Monday, November 17, 2014

7 Things to Know Before Crossing a Desert

     Whether it's the scenic views, the quiet roads, or simply the most direct route to your next destination, deserts provide a riding experience unlike any other. However, deserts are far from safe, and can be life threatening. Before including a desert in your next trip, there are a few things to understand about this harsh environment:

1. A successful trip through the desert should at no point leave you thirsty
     Battling the sun and 100+ degree weather will drain your body of fluids faster than your brain can detect. Symptoms of dehydration include dizziness, lightheadedness, and sleepiness. Pull over immediately if you feel any of these symptoms. You will be surprised how much you drink. By the time you actually feel thirsty, your body will be in the process of shutting down,

2. Avoid drinking... water?
     Water isn't the only thing your body loses in the heat. When you lose volumes of sweat, your body is also being starved of electrolytes. Electrolyte imbalance can be just as dangerous as dehydration, so remember to drink Gatorade or Powerade instead.

3. You will drink more water than you think
     I originally thought that two 16 ounce water bottles could hold enough gatorade to last me gas station to gas station. I was going through 72 ounces of water an hour; more than twice that amount. Make sure to pack extra bottles, or bring a camelback hydration system with you if possible.

4. You may or may not feel the heat
     It may seem counter intuitive that being hit with warmer-than-body winds on your motorcycle will cool you off. However, in order for your sweat to change from a liquid to a gas, it takes additional energy. Depending on your speed, this energy will either come from your body or the wind.

5. Try the Mojave Desert
     Cell phone service in the Mojave, like most deserts in the U.S., is very limited. However, most major highways in California have call boxes stationed every few miles. I-40 is no exception. If you break down there and there are no passing motorists, these call boxes may be your savior.

6. Try riding early in the morning or late in the evening.
     High temperatures peak between 11 am and 5 pm. Try to plan your trip around these hours if you are feeling safety conscious. Most motorcyclists ride before and after these hours, so based on the time of year, you may not be alone.

7. Passing motorcyclists know the dangers of the desert
     I pulled off to the side of the highway to take some pictures in the Mojave. Every motorcyclist that saw me slowed down before I gave them the "OK" signal. They know the dangers, and won't leave you out to dry.

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