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MegHidd

The Trek Up North

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Hi! I'm moving mid-August to Philadelphia, can anyone give me some tips about living in a bigger city? I've been born and breed in the south and my undergrad was spent in a small college town. I've lived in a city that was 300,000 people and got up to 105 degrees F but never colder than 20 F ( and that was rare). I know to bring warm clothes lol, but what is transportation like? I've driven everywhere for everything, what do I need for my car? If anyone can give me some pointers, I'd appreciate it. Thanks! 

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Hiya! I live in Minnesota, which is definitely colder than Philadelphia but I think you'll get more snow than we do. I can offer you the following advice regarding your car:

  1. If you are even a little bit worried about your car, go to a reputable place for an oil change and a general "checkup" to make sure it's ready for the winter. They'll look at your tires and engine and idk, all the other car parts or whatever, and make sure that they are in good shape. If nothing else, it gives you the opportunity to talk to a mechanic about the particulars of your car in the particulars of Philadelphia's winter. 
  2. Windshield wiper fluid is CRITICAL... you can find it at any gas station or hardware store for sure, and most Targets/Walmarts/etc. It comes in different varieties though, and it is important to buy stuff that won't freeze in the winter. It's slightly more expensive (like $3 versus $2) to buy the stuff that stays liquid until -35F, but if you buy the cheaper stuff and it DOES freeze... well, it will probably pop the tubing and replacing that will be very expensive. At least here the -35F stuff is always purple, but check the label and be very sure!!
  3. You will also need an ice scraper for your car. These are little plastic things that you can find anywhere, a super basic one is like a dollar. I recommend buying like three of them: keep two in your car, and an emergency one inside of your house. There are more expensive ones with longer handles, but imo the normal ones are the easiest to use/do the best job. 
  4. You should also make a (winter) emergency kit for your car. Most of it is the same as any other emergency kit (non-perishable snacks, a weather radio, first aid supplies, a map, etc), but you should also include a blanket (or two), an extra set of gloves/a hat, possibly a small shovel, and SMALL water bottles. (The small is important because they will melt faster.) I am sure that like, FEMA has a good list of things to keep in a winter car emergency kit. Philadelphia probably does too--most northern cities do, so you definitely should be able to find several lists on google. In St. Paul the city mails everyone a little flier every autumn, which is mostly for people that have not yet experienced a Minnesota winter and do not know what they are getting themselves into. Oh and also, you are supposed to keep the kit in the backseat of your car instead of the trunk, because if you get stuck in the snow you might not be able to get out of your car. For me the location of my snow kit depends on if I am driving other people or if I am going grocery shopping lol.
  5. If your car is very light, I highly recommend getting a set of snow tires and/or keeping a bag or two of sand in your trunk during the winter. At least in the Twin Cities, the city doesn't plow side/residential streets. There is generally a nice person every two or three blocks who has a pickup truck and a plow who will clear the side streets, but even if they do the roads can be... difficult. My car is very light and in the winter slides like a solid 50% of the time I make a turn. (Honestly I've just learned to embrace this and just incorporate it into my driving style, rather than trying to force my car to break the laws of physics.) Snow tires will give you more traction, as will putting lots of weight in the trunk of your car. In the winter hardware stores here sell tubes of sand that are literally just for putting in your car. Your needs will be very specific based on your particular car and how Philadelphia deals with snow, but at least now you know that these are things you can consider if you are having a hard time driving in the winter. 
  6. Inevitably, you will get stuck at some point. This is okay, it happens to literally everyone. People are usually quite kind and will stop their cars or run over from down the street to help you out. This is where the shovel can be helpful! If you need extra traction to get out of a slippery spot, you can use sand, cat litter, or the floor mats from inside your car. 
  7. In the spring, once it is warm enough for all the snow to melt and the runoff to go away, get a carwash asap. I mean a GOOD one, one that includes the bottom of your car. The salt from the road will get all over your car, which makes it look dirty but much more importantly, it WILL start to rust your car if you don't take good care of it in the spring. Washing the underside of your car is very very very important, as that is the easiest place for rust to start (and it gets rained on less often, ofc). Once the snow melts, it'll be several days/weeks until all the salty water is completely gone. If you get a car wash as soon as it warms up (which I recommend), until ALL the salt water is gone you will continue to get salt on the bottom of your car, so it's important to get another car wash once you are sure that it's "safe." 
  8. Finally, take your time! Be patient! Be calm! Driving in the winter can be intimidating, but you WILL get used to it and it WILL be okay. Drive the speed you feel comfortable at. Give yourself extra space to slow down or stop. Make turns carefully. Take a deep breath. Don't drive lots of people around in your car until you feel comfortable--not because you are a danger to them, but because they will be distracting and/or stress you out. Be patient and calm. It's not nearly as terrible as I am making it sound, this is all planning for the Worst Case Scenario. You can always ask for help, anyone and everyone who lives where it snows understands and appreciates how winter driving can be. If you are too nervous about the weather on a particular day, it's okay to just say screw it and cancel whatever plan. But don't be too afraid to give yourself credit: you've already learned how to drive in the summer, on the highway, when it's raining. It took time to learn and you probably made mistakes. You CAN learn this skill too! :D❤️ 

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I thought xanthocomically's winter driving advice was excellent, with one (possible) exception.

