At this moment I am working away in the UN-comfort of my easy chair. My very warm easy chair. I have the swamp cooler going full blast — or rather full “puff” — a small air conditioner is doing its best in the next room and a fan is making more noise than wind. All these are using electricity and making my carbon footprint a big foot.
It is 96 degrees outside at 9:30 p.m. I once said I would never complain about the heat and I am really NOT complaining, just noting.
I was coming south down Highway 395 not too long ago and I passed a fancy car pulled over into a sandy wash, trunk open, guys standing around looking at a flat tire mired in the sand and two women on cellphones.
It was really hot and I was a little concerned they were all just standing around without shade or hats. My gut said “turn around and go back.” I usually pay attention to my gut. So a few miles down the road I turned and went back. Sure enough they were thoroughly, truly stuck. Rescue was going to be a few hours away. Even the Highway Patrol was not going to get there quickly. Did I mention this was in the middle of nowhere?
I don’t remember where they said they were from, but they were on their way to Los Angeles. They didn’t plan on having tire trouble and no one had thought of emergency supplies or water. (No one ever plans on having car trouble and many people don’t prepare for it.) They each had a little bottle of water and that was it.
I had Gatorade in the cooler and extra, EXTRA water so I gave them all the cold drinks and half my water and advised them to wait in the car with the doors open. Some shade, even in a hot car, is better than no shade at all.
HEAT AND SAFETY
For those newcomers to our lovely desert and for those of you who have forgotten them, here are some basic tips for dealing with the heat, traveling and your car.
Service your car often: Do not use my former mechanic! Do have the oil changed frequently, check the belts and keep an eye on your battery. Make sure your car’s bodily fluids are full.
Items you should have in your car:
If you are not used to living in a hot climate, these are must-have items in your car.
- Extra water. Even if you are just going to the mall, make sure you have water for everyone in your car. Think “what if?” Heat sick is not pleasant, trust me. Being even slightly dehydrated can make you feel awful. If you are thirsty, you are becoming dehydrated. A simple drive to Las Vegas can become deadly if you are stuck four miles behind an accident that has closed the road and you have no water.
**Don’t forget extra water for your car. Pick up one of those cases of water at the market or CostCo.
- Seat cover: Use something like a towel to cover the seat if you don’t have seat covers. Leather seats can be “dangerous” when they have been closed up in 110 degree heat for a couple of hours. You really don’t want to sit on them. Besides, towels can be good for sticky hands and for collecting crumbs, and are easily thrown in the wash. I use towels over my seat cover — an extra set of seat protection.
- Steering wheel cover: Use a cloth cover (not leather). Leather gets too hot. Hot steering wheels cannot be held safely so protect it and your hands.
- Snacks: Granola bars or small bags of crackers. Again, have on hand “just in case.” Forget the ones that will melt. No chocolate chips or cheese.
- Cell phone: Call someone if you get lost or get into trouble. Don’t be brave and/or stupid and try to walk for help. Heat can kill.
- First-aid kit: Items you should consider include ice packs, ace bandages, wrist brace, sunscreen, tweezers, x-acto blade, batteries, (girl stuff) and various meds like Benadryl or Motrin.
- Emergency kit: Items you should consider include a flashlight, flares, jumper cables, blanket, extra clothes and gloves, paper towels and some basic tools such as wrenches, a ratchet and sockets, screwdrivers and pliers. A tow strap and/or rope is also a good idea.
- Sunshades: This may seem like a no-brainer but use those handy-dandy sunshades to shade your windshield. Those can really mitigate high temps inside your vehicle. Your dashboard doesn’t like the sun or heat so a sunshade will help keep it from cracking and fading.
Items you should NOT have in your car:
- Anything packaged under pressure: Hair spray or sodas. They will go boom big time. Canned air is also a no-no — you photographers out there. It is dangerous, as one of my photographer friends found out — the hard way.
- Tapes, CDs or DVDs.
- Sunscreen in a bottle or tube: Buy little packets or towelettes. I had a tube of sunscreen in the car so I could always have it handy. Opened it up the other day and ka-woosh — sunscreen everywhere. Now it goes in a go-bag of “stuff I need in the car everyday but don’t want to leave in the car.”
- Crayons, candy, gum, lipstick: You might think this is another no-brainer ladies — or guys who like lipstick. But I have ruined more lipsticks that I can shake a stick at because I forgot it was getting hot. And a melted Chapstick makes a sticky mess.
- Credit cards or other cards with magnetic strips on plastic: They really do melt into weird shapes and will not fit into the ATM machine.
** After shopping, check your trunk (or cargo area) carefully to make sure nothing has fallen out of the grocery bags: You really don’t want to find those eggs or that salami a week later. Or even the next day when the forgotten items are frozen bags of fruit for your smoothies.
Source: About.com contributed to this column.