I've gone sledding and ice skating and dug snow forts. But no matter how much I know about the cold and about science, I'll never understand the reality that an entire lake can freeze over. Ice so thick you can not only walk on it, entire villages with ice cottages and roads can be erected upon it. And people will sleep there, even dull their catastrophe instincts with Budweiser there. They will fish all day from inside a propane-heated tent or shack, and never worry about the cartoonish tent or shack-shaped hole it could make in the ice.
I don't trust it for a second. It makes my knees feel nauseated, like I felt standing on the top level of the Stratosphere in Las Vegas, watching rides that jut out over the edge of the building. When I see a frozen lake with a truck parked next to an ice house, my brain redirects to the scene where the house is sinking like an elevator and the truck is tipping nose-first into the water. Some guy in Carhardts shrugging, like this is just a rite of passage.
"Get in," she says, scooping winter survival gear off the front seat of her truck and into the back. "Whatever you do, do NOT put on your seat belt."
"Are you sure this is --" I stutter.
She starts the truck while cranking away at her window.
I'm not Nancy Drew, but I know that her mouth is telling me that we can drive this truck on this ice, but her actions are preparing for us to sink.
"You could drive a tank out here," she tells me as we cruise along.
But it's a little warm, so there is a two-inch layer of water we're kicking up as we go along.
She drops me off and I feel trapped out here. The water is sole-deep on my Doc Martens. There are abandoned auger holes that have re-frozen. Mounds of dog poop make a sort of frozen wet stew, like defrosting the chili that has been stock piled in the freezer. I'm keeping myself warm by faking comfort. But my knees never, ever relax.