By John Toth
As we enter the coldest period along the Texas Gulf Coast, the time has come again to plan our “escape from winter.”
I realize that some of you have been waiting for this cold weather all year. I dread it. Luckily, our area doesn’t have many really cold days, but anything under 70 degrees in my book qualifies as cold. O.K., maybe 65.
I grew up with cold falls, winters and springs, and summer never lasted long enough. Here, we have only two seasons - summer and almost summer. My problem is with the almost summer part.
Not with all of it, just the parts that start around 40 degrees or lower. The rest I can deal with. The days when it gets to freezing or below are especially memorable - like the ones in February, 2021.
In 1979, my mother came to visit me in Bay City, where I worked at the Tribune at the time, and we went to the beach on Christmas Eve. We walked to the mouth of the Colorado River. It was sunny and warm, definitely short-sleeved weather. I was sold on the Texas Gulf Coast weather right then and there. Hello summer in winter. I’ve been looking for you.
But on New Year’s Eve, the temperature dropped to below freezing and remained there for a few days. By that time, my mother flew back home and couldn’t stop talking to her friends about our Texas Gulf Coast winter weather. I bundled up for a while.
Back then, I tolerated it. Now, I escape it.
I have scheduled a Caribbean cruise during the time I think it will be the coldest here, to places where it’s always summer. I would not want to live full-time in these places because always summer would then become standard, not special.
Just like the aroma of pine trees when I first stepped off the Trailways bus on a New Hampshire summer evening many years ago. I was cooped up in that smelly bus all day. The pine smell that hit me all at once was amazing.
By the end of the following day, though, it was already routine. By the middle of summer, it was just there, nothing special.
Living where summer never stops would make summer in the winter a daily occurrence, nothing special.
So, by living along the Texas Gulf Coast, where cold weather is not really that cold, and freezing weather is limited to just a few days at a time, I get the best of both worlds - almost summer during winter and a brief summer when we take off on our fact finding tour to a place where it’s always warm.
Last year we booked our first escape cruise to the Caribbean just at the right time at the end of January, when much of Texas became frozen again. It was not as bad as in 2021, but bad enough. The power didn’t go out, though. That was a plus.
I went to sleep and woke up to summer. People were laying around the lido deck in their bathing suits; the pools and hot tubs were occupied; and the summer sun became stronger as the ship sailed farther south.
By the second day, it was totally summer, just like I wanted it to be.
My only bucket list for that trip was to swim in the Atlantic Ocean in January, which I did in Cozumel on Jan. 31, 2023. I didn’t just want to freeze in the water for a few minutes. I did that in Conroe one year. I took a few pool photos in December and then jumped in the hot tub.
I wanted to swim and enjoy the ocean during the coldest days of the year. The water was not as warm as the Gulf here in August, but it was pleasant. I hope to repeat that again this year.
I could fly to summer, but it’s more fun and less hassle to check into a floating resort and be taken there. While cruising also has its snags, it beats canceled or delayed flights. Once we get on the ship, the vacation starts - or in my case - the working vacation.
It’s not hard work, but I still classify it as work, even though I’ll be doing much of it at pool-side in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico or farther south. I have several story ideas I want to work on, which I will publish upon my return from summer - in winter.
Raise your hands if you love the frigid winter weather and can’t wait for its arrival each year? Now, raise your hands if you hate it and want to get away from it, even if just for a short time?
The cold haters win.