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It's Only a Dry Heat

Eighty percent of the discomfort felt by a full time RV boondocker occurs during summer. It needn't be so. Step One is to stop going north in summer, as counter-intuitive as that is. Going north will only keep you cool during the shoulder seasons. Would that they lasted longer than a couple weeks!

Shame on me for taking so long to realize that latitude is a secondary variable and that altitude is preeminent. Through a geographical accident, most of the high altitude towns are in the Southwest.

It's easy to underestimate the pleasantness of the southwestern monsoon season, from early July to mid-September. Even before the afternoon sky-and-cloud show, the higher humidity mutes the sun. By noon cumulus clouds have formed foamy white tops and darkling bottoms. Their bottoms darken as the vertical development continues. Finally they flocculate into a thundershower -- transient, local, and topographic.

This praise of clouds and rain must seem surreal to those of the Pacific Northwest. But an RV snowbird can easily get too much sun. Besides the mistake of going north in the summer, the other source of thermal misery is mismanaging the solar panels on your RV. They cause you to park in the sun instead of the merciful shade. Yes, you could move them to the roof of your tow vehicle, so that your trailer can park in the shade. And I have done that. But it makes life a little complicated and causes you to buy additional equipment.

Now that solar panels are cheaper than they used to be, it is a good idea to buy 500 Watts of them, and get charged up with a couple hours of sunlight in the morning. As long as you are in the shade from 2--6 pm, you will be happy in 90 F weather in the Southwest.

Beating the hot sun is a serious profession for RV boondockers in the western states. Either get serious about it or resign yourself to a permanent grimace on your face, eyes that narrow into a squint, finger tips that crack and sting, heels that crack and bleed, facial skin that blotches red into keratosis, which finally becomes skin cancer.

You walk from the grocery store to your car across a sun-softened asphalt parking lot, feeling worried and guilty about your poor dog in the car which is hot as a pizza oven. You drive out of the parking lot leaving tire ruts in the black, pyroclastic goo.

The sun, the aridity, will suck the very spit right out of your mouth. Think of that scene in "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly," when the Ugly tries to slowly murder the Good by marching him through the desert sun. "They say people with fair skin can't take too much of this sun," the Ugly says. He leers at his victim sadistically, while toying with a dainty, woman's parasol over his own ugly head.

The scriptwriter for this movie blew it. They should have had Clint Eastwood, crawling in the hot sand with sunburned lips and face, look up with one of his classic squints at the Ugly and the murderous Sun, and say, "Yea, but it's only a dry heat."