will give and we will roll down Munjoy Hill in a roller coaster ride of chaos and death. But mostly, it was that we would probably freeze to death. The power will probably go out. We will be left with only a 3 inch ceramic plate and possible 3 hours of propane left in the canister to heat us. The thought of waking up in a tuna can freezer worried me. What if I get instant hypothermia as soon as I get out of the sleeping bag? What if I have to take a dump? I looked down at the propane heater. It still burned but it looked like a distant star whose heat never reached our planet. We had hats on. Arms and hands had to be kept inside the sleeping bag because the walls and ceiling were bleeding frozen air. My cheeks stung with cold. The winds got worse and worse. I don’t remember sleeping more than a few hours that night but when I awoke, the propane heater was out. Fortunately the power had stayed on. It was very cold. I summoned my will and went down the ladder to restart the heater with another canister. PS: I got down from the sleeping loft the first thing I noticed was Mr. Munch’s water bowl was frozen solid as was all of our fresh water supply under the loft. The winds were subsiding and the subsequent check of the motorhome showed everything intact. Thanks to our little Buddy Heater, we had survived la noche de muy frio!

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