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  1. #1
    RoadTripper Brad Guest

    Default Desert Travel Tips

    For those of you who visit America's equivalent to a natural oven (the desert southwest), you may want to write these down before you hit the road.

    **Before you leave on a trip- get your vehicle checked, fluids topped off or change, and the radiator inspected. Trust me, it will help.
    **Carry your cellular phone car-charger with you. I cannot stress this enough in my line of work!
    **Carry extra water, you never know when you could get stuck on I-10 between Phoenix and Blythe, CA (Bob, you should know what I am talking about). Personally, if at all possible, cary some Gatorade as well, especially if you have children. A flat tire in 110 degree heat can mean a long wait in a rural area, and you need to keep everyone not only hydrated, but with enough sodium and electrolytes to prevent dehydration.
    **Keep an extra bottle of REDY-MIX coolant/antifreeze in your trunk, just in case.
    **Know who to call. If you happen to be an AAA member (or suddenly find yourself wanting to be one), Arizona residents can call me and my co-workers. If you don't have it, or tried to fix the problem yourself but find that it is getting too hot or you are getting sick from the heat, I do insist calling 911. If you've just broken down, dial 411 and ask to be connected to the state police or patrol where you are. Heat exposure IS an emergency (if you are feeling dizzy, faint, overly-tired, nauseated, etc.). Just being broken down in a hot area isn't.
    **Pets - bring an extra water dish for the pet of the family, and do everything you can to keep them cool. Remember, they are wearing a fur coat!

    But, as I said first, check the car over before you leave (and I mean have a mechanic do it). A few bucks out of your pocket can mean the difference between arriving safely at your destination, or watching imaginary camels do the hula on the horizon while you hallucinate from heat exposure.
    Take it easy out there!
    Brad M.
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 02-20-2007 at 07:36 PM. Reason: Fixed format issues

  2. #2

    Default

    Driving through Death Valley in the summer with 120*F temps and no A/C was interesting. With the windows down my sweat would evaporate (cooling me) but the shear heat transfer of the wind to my body after my sweat was dry was causing me to burn up, so I would roll up the window and sweat for a couple minutes, then roll it down and cool off for 15. Lots of broken down vehicles I passed...

    I carried 15gal of water just for myself in the Southwest, in addition to a cooler full of iced drinks. Hiking in 105*F+ temps I drank almost a gallon of water per hour.

    Having a tarp with a couple poles and lashings just to get you out of the vehicle and out of the sun due to a breakdown is another important thing to have. If you're alongside a road just get in the shade, don't move much, and drink lots of water.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,059

    Default Stay with your vehicle

    Another couple of desert heat driving tips. If you do break down and you are on a paved road or other road with likely traffic -- DO NOT LEAVE YOUR VEHICLE. Someone will come along eventually and it will much easier to assist you if the would-be rescuer doesn't have to go looking for you. Another thing, don't sit on the bare ground. Put down a blanket, shirt, tarp, towel, etc. Ground temps can be extreme during the day and the possibility of contact burns is very real. For some good off-highway travel tips, look at this article written by Len Wilcox.
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 05-28-2005 at 09:07 AM. Reason: Add content

  4. #4
    RoadTripper Brad Guest

    Default

    Indeed. We at AAA really hate it when our members go "hiking".

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,059

    Default Heat Stress, Heat Stroke & Heat Exhaustion

    Quote Originally Posted by Cascadia4-brad m
    For those of you who visit America's equivelent to a natural oven (the Desert Southwest),
    There are three conditions that can arise if one gets a little too much heat while visiting the desert. This link provides good information about diagnosing and resolving heat stress, heat stroke and heat exhaustion. The information is actually derived from Fort Monroe's public site (for Virginia) but the advice works for all locations.

    Mark

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Western/Central Massachusetts
    Posts
    1,703

    Default Surviving the heat

    These are not just good tips for the desert, but for any heat-related situation. I work in an environment that gets very hot in the Summer (certain areas can be above 105?F and quite humid, consistently), and I am responsible for the safety and well-being of every member of my team. I have been fortunate in that none of my team members have gotten beyond heat stress. The signs of sodium loss are very visible on their clothing! Having walked many miles in their shoes, I have firsthand experience with spending 40+ hours a week in hot conditions for several weeks out of the year.

    Keep yourself hydrated, but don't consume all the water in one go, or cramps (and sometimes heartburn) can occur. Alternating between water and a sports drink can help encourage you to keep hydrated. Sports drinks can be purchased in a concentrated form to cut down on costs.

    I have seen the effects alcohol have on a person's ability to tolerate heat (this is usually a Monday), and it isn't pretty. Since the body is already dehydrated from the outset, the effects come on quicker and are more pronounced. This doesn't mean the individual is drunk, just that (s)he may have consumed alcohol within the past 24 hours. Even a small amount can have a large impact. So if you're planning on drinking someone under the table before heading out into the desert, you might want to consider doing something else.

    Additionally, caffeine will inhibit the body's ability to absorb sodium and water, so it too should be avoided.

    The link Mark gives provides valuable information and should be printed out by everyone and placed with their first-aid gear. And again, Brad's tips should be considered by <i>everyone</i>, not just those who are heading to the desert.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,059

    Default Alcohol & Caffeine

    Quote Originally Posted by TimboTA
    Keep yourself hydrated, but don't consume all the water in one go, or cramps (and sometimes heartburn) can occur. ...I have seen the effects alcohol have on a person's ability to tolerate heat (this is usually a Monday), and it isn't pretty.
    All good points, thanks for adding that.
    Additionally, caffeine will inhibit the body's ability to absorb sodium and water, so it too should be avoided.
    You are probably right about this, but as a practicing coffee addict -- coffee is vital part of my roadtripping regime.

