Death Valley?

Every time we pass the corner at the far end of the street – with its water and flowers, so incongruous to the desert around it – we say we will come back and take pictures there. But each time we are on a schedule – running out to see something, rushing back to make the meeting – and the event ends, she returns the rental car and catches her flight home, before we can ever make that happen.

My flight is not for hours, so I decide to walk down and get the shots.

It seems like a good idea, at first. I have the hours to kill, anyway, and nothing else much to do. I put on sunscreen. I look around for bottled water, but there is none. No matter, I tell myself, it’s not that far. I gather my sunglasses, room keycard and camera, and march out into the sunshine.

It is the height of the day. What little overhanging foliage occasionally lines the sidewalk provides only the most rudimentary of shade against the appalling heat. But I am unfazed, excited for the adventure of a photoshoot and fresh from the chill of air conditioning. I have my goal in mind and set out past golf courses and resorts, small communities and conference centers. Traffic at this hour is meager. No one else is out walking.

Even then I realize that this is not a good sign – probably no one else is so foolish.

It is farther to the end of the street than I realized when we were driving it, but I push that thought and my discomfort out of my mind. At last I reach my goal. A riot of brilliantly colored flowers ring the man-made (and foul-smelling) lake. Statues of horses adorn the impressive sign for McCormick Ranch – the original owner of this and most of the surrounding land. I take the shots I came for.

Satisfied, I start to head back.

The shadows have shifted and if possible there is even less shade than before, though perhaps this is only my imagination. At one point I cross to the far side, ostensibly to take pictures of another pretty scene, but the offer of shade from one lonely tree there is part of the allure. Then it’s back to my side of the road, for the long trudge back to the resort. Without the anticipation effect, the walk seems even longer than before. I’m hot and thirsty now. It occurs to me again just how foolhardy I have been. A car goes past, and the driver looks askance at me. I wonder what I must look like. I wonder if anyone would stop if I were to collapse out here in the heat.

I get to a rough halfway point, where a gated community lot opens under shade trees just inside the wall. I walk in and take brief respite. It’s probably still more than 90 degrees there in the shade, but still vastly cooler than the punishing full sun. I’m trespassing. The guard watches me closely from the gatehouse, but I give little care to his opinion on the matter. It’s not a question of want, but of need. I’m not here to case the place, just to cool down a bit and breathe easier.

What was I thinking?

In a few minutes, I press on. Fountains tinkle tantalizingly outside hotels, a cruel taunt to my growing thirst. I reach the edge of the golf course that lines my hotel, and decide to cut across to take advantage of whatever shade and breeze might be found. Once off the street, I realize that I am now invisible to passersby. No one can see me to come to my rescue if I should need it. Whatever happens, therefore, I must make it back to the safety and shelter of the resort.

It’s a slightly shorter route across the course. I come in the resort’s back door, creep up stairs and down hallways. Inside my room, tap water has never been so welcome, so delicious. I drink slowly, but repeatedly. With shaking hands, I take aspirin against the headache that heat and dehydration have wrought. Thoughts come in snippets – a bullet-point checklist of To-Do’s – as my heartrate returns to normal. More water. Rest. A shower and fresh clothes. Promise myself never to anything as stupid as that again. Know full well that I might not keep that promise.


~ by lorakceel on October 21, 2010.

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