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  1. Default Summer Travel Tips

    Quote Originally Posted by Editor
    Here is post about desert-travel tips -- do you have others to add?
    Agreed, too many first-time visitors to the desert fail to take the conditions seriously. I never leave my vehicle for any reason (unless I am close enough to touch it) without strapping on my fanny pack with water and survival gear. Folks have become incapacitated by the heat less than 25 feet from the roadway in Death Valley. I carry a flat of water bottles in the summer for the sole reason of handing them out to tourists about to take a "short walk" without water.
    Hi Mark -- Sorry about taking so long to respond, but its been busy this week, and this deserved a bit of thought before answering.

    The thread listed is pretty good about desert travel. I'd add a couple of minor points, some which were hinted at in other posts, as suggestions

    - DRINK lots of water. I do a fair amount of camping with the Boy Scouts, and the single worst problem (by far!) is dehydration. It's not that they don't have water, but they don't drink it. If you start to feel you have a headache, or feel naseous on a hot day, there's a good probability you're started to get dehydrated. A lot of folks on roadtrips don't want to stop for a bathroom break, particularly if its hot outside, so they don't drink water. Bad idea... Camping in really hot weather (100 F+), we required the boys to drink a half liter bottle of water every half hour. And if you haven't pee'ed in a couple of hours, or the fluid is very dark, then you haven't had enough water. And as noted, you still have to be careful about electrolyte balances and etc if you're consuming (and sweating out) lots of water -- so gatoraide or other electrolyte replacement fluids are also good. Just have to be careful you don't get the brands that are also loaded with sugar (and in a at least one brand, caffeine too).

    As you said.. take lots of water. Like you I start with filling all the cup holders in the car with water bottles, as well as a bunch in the ice chest, with some soft drinks (for the caffiene if I get fatigued). Then a flat of water bottles in the back, and usually one of those rectangular 2.5 gallon water containers with the pull out spigot.

    As an aside, don't forget that the water in the ice chest from the melted ice is also drinkable and usable. 20 or 40 lbs of ice on the start of trip makes 20 or 40 pints of water that's usable. I once helped my dad repair a leaking radiator hose in the middle of nowhere New Mexico with pink first aid tape, and refill the radiator with the water from our ice chest. Got us back to civilization in Gallup where we could get the hose replaced and the radiator refilled with a proper anti-freeze mixture, (A good mixture gives a better ability to handle the thermal load in the engine as you know, but pure water will work OK -- just not as well).

    - If you get stuck, don't try to do heavy labor in the heat of the day, or leave the car. You were very specific on this, and I agree 100%. If you can, stay by the vehicle if there's a hope of help coming by. I'd signal for help before walking out in just about everywhere -- a tire will burn for a smoke plume if desperate, and I've seen CD's used for signal mirrors. Plus I've got the cell phone, the needed car charger for the cell, and some GMRS walkie talkies (plus spare batteries) to call for help first of all. If you decide to do heavy labor (like digging out the tires of the car), do it in the cool of the evening, not during the day. If you have to stay the night, there's always the back seat, or the back of the SUV.

    - Avoid sitting on the surface, and consider moving out of the car into shade. I've got a dark colored car and in the desert it gets reallllly hot during the day on the inside if the engine is turned off, even with the windows down. So you might want to move out of the car if it seems cooler. It's pretty common knowledge that the surface of the desert might be 50 F hotter than 12" above it, so you don't want to sit on the ground. Use a pad, blanket or etc. I always have a couple of camp chairs in the back of the vehicle, and a couple of tarps, and a couple of hiking staffs (about 6' long, and at least an inch in diameter). I've used the tarps, a couple of pieces of string or zip ties, and the staffs to make an awning for shade at the back of the car (using the open back gate as one side). And with the chairs and a cooler of water we've had fairly comfortable waits for activities in rather hot weather in mid summer in the desert.

    - Sun protection/ clothing. I was a little surprized that no one mentioned clothing. Hats and loose clothing are the best. I've seen too many people whose idea of desert dress is tanktop (or halter top), short shorts, and flip flops. Long sleeves work OK, as long as they are not too heavy, as do long pants (which also protect your legs from jumping cholla and other spiny desert plants). Plus they help protect from sunburn, which can leach fluids out of the body as the body reacts to the large burn. I always have a hat in the car, and sunglasses (an old prescription pair as well as clip ons which I normally use). And I have sunscreen as well in the car with SPF of 40 or so.