    Mark

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula
    Posts
    3,318

    Default

    These are all great tips. I wish I had read up a bit more on heat stress/exhaustion/stroke before I went to the desert areas last summer.

    My A/C broke down just a couple of days before the start of my trip. Since I love the heat, I decided to go anyway. While I had a great trip, I did have a close call. I was in a caravan with 3 other cars. All solo drivers. (We were going to/from a car show.) So, unfortunately, there was no extra person to drive for me.

    Anyway, we had a long day of driving from Carlsbad, NM, to Flagstaff, AZ, via El Paso, the Gila Natinoal Forest, and Holbrook.

    I was continually drinking water and would regularly pour some of the water over my head and wet my t-shirt to help keep me cool. However, it wasn't enough.

    When we stopped at the Petrified Forest, it hit me what bad of shape I was in. I had trouble getting my legs to work to walk from the car to the museum. Once in the museum, I had trouble reading the information cards on the displays. It was like the letters were swimming. I also noticed when I was talking that my words sounded funny. Nobody else seemed to notice it but I felt like I was slurring a bit and I really had to concentrate to get my words out. I decided to sit down and relax and enjoy the air-conditioned room for awhile and miss the displays. This is soooo NOT like me. When the others decided to walk out on the interpretive trail to check out the petrified wood, I begged off and said I would wait for them there. When they got back, they were really concerned about me because, when they had originally left me there, they thought I looked OK but when they came back I was really flushed.

    They helped me walk over to a snackbar and got me lots of water, made me drink some juice as well, and kept bringing me papertowels soaked in cold water to place on my neck, chest, forehead, arms, and even the tops of my thighs while I sat there.

    While I started to feel better, we still needed to hit the road. And there was no one else to drive my car. We drove into Holbrook. IIRC, it's about a half hour drive but felt much longer to me. Once we got there we stopped at an air-conditioned restaurant for a long, leisurely meal to give me plenty of time in a cool place to rest up and cool down. I think we were there almost 2 hours before I felt ready to attempt the rest of the drive to Flagstaff.

    While the worst of it seemed to be over after the restaurant break, I was quite tired and was really glad to hit my pillow ASAP that night. And I think my body temperature regulation system was a bit off for the next couple of days. I had real problems with the heat in the Grand Canyon, Zion, and Bryce.....especially Zion. Man, was it hot there! But I also felt much hotter than the temperature outside indicated I should feel. And much hotter than I have felt before when I've been in similar temperatures.

    It was kinda spooky. I will never drive those areas without working A/C again!

    Last comment: my dad had heat stroke while visiting Egypt a few years ago. He had to be carried back onto the boat from the tour bus (they were on a cruise up the Nile). And the doctor wouldn't allow him to leave the air-conditioned inside of the boat for the next 2 days so he missed quite a bit of the trip. He was about 77 when this happened. Prior to that he had been a very robust man. His health seriously declined after this. I am sure the heat stroke kicked off the health problems. :-(

    My dad foolishly dehydrated himself on purpose. While the tour bus had lots of free water for the folks traveling and encouraged everybody to drink a lot of it, he didn't drink it because he said the bathrooms were all so gross. Oy veh!

    Anyway, I wish I had known about the Gatorade and electrolytes. I wonder if that might have made a difference in my case since I was only drinking water? I went through about a 1/2 case of water bottles (I think 16 oz size) that day.

    I also wish that I had brought along one of those little portable, battery-operated fans that you can wear around your neck. I can't help but wonder if that would have helped a bit? Maybe not enough though. Who knows?

    The thing that really struck me about this is that I really like the heat. Like at the car show in Roswell, folks were hiding out under awnings and umbrellas to escape the sun and complaining about how hot it was and I wasn't hot at all. Just a nice, toasty-warm feeling. Because I like the heat and do well in it, this really surprised me.

    Believe me, I will take these issues much more seriously from now on when traveling in hot places. So all the info here is highly appreciated and recommended.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,059

    Default A good post to read

    Judy,

    Thanks for this post -- about the only thing that works when you have symptoms like you have described is water, rest and getting cooler. You could have passed out when driving while under the influence of heat stress -- I hope you never get in that circumstance again.

    What is interesting is the symptoms (one feels) for heat stress and hyperthermia are very similar. I can remember skiiing in a white-out (blizzard) a few years ago and fighting the perception that I was way too hot with all of the symptoms you described -- and it was -10 degrees F.

    Mark

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula
    Posts
    3,318

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Editor
    What is interesting is the symptoms (one feels) for heat stress and hyperthermia are very similar. I can remember skiiing in a white-out (blizzard) a few years ago and fighting the perception that I was way too hot with all of the symptoms you described -- and it was -10 degrees F.
    Really? That's interesting and is good to know.

    Yeah, I have to admit that I while I appreciated the fact that my friends were tending to my needs, they also pooh-poohed me a bit. I mean, when we were in the Petrified Forest at that snack bar, I really wanted to stay there until I felt better. But they didn't have much in the way of good food. At least, not the type of food my fellow travelers wanted. So they pressured me to drive onto Holbrook. I really don't think they had a clue how bad I felt. On hindsight, I really should have let them know but (1) I really hate to complain; and (2) I was so weak and tired feeling that it was almost like it was too much effort to confront them on it. But this really was an area where I should have complained.

    Yes, I agree it was probably unsafe for me to drive to Holbook that day. Heck, it was probably unsafe for me to be driving for some time before we hit the Petrified Forest. I just hadn't realized it yet. I think if I had been traveling alone I would have noticed the effects sooner but I was in the middle of the pack and just following the leader. Not much thinking required like if I was having to read roadsigns and that type of stuff. I just think I was driving a bit on auto-pilot. I know....NOT safe at all!

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