Well, summer is officially here in our cactus-littered neighborhood.
It’s easy to tell. Temperatures this week have been 102, 108, 109, 110 and 111. The 115's and 120's are yet to come. Overnight lows recently have been around 80 but we expect 90's in a few weeks.
Sometimes, I don’t think humans were meant to live here. Our closest neighbors are coyotes, bobcats, cotton tails and birds of every description. Fewer rabbits than coyotes but that’s just nature’s way.
Now, if you’re asking yourself why any self-respecting old folks from the much cooler Northwest would settle here, we often ask ourselves the same question. It’s not really as bad as it sounds. Remember, this is desert country. The humidity hovers between 0% and 10% most of the time - dry heat. Still, it’s a shock to open the door of your 75 degree home into a “wall” of 115 just to go to the mailbox.
The trick here is to keep hydrated. Lots of water. Retailers who rely on outside sales (car dealers, etc.) quickly put a free bottle of cold water in a customer’s hand. Many retail stores have bottles of water handy. It’s not considered bad form to carry water even in church.
Air conditioning is not an option in our parts when building a home or buying a car. So, for the most part, we get in our air conditioned car, drive to an air conditioned store, get back in our air conditioned car and drive to our air conditioned home. Our total daily exposure to high temps can usually be limited to 10 minutes or less.
Newcomers complain about the lack of cool tap water during our heat spells. No cold showers. Tap water until October is about as cool as warm coffee. Old timers advise those folks to call the local water company and tell ‘em workers need to check the cold water lines because they aren’t cold. I’ve wondered how many follow that advice.
The problem is we live in a desert - read “sand.” When the heat gets going, the ground (sand) is heated down several feel to a spot below water pipes running from the street. So, nothing you can do to get a cold bath unless you empty the ice cube bin into the tub.
If you want to work outside in your garden, for instance, just turn the usual day upside down. Get up early and get after it before 10 or 11am. Do daily outside chores in a couple of early hours rather than just any old time. Same for golfers of which there are thousands in these parts. Takes some adjusting for the night owls.
Actually, adjusting here is a full time job. The entire community of 30,000 lives in a place where there are no straight streets. The whole thing is built with large circles and curved streets. Not sure what prompted ol’ Del Webb to do that. All streets are wide - very wide - with rolled shoulders. In the neighborhoods, you can park cars on both sides and still run three abreast if one’s a golf cart.
On those streets you’ll find hundreds of carts that have been “fixed” to go 35mph. All over the place. “Neighborhood cars” the locals call ‘em. Stores have specially marked parking spots just for the carts. Gray hairs constantly playing bumper tag with cars.
Garbage cans are 30 gallons. Thirty! And they’re buried next to the curb. Remember the coyotes and bobcats? But, the local trash folks pick up twice a week. And they’ll pick up anything. Up to 10 extra bags. So, 30 gallons works just fine. After all, we’re old folk.
Nearly all houses are built on lots covered with gravel. Citrus, cactus and other desert greenery add color. Most people live in the rear of their homes. Some, like us, have large, covered and screened patio’s called “Arizona Rooms.” Lots of use in winter months; not so much in the summer.
Yep, adjusting is a full time job hereabouts. I haven’t met anyone yet who says this place is just like where they came from. ‘Cause it ain’t. Most who come here for retirement settle in and adjust. But, there are some who give it a try and then go back home. Our neighbor from Oregon - married 34 years - got a divorce before taking up residence. His wife couldn’t stand the place after previous visits. He loved it. That’s what I like. Compromise.
If there’s a saving factor to this place it’s the winters. Usual low temps in the 40's-50's. Highs in the upper 70's. Lots of blue sky and mostly dry conditions. Pretty much that way from October through May. It’s called “Snowbird Season” around here. Lutheran churches filled to overflowing during that time. Lots of “Birds” from Michigan, Minnesota, North and South Dakota.
Maybe the best advice when it comes to living with the very hot months is this: they’re what you put up with to have the most comfortable winter months you’ll ever experience.
Put another way, you’ll never buy a snow shovel. No one has to buy anti-freeze. You can get along without snow boots and galoshes. You’ll never find an icy street in the neighborhood. Don’t need a parka. You’ll never get stranded in a snow storm. Outdoor swimming is a 12 month deal. Golfing, too.
As I said: adjusting.
If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the neighborhood.