If you are very short (like I am), you WILL want a more expensive scraper. I have a very hard time reaching to the centre of my windshield and getting the giant snow pile off my roof (if you don't get that off before you start driving there's a decent chance it'll slide and cover your windows at a random and possibly inopportune moment). I need a scraper that has kind of a telescopic handle that allows it to be very long. As well, I have found that i REALLY like the ones that have all 3 - a scraper, a brush, and also a rubber thing thats just like your windshield wiper. They really do each have their own strengths depending on the texture of the snow/ice. 

I also LOVE studded tires in winter if that is an option where you are. Seriously, it's like night and day between regular winter tires and studs. 

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What great advice, and for someone from rain-washed Britain, it's like looking into another world!

I'm wondering what the physical transition's going to be like! The level of winter cold's going to take some acclimatising to. But a perfect excuse for cosy blankets and hot chocolate, etc. :ph34r:

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49 minutes ago, jellysundae said:

What great advice, and for someone from rain-washed Britain, it's like looking into another world!

I'm wondering what the physical transition's going to be like! The level of winter cold's going to take some acclimatising to. But a perfect excuse for cosy blankets and hot chocolate, etc. :ph34r:

:D I lived in London and had to leave because it was raining too much - I just could not handle all the creeping cold and rain.

 

Also, this thread is awesome, honestly 🙂 good luck moving and enjoy your new town experience. You will have a good time, I am sure!

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39 minutes ago, PinkSpaceSheep said:

:D I lived in London and had to leave because it was raining too much - I just could not handle all the creeping cold and rain.

Can't say I blame you xDD Cities are a pretty grim place to be when it's wet. When the sun's out the dirty grey stone just doesn't have the same depressive impact as it does when it's raining. The nearest city to me (Lincoln) is horrible on a wet day, and because Lincoln's on a hill in an otherwise fairly flat landscape, it's often raining there when it's sunny everywhere else. 😑

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Thank you so much for all of the advice! I never considered an emergency kit or wiper fluid lol. I do drive a mid-sized SUV but I will still consider snow tires! We have 'love bugs' down here that when your car hits them, they eat away your paint. Washing my car is something I'll be used to anyways. I hate the cold as of now and I've never had to shovel snow or travel in it, so all of this will be new to me! I'm takin' notes, thank you for all of ya'lls help! 

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Have a kit for inside your house as well.   Very possible to lose power in a winter storm, you'll want a flashlight somewhere you can get to it easily in the dark.   A couple night lights that have their own battery power can be a huge help.   Depending on just where you live, might also want to make sure you have food and bottled water for a couple days, just in case you get snowed in.  I live out in a farm house, so I also keep a kerosene heater handy to keep the house warm enough the pipes don't freeze.

Be aware of your shoes and socks.   Ideally, you can avoid stepping in semi-frozen slush, but if you do, a good shoe can make a world of difference.   And if your foot does get wet, you'll very much want a pair of dry socks handy.   Wet feet in winter aren't just uncomfortable, they can be dangerous if you can't get out of them right away.   Frostbite is not funny.

Think in layers.   A t-shirt and a heavy coat might be good when you head outside, but when you get to work or where ever, a t-shirt might be too light, and the coat too heavy.   Or if you're outside doing something, coat might become too warm.   Try something like a T-shirt, sweat shirt, jacket, and a light coat... little more effort, but way more options.   Also, it's not just the cold, it's the wind.   Get something that's windproof, most quality coats will be fine, but are many that work well in a cold room but are near worthless once you step into a breeze.

If you have pets, be aware of their winter needs.   Letting the dog out into the yard in summer is one thing, it's quite another if it's -10 outside.

Might not be a big deal, but worth mentioning, it can get dark very early, and stay dark until quite late.   Depending on your schedule, you might not see the sun for months.   For some people, that's fine.   For others, it has a huge impact on their mood.  A light box can really help to stave off winter depression.

Warm clothing, think about all the details.  Thick socks, warm gloves, warm pants, hat, earmuffs, maybe even a facemask and goggles if you're going to be out in the elements.   Not everyone needs all that stuff, but if you do, you don't want to wait until the last minute to get it.

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7 hours ago, charelan said:

I thought xanthocomically's winter driving advice was excellent, with one (possible) exception.