    - Shoes. Have a good pair of walking shoes in the car, just in case. Desert terrain will be rough with lots of sharp objects around your feet if you decide to get away from the road. Flip flops dont work well off cement or on rough terrain for any distance. And when its hot enough you can leave foot prints in the asphault outside, you really really don't want to go barefoot anywhere.

    - Work gloves. A metal surface in the sun can get too hot to touch. Plus if you have to do any work, it might help.

    - Carry basic tools, just in case, which is more than that little packet included with the spare tire. You want something to tighten the connections on a battery, and some type of radiator hose tape (duct tape!), as well as to be able to change a tire. Ever had your car not start because one of the battery terminals loosened? I have.. One of those universal belts kits is something I've considered, but I have my belts changed at about 2x the recommended interval, and usually have an extra belt in the car somewhere (not in my current one though :().
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 05-12-2006 at 07:44 PM. Reason: Moved -- add title

  2. #2
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    Default Arizona Brad's Tips!

    Quote Originally Posted by Larrison
    The thread listed is pretty good about desert travel. I'd add a couple of minor points, some which were hinted at in other posts, as suggestions
    Actually, that link (above) was posted by Arizona Brad, and those tips were his.
    And if you haven't pee'ed in a couple of hours, or the fluid is very dark, then you haven't had enough water
    Yep, we always make sure everyone is peeing on a regular basis!
    As you said.. take lots of water. Like you I start with filling all the cup holders in the car with water bottles, as well as a bunch in the ice chest, with some soft drinks (for the caffiene if I get fatigued). Then a flat of water bottles in the back, and usually one of those rectangular 2.5 gallon water containers with the pull out spigot.
    SOP in our travel cars, living and working in the Mojave!
    I once helped my dad repair a leaking radiator hose in the middle of nowhere New Mexico with pink first aid tape, and refill the radiator with the water from our ice chest.
    Good story!
    and I've seen CD's used for signal mirrors.
    In the movies, maybe... Unless one is already experienced with signal mirrors, you really need the eye targeting-hole to do it right.
    Plus I've got the cell phone, the needed car charger for the cell, and some GMRS walkie talkies (plus spare batteries) to call for help first of all. If you decide to do heavy labor (like digging out the tires of the car), do it in the cool of the evening, not during the day.
    Oh, what is the fun in that. Blisters on the fingers? Just part of the fun! Seriously, one thing that is critical is putting a blanket or other insulation on the ground before working or sitting down -- the ground heat can be a real problem in the summer day. -- Oh, yeah, I didn't read far enough...
    Long sleeves work OK, as long as they are not too heavy, as do long pants (which also protect your legs from jumping cholla and other spiny desert plants). Plus they help protect from sunburn, which can leach fluids out of the body as the body reacts to the large burn.
    All good points.
    - Work gloves. A metal surface in the sun can get too hot to touch. Plus if you have to do any work, it might help.
    You have got to read Judy and Brad's post about road gear here.

    Thanks for the ideas!

    Mark

  3. #3
    RoadTripper Brad Guest

    Default A tool to use: Get Certified!

    We keep reiterating the necessities to carry in your car, but continously forget one valuable tool that can help save a life: Getting trained via the American Red Cross (or similar organization) in CPR/First Aid and AED. The first aid training does include how to deal with heat and cold related injuries and illness, and is one thing that doesn't take up any room and goes with you everywhere. Getting trained will also give you more ideas of things to take to prepare you for dealing with heat and cold related injuries and illness.

    -Brad
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 05-12-2006 at 09:24 PM. Reason: fixed typos

  4. #4
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    Default Yes and no

    Quote Originally Posted by Arizona Brad
    Getting trained via the American Red Cross (or similar organization) in CPR/First Aid and AED.
    I am a former certified Disaster Response Coordinator with the Red Cross, so I know something about the organization. I agree that ARC (American Red Cross) has some good classes, but I would not give an universal seal of approval. Knowledge about survival techniques/first aid, etc. is always a good thing, but there is no substitute for "just doing it." Unless folks are considering serious off-highway adventuring -- plain, common sense is a better match than any ARC training, in my view.

    {Let's see that seems a little harsh. How about this: ARC classes provide excellent knowledge that one can use for one's own care. But I am not sure that qualifiying for the certification alone, is enough skills training when discussing desert survival techniques}.

