warming trend

As winter ebbs, a few hot ideas to thaw by

February 23, 2004

It has been one of the most miserable winters in years: mountains of snow, slippery ice, an entire month of freezing temperatures. But now spring, at least officially, is only a month away, conjuring thoughts of warmer days ahead.

But what about right now? Before another cold snap could set in, four writers set out in search of something hot, or at least warm.

Here -- from a hot seat to a hot streak -- is what they found. Until the temperature starts rising for good, we'll take the heat any way we can get it.

The hot tubbers

The air is 20 degrees. The water in the hot tub is 103. And somewhere in between are Peter Bell and Lise Satterfield, standing outside, wearing nothing but swimsuits.

Sometimes, to get hot, you first have to get cold.

"It's a bear to get out here," says Satterfield. "But once you're out here, it's worth it."

For most people, a sub-freezing evening with a forecast of snow is a good excuse to stay inside under a blanket. But for winter hot-tubbers like Satterfield and Bell, the frigid weather is all the more reason to go outside dressed for summer.

Nothing - not freezing rain, not snow showers, not the dreaded "wintry mix" - can keep them from using the hot tub outside their Monkton home all year round. Even on nights like this one, when they step out their back door and see their breath in the chilly air.

Why should the weather stop them? When it rains, they can wear hats. When it snows, they can shovel a path from the back porch. The hard part - the part when they shed their fluffy robes and bare their flesh to the winter air - lasts only a few moments. Once they step into the bubbling oasis of heat, winter is forgotten. The couple lies back in the foamy water and looks up at the stars, immune to the cold, shrouded in a haze of steam.

"It feels great," says Satterfield. "It feels like you've gone back into the womb. It's totally relaxing."

- Lisa Pollak

The hot car

"This is not an everyday car," says Martin Belton. "It's more a summer car."

Oh, I think I can deal with that.

Martin - all 6-foot-6 of him - is wedged into the passenger seat of a factory-fresh Nissan 350Z, the top-selling sports car in America. Martin used to race cars in his native Trinidad but now sells them at Nationwide Nissan in Timonium.

I'm in the driver's seat. I have never raced cars. I'm just sick of de-icing my underwear every morning. And nothing says sun, fun and summertime better than a silver-bullet sports car shooting down an open road.

We head north on Interstate 83. The sky is a cloudless, mid-July blue. It has unleashed my Inner Vacationer. I'm wearing sunscreen and wraparound sunglasses. My Beach Boys' greatest hits CD is pumping out surfer music.

Only thing wrong with this picture is that I'm wrapped like a burrito in my fleece vest and Anorak jacket: We've got the top down on the Z. The temperature is 28 degrees. I feel the wind blowing worry lines off my forehead.

Still, it's summer behind the wheel.

" ... and she'll have fun, fun, fun till her daddy takes the T-Bird away-y-y-y ... "

Martin tells me there are no speed limits in Trinidad. He also tells me that if a cop pulls a customer over on a test drive, the car salesman gets the speeding ticket.

Say what?

A green Jaguar looms dead ahead. Suddenly, the Jag's in our rearview mirror. Miracles are made with 287-horsepower engines.

When we return to Nationwide Nissan I reluctantly hand the Z keys back to Martin. As he walks into the dealership I can see his shadow stretching across the parking lot.

I think that means six more weeks of hardtop weather.

- Tom Dunkel

The hot streak

South Hagerstown High School basketball player David Miner knows people say he is on a hot streak, but if you ask him about it he's just a point guard playing a game.

Miner, an 18-year-old senior, went into the Feb. 12 game against Brunswick High fully aware he was 14 points away from breaking his school's career points record. The record, set by Scott Kidd in 1988, was 1,486 points.

But Miner didn't talk about it beforehand. He didn't see the need to. Neither did his coach Bob Starkey, who says of Miner: "I've been coaching 46 years and he's as good as they come." Miner has been averaging 35 points a game all season, so the hot streak has almost become old hat.

The night he broke the school record, Miner did what he always does before a home game: He went to a friend's house, ate four or five pieces of Meat Lover's pizza and slept for an hour.

It doesn't sound like magic, but it works. Now the question is: Can the hot streak last long enough for Miner to break the record for all of Washington County?

With a few games left in the season, and five potential post-season games, Miner is about 150 points away from topping the record 1,782 points scored by Smithburg High's Colby Bachtell in 1993.

Does Miner think he can beat it?

If he does, he isn't saying.

This hot streak has taught him to play the game and not worry about the attention - or the questions - it can bring.

When you're hot, you're hot.

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