If you are very short (like I am), you WILL want a more expensive scraper. I have a very hard time reaching to the centre of my windshield and getting the giant snow pile off my roof (if you don't get that off before you start driving there's a decent chance it'll slide and cover your windows at a random and possibly inopportune moment). I need a scraper that has kind of a telescopic handle that allows it to be very long. As well, I have found that i REALLY like the ones that have all 3 - a scraper, a brush, and also a rubber thing thats just like your windshield wiper. They really do each have their own strengths depending on the texture of the snow/ice. 

I also LOVE studded tires in winter if that is an option where you are. Seriously, it's like night and day between regular winter tires and studs. 

That's totally fair, it depends A LOT on the size of you versus the size of your car! And I did forget that I do also have a brush in my car for clearing the snow off..... Sorry! That brush really does help a lot. I have to (usually) use the sleeve of my parka to access the backseat of the car, where I keep the brush, but after that the brush does help to get the snow off. Also, I don't know about this rubber windshield wiper-like thing you mention, but I am going to look into it! 

51 minutes ago, Rayd1978 said:

Have a kit for inside your house as well.   Very possible to lose power in a winter storm, you'll want a flashlight somewhere you can get to it easily in the dark.   A couple night lights that have their own battery power can be a huge help.   Depending on just where you live, might also want to make sure you have food and bottled water for a couple days, just in case you get snowed in.  I live out in a farm house, so I also keep a kerosene heater handy to keep the house warm enough the pipes don't freeze.

Be aware of your shoes and socks.   Ideally, you can avoid stepping in semi-frozen slush, but if you do, a good shoe can make a world of difference.   And if your foot does get wet, you'll very much want a pair of dry socks handy.   Wet feet in winter aren't just uncomfortable, they can be dangerous if you can't get out of them right away.   Frostbite is not funny.

Think in layers.   A t-shirt and a heavy coat might be good when you head outside, but when you get to work or where ever, a t-shirt might be too light, and the coat too heavy.   Or if you're outside doing something, coat might become too warm.   Try something like a T-shirt, sweat shirt, jacket, and a light coat... little more effort, but way more options.   Also, it's not just the cold, it's the wind.   Get something that's windproof, most quality coats will be fine, but are many that work well in a cold room but are near worthless once you step into a breeze.

If you have pets, be aware of their winter needs.   Letting the dog out into the yard in summer is one thing, it's quite another if it's -10 outside.

Might not be a big deal, but worth mentioning, it can get dark very early, and stay dark until quite late.   Depending on your schedule, you might not see the sun for months.   For some people, that's fine.   For others, it has a huge impact on their mood.  A light box can really help to stave off winter depression.

Warm clothing, think about all the details.  Thick socks, warm gloves, warm pants, hat, earmuffs, maybe even a facemask and goggles if you're going to be out in the elements.   Not everyone needs all that stuff, but if you do, you don't want to wait until the last minute to get it.

Yeah, I think that is a really good point... it helps a lot to be prepared for this stuff. If you try to go buy a shovel the night before the first big snow storm, you will be SOL. Plan ahead and deal with this stuff as early as you can. Whenever that happens to be for you personally. If it makes you feel more comfortable, when you first move just buy an extra can or two of whatever you normally eat and put the extras in the back of a cupboard. The first time you buy pet food in Philadelphia, buy an extra small bag or fill up a well-sealed container and throw it in a closet... or wait until the first time there is a great sale and stock up then. Whichever works better for you, your life, your budget, and your personal anxiety. (I am someone who would rather spend a ton of money but cross stuff off a list ASAP, some people would rather be intentional and methodical about preparing for the winter in a cost-effective and non-panicked way, ymmv and that's okay.) 

I second the lightbox idea, actually. It can be hard to adjust to the darkness, and there is no shame whatsoever in taking care of yourself. I personally, in the winter, use a lightbox (which is basically just a VERY BRIGHT LAMP) that's on a timer, so it turns on right in my face like 15 minutes before my alarm goes off. There are also alarm clocks that gradually turn on a bright light, mimicking the sunrise. You can also just shine a lightbox on yourself for 10-15 minutes while eating breakfast. Whatever works for you, go for it. The lightboxes tend to be considerably cheaper (on Amazon maybe ~$30-40 versus $50-60 or more for a light alarm clock), but do whatever works for you. I know my university has lightboxes you can borrow from the library, and I bet the public library in St. Paul does too. If you want to try something like this out before committing to spending a lot of $$$, I would look into libraries or community centers in Philadelphia to see if you can borrow a lightbox for a week or two before making a purchase. 

I have infinite suggestions about winter clothing, but I shall keep them to myself until asked lol >.< 

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@xanthocomically, the rubber windshield wiper like thingy is called a squeegee.  It is the same thing the gas station attendants used to dry the windows off after they would wash them. Most of you are probably too young to know about that,  but @jellysundae, @Granny63020 and a few others here remember those days. Lol.