    Mark
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 05-13-2006 at 06:43 PM. Reason: Add clarification

  5. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Editor
    Unless one is already experienced with signal mirrors, you really need the eye targeting-hole to do it right
    Actually, the central hole in the CD works pretty well as a targeting hole. The backside of most Cd's are silvered to get optimum performance, so they reflect the light pretty well. From what I've read it's only 1/4 to 1/3rd as reflective as a high quality mirror, but its reasonably sized as a reflector and just about everybody's car has one or several in them these days. There is an eye-targeting hole in the CD -- the central spindle hole. The instructions I've seen are to look through the hole, use both hands to hold the mirror, and sweep the reflected spot of light from the sun up and down across where you're trying to signal. It helps if you can line it up by sweeping the spot across the ground or through an outstretched V-of fingers so you know the spot is sweeping where you want, but that's true for just about every hand-held signalling mirror.

    I've heard, but haven't seen, of someone who built a replica heliograph as used by the US military in the southwest, that used CD's as reflectors and plumbing parts for the shutter and structure. That was demonstrated at a local Boy Scout Scout-O-Rama and supposedly worked pretty well. But I have to confess, I never saw it personally.
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 05-13-2006 at 07:15 AM.

  6. #6
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    Default Signal mirroring technique?

    I never knew there was anything technique for doing this correctly. I just figured you held up the mirror pointing in the general direction of where you hoped help was coming from and wiggled it around. I'm not sure I totally understand the correct technique though. Could someone explain it further?

    I have a signal mirror in my emergency kit but it's just an old purse-sized makeup mirror. And then I have a whistle that has a screw on top with a place for matches inside and a teeny signal mirror inside the cap. I have a feeling this won't really do much good.

    So, should I toss the old makeup mirror and get a signal mirror with the hole in it? Sounds like I should.

    Thanks for this information.

  7. #7
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    Default Angles

    Judy, your makeup mirror is as simple and basic, but also as effective, as they come. If it's in your emergency kit now, don't discard it until you replace it with something better. I don't know what that would be exactly, though. Note that, as Larrison says, a CD only reflects a fraction of the light that a mirror does. But if a CD is all you have, and most cars today have at least one rattling around somewhere, that's what you use. The trick in either case is to reflect the sunlight towards whomever you're trying to signal. The key to this is to remember that "the angle of incidence equals the angle of reflectance", or to put it much more simply, aim the mirror halfway between the sun and your intended target. I really like Larrison's hint to use your spare hand as a near target to see where the reflected light is headed. With the knowledge of how to orient the mirror in the first place and how to see where the light is going, you should easily be able to make a working heliograph (you) with one moving part (the mirror).

    AZBuck

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    Default Thanks for the further explanation....

    I'm thinking it might be fun to practice this a bit sometime when it's not an emergency and my life might depend on it. In fact, we're going to the beach later today and the sun is shining so it might be a good day today to do that.

    Sometimes it's the little things that can make the difference between surviving and not. Who knows if this might be one of them for some of us someday? It's valuable information.

  9. #9
    RoadTripper Brad Guest

    Default Signal Mirrior/Morse Code

    One of the things I would do is signal the letters S, O, and S again in Morse Code. Its the only letters of Morse Code i've ever learned, mainly because they are easy, but, the pattern on the reflection might catch someones eye. It is simply three short (very quick), in this case reflections, three long reflections, then three short. So, it would be: ...---...

    Being that this is a clearly intentinal pattern, and not just a piece of glass at the right angle, may prove to turn more heads, even if people don't know what it means.

    -Brad

  10. #10
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    Default Search and Rescue is tricky at best

    Quote Originally Posted by Arizona Brad
    Being that this is a clearly intentinal pattern, and not just a piece of glass at the right angle, may prove to turn more heads, even if people don't know what it means.
    That seems like good advice, but as someone who has been on S&R missions, I can tell you that it is darn tough to see signal mirror reflections at all. If the search vehicle was in exactly the right position and never moved during the time you were sending a S-O-S, a good operator might be able to read that code -- but in reality a search pilot is going to circle back and look for the source of light no matter what intentional or not pattern he/she sees. I like that hand-sighting technique, I hadn't tried that before.

    The one thing I hope no one does again this summer is the smoking campfire routine -- such an effort has led to more wildfires than you might believe. That super destructive fire near Payson, Arizona in 2005 was one such signal fire.

    One more thing about practicing with a signal mirror -- don't point it at any aircraft when practicing. Just about every pilot will respond (whether they are military, commercial or private) and business pilots take a dim view of someone doing the equilvalent of yelling "fire in a crowed theater".

    On a recent fly-by for the book I am working on, we saw such a flash of light and left our flight path to investigate -- I think it was kids playing with a mirror -- not a huge waste of time -- but still irksome to working pilots.

    Mark

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