Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Summer in the City

The temperature on Bush Highway this afternoon, according to my car.
Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The last place most people would have wanted to spend time today (or this week, for that matter) is the Phoenix area. Arizona is in the midst of a heat wave, which you'd think would be no big deal in our state, but these temperatures are more severe than usual. Some weather reports were predicting 120 degrees for the Phoenix metropolitan area today.

Mark had one of those Phoenix morning shows on the TV early this morning, and I heard them warning people to stay at home, if at all possible, and to carry water and use great caution if they had to drive. They went on to report that about three-quarters of all flights at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport had been cancelled for the day. A retired pilot explained in an interview that extreme heat like the Valley is currently experiencing actually fools the planes into "thinking" that the altitude has changed and, thus, they can't get off the ground before running out of runway. I've also heard it makes the tires too soft to roll correctly and can even affect rubber or plastic parts in the engine.

The weather people began predicting this heat wave a week ago, so Mark and I were congratulating ourselves that we were going to miss all that awful heat. Or so we thought. We'd originally planned to visit Mesa last Wednesday in order to deal with some family and legal business that had to be handled by June 20th. That's today. But then, last Tuesday, Mark backed my car into a tree beside my house, smashing the left tail light. Without working tail lights on one side, I didn't want to drive my car on the freeway in the Valley. And so we had to wait until Mark's next day off to make the trip. Today.

We went to our favorite buffet for lunch before rolling toward home.

Much as I hate the heat (since my body doesn't sweat properly, I'm prone to heatstroke), I was more concerned about the effect of the heat on my car. Just like the planes, these extreme temperatures can wreak havoc on cars, too. Not just overheating, but lots of mysterious breakdowns, vapor locks, and tire problems occur during these periods of high temps. So we pulled out of my driveway at 6:35 this morning in order to reach Mesa ahead of the worst of the heat. It was a lovely, crisp 61 degrees outside when we left our mountain home.

By the time we stopped in Globe just after 8:00, the temperature there was 95. As we drove through Gonzales Pass, the temp got up to 105 degrees. A bad accident on the Superstition Freeway seriously slowed traffic, so it was almost 10:00 when we reached Mesa for our first appointment of the day. The temp was already 113 degrees there. At 11:20 we arrived at the office of Mark's family lawyer in Apache Junction (still dealing with inheritance issues), and the temp had reached 117 degrees. It was still 117 when we came out of the nice, cool law office at noon, but it jumped to 118 while we drove toward our final stop for lunch.

The terrain along Bush Highway, where the temp climbed to 120 degrees.

We lingered inside Golden Corral, enjoying the a/c and dreading the inevitable return to the oven-like heat outside. To be honest, the heat didn't bother me as much as it has in the past, and my car handled it like a pro. Perhaps the fact that I had the engine tuned up just two weeks ago helped some. Still, I didn't want to press my luck, and I was anxious to return to our cooler mountain temperatures. The heat wave has been affecting us, as well, but our "extreme" temperatures have only been in the 90s!

The buffet where we had lunch is the one located at McKellips and Power Road. Power Road becomes Bush Highway, which follows Salt River (lots of people tubing today!) and passes by Saguaro Lake on its way to join up with Beeline Highway, heading toward north country. We decided to follow that route, which meant going home via Payson rather than Globe. That seemed like a good idea, and it was--mostly. We refueled at a station across from Golden Corral around 1:30 and then rolled out. During the 70 miles from Mesa to Payson, we rose from sea level to an elevation of 5,000 feet. When we stopped to buy ice-cold sodas in Payson, the temperature there was only 97 degrees. It felt heavenly!

This two-mile line of cars was stopped ahead of us due to an accident. 
Two emergency vehicles are coming toward us from the crash site.

As we were leaving Payson, one of those digital overhead signs flashed a message to us motorists, warning us that there was a crash 41 miles ahead that had stopped traffic. There was no question of us turning back to take another route home. It would have added at least two more hours onto our trip. Besides, I reasoned that they'd likely have traffic moving again during the thirty minutes it would take us to reach the accident site.

Soon after leaving the city limits of Star Valley (just east of Payson), we met an ambulance racing back toward Payson, lights flashing. Later, when we saw the condition of the wrecked auto, we said a silent prayer for the unknown person or persons. It didn't look good. We only saw one vehicle, an SUV, far off the highway in the trees. In fact, I thought perhaps it had collided with a tree because the front was cloven, the hood was popped and buckled, the dash was crumpled, and the front window was blown out. I noticed the back was piled high with what appeared to be camping equipment, tumbled about.

The crash had happened seven miles west of Heber-Overgaard. We met the end of the line of waiting cars nine miles west of Heber-Overgaard. That meant there were two miles of stopped vehicles in front of us. I shut off the engine, rolled down the windows, and settled in to wait with everyone else.

...and more lined up behind us, as seen in my rear-view mirror.

Thankfully, our wait was pleasant. As we'd climbed the face of the Mogollon Rim, the temperature kept dropping. Now, here at the top, the temperature was a cool 79 degrees. I can't imagine what such a wait would have been like if it were 120 degrees! They'd have had to call out more paramedics to treat dozens of motorists for heat exhaustion!

I don't know how long we waited before our line began to inch forward. The west-bound traffic got moving long before we did, and all we could do was watch them fly by. Eventually, our turn came. It was slow, bumper-to-bumper, pretty much until we reached the town of Heber-Overgaard, and then it opened up. Mark and I were home by 5:00.

While we waited for traffic to move, we enjoyed a much nicer temperature.

Although I'd love it if we hadn't had to make this trip on this particular day, I will say one thing for it. It made me appreciate living in the White Mountains even more than I already did!

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