When you’ve had enough of the disaster that is Donald J. Trump - when you’re overwhelmed by the pandemic that is COVID-19 - when you’re maxed out with Wolf Blitzer - well, it’s time to take a mental break. That’s where I am today.
So, let’s consider some diversions more peaceful.
Walked the dog this morning. About 8:30. Temperature on the back porch was 95-degrees. By 9:30, it was 100. Going for 117 in the PM, we’re told by the experts. That’s the warmup for Arizona summers. Just the warmup. More - and higher - ahead.
When the temps here officially hit 118, Sky Harbor International - our local airport and fourth largest in the country - planes can’t fly. FAA says so. Everything stops. Also, physics. At 118-degrees, large planes can’t carry large, profitable loads because they can’t get enough lift under the wings.
By this time of year, EPCOR - our local water company - shuts off the cold water lines. All new home owners are told that when they find tap water is as warm as that in a swimming pool. Day-after-day of high temps heats the soil down several feet. Where water lines are. Everyone keeps lots of bottled water in the frige. Many businesses, too. Free. First question you’re asked at a car dealer or some other place is “Would you like some water?” Gotta keep hydrated.
Our community, known nationally for our many golf courses, starts Summer play at 5:30am or so. Gotta get in that 18 holes by nine. Once in awhile, you’ll see some hackers out there at two or three in the afternoon when the temps are 110-112. Crazy as duck hunters.
After you’ve been here a year or two, you either acclimate or sell out and move back home. For those of us who stick it out, we get used to it. Mostly. With ubiquitous face masks, you go from air conditioned house to air conditioned car to air conditioned store-theater-rec center-ice rink, back to air conditioned car to air conditioned home.
There are other oddities here. For example, all our well-paved streets have rolled curbs and are wider than most communities. Our 55+ haven has a five-mile “main drag” that’s six lanes wide with a well-kept median filled with small trees, flowering plants and cactus of various varieties. And a speed limit of 35-mph.
Yes, Virginia, 35. Know why? Golf carts.
A lot of us here have a golf cart. Now, I’m not a golfer. But, that makes no difference. Because, while these little vehicles may look like your normal golf cart, all of ‘em have been “souped up.” Whether electric or gas, they top out at - wait for it - 35-mph. Same as the speed limit on our “main drag.” That’s why that beautiful, six-lane highway - where speeds should be in the 50's - will always have a speed limit of 35.
We call these carts “neighborhood cars.” You see ‘em everywhere! They’ve got seatbelts, wide-view mirrors, turn signals and headlights. Some have been modified to look like ‘57 Chevies or ‘56 Caddies. Some have a back seat for two more riders. Some have little pickup beds. Some have “fringe on top” or small solar panels. And, a few have air conditioners overhead!
But, no matter what they look like, they’re very handy for local trips, shopping, visiting friends, going to church or just getting out of the house in these times. Many stores have “golf car only” parking up front.
Speaking of parking, on a doctor’s order, Arizona issues handicap license plates, as most states do, so those with physical problems don’t have to walk so far in parking lots. But, here, they sometimes don’t provide that little extra help. That’s because, when you live in a 55+ community, lots of other folks have those special plates, too. So, there can be gray-haired kerfuffles for a parking spot at the store. For a golf cart!
“Snowbirds” are gone now. Back to Wisconsin, North Dakota or Canada. Their homes here - often costing half-a-million or more - sit empty as things heat up. You know those orange “Homer” buckets you see at Home Depot? Neighbor of ours leaves 48 of those in his vacant home each summer. 48! Filled with water. It’s to keep moisture in every room, in the dry, desert heat, with his thermostat set at 90-degrees for the air conditioner. Weird, but true.
Most homes here are one-story with an attic. My air conditioner tech told me it can get to 250-290-degrees up there when the outside temperatures reach into the hundreds. Rafters become very dry and can twist which makes for an expensive re-roofing job.
Lots of things here are very different from our beloved Pacific Northwest. We’re still not used to seeing coyotes, havalinas, bobcats, desert snakes and other wandering wildlife in our graveled backyard. Sometimes cross paths with a coyote when walking the dog. They usually look at you, then wander off.
Yep, desert living is a whole new experience. But, hopped-up golf carts, coyote sightings, dealing with 100+degree temps, listening to daily ambulance sirens on our six-lane golf cart path, seeing tattooed women in their 80's and 90's at the store, surrounded by vacant homes half the year - all that and more in our unincorporated Dell Webb asylum for seniors - can take your mind off Donald J. Trump, COVID-19. And, yes, even Wolf Blitzer.
But, you gotta stay inside May to September. ‘Cause, damn, it’s hot out there!