Summertime in the low desert of the American Southwest can be brutal to the point of deadly. Temperatures soar well into the hundreds, and highways, though improved from the days of my youth, provide no great sense of security to those in the know. The landscape is still sparse and rest stops are few and far-flung.
I remember all too well cruising along the roller coaster single-lane road east of Desert Center while feeling my parents’ rising tide of panic as the radiator steamed dry.
Seven kids cranky from being packed into the station wagon and blistering heat on asphalt, paused by the side of the road to guzzle Squirt from glass bottles. Dad and brother John’s instructions on swallowing large volumes of air to expel in long, resonant belches. Racing to capture horny toads or gopher snakes. Nostrils burning from parched dry air. The perennial lack of air conditioning in these extreme temperatures. And the endless promise of water in the desert mirage.
It was a miracle that we returned, time and again, to savor the extraordinary beauty that such places undeniably held.