Dust, Flies, and Wind; I Return to The Coachilla Valley.

Last week was a bad week for my medical conditions, so I took another hiatus, I’m doing fine now; however it will take 6 months to recover. That being said and done away with there is always the wind.

An old photo from last winter, rain did not arrive today.

On our Island we have wind from late May until the second week of September; or there about. It’s a tell tale, when paying attention to it the wind will tell us things the Weather report cannot. This morning, I now rise at 4:30 am to begin my new routine, the wind was shifting from the prevailing (WNW) to a Southern direction (WSW). That South wind is our “storm” breeze indicating it may rain, it made the morning interesting as I was wondering if it was truly on the verge of rain or an indication of rain further North. As it ends up the rain is in Oregon but the disturbance affects us. It has not rained and the wind resumed it’s predictable characteristics, so the world is safe.

However it did conjure up memories of when we lived in the California Desert for a few (yes 3) years. It’s a nice place to live during the winter with a temperature of 75° F (23.88° C) making it short pants all year around. We moved there August 1996 the temperature was well over 100° F (37.77° C) upon arrival, after living in Fresno for 20 years the climate was easy to adapt to; I thought.

But that is not the most difficult issue to deal with, two others are at the top of my list. One is the dust storms, blow dust I believe we called it, in simple terms living in a sandblaster. My job at the time was 98% outdoors working on huge machinery, every job I had in my life was outdoors though so it was no big deal. We wore dust hoods that covered 1/2 of our faces, goggles covered the other exposed regions. Of course respirators, gloves taped at the wrist, and complete coveralls with hoods completed the garb. It was hot, but it kept the dust from penetrating every crevice of the body.

Cactus are all over the Desert, this one however is down the street from where I now live.

The PPE (personal protective equipment) saved us from the flies, many of us don’t realize the extent of the fly issue in a desert. They are everywhere when the wind stops, going straight for the eyes and mouth they seek water. In that climate we had our share of wildfires which means lots of water had to be used to extinguish them. There were many machinery fires as well which created a condition the flies liked. No matter where the water pooled it would take mere seconds for thousands of flies to completely cover the small moist offerings on the ground. When there was none to be found they settled for us, hence the complete body covering. Which was dreadfully hot.

The white hooded coveralls by the brand name “Tyvec” were supplied to us by the company. Tyvec’s are plastic coveralls from ankle to the top of the head. Taped tightly around the wrist and ankles there is no place for the heat to go. We had 1/2 hour shifts when the temperature went above 110° F (43.33° C), 1/2 hour outdoors followed by a rest period of 3/4 hour. We faced many occasions of 120° F (48.88° C) plus often exceeding that. The company was on top of it during weekly safety meetings dealing with heat presented by hydration knowledgeable Doctor’s. One gallon of water daily was the recommendation which we all adhered to, but problems still happened, we watched one another closely. It is easy to become dehydrated no matter how long one has been in the heat; passing out is a real danger.

By coincidence I read an article today (Sunday) reporting a dust storm there, the photo showed the sun obscured by the flying dirt. I am sure activities are restricted not only due to the C-19 (my abbreviation) but to the extreme weather conditions as well. Summer in the Desert is loved by many, when I left August 1999 it was 126° F (52.22°C). I stopped to buy water, ice, and other stuff for my trip of 8 hours to San Francisco. The lady behind the counter told me how much she loved the heat, I understand how people can love the Desert during the Winter. But to withstand the high brutal Summer temperatures takes a much stronger human being than myself.

There are a lot of Snakes in the Desert as well.

If I constructed a pro/con list of living there I am sure the pro’s would outweigh the con’s. One big positive is the people, Desert people are like river people, they are there for each other which I attribute to the climate. One other check-mark on the pro side are Date Shakes a local specialty, hesitantly we sampled one the first time; they are one of the best Milk Shakes I have ever had. As with everywhere else I have lived, there are a million stories in my old brain that pop out once in a while.

Jacques Lebec at The Fork In the Road.

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