We do make strange choices. Somewhere along the way yesterday we decided that our primary goal was to get a few hundred miles behind us, and so we launched from Hot Springs through the winding roads of the Ozarks, up to Missouri and northward to settle in Columbia, at the intersection of I-70 and Route 63.
We neglected to put much thought to where we would stay. By design, our trip “plan” was simply to drive until I waved a white flag of surrender, and then park the Airstream in some convenient spot until the next day. This fits our “no reservations” style, and we have enough experience on the road to have no fear of winging it.
Often in these situations we’ll subconsciously trade off one expense for another, being notorious cheapskates. In this situation we’ll occasionally decide to drive later than usual, and reward everyone in the car with dinner at a restaurant so that we can get a change of scene after the long day. Our cheapskate budget for dinner for three is about $30, which comes to the average price of a commercial campground, so if we skip the campground and just park somewhere, dinner is easily justified.
But we didn’t consider one factor yesterday: what the weathermen call “oppressive” humidity. As I write this, at 3 a.m., it is still 82 degrees and the relative humidity is 84%. Or to put it another way, it’s disgustingly sticky. I’m wide awake at 3 a.m. because it’s impossible to sleep. The air is so thick that I am aware of every heavy breath. The air drapes around me like a steam blanket that I can’t remove, and there is no possible escape without a 30-amp plug to power our air conditioner.
Now, we’ve camped in some pretty awful conditions before. A pair of nights in Death Valley in June come to mind right away. We camped in a powerless campground, and at night it didn’t drop below 100 degrees until well after midnight. Camping in Death Valley in summer naturally yields some bragging rights — “Yeah, it was hot, but nothing we couldn’t handle.” But Death Valley in June can’t hold a candle to Missouri in June. This is much worse. It’s just that bragging about spending a night in Missouri doesn’t really impress anyone.
Now you know a secret to travel writing: It’s not that the experiences are always that exotic; it’s simply a matter of being located somewhere different. Death Valley heat is not particularly special, it’s just interesting because it’s Death Valley. If you are living in Arkansas or Missouri this particular week in June, just turn off your air conditioner for a day and a night, and you too can experience the joy of the professional travel writer. As an exercise, try writing an 800-word essay about your adventure that makes it sound much more interesting than it is.
Eleanor’s concern, when she wakes up from her sticky and disturbed rest, will be that I didn’t get enough sleep to safely tow us up to Iowa. Well, you’ve got to take what life hands you. I’ll be fine for a half-day drive. My plan is to leave very early, perhaps before dawn, and drive until midday, then settle into a campground with the one convenience that we care about (power), and nap the afternoon away in dry air conditioned comfort. Emma won’t be fond of this plan, but she can sleep in the car. Once we reach Iowa, we will be within a short drive of our goal in Wisconsin, and we can slow down enough to start smelling the roses along the roadway.
Mike Young says
It doesn’t get much better up north. We’re currently in the KOA in Union, Illinois, not far from your destination in Madison, WI. Even though we use the a/c during the day, it cools off a bit after sundown so that we just open the windows and use the fans for circulation at night. Not as loud that way. Anyway, last night the Fantastic fan in the rear of the trailer kept opening and shutting which became so loud and annoying I awoke at 3 am to close it. The problem was the oppressive humidity. Every time the fan’s lid opened, it sensed the humidity and presumed that it was raining and promptly closed. We have another brand of fan that doesn’t have a sensor in the bedroom so the air circulated there well enough. This morning we awoke to moisture covering all the inside windows. Alas, we will have to start the a/c earlier today.
By the way, last week up here we experienced some of the heaviest rainfall ever. Having been away from the mid-West for over 20 years we had forgotten how dramatic and potentially dangerous all this summertime weather can be.
Marie Luhr says
I’d say take one giant step to Vermont, but relative humidity here is 75% this morning at 8:15 a.m. However, it’s a cool 60 degrees and sunshine. Flowers are loving it!
See you soon!
Caro’s friend said 100 in WI yesterday I think.
“Turn right 30 degrees proceed direct BTV. Temp 70, dewpoint 60.”
Death Valley, dewpoint, Fahrenheit, oppression….the Weather Channel smokescreen, a clever sidestepping of the Jeopardy clue of the month, i.e., the brand and model of the new tow vehicle. The suspense is thicker than the humidity.
Only one serious clue has been revealed, the photo of the interior aspect left front tire in the June 20th blog. Close examination of the tread design by a confidential source inside the CIA reveals a 20 inch, run flat tire, Continental brand, perhaps a 2.75/50R20.
In alphabetical order, multiple choice format, it could be one of the following:
1) Audi Q-7
2) BMW X-5
3) Cadillac Escalade
4) M-Benz GL 320
5) None of the above
Send your vote to firstname.lastname@example.org and for the subject line, Dear Alex Trebek.
Clarke Hockwald says
Rich…I totally sympathize with you. I lived in East Texas (near Tyler) for 4 years back in the 60’s. In the summer months we had what we affectionately called 95/95 days…95 degrees/95% humidity……you could walk outsite at 5am and start sweating while just standing there. I’ve lived 55 of my 59 years in Southern California where it is mostly dry….I prefer dry heat.
Randy Godfrey says
Rich, sounds like our trip to Bozeman last year. We wanted to be cheapskates too but didn’t dare stop wher we couldn’t get 30 amp. Too hot and sticky. On some days after we stopped we had to open all the doors and hatches in the Airstream just to get the heat out. Randy
I can understand your suffering the heat and humidity. Being from Mississippi, we planned on a cool trip to Petit Jean park in central AR this coming weekend. We cancelled and rerouted to Pensacola when we found it was 10 degrees COOLER in FLA!
We’ve landed in Independence IA, just in time to ride out a huge line of thunderstorms. Oh yeah, gotta love that midwest summer weather. I think I just saw Dorothy’s dog fly by.
Doc, the June 20th photo was of a trailer tire, namely a Goodyear ST225/75/R15. The real clue was in the June 19th blog entry, in which you can see a tiny corner of the front of the tow vehicle in one of the photos. I’ll reveal the rest tomorrow.
Rich just a few days ago we pulled in to Needles, CA after a 12 hour day on the road. It was still over 100 when we landed there and it felt like stepping out of the truck in to a convection oven. About ten minutes after we got settled in and had cranked up our AC the power blew. We had a bad connection and the electricity had arced at the plug and fried it…. ruining the cord. This was a brand new ($80) cord because we had a similar problem a few days before. As we stood there looking at each other knowingly… Billy holding the fried cord in his hand and me knowing that there was no way we were sleeping in this heat without AC and we were in NEEDLES (it’s not like you can just bop over to the next town and we were exhausted) we just deflated. Luckily Billy was able to fuss with the old cord and got it to work somehow. We drove up to Flagstaff the next day and got a new electrical plug installed. Good times!
Having grown up in sticky, humid Northern Illinois summers I feel your pain with the humidity there. I lived for years in a third floor apartment with no AC. I don’t miss it.