Jake Dye’s “Mostly Invincible” Toyota 4Runner sits outside The Peninsula Clarion offices in Kenai, Alaska on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2022, still indomitable. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Jake Dye’s “Mostly Invincible” Toyota 4Runner sits outside The Peninsula Clarion offices in Kenai, Alaska on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2022, still indomitable. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Out of the Office: Really cold

At a certain point below zero degrees, I’m not so sure I can tell the difference anymore. Anything below zero may as well dispense with the number, it’s just really cold.

It was really cold for most of this week. I don’t mind the cold, it just means I’ve gotta start the car sooner and run to the door faster, maybe consider putting on a jacket.

Earlier this week, when the temperatures were hanging between minus 20 and minus 30 degrees, I really didn’t think anything of it. That’s what happens in the wintertime, I think.

I’ve seen 25 other Kenai Peninsula winters, and I don’t remember exactly how cold they were, but I’m sure I’ve seen minus 30 before. It’s just a number.

In my life, the temperature rarely means anything. Whether it’s 30 below or 70 above, I expect my workday looks the same — I wake up, grab a cup of coffee, get to work, write some compelling news stories, then get home.

I learned my folly when the cold upended my entire week.

I’ve been driving the single best car on the Kenai Peninsula, a blue 2008 Toyota 4Runner, since high school — eight or nine years at this point. I’ve put well over 100,000 miles on it myself, and it’s seen me through anything and everything.

The car is “mostly invincible,” I say.

It’s survived anything I can throw at it, and that’s been a lot. Despite the fact that my family openly hates it, and it overheats if it sits still too long, and it’s missing a mirror, and it makes a creaking sound if it turns too sharp, and the shocks are going out, and the side is covered with corroded metal from a formerly overexpended brake, and my dashboard is covered with a few permanent warning lights, nothing has ever stopped it before — including a pretty brutal collision in 2016.

The 4Runner has seen many cold winter mornings. One of its best traits is that the cold has never seemed to bother it.

I’ve used it to jump dozens of cars affected by chilly weather. It’s stood mightily, lending a hand to those with less fortitude. But something about Tuesday’s minus 30 degree morning hit differently, stopping it in its tracks for days.

When I hopped into the driver’s seat that morning, I noticed my autostart hadn’t worked. That’s a red flag.

When I turned the key, I heard a sound that I haven’t ever before — something so close to turning over, but ultimately sputtering out and falling silent. That sound meant I would not be making it to the newsroom that day. Or the next.

I tried jumping it. I tried charging the battery. I considered replacing the battery. I called my dad who also tried jumping it and charging the battery. All of this while standing in and reflecting upon the indeed very chilly outdoors — less comfortable than my desk.

I ended up working from home, adjusting well laid plans for front page photos as I suddenly lacked my formerly trusty mode of transportation.

The car sat, unstirred, for more than 24 hours. Wednesday, when the temperatures warmed up a little bit and with the combined efforts of two battery starters it finally — barely — caught ignition. After an overnight thaw in a garage, it hit the streets Thursday morning, rejuvenated entirely.

They say you don’t know the value of what you have until it’s gone, but those days staring longingly through the window at my beloved mess of an automobile showed me that minus 30 degrees isn’t just “really cold,” it’s despicably cold.

But it’s still not cold enough to deliver the killing blow to my yet “mostly invincible” machine.

Reach reporter Jake Dye at jacob.dye@peninsulaclarion.com.

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