@MegHidd, watch where you park in Philadelphia.  The parking authority there is famous for writing tickets and booting cars. Read the signs CAREFULLY. They can be confusing.  

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2 hours ago, rntracy1 said:

It is the same thing the gas station attendants used to dry the windows off after they would wash them. Most of you are probably too young to know about that,  but @jellysundae, @Granny63020 and a few others here remember those days. Lol.

HA! This is the UK, you want your windscreen washing? Do it yourself! :hmmph:

Seriously though, attendants that did that has NEVER been a thing in this country, as far as I'm aware.

@MegHidd are you feeling better from the tips you're gaining, or wanting to run away and hide? At least you'll have the end of summer and autumn to start acclimatising, you won't be straight in the deep end with the cold weather.

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@jellysundae lol we do it ourselves down in the South too! I am feeling better though, it's a lot to take it but I'm making a list to see what I can do ahead and get out of the way (purchase wise). I'm weary about this 'not seeing the sun for awhile' thing coming from the land of sun and heat. I may run and hide the first time I can't find my car in the snow! 

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1 hour ago, MegHidd said:

I'm weary about this 'not seeing the sun for awhile' thing coming from the land of sun and heat. I may run and hide the first time I can't find my car in the snow!

At least the remaining summer days once you move will be longer than what you're used to in the south, which will offset the shorter than what you're used to winter days, a little at least. It's just a shame that you can't store the summer's extra vitamin D and serotonin, isn't it!

I wonder what the difference in daylight hours will be actually. I visited Florida in late May once and I couldn't believe it when I peeped out of the curtain at 7am and it was only just starting to get light, in the UK at that point it's broad daylight at 5am, so a full 4 hours more daylight than Florida. I don't suppose you'll gain quite that much in the summer as the UK's further north than Philly. London's further north than Calgary apparently o.o

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Hi Meg, good luck on your move "up north: to Philly 🔔. I haven't read all of the above yet. If you are moving to a more urban area than you are used to, will you be OK or have you considered living in a more suburban area near the city? I'm in rural Michigan BTW. Maybe you could find a forum of Philly area topics and ask some locals too. And remember than it takes a range of opinions to get an accurate reading on anything. Keep us informed on what you learn. 

https://wikitravel.org/en/Philadelphia

https://wikitravel.org/en/Philadelphia_Region

I just checked the snowfall average there. My part of Michigan gets TRIPLE what they get. ❄️

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A ton of fantastic advice! My personal preference on scrapers is this bad boy

Image result for snow scraper mitt

This way I can tuck my sleeve into the glove and I don't have to worry about stray snow or ice making it's way to my elbow. I LOVE my scraper mitt!

Having an emergency kit inside the house if always a good idea, no matter where you live. If you have a Harbor Freight I recommend picking up several of these guys

63922 200 Lumen LED Super Bright Flip Light

(that picture came out larger than I expected)

These take 3 AAA batteries and have magnets, a Velcro strip and holes on the back so that you can stick or hang them anywhere. I hang them right next to all of my actual light switches. There are 200 lumens, so they can blind you. I found them for 1.99 each.

Another important thing to have stocked in your home or possibly car for emergencies is a bag of ice melt. I always buy 10 bags during springtime because they only cost 2-3 dollars. Once that first chill comes through everyone  jacks up their prices to 7-10 dollars per bag. Make sure you get some good snowshoes. I personally think that more than $20 for footwear is ridiculous, but I shelled out almost $200 for good snowshoes. Ice is dangerous. It is not like a skating rink though. Usually there will be some texture or form to the ice as it is formed in stages as snow is falling or melting.

As @xanthocomically stated, don't drive with other people in the car for your first couple of snowfalls. I tried to drive around a group of drunk teens my first snowfall and it was terrible. It was the middle of the night so I didn't have to worry about very many other cars. I was having trouble following their directions while trying to drive through unknown territory while everything was super slick. I had to pull over because I just didn't feel safe driving like that.

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Thanks! I'm moving right outside Philly actually, a place called Rosemont. I'm hoping the snow won't be too bad then (; I love the scraper mitt! What's a harbor freight? 

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@MegHidd It is a tool store like Lowes/Home Depot. It is just much smaller and cheaper. MUCH MUCH cheaper. I know that they have them all over Texas and Colorado, but I can't remember off the top of my head which other states are home to Harbor Freight.

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I had forgotten to mention getting a shovel, growing up on a farm there's always SOME sort of shovel around, if not strictly for snow.

Anyway, will be a fair range in what you need depending on where exactly you live and what you personally are comfortable with.   Don't be afraid to ask your neighbors what they think is wise/needed.

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