I write this on the 38th anniversary of moving to Arizona "for good." On July 20, 1976, Cathy, Sean and I left Monterey, California in the early morning for the drive straight through to Phoenix. My sister Cabbie joined Cathy to help drive our car and take care of Sean, who was almost two. I drove a move-it-yourself rental truck without air conditioning. The part about no A/C was no problem on the Monterey Peninsula. The high there on July 19 was about 65 degrees. The July 20 high in Phoenix was 113, which means I crossed the desert between Palm Springs and Phoenix in the middle of afternoon heat. I wasn’t prepared for those hours in what might best be described as a large oven on wheels. Thankfully, my friend Barry in Phoenix recognized my electrolyte depletion and gave me something for it.
I think of that day often. Cathy and I were returning to the city and the college (Grand Canyon) where we met a few years earlier. We had no idea that we were coming to the state known for THE canyon and saguaro cacti to build a life here. Ten years flew by (along with the addition of twin daughters) in Phoenix and the opportunity arose for us to move to Yuma. That was a big step, one that some of our city friends had trouble understanding. "What’s in Yuma?" they asked. Then, more frequently than I could imagine, they added, "It’s hot down there!"
Somewhere in the musty closet of idiomatic phrases hangs the oft-used expression, "That’s the pot calling the kettle black." No words could be more descriptive of Phoenix folks calling Yuma "hot." For the sake of argument, the average difference between Phoenix and Yuma year round used to be about 2 degrees. That’s 2 degrees, 24-7-365. I say "used to be" because asphalt has long been the fastest growing crop in Arizona’s capital city and it tends to soak up heat in the daytime and dispense it gradually for many hours after dark. That may be a prime factor in a recent weather prediction (which turned out to be wrong) that Phoenix might never again have a freezing temperature. Anyway, it seems as if the meager difference in Phoenix average temps and those in Yuma is shrinking.
Add in the lower humidity during monsoon season (most storms track east of Yuma) plus the additional breezes Yuma enjoys in the Colorado River valley, and our "hot" is quite a bit more comfortable than Phoenix "hot." That’s even if you leave out the long hours of big-city traffic jams which aren’t a problem here for some reason.
If you are new to Yuma and are reading all this, it probably doesn’t mean anything to you if we are hotter than Phoenix and how much the average difference is: it’s just hot here in the summertime. And the dark of night still greets you with a blast of heat as you walk outside. A man who lived here a long time ago once said to me, "Sam, after two summers in Yuma, your brain fries and you just don’t know any better." So, heat rookies, hang on. Summers won’t get cooler, but you will adapt! (Sort of. Make sure to pay your electric bill and change your A/C filters regularly.)
Seriously though, if you are new to our desert city, welcome! I wish I could count all the times that people arrived here and hated it, then struggled when they had to leave a few years later. It’s the people of our town that seem to create a place that starts feeling like home.
I do need to warn you about one thing. I think God must smile as He seems to plan some of our hottest days for the week we at Stone Ridge have Vacation Bible School. I think it might happen again this year. Most of the kids will ignore it. We adults will need to take a deep breath (in a cool indoor space) and endure.
Crazy as it sounds to me, we are very near the beginning of another school year. You most likely have a new family or two in your neighborhood. When you meet them, why not invite them to Stone Ridge? You never know where that conversation will go! If they can join you this weekend, they can hear Part 11 of Life Repurposed. You don’t want to miss it, but you can always catch the podcast, just in case.