FrostBurn Day 4

So I got up around 10 a.m. on Monday — the last day of FrostBurn.  I got ready to go and discovered that my car keys were missing.  It was oddly just my car keys too: I still had my house keys, but I had somehow unclipped the car keys the night before.  Since John and I were the last ones up, and we got no snow the night before, they must have been sitting right on top of the snow.  I searched along the paths between the car, my winter shelter, and the bathrooms to no avail.  I took down the winter shelter and packed everything up, checking every pocket and nook.

Still nothing.

I gave Ali a call on a borrowed phone and let her know what was up.  Although she's so awesome that she would have traveled the 5 hours out to get me, she's smart enough to get me to try other options first.

I had signed up for Better World Club last year and finally got a chance to use it. They tried contacting some locksmiths, and decided that the best bet would be to get the Buick Roadmaster towed to the nearest dealership. Lizzy called her friend and we thought a better option would be to bring the VIN to the dealership and have them make a new key. We got hold of Better World Club and called off the wrecker. They called contacted the nearest dealership and found it would cost all of $4.

As I walked around the car to fetch my hand-held GPS to give directions for people, I couldn't believe my eyes.  The keys were sitting right out in the open, just a few feet in front of the car.

It might have been there all along, or it might have been kicked free by someone during the four hours of searching.

So I called Ali and got packed up and headed home.  Once again, the snow sucked on the roads: all the way from Erie, PA to just east of Buffalo.  I did make it home safely, though, and — overall — had a great time.  I also got to be remembered as "Jason Who Lost His Keys" rather than (or "in addition to", perhaps) "Jason Who Passed Out in the Snow".

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FrostBurn Day 3

On the third day of FrostBurn, I woke up feeling much better. I was nice and warm inside the winter shelter overnight. I got to have a lot of bacon during the day — largely from the Church of Bacon camp. Too much bacon, I think — if that's even possible [although I could still smell it two days and three showers after I returned.] I got my sea-legs back and had a few drinks during the day.  I didn't participate in the Polar Plunge, though, figuring it was something I would not regret if I didn't do it.

I had another nice night beside a roaring fire.  I even played with melting glass in the fire.  After one of the guys left and took his music, I pulled the Buick around and played some stuff for people.  Unfortunately it was already quite late so it wasn't long before we called it a night.  I don't even remember turning off the battery on the car, but I got up later and checked and it was fine.

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FrostBurn Day 2

On day two of FrostBurn, I felt pretty hungover. Needless to say [or is it?], I skipped all alcohol today.  My shelter had made it through the night, although there was no reason it should not have.  I spent some time resting inside the shelter and with the heater on, the temperature easily climbed to over 70°F. All my water and soda had frozen so I put it inside the heated "bath house" — thankfully this year, we had access to heated bathrooms.

That was the night of the burn, too.  The guy who made this year's effigy did a great job and burned well.  It really looked like a snowman, too, since the body was made of three multifaceted approximations of spheres.  There was another Jason — "The Jason" — who was the poster boy of the festivities.  He ran around with a bottle of Jameson's in one hand and champagne in another, all the while with a toy monkey on his back.

That night I got to do the official winter shelter experiment: not use the heater.  When I got inside, it was 18°F.  I had calculated that the 84 or so square feet of the R-3.3 "Tuff-Board" stuff would allow the interior temperature to be about 20°F higher than outside with just one person inside (assuming they'd produce about 75 watts of heat).  After an hour or so, the temperature had climbed to 26°F.

That's still really friggin' cold so I turned on the heater and quickly brought the temperature into a more temperate range.

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FrostBurn Day 1

Today I headed out from Rochester and drove to Cooper's Lake Campground (205 Currie Rd., Slippery Rock, PA) to attend FrostBurn.  Last year it was during President's Weekend in February but they mentioned that they planned to change it to Martin Luther King weekend this year.  Ali and I realized we'd have to rearrange her mom's annual visit to accommodate the trip — but we forgot and, although I remembered again in November, it was too late.  So, it was just me this year.

The trip out was not bad, except for lake-effect snow around the lake near Buffalo.  I slowed down to 45 MPH or so and was getting frequently passed, but after 80 miles or so I did successfully drive out of it.  I arrived around 4 p.m. or so and got settled in.  The commercial campground where the event is presently held is located on a hill, and the organizers decided to split it up so there were people camped on top and at the bottom. Initially I was placed at the bottom of the hill.  Since I had the rear-wheel-drive Buick Roadmaster, I figured it would be impossible to drive down.  And since I also had a 180-pound base to the winter shelter I made, I really had no desire to try and make that happen either.  Thankfully there were some spaces available at the top so I camped there.  Also, I had access to electrical power: even though my winter shelter was pretty good, the predicted sub-zero temperatures would have been overwhelming without use of the electric heater I had at-the-ready.  As it turned out, I never even got to try it out that night.

Because of the cold — it was, after all, no warmer than 5°F outside — I decided to consume and share the two bottles of homemade wine I brought rather than let them freeze.  I got to meet lots of nice people and check out the whole event. Along the way, I met another Jason who ended up … umm … overdoing it, and ended up in bed early.

By the time all the drinking and debauchery was done, I was leaving the lower section and really don't remember much of what happened.  Based on legend, I became "the guy who passed out in the snow," "almost died," or "got frostbite."  As it turned out, this guy Tony helped me up the hill and let me stay in his heated RV overnight.

So now as you all cluck your tongues and "tsk-tsk", let me add two things.  First of all, I didn't go out with any plan whatsoever to end up passing out.  And second, this event isn't like day-to-day life: it's more like a village or an extended family.  Rather than stepping over somebody passed out, anyone there would have stopped to help.

That said, it got down to -11°F in nearby Slippery Rock, PA and, depending on who you asked, it got as cold as -14°F or -18°F — so there was some real danger of getting injured out there.  Thankfully I had on a full 4 layers on my legs and 6 on my torso along with chemical warmers on my hands and feet that were still working by morning.  For the most part it was pretty comfortable.

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Frostburn at Cooper's Lake Campground

Ali and I headed to Cooper's Lake Campground (205 Currie Rd., Slippery Rock, PA) to go to FrostBurn this weekend. It actually started yesterday but the early population was mostly from around Pittsburgh or from places farther away … or, I guess, mostly just not us and a few other stragglers. In all there were about 120 people who showed up so it was just the right size to get a chance to say hi to everyone.

The event was excellent. Although not an official Burning Man regional event, it was run by people who had gone to Burning Man and generally held the same vibe. Well, the part of the vibe that I personally liked: the part where it a group of people who got things done and worked together and wanted to have a good time. It was also winter camping (and Cooper's Lake had winterized their facilities so there weren't showers or bathrooms — just port-a-potties) so the element of "physical difficulty" was also present — something that's difficult to achieve when you can see a major highway and your cell phone has "full-bars" all the time.

We stayed until Monday and met lots of nice people. We got to see the iconic snowman-man burn, had hot chocolate at Camp Total Fucking Armageddon, had hot buttered rum in the sauna-like steam shed, participated in the Naked Mr. Rogers Sing-A-Long, and otherwise dance, dance, danced until the morning sun.

It's actually the first time I wanted something like a "decompression" — a time to recollect with friends and otherwise relax before jumping back into the daily grind. I came back and had to catch up on work but I really wanted to just chill out for a couple days — and the friction between the two ideologies wreaked havoc with my state-of-mind.

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