We are in the midst of the summer heat. Temperatures have ranged from 108 to 115 on most days, but have not exceeded 120 degrees. Still, most days walking outside feels like opening your oven door and walking straight into it. The worst days are those where it actually feels like my ears are burning.
Sunblock and water are two critical components in the battle against the heat. I have SPF 70 and SPF 100 sunblock from Neutrogena. Sometimes I remember to apply it; sometimes I don’t. The hazards of working inside an office most of the day, I often forget that I live in the middle of the desert and should pay attention to things like this! When I forget, and we have visitors to the Lot (usually necessitating a tour) I return to my room that night with some wicked raccoon eyes. On the days I do remember, my face, ears and arms thank me for it.
Pallets of water bottles dot the camp at pre-designated points. A typical routine (almost daily, depending on usage rates) requires us to take water inside. We have mini refrigerators in most of the offices, and in many of the rooms. On most refrigerators you will find a sign. This indicates that if you take a cold bottle of water, you should replace it with another bottle of water. This ensures that the next person who wants a cold bottle of water actually gets one, and not one at room temperature!
We also have ice chests that the Marines fill with ice in the mornings to keep water (and other drinks) cold while the Marines are out on the lot. Water does not stay cold long once exposed to the desert heat. The Marines usually chug the half liter bottles in two or three gulps, which doesn’t leave any time for the water to get warm. The few times I have walked around outside with a bottle of water, it has turned hot – not warm, mind you, but hot – within ten to fifteen minutes.
The Marines who spend most of the day outside take regular breaks to escape the heat. We have improvised offices (remember the shipping containers?) all over the lot, cooled to varying degrees (depending on how well the generators are working) so that Marines can get out of the sun and heat. We have also adjusted our working hours to take advantage of cooler morning temperatures. Being in a desert environment, the early mornings can be surprisingly pleasant. So we try to maximize that time, when the sun is up but the day has not gotten overwhelmingly hot. Most of the Marines work from 6:30 AM to 1:30 PM, and then go to lunch and are done for the day. This schedule keeps them out of the hottest afternoon sun, but remains mission-dependent. If there is a need to stay into the afternoon, the Marines decide who will stay, how those Marines get lunch and what needs to happen.
Despite the challenges and drawbacks to the heat, I love it. Admittedly, I cannot spend all day outside. I am not that well acclimated. But I revel in the heat and the sun each time I step outside. Despite the hot afternoon sun, I do not look forward to cooler temperatures in the fall. I enjoy the warmth of the sun, and still prefer heat to cold. It will be cold before we leave later this year, and I cringe when I think of wearing cold weather gear!