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Let me tell you, I had a really good time on Saturday…

January 31, 2010, 9:35 PM

I had a really good time on Saturday. I went to the Maryland State Police Polar Bear Plunge, aka “Plungapalooza”, and while it was really, really, really cold and snowing, I had a blast.

The event was held at Sandy Point State Park, near Annapolis. The idea is simple: put on a swimsuit, and run into a body of ice-cold water in the middle of winter. The proceeds from the event went to support Special Olympics, and of course, all involved had a great time.

As I mentioned before, I didn’t jump in. Nuh-uh. Too cold. And when you consider all the cold-weather gear I was wearing, I was determined to stay toasty warm, too. And for the most part, I did.

Getting there involved taking the Beltway to Route 50, and then a short distance on local roads to the parking area. Parking involved leaving the car at a satellite location and then taking a shuttle bus to the site. I parked at the Naval Academy Stadium, and took a bus from there. That was like jumping into a time-warp. The bus appeared to be of more recent mint than I would have ridden, but the interior was light green, and the seats were dark green. I thought they got rid of that when they started using the brown interiors in the late 80s. I guess I was wrong. Ugly green on uglier green is obviously alive and well in the 2010s.

Arriving, they had several tents set up. One was the sponsors’ tent, which contained a giant sand sculpture of the various sponsoring organizations’ logos, and then there were things for sale, live music, and carnival games. Then there were the registration tents, the beer tent where those over 21 could enjoy beer and wine, and the sweatshirt tent, which sold commemorative sweatshirts. And all the large tents were heated, thank goodness. Then down further was the plunge zone, where the participants would actually run into the water.

The weather was perhaps the biggest challenge of the day. The forecast had called for snow, but the event was still on. Heading down to the event, it was starting to snow, and then at the event itself, the snow was really coming down. So not only was it cold as hell, but it was snowing on top of it. Good thing I wore my boots. Because of the weather, I used Duckie for photos and such rather than the Canon, because I swear I am never losing another camera to the weather again. One is enough.

At 12:00, the plunge zone closed to spectators, and people started getting ready for the 1:00 plunge into the Chesapeake Bay. I got a good spot for shooting, and got some pictures of the festivities:

A group from the Bowie, Maryland police department takes the plunge.
A group from the Bowie, Maryland police department takes the plunge.

A girl wearing nothing but a bikini stands in the water.
A girl wearing nothing but a bikini stands in the water.

Lots of people in the water! Notice the red color on the chest of the man getting out of the water. I can imagine he was really cold right then.
Lots of people in the water! Notice the red color on the chest of the man getting out of the water. I can imagine he was really cold right then.

A man strikes a victory pose in some very cold water.
A man strikes a victory pose in some very cold water.

A man comes out of the water wearing a speedo. Honestly, this is probably the best way for the menfolk to plunge. A little something to cover the necessary areas, and thus no big, baggy suit to cling to your body and be cold against your skin. That way, the warm, dry towel afterwards feels that much warmer since there's no big pair of wet shorts to get in the way.
A man comes out of the water wearing a speedo. Honestly, this is probably the best way for the menfolk to plunge. A little something to cover the necessary areas, and thus no big, baggy suit to cling to your body and be cold against your skin. That way, the warm, dry towel afterwards feels that much warmer since there’s no big pair of wet shorts to get in the way.

A woman shivers after taking the plunge.
A woman shivers after taking the plunge.

And then I also got video:

As you can see, this was a happy crowd.

In between the 1:00 plunge and the planned 3:00 plunge, I found my way to the sweatshirt tent. There, they had a large heater set up in the center of the tent. Time to warm up some cold hands. I left my gloves on, which warmed the gloves and my hands inside, plus dried off the water. You could actually see steam coming off the gloves! It was SO warm.

However, the event ended slightly early. Due to extreme conditions, the 3:00 plunge was cancelled entirely. A shame, but it happens, I suppose.

Two participants who didn't get to plunge at 3:00 were a man in a green zentai and another in a rainbow tie-dye jumpsuit. Such awesome outfits, but too bad they never got to plunge...
Two participants who didn’t get to plunge at 3:00 were a man in a green zentai and another in a rainbow tie-dye jumpsuit. Such awesome outfits, but too bad they never got to plunge…

So everyone headed back to the buses to go back to the satellite locations. There were three lines – one for the Naval Academy Stadium, one for Anne Arundel Community College, and one for Kent Island High School. I quickly found my line for the stadium, and got in it. It was like waiting for a theme park ride, as “ferbling” (as my parents refer to it) was the name of the game. The line for the buses was four rows deep, and moved in spurts as about 40 people at a time were sent to buses as they arrived.

Waiting for buses in the snow.
Waiting for buses in the snow.

Once we got a bus, the ride went smoothly, and was a lot of fun. But upon arrival, I had to actually find my car. Less fun. I kind of remembered where it was, but not really, and realized that finding it would be somewhat difficult since it would be wearing a white overcoat of snow. I eventually zeroed in on it by pressing the alarm button on my remote. I found my way in, and started it up so it could warm up while I scraped the windows.

The drive home was hell. The roads were passable, but they weren’t clear. The drive home was slow, and the quality of the roads was inconsistent. There were some areas where it was clear, some where you could kind of make out the lanes, and others where you just had to guess. SHA was hard at work clearing roads (I passed a few snowplows), but it’s admittedly hard to keep up when it’s coming down hard. I saw a lot of accidents on Route 50, and that just added to the stress of the drive back. I ended up stopping in College Park for dinner, because I finally got to that point where I absolutely had to stop and take some time off of driving or I would scream. I ended up going to IKEA (yes, that IKEA) for dinner, and ate at their in-store restaurant. All in all, it wasn’t a bad meal for a furniture store. The Swedes know how to do it. And then from there, home.

So all in all, I enjoyed myself. Look for a Photography set about the event, and I’m definitely coming back next year.

Web site: MSP Polar Bear Plunge

Song: Another video of the event, this one shot further up on the beach.

Quote: Funny: Considering how bundled up I was for this (and all of it black), one person called me the "snow ninja". Pretty cool, no?