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A Winter Without Long Johns

January 10, 2013 by Hailey Goplen

Prior to moving to the Midwest, a day like today (with temperatures 32 degrees above zero) would have me bundled up in a turtle-neck sweater, wool socks, boots, mittens, and a warm hat. So when I first experienced what cold REALLY feels like, including temperatures in the extreme negative numbers, my normal wardrobe just didn’t suffice.

I recall my first brisk day in North Dakota. True to self, I pulled on my warmest sweater and broke out the winter coat. As I walked into work that day, I remember my coworkers looking at me in their short sleeved shirts and wind breaker and stating, “Wow, you’re in for a long winter.” That was no lie. By mid-November I had already broken in my absolute warmest attire. I mean, what else can you put on that keeps you warmer than a down parka with heat warmers in your shoes? The solution: long-johns. I wore them under everything. From jeans to dress pants. Whether I was outside or inside. Long-johns were a must.

By the next winter, something began to change. On that first cold day in winter, I pulled on a similar wardrobe I had worn the year before. The difference this time? I was sweating up a storm. And while the hot-pink long johns did indeed make an appearance on those particularly bone-chilling days, the usage was few and far between.

So here we are, in the midst of my third winter in the Midwest, and the long-johns sit folded neatly in my drawers, begging to be worn. And while I know it has been relatively mild thus far, something tells me that unless I decide to take my first ice-fishing trip this year, they may stay in that drawer all winter. You see, I think throughout the process of “becoming Midwestern”, my blood has literally thickened.


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  4. Pat G says:

    My dad grew up in WY. He told me of after a period of -40 for weeks at a time , when the temp reached zero he went out in his Tee shirt.

    But when he moved to Wash DC , he nearly froze there because of the dampness. He compared a damp 40 to feeling worse than a bone dry zero.

  5. Evan Hazard says:

    Delightful, and I haven’t used mine in years. But, considering this weekend and tomorrow, maybe you spoke a bit too soon. I have only short walks from the Prius to stores, church, eateries, and the gym, but will need to use the treadmills now.

  6. Laura says:

    Love to read your posts! I, too, am from Washington (born & raised) & am now living with my husband (from MN) in Duluth. We went to school in Grand Forks & I can so relate w everything you say! Hope your endeavors continue to provide you with great experiences.

  7. Dave from Minnesota says:

    I work for a gal from Mississippi. Even though we are 8 feet apart, its like we are not in the same building. I have a short sleave shirt on and always keep a glass of ice water handy to keep me comfortable. She is bundled up and shivering.

  8. Jeremy says:

    Growing up, my elementary school had a rule that the students weren’t allowed to wear shorts until the temp was above 32.

    You may soon find yourself violating that rule.

    • I do find myself violating that rule on the first warm day after winter. And by warm, I mean about 32 degrees or above. I decide it is time to break out the running shorts and go for a jog. Long pants are too warm.

  9. Jane says:

    Missed you! Hope your Christmas was wonderful. I was worried you had left the country(aka midwest) glad you are back!:-)

    • I know! I’ve felt so awful that I haven’t been able to post in a while. I was able to visit family over Christmas and recently started a new job at Concordia. Busy busy! Eventually my schedule will slow down (hopefully) and I’ll get to continue my Midwestern adventures!

  10. Andria says:

    I’m in a similar boat to Tom. I moved from Fargo to Providence, RI about five years ago, and the average winter temp here is ~30 above zero. I now have gloves, assorted scarves, winter boots and hats, which I never had in Fargo. I think when I was in Fargo, I just never went outside in winter, so I didn’t need the gear. It’s also very damp here, which I still can’t handle. Give me a dry cold!

  11. Bernie Kuntz says:

    I always enjoy your comments. Haven’t seen them in a while. You definitely are becoming a “Nor-Dak.”

    I grew up in Jamestown, worked at the Grand Forks Herald for 1-1/2 years, moved to Wyoming, then Alaska, then Montana in 1986 where I live today. I have written a weekly column for the Jamestown Sun since 1974.

    Keep up the good work!

  12. Tom Harper says:

    I went through the opposite reaction upon moving to Yuma Arizona after growing up in Minnesota. A jean jacket and sweater the first winter. Add a down vest for the second winter. A down parka was in the wardrobe by the third winter.

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