Hot!!

Hmmm…was it only a couple of weeks ago I was complaining about being chilly in July? Well, change of states, change of complaints! Let me tell you, Arizona and Nevada, which we’ve just driven through, are ovens! Not that this is a news flash to anyone…I just forget the impact of this heat until I’m experiencing it again.

We flew down to Phoenix last week and shuttled to Prescott, where the RV and Rob’s little pick-up have been stored. After almost a year of sitting, there were a few things to take care of. In spite of our best efforts to leave both vehicles travel ready…we even left solar panels plugged in to the batteries to keep those charged…we had two days of maintenance to deal with. Turned out that the RV batteries and the truck battery had to be replaced, and we had some other minor repairs. Got the oil changed in both vehicles, and made a run to the grocery. This is a house on wheels, you know, so it has to be stocked.

We have a class C RV, which Rob drives…I think I’ve driven a total of about 10 miles, on a straight stretch, and that will be my first and last…I’ve told him if anything happens to him, the RV is a goner…I won’t be driving myself around the country, thank you very much! I’m driving the little pick-up. These vehicles traveled down from Alaska separately, and we’ve never traveled extensively using them together. After taking a good look at the cost to add a towing package to the RV and the truck, we decided it is more practical to caravan. Not ideal, but worth it to have a separate vehicle for exploring when the RV is set up at a campsite.

So…we are driving, in July, through the desert Southwest. Our goal is northern California, southern Oregon. We want to do some exploring in those regions. But first, we have to get there. As long as we are driving with the AC on, there is the illusion that the weather is pleasant, the sun is just a nice accent to the day. But stop for a few moments, get out and feel the absolute roasting heat and the almost physical impact of the sun, and I wonder, again, how anyone managed to settle this country. How does anyone who has to work outdoors do it? Is there anyone who lives here without air conditioning? And if so, how?  I have a pretty high tolerance for heat, and I rarely sweat. Let’s just say in this heat I need a little more antiperspirant than usual. So if I’m feeling it, I know it’s bad.

Hoover Dam Overlook, Nevada

The views are spectacular. The terrain varies so much…it’s mostly desert, but there are stretches that have more vegetation, more mountains. There are areas that look like moonscape. But it’s all big, huge, massive. No doubt about it, this is an astonishing land. Photos don’t do it justice, not by a long shot.

Driving through, I’m filled with admiration. Sometimes for the scenery, but mostly for the people who made it here. I always come back to the same thought: I would have been a failure as a pioneer. I would have been a cautionary tale with a marker along the wagon trail.

But there were obviously many people who were successful, and it is thanks to them that we can drive through now and find roads, restaurants, gas stations (although there are some stretches that have signs posted…the next gas is 70 miles, 100 miles, etc.). On one lonely stretch in Nevada, we missed a turn and had to decide…go on to the next opportunity for gas, or turn around and try to get back to the last one? I was beginning to see the buzzards circling…And this was in an area that my phone discouragingly said “no service.” Hard to believe there are places where cell phones don’t work, in 2012!

Happily for us, we made it to the next town, the next gas. No need for dramatic rescue. But it does make you realize the heat and isolation are real, and not to be taken lightly.

I had a similar epiphany when we lived in the Arctic…amazing that people survived, and even flourished. I have talents, but I don’t think mine extend to outsmarting the cold, or the heat. So I’m just grateful to have come along at a time when these challenges were already conquered, and be thankful for heaters in Alaska, and in the desert, thrilled to have air conditioning.

Mono Lake, Lee Vining